Your normally docile and eager-to-please gelding seems out of sorts and reluctant to train. Something feels off to you, but you can’t put your finger on it, so you call out the vet. After a thorough examination, your veterinarian can’t find anything wrong with your horse. “Get him a massage,” she says, as she packs up the truck.
Wise words from that equine doc. While it’s always good to have a professional check over your horse if it’s behaving abnormally, there are numerous situations that can be improved by equine massage therapy. If your horse doesn’t seem quite right and your vet has ruled out any serious causes, a massage may be just the remedy. Here are some classic scenarios where a massage may be indicated.
If your horse is normally an angel and suddenly doesn’t want to work, it’s a sign something is amiss. Typical behaviors include:
Your horse may have some stiffness or muscle pain that is causing it to act in an unusual manner. Even a little bump (and we know horses do stupid things when we’re not looking) can start a pain feedback loop that results in more stiffness and guarding.
Low Energy, Easily Fatigued
If the usual amount of exercise winds your horse easily, or if your horse is just dragging, it could be due to a number of reasons. But if you know it’s not diet or illness, a massage may be a good pick-me-up for your horse. In addition to relieving body pain, equine massage stimulates circulation and energizes the horse, often the next day or the day after.
It’s easy to get in the habit of training more to one side than the other. Did you know horses have left or right preferences just like humans do? But if you continually favor one side when running through your exercises, your horse can become imbalanced. Likewise, certain conformational discrepancies can cause unevenness in a horse. A massage can help rebalance the horse by eliminating one-sided stiffness and by improving suppleness on the horse’s “bad” side.
Depressed or Cranky
In addition to being lethargic, your horse may seem sad or crabby--definitely a sign something is going on. If there are no known causes for your horse’s mood, a massage can perk up the horse. Equine massage encourages the production of endorphins, chemicals the horse produces in its own body to relieve pain and boost mood.
Chronic Health Conditions
If your horse has chronic health problems that may cause pain, decreased mobility, or imbalance, a regular massage is a must. Recurrent bouts of laminitis, navicular disease, and arthritis, for example, can all benefit from massage.
Post-Illness or Surgery
As long as your veterinarian allows it, equine massage is almost always ideal for horses recovering from illness, including colic, or surgery. Because it stimulates the circulatory system, massage helps speed healing cells to areas of injury. And as mentioned above, massage also treats pain and stiffness. For horses that are confined to stall rest, equine bodywork may also help maintain muscle tone and let the horse relax to continue healing.
Your horse doesn’t have to have anything wrong with it to warrant a regular massage session. Just like human athletes, horses that are training heavily and competing regularly do well with frequent massages. Equine massage helps work out muscle spasms, improves range of motion, and facilitates the removal of waste products, like lactic acid, from muscle tissue. Remember: your horse is an athlete too!
Have you taken in a rescue or just brought home a horse you purchased? A massage can be a great way to help your new arrival settle in. It allows your horse to associate pleasure with its current surroundings, and it will work out any kinks from trailer travel too.
Click on contact us if would like set up a consultation to see if your equine partner needs a bodywork session.