What is Equine Sports Therapy? – This is a combination of hands on massage techniques to manipulate the horse’s soft tissues and the performance of passive stretches. The application of both massage and passive stretches can both have huge benefits to the horse in many ways, some of these are as follows;
· Pain relief
· Increased joint mobility
· Increased range of movement
· Improved proprioception and balance
· Improvement in performance in all disciplines
· Muscle spasm and trigger point release, which can cause muscular tension, pain and joint inflammation.
· It can help to correctly realign any bones that have been pulled out of place by tightness and tension in the surrounding muscles.
· Reduction of strain on joints
· Relaxation and promotion of well-being.
· Relieves tension and stiffness
· Increases flexibility by stretching and relaxing the muscle and encouraging it back to its normal relaxed length
· Promotes quicker removal of waste products/toxins in the muscles – when muscles work, they burn oxygen and glucose and produce lactic acid. This can build up in the muscles and contribute to muscle soreness and fatigue.
· Reduction in the formation of adhesions. Muscles, through wear and tear can develop microscopic tears in the muscle fibres, if not treated these will be replaced by inelastic scar tissue, which is very inflexible, so massaging the muscles helps to reduce their formation.
· Improves muscle tone
· Increases blood circulation, therefore bringing more oxygen and nutrients into the bodies soft tissues, joints, organs bones and other bodily systems.
· Lymphatic system – Increasing the flow of lymph fluid and speeding up injury recovery, increasing toxin and bacterial removal through drainage and the reduction of oedema, swellings and excess fluid.
· Endocrine – release of ‘feel good’ hormones- endorphins
· Nervous system – relaxes, calms and has a soothing effect on tired nerve pathways.
· Respiratory – Induces deeper breathing by the release of tension on the chest cavity, reduces the respiration rate and can relieve any build-up of mucous congestion.
· Digestive system – increases peristalsis, releases tension in the abdominal cavity, intestinal muscles and connective tissues, increased circulation and nutrient supply.
· Integumentary System – Improved coat condition through stimulation of sebaceous glands, improved elasticity and the reduction of scar tissue.
· Joints & Bones – Reduces the stress on bones by reducing the tension on the tendons and ligaments (as simply put tendons join muscles to bone, ligaments bone to bone), keeps joints supple through increased circulation and transportation of nutrients. Helps to mobilise joints by increasing synovial fluid.
· Cardiovascular – Increases circulation, heart function and increases oxygen rich blood supply to the body’s tissues through gaseous exchange in the lungs.
Equine sports therapy is not only used when the horse is having problems, it is also extremely beneficial to have regular maintenance treatments to maintain health and performance, this will not only keep the equine athlete in their best possible condition and reduce the chances of injury through maintaining suppleness and elasticity, but it will also give me a good understanding of the horse and to be able to be aware of what his normal bodily condition is and be able to monitor any patterns of soreness.