We all know that massage therapy relaxes your horse, improves circulation, maintains their muscles, and decreases tension. But do we know how massage improves performance?
In simple terms, massage helps muscles “wake up” and move freely. Think of it like a stretch, or when you roll out your legs after a long run. The stimulation of muscles forces circulation of blood and lymph, allowing for necessary nutrients like oxygen and glucose to move throughout the body. Access to glucose turns to glycogen, the energy needed to utilize muscle, and then helps with ridding the muscles of lactate.
Without getting too scientific on you, I’ll use a bit of analogy. It’s like a massage helps muscles get back to normal. We get rid of the gross stuff and introduce the good stuff, so the muscles can keep doing what they do best. That’s what we mean by improving circulation and restoring muscle vigor. Because when we’re able to get muscles “back to normal,” the horse is able to move freely without tension. This helps reduce injury, and therefore, improve performance. Your horse won’t be sore and end up hating work!
We can’t improve performance with just one massage, though. This is an ongoing process, much like vaccinations. Equine bodywork should be done regularly because horses regularly use their muscles. When muscles are regularly exercised, lactic acid builds up, glycogen stores are depleted, and muscle soreness occurs. When muscles are sore and not properly rested, the horse will overcompensate (much like we do after a hard leg day)! This can lead to overexercise, injury, or improper form during exercise.
So, it’s our job to make sure this doesn’t happen. Cue bodywork! No matter if its massage, PEMF, acupressure, acupuncture, chiropractic work, or even a good roll, a horse needs some form of bodywork to improve their performance. One stride at a time.