Happy Valentine’s Day #TeamVE. As I sit here in my living room, listening to a Valentine’s themed playlist “be my baby, be my little baby, my one and only baby… ohh ah”, can’t help but feel overcome with joy and love. But when are we not overcome with love here at Vitality Equine?! #AmIRight We love helping your horses feel good. So, I thought it might be a good time to talk about the sweet, sweet benefits of massage on the blog today!
But before we get into those benefits, I thought I would take a moment to introduce Vitality Equine to any new readers or clients out there. #TeamVE is dedicated to helping your horses feel their best so that they can perform their best!
“How do you do that?!”…you might ask
Well we do that by
1- Providing a #TeamVE approach to equine massage therapy
For Vitality Equine, massage therapy is an integral part to the well-being of every equine athlete. The ability for your horse to perform at their optimal level is dependent on the functionality of their musculoskeletal system. Every equine athlete, no matter the discipline, requires muscular strength, joint flexibility and tissue recovery to maximize performance. Unfortunately, every athlete, human or equine, suffers from muscle tension and restriction. When our athletes work hard, it's inevitable! The most effective way to address tension and restrictions within this system is through movement & bodywork. Working closely along your equine professionals, Vitality Equine provides state of the art equine massage therapy to ensure your athlete is performing their best!
2- Sharing #TeamVE educational resources
Vitality Equine values education, both for equine professionals and owners alike. The more you learn about the inner workings of your equine athlete, the more you can contribute to their health and well being. We are dedicated to continuously learning more about our equine athletes so that we can share that information with you, and so that we can continue to help our horses, they deserve it. Understanding the science behind equine movement is a powerful tool. A tool that we are passionate about sharing through various educational opportunities, from blogs, to social media posts, to videos, to presentations, to clinics…for all of our #TeamVE clients and readers!
So, grab your heart shaped candies, and hunker down to read about the 3 main benefits of massage therapy for our equine athletes according to #TeamVE. We know you have to rush back to your loved one today after reading this blog, so we are just going to highlight our top 3 benefits of massage (because let’s face it there are so so many!!!)! And by loved ones, you know we are referring to your horses, your MANE love!
*Please note if you were thinking of grabbing some Sweetheart candies, those are no longer in production, and sadly we can’t munch on those chalk little flavoured candies anymore! To read more on the decline of this iconic candy, click here.
#TeamVE’s 3 lovely benefits of equine massage therapy
Each muscle is made up of thousands of muscle fibres, you can picture them as long tube-like structures all lying parallel to one another. Add another 10x magnification to the microscope and see that each of those muscle fibres is then made up of thousands of myofibrils. Add another 10x magnification, and see then that each myofibril is made up of myofibrils = actin and myosin filaments. These actin and myosin filaments are responsible for shortening and relaxing your horse’s muscles…AKA muscle contraction.
So as you can see based on the anatomy of muscles, there are a lot of moving parts. There are thousands of myofibrils that are working together efficiently and fluidly to create one contraction. So picture your horse walking, multiple muscles are recruited to move the head, neck, forelimbs, back, and hindlimbs to allow for all those steps to occur. Amp that up, to a canter, and picture your horse contracting those fibres more rapidly. Amazing. Kinda scary too though. We depend on optimal muscle contraction and relaxation of those muscles, for our horses to be able to move in the best way that they can.
What can start to happen is with the THOUSANDS of filaments working together on contracting one muscle, let alone the other 200 and some muscles that are found in your horse’s body that we aren;’t even focusing on right now, the myosin and actin filaments get “stuck” together forming an adhesion, or as we know it colloquially as, a knot.
You know the knot I am talking about, that knot in our upper back that we feel when we are working on our computers. Or the knot in our lower back we feel when we are putting our feet in our stirrups. Those knots. Not the tying of the knot, knot…no I mean it is Valentine’s day themed, but we are talking about those pesky knots that feel ouchy and in turn can cause major imbalances within our athletes.
Not only can knots naturally occur in their muscles, but if we are riding our horse in an unbalanced way, by asking for more muscle contraction on one side compared to another side, or if our horse prefers to move their head to the left versus the right, then they are overstraining those fibres, and we start getting compensatory mechanisms at play. So, that’s the thing muscles can get tight on their own accord, but the rider, and many other variables at play also add to the bigger equation.
Overuse of one muscle, with under development of another muscles leads to compensatory mechanisms. These compensatory mechanisms lead to imbalanced movements, and can result in injuries.
Okay, so far in our upbeat Valentine’s blog we have covered that…
⁃ equine movement requires the contraction and sync of millions of muscle fibres
⁃ every equine athlete can get knots
⁃ equine athletes that are ridden for performance are more prone to knots
⁃ how we ride our horses impacts how optimal and balanced their muscle contractions are
⁃ knots can result in compensatory mechanisms
⁃ compensatory mechanisms can result in imbalances and injury
Wow, what a great valentine’s day blog to read, hey Brigitte? Just reminding us of all of the 100s of variables involved with our horses, and how they will inevitably get tension and knots in their muscles, and how we impact their every movement and contraction. Haha.
Have no fear, THERE IS A MASSAGE FOR THAT.
What does massage do?
Massage works by mechanically breaking apart the myosin and actin filaments that form the knot. In doing so, we are are tearing the filaments apart. Allowing for them to move organically, and not get stuck, and not form knots. This results in the introduction of more blood cells to this area! The warmth and direction of our hands moving intentionally in the opposing direction of these fibres results in the release of the knots and removes the tension. The removal of these knots results in optimal muscle contraction. With optimal muscle contraction, the horse is able to achieve their highest range of motion possible in their joints and in their movements, overall their flexibility is increased! A horse that has muscles with amazing blood flow, no knots, increased flexibility in their movements, will result in a more balanced athlete. A more balanced athlete will decrease the unnecessary strain on a tendon, or a tissue, that could result in injury. A well balanced athlete is truly what matters most and wha we strive to achieve in all of your athletes.
THE TOP 3 BENEFITS OF MASSAGE
1- Massage encourages circulation
2- Massage promotes flexibility
3- Massage prevents injury
In a perfect world, these changes that are created through massage could “fix” our horses overnight and create the most balanced athletes in one session. Unfortunately, she ain’t that simple. Our horses continuously move, we ride them every day and then the other hours of the day when we are not by their side, goodness knows what they are getting up to!
The #TeamVE approach ensures that we address these tissues that are showing tension, but that we also incorporate your daily riding habits to benefit their muscular structures that need support. We do this by giving suggested exercises and activations to help continue promoting circulation between sessions and ensuring strengthening of the appropriate muscles! Working alongside your team of vets, trainers, farriers and more, we are one part of the team. Massage is super beneficial in promoting healthy tissue structure, and thus function. But the biggest player, between sessions, is YOU!
Happy Valentine’s day #TeamVE! Book a session for your athlete to show you much you LOVE THEIR MUSCLES!
All of the gorgeous horse rose photos provided by Marisa of Rockin A photo.
All of the gorgeous horses for the shoot provided by TWEquestrian