Why don’t you try this 10 minute massage?
It can be done before working your horse or as a cool down after exercise. You could even do it before you mount at a competition as a way to relax your horse and warm their muscles up.
If you have some experience of massaging your horse this is the routine to follow, if you’re new to massage then the strokes and how to perform them are detailed below:
Starting at the poll, effleurage down the neck towards the shoulders. Note any changes in temperature or texture of the muscles as you go.
Continue down the legs and use this as an opportunity to check your horses leg. Also try and make note, are there any bumps, lumps, scabby bits etc.…
Effleurage down the back and through the abdomen, note your horse’s normal reactions to be stroked under and around the belly.
Continue the effleurage strokes through the hindquarters and check the hind legs. The whole effleurage process should take just 2-3 minutes.
Going back to the neck use circular compressions down each side of the neck, every 30 seconds put in a couple of effleurage strokes to clear the tissues of toxins that you’re releasing as you massage.
Use some linear compressions down through the shoulders to release the tension at the front of the shoulder blades.
Continue with your compressions along the back and take note of any reactions or whether there are little spasms within the muscle, these are most obvious in the back.
On the hind quarters, continue with the compressions and once you’ve got those hindquarters nice and warm then start on some pounding or hacking movements.
If your horse has tight hamstrings then you can do some cross frictions, starting from under the tail and working down towards the top of the leg. Only use this where you can feel good muscle bulk!
Finish with a final effleurage from head to tail. And if you followed my carrot stretch challenge on Facebook, then some carrot stretches.
Things to consider…
The key to this rountine is to be quick yet effective. If you over massage the muscles and spend an hour on it, then you shouldn’t ride your horse.
If you want to spend more time really giving your horse a thorough massage session, then you can simply spend more time on each step, ensuring you get full coverage of all the muscles.
Go over the areas that feel tight, spend longer in areas where you’re seeing visible cues from your horse that they’re enjoying that particular spot or stroke being used.
So here’s a quick guide to the strokes that you’ll be using:
Effleurage – this is simply large strokes, slightly more pressure than you’d use when just stroking you’re horse, but its basically the same thing! Use all over the body
Its gets the blood flowing and helps remove toxins from the tissues after you’ve completed the routine.
Compressions – using the palm of your hand, place it on your horse, move your hand with fairly firm pressure in a circle and then lift and move along one palm space, so you work methodically through the whole muscle.
Use down the neck, either side of the spine (providing its well muscled) and through the hindquarters.
This is the main stroke for working deeper into the muscle and removing tension and spasms. This also helps with muscle elasticity as your stretching the tissues under your hand.
I also like to use my thumb to create a Linear Compression, so you use the same pressure as before but follow the line of the muscle fibres in a straight line – its great for releasing tight shoulders and getting some feedback along each side of the spine.
Tapotments – There are plenty of options here, you can do little karate chops (hacking), or clench your fist and do a pounding action.
The key to this is to be rhythmical!
Use on large bulky hindquarter muscles – for anyone old enough this is the modern version of strapping – great for getting those hindquarter muscles full of blood flow and contracting.
Cross Frictions – using your index finger and middle finger, with quite firm pressure rub your fingers across the muscle fibres. For this, the safest place to do this stroke is on the large hamstring muscle on the back of the leg from under the tail, to the top of the second thigh. .
I think its always nice to have these 10 minutes massaging your horse, to help build and strengthen your realtionship with your horse and to prepare them mentally and physically for any work you plan to do with them.
All too often we rush in, flick a brush overthem and throw on our tack, its nice to take the time and enjoy your horse’s company for just a few minutes.
If you need any help or would like some further instructions on how to massage your horse, feel free to get in touch at www.thecrescentvetphysio.co.uk/contact-us/