Human athletes use massage therapies and stretching techniques to prepare for and recover from training and competing, so why not your equine athlete?
Equine Bodywork or Sports Massage is the application of a therapeutic non-invasive hands-on technique that address the whole body. Due to its insurmountable benefits, it is growing in popularity and loved equally by competitive horses and those undergoing rehabilitation. Soul Equine uses a number of different techniques depending on your horse’s needs and how he or she guides us to work in the session. We have found that each horse responds differently to the various modalities, and may find more benefit in one combination than in another. Each horse is therefore treated individually, which means that our bodywork sessions are unique and may incorporate modalities such as Equinology® Equine Sport Massage, Myofascial Trauma and Scar Release techniques and T-Touch Wrapping.
The benefits of equine massage include:
- increased range of motion and locomotive function
- enhanced performance and gait quality
- improved circulation, comfort, relaxation and co-ordination
- increased stamina
- support for injured muscles and relief from pain
Equine sports massage is a way to monitor and address soft tissue stress. It stimulates circulation in the horse’s muscles so that these are able to build, while minimising wear and tear in joints, ligaments and tendons. Body work enables the elimination of waste products in the horse’s system. Using bodywork as part of a rehabilitation program can help return scar tissue to a healthier state and release pulls along the fascia train. When scar tissue is reduced, muscle function is restored much faster and more optimally. Furthermore, increased comfort, circulation and meridian flows resulting from therapeutic touch improve cognitive and psychological wellbeing, therefore minimising emotional stress and soothing the parasympathetic nervous system. These combined benefits equate to a longer, more meaningful performance life. Bodywork is for all types of horses. It is also particularly beneficial for youngsters and horses that don’t like to be handled to become acquainted with touch. We are able to feel tight muscles, subtle changes in texture, tension and temperature all through our hands and are therefore able to tackle these issues in real time.
The Equinology® technique, developed by Debranne Patillo, uses methods such as manual palpation to evaluate soft tissue, symmetry of muscle and structure. A static and dynamic evaluation is also performed to inform the practitioner. Soul Equine uses Equinology® Sport Massage as a crucial basis for Equine Bodywork. It incorporates various techniques such as massage, soft tissue mobilization, stretching, exercises for improving range of motion and positioning exercises, as well as stress and trigger point work. The Equinology® method is comprehensively anatomically referenced and allows the bodywork practitioner to converse in depth with veterinarians and other health professionals.
Combined with our unique stretches, sport massage helps to keep your horse supple, maintain good muscle health and increase its flexibility. It also maintains the elastic properties in muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia, wakes up sensory nerves, helps to prevent delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) and improves posture, while reducing the risk of injury.
Myofascial, Scar and Trauma Release
Fascia is found everywhere in the body, and even has a memory of its own. It is a connective tissue surrounding muscles, organs nerve bundles, tendons and guess what? Even bone! Its main components are elastin and collagen. Fascia treatments are not painful and are non-invasive –this is one reason that the horse’s love these techniques. By restoring movement and “slide and glide”, we renew the lubricating fluid that has caused the fascia to become ‘stuck’. This helps to restore function to the affected areas of the body.
T-Touch Wrapping works on the nervous system of the body and helps to calm the horse by reducing stress and anxiety. Wraps increase the horse’s proprioception and spatial awareness, and therefore their ridden work. Different wraps are used to address different issues. The changes brought about by T-Touch wrapping can never be anticipated, and may be very subtle or quite obvious; for example, a horse that appears cramped and uncomfortable one minute, may suddenly take on a more balanced stance (standing square) and better posture.
References and Further Reading
Cerulli, P., 2018. ‘The Benefits of Equine Massage Therapy’. Available at: https://www.americanveterinarian.com/news/the-benefits-of-equine-massage-therapy
Dekker, L., no date. ‘Body wraps for horses’. Available at: https://www.ttouch.co.za/body-wraps-for-horses/
Equinology® Inc, no date. ‘The Equinology Approach’. Available at: https://equinology.com/the-equinology-approach/
Kimble, L., no date. ‘Fascia’. Available at: http://www.lizakimble.com/fascia.html