More often than we realize, training and behavior issues are directly related to pain and discomfort. As humans, we can tell someone when something hurts or is not right. A horse's body weight is comprised of approximately 50% skeletal muscle, and just like for people, these muscles are prone to injury. Have you ever had a horse tell you he is sore? Or that his head hurts? Or that he has a sore throat?
Pain and discomfort are the leading causes of anxiety in horses, and where there is pain, there is muscular tension. Veterinary treatment is paramount in treating any physical condition in a horse, but massage can often help to identify problems before they manifest in to more serious conditions.
Some Common Signs of Muscular Problems or Soreness:
- poor balance and coordination
- lateral bending difficulties
- girth discomfort- short extensions
- lead problems
- neck stiffness
- poor attention, attitude, or behavior
- unwillingness to perform
- general muscular tension or "cold backs”
- head tossing
Most competitive horses today are not the free roaming grazing animals they were intended to be, and although they receive the best of care, it is almost impossible to give them the roaming ability nature intended. We have asked our horses to become athletes, to perform in structured manners for extended durations of time.
Competitive horses tend to be confined to stalls for long periods of time. During this confinement or restricted movement, a horse enters a state of extended rest which results in stiff or inactive muscles at the beginning of each work session.
Imagine what it would be like to get out of bed and immediately set out on a 45 minute run, without so much as a cup of coffee, let alone a good stretch and a chance to wake up. Sports massage and correct stretching can improve the general condition and flexibility of these muscles thereby reducing the tendency of a horse's muscles to become inactive while confined.