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Sports massage is the application of hands-on massage techniques for the purpose of improving flexibility, circulation, relaxing muscle spasms, relieving tension, and enhancing muscle tone. It allows owners to have a more dynamic tool in assessing their horse. Small changes are detected at earlier stages, equaling an increase in recovery.  In performance horses, and pleasure horses, this knowledge can be invaluable in the health of each animal.


Joint problems, arthritis, torn or over extended muscles and ligaments, injury, and surgery are some of the more common ailments that can benefit from sports massage. During the periods of restricted movement, the body is at rest and the muscles are inactive or stiff. When activities are resumed, the same muscle may have increased soreness and fatigue earlier. Massage improves the flexibility and decreases soreness of these muscles and helps to prevent re-injury. The massage itself can also promote socialization, enhance the human-animal bond, and help maintain good health for your horse.


Each muscle affects other muscles around it, as well as the bones of the body of which they are connected to. An example of this is trauma to the muscles in the front leg. This trauma will affect the muscles throughout the back, neck, abdomen, and back legs. In turn, this affects how the horse walks, stands, eats and plays. It can also alter their behavior. Pain and discomfort manifest in different behaviors. Massage will help to strengthen the affected muscles & allow the horse to release adhesions and to slowly start using the muscles again. 


Equine Sports Massage concentrates on muscles that cannot secure their own release. A small, adhering bit of tissue of the muscle or joint ligament can make muscles incapable of functioning properly.  Massage restores the freedom of movement by reducing the resistance to motion. This improves the flexibility, overall tone, and function of the muscles. 

Less wear and tear on your horse translates to a longer happier life.




by Debranne Pattillo


Improve stamina

By increasing the range of motion, you'll find the horse is working again in an efficient manner, thus improving the stamina as well as the performance. Anytime the horse is working against himself he is using excessive energy to run his systems.

Improve the disposition

Some individuals will present their objections by changing their behavior. Often, you'll look back in hindsight realizing that your four legged friend was trying to tell you something well before an injury took place. He wasn't just being bad, he was attempting communication.  Remember when, out of the blue, he started pinning his ears when saddling him up? Could it be possible he was letting you know that he hurt somewhere?

Provide comfort to muscles injuries

After the appropriate time for healing, you find massage, stretching and the proper exercise can help the process along by encouraging the scar tissue to lie down in a better pattern. Reducing any amount of scar tissue as it adheres to healthy tissue can help restore the muscle to better returning function.

Enhance the performance and gait quality

By improving the stamina and the disposition, as well as the range of motion the performance and gaits also reap the benefits.

Increase the range of motion

A horse that moves better is more efficient in his stride. There is less wear and tear on the joints, ligaments and tendons equating to a longer performance life. Some disciplines rely on a big moving horse, so enhancing the stride improves the gaits. A longer and more efficient stride in a well conditioned sound race horse can make the difference in lengths at the finish line. The dressage horse that is flexible looks better and feels better. A jumper uses a major amount of muscle during his take off, flight and landing. If he is flexible and agile with the muscles synchronized properly, he'll do a better job.

Improve the circulation

You have noticed that stocked up legs will go down after a little exercise or by applying friction. After a massage a horse actually looks like has been working out in the gym. His veins are easy to see and the coat is glossy. When you've got the circulation going you are also helping to stimulate the elimination of waste products in the system. Exercise is actually the best way to increase the circulation; however, some horses are on a controlled exercise program while recovering from injury or illness. For these horses, massage is used to stimulate the circulation when necessary.

Reduce the tactile defense

Some horses don't want to be touched. They are not used to it, but Others could care less. They love to be touched, scratched, stroked and groomed. The defensive ones need a little time and communication via touch before they get started with any training. I'd say that 90% of the time the ones that are shaking you off just need a deliberate touch program. They come around fast as long as you’ve first investigated all the other factors in their environment that may be contributors to the problem.

Assess the physical condition

It's easy to feel tight muscles on a horse especially when it's unilateral. Subtle changes in texture, temperature and tension can be detected with the hands. The horse’s response to touch is another part of the equation. By assessing with touch, you'll also get some ideas as to how the training program is progressing (or not.) Often subclinical issues are hard to recognize, but earlier detection can mean permanent damage is lessened.

Massage is used along with conventional and complementary health care as well as proper training techniques enabling the horse to perform at an optimum level. By itself, it does not attempt to cure anything.

    -by: Debranne Pattillo








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