Many riders tell me their horse feels off when they first get on, but works out of it. In some cases, this could be the sign of something serious needing further investigation. Soreness can disappear as the horse warms up, and then reappear a few hours after the work out. The reason is that soft tissue injuries almost always cause more pain when they are cold, because that is when the muscles are tightest. As the muscles warm up, they stretch out and send fewer pain signals. After the work out, all the soft tissue cools down and tightens again, often adding a few more muscle fibers to the tight area. You can see how, over time, this scenario can turn into more pain and escalate into an injury requiring a long lay-up.
Just because an injured area feels better after it warms up doesn’t mean that everything is okay. Stiffness and pain mean something, especially if they create a pattern over time. That is not to say that all muscle soreness is bad. Some aches are inevitable in becoming fit.
Sports massage for your horse can help ease soreness and pinpoint areas that are prone to tightness. Massage is helpful both before and after (after the horse has cooled down; I never massage right after a workout) exercise.
Massage therapy benefits the body in ways that most warm-up routines fail to do. Over time, select muscles may tighten and shorten. This greatly endangers the body, and unfortunately, an athlete is rarely aware of it until after an injury has occurred. A further benefit of regular sessions is that oxygen flow is naturally improved, which creates healthier conditions for muscles, optimizing body tissue. Increasing the flexibility in soft tissue can greatly reduce the incidence of injury.
Equestrians spend a lot of money on the latest improvements in tack, supplements, and training sessions, but one of the most cost effective ways to reduce injuries, speed up healing and recovery time,and increase circulation and blood flow is to have the right body work done on your performance horse.
Massage helps your horse recover from the last work out and get ready for the next one. Massage prior to an exercise routine should be part of your warm-up. It allows for a freer range of motion. There are so many benefits to sports massage: it can relieve pain, help in rehabbing from an injury, reduce stress, increase relaxation, and ease the aches and pains that come from travel to shows. Body work can become your secret weapon. I see it all the time!
The common notion is that static stretching is beneficial and lengthens the muscles. Many horse owners, thinking they are doing the best for their competition partners, dutifully put their horses through a series of stretches before mounting. Studies show that static stretching actually interferes with the structural integrity of connective tissue, increases tension, and reduces strength. I have seen stress points and triggers points spasm just from these common stretches. Stretching before a workout has been shown to increase the possibility of injury of a cold muscle. Non-static stretching, or bouncing, also frequently leads to injury.
Warm ups should consist of movements with a small range of motion. As blood flow increases and temperatures rise, stretching becomes safe and natural.