Sports Massage

Equine massage therapy is becoming a more common part of the management of equine athletes and pleasure horses a like. Scientific research into equine massage indicates that it is beneficial to a number of components of the musculoskeletal system. It can act as a measure for preventative maintenance of the musculoskeletal system of your horse as a means to keep your horse performing to the best of its ability, reducing the possibility for injury and also reducing the time required to fully recover from injury. Sports massage, employs a number of different techniques that have a number of benefits

  • Relaxation and reduced muscle tension

  • Reduced pain and physiological stress responses

  • Increased range of motion and stride length,

  • Improved exercise and injury recovery.

  • Improved muscle condition which enhances performance

  • Improved general health and wellbeing often leading to an improvement in temperament and attitude.

Applications for Sports Massage

The application of sports massage therapy is for the purpose of:

  • Maintenance and/or preventative massage: regular massage treatment programme can help maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility

  • Event massage: pre-event and post-event. Pre-event is used as a supplement to warm up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. Post-event is geared towards reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build up. Enhances the body's own recovery process, improving the ability to return to training and competition and reducing the risk of injury.

  • Rehabilitation – even with preventative maintenance, muscles cramp, tear, bruise and ache. Sports massage can speed healing and reduce discomfort during the rehabilitation process

Facts About Sports Massage
Common Pain Indicators
  • Biting

  • Change in attitude to work

  • Despondency/depression

  • Gait irregularity

  • Kicking out

  • Lethargy

  • Bolting

  • Change in disposition

  • Difficulty collecting

  • Inflammation

  • Lack of flexion

  • Loss of condition

  • Bucking

  • Decreased performance

  • Difficulty extending

  • Isolated sweating

  • Lameness

  • Loss of impulsion

  • Muscle spasm

  • Muscle tightness

  • Overreaction to touch

  • Pigrooting

  • Rearing

  • Reduced range of motion

  • Saddling/girthing issues

  • Stiffness

  • Uneven muscle tone

The musculoskeletal system of the horse equates for 60% of a horses’ total body mass. This system is responsible for physical movement of the body through a specified range of motion freely and completely. Free range of motion can be compromised by the residual tightening of muscles which develops as a result of repeated and/or continuous muscle trauma; such as strains, over exertion, over use and over loading. Other compounding factors are age, nervous tension, over development, weakness, and the secondary effects of injury, poor saddle fit, hoof imbalances and largely the lack of proper warm up and cool down.


Tight or tense muscles are shortened or contracted and cannot achieve full release. Muscle tension does not remain in an isolated muscle group; it transmits from one muscle group to another and puts other structures of the body at risk. For example; tight shoulders can affect the digital flexor tendons of the foreleg with the possible result of a tear but ultimately resulting in the reduction of athletic performance and longevity of the horses' athletic career.


Usually when muscles sustain an injury or trauma, it is a cumulative issue and is not limited to the last thing your horse did. By the time you detect an issue with your horse, a certain level of muscle trauma has occurred. Regular massage can act as a measure for preventative maintenance of the musculoskeletal system of your horse as a means to keep your horse performing to the best of its ability, reducing the possibility for injury and also reducing the time required to fully recover from injury.


Sports massage techniques will enhance your horses’ performance through the improvement of muscle tone, the lengthening of muscle fibers to prevent hyper-contraction of those muscle fibers. This increases flexibility, gait quality, and range of motion; this improving the efficiency of stride lengths, agility. The improved muscle tone, flexibility and range of motion positively impacts the balance, posture and stance of your horse.


Reducing recovery and therefore increasing the healing of injury, through the application of massage is achieved by restoration or improvement of compromised muscle function. Integrated with reduction in muscle pain, spasm, weakness, knots and tension. The body's reflexive repair response to damage through injury is scar tissue. Scar tissue compromises a muscle's function by way of decreasing its strength, flexibility and efficiency in movement. Scar tissue creates adhesions of muscle fibers, connective tissue and nerve cells; leading to chronic pain and lameness. Scar tissue adhesions can be reduced, the scar tissue broken up and/or layed down more evenly through the application of massage.


Massage promotes relaxation. Not just in the physical sense but the mental state as well. Emotional/mental stress is a very real component impacting on muscle tension and pain. The emotional stress is a constant feedback loop from the pain site which distracts the brain from full concentration on the athletic task at hand. By addressing the emotional/mental state of the horse, its general disposition will also improve.


Sports massage will stimulate other body systems that are important to the overall performance of your horse. Through increasing the circulation the oxygen in the muscle cells is elevated throughout the body. This fuels the muscle tissue on a cellular level. The increase in circulation helps to stimulate the immune system. It activates the lymphatic system which aids the supply of nutrients to muscle cells, it absorbs and eliminates the toxins from the muscle tissue, such as lactic acid. It is the build-up of toxins that contribute to muscle soreness and inflammation. The increase in circulation also decreases inflammation. By reducing inflammation there is a decline in pain in the soft tissues and joints.


By incorporating sports massage as part of your training and health programme, your horse will stay happy, healthy and performing at its best!