Behavior problems in horses run the gamut from steriotypical behaviors (stall vices), to difficulty bonding, to crankiness. Massage can help bridge the gap between you and your horse.
Changing the brain: Slow, relaxing massage of moderate depth activates the part of the nervous system which is the opposite of fight or flight. Heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure goes down, dilated pupils relax, and cortisol levels return toward normal.
Increasing confidence: Animals that are feeling pain somewhere in their body can compensate for that by being extra guarded emotionally. Feeling more free physically, as well as more connected to their body through touch, can lead to opening up to new experiences.
Building teamwork: Your horse needs to trust in order to let go of his defenses. I do something of a dance with your horse in which I introduce new sensations and touch new body parts, and give him a choice in what happens. They quickly learn to give me latitude and even let me work deeply on painful areas. You can ask for lessons on how to massage your own horse, to build the bond between you.
Easier handling: Does your horse give the farrier or vet a hard time? Try a massage before they come. I've worked with horses that had some pain in the legs that made it hard for them to stand on three legs, causing them to fuss. Others are anxious, which makes it hard for them to allow handling or blood draws. Massage can even help relax a colicing horse enough to stand for his IV fluids.
Cribbing study: I am conducting research on whether massage can be helpful for cribbing. I have encouraging results from interns, and my own experience with a horse that would rather crib than eat, who would go off and eat some grass as soon as I finish massage. I am looking for some cribbers to massage weekly, at a greatly reduced rate, to gather data. Horses that crib because of an ulcer need to have that fully dealt with before starting the study. Email me.
Back in January I rescued a Mustang from northern California. He was older, 7 years old and, as expected, very timid and lacking in trust, but he was honest. You could see it in his eyes that he wanted to let you into his world but what ever happened to Hemingway (pictured above) while he was in holding all those years ago made him scared and apprehensive.
As the months passed he learned to trust more and to start to let me in. I am a graduate of the Bancroft equine massage program and figured that would be a great way to help him ease up and to start to trust people. But I was having some trouble. He was still very nervous and would almost hold his breath when I worked with him. And his right side was untouchable though it seemed more out of fear than out of pain. He was a big ball of stressed-out tension. At this point I knew I was too emotionally attached and concerned and I needed to call in the big guns and reached out to my instructor, Lisa Ruthig.
Lisa came out to my little backyard barn almost as soon as I called her and could feel HIS concerns before she even got into the barn. Lisa has such a wonderful calming presence and I knew she would be able to help. She spoke softly to him and moved slowly, listening to his every move. While working on him she also performed emotional release Reiki. At first he was uneasy but eventually started to lighten his mood and started to relax his head, and lick his lips, all the tell-tale signs of a relaxed horse. I was ecstatic! But it gets better.
The following day I walked into the barn and Hemi walked to the front of his door and nickered. Something he doesn't normally do. And when I opened his door he immediately put his head down for me to put his halter on, again something that isn't usually normal. The following days repeated this type of "accommodation" for me and openness. He is becoming a different horse for the better and I absolutely believe Lisa's massage and Reiki has aided this transformation.
Lisa helped me open that door from an emotional standpoint that allowed Hemingway to start to trust and be more at ease. She truly is a master of her craft and knows how to read the situation and the horse properly. She helped Hemingway and myself and I without a doubt WILL call on her again. Thank You Lisa!!!!!! - Emily Carr