Firstly, some background information is taken, veterinary history, shoeing, dentistry and any problems or behaviour issues noted.
Both static & dynamic assessment will be carried out to view the horse’s conformation, condition and gait, noting any asymmetry or irregularity.
General health and demeanour is noted along with muscle tone.
Your horse will need to be walked and trotted up so a level surface is required.
If a definite lameness is evident, the horse appears to be in ill health, or any contraindications noted, your horse will be referred back to your vet for investigation, and treatment will not be carried out.
If this is the case, just a call out charge will apply.
A warm up massage will assess muscle tone and prepare the body for further work. Depending on the needs of the horse this can be made to be relaxing or invigorating.
Horses show a release with a lick and chew, a yawn or sigh, and during the session, the horse’s reactions will be closely monitored.
Various massage strokes and techniques may be used after warm up to release tension, along with positional releases and Muscle Energy Techniques which are also effective to release tension.
Once warmed up with massage, mobilisations may be used to assess ROM and also loosen tight muscles and joints. Mobilisations can be applied to limbs and the whole length of horse from head to tail to increase flexibility, range of movement and aid proprioception.
This may include cranial work, cervicals and neck, C7/T1 junction, shoulder work, thoracolumbar mobilisations, pelvis, tail and limb stretches and mobilisations.
As a horse moves his muscles, this creates stress on a specific point. If a muscle does not relax fully after contracting, the muscle fibres can shorten, tightening the muscle. Tight muscles can lead to spasms, knots, muscle misalignment and blocked energy.
Direct pressure is required here, using thumb or supported fingers. Releasing a stress point can allow the muscle to relax again, allow the muscle fibres to lengthen and restore muscle function, thus restoring comfort, gait and performance.
Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds and links all of the structures in the body.
Trauma and repetitive strain can cause areas of fascia to become dehydrated, hardened and stuck.
To release the fascia, a progressive gentle pressure stretch is applied to the tissue for a few minutes to allow the fascia to rehydrate and soften, restoring function and connectivity. This encourages the smooth sliding of muscles and fascia so that restrictions are reduced. It can be effective in realigning joints which may have been pulled out of alignment by the restricted fascia.
Stretching aims to lengthen muscle fibres, once warmed up, in order to increase flexibility and joint range of motion.
Forelimb stretches can help to mobilize the cervical-thoracic region.
Hindlimb stretches can help to mobilize the thoracolumbar region, as well as affecting the muscles in the hind quarters.
Also bait assisted stretches can be used to stretch the neck and topline.
The owner may be shown some relevant stretches to do on a regular basis to further the improvement.
After treatment, the horse will generally be walked and trotted up to note any improvement, and to also help to disperse any toxins released by the bodywork.
Unless the massage is for a warm up only, usually at least 24hrs off work is advisable, maybe more, and turn out is often the best option.
Access to clean water is essential, to assist the removal of toxins.
Advice will be given regarding any stretches the owner can perform with the horse, and follow up treatment may be discussed if appropriate.
For referral cases, a report will be sent to your vet, if required.