Following the advice of Equine sports massage therapist Eleanor Frost, discover easy massage techniques you can use when your horse is stabled more in winter.
If exercise or turnout isn’t an option, massage is a great way to keep your horse’s lymphatic system effectively working which movement from turnout would naturally do.
Try this equine massage routine
Start at his head
Approach the nearside while talking to your horse and start using gliding strokes from the poll and along your horse’s neck with the palm of your hand. Maintain a rhythm and gradually begin to increase the depth of strokes.
Move on to gently massaging the poll and upper neck muscles with light squeezing, compressing along the crest of the neck. If your horse allows, gently grasp his ears in a loose fist and stretch the ears up and outwards working from base to tip and practice some gentle circular movements with your fingertips around the base of his ear.
Treat his withers and spine
Moving up to the withers, use the palm of your hands to gently squeeze and compress the wither region and continue this along the entire back, locating the spine and gently walking your palms along to compress the muscles alongside. Span your fingers out over the ribcage and gently vibrate and move your hand as if moving the skin and muscles between the ribs. Initially keep the pressure light and rhythm smooth and increase this as you read your horse’s responses. Lip curling, yawning, licking and chewing, lowering of the head and neck are all good indications your horse is happy and responsive to the work. An upturned bucket or step may help you reach your horses back with more ease so as not to affect your posture.
Deeper gliding moves along the back will lead toward the hindquarter region. Use the heel of the palm to gently start compressing and pushing into the larger muscle areas and slowly increasing in pressure.
Simple management techniques could be considered for horses that have increased stabling and reduced turnout during the winter period. Feeding from the floor is more ideal than hay nets, tied excessively high. This mimics the horse’s natural head and neck carriage should they be field grazing and also assists in the psychological aspect of foraging. A lowered head and neck position also helps with respiratory and sinus clearance in addition to improved digestion through increased saliva production.
Read more horse care Q&As