Frequently Asked Questions

horse reiki and massageQuestion: Is equine sports massage a treat for my horse, or a valuable tool to keep my horse healthy?

Answer: Although any horse can benefit from the good feeling you get from a massage, it is truly a way to prevent injury and keep your horse healthy. When used after a horse has been injured, equine sports massage therapy reduces soreness and promotes healing.

When used as preventive therapy without injury present, it improves blood circulation, hastens the elimination of toxins from the body, enhances muscle tone, helps make the horse more flexible, increases range of motion, boosts performance, restores mobility and can extend the overall life of the horse.

By minimizing discomfort, you can maximize performance. Massage therapy is a way to keep horse and rider working together as a team for the long run.

Question: I’ve had my horse for a year and he developed the habit of bucking. What can I do?

Answer: When your horse resists, refuses a command or acts up, consider it a sign that something is wrong. Bucking, rearing, tossing the head, refusing the proper lead, and an inability to bend can all be signs of muscle injury.

Remember, it is your horse, so you know what is normal and what is different better than anyone. Listen to your gut. If you think the horse may have a physical problem, have it checked.

Whether you call the veterinarian, or an alternative therapy provider is up to you. Nowadays, there are alternative therapies available to horse owners, like chiropractic, acupuncture and equine sports massage therapy.

When equine sports massage therapy is used after injury, the therapist can work in conjunction with your veterinarian to get your horse better, faster. If the therapist is called in before the veterinarian, the veterinarian must be called if there is no improvement after the first massage.

Question: How can you tell if my horse will benefit from massage?

Answer: Any horse can benefit from a massage, but if your horse has a soft-tissue injury that will respond to massage, you will likely notice that something is wrong. The horse may walk differently, hold its head differently and may even be sore enough to flinch when touched. A certified equine sports massage therapist can evaluate your horse in about 10 minutes.

The therapist will look for places where the horse is reactive to touch and search for areas that are tight and hard.

When muscles becomes stressed, they develop small areas of tension that feel like speed bumps. Left untreated, they grow, cause pressure, restrict muscle movement and become a source of pain and discomfort.

As the “speed bump” increases in size, it draws in fluid, which can act like glue and cause adhesions. When a muscle reaches the point where it can no longer move, it can pull and tear. After it pulls and tears, the horse may need surgery.

Question: My horse has tendonitis. Can massage help?

Answer: Yes. Tendons are the ends of muscles that attach to bone. They are less pliable and more susceptible to injury.

Tendons can become inflamed when muscles are tight. The tightness of the muscle causes it to pull on the bone.

Massage therapy relaxes muscles. When the belly of the muscle is relaxed, the entire muscle is longer, and therefore, less likely to pull on the area where it attaches to bone.

Sports massage focuses of the cause of muscle injury with the intent of relieving pain and preventing future injury.

Question: My horse is not sore and shows no sign of lameness. Should I schedule a massage anyway?

Answer: A good massage benefits any horse, if not for soreness, then for the benefits of increased circulation. But any horse worked regularly at a high level of training can benefit tremendously from massage. Their muscles are working hard and massage keeps muscles pliable. When they are pliable, they are less likely to be injured.

When properly done, equine sports massage therapy prepares the body for exercise and restores free motion. It relieves muscle tension, lenthens connective tissue, improves temperament, boosts endurance, and the increased circulation can create synovial fluid in joints. It has even been known to ease muscle spasm.

Sports massage done prior to an event can serve as warm-up. After an event it reduces soreness by promoting circulation, which helps rid the body of toxins that build up in muscles after they are worked.

Sports massage done regularly can prevent injury and soreness.

Question: How can massage help muscles with adhesions?

Answer: Sports massage compresses muscle against bone to spread out fibers so blood can flow more easily into the muscle. This helps break apart adhesions.

Adhesions form when a muscle develops an area of tension. It feels like a speed bump in the otherwise smooth muscle tissue. If left untreated it can grow, cause pressure and restrict the movement of your horse. As the spot increases in size it draws in fluid from inflammation and it acts like glue—which causes the adhesion.

It’s important to note that massage is not a substitute for veterinary care. The massage therapist generally sees an injured horse after the veterinarian. But should the horse owner call the massage therapist first, the veterinarian must be called if there is no improvement. Some massage therapist wait to see if there is improvement after three massages. However, Equine Muscle Menders believes that if no improvement is seen after the first massage, the veterinarian should be called.

Question: Once I start having my horse massaged, will it be an expense I will have to incur forever?

 Answer: If you are having it done for prevention, of course the answer is yes. But if it is being done for injury, the answer is no.

When a massage therapist is called to work on an acute soft tissue injury, you may need to start with three massages in the first week. Based on how well the horse improves, that may be reduced the following week and reduced again the next week.

Keep in mind that the goal is not to forever have a hold on your purse strings. The goal is to get the horse better. Even to the point that you no longer need the services of the massage therapist, unless you would like to continue once a month or once every other month for maintenance.

Then the choice is yours. As the horse owner, you have the final say. No matter which massage therapist you employ, it’s your money and you decide where to spend it. If massage therapy is what you choose, spend your money there. If it is not, tell that to the massage therapist and he/she should respect your wishes.

For more answers to those tough questions or to schedule a massage for your horse today, call (508) 523-0857.

or email: Jean@EquineMuscleMenders.com