1 of 4
evaluating the back
2 of 4
massage therapy on horses
3 of 4
4 of 4
author Don Doran
Regular massage therapy is immensely helpful in maintaining flexibility throughout the muscles of the back and the Lumbar-Sacral junction. Here are three massage strokes that can help prevent and relieve back pain.
Effleurage is usually the first massage stroke used on the back. Effleurage serves the following purposes:
- Accustoms the horse to your touch and begins to relax the muscles
- Provides you with an opportunity to evaluate the back muscles for tenderness or tightness.
- Warms up the muscles in preparation for deeper massage work
- Assists the lymphatic and venous return
Effleurage strokes glide over the skin with light to moderate pressure to the underlying tissue. The pressure is applied through contact with the fingers, palm or palm base depending on the area being worked. Work along the back starting from behind the shoulder blade to the lower back with long smooth strokes. This is an excellent technique to warm up and relax an area. Light compression is a gentle rhythmic pumping action that can be performed on any muscular area. Do not perform compression on bony areas.
Gentle rhythmic pumping action that can be performed on any muscular area.
Do not perform compression on bony areas.
Compression Technique Procedure:
- Place the base of the palm of your right hand on the horse's back.
- Place your left hand over your right hand.
- Gently press your hands into the back muscles and then release.
This routine can be performed all along the back. Start from behind the shoulder blade and work down to the lower back. Repeat the procedure 4-5 times on each side. Make sure to stay on the muscle tissue between the spinal column and ribs. Do not apply pressure directly on the spinal column or ribs.
The Cross Fiber technique is used to address deeper layers of muscle tissue. This technique compresses and moves superficial tissue over the deep tissue. As it addresses deep tissue, this technique should be applied slowly and gently.
Cross Fiber Technique Procedure:
- Place the middle 3 fingertips of your right hand on the horse's back. Your fingers should be pointing towards the horse's spinal column.
- Place your left hand over your right hand* Apply downward pressure and slowly move your fingertips back and forth across the muscle.
- To vary the technique, apply downward pressure and slowly move your fingertips in small circles
The Cross Fiber technique can be performed all along the back in the same manner that you applied the Light Compression technique. Use light to moderate pressure while moving the skin, not just moving over it. There should be no sliding with this stroke.
One key to a long partnership with your horse is maintaining a healthy relationship. Performing these massage techniques and evaluation protocols on a regular basis will help you keep in touch with your horse's level of fitness and help maintain healthy back muscles throughout his career. A little prevention can avoid lots of frustration for both horse and rider and add years to the partnership.
Don Doran has been teaching Equine Sports Massage since 1993. He resides in Ocala, Florida where he teaches Equine Sports Massage and Equine Sport Therapies. He also attends to client's horses of all disciplines in the local area.