Flying Changes Equine Massage & Wellness

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell when a horse needs a massage? Do most horses need to be on a set schedule? 
To me, massage is about balance. When you ride, your horse has a favorite side he prefers to travel on, you have a favorite side and sometimes a combination of everything can get the horse imbalanced. An imbalanced horse can be heavy in your hands, not want to bend one direction, have trouble with certain canter leads or become suddenly difficult to ride....just to name a few. I normally recommend that a horse that competes go on a once-per-month massage schedule. That way, we keep them balanced through training, showing and off-season to help prevent any injuries that can be caused from imbalance. It’s always easier and less expensive to prevent injuries than to fix them. I do sometimes recommend more work for horses that are competing at high levels and less work, maybe on an as-needed schedule, for horses that are pleasure rides. The owners love doing this for their horses knowing they enjoy it and it’s helping them stay healthy.

What horses can benefit from massage? 
All horses can benefit from massage. Massage helps prevent atrophy in old horses, it helps get young horses used to being handled and touched all over. Competitors would be the biggest portion of my clientele. People who go out and have fun competing or who are professional riders all want to keep their equine athletes healthy. Massage is beneficial for every horse, across every discipline and breed.

How do you know your horse will benefit from massage?

All too often, we wait until a problem rears its ugly head before we realize our horse needs some form of therapeutic intervention.  Your horse does not have to have an existing problem to reap the benefits of massage therapy.  As noted above, regular maintenance massage can provide your horse with numerous benefits not associated with an existing injury.  Regular maintenance massage is a powerful preventative measure and a wonderful way to keep your horse in tip-top shape.   Some issues that my clients have come to me with are short-striding, stiffness in movement, not picking up a particular lead, and swelling of the lymph nodes, just to name a few.  Asymmetrical hoof growth can be another indication your horse may have an underlying musculoskeletal problem.  Weight distribution of the horse can affect the growth pattern in the hoof, giving us clues as to previously unrecognized problems in the rest of the body.   When a muscle becomes over-worked or strained, this can cause general stiffness initially, but if left untreated can lead to strain on adjacent muscle tissue much like a cascade affect and more serious injuries.  When the muscles do not take up their proper load and cannot stretch to their full potential, the tendons have to make up for the lack of movement, leading to tendon injuries.  By addressing these issues early on, we can prevent more serious injuries from occurring and allow the body to rebalance itself. 

​How Long Will It Take Before I See Improvement?
I have seen many horses show improvement with just one massage session.  However, each horse is different and depending on the issues at hand, may need several treatments before significant changes are observed.  I highly recommend a maintenance regimen of minimum two sessions per month to maintain the average horse in good condition.  For working horses (i.e., showing, training, school horses, etc.), I recommend weekly sessions to maintain optimum performance and recovery from workouts.  For horses with deeper musculoskeletal issues, I determine the frequency based on the needs of the individual horse and owner.  

Why Sports Massage?

The particulars of the sports massage technique are specific to the athlete's sport of choice. Focusing on areas of the body that are overused and stressed from repetitive and often aggressive movements.  ​​Aspects of sports massage therapy are gaining popularity as useful components in a balanced training regimen. Sports massage therapy can be used as a means to enhance pre-event preparation and reduce recovery time for maximum performance during training or after an event. Athletes have discovered that specially designed sports massage promotes flexibility, reduces fatigue, improves endurance, helps prevent injuries and prepares their body and mind for optimal performance.
One of the key benefits of Sports massage therapy compared to other modalities is its ability to target muscle-tendon junctions. A 2010 study in the journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that even a 30-second massage improved hip-flexor range of motion. Another study conducted by Margaret Jones, Ph.D. of the American College of Sports Medicine, demonstrated a notable trend toward decreased muscle soreness in the athletes who received massage either before or after exercise.

​Equine sports massage, which is a development of traditional grooms’ methods, concentrates on muscles that are unable to release themselves. Often, muscle sensitivity is a symptom of other orthopaedic-type issues, injuries or illnesses. Sometimes, excessive use of a muscle can prevent a muscle from functioning properly.
Horses which work and play hard are most susceptible. Sports such as racing, eventing and endurance tend to have a large amount of injuries. Because most of these horses enjoy their job, they often perform without showing discomfort until it is too late.
Most soft tissue problems are accumulative, except when affected by trauma, accidents or illnesses. If all owners and trainers learned howto access the overall condition, they might be able to pick up on these problems when they are subtle, and call the vet in for a diagnosis.
According to the experts, horses in pain will often adapt their movement, developing a new way of going to accommodate the discomfort. A horse that is protecting a sore muscle will force others to overwork to compensate thereby losing his freedom of movement. This may result in a drop in performance, a behavioral issue or a physical problem.
Our aim is to restore the horse’s freedom of movement by reducing the resistance to motion. Skilled body workers can detect and act on subtle changes at an early stage, maintaining a horse’s performance level.
Although it is the body worker’s job to recognize the symptoms of muscular pain, massage can also help healthy horses.
Incorporating massage into a regular training program is beneficial,  It has recently been proved scientifically that massage can increase the range of motion. In a healthy, sound horse, that means enhanced movement, which is essential to the disciplines requiring elegance, strength and style, such as dressage. Increased range of motion also means better stamina, which benefits racing and endurance. If you can imagine even a minor lengthening of the stride of a racehorse, think how many lengths that would be by the end of the race.
Although equine massage is never a substitute for veterinary medicine, it can make a difference in the health and performance of a horse How many treatments will my horse need?and also help to encourage a more productive life.

How many treatments will my horse need?

How many treatments will my horse need?

Since most restrictions or problems have probably built up over a period of time it is not realistic to expect just one treatment to resolve everything. Although it is possible to see some change after just one treatment, the number of treatments needed will depend entirely on the individual horse itself.  Usually 2-3 treatments at weekly intervals should see a significant improvement in the horse’s condition.

Sports Massage Therapy is a holistic treatment and following detailed discussion with you as the owner/carer, all treatments are tailored to individual needs.

How often should my horse be treated?
There is no specific ‘rule’ as to how often you should treat your horse as each horse is an individual.  However, as a guideline, competition horses and those in heavy work would benefit from regular treatments, say every 4-6 weeks, simply because they are athletes and are subjecting their bodies to a lot of stress.  Unless there are specific issues which need addressing, those in lighter work would benefit from less frequent treatments eg. 4-8 times a year, assuming the horse does not suffer a trauma such as a fall or pull back or injury.