SOOTHING HANDS EQUINE THERAPY

Because Quality of Movement Matters

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Massage For Horses? You've Gotta Be Kidding?!

Posted by equinetherapist@live.ca on January 31, 2017 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (2)

My mission is to ensure that every horse gets a massage, because quality of movement is important in allowing our horses to work with us, not just for us.

I see too many horses being ridden who move poorly or behave poorly, and who are suffering with muscle spasms and/or muscle pain. Despite these problems they continue to do their jobs while suffering in silence. That is until they can't take it anymore and then,.... behavioral and training problems that weren't a big problem, or even noticed, become worse. Finally the unnoticed muscle issues show up in ways that everyone can see! For example, as an intermittent lameness/stiffness, or problems with lead changes, or they won't move off your leg (lazy horse). At their worse, muscle problems can create dangerous riding and behavioural changes! Our solutions become the norm! We accept long warmups, or herbs, or low level anti-inlammatory meds to manage our horses. No big deal, right......WRONG!!

 

What you're seeing and dealing with are the symptoms, not the problem. Your horse needs a massage to actually FIX the problem. I know that for a fact because it happened to my horse 20 years ago. Equine massage gave me a better horse than the one I got for free because no one would buy her since she couldn't pass the vet check! I continue to see this as I massage horses; the positive thing thatI have seen over the last few years is that more people are looking to find answers to their horse problems, not just quick fixes.

I Hate Carrot Stretches!!!

Posted by equinetherapist@live.ca on January 31, 2017 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (2)

I hate carrot stretches. As much as I hate side reins, draw reins, harsh bits, ill fitting saddles, people who blame the horse for every thing, that Winter is as long as the other 3 seasons put together, that chocolate makes me fat, that I can't ride my horse more often, and........the list goes on, but I won't bore you with my non-horsey pet peeves anymore. Okay, so, back to the topic at hand..... carrot stretches, and why I hate them. They're always recommended, by other practitioners, for horses who have problems flexing their necks laterally (left or right). I have been told by clients that the stretches were recommended by one or all of the various practitioners who have been to see the horse, before me, to solve the problem. As a massage therapist I have had clients with stiff horses who have been on the carrot stretch program, for weeks to months, to increase their neck flexibility and flexion. And let me tell you, oh baby, by the time I've gotten to them they can stretch back to their hips and between their legs and almost touch their belly button (do horses had belly buttons?)! I am always polite and ask to see the display, because everyone is so pleased with their horse's new found flexibility they want to demonstrate it, plus, the mighty steed in question will get treats. Then I put my hands on this mighty flexing machine and feel their muscles, that are tight, sore, in spasm, or some combination of all 3 problems. You know, the muscles. The ones that need to work properly to flex your horse around your leg on a circle, and the muscles that have to take the power from the hind end and push it up and through the back, lift the shoulders up through the withers into the neck, to allow you that soft feel in your hands? Then there are the muscles that create the flexion from the inside hind leg up into the hip via the stifle; softening the rib cage, keeping the shoulders and front legs on the same path as the hind legs, culminating in a soft curve through the neck. That same soft flexion which the horse can hold on his own without balancing on our inside hand? Is that giving you a picture of the flexion that we are talking about? Yes? Well...does it look similar to what the horse is doing in a carrot stretch? Then, like a good trial lawyer (who always knows what the answer to their question will be, or they don't ask it) I ask my question; so, how is he/she flexing when you are riding since you've been doing the STUPID carrot stretches? Well I don't add stupid, at least not out loud. And the answer is always the same..........You guessed it.....; "no better". AAHRRRGHHHH I hate carrot stretches! Soooo, now I've gotten that off my chest I can proceed, rationally, to clarify. I don't really hate carrot stretches! They are a tool which is not being used correctly, to solve a problem it wasn't intended to solve. Surprise, surprise, they aren't to improve neck flexion! What do you know! They are actually called Dynamic Mobilization Exercises, and they're also known as baited stretches, or carrot stretches. Now I will quote from Dr. Hillary Clayton who has done the research on these dynamic mobilization exercises; "Specific muscles are activated in order to move and stabilize the intervertebral joints as the horse moves his chin into the different positions. The abdominal muscles help to round and bend the back, while the back muscles provide a counter-torque that stabilizes the intervertebral joints during back movements. Joint stabilization is very important both for improving athletic performance and for preventing back injury. Research has shown that regular performance of dynamic mobilization exercises over a period of 3 months stimulated hypertrophy (enlargement) of the muscles that stabilize the horse's back." This research was published as Dynamic mobilisation exercises increase cross sectional area of musculus multifidus in the prestigious Equine Veterinary Journal in 2011 . Now you may ask, do I have the solution? Yes I do, and how do I know it works, My clients tell me what a difference they feel when they ride, and their horses muscles tell me as well. Give me a call if your carrot stretches haven't improved the flexibility through the neck and body of your horse, I'd love to help!

How to Choose Massage or Chiro?

Posted by equinetherapist@live.ca on January 31, 2017 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (1)

I have been an equine massage therapist for almost 20 years, and I still find that many horse owners don't understand the difference between equine massage and equine chiropractics. The two modalities are similar in that they are trying to address movement and pain problems in horses. However, they are addressing them in two totally different, yet interconnected ways. It is because of this that the questions arise as to when to use one or the other, and which one is better. My answer to those questions are as follows; use both, particularly when initially addressing a problem, and neither is better, because they are doing two totally different things! It would be like comparing apples to oranges; both are tasty fruit, which are filled with vitamins and fiber that our bodies need, do we need both? Is one better than the other?

 

To keep it very simple - The chiropractor uses a form of manual therapy that uses short lever, high velocity, low amplitude, controlled thrusts to adjust mainly the spine, but other joints as well, with the desire to ensure that the nerves which feed the impulses to the muscles are fully functioning.

- The massage therapist uses a form of manual therapy that uses a variety of strokes and physical manipulation to restore soft tissue, mainly muscles, but also tendons, ligament and fascia, to their best functioning potential. so that the muscles can do their jobs, which is to (at its simplest) move the joints.

 

As you can see, both are looking at the horse from a different perspective when it comes to deciding what is wrong, and the way to fix the problem your horse may be having. Sometimes they may see different areas as the cause of your problem, sometimes they see that the same area is not functioning properly, but their solutions will be different. That doesn't necesarily make one right or wrong, better or worse.

 

That is why I recommend using both at least once, to get the best value for your money, as well as to ensure you have fully addressed your horse as the complex system that it is.

 

So, if you're agreed that you need both, who do you use first? Ultimately it is a chicken or egg issue, but.... in my experience, the client gets best value and the horse gets better faster if you use a massage therapist first. I have come to this conclusion having worked on horses with chiropractors, (I'm not alone in that belief either). I'll outline my reasoning, then you will have some information to help you make your own decision.

The nerves (which the chiropractor is ultimately making the joint adjustments for) are always able to send impulses to the muscles. When muscles aren't functioning optimally, they stop the joints from functioning fully. For the chiropractor to manipulate the joints, they have to loosen up the muscles first, so they do a little massage to facilitate their work. Sometimes it's enough, sometimes it's not. That's why, many times, adjustments "don't hold", and they have to keep coming back. Use the massage therapist first, and the chiropractor can spend more time actually adjusting, and less time manipulating muscles to try and get an adjustment. The adjustments they do will hold, so then there will be fewer adjustments necessary (as well as massages). If I work on the horse a few times and loosen up the muscles, when the chiro does their thing, the horse is usually fixed for good; assuming the underlying cause of the problem has been addressed.

 

That brings me to address something that drives me insane....and both chiropractors and massage therapists can be found who are guilty of doing this "thing" I'm going to address next. Thankfully they are a minority, but if what I am about to say is true for you, I hope you will stop and think,,,"Does this make sense?".

 

Here goes...There is no need to see either professional constantly, unless your horse is a high performance horse, or has a chronic health problem (arthritis, navicular are a couple of examples) or has some other chronic problem that can be fixed, such as poor saddle fit, using equipment incorrectly, etc. Any professional who knows what they are doing can give you a pretty good idea how many visits it will take to fix your horse's problem. Once your horse is "fixed", they should stay "fixed"! If you have a chiropractor or massage therapist telling you you need to see them every few weeks, or every month, for the life of your horse. Fire them!

 

That being said, I try to educate clients, and people who come to my clinics, how to maintain their horses' muscles, as well as how to identify potential problems, and fix simple ones themselves. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!" has been my belief.

 

Hope this helped and look forward to answering any questions you may have.

 

 


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