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Sports Massage for the Equine Athlete

Anyone who has ever rubbed a stiff neck knows that intuitively a massage relieves pain and muscle tension. And almost anyone who has given the process any thought believes that the stiffness is relieved as a result of the increased flow of blood to the affected area,  which occurs as a result of the rubbing action.

Have you ever thought about how athletes prevent injury? Our favorite football players and baseball players are constantly working out to gain or maintain their body strength, but they also make sure that their muscles are nice and loose by soaking in hot tubs, and getting a much needed massage to prevent injury. The same can be said about our Equine Athletes as well. Now that spring and show season is here, we are working our horses more, preparing them for the trails or rails ahead. Now that you have your horse in shape, what preventative maintenance have you provided him? It’s time to prevent those injuries with a massage, before and after an event. Not only does a massage prevent injuries, but it also increases the range of motion. Those of you who have gaited horses know that if your horse is not moving out of the shoulder correctly or driving in the backend, he will not be hitting the ground  in a smooth, flowing manner. A horses muscles will and do get tired and over worked, this is where a massage comes in, to loosen those tired muscles and increase the blood flow back to those sore muscles.

Sixty percent of the horses body weight is muscle. Muscles respond to stress or injury  by hyper-contraction, which stresses opposing muscles and joints. Soreness of muscles could be the result of injury, cooling down too fast, or overstretching the muscles. Like us, horses anticipate pain, their way of going becomes short and choppy, resulting in an uneven gait. A massage locates these sore muscle areas and releases the tension and loosens those fibers to relax.

If your horse has had surgery or has had colic, a massage can ease the pain and make him more comfortable. Likewise, with the arthritic horse who has inflammation and swelling, a massage is a true blessing to them and they really do look forward  to the relief a massage brings their aching joints and muscles. If you have a horse that has been stalled for long periods of time, a massage can relieve those “frozen” muscles as well.

The evident pleasure which stroking gives to animals, and the delight tired horses, dogs and cats take in rolling, are convincing proofs of the health-giving effect of massage.

So, the next time you take your equine friend on a long trail ride, or are just starting to compete in the show ring, make sure their muscles are prepared to take the pressure and stress that will be asked of them.

Dana Waters
Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist


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