DSC_0415_optLooking through a national tack catalog the other day I came upon several full pages dedicated to massage therapy blankets, machines, ice and heat treatment products.

Most of the magnetic items, blankets, leg wraps, saddle pads are easy to use, work great can be cost effective.

Then, there are full massage sets and tape. The massage sets run as high as $5,000. They advertise deep massage to work out sore spots, increase circulation etc. They have hand held units to work in specific areas, acupressure points and nerves, to unblock congestion and help the horse perform better.

Let’s take a closer look. Without proper training these sets can block nerve conduction and do more harm then good. Suppose before or after your ride a groom puts a set on and moves on to his other charges, he’s busy and can’t babysit your horse. If one part of the set is put on too tight it can trap a nerve, irritating the area and your horse until it’s taken off 20-30 minutes later. If the horse has a new sore spot that is already inflamed it makes no sense to add more heat and inflammation. These sets of course, cannot watch the horse move and pin point the shorter stride, head flipping etc. that a trained and licensed Massage Therapist can evaluate, treat then develop a personalized plan for your horse.

Cold therapy products. Lots out there, easy to use and effective. Hint: ten to fifteen minutes using a garden hose and cold water can do the exact same thing. Some injuries require more time being iced and the boot options are great. I am a huge believer in ice and cold therapy, just ask my clients, I pester them every session to please please ice. As with the above use caution and check often for the legs or body part getting too cold, you can cause frost bite.

My rule of thumb is ice or cold hose after a hard lesson or every day at a horse show or event. As the body cools down the inflammation is calmed down, nerve conduction is slowed to reduce pain. After the cold is removed the blood vessels open up and rush blood in to warm the area up. That provides flushing action, out with the waste in with the nutrients to heal.

Kinesiology  (study of movement) tape has been popular in track and field athletes for well over a decade. These tapes can support injured tendons and muscles and comes in all kinds of pretty colors. Since they are elastic cotton it can be tempting to wrap on too tight (think bandage bows) Again, applied to the horse without proper training can really cause more harm then good. (As a side note, I did not see the tape on the track athletes in Rio and wonder if the novelty has worn off.)

So, of course now I’m going to tell you why using a trained and licensed massage therapist to diagnose and treat is a smarter choice and much more cost effective. I can watch the horse move and see restrictions. I converse with the owner/trainer/groom asking how long this horse has been sore, what might be causing it etc. Footing, travel, show schedule, who is the main rider, pro? amateur? child? As an example, I used to work at a barn that had stalls on top a steep slope. Many of the horses had low back issues and quad issues from walking up and down the slope, sometimes slipping on it on hyperextending a joint.

My hands can find the knots, adhesions, congested spots whatever term you want to use and work them out, increasing range of motion, reducing pain and inflammation. I can show you stretches to support work. Horses are flight animals, having been hunted for food before being domesticated, massage is extremely beneficial to the nervous system, helping calm a horse in pain or with high alert triggers. Additionally, I have recently been trained with a cold laser and have seen great improvements with 10-15 minutes in one area.