Some Equine Massage Techniques
Effleurage is a form of smooth firm stroking, done before other massage techniques to warm up the horse's body by stimulating circulation, increasing the blood supply to the skin and underlying muscles. Effleurage encourages the flow of excess fluid, toxins and waste products to the veins and lymph vessels so it is used frequently throughout the massage. When massaging observation and touch are used to maintain the right amount of pressure for the individual horse and the area of the body being worked on. It is also important to lighten the touch over bony prominences such as the point of the hip and essential that the strokes are directed towards lymphatic drainage points to enhance circulation and drainage.
Friction is a massage technique using small circular movements so that muscle is moved against bone with a controlled and safe degree of pressure. It is used to break up scar tissue, adhesions and products of inflammation and to loosen the skin. It encourages effusions (excess tissue fluids) to be reabsorbed. Friction is very effective for minor swellings which have lingered on after an injury, sprain or strain.
Petrissage techniques vary depending on the shape and structure of the muscle. The hands can be moulded around the hamstrings to lift them away from underlying tissue then release back, whilst the palm of the hand would be used to press and move the triceps against the underlying tissue. The technique stimulates nerves, increases the blood supply to the part being kneaded and stimulating the metabolism. Once again, judgement and understanding of the muscle and structures are needed so that an appropriate amount of pressure and movement is used.
Tapotement increases circulation rapidly so it can be used to warm up muscles before competition or any activity. It promotes nutrition for the muscles and improves muscle tone. Hacking, cupping and pounding are types of tapotement. As the names suggest they involve rapid striking – the edges of the hands are used in hacking for example – so the wrists are kept loose and flexible at all times to ensure that excess force is not used. The area to be worked on in this way must be warmed up by effleurage in preparation. Both horses and people can doze throughout tapotement during a massage.