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Who can benefit from sports massage therapy?

By: Galadriel Billington

10:04PM Apr 10, 2004

Racing Arabian colt enjoying his massage
Racing Arabian colt
enjoying his massage

A very fit horse (or person) may have so much muscle build that his movement is constricted by his strength; his muscles are so strong that he has difficulty with relaxing them. Very strong muscles can be in a constant state of contraction; strong muscles may feel very hard all of the time. Those hard muscles are never fully relaxed.

But you don't have to sacrifice dexterity for strength! A fit horse can still be very flexible and capable of extension. Strong muscles can still have give and elasticity, if properly managed. All you need to do is make sure that he has muscle relaxation and stretching in his training schedule. A sports massage therapist is experienced in helping to relax those muscles that are contracting.

The horse would have difficulty relaxing those muscles himself; once contracted tightly or repeatedly, he may carry that tension around for years. The same can be true of muscle tension due to pain or stress. Flexibility, once lost, doesn't come back on its own; you have to re-develop it.

A horse who has tight muscle tension, even old muscle tension, may have certain personality quirks. He may be "cold-backed," or he may nip as the girth is fastened. He may be uncooperative about working until well warmed up (increased circulation), or he may work well for a while then become uncooperative due to cramping. He may buck or rear due to discomfort. Sometimes a "problem horse" is simply a horse who could use a few sessions of massage...

You likely know people who are this way, too; people who appear all right most of the time, but who fly off the handle when their stress level is increased. Such a person is probably carrying around a lot of muscular (stress) tension already, and increasing that tension can lead to headaches, backaches, irritability. An irritable horse could simply have a headache!
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.