by Darcie Pfeffer, Certified Equine Massage Therapist
Massage therapy is an elusive term and usually brings to mind a ‘spa’ treatment, where the emphasis is on relaxing the body and giving ‘feel good’ vibes. This type of massage is usually seen as pampering the body; a special treat and not a necessity. There is nothing wrong with this, but it does overshadow the bigger impact that massage therapy can have on the body and why it is important for horses, especially those who are competing.
Simply stated, massage therapy is the manipulation of soft tissues in the body, mainly muscles and connective tissue. These soft tissues can become sticky, tight and hard due to lack of use, injury, overwork, or stress which causes imbalance in the muscles and extra pull on the joints: a recipe for injury. The imbalanced muscle will cause the surrounding muscles to either overwork or under-work, causing a chain reaction that leads to the body needing to compensate in order to move and function. The result is a lack of symmetry in the body and loss of smooth movement and range of motion, which over time can have detrimental results.
The connective tissue will harden and gel together, creating even more lack of movement around the joints. All this compounds and prevents the body from having good blood circulation and hydration and can result in pain that ranges from mild discomfort to very intense.
Bodies are created to self-heal and return to balance. Sometimes they need help getting there. A massage therapist can feel the imbalances and bound-up connective tissue in a body and can, through gentle manipulation, break up the hardened connective tissue and re-balance the muscles. This allows the body to realign, giving better blood circulation, hydration, and reestablishes good movement and range of motion within the joints.
Although this type of therapy is beneficial for all horses, it is vital for those who are competing athletes. The stress that competition puts on the body increases the amount of imbalance that can take place in the muscles. A consistent massage maintenance program can go a long way in making sure your horse is balanced and pain-free so they can keep performing at their best for longer, with less risk of injury.
If one component of the body is healthy and in good working order, it helps the rest of the body function well. Massage therapy goes a long way in helping the entire body heal, re-balance and become healthier and more resilient.
About the Author
Darcie Pfeffer, owner of Phoenix Bird Horsemanship and Bodywork, is dedicated to the care and welfare of the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of your horse.
Darcie is certified in equine massage therapy through Equine Align Academy in Colorado (formerly Prairie Winds: The Art of Equine Massage and Bodywork).
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We’ve all been there–sore and exhausted after exercise, stressed after a long week of work, or just drained. Maybe your feet are killing you after a day of walking, or your shoulders and back ache from sitting at your desk all day. Regardless of the source, we’ve all felt pain, and I’m sure we’ve all wanted a massage at one point for said pain. Well, our pets apparently feel the same way–and there are pet massage therapists to help them. (more…)