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The 600 pound gorilla in the stall

We’ve all heard the old adage about ignoring the gorilla in the room. This refers to an issue that is obvious, but ignored for convenience, since it is so large to deal with. With horses, this is their muscular system.

Maeve weighs a little over 1,000 pounds. Around 600 pounds of that are skeletal muscles. She has over 700 of these muscles. Skeletal muscles support the skeleton and create movement. They maintain joint stability and posture, protect the skeleton and internal organs. They even contribute to thermal regulation by shivering in the cold.

These muscles make up 60% of our horse! So why do we sometimes forget to take care of the single largest component of our horse’s body until they have a problem?

Maeve rolling after a bath

And why is there a picture of Maeve rolling after a bath? This is to illustrate how hard the muscles work while she’s doing something as easy as rolling. Look at the huge muscles running along her neck from ear to shoulder. Look at the muscles rippling in her forearm. Almost everything is working, even the muscles in her nose. Now imagine how hard these muscles work when she collects, canters, jumps and spins, all while carrying a rider.

As responsible horsekeepers, there are things that we do as a matter of routine to maintain the health and well-being of our horses. We pick out and inspect their hooves every time we ride; and bring in the farrier every six to eight weeks for a trim and re-shoeing. Their teeth get floated once or twice a year. We often give them nutritional supplements to assure digestive health. We groom them on a regular, sometimes daily basis. Then there are vaccines, worming, and so on. We do these things for the care and comfort of our horse.

Good horsekeeping maintains our horses’ health and comfort and keeps them in top form. It also helps to reduce the risk of injuries that require acute care or long term therapy. So what do we do about muscles?

Muscle Maintenance Massage

The thought of maintaining a horse’s muscles can cause a bit of trepidation in horse owners and riders. We often don’t think about muscle care until our horse shows signs of obvious discomfort, at which point we may be looking at an injury that requires therapy and rehabilitation.

What is Muscle Maintenance Massage?  It’s part of a good horsekeeping routine to alleviate pain and tension, enhance flexibility, improve overall performance and reduce the risk of injury. It involves warming up muscles before a workout, cooling them down afterwards, and maintaining suppleness in between. It’s about the care and comfort of your horse.

Imagine how good your horse would feel, how willing they would be, and how healthy they would stay if they received weekly or even daily massage.

That’s where EQUISTIX® comes in

EQUISTIX® is an Equine Sports Massage Tool developed to address the unique characteristics of a horse’s physiology. It can safely and efficiently provide a comfortable and effective massage. With its extended length, flexibility and independent soft gel rollers, EQUISTIX® contours and conforms to your all of your horse’s muscles, large and small.

EQUISTIX® can be used in a number of ways:

Warm-up: Warming up muscles prior to exercise increases circulation to reduce the risk of injuries and enhance range of motion. EQUISTIX® is an effective and efficient way to warm up muscles prior to a ride. In this picture, Bob is saddled up and almost ready for a trail ride. In about 5 minutes, his neck, shoulder, forearm and hind muscles are warmed up and he’s ready to go. Not only is he physically ready to go, but he is calm and mentally engaged as well.

Cool-down: Muscle cool-down after exercise brings muscles back to their natural, relaxed state. At the end of your cool-down routine, an EQUISTIX® massage will help to restore blood flow and release trigger points in tired muscles.

Barb and Bob 1
Barb and Bob 2

All-over massage: Performing a head-to-tail massage on our horses is a wonderful way to keep them supple. It is an opportunity to locate sore areas and provide relief. We can detect problems early, before they become severe. It lets us know when we should bring in a bodyworker or veterinarian. The accompanying video shows a safe and simple massage routine that anyone can perform.

Daily grooming: We take the time to groom and inspect our horses. Why not pick up your EQUISTIX® whenever you groom and spend a couple minutes massaging? It’s a great way to say “thank you” to your horse. You can do as much or as little as you like, maybe do a different muscle group each time, or target a spot that you know tends to be troublesome (or their favorite). It’s a practical way to check for problems and is a wonderful bonding activity.

As with any bodywork, you should never perform a massage on a horse with an elevated temperature, injury or illness. Always consult your veterinarian, chiropractor or massage therapist if you have any questions or concerns.

The Reward

If having a having a healthy, supple horse is not reward enough, making your horse happy certainly is. Just take a look at Maeve’s face as she gets a massage. Now that’s a reward!

Happy Trails from your friends at Equus Athletics, home of EQUISTIX®, the Equine Sports Massage Tool.

Maeve massage
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