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Being able in a short period to assist the blood circulation with a simple short massage routine is an advantage that most professional athletes put on their side.  You horse benefits of the same advantage just after a ride or exercising regardless of his discipline.

To help you with the cool-down of the muscular structure of your horse, the massage awareness method offers you a special cool-down massage routine which sole purpose is to loosen the muscles and generate good blood circulation. The cool-down routine is not a replacement for cool-down exercises. This routine is to be applied immediately after your exercising period is completed so as to prevent stiffening and loss of flexibility. It is a valuable contribution to your horse’s training. 

Your horse might be all sweaty coming out of his training. Feel free to shower him first and dry him the best you can before you apply this massage routine. Massaging over a wet coat is not the best but it can easily be done, especially that the cool down massage routine calls for a light pressure throughout the session. 

The extra drainage of both the blood and lymphatic systems provided by this special massage routine will contribute to sooth the horse after riding or exercising.  This massage approach will strongly assist the drainage of toxins such as lactic acid and reduce the formation of trigger points. At the same time it will also bring more fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to the muscle fibers.  This will result in an increase elimination of the toxins and faster recovery for your horse.

To help you with you equine massage education, my book Equine Massage, A Practical guide, Second Edition (Howell Equestrian Library, an Imprint of Wiley Publishing) presents you a solid foundation for learning proper application of equine massage.  My massage awareness method teaches anyone who is actively involved in the life of his horse(s) how he can safely and efficiently care for his animal friend(s) with equine massage, stretches and hydrotherapy. This easily learned method enables you to, in a natural way, actively participate in the care, fitness and well being of your horse.

The cool-down massage routine (chapter 6) concentrates on the drainage of the muscular system over the entire body of the horse.  You should observe the sequences at the beginning of your work, until you know your horse’s needs better. 

Before starting the cool-down massage routine, I always recommend to apply the short version of the relaxation massage routine (chapter 6) to relax your horse in prelude to this cool-down massage work.  Be gentle as you start this light routine and always assess your horse’s feedback signs and contra-indications to massage if any (chapter 2) as well as the feedback given by your finger tips (the 4 T’s listed in chapter 3). 

The cool-down massage routine covers the entire neck, back, forelegs and hindquarters, draining excess toxins towards the lymph nodes for quicker elimination.  Your pressure should be light, around 5 to 8 pounds at the begin or when going over bony areas, going up to 10 and occasional 15 pounds when going over large muscle group and depending on the thickness of your  horse’s  coat.  Be aware, heavier pressure could irritate the nerve ending in the muscle of your animal. Heavily trained horse might have lots of toxins in their hindquarters, chest, neck and back areas. Also your strokes should be fairly large to cover all aspect of the muscles groups, draining towards the lymph nodes.

Your rhythm should be of one stroke per second regardless of the muscle size and how tight your horse’s muscles are. One stroke per second will be soothing to your horse. A faster rhythm could be irritating to your horse. Again we strongly recommend you start at a gentle pace and progressively build-up your rhythm and pressure.  For this routine you will use mostly movements such as effleurage, wringing, kneading, picking-up. 

Check our video library. It will give you all the visual guidance you need to start on the right track, just as if Jean-Pierre was there in person.  The massage awareness method shows you how to properly apply this cool-down routine on each body part.  To really benefit this practice, a good understanding of where each muscle group is located in relation to his action is most important (chapter 1 & 7). 

When done properly, this cool-down massage routine will achieve positive results very quickly, thus saving on recovery time.  This cool-down massage routine can be done within 12 to 20 minutes depending mostly on the size of your horse. When you become more confident in your work and your horse become more used to this type of massage routine, this routine can be done between 8 to 10 minutes. Your horse will feel a great sense relief right away following this massage application.  

The cool-down massage routine is a wonderful tool to assist your horse’s natural recovery and prevent the formation of trigger points as well as reduce the risk of stiffness.  For the highly trained horse, this routine should be applied after every training session to keep him in top shape. Following this massage I recommend you incorporate some stretching exercises.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found the information useful.  My goal is help you provide quality home care for the benefit of your animal.

Please visit our FREE library. Our many articles address important aspects of animal wellness and fitness. Take the time to scroll through our free library to find out how you can actively contribute to your horse’s wellness.

Animal Awareness also offers a large video library with over a 100 mini-videos that will show you how to easily perform the various massage and stretching techniques talked about in this article, and more. These videos offer you the correct start and visual guidance. With this knowledge, you will be able to develop a good home care program for the benefit of your animal friend.  He will love you for it.

Enjoy your new Awareness!

Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT

The “Cool-down Massage Routine” (EV016) gives you visual guidance in the application of this simple yet efficient massage approach.  The “Hydrotherapy Modalities” (EV008) combined with “Stretching Exercises” (EV007) will maximize these benefits onto your horse’s body.

If you are just starting with your home-care program, consider our “Introduction to Animal Massage” package,a 20% discount value on the first 7 DVDs, to secure a sound foundation in your equine massage skills. Then take advantage of our other packages to increase your knowledge of home-care protocols for the benefit of your horse(s).