This is a great time of year for equestrians to enjoy getting out and about with their horses in the warmer weather, and it has been lovely hearing the success stories of various clients’ challenges, whether that be venturing out for a longer hack, boxing off to a new venue or putting their training to the test with some competition goals!
Regular clients I hope are feeling the benefits of their equine massage in maintaining suppleness, comfort and reduced injury in their horses, factors which become all the more important as workload increases, performance expectations are stretched, but also as the ground hardens and routines change. Many clients are now also opting for post-event massages, not only as a well-deserved pamper session for their athletes, but also for the positive impact on fatigued muscles and potential acceleration of their recovery, as well as for reducing the risk of longer-term injury.
We took our own mare out to a 9-mile ‘fun ride’ at the weekend, an activity which she has not participated in for a few years having been out of work pre-purchase. We have had this goal in mind for the last few months, and have been preparing her with a gradual increase in workload, increased hacking on a variety of surfaces, re-introduction of small jumping courses and regular loading practice. In the last few weeks she has been travelled increasing distances – the physical effort of a horse balancing on a trailer in motion is enormous, and it takes time for them to strengthen the relevant stability muscles to cope effectively. Despite this build-up, there is no doubt that combining the physical stress of travel with the strenuous exercise of the event, including small jumps and some short excitable blasts on the current hard ground, will have taken its toll on her limbs and muscles. But our hope is to turn this physical effort into increased strength and fitness rather than wear and tear, by allowing ample rest in the days that follow, along with gentle walking exercise, and – of course – the delivery of a post-event recovery massage!
It is important to ensure that homeostasis is regained before massage – breathing, heart rate and temperature should be normalised, so whilst a short massage might be of benefit later in the day post-event, I often find the following day a preferable option, also allowing horses some time to themselves before human attention resumes! Once injury has been ruled out, recovery massage will involve gentle massage techniques and manipulation of the whole body, with the main aims of toxin removal (which may otherwise cause swelling/stiffness) and muscle tension relief, followed by a gentle stretch-out of limbs, neck and back. Benefits include:
- Relief of fatigued muscles
- Increased oxygenation of tissues
- Muscle tension reduction
- Removal of lactic acid
- Dispersion of oedema (swelling)
- Relief of myofascial pain
- Helps prevent scar tissue formation
- Identification of any new ‘stress spots’
- Much needed mental relaxation!