Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Day at the Spa: Do-It-Yourself Massage Therapy for Your Horse

May I have a show of hands, please, from those who have basked in the relaxing afterglow following a massage? Just as we enjoy the wonderful results of a massage, our horses can also benefit from massage therapy (also known as equine therapy).

While a certified equine massage therapist can provide the best in professional therapy, you can incorporate some basic massage methods to help soothe aching muscles and tension your horse may have. It is always important to keep safety in mind when working with your horse and to be ever vigilant of his body language.

Begin by brushing your horse, which is in itself, a form of massage that will begin to relax him. After brushing while standing to one side of your horse, use your finger tips to work along the back just off the spine, pressing deeply and moving your fingers in a circular motion. Your horse will let you know how the massage is feeling. If he has a soft, sleepy look in his eyes, he is enjoying it. If he moves away from the pressure or quivers his skin, you may be kneading a tender spot. Make a note of that area, and either lighten your pressure or move off it all together. Once you work one side of the back, move to the other side. You always want to balance your massage by working like areas in succession. This will keep your massage balanced.

After the spine area is finished, move on to the large muscle group in the rump and down the rear legs. Lighten the pressure on the legs and for the lower leg, wrap your hand around the leg and apply gentle pressure on the inside and outside of the leg. Be prepared to move out of the way if you happen to encounter a tender area that may cause your horse to kick.

Move from the rump to the neck, shoulder and chest areas. For the neck, begin by gently squeezing the crest of the neck, moving from the poll to the withers. Your horse will drop his head if the pressure feels good and will raise his head and try to step away if there is a tender spot. Using your finger tips once again just below the crest, apply deep pressure from the neck to the shoulder, and then from shoulder to chest. Repeat light pressure down the front legs, as applied to the hind legs.

Once the massage is done, your horse may well be a puddle at your feet, but I guarantee you he will look forward to his next massage session.

Happy trails!

By: Darlene M. Cox (