Grooming horse's leg
For horses, grooming is a social event. Horses will regularly groom and scratch on each other, often quite vigorously, for pleasure and relaxation. You can turn your pre-ride grooming into a meaningful dialog with your horse. The information you gain will empower communication with your farrier, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, dentist, veterinarian and trainer.
The positive intent to change your grooming technique can translate into huge benefits for your horse’s posture, performance and health. Good posture will reduce wear and tear on your horse’s joints and soft tissues.
Connective tissue can be thin and flat like the fascia between the skin and the muscles or thick and dense like tendons and ligaments. Fascia should freely glide across corresponding tissues, other muscles, tendons and organs. Injury, chronic lameness, asymmetry and disuse can cause restriction, adhesions and scar tissue. Any superficial or deep restrictions can affect the range of motion to the horse’s joints, limbs and body, thereby distorting and compromising symmetry, balance and the posture of the horse.
The healthier the fascia is at the origin and insertion (as it attaches into the bone or other fascia), the better it can function. So an important part of the cross fiber grooming is to groom across the spine and bony prominences. Traditional grooming does not advocate grooming across joints or bony prominences.
CROSS FIBER GROOMING
Try to groom your horse freely in a stall or on a ground tie so he can bend and stretch as you groom; he may offer to groom on you or tell you when it hurts by the pin of an ear or swish of a tail. As you tune into your horse he will tune into you!
Instead of using a curry in the traditional circular motion, cross fiber massage helps to break up adhesions and scar tissue, and stimulates circulation, lymphatic drainage, and acupuncture points, to relax the horse physically and mentally. You can use any tool you would like for cross fiber work: a rubber curry, a body brush, a towel, or just your hand.
Using short 4-6 inch back and forth strokes, groom lightly at first and feel if the skin is loose over the muscles. It should feel as free as the skin on the back of your hand.
Once you have loosened up the skin, continue with the short 4-6 inch strokes as you groom and massage deeper into the bulk of the muscles. Use all of your senses to notice signs of relaxation, such as licking, chewing, yawning, sighing, bending around and stretching and postural relaxation. Groom within your horse’s tolerance and your safety. If he reacts by flinching, tensing or acting agitated, do not ignore the area; instead, groom lighter for 30-60 seconds, and watch for a positive response or move on to the next area for this session. Better to do less than more when you are first starting out. Take your time and use your senses to observe and evaluate your horse. I always have my free hand on the horse as it will help monitor other muscle responses to the grooming. As the grooming sessions become deeper, I lean on that free arm and use my body to groom, not just my shoulder.
It is well worth the time and energy to train your senses, and get your eyes and hands on your horse’s muscles and body and truly learn how “Posture is the Language of the Horse™.”
Patricia Bona-Kustra, DC, lives and practices in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic in 1986, and was certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in 1992. An avid equestrian most her life, currently riding and training her two horses, she is active in dressage, jumping and more recently Side Saddle competition.