Horses can be susceptible to minor / major injuries, aches and pains. They have a natural asymmetry meaning they have a stronger and weaker side which can cause imbalances in the musculoskeletal system, which can manifest as difficulty with self-carriage, suppleness and balance. In other words, performance issues.
Many soft tissue issues are cumulative, they start as a minor problem such as a spasm or tear, which, if picked up early can be treated before they develop into a more significant problem. Early identification of any soft tissue abnormalities cannot be under-estimated, because horses working with a degree of discomfort will adapt their way of going to accommodate the discomfort. This can lead to further problems such as atrophy of the injured muscles and overuse of compensatory muscle groups. This may present to the rider can be loss of performance, behavioural issues or as physical issues.
Early identification by a skilled therapist means subtle changes can be managed at an early stage to maintain the horse’s performance level. This becomes even more important when we consider minor muscle injuries take up to 90 days to become apparent, by which time a number of compensatory issues could have arisen.
Soft tissue and joint mobilisation therapy can target and release tension before any symptoms present, helping prevent any future problems. For this reason, incorporating regular soft tissue massage into a horse’s training programme is very beneficial.
Despite our best efforts sometimes injuries can’t be prevented, in these cases soft tissue massage can be very effective in supporting the rehabilitation and recovery process.
Muscle sensitivity can be secondary to chronic orthopaedic issues, injuries or illness. The various therapy techniques I use are applied to the soft tissue structures of the horse’s whole body, (muscles, ligaments and tendons) to keep or return them to good health.
Finally, the manipulation and mobilisation techniques I use also work towards achieving optimal ranges of movement in the joints.
In rehabilitative cases I prefer to work closely with the incumbent veterinary surgeon and other equine professionals who are involved in the horse’s recovery. These can include physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and farriers.
Research shows massage therapy significantly increases protraction of horse’s limbs (increases the stride length). Massage, fascia release, as well as active and passive stretching increases circulation, relaxes muscle spasms, relieves tension, enhances muscle tone and increases range of motion resulting in improved equine performance.