What can I do to help my horse between sessions?
This is something I am asked a lot. We love our horses, and while we understand it is necessary to have equine professionals to help us with what we CAN'T do (trainers, veterinarians, farriers, bodyworkers, saddle fitters, chiropractors, the list could go on!) what CAN we do, if we aren't those people, aside from general nutrition and exercise, to help keep our horse's healthy?
Well, from a bodyworker perspective, there's a lot you can do to help. Whilst we don't recommend you just attempting to massage your horse yourself, without any training, there are many techniques you can apply at home, and there are many options out there for you to educate yourself.
Firstly, if your bodyworker (or trainer!) gives you homework, whether it's carrot stretches, or butt tucks and belly lifts, or exercises you can do under saddle, it's REALLY helpful if you do them! You'd be surprised how many people don't... There are lot's of fantastic YouTube videos to help owners learn how to gently stretch their horse prior or after exercise. The key is regular, consistent, gentle movement, and never to force anything. Also don't do anything you aren't comfortable with. Your bodyworker, trainer, or veterinarian will likely be familiar with any exercise you find online and will be happy to walk you through it if needed.
There are a number of grooming tools that have a massaging affect on the body. I wouldn't suggest you go and get a fascia blaster to take to your horse's tight muscles, but a good curry comb or rubber mitt is fantastic at increasing circulation and breaking up adhesions between the skin and the surface muscles, avoiding any bony areas. Getting fluid movement into the soft tissue is important to keep the muscles and fascia hydrated. Another great tool for this is Hands On grooming gloves. Designed for grooming and shedding, the horses LOVE them and they are great for really feeling your horse's body. Unlike many products, they are also soft enough to be used on the legs.
There are a number of classes by companies that train practitioners that are designed for you to take as an owner to work on your own horse without the expense or time constraints of completing full practitioner qualification. These do not replace professional sessions, but allow you to continue to help your horse between sessions:
Equi-Tape Intro Class - online class to learn basic kinesiology taping methods
Masterson Method - books and videos as well as an affordable hands on weekend seminar
Equitopia - is a great resource for owners and Equine Professionals
Horses Inside Out - has a great range of books and videos
The most important thing you can do for your horse is listen and be an advocate for them. When you are feeding, when they are turned out, when they are in a stall, when you are grooming, and under saddle. They are always communicating with body language and posture and reactions. What you see on a daily basis forms a pattern of normality that you can use to explain any abnormal behavior to your professionals.