“When synchronization of the body is lost through muscle tightness, the body’s reflexes, endurance, balance, freedom of motion, and safety are impaired.” 

- Jack Meagher, Founder of Equine Sportsmassage

BENEFITS OF MASSAGE & BODYWORK

Massage and bodywork can be powerful tools for restoring and maintaining maximum efficiency of your horse's muscles and other vital systems of the body.  Below is a list of beneficial effects of massage and bodywork related to performance and overall well-being.


- Improved range of motion and flexibility by restoring muscles to healthy extension

- Improved coordination by restoring the body's natural proprioception

- Improved posture by helping to maintain proper skeletal alignment and self-carriage

- Improved endurance by allowing the body to work more efficiently and recover more quickly

- Improved mental clarity by relaxing and focusing the mind

- Improved safety for horse and rider by decreasing incident of injury or accident

PERFORMANCE ISSUES THAT CAN RESULT FROM MUSCLE TIGHTNESS

Reasons for muscle tension can include external factors such repetitive and/or intense work programs, rider imbalance, poor footing, and ill fitting tack as well as internal factors such as injury or trauma, illness, chronic conditions, conformation nonconformities, hoof imbalance, or dental discomfort. Muscle tension often manifests as performance issues that are misinterpreted as training deficiencies or bad behavior. Below is a list of performance issues that can result from muscle tightness.

PERFORMANCE ISSUES THAT CAN RESULT FROM MUSCLE TIGHTNESS

  • Sore or rigid back
  • Travels hollow-backed, carries head high
  • Not fully extending one or both fore-legs
  • Not fully stepping under behind, not engaging hind-end
  • Trouble picking up/maintaining particular canter lead
  • Heavy on the forehand
  • Intermittent, unexplained ‘lameness’

  • Choppy or stilted gait

  • Refusing jumps, hanging a leg, knocking rails
  • Resisting lateral movements, especially in one direction
  • Resisting bending the neck, especially in one direction
  • Holding head flat, crooked, or to the side; leans heavily on one rein
  • Girthiness
  • Head-shy
  • Difficulty flexing through the poll
  • Balance and coordination issues
  • Bucking, rushing, and other behavioral issues
  • ‘Hitch’ or falls out behind
  • Drags or scuff a hind toe
  • Hind-legs track close to mid-line (rope walk) 
  • Outward rotation of hind-leg on forward stride
  • Swings hip out to one side
  • Saddle slips to one side
  • Refusing to travel up or down hills

CONTRAINDICATIONS:  WHEN NOT TO PERFORM MASSAGE & BODYWORK

There are many instances in which equine massage and bodywork may be an inappropriate modality for a horse in need of other facets of care.  Contraindications for the use of massage include acute injuries (open wounds, lameness, heat, swelling),  illnesses (cancer, fever, inflammatory diseases such as cellulitis), or pregnancy (especially during the first and last month). Upping Stone welcomes the opportunity to confer with your veterinarian to determine if massage or bodywork is an appropriate adjunct to your horse’s rehabilitation process.