Benefits Of Equine Massage
*Relief From Restlessness and Sleep Disturbances
*More Efficient Movement
*Improved Posture, Circulation, Hair Coat, Muscle Tone
*Increased Flexibility and Range Of Motion
*Immune System Support
*Increased Benefits When Used In Conjunction With Chiropractic and/or Acupuncture
Equine massage can have a profound effect on the nervous system of the horse. Some of the benefits of equine massage therapy, to name just a few, are pain relief, stimulation of the motor nerves, relief from restlessness and sleep disturbance, and improved proprioception. Massage is also thought to help calm nervous horses or horses in unfamiliar surroundings and/or stressful conditions.
From the moment the equine massage practitioner initiates touch, he/she is sending messages to the horses nervous system through the skin. The nervous system communicates using electrical signals, which travel throughout the body. The Golgi tendon apparatus can be used to chemically initiate an electrical message in order to address a muscle spasm. As well, this electrical communication system can be used to re-educate the muscles in efficient movement and the nerves to recognize correct posture.
Equine massage can also be used to cause the body to release endorphins, which aide in pain relief and a sense of well-being. This can also have a direct effect on the hypothalamus, which controls the ANS (autonomic nervous system). Pain, stress and emotional experiences are all known to affect hypothalmic activity, and hence the ANS. Therefore, if pain is reduced, the body is under less stress, and this can lead to positive chemical changes within the body.
As well as the numerous physiological benefits to the nervous system listed above, equine massage can also improve circulation, hair coat and muscle tone; improve recovery time from workouts; increase flexibility; aide in the recovery from injury; reduce the chance for future injury; support the immune system; and not to mention that it just down right feels good!
How Do You Know If Your Horse Will Benefit From Equine Massage
All too often, we wait until a problem rears its ugly head before we realize our horse needs some form of therapeutic intervention. Your horse does not have to have an existing problem to reap the benefits of massage therapy. As noted above, regular maintenance massage can provide your horse with numerous benefits not associated with an existing injury. Regular maintenance massage is a powerful preventative measure and a wonderful way to keep your horse in tip-top shape. Some issues that my clients have come to me with are short-striding, stiffness in movement, not picking up a particular lead, and swelling of the lymph nodes, just to name a few. Asymmetrical hoof growth can be another indication your horse may have an underlying musculoskeletal problem. Weight distribution of the horse can affect the growth pattern in the hoof, giving us clues as to previously unrecognized problems in the rest of the body. When a muscle becomes over-worked or strained, this can cause general stiffness initially, but if left untreated can lead to strain on adjacent muscle tissue much like a cascade affect and more serious injuries. When the muscles do not take up their proper load and cannot stretch to their full potential, the tendons have to make up for the lack of movement, leading to tendon injuries. By addressing these issues early on, we can prevent more serious injuries from occurring and allow the body to rebalance itself.
How Long Will It Take Before I See Improvement
I have seen many horses show improvement with just one massage session. However, each horse is different and depending on the issues at hand, may need several treatments before significant changes are observed. I recommend a maintenance regimen of two sessions per month to maintain the average horse in good condition. For working horses (i.e., showing, training, school horses, etc.), I recommend weekly sessions to maintain optimum performance and recovery from workouts. For horses with deeper musculoskeletal issues, I determine the frequency based on the needs of the individual horse and owner.