The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

January 7, 2022
Sue Palmer

7.1.2022 An Excerpt From The Book ‘Horse Massage For Horse Owners’ by Sue Palmer

Compression

Practising on yourself

Rest your hand lightly on your forearm, just above your wrist, and slowly slide it towards your elbow. As you reach the end of your forearm, stop and press the heel of your hand down to squash the muscle it was resting on. Keep the rest of your hand relaxed and in contact with your skin while you do this. Use the heel of your hand to slide your skin up towards your elbow, as far as your skin is able to stretch. This won’t be very far so don’t expect too much, and it’s important that you take the skin with you, rather than slide over the top of it. Once you’ve stretched the skin as far as it will go, slowly and gently release the pressure, and then slide your hand a couple of centimetres back in the direction of your wrist. Repeat the process, first squashing the muscle, then stretching the skin towards your elbow, releasing the pressure, and then sliding your hand a couple of centimetres back towards your wrist to start again in a new spot.

Practising on a partner

Rest your hand lightly on the base of your partner’s back, and slowly slide it towards their neck. Just below the neck, stop and press the heel of your hand inwards to squash the muscle it was resting on. Keep the rest of your hand relaxed and in contact with your partner’s clothing while you do this. Use the heel of your hand to stretch your partner’s skin (through their clothing) up towards their neck, as far as their skin is able to stretch. This won’t be very far so don’t expect too much, and it’s important that you take the skin with your hand, rather than slide over the top of it. Once you’ve stretched the skin as far as it will go, slowly and gently release the pressure, and then slide your hand a couple of centimetres down towards the base of their back. Repeat the process, first squashing the muscle, then stretching the skin towards their neck, releasing the pressure, and then sliding your hand a couple of centimetres back towards the base of their back to start again in a new spot.

Timing

Think of this compression technique as a 4-second move. It takes around a second to press in to the skin and squash the muscle, around a second to stretch the skin, around a second to release the pressure, and around a second to slide to your next starting point.

Common problems with compression

Master the technique

Often people find it difficult to separate out the four sections of this move. Like every massage technique described here, it isn’t actually essential to carry out the move in a particular way, since you are unlikely to cause any harm through doing it differently. It is essential, however, to know exactly what your hands are doing, and it’s amazing how much we do without being aware of it. This lack of awareness will hamper your ability to assess your horse’s health and wellbeing through his musculature. For this reason, I am very specific about how to do this move. Once you have mastered it, and are able to control the speed and direction of your hands, you can adjust the technique if necessary to suit you and your horse.

Work slowly

As with every technique, there is a tendency for people to move too fast. Again, they are often unaware of this. For this reason I’ve suggested a specific timing for the move. I find this problem most common in people who have busy lives, whether with work, family or other commitments. I recommend that each compression takes around four seconds. Sometimes people make this move very ‘jerky’, instead of smooth and flowing. One of my favourite phrases that I learned from Monty Roberts is to ‘move as though you’re moving through sticky treacle’, and this applies equally as well to massage as it does to handling your horse. The (incorrect in this case) tendency with compression is to push rapidly into the muscle for the first part of the move and then wait a second before the next part. Then the skin is quickly moved, and held for a second before suddenly being released. Another second goes by and then the hand is swiftly moved to the next spot. Instead of this sharp application of the technique, think firstly about taking a second or so to ease your hand into the skin and let it sink gently into the muscle. Then take around a second to effortlessly encourage the skin to stretch away from you, taking care that your hand moves with the skin and the skin moves with your hand, rather than your hand moving over the skin (or clothing). Think slow as you gradually ease off the pressure until you have the lightest touch, and then glide your hand slowly over the skin to complete the fourth part of the move.

Keep your fingers relaxed

It’s easy to start pressing into the body with the tips of your fingers in this move. This indicates tension, and therefore a less effective and less comfortable massage technique. Instead, check that the palm of your hand and the pads of your fingers are lying softly on the skin throughout the move, including when you are stretching the skin towards them. Some people allow the pads of their fingers to slide over the skin as the heel of the hand causes a stretch in their direction; others keep the pads of their fingers still, so that the palm of their hand is raised away from the skin in the stretch part of the move. Either technique is fine, as long as there is continual contact and no pressure from anywhere except for the heel of your hand.

For more information and to order your copy of ‘Horse Massage For Horse Owners’ today, visit www.thehorsephysio.co.uk.

Description of ‘Horse Massage for Horse Owners’ by Sue Palmer

”This book is a must for anyone who would like to improve the health, wellbeing or performance of their horse. Practical, educational and easy to follow, the author shares with you the knowledge and skills you need to massage your own horse. Learn about equine anatomy, massage techniques, and how to combine the moves to develop a complete massage routine. With the emphasis on how you can work with your own horse, Sue offers an insight into how to reduce pain and stiffness in your horse as well as improve performance. Massaging your horse gives something back in return for all he does for you, and will help you and your horse to truly enjoy the time that you spend together.”

5 star review on Amazon from Ann T

“I was really impressed by this book. Written clearly, with relevant illustrations that reinforce the text, it tells you what to do and explains why. I enjoyed learning a bit more about the horse's anatomy and it made it easier to understand the massage. The techniques do take some practice - my forearm and partner are as well massaged as the horse! - but they get easier. My older mare certainly enjoys the sessions and it seems to give me feedback on how she's feeling. I think she's moving more easily too. Our horses have benefitted from treatment from both physiotherapists and osteopaths previously and this would in no way replace their expertise, but would hopefully be a useful adjunct. The FAQs are informative and the prompt section a useful idea. The book is great for amateurs like me but I feel that professional riders may find it of interest as well.”

Publisher: ‎ J.A.Allen & Co Ltd; Illustrated edition (30 Aug. 2012)

Language: ‎ English

Paperback: ‎ 128 pages

ISBN-10: ‎ 0851319998

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0851319995

Dimensions: ‎ 19.05 x 1.27 x 24.13 cm

For more information and to order your copy of ‘Horse Massage For Horse Owners’ today, visit www.thehorsephysio.co.uk.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

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