The Benefits of a Warm Up that Includes Massage

The easier it is for your horse to move freely and in good balance, the more capable it will be of doing what you ask it to do, and of doing it well. Exercise and the physical activity of the horse tends to work out the best when the horse has been set up physically for success.

Massage is a good way to warm up your horses muscles. It can be especially helpful when it’s cold out, before an important school or event, your horse is a bit muscle bound or if your horse is a tense or nervous type. Regular massage can actually retrain the body to move more readily into the parasympathetic state. The parasympathetic nervous system controls the body’s ability to relax, which can be especially helpful for high strung or spooky horses. Massage, gentle rocking and weight shift exercises can be incorporated into your in-barn warm up as a way of enabling a better ride.

Massage and bodywork before exercise has both physical and behavioral benefits.

Massage stimulates the circulation, bringing oxygen to muscles and flushing wastes.

As knots are released and fascia suppled, the temperature in your horse’s muscles, fascia, tendons and joints is raised causing tissues to become more elastic, freeing movement and reducing the risk of a tear. If your horse has aches and pains, which most do, the oxytocin released by massage will reduce them making your horse more comfortable when it moves.

Warmed, elastic muscles also work better, increasing speed, power and range of motion.

A pre-ride massage increases the level of positive hormones endorphins, serotonin and dopamine reducing feelings of anxiety and nervousness, decreasing stress and tension and causing your horse to feel optimistic about the coming activity with you. When used regularly, the hormones released by massage can help focus and relax a spooky, nervous horse significantly improving their coping skills, leading to a better performance.

It can take a few sessions for a massage therapist to build up a good rapport with your horse and get the best results both physically and mentally. The horse also needs to get used to exercising after a massage so that it’s body has time to adapt to the improvements it can make. Start with light work and move up in intensity over a several sessions. It’s also a good idea to have a therapist that’s familiar with your sports physical requirements.

Massage is an important part of keeping your horse fit, healthy, happy and performing at its best. Adding massage to your warm up can lead to a more productive ride.

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