Archive for the ‘Coaching Tips’ Category

A year ago now (yikes!) I did a couple of posts sharing one of my very favorite techniques for the withers (and back and neck while you’re at it). First I described the Wither Rock, and then another post on the Wither Lift (both techniques are also in my book, The Horse Lover’s Guide to Massage).

Now here’s another Horse Tip Daily podcast where I talk about them.

(I will also be making a free video sometime this year teaching these very important techniques. They are fantastic for helping your horse’s body, and also for monitoring how they’re doing. And they’re so easy, if you do them right!)


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I don’t seem to have the right code to put the “Listen Now” button directly here, but you can just go to the Horse Tip Daily website, and listen to the podcast there at this link. (Scroll down to find where you can hit play and “Listen now.”

This is about one of the techniques taught in the free webinar, Natural Healing Secrets for Rescued and Adopted Animals, which you can get by joining my e-mail members here.

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The webinar I did this week, Natural Healing Secrets for Rescued and Adopted Animals, is now available as a recording. To receive the link, along with some more free stuff, go to www.RescueHorseMassage.com! (Once there, look at the right side margin and you’ll see a blue box with a link to “Get them all here.”)

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Here are a few tips to keep any stretches you do with your horse safe and effective.

  1. Have a sense of what muscles you are stretching and why before you begin. Unless the muscles across one side of a joint are initially tighter than others across the same joint, you may create an imbalance over time by only stretching one group.
  2. Apply stretches slowly! This way both you and your horse have a chance to feel when it’s time to stop before the range of motion is taken too far. If muscles are overstretched, a necessary but counter-productive guarding response occurs, or worse, a muscle or tendon may be injured.
  3. Gently jostle your horse’s leg or neck before applying any stretch. This will help muscles relax, reducing initial (and maybe unnecessary) guarding responses.
  4. Do not hold stretches for more than 1-2 seconds, but rather keep the joint moving slowly in and out of a comfortable, easy “stretch,” repeating several times rather than one long stretch. The range of motion will (usually) increase a little with each repetition, and you will avoid many potential pitfalls of the longer static stretches. The longer stretches require much more skill and experience from both you and your horse to be done well.
  5. Use either massage or exercise to warm muscles up before doing stretches. This will reduce the chances of causing a strained muscle, though even a warmed-up muscle must be stretched appropriately for safety.

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Don’t assume stretching is always good for your horse! Depends on how it’s done, when it’s done, and how often, just to name a few obvious factors. (And yes, there are potential benefits to stretching, just some potential pitfalls as well.) In my book I teach a good alternative to stretching for the limbs, which is to use a combination of jostles and circles to help muscles relax and stimulate joint fluid.

I also believe that massage provides a much more efficient and effective way to improve range of motion. It can melt adhesions that may be restricting joint movements, and can also lengthen the collagen fibers (and their orientation to each other) within the connective tissue. Theoretically this is what stretching does also (one of the benefits), but only if the stretches are held for a length of time. (Some say at least 90 seconds for this to happen. Try telling your horse that as you’re trying to hold their leg in a stretch!)

So here are two links, one to the research article itself (the abstract and access to more), and another link offering a good summary of the research.

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Listen and enjoy!

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The latest from Horse Tip Daily Radio…
Horse Tip Daily #173 – Megan Ayrault on Listening with Your Hands:

Another video….

Here’s another video, this time one of mine. I’ll be working this year on getting more short videos produced to share more techniques and tips, so stay tuned!

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Animal Massage Myth #9: “You must have to be really strong to massage a horse!”

This is one of the most frequent comments I hear when I tell someone what I do for a living. The fact is, although being fit is helpful for certain techniques and styles of bodywork (and necessary for some), it’s really not about strength. Even a small child can offer great benefits to the largest of horses with the right techniques, focus and intention. What people generally don’t think about, even in relation to themselves let alone their animals, is that the body has great intelligence and is designed to re-balance itself in any number of ways. This intelligence and ability can very easily (and often does) get off track, stuck or even distorted, but the potential is still there, ready and waiting for the right conditions and reminders to trigger it. Most of what happens during massage and bodywork is happening inside the body, connected to but not actually coming from the hands of the therapist. Sometimes your hands don’t even seem to be doing anything at all, and yet the animal is clearly processing and focusing internally, and getting wonderful relaxation and other benefits.

The fact that your hands are on your animal (or even just nearby in some cases), and also very importantly that your mind is focused on helping and loving your animal, can be all that’s needed to create positive effects. With more training and experience, you can also get much more efficient and deliberate by learning key places to apply pressure, how much pressure to use, and how long to spend. Of course, using good body mechanics to protect your joints and muscles while massaging is also important, but that’s another topic. (More on that in my books and videos, of course!)

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Now that you’ve done the wither rock (see last post), try the wither lift to help your horse open the joint spaces of the back and ribs, relax the back muscles, and engage the belly and shoulder sling muscles. Feel in the girth area for a slightly hollow spot. That’s the end of your horse’s sternum, or breast bone. Scratch/tickle your horse there while looking up at the withers and expecting to see them rise. Some horses will lift more than others. If yours doesn’t lift well yet, it can improve with this exercise and other bodywork. It’s often possible to get noticeable improvements by simply repeating the wither rock, wither lift combination a few times.

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