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Massage therapy is the therapeutic application of hands-on massage techniques for the purpose of increasing circulation, relaxing muscle spasms, relieving tension, enhancing muscle tone, and increasing range of motion.
Massage therapy helps by:
Equine massage may conjure up images of pampered show horses being rubbed down after intensive training sessions, but this therapy can do so much more than that. The basic science rationale for massage is supported by research indicating that massage may affect a number of physiologic systems as well as cellular and fascial components of the muscular system. Equine therapeutic massage, or sports massage, employs a number of techniques first developed in humans and has been reported to increase range of motion and stride length, reduce activity of nociceptive pain receptors, and reduce physiologic stress responses. Additional preliminary research indicates that massage therapy also may improve some aspects of exercise recovery.
Another common misconception is that equine massage therapy entails deep tissue massage with heavy pressure. While this technique is commonly used for certain types of human massage, horses can not be told to relax the muscle being worked on. Thus if heavy pressure or deep massage is attempted horses almost always guard (tense) the muscle thus prohibiting effective therapy of the area. Instead, using a lighter approach it allows the horse to relax and the therapist to then get down to deeper levels of fascia producing a much more effective massage. Our pressures greatly vary from that of human massage ranging from as light as holding an egg yolk in you hand and not wanting to break it to a deep curry. The use of aggressive, forceful deep tissue work is often causing bruising of the muscling and counterproductive to the therapy. I
Your horse can be ridden prior to the appointment but it is best they not be worked hard. The horse should be done working no less than 1 hour to the appointment so that they are fully cooled out and relaxed at the time of the appointment. Please make sure they are reasonably clean (they do not need to be immaculate) and dry.
Massage as with any other therapy starts with the discussion with the owner/rider/trainer on what the horse is dong for work and what level they ate doing. This helps our therapist know to keep an eye out for certain areas that might be used more than others. Often the muscles tell their own story in if a horse were to be harder in the bridle a direction or have difficulty bending in the rib cage a certain direction. We use a multitude of different stokes and techniques in our therapy including acupressure, sports massage, trigger point and Myofascial release.
This question must be answered on an individual basis for each patient. In most cases, a single treatment is not enough to eliminate the problem. Most animals show significant improvement after 1 to 4 treatments 2 to 4 weeks apart. Chronic problems usually take longer to resolve requiring more massage treatments, whereas animals with acute problems often respond more quickly.
Preventative or “maintenance” massages depend on the horses problems, work load and performance level but are typically once every 4 to 6 weeks.