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The Benefits of Massage and Pilates for Your Horse

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Tired and achy muscles make you feel miserable let alone feeling stiff, uncomfortable and generally lacking energy. Your horse will feel the same if his muscles are sore, but he doesn’t always have the option to take it easy for a few days. He’ll have to put up with it or communicate his discomfort to you in other ways as it impacts his ability to do the work you ask of him.


gillian higgins horses inside out massage equine massage back spine

Massage therapy has been used for thousands of years to help promote good muscle health in humans and horses. Massage is beneficial not just physically, it also improve you horse’s mental well-being.


As the saying goes prevention is better than cure and you don’t need to wait to call in a therapist until your horse has a problem, regular maintenance massage is a powerful preventative measure and can keep your horse feeling at his best. Leaving what is initially a minor issue, without the correct treatment, can lead to a whole host of potentially serious problems that will take much longer to treat.

gillian higgins horses inside out What are the Benefits of Equine Massage Promotes mental and physical relaxation Improve comfort and provides some pain relief Reduce muscle tension and discomfort Increase range of movement and improve suppleness Improve posture Enhance circulation Support the immune system  Reduce the chance of injury  Builds a bond between you and your horse


What are the Benefits of Equine Massage
  • Promotes mental and physical relaxation

  • Improve comfort and provides some pain relief

  • Reduce muscle tension and discomfort

  • Increase range of movement and improve suppleness

  • Improve posture

  • Enhance circulation

  • Support the immune system

  • Reduce the chance of injury

  • Builds a bond between you and your horse




What is massage?

Massage is the manipulation of soft tissues for therapeutic purposes. It’s a hands on technique, which uses a variety of different movements for different purposes. These either soothe or stimulate. All techniques should be performed evenly, smoothly and rhythmically. Always massage towards the heart or follow the direction of the hair.


There are so many different massage styles from Swedish to Chinese, deep tissue to myofascial release and lymphatic drainage massage and so many more! Often there are different names for the same or similar massage techniques. On the Horses Inside Out Massage Day Course we focus on the basics of myofascial release techniqes and the four main techniques that make up sports massage:-



gillian higgins horses inside out Effleurage A rhythmic deep stroking movement performed towards the heart using both hands. It aids lymphatic drainage and venous blood circulation, stimulates nerve endings, releases a natural pain-reducing opiate, relaxes contracted muscles and is psychologically soothing.

Effleurage


A rhythmic deep stroking movement performed towards the heart using both hands. It aids lymphatic drainage and venous blood circulation, stimulates nerve endings, releases a natural pain-reducing opiate, relaxes contracted muscles and is psychologically soothing.




gillian higgins horses inside out Kneading A compressing and releasing of muscle tissue usually performed with the hand but may also involve the elbow or a clenched fist; the choice being determined by the tissue being worked. This technique is considered to mimic muscle contraction and aids the venous circulation.

Kneading


A compressing and releasing of muscle tissue usually performed with the hand but may also involve the elbow or a clenched fist; the choice being determined by the tissue being worked. This technique is considered to mimic muscle contraction and aids the venous circulation.




Frictions

gillian higgins horses inside out frictions  Pressure is applied to small areas by one finger, reinforced by another in a forward progression of one and a quarter rotations.  The fingers do not slip over the skin. This technique helps to break down adhesions (muscle knots), mobilize scar tissue, by irritating the area to re-establish the natural healing reaction of the body, helps to reduce muscle tension in smaller muscular areas and will increase localised circulation of blood and lymphatic drainage.

Pressure is applied to small areas by one finger, reinforced by another in a forward progression of one and a quarter rotations. The fingers do not slip over the skin. This technique helps to break down adhesions (muscle knots), mobilize scar tissue, by irritating the area to re-establish the natural healing reaction of the body, helps to reduce muscle tension in smaller muscular areas and will increase localised circulation of blood and lymphatic drainage.


Tapotement

A double handed rapid percussive technique which stimulates underlying tissue. Performed by the sides of the hands on smaller muscle groups (hacking) or on larger groups using cupped palms (clapping), this is an ideal pre-performance massage technique to help warm muscle.


Learning to Massage

Massage is best performed by a professional therapist who will be able to assess your horse’s musculature and offer advice on a suitable programme going forwards. They will also be able to demonstrate techniques that you can use between treatments.


Massage is a useful skill to learn and can help to maintain your horse’s suppleness and flexibility. The Horses Inside Out Massage for Horses day course gives you the opportunity under Gillian’s guidance to learn and practise basic massage techniques on different horses, so you go home confident to carry out massage on your own horse.



The Power of Pilates

Pilates is a conditioning system that increases core stability, strength and body awareness; redresses imbalances, and realigns the body from the inside out. It can improve posture, achieve a balance between strength and flexibility and relieve tension. It is popular with Olympic athletes and sportsmen from all disciplines.


gillian higgins horses inside out Tail pull Equine Pilates is a conditioning system that increases core stability, strength and body awareness; redresses imbalances, and realigns the body from the inside out. It can improve posture, achieve a balance between strength and flexibility and relieve tension.  It is popular with Olympic athletes and sportsmen from all disciplines.

Developed by Joseph Pilates, an authority on movement and biomechanics, he continually developed and refined a programme of exercises and stretches based on the principle that a strong core supports the back and minimises the risk of muscular damage.


Pilates for Horses

Many of the Pilates principals can be applied to your horse. Core stability and strength are as important to your horse as they are to you – the rider. Maintaining stability, posture and balance can contribute to more effective training, improved performance and can reduce the risk of injury.

gillian higgins horses inside out belly lift Stimulating and strengthening the core muscles will come through correct training. There are however a number of exercises, performed from the ground, which can supplement ridden work to help improve core stability

Stimulating and strengthening the core muscles will come through correct training. There are however a number of exercises, performed from the ground, which can supplement ridden work to help improve core stability.



By performing these specific exercises, the core muscles that promote good posture, a strong back and assist in carrying the weight of the rider can be strengthened. These include the deep internal muscles of the abdomen, pelvis, thoracic sling, and back together with the more superficial muscles of the trunk.


Carrot Between the Front Legs


This exercise is the equivalent to you doing a sit up.

The aim is for your horse to lift and flex his withers, neck and back – and to increase core stability, the musculature of the top line, abdominal strength and black flexibility.


gillian higgins horses inside out Carrot exercises for horses. To improve core stability, back mobility, range of movement, posture and body awareness

How to do it
  1. Using a carrot, encourage your horse to bring his head down then back between his front legs.

  2. Keep the carrot close to his lips to discourage him from snatching at the carrot.

  3. Hold the stretch for 5 – 10 seconds before allowing your horse to take the carrot.

  4. Repeat 2 – 3 times gradually increasing the stretch by taking his head further back.


This and other Pilates exercises can easily be incorporated into your horse’s daily routine. If you’d like to learn more about these exercises come along to our Pilates for Horses course.


This practical day course focuses on 'Pilates' type exercises that you can do with your own horse. Learning how to do these groundwork exercises can be hugely beneficial to all horses and boost performance.

During this course you will learn how to perform exercises that will improve:

  • Posture

  • Core stability

  • Strength

  • Flexibility

  • Suppleness

  • Coordination

  • Balance


There will be plenty of hands-on participation with the opportunity to practise the exercises on different horses with Gillian present to help and guide you.


Check out the latest dates by following the link: What's On https://www.horsesinsideout.com/whats-on-list






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