Many people, after a long day’s work or after a tiring week, love to enjoy an hour of relaxing massage. With light strokes or deep pressure applied to the body, tension, pain, and stress are reduced or relieved. Massage and its benefits have been proven to be effective for people. In fact, even horses are recipients of those benefits now.
Equine massage has been a growing part of modern day equine, or horse, therapy. The practice of massage on these animals began in the early 1990s, and it is utilized for post-trauma rehabilitation as well as for day-to-day riding.
Sidonia McIntyre, a certified and registered equine massage therapist, points out the importance of massage on horses. The benefits of massage people acquire are the same with horses, and these include the following:
- Relief from strain, stress, and spasm
- Improvement of suppleness and flexibility
- Restoration of the muscles extensibility since scar tissue and adhesions are reduced
- Reduction of the buildup of toxic substances
- Decrease recovery time in injury
- Relaxes and increases muscle tone
- Improvement range of motion or joint mobility
- Increases tissue elasticity which allows greater extension
- Increases blood circulation in all systems
- Increases drainage of the lymph and drainage of lactic acid preventing fatigue; buildup of lactic acid is the prominent cause of fatigue among equines
- Assists in elimination since peristalsis or movement in the gut is improved
- Assists in digestion and respiration
- Improvement of mental attitude since pain is dramatically decreased
- Enhances athletic performance
McIntyre emphasized that horse massage greatly affects the quality of living for a horse. It improves vital functions and reduces pain and stress responses resulting in a more positive, well-behaved, and relaxed behavior among horses. She further stated that the benefits horses get from the massage enhance the overall being of the animals enabling them to perform better.
To McIntyre, providing a horse massage is something she enjoys doing. It is one way of deepening her bond with a horse and it allows her to communicate to the animals through touch and body language.
McIntyre, Canada’s only instructor for Equine Massage Therapy and Vertebral Alignment, trained for more than a decade to learn the art of equine massage. She travels coast to coast and spends half of the year teaching others horse massage. These are some of the important points she shares about the practice:
- Safety Protocol – McIntyre always emphasizes how to stay safe while working with equines. She teaches the correct way of approaching a horse. She says that horses are dangerous when you approach them in the wrong place and that is why it is extremely important to ask permission before touching the animal. Effective communication is one way of staying safe.
- Massage – She teaches the fundamentals of equine massage including the theories, principles, and massage manipulations. The applications and effects on various systems are also emphasized.
- Equine Anatomy – McIntyre also gives an overview of the horse’s anatomy, especially the skeletal and muscular systems.
- Contraindications – McIntyre highlights the things a therapist should not do. It is important to know when to take caution when doing a massage. It is for the safety of the worker as well as the horse.
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