The Benefits of Equine Sports Therapy

The development of sports therapy has produced some excellent results in recent years due to the increasing demands of therapeutic services for equine sports. This has created a whole field of interrelated health services that provide a range of specialist treatments for the industry aiding better performance and the reduction of injury.

Massage involves the assessment of the soft tissues and joints and the treatment or prevention of dysfunction within them. It can be used as a treatment for specific problems or injury, maintaining the health of soft tissue and joints and as a preventative of future injury. However, there are many other aspects that have remarkable effects that trigger reactions leading to psycho-physiologic self-regulating balancing within the whole body. It achieves this because massage stimulates the nervous system by activating triggers within the body that determine its physiological functioning. As these responses take effect, they can also lead to positive changes in behaviour as the body returns to normal function.

Massage affects the muscles, skin, tendons, ligaments, blood and lymph vessels, and nerves that lie near the surface of the body, however it also affects the deeper areas of the body via blood flow, nerve conduction and the subsequent release of chemical messages that activate various systems within the body.

As a sports therapy, massage is also used to rehabilitate sites of specific pathology or injury promoting rapid responses and subsequent recovery. This often involves other therapies working together to gain complete balance within the body and promoting a happier, healthier disposition in the horse. It is also used to keep the horse supple and flexible optimizing its potential in sporting activities. Its strength lies in an understanding of equine biomechanics in which muscular, joint and skeletal function work, especially when under the pressure of performance. Stretching used for therapeutic purpose and can easily be used as an aid to maintaining muscle health, flexibility and range of movement. This also acts as an aid to prevention of injury and can be achieved by a series of exercises that address the whole body. Benefits also include the reduction of tension and subsequent pain, by increasing circulation and warming up the muscles in preparation for work and improving the overall balance of the whole body.

The benefits of Equine Sports Massage Therapy have significant effect on the health of our equine friends. Its non-invasive techniques can be used to promote, maintain and rehabilitate the function of structures anywhere in the body aiding the balance of health within the systems that control it. It has a profound effect as a preventative therapy that aids increased flexibility, mobility and suppleness improving performance as well as having a positive effect on behavior. Its techniques safely effect the whole body by regulating co-dependent functioning and aiding balance to both body and mind. It has kept pace with the changing demands of performance sports and as is highly thought of as a therapy in the fore front of equine health, combining well with other therapies as well as providing valuable back up to veterinary procedures.

Given the continuing growth in popularity of Equine Sports Massage Therapy, our horses are beginning to see some significant psycho-physiologic benefits and as our knowledge expands, so does our respect for the incredible feats they willingly perform for us opening up a deeper connection and increasing our mutual trust.

 Les Rees

Equine Naturopath & Sports Therapist

 

Heat Stress in Horses

 

Hot weather can have some devastating effects on our horses and can cause life threatening consequences, particularly during hot and humid conditions.

For equines, sweating accounts for two thirds of heat dissipation and therefore plays an important role in thermoregulation. However, high temperatures and humid conditions can have devastating effects on sweat evaporation. The high moisture content of a humid environment slows down the evaporation process as increased sweat forms an insulating layer on the body reducing heat dissipation. As a consequence, sweat glands release more water to speed up the process which ultimately causes dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and failure to reduce core body heat.

Symptoms of heat stress include debility and fatigue, a rise in body temperature, increased pulse rate and respiration, laboured breathing, muscle spasms and tremors, stumbling, dark urine and general debility in overall function and behaviour. This can result in death if left undiagnosed.

 

Prevention Strategies

 

  • The provision of adequate shade. When temperatures rose to over 30 degrees I noticed a number of horses were out in the sun without access to adequate shade. Having one tree in a paddock doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll provide adequate shade throughout the day. It depends on the sun’s position in the sky and when only small areas of shade are available, it’s the dominant horses that get the best spots whilst the others hang around the margins either getting partial shade or none.
  • Horses kept in stables during the day should be provided with a place where there is adequate movement of air flow and water supply.
  • Provision of fresh clean drinking water. Ensure that troughs are cleaned regularly and there is a continual supply.
  • Provision of salt licks. Himalayan salt licks and/or mineral licks should be supplied in an easily accessible place.
  • Add electrolytes to diet. Sodium, potassium, calcium and chlorine are lost in urine and sweat; if they’re not replaced it will cause metabolic problems, and subsequent lack of interest in eating and drinking. It’s not uncommon to find salty layers over their backs, a clear demonstration of the amount of electrolyte loss.
  • Wash horses in the evenings to remove the salt and reduce the risk of attracting flies. Use a sweat scraper to remove the excess salty water.
  • Never over-work horses above their level of fitness conditioning. Have a conditioning program and adhere to it. On hot days it’s better to ride early in the morning or later in the evening when the heat has dissipated.
  • Be aware of your horse’s needs when travelling. Horse floats should have adequate ventilation whilst travelling on hot days. Arrange travel to avoid overly hot conditions and have frequent stops to check on your horse.
  • If travelling horses that are not used to the climatic conditions you need to be extra cautious. When moving horses to warmer areas, give the horse plenty of time to acclimatise before riding and ensure that it receives adequate nutrition to maintain good health.

We add sea salt, seaweed granules, apple cider vinegar and herbs to add valuable nutrients & natural electrolytes to our horses feed, and provide Himalayan rock salt licks. I also make sure that the horses are hosed down in the evenings, rugged and sprayed with our herbal Zap-itch blend of essential oils.

 

If, like me, you keep an eye on the weather forecast, it’s worth reminding ourselves that a 40 degree temperature is measured in the shade NOT in full sun. So add a few more degrees and ask yourself if you’d like to be stuck in a paddock without shade for the day!!!!!!

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