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That Special Touch

Use these simple at-home massage techniques to strengthen your relationship with your Paint Horse.
By Megan Brincks

If you’re looking to deepen your relationship with your Paint Horse, the sense of touch is more important than you might think. Putting hands to a horse can convey feelings and emotion while bringing certain energies to the conversation. Using touch through massage is a great way to strengthen the bond you share with your Paint.

Touch in general builds connection and relationship, and it improves both you and your horse’s mood,” said equine massage therapist Morgan Evans, an APHA member from Boise, Idaho. “It does take little bit of time to massage your horse, but it increases the connection you have with that animal. It improves your relationship and your mood as well.”

Jim Masterson, a massage therapist and developer of the Masterson Method of equine massage, typically focuses on using massage to improve a horse’s performance, and everything he does requires the horse’s participation.

“It’s very interactive. You read the horse’s body language as you’re working on him, watch forchanges in behavior and follow that; it makes the work even more effective,” said Jim, who is based in Fairfield, Iowa.

An in-depth equine massage might be something you want to leave to the pros, but you can incorporate some easy, neophyte-friendly massage techniques that yield positive benefits. The next time you’re in the barn, take a few extra minutes to try the following techniques to improve your connection with your Paint and get to know him on a deeper level.

Step 1: Center Yourself

Before even walking into the barn, take a few moments to temper your own energy with a few deep breaths.

“We don’t realize that we carry all of the day’s energy with us, even if it’s just the stress of driving to the barn,” Morgan said. Take a few moments before you go into that stall and take your own energy down. Calm yourself first and then go in and see your horse.”

Jim prefers avoiding feeding time when he schedules appointments, so the horse isn’t anxious about the meal. Whenever possible, he likes to work on horses in their stalls with simply a halter and lead rope draped over the neck so the horse can react freely; horses aren’t able to participate as freely in a crosstie set up.

Step 2: Get Hands On

One of the easiest ways to start the massage, even if you don’t have time for a full session before a quick ride, is to run your hands over every inch of your Paint Horse, ears to tail to hooves. This should be with a flat hand and zero pressure, Morgan says.

Get to know what your horse’s body and muscles feel like on a regular basis. Then you know when something has changed,” she said. “That’s the foundation for knowing before it becomes more serious or turns into an injury.”

During this process, tune in to any texture, heat or bumps you feel under your hands, and watch your Paint for any reactions.

Additionally, whenever you’re longeing your horse or watching him move naturally, pay attention to his gait and body position, and whether or not anything has changed. If he always goes around on the longe line with his head up, it could be a quirk common to your horse. But if he suddenly crosscanters while tracking to the right, that could be a sign of discomfort or tension.

 

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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