Cold Back Massage
JP giving a horse a back Massage
Does your horse flinch when you’re saddling up? React when tightening the girth?
He may be suffering from a cold back. Cold Back is a common problem usually associated with ill-fitting saddles, unbalanced riders, incorrect shoeing, and aggressive training programs.The term Cold Back refers to an inflammatory condition of the muscles in a horse’s back, resulting in tenderness ranging from mild to severe. The main muscles affected in this condition are the longissimus dorsi, the iliocostalis and possibly the serratus dorsalis, both cranialis and caudalis portions. In severe cases, the thoracolumbar fascia is also affected. This condition will cause your horse to compensate using the muscles over his entire rib cage, possibly up his neck and some of the larger muscles of both his fore and hind legs.
To help the horse with a Cold Back, consider massage, stretching and hydrotherapy applications.
HOW TO MASSAGE
Choose a location where your horse will be calm and relaxed. Light massage both before and after riding will help; if you have time for only one, an after-ride session is better, because warm back muscles can take a more vigorous massage that will soothe any stiffness and prevent the formation of trigger points.
Start with the Stroking-Effleurage-Wringing approach along his entire back, from withers to rump, on both sides. This will stimulate the general circulation and loosen the muscles. Effleurage is the gliding movement done with the fingers and palm of your hands, using a gentle pressure to assist the natural flow of the venous blood circulation. Wringing is similar but done with both hands moving side to side as in wringing a wet cloth. This really stimulates blood circulation!
Follow with effleurages, 3 to 5 times, increasing your pressure from 3-5 pounds up to 10-12 pounds. Continue with wringing massage movements across the entire back (10 pounds pressure), again from withers to rump and back to withers, to boost circulation and loosen the back muscles. Follow with effleurage massage movements. Next, use some light hacking moves (8 to 10 pounds of pressure) along the entire back to reach deeper in the muscle structures.
Complete your session with some finger frictions along the course of the longissimus dorsi and the iliocostalis dorsi muscles to further loosen and relax the muscle fibers. Intersperse with lots of effleurages and finish your treatment with the Wringing-Effleurage-Stroking approach over the entire back.
The carrot is used to help handler to stretch the horses back and neck.
STRETCHING THE BACK
Get your horse to round and stretch his back muscle by stimulating the gluteal muscles (see photos). A carrot stretch to bring the nose of the horse down in between his forelegs is very good to release his back tension. Regular stretching before and after exercise will maintain your horse’s back flexibility.
To maximize your session, consider the “Ice-cup massage technique.” You’ll want to have on hand a 4- to 8-ounce paper or foam cup that was previously filled with water and frozen. When you’re ready for your session, peel the rim of the cup away, and holding the cup by the bottom, massage using a circular motion with light pressure for about 5 minutes on each side of back. The coolness produced by the ice-cup massage application will soothe the nerve endings irritated in the back muscles and contribute to flushing the circulation within the back muscle structures.
A daily application of massage, stretching and cool hydrotherapy will speed your horse’s recovery. A weekly application of the same care program will be an effective preventive measure.
Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT, CEO Animal Awareness, has practiced as a Licensed Massage Therapist since 1983. His Massage Awareness Method® blends ancient traditional techniques and the latest developments in modern massage therapy. On his website www.animalawareness.com , he offers a free library of articles on relevant topics about young, mature and aging animal care.