The Benefits of Sports Massage For the Equine Athlete

Les Rees

The development of sports therapy has produced some excellent results in recent years due to the increasing demands of therapeutic services for equine sports. This has created a whole field of interrelated health services that provide a range of specialist treatments for the industry aiding better performance and the reduction of injury.

Massage involves the assessment of the soft tissues and joints and the treatment or prevention of dysfunction within them. It can be used as a treatment for specific problems or injury, maintaining the health of soft tissue and joints and as a preventative of future injury. However, there are many other aspects that have remarkable effects that trigger reactions leading to psycho-physiologic self-regulating balancing within the whole body. It achieves this because massage stimulates the nervous system by activating triggers within the body that determine its physiological functioning. As these responses take effect, they can also lead to positive changes in behaviour as the body returns to normal function.

Massage affects the muscles, skin, tendons, ligaments, blood and lymph vessels, and nerves that lie near the surface of the body, however it also affects the deeper areas of the body via blood flow, nerve conduction and the subsequent release of chemical messages that activate various systems within the body.

As a sports therapy, massage is also used to rehabilitate sites of specific pathology or injury promoting rapid responses and subsequent recovery. This often involves other therapies working together to gain complete balance within the body and promoting a happier, healthier disposition in the horse. It is also used to keep the horse supple and flexible optimizing its potential in sporting activities. Its strength lies in an understanding of equine biomechanics in which muscular, joint and skeletal function work, especially when under the pressure of performance. Stretching used for therapeutic purpose and can easily be used as an aid to maintaining muscle health, flexibility and range of movement. This also acts as an aid to prevention of injury and can be achieved by a series of exercises that address the whole body. Benefits also include the reduction of tension and subsequent pain, by increasing circulation and warming up the muscles in preparation for work and improving the overall balance of the whole body.

The benefits of Equine Sports Massage Therapy have significant effect on the health of our equine friends. Its non-invasive techniques can be used to promote, maintain and rehabilitate the function of structures anywhere in the body aiding the balance of health within the systems that control it. It has a profound effect as a preventative therapy that aids increased flexibility, mobility and suppleness improving performance as well as having a positive effect on behavior. Its techniques safely effect the whole body by regulating co-dependent functioning and aiding balance to both body and mind. It has kept pace with the changing demands of performance sports and as is highly thought of as a therapy in the fore front of equine health, combining well with other therapies as well as providing valuable back up to veterinary procedures.

Given the continuing growth in popularity of Equine Sports Massage Therapy, our horses are beginning to see some significant psycho-physiologic benefits and as our knowledge expands, so does our respect for the incredible feats they willingly perform for us opening up a deeper connection and increasing our mutual trust.

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