By Paige Cerulli, Certified Equine Massage Therapist
Massaging your horse is a great way to leave him feeling relaxed while also helping to prevent injuries. When you massage your horse, you need to protect your body. These tips can help you to prevent injuries to your body during an equine massage.
Before you begin a massage, be sure to warm up your own body. This will help to prevent injuries that you may encounter during an equine massage. Spend some time stretching out your hands, wrists, and arms. Remember to use slow, steady pressure with each stretch. It’s also a good idea to get the circulation moving in your hands and arms – just flexing your hands can be useful to get your body feeling flexible, warmed up, and ready.
Think About Your Bone Structure
Your muscles and tendons can be easily strained and fatigued as you massage your horse. Instead, using your bone structure gives you more strength without requiring such physical exertion on your part.
As you massage your horse, think about how you can use your bone structure. Extending your arm with your elbow straight gives you a way to exert direct pressure on the horse without relying on the muscling in your arm or shoulder to create that pressure. You can use your forearm itself as a massage tool on your horse’s neck and hindquarters, relieving some of the demand from your hands and wrists.
Always try to use gravity to help direct your massage strokes. Massage in a downward fashion and let gravity pull your arms downward. If you’re working on your horse’s shoulders or legs, you can bend at the waist and let gravity pull your body down with each stroke. This reduces the physical effort of the massage.
Never Muscle a Stroke
If you ever find yourself muscling a massage stroke in order to achieve deeper pressure, then stop immediately. Remember, horses are much larger than we are, and we should never try to muscle a stroke. Doing this will lead to exhaustion and is a good way to strain your own muscles.
It’s rare that you’ll need intense pressure during a massage. However, if you need more pressure or want to get deeper into your horse’s muscle, then step back and assess your body position. Think about how you can better position or use your body to achieve the effect. Adding a step stool is often a good solution. Just be sure that there’s a valid reason for using the amount of pressure that you are looking for – there’s often a less intrusive way to achieve the same effects.
Use Massage Tools
Using massage tools is a great way to relieve the physical strain that equine massage can put on your body. The Posture Prep Cross Fiber Groomer fits naturally into your hand, minimizing the amount of grip that you’ll need to exert. The groomer also creates cross fiber friction on your horse’s body, rather than requiring you to use two hands and finger pressure to achieve the same effect. This affordable tool is an excellent way to minimize the strain on your hands and wrists during each and every massage.
Pay Attention to Your Body
During every massage, be sure to listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel pain, then its time to stop, don’t try to continue and finish the massage. Applying some ice can help with sore muscles, but if you encounter significant or persisting pain, then it’s time to see the doctor to get to the root of the issue.
You should also be sure to limit the number of massages that you perform each day. Performing one or two massages will put significant strain on your body, so keep your numbers low until your body adjusts and becomes conditioned to the demands of equine massage.
Massage can be a great tool to keep your horse healthy and comfortable, but you also need to ensure that your body stays safe in the process as well. If you find that you’re having trouble with some massage strokes or can’t find a way to keep your body comfortable, consider bringing in a certified equine massage therapist to learn about proper massage technique.