BE YOUR HORSE’S THERAPIST – MASSAGE TECHNIQUES THAT WORK
Like us, you probably feel that riding’s the best medicine money can buy – albeit pretty pricey, especially when on repeat prescription. You might come back from a hack relaxed and happy, but have you ever thought about giving something back to your horse? And no, we don’t just mean treats and fuss. Appealing to him as they may be, your horse could also really benefit from a bit of DIY massage. Here’s how to get started.
While DIY massage shouldn’t replace your horses regular visits from a qualified equine massage therapist, using similar techniques can help:
- Alleviate tension after exercise
- Improve circulation
- Aid suppleness and strength
- Increase range of motion
- Develop muscle tone
Here are some easy exercises for you to try.
In French, effleurage means ‘to skim’, which is effectively what you’ll be doing – moving your hands over your horse’s skin to warm up the muscles and prepare them for massage.
Keeping your hands in a relaxed position, use your palms to stroke slowly in the direction of your horse’s hair with a firm touch. Have one had placed on his body at all times while you skim with the other.
Used to go deeper into the muscle, alleviate tension and increase circulation, this technique is the ideal next step in your DIY massage and is best used on well-muscled areas such as your horses neck, saddle area and hindquarters.
Using the heel of your hand, place pressure on a muscle while moving in an upward motion, then gradually work your way along the muscle in this fashion. You can use your bodyweight to increase pressure and help refine your movements.
This technique consists of a rapid, repetitive tapping that works deeper into your horse’s muscles and is a great circulation-boosting method. Again, percussion can be used on the neck, hindquarter and saddle areas, taking care to avoid any bonier parts of your horse.
There are a few different percussion techniques you can use. These include…
- Cupping – making a rounded, cup shape with your hands and placing them lightly on your horse’s sides, lifting and dropping them in a regular rhythm as if you were patting him
- Clapping – using the same rhythm as above, but flatten your hands
- Hacking – repeat the same rhythm again, using the side of your hand to apply the pressure.
Each of these percussive techniques will have a different effect, and you horse may prefer some to others. You should introduce it gradually and practice on yourself first, so that you learn how it should feel.
This technique is helpful for releasing areas of tension, as it uses constant pressure to soften muscle. Horses tend to really enjoy this – you might even find that yours falls asleep!
Simply use your whole hand or arm to press on a muscle, holding the pressure until you feel your and sink into it slightly as it relaxes.
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