Massage has long been renowned for its beneficial properties. In fact, massage has been used for over 5,000 years across the world. Its origins are believed to have come from the East, with China and Egypt having the first written accounts of massage from nearly 5,000 years ago.
Traditionally horses were strapped by grooms, who would spend hours with their charges ensuring that they received a full body work over. Strapping involved rubbing the horse with a wisp (a twist of straw) and effectively gave the horse a massage. It is interesting to note that equine massage did not come into mainstream knowledge till the demise of strapping.
Equine massage has been used extensively since the 1990s, though it was being pioneered in the States from the 1950s, by Jack Meagher. Meagher was one of the first to bring his work in the human field across into the equine field, and was serving the United States Equestrian teams at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Since then massage has become an established mainstream practise, and there are many different variants, though the desired outcome is always the same: to benefit the horse.
These are 5 top tips for why you should massage your horse:
1) It is relaxing. Horses just like us, enjoy being massaged.
2) It is a preventive treatment. Our muscles and our horses’ muscles can get tight or restricted for a number of reasons. If we then place demands on the tight muscle, the chances of injury are increased. By massaging regularly, we can help prevent the build-up of tension in the muscles and hence reduce the likelihood of injury.
3) It is a good way to bond with your horse. Massage is a lovely way to spend time with your horse, that does not involve riding. It strengthens the bond between you and horse, and is an ideal pastime for those dark winter evenings.
4) It improves suppleness and flexibility. Regular massage helps to keep the muscles healthy, this will help to increase their effectiveness. Healthy, relaxed muscles will allow your horse to be more supple and flexible, improving his performance.
5) It is a way to give something back. Horses are incredibly stoical creatures, a simple, straightforward massage is a good way to give them something back as a thank you.
Massage is a fantastic tool to acquire. Once you have learnt to massage you can use it on any and every horse that you come across, regardless of age or size. Used regularly on your own horses you will notice the build-up effect over time, and as part of your daily routine can be invaluable to your horses’ ongoing health and well-being.
Massage is easy to learn to do, and there are many good books and DVDs out there which will help you to learn the basics. You will find it a really rewarding skill, so take the plunge and learn to massage. Your horse will thank you!
Lizzie Hopkinson is a director at Ethical Horsemanship Association, the home of non-judgmental online learning www.ethicalhorsemanshipassociation.co.uk
Horse Massage for Horse Owners is available from www.ethicalhorseproducts.co.uk
Please remember horses can be dangerous. Only work with your horse if it is safe to do so. If you are struggling to handle your horse please contact a respected professional for advice.