Is Your Horse Suffering In Silence
If the answer to any of these questions is yes then he may be suffering in silence and a simple solution to the problem could be a massage.
Why Massage Your Horse
It is a well known fact that massaging humans has great effect on their well being. One of the things I learned when training to be a massage therapist was that massage was not only good for relaxation and well being but that it could help your health in so many ways.
The whole system gets a service when you have a massage. The skin gets stimulated and all the nerves in the skin get turned on. Then through the warming motion of the hands through the top layer of muscles to deep down in the second and third layers gets the blood and lymphatic systems working more than normal. This means that the heart and lungs are also forced to do more work. And with the lymphatic system working more the kidneys and liver also gets to work to clean out the system. Obviously, these organs are working all the time, but with a massage they get to work harder, which is what they like. With a massage it’s like the system gets an extra oiling so it runs smoother.
Because all these organs, including the skin start to work more, there is more strain put on the stomach and intestines and this means that another of the important parts of our anatomy is put to the test. Our intestines are often forgotten and they do a huge job to keep us healthy, taking what goodness they can from the food, and directing toxins and waste products from our system. When the digestive system is not working properly then our bodies suffer, we get cramps, constipation, diarrhea, we can’t get enough goodness from our food, our hair and nails look unhealthy, our skin gets drab and grey, and so much more. Massaging helps turn the digestive system back into a factory that feeds the body. You can get rid of constipation and improve digestion with just a single massage. And continued massages will keep this system happy and working without troubles.
Horses are athletes and have very sensitive stomachs as anyone with a horse that got colic will know. So massaging a horse will be effective like it is for humans. There are countless examples of horses recovering from colic and never suffering again when they are treated with massages.
In the same way injuries that go unnoticed can be tended to long before they become a problem. Horses have an amazing ability to cover up an injury by compensating with their legs in such a way that they do not seem lamb. This takes the strain off the injury but can put strain in other places. As it is difficult to see there is a problem the injury goes unnoticed but over time and continued use the injury can become a bigger problem and will take a long time to undo. Massage can prevent this from happening.
Horses With Problems
More often than not a problem horse is a horse with problems. They seldom wish to disobey and misbehave. Many problems that horses have come from tension in their muscles. Horses are large animals, yet they are supple and nimble which is probably why they are used in so many sporting disciplines. A great sportsman cannot function well in his discipline without careful attention to his well being and fitness through massage and stretching. Horses are the worlds largest athletes and they should be massaged often, not just when they have an injury or are in pain.
By massaging your horse often you will find he changes. He will perform better and his relationship with you will improve. You will no longer have a problem horse…:)
Image by Willg Willg Photography on Flickr
Simple Horse Anatomy
Understanding The Muscles
Horses have more than 700 muscles and it is the skeletal muscles that make it possible for the horse to move. Each muscle is made up of anything from 10 000 to 500 000 cells. And muscle fiber and muscle cells are synonymous. The muscles are organised in such a way that each muscle has a pairs and the muscle are layered on top of each other, in some areas as deep as five layers.
The muscles of a horse contribute to about 60% of the horse’s weight and stablise the horse in various positions. A muscle never rests. It is always working in some way to keep the horse upright, moving, etc.The muscles are very different in size and shape. Some are long while others are triangular or even rectangular, depending on the direction of the fibers in the muscles. Muscles are never fastened directly to the bones but are connected with connective tissue that is formed into tendons.
The Muscles At Work
A muscle can be relaxed or tensed. When it is tensed it is short, thick and hard and when it is relaxed it is long, soft and flabby. The muscles work with the bones to perform movements. And muscles never work alone, they always work with one or more other muscles.
When working the muscles are
Antagonist – the main muscle doing the work
Antagonist – the muscle working against the movement
Synergist – the muscle or muscles working to help
Looking at a muscle in a microscope will show that muscles are made up of smaller parts. Myofibrils that are made up of even smaller sarkomeres which are made up of myofilaments. Myofilaments contain some important proteins. These proteins are actin which is thin and transparant and myosin which is a thicker substance and is darker in colour. Actin and myocin play an important roll in muscle contractions as explained below.
A motoric nerve impulse is sent to the muscle cell and this starts a comlicated process with chemical and electrical impulses. ATP, which is energy, is released by this process and it causes myosin and actin filaments to get close to each other. The actin and myocin connect with eachother and the musclefiber shortens. It does this for a short moment only. Then the myocin lets go of the actin and returns to it neutral position. To keep the contraction means the nerve signal needs to be sent repeatedly.
For more on The Muscles of Horses go to http://equinemassage.co.za/part-2-guidelines-of-equine-massage-muscles/
Image by Canned Muffin on Flickr
How To Massage
If you have never had a massage then the first place to start is to go and have a massage to see what it is your horse will experience by having a massage. You will find that grooming your horse gives him some of the superficial workings of a massage.That is one of the reasons that horses loved to be groomed. But to give a horse the real benefits you have to work the muscles with your hands. Unfortunately there are a large number of muscles to massage and the techniques for massaging take a little longer to cover than in this article.
If you have tried to sit in a massage chair or tried any massage machines then you will also know that you can feel some benefit on, for example, your shoulders when you use such a machine. I have found one of these that is specifically designed to massage horses. This massager is easy to use even if you have had no training in massage therapy. With this you can get deep into the muscles of your horse, treat him where it hurts and give him an overall “spa” once a week or more. All you need to do is hold the machine on the horse’s muscles and work your way around the body while the machine does its magic on the muscles.
Image by Eoin Gardiner on Flickr
There are several ways to massage a horse, just like there is for massaging humans. There is the hands on method, which is probably the best and then there is the use of massage machines.
The hands on method is not always available and means you need to call in a massage therapist to assist. A therapist can feel with her fingertips what is going on with your horse and can assist with precise attention to the well being of the horse.
However, there is a massage machine that is the gold standard in equine massage equipment. It is called the Equisports Massager and is designed specifically for horses. This little hand held machine only weighs 7.5 pounds so you can quite easily work on several horses in sucession. You won’t get more tired than when you are grooming your horse.
The Equisports Massager works on a four-point orbital oscillation which provides deep tissue massage that is not invasive to the horse. The machine has sturdy rubber hand grips so it is comfortable to use. Often massages shake your hands so much when you are using them that they are really uncomfortable to use. This massager is easy to use and unlike other machines you do not get stiffness in your hands or shoulders from using it.
It comes with a 25 foot cord with 3 pronged, polarized grounding plug, GFCI and reset button. It meets or exceeds the ANSI/UL/CSA consumer safety standards for the US and Canada. And each unit is tested under load for 20 minutes before it is shipped. And the units are all tested for cold temperature starting to make sure it starts quickly in cold weather.
The massager has a washable vinyl pad and you can get a fleece cover that is also washable. There is a dust cover to protect the electrical connections and the components are all made of die-cast aluminium. The machine fits nicely into a rugged looking stylish shoulder bag
Image by Peter Broster on Flickr
What is the Equisports Massager good for?
This machine is good for a number of things, the most important being the loosening of muscles, increase in blood and vascular circulation and the relaxation of the horse and its muscles.
You can use the massager as a
– pre-warmup before exercising, showing, racing
– maintenance in between classes
– relaxation after travelling
– massaging after an event, but you should wait about 4 hours before giving a massage as the muscles are warm and it is not comfortable for the horse and you could cause injuries
– a weekly “spa” for your horse
– keeping the horse in top working condition