About Equine Massage

Jean Nancy and Reglisse

Jean MacDougall-Tattan with Nancy Knettel and Reglisse

Equine sports massage focuses on the cause of muscle injury with the intent of relieving pain and preventing future injury.

Any horse worked regularly or at high levels of training can benefit from equine sports massage. It keeps muscles pliable and less likely to be injured. When properly done, equine sports massage prepares the body for exercise and restores free motion.

Prior to injury, equine sports massage is regarded as preventive care. After injury, the massage therapist can work in conjunction with your veterinarian to get your horse better faster.

When muscles become stressed they develop small areas of tension that feel like speed bumps. If left untreated, they grow, cause pressure, restrict muscle movement and become a source of pain and discomfort. As the spot 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 will pull and tear.

Equine sports massage compresses muscle against bone to spread out fibers so blood can flow more easily into the muscle. It also helps break apart adhesions. As the blood flows to the muscle it carries life-giving oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. Blood also carries metabolic waste and toxins out of muscles. Oxygen in the muscle reduces spasms.

Tight muscles can injure tendons. Tendons, the ends of muscles that attach to bone, are less pliable and more susceptible to injury. If the belly of the muscle is relaxed, the entire muscle is longer and less likely to pull on the tendon.

Massage is not a substitute for veterinary care. The massage therapist generally sees an injured horse after the veterinarian. But, if massage is done first, the veterinarian must be called if there is no improvement after the first massage.

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