A muscle problem can develop so slowly that you hardly notice it. This is because a horse would always try to continue to function as normal as possible.
Unfortunately a horse does not quickly show that he has a physical problem or discomfort (under the heading “problem horses” you can read where this can come from), he knows in his nature that, as soon as he shows a problem or discomfort, he is more interesting for predators. To hide that physical discomfort, he compensates by putting extra strain on other muscles, if you don’t react in time, you get an increasingly large area with damage from overloading the muscles.
For example, you can see that an injury can lead to great muscle cramping, but vice versa, muscle cramping can also cause an injury.
Massaging your horse has many advantages. The circulation improves, it loosens and relaxes the muscles and it promotes the building of the muscles.
You can use the massage for multiple reasons:
• You can use the massage preventively: for better blood circulation and functioning, sometimes small parts in a muscle are damaged at a very small level which is not visible yet, you will notice this much later, with more training. With the massage you can optimize the problems on a micro level. For example: exercises at beginning level are no problem at all, but with extreme stretching in the trot, the problem becomes visible.
• You can also use the massage as preparing, as a warm-up before a hard training or a day before a competition. The muscles are optimised for the performance, but a warm-up for the performance is still important.
• You can use the massage healing, as a recovery after a hard training or competition. It will neutralise the body and this reduces muscle pain faster.
• You can use the massage as soon as you feel something in your training to soothe the sore muscles (you often need multiple treatments)
• You can also use the massage in a relaxing way. You let the muscles relax, you support the body’s system and reduce stress. This makes your horse more relaxed and friendly in handling and riding. This is also very nice for older animals with their somewhat tighter muscles.
How will a massage help my horse?
It improves the circulation of blood, body substances and waste disposal
Due to the improved blood circulation, acidified and overstrained muscles are replenished. This gives the muscles more oxygen and nutrients.
The removal of waste products (such as lactic acid) is also faster, which reduces muscle cramps and swelling.
Thanks to the increased blood flow and in combination with the faster removal of the waste. This ensures a faster and stronger recovery from injuries, swelling, inflammation and diseases.
A massage also stimulates the production of collagen, which is a protein that helps replace damaged tissue.
Loosens and relaxes muscles
Do you have a horse that feels well, but actually doesn’t really feel well? A massage provides relaxation in the muscles and therefore also reduces stress. Digestion also improves. It responds to the voltage drop.
The muscles become more flexible and this is noticeable: a dressage horse gets more flexibility and a jumping horse gets over the jump more easily.
The inflammatory reactions and adhesions (the known nodes) also decrease and the nervous system relaxes. For older animals it is also good to loosen the somewhat tighter muscles. The body also produces endorphins, which is a body’s own pain reliever.
Promotes muscle building and increases training capacity
A massage provides better muscle building because you have the muscles better supported by the smallest damage already repaired well by the better blood flow and drainage, so you no longer have large problem areas and a muscle gets a better recovery period, because, as you may know the muscles do not grow during the training itself, but when they are recovering from the exertion. Recovery after exercise is at least as important as the actual workout. That is why you cannot train a horse intensively 7 days a week.
You also support the body with a massage by producing ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate: an energy source for the muscles) and better freedom of movement. For example, a saddle must fit properly
There are multiple kinds of problems with problems. Usually a problem arises gradually and the signals will not immediately notice. A horse will always try to keep functioning normally.
Physical and physical problems: you have to look at this first, this does not have to be pain immediately, but can also be an inconvenience. This can be due to buckling, stepping, slipping, being stuck or the material. For example, a saddle must fit properly, for example, it can pinch / pinch the muscles or press it into the vertebrae. He can also suffer from his molars, for example, if he has a stair denture, you can ask him to bend, but the jaws cannot slide over each other, and he simply cannot lower his head without opening his mouth. (read more about this at: https://www.evy.nl/informatief/het-paardengebit/). Or he can suffer from stuck muscles after sliding in the meadow or stuck in the stable.
Riding technical problems: These problems usually arise through training, for example, when a horse is not ridden from relaxation, when forcing the head to be lowered without the relaxation, muscles and vertebrae are trapped. But tension in which he pulls his head up and pushes his back away also causes muscles and vertebrae to become trapped. Riding too much in the same position is not good either, just the variation makes muscles stronger, one relaxes muscle mass, and the other tightens again.
It can also be unclear with tension and flight behaviour as a result or an insufficient warm-up or cool-down.
So, a behavioural problem often stems from a physical problem or discomfort. With a massage you can gain insight into which area there are problems.
I can also support riding techniques.
Problems that you may notice that your horse may be suffering from his muscles.
Behaviour / pain signals:
• Problems with brushing / fitting / tacking / getting on
• Behavioural change (more cranky / restless)
• Resistance (strike, swing tail)
• Abnormal refusals
• Accept Le / Re more difficult position / bend
• Le / Re depart / half passes/ shoulder inwards etc.
• Trot-canter transition on 1 side more difficult
• Canter changes to 1 side more difficult
• Always land on the same front leg after the jump
• Lift one front leg higher than the other above the jump
• Accept more difficult position / bending
• Broadening or collecting more difficult
• Lateral work is more difficult
• Not wanting to let go of the back
• Less forward or very walky
• Hold above the obstacle
• Not being able to perform exercises
• Harder forward downward
• Fall through inner leg
• Irregularities or stroke errors in the gates
• Walk shorter or bring the front / hind leg forward.
• More difficult in the transitions / help when running
• To trip
• Be very stiff at the start of work
• He does not look fit
• He seems to have turned sour
• Decreased muscle
• Do not enjoy riding
You can see that a “small” muscle problem can lead to a training problem and can therefore cause injuries in the future (why massage).
All the examples mentioned can also be an indication for a veterinary or animal physiotherapy problem!
I am not a vet, so I cannot make a diagnosis. However, I can support in a treatment.