Massage and Grooming
When I was growing up, ‘strapping’ was something we learned in Pony Club from a very early age. Often I explain to clients that in the ‘olden days’ the grooms would strap the horses for 45 minutes to an hour every day. This meant that a) the horses effectively got a massage treatment every day and b) the grooms knew those horses inside out. They knew when something wasn’t right before it showed up as a behavioural or training problem.
Nowadays we groom the horses to flick the mud off so they look presentable, or we just clean the saddle and bridle area so the tack doesn’t rub. If you’ve got a horse on box rest though, you can spend the time you would have spent riding on grooming or massaging your horse instead, to benefit his health and promote healing.
Massage is incredibly easy, and you can’t go wrong, so please give it a go! When you are confident in what you’re doing, it’s relaxing for you as well as your horse. You do not have to press hard, as long as you are doing enough to stimulate the nerves in the skin and the hair follicles. Since the horse can feel a fly landing on his skin, it’s likely that you’ll be massaging hard enough for that! You can use your hands, or if you feel more confident doing so (and a lot of people do, it seems), you can use a massage mitt, a massage gun, a massage brush, a massage roller, or anything similar. If you have the funds, then there are some excellent therapy rugs available, and the retailer would advise you on a program suitable for your horse.
If you’re not comfortable massaging your horse, or don’t want to every day, then thorough grooming is the next best option, in my opinion. A half hour grooming session will stimulate healing. There is nothing you can do from the outside to ‘fix’ whatever needs fixing in your horse. His body has to do the ‘fixing’ itself, with the support of the team around him. What you can do from the outside is help that body to be in the best possible position to ‘fix’ itself, and massage and grooming will help with that.
If you'd like to know more, see my book 'Horse Massage for Horse Owners'.
© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio 2021
Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion