Massage has been used for centuries as an aid to healing. The use of 'rubbing' or massage, sometimes with the use of aromatic oils was detailed in a medical book written around 2000BC by the Emperor Huang.
In the past strapping was used as a part of the daily grooming routine; using a 'wisp' made of straw a horse would be treated to avoid any muscle stiffness.
Massage is described as 'the use of the hands and fingers to aid circulation, remove muscle stiffness and pain'. It works by influencing circulatory and lymphatic flow however, the act of 'rubbing' the area also triggers the release of endorphins, which are pain relieving chemicals, into the body. Pain reduction will in turn relieve muscle spasms and the tissues will begin to exchange fluid and gas as normal.
There are 3 main strokes used in hand massage:
· Effleurage - this uses downward and inward pressure with the direction of the muscle fibres. Strokes should be rhythmical, this stroke is used for reducing muscle spasms from pain, reducing swelling after injury and to calm a stressed horse. It is also used before and after strenuous exercise or any other type of massage.
· Petrissage (kneading) - this uses a firm squeezing and relaxing movement to stimulate circulation. Used for reducing muscle tension after exertion, breaking down adhesions following haematoma and muscle tone maintenance after injury.
· Friction - is used for a very specific local area and uses a deep movement to apply pressure and is used for breaking down scar tissue, adhesions, tendonitis, synovitis and tendon or ligament rupture.
Brushing with a body brush also acts as a type of effleurage if a good rhythm is used.
You should ensure that anyone massaging your horse has training to ensure they do not inflict damage or pain to your horse.
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