What is massage?
The most ancient references to the use of massage come from China (around 2700 BC) and India (around 1500-120 BC). Massage is soft tissue manipulation using the hands or a mechanical device. At it's most basic, massage is a simple way of easing pain, while at the same time aiding relaxation and promoting a feeling of well-being and a sense of receiving good care.
How does it work?
Soft-tissue massage is thought to induce local biochemical changes that modulate local blood flow and oxygenation in muscle, potentially influencing neural activity and hence mood and pain perception. The release of endorphins may be responsible for the increase in pain threshold. Massage may also increase local blood circulation, improve muscle flexibility, aid removal of toxins, and loosen adherent connective tissue.
Evidence for equine massage
In the human field, massage has been shown many times to be effective, especially when combined with exercise and advice.
In 2008 a study was published in the Equine Veterinary Journal (and reported in the Horse and Hound) demonstrating the effectiveness of equine massage for decreasing pain. A pressure algometer (a device validated in the human field for measuring pain thresholds) was used to objectively assess the level of pressure a horse would accept before an 'avoidance reaction' was shown. The horses were then divided into treatment groups (chiropractic, massage, bute, field rest, ridden work) and treated, before being assessed again using the pressure algometer over the next few days. Massage and chiropractic were clearly shown to be superior to the other treatment options, with massage being the only treatment to consistently lead to an improvement right from day one.
Learn to massage your own horse
Sue Palmer of Holistic Horse Help has just released a brand new DVD, Horse Massage for Horse Owners. The benefits of massage are well documented, including reducing tension and tenderness, increasing length of stride, and improving performance. And as we all know, even without the evidence to back it up, massage 'just feels good'!
If you would like to improve your horse's health and performance, and have a positive effect on his well-being, order your copy of the Horse Massage for Horse Owners DVD today from www.holistichorsehelp.com.
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Sue PalmerChartered Veterinary Physiotherapist and Equine Behavioural Consultant
Tel: 07976 413488 Web: www.holistichorsehelp.com