Why is Massage Important for Equine Athletes? Dressage, Barrel-Racing, Hunter/Jumper and Eventing are just some of the competitive activities that we ask our equine athletes to engage in. Yet it often doesn’t occur to us to attend to other athletic needs they may have. Human athletes interested in performing at their peak frequently have a massage prior to engaging in a competition. It has many benefits, which are also applicable to horses.
Prior to a competition, I gave Drysdale a massage (known as a pre-competition massage), which warmed up his muscles and prepared him for the work at hand. By doing this it increased his circulation and brought additional oxygen and blood to the muscles. This increased the efficiency of the muscles and helps them work in a more productive manner. The characteristically light pressure and rapid movement of this type of massage invigorates the nervous system and helps the horse to be at his peak—alert and ready to compete.
During the competition Drysdale exhibited an abundance of energy and performed beautifully. Afterward, I gave him a massage (known as post-competition massage), which enabled me to look for any injuries that might have occurred during the competition. They can then be pointed out to the handler who can take veterinary action if it is dictated. This type of massage also promotes the removal of lactic acid which results from intense activity. If lactic acid is left in the tissues—it will pool, causing an irritation of motor-nerve endings which can develop into trigger points. These can be quite painful. Additionally, Post-Competition massage helps the horse to cool down.