Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between massage and "sports" massage?
A certified massage therapist and "sports" massage therapist are two different things. It doesn't necessarily mean your horse has to be an athlete to receive this type of massage. The difference being; in sports massage we treat the animal's entire body every massage session, as apposed to, just certain areas of the body that may be painful or need treatment. It is vital to treat the body as a whole to prevent compensatory issues and the area of issue may not be the origination point. This type of massage will also help to PREVENT future injuries. If you have a horse that is regularly massaged the chances of them reinjuring themselves is greatly reduced.
How do I know if my horse needs a massage?
Once you are used to your horse's rhythms and behaviour, you will probably notice any significant change in them. He/she may suddenly seem stiff, come up short, refuse correct leads, or just seem irritable and cranky. Or, when you are grooming or tacking up, you may notice they flinch, pin their ears, bite or try to move away.
If you take lessons your instructor may pick up on potential problems long before they become serious.
Also, be aware that, like humans, horses vary in their pain tolerance and react differently. Some horses may hide their pain and if there is any doubt it doesn't hurt to have a massage session and evaluation.
If your horse appears very distressed or lame, call a vet first. If he/she is a little stiff then massage would be beneficial. It is important to know a massage therapist can never diagnose but I can point you in the right direction and suggest questions you can ask your vet.
What do I do if my horse has muscle pain but I can't get someone right away?
If it is an emergency call your vet. If it is a muscle spasm or tightness you can apply ice. Flexible ice packs kept on hand are very useful. Ice should be applied for no longer than 10 minutes on or around joints. If your horse tolerates ice then you can apply it for 10 min. on 5 min. off and repeat twice more for a total of 30 minutes of ice time.
How will my horse respond after a session?
Each case is different and responses vary physically, emotionally, or systemically. A few things to watch for are:
- Hives - One chemical response during massage, especially with direct pressure, is the release of histamine. In a horse that is very sensitive, thin skinned or itchy, hives can appear on the skin. Hives are usually not a problem and will disappear after a half hour or so. If they do persist, your vet can recommend an antihistamine.
- Sweating - A horse may be carrying a lot of tension due to spasm, tightness, injury, or strain. It's not uncommon for the horse to sweat in the area being addressed. This is not a bad sign, but a result of hyperemia (increased blood flow) and heat transfer to the area.
- Soreness - Sometimes a horse can be sore after massage. Massage is, in a way, a form of exercise. Manipulating the soft tissue and sometimes low-grade bruising or micro tears can occur. Just like when you overdo exercise.
Should I apply liniment to my horse?
I am asked this question a lot. If it works and is not harmful, use it. Always remember to try it in a small area to ensure your horse does not have a negative reaction.
Can I ride my horse after massage?
Yes! In most cases where the horse is sound, or coming back from an injury and massage is one of the forms of rehabilitation, exercise is the best follow-up treatment. It allows the horse to utilize his/her maximum proprioception and creates muscle memory. Your horse can then move more freely and be more coordinated without restriction of muscle tightness. However, the intensity of the work may differ for each horse, and I can advise you of this after your session.