Massage is used to relieve muscle tension and spasm, it can be grouped into different techniques, including effleurage, petrissage and tapotement. Massage is generally used in all areas of the body, especially over the back, the shoulder, the neck and the hindquarters. It will promote blood flow, provide pain relief, it can alter the dopamine and serotonin levels, decreases noradrenaline, reduces nerve compression and improves the immune system. It is also good at relaxing the body by reducing stress and anxiety.
The two main stretches are baited, and limb stretches, known as active stretches and passive stretches respectively.
Baited stretches can be performed with your animal’s favourite food. They are used to increase side to side movement of the horse’s body. Limb stretches are performed by the veterinary physiotherapist guiding the limb into protraction (forwards) and retraction (backwards).
Stretches are held for around 10-15 seconds and can be repeated up to 3 times. It is recommended that they are completed three times a week. Stretching promotes suppleness and increases muscle flexibility. It stops shortening of the muscle fibres and decreases chances of strain injury.