Equine sports massage is the therapeutic application of professional sports massage techniques to horses.
Few human athletes would compete without preparing their bodies using massage and stretching exercises, so it is rather surprising that for the supreme athlete - the horse - this is virtually unheard of.
More than 60% of the horse's bodyweight is muscle. This allows for a combination of various massage and stretching techniques to enable the performance horse to compete to its full potential. However, massage should not be confined to the sports horse and can also certainly be beneficial to retired horses or those recovering from injury.
To learn more about the overall benefits of sports massage, click here .
Both passive movement and passive stretching should follow either exercise or a massage when the tissues are warmed up.
Cold stretching can damage muscle tissue and result in injury. A passive movement is movement of a joint in which the therapist, not the horse, carries out the movement i.e. the therapist moves the joint through the normal range of motion without an active contribution of muscle contraction from the horse. This normally applies to limbs in the non weight-bearing position.Forelimb Protraction
A passive stretch follows the initial pathway of a passive movement but then at the end of the range of movement more pressure is applied to increase the range. Stretching is aimed at maintaining or restoring a normal range of movement together with helping the flexibility of muscles, thus allowing good mobility of joints, otherwise the range of movement is restricted. This may lead to muscle fatigue.
The physiological effect of a passive stretch produces stretching of joint capsules, ligaments, muscles, skin and connective tissue. There is elongation of the muscle bodies and tendons and may provide enhanced elastic properties. Blood supply may be improved throughout the tissues.
Both passive movements and passive stretches help to trigger the normal proprioceptive mechanisms within the horse's body which allow monitoring of the horse's movement and placement of different parts of its body.
Limb stretches not only help muscles and soft tissues at the top of the limb, but may also include those around the shoulder and pelvis area.
Care should be taken when carrying out stretching techniques to ensure health and safety of both horse and therapist.
Prior to the session the name, address, telephone and fax numbers of the horse's veterinarian will be required.
This is to gain permission for the treatment of the horse under the Veterinary Act.
We will also need the names of the owner and horse together with an address, as well as a detailed history of your horse (including temperament, injuries and schooling problems).
For your initial session, please allow 1.5 hours.
Observations will be made of your horse's:
You may be asked to show your horse:
This will, of course, be dependent on factors such as facilities and age of horse.
Your horse will then be given a sports massage involving passive and active stretches, paying particular attention to specific problems.
You may be given advice on: