With Happy Horse Sports Therapy, massage and stretching will form the bulk of the session, with a few myofascial release and craniosacral therapy techniques added, if the therapist feels they will be of benefit. Depending on what the therapist feels and the horse’s disposition, the TENS machine and photonic torch may also be used. The therapist might also assess the fit of the saddle, if the horse presents with back pain. We’ve also had great success with kinesiology tape, and will usually tape the horse at the end of the session.
There are benefits to every type of therapy, but as sports massage is the main treatment employed by Happy Horse Sports Therapy, the benefits of this particular medium have been explained below:
Massage allows the therapist to assess the physical condition of the horse, reduce injury, break up scar tissue and relieve spasms and knots. This is important as it allows the trainer to evaluate the success of the horse’s training program. It also enables the handler to identify if a horse might be sore, and for the therapist to identify the location of the sore spots. Regular massage sessions help prevent the horse from being injured as it stimulates circulation and unsticks adhesions, which in turn means less ‘down-time’ where the horse is unrideable due to lameness or healing.
Improved circulation is a by-product of massage and helps to eliminate toxins and boosts blood-flow. This is important as it activates the lymphatic system and aids lymphatic flow. It also helps to reduce fluid build-up and muscle soreness. This in turn, aids nutrients and water supplies to the horse’s muscles
Regular massages can reduce pain and enhance performance. Supple muscles mean increased flexibility and range of motion, improved gait quality, and better stamina. A horse with healthy muscles, that is feeling good, will also have better posture and a better response to injuries making the horse heal better. These benefits are important as they contribute to a longer, more efficient stride, and help the horse to be more agile, with better take-off and landing. This will contribute to a longer performing life for the horse.
Massage is also excellent for relaxation and to improve the horse’s disposition. This is important as we all want our horses to be happy and to work willingly. A friendly horse is much nicer and safer to be around than one that is cranky and wants to bite or kick its handler. Massage releases endorphins and makes the horse feel good.
Horses can continue physical activity even in the presence of muscle/body tightness and mild discomfort. In fact, to some observers, they will appear 100 per cent sound. In the presence of tightness, as we humans know, other ailments are just around the corner. Muscle tightness leads to an entire chain reaction as the body tries to adapt. Tightness in the lower back, for example, will soon evolve from localised discomfort into a notable change in a person’s stride and posture. That change in posture will create tightness elsewhere in the body, such as the hamstrings or the base of the neck. As these areas of tension spread, the overall mechanism quickly loses its optimal functioning ability and its aptitude for top performance is hindered. Just because we cannot see the tightness does not mean it isn’t there. The muscle group could be malfunctioning. Any muscles that are not entirely toned, loose and in harmony with its surrounding muscle groups is working against the horse.
This is where sports massage is a critical tool to release muscle tension and restore the horse’s body to its optimal state. Releasing the muscles of tension early on can prevent an injury further down the track, by eliminating the ‘chain reaction’ referred to above.
A qualified therapist, who has a good understanding of equine anatomy, can help to pinpoint and correct issues in the horse. Regular sports massages with stretching offer a range of benefits to the equine and help to keep the horse happy and willing to be ridden. As riders and horse owners, all one really wants to see is their horse happy, healthy and feeling good.