My owner, or Mom, often massages my body. She knows I love it! I wiggle my lip and arch my neck to let her know when she hits a spot that feels particularly good.
Mom has a knack for knowing where my muscles are tight. But I move away from her touch when my muscles are sore and if she uses too much pressure. Mom knows that this means she needs to use less force to slowly increase the blood circulation into the area and help the muscles to relax.
I often position my body according to the area I want her to massage. If she strays from where I want her to rub more, I move backward or forward to line up her hands on the area that needs work. I also point my nose to parts of my body that I want her to massage.
Mom knows my back is frequently tight, especially in the lumbar area. There are six lumber vertebrae, L1 to L6, in the horses' back. These vertebrae are located between the thoracic vertebrae and the pelvis. Mom often starts with this area because she knows it's my favorite.
In addition to my lower back, my hamstrings and neck are also frequently tight, but I don't like it when Mom or Lael, my massage therapist, work on my neck. It usually is sore when they press on it, so I guard it by moving away from them. If they persist in touching it, I might nip them to get my message across.
Occasionally, when Mom works on the rest of my body and I relax, I allow her to massage my neck. But I only tolerate this when she moves slowly, and her touch is light. Lael always rubs my neck, but she knows not to start with it.
Lael is part of my dream team. These are people who dedicate their life's work to helping horses feel better in their bodies. Lael and I get along great. She understands my communication, and I appreciate that she listens to me. Lael massages me in my stall because this enables me to move freely to help release the tension in my body.
Mom says people should be cautious when in a stall with a horse. Being confined in a small area with a large, powerful animal is dangerous if the horse becomes agitated or panicked. Also, some horses protect their stall and will be defensive if anyone tries to enter it. But I don't mind when people come into my stall.
One time, when Lael was working on me, I was happy and relaxed, enjoying the attention, and suddenly a person appeared outside my stall. Lael made noises with her mouth while rubbing me. After a short time, she moved away and stood by the stall door, talking to the person.
I looked over my shoulder, wondering why she was ignoring me.
I snatched a couple of bites of hay and chewed them slowly as I waited. I looked over my shoulder again, but the people didn't understand my communication. I decided I had waited long enough. I turned around and walked up behind Lael. I lowered my chin over her right shoulder and stepped backward, pulling her away from the door and the person. The people erupted into "Hahaha's," and Lael said, "Well, I guess I better get back to massaging Rudy!"
This is an example of how I communicate with people around me. I have opinions, and I'm not shy about sharing them. This is especially true when people do bodywork on me.
Mom says that equine massage is a growing and developing therapy. This field involves various massage techniques created and utilized by human athletes and applied to the horse. Equine massage has many benefits.
It allows for more efficient movement by increasing flexibility and range of motion. It can help prevent muscle injuries, increase blood flow and circulation, and speed up recovery after injuries. Massage therapy helps to reduce stress and provide immune system support. Regular treatment may also increase the level of performance and competitiveness of the horse.
I heard people at the barn say I'm a lucky horse because Mom has Lael come every three weeks. Mom seems to enjoy massaging me and gives me a rubdown at least once a week, sometimes more. I love attention, and bodywork helps my body to feel better.
By Diane R. Jones