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The term physical maintenance employed here refers to the regular application of massage and stretching to relieve the build-up of muscular tension ranging from growing pain in the young horse to training workload for the more mature animal, not to mention various traumas that horses encounters in their journey through life. Excess amount of muscle tension results in body tightness and fatigue.  Equally at the same time, your horse’s personality, disposition, sometime his anxiety and boredom can add to his nervous stress, affecting his recovery time.

To help you with keeping your horse muscular structure fit, animal awareness offers you this outline of a maintenance massage routine, which sole purpose is to increase the blood and lymphatic circulation in order to assist the horse’s natural healing process, and to loosen muscle tension, and to release potential stress point and trigger point if any.

The physical maintenance massage routine concentrates on the muscular system over the entire body.  You should observe the sequences at the beginning of your work, until you know your horse’s needs better.           

Keep a very light touch when starting since you are massaging over many tight muscle, nerve endings, and reflex points.  Be gentle and always assess your horse’s feedback signs and contra-indications to massage if any (see article 1) as well as the feedback given by your finger tips (the 4 T’s, video EV002).  From experience we recommend you apply the short version of the relaxation massage routine (see video EV004) to relax your horse in preparation to your deeper maintenance massage work.  This physical maintenance routine covers the entire neck, back, forelegs and hindquarters.  For best results you should visualize the video EV006. 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 animal awareness approach shows you how to properly warm up each part to be massage and after your massage work, how to properly drain it (video E005).  Learn the various massage techniques (see EV009 TO EV013) so you can detect all the muscle tension location, the stress points and the trigger points if any.  Your massage maintenance work will prevent muscle fatigue and muscle tension to build-up.  This routine will achieve positive results right from the first application and even more over the course of several sessions.

This maintenance massage routine can be done within 30 to 45 minutes in the early stages. When you become more confident in your work and your horse become more used to your massage, this routine can last up to 60 to 90 minutes, especially with large horses. Your horse will feel a great sense of relaxation following these massage sessions.  When done after heavy training your horse will love you for it.  When done on schedule for example once a week on the horse day off, this massage work will greatly contribute to the preventive fitness of your animal. Realize, once you become efficient in your massage work, anytime you massage your horse you will get direct feedback on his musculature and physiological health and this will help you detect any small problem early and prevent them from becoming more serious.  The maintenance massage routine is a wonderful tool for maintaining and increasing your horse’s performance.

Also regular use of this routine will give you feedback on the quality of your training and will warn you of any potential problems.  For highly trained horses, this routine should be applied at least every second day.  When done regularly, due to the frequency of the massage applications, 20 to 30 minutes session will be sufficient to keep your horse in top shape.

The regular application of the maintenance massage routines will contribute to a great feeling of well being for your animal the same you feel after a good massage.  Your regular application will allow him to feel more rested and more giving after exercise, travel, fatigue or other stresses.  Furthermore, besides giving you prime feedback on your horse muscular health, frequent applications also creates a stronger bond between the two of you. 

Furthermore, in an indirect way, massage can really improve your riding awareness as you get to know which exact muscle groups are holding tension sometime responsible for his various gates and/or his performance. 

The book Equine Massage, A Practical guide, Second Edition (Howell Equestrian Library, an Imprint of Wiley Publishing) presents a solid foundation for learning proper application of equine massage.  Its massage awareness method teaches people who are actively involved in the life of their horse(s) how they can safely and efficiently care for their animal friend(s) with equine massage. This easily learned method enables you to, in a natural way, actively participate in the care, fitness and well being of your horse.

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 “Full Body Massage” (EV006), the “Stretching Exercises” (EV007), the "Trigger Point Massage Technique” (EV010), the “Stress Point Massage Technique (EV011), the “Origin-Insertion Massage Technique” (EV012), the “Stress Point Locator” (EV013), The “Kinesiology of the Horse” (EV020) DVDs are very helpful in the physical maintenance of a horse.

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 animal massage skills. Then take advantage of our other packages to increase your knowledge of home-care protocols for the benefit of your horse(s).