Massage isn’t just a great way to relieve equine joint and muscle pain, it can also be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your horse. Learning a few effective massage techniques can help relieve tension and pain, reduce anxiety before a show, and just generally help your horse unwind. Adding the soothing power of essential oils can make the massage experience even better.
Here are four techniques to help introduce your horse to the benefits of massage:
Effleurage: The first step in preparing your horse for a massage. Start by placing a few drops of essential oil mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut oil into your hand. Then stroke the muscle you plan to massage with an open palm gently while slowly increasing pressure. This will increase circulation, release endorphins, and help the horse relax.
Petrissage: Start working the muscle by kneading and applying more pressure. This will help release tension that causes soreness. Listen to your horse to see how they respond to the different levels of pressure and the areas you are targeting. If you need, add a little more massage oil.
Tapotement: Use both hands to “tap” along the muscle. This motion relaxes the muscle and further stimulates circulation. This is also the best exercise to help release any toxic build up in your horse’s muscles. This massage is great when paired with a cooling essential oil such as mint or tea tree.
Friction: Use your fingertips to apply deep pressure to an area. Be very careful with friction and closely monitor how your horse is reacting. If you’ve ever had a deep tissue massage, you know that it can get a little painful. Friction helps to break any adhesions in the muscle’s deeper layers.
If you are looking for an massage oil to use, I definitely recommend trying out Equi-Spa Cool Muscle Wash and Cooling Tea Tree Gel. These products were developed with a lot of trial and error to see what essential oils my horse loved and which had the best effect. You can also mix your own oil using a few drops of your horse’s favorite essential oils in a safe carrier oil like coconut oil, jojoba, or grapeseed. I’d love to hear what oils you’ve found are effective, please share in the comments below.