What’s good for the polo pony will be perfect for ANY horse!
Diana Jensen is a globe-trotting flight stewardess equestrian. Her latest port of call? The English countryside.
This post originally ran on Diana’s blog, Polo, People and Places. Reprinted with full permission. All photos courtesy of Diana Jensen.
I am in England for the summer, staying in the countryside with my friends Sam and Tom. They are total polo nuts in their spare time and have fourteen polo ponies/horses roaming around a nearby field. They spent the last few months making a new stick and ball field in “their backyard,” which is a dream, but more on that another day. What I really want to tell you guys about right now is equine massage.
Sarah states on her website: A massage by a Skilled Equine Massage Therapist will create long-term benefits your horse by maintaining muscles so they can perform to their optimum potential. This means muscles free from tension and knots, which allows the muscles to return to homeostasis, back to their relaxed state. You will see great benefits in increased strength and endurance along with agility and grace in their movement.
There are three roles of soft tissue massage therapy:
Sarah came to have a look at a few of the horses, who have been showing little irritations in their backs, shoulders and hind legs. She told me that the most common problems in polo ponies are found in the right hind leg and on the back, just behind where the saddle goes.
Sarah started with Canton, a gentle horse, with an attitude due to a sore back. She poked and pressed specific pressure points forcing him to relax tense muscles. “You can’t just tell a horse to relax his muscles, like you can with a human on a massage table, so I need to force the horse to relax certain muscles by pulling at and pressing on others,” Sarah explained. Canton twitched quite a bit and it was very funny to see how a poke on the butt made his face pull a weird expression.
Author’s Note: Pushing pressure points and deep massage is not recommended unless educated on proper technique, but Sarah did share five easy to do stretches for everyone at home!
The 8 Tail: Grab underneath the tail with one hand and “drive” it around in a figure of eight. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
Tail stretch: Grab the tail with both hands and lean back slightly, so the horse resists a little bit by leaning itself forward. Do not pull hard!
Leg Lifts: lift the back leg and pull it gently forward, so the hoof is about 10 cm ( about 4”) off the ground and stretch the front legs by lifting up and forward. Repeat 2-3 times on both side.
Neck Stretch: Stand with your back to the horse’s shoulder, hold a carrot or treat out in the opposite hand of its head, so that the horse must wrap his neck around you to reach the carrot. Repeat 2-3 times on both sides.
Bow down: Hold a treat between the horse’s legs right by the cannons so he will stretch the backside of his neck getting the treat. Repeat 2-3 times.
These are great stretches to do after exercising your horse, or, in my case, playing a few chukkers. Though it might not be feasible to do it every time, even once in a while will be very beneficial for your horse and will help him stay healthy longer. Stretches are great for maintenance and a proper massage can do wonders.