Sarah Linton

Equine sports massage

A few of us know how good a massage feels. It helps ease away the tension and stress in our bodies, and helps get rid of any aches and pains we may have from physical or emotional stress or injuries. Well itís just the same for a horse.

Imagine how the horse feels having to carry us around. Not only dealing with their own problems but ours as well. Riding over long distances and obstacles, uneven ground and varying terrains - quite often when they arenít that fit, and sometimes having saddles that donít fit comfortably can all add up to aches and pains and strains. Imagine having teeth or feet problems as well and how your body has to compensate every where else when dealing with those problems too.

We expect a lot from our horses and are always hoping that they will perform their best, and sometimes we ignore those tell tale signs that something may not be quite right. Putting their ears back when saddled up, shortening of the stride, bucking and pig jumping, biting when doing the girth up, kicking out, cold backs, spasming and generally not performing well are a few signs that your horse may be feeling pain and is not just being naughty.

It's amazing to think that sixty percent of a horsesí body consists of muscles. 60% is a lot! The aim of Equine Sports Massage is to help improve circulation and encourage the muscles to relax and extend, which helps to increase their range of motion, relieves tension, and promotes elasticity, which all enhances the horseís ability to perform.

When a muscle fiber contracts under stress created by work or emotions, it often gets stuck in its contraction. It stays stuck and then suggests to surrounding muscle fibers they join in and contract as well. The musclesí fibers begin to group together until they form a muscle spasm, which restricts blood flow to the affected muscle.

This stress or injury response results in unnecessary stress on opposing muscles and joints. If allowed to go unattended it can throw the whole balance of the horse out as its body begins to compensate its movement. This can also lead to other parts of the horsesí body becoming restricted and painful as a result. Tightly knotted muscles cannot perform properly and this leads to greater risk of injury and associated behavioral problems.

Imagine what itís like when you have tightness on one side of your shoulder and you donít do anything about it. Sooner or later the other side becomes tight and then your neck and then you back and so on. Pretty soon we are a bit of a mess!! Supple, relaxed muscles improve flexibility - which enables a horse (and us) to exercise without discomfort.

Massage helps with many physical and emotional problems. It provides comfort to muscle injuries and helps with assessing the physical condition, and as a preventative - slight tissue changes are noticed at an earlier stage.

When I finish working on a horse I usually give the owner a few tips on how to massage their horse in the areas where he shows signs of aches and pains.

I believe the more that the owner can do on their own horse the more it will help the horse in between sessions. It also helps improve the relationship between the horse and owner by spending that bit of extra time doing something that feels good to them both.