Equestrian massage has been a specialty of Natural Therapy Wellness Center since we opened in 2008. Being married to an equestrian, I have been around our local riding community for many years. I appreciate the athleticism of the sport and the amazing bond that develops between the horse and its rider. If you ride, you know the stresses this can can put on your body. But you may not know that massage, when focused correctly, can help keep you feeling great in the saddle for years to come.
What is Equestrian Massage?
First of all, let’s talk about what massage actually does. A good example is to close your fist and squeeze. You’ll notice that when you do this your fingers are locked in a position and can’t move freely. If you were to hold it long enough you would notice that it feels like “pins and needles”. This is because when your fist is closed tight you are lessening the blood flow to your hand. Now open your hand and stretch it out flat in front of you. When it is stretched out you can easily wiggle your fingers and any “pins and needles” feeling goes away as blood flow returns to normal. The same is true for other muscles in your body. When they are contracted, they are like the closed fist. They lose their flexibility and cannot get proper blood flow. Massage seeks to relax the muscle and get it back to its original, elongated state. Just like the outstretched hand, the relaxed muscle has proper blood flow and full flexibility. So why is this important to the equestrian?
As riders know, the cliche of “becoming one with the horse” is true. The horse is trying to figure out what you want it to do. Being a highly sensitive animal, it takes its cues from the subtle movements of the rider’s body. Dressage is a perfect example of this. When done properly the movement of the rider is so subtle it is imperceptible to the viewer. Yet the horse reacts and moves fluidly with the rider. If the rider is stiff it is like Frankenstein trying to dance . . . the result is a “forced” communication to the horse and a less enjoyable ride. It can also lead to unintentional cues being given to the horse.
How does it help?
For example, we once had a client that had a horse that kept going toward the left no matter what they did. After trying different training methods to no avail, the rider to came to us. We noticed the rider had a very slight misalignment in their hips. This was causing the rider to subconsciously give the horse cues with their legs to go to the left. We did a lot of massage work to relax the muscles that controlled the hips. The result? A horse that walked straight, a happy rider and a stronger bond between the two.