It’s not easy for me to pick one part of horse massage that’s my favorite, but working on their front end is probably close to the top. We all know that the horse puts more weight on their front legs than their hind end. Horses even put more weight on their dominant leg. What this shows is that we need to pay special attention to their front, so that you can finally have your horse engage their hind end like your trainer keeps telling you to do!
While horses distribute more of their weight on the front end, they also have more of an intricate muscle structure. If you look at their anatomy, you can see the muscles on their hind end are these long structures. The complicated front end means that their shoulders get sore! Tension builds up and leads to a less-than-willing athlete. Can you imagine running half marathons and not rolling your legs out or even stretching? You wouldn’t be able to get your fastest times or have the endurance to run the whole race. Talk about sore muscles and decreasing performance!
As a bit of a background, let me just nerd out quickly. The brachiocephalicus muscle controls the bulk of neck movement. It also helps the shoulder move forward. This muscle is almost always sore when I massage them. Same goes for the trapezius muscle and the deltoid/tricep, since these muscles work to have the scapula draw upward and the shoulder to extend and flex. I always get a reaction with these muscles. It’s simple: they’re used often so of course they’ll be sore.
Just even using compression on these muscles proves drastic results. I’ll often see muscle spasming, huge releases of tension, and freedom of movement in the horse. It’s amazing stuff!
It’s not that you need a massage for your horse. The problem is just that horses accumulate tension in their muscles through exercise. You’ll see the the exact same thing for humans. There’s needs to be a release of tension in order for horses to feel better. If you don’t get bodywork on your horse, it might decrease their performance because they don’t feel their best!