Have you ever tried massage, acupressure, stretching, or any other ways to strengthen your relationship with your horse when you’re not riding?
Again and again at the beginning of winter, the variety of reasons to keep you from riding are at the forefront: Everything is wet, muddy, or frozen. The barn is too crowded with people and all the winter gear. It’s dark so early. It takes forever to peel the horse out of the blankets, change your clothes yourself and then put everything back together.
But here’s the good news: You can do something good for your horse even if you don’t have much time. Here are ideas and practical instructions that will strengthen your horse’s immune system, loosen its muscles, challenge its mind, and strengthen your relationship.
Table of Contents
- Horse massage and acupressure strengthen relationships
- Massage & stretching exercises
- Acupressure for the horse as an immune booster
- Walk and just be together
- Relax muscles
- Clickers & Trick Training
Horse massage and acupressure strengthen relationships
It is clear to everyone who cares about their horse and its training that having little time is not ideal. Optimal training and care take time. We all know that life sometimes takes us from our plans, and then the question looks like this: Do I go out to my horse and rush through our time together, or try again tomorrow?
Here’s the good news: You can do something good for your horse even if you don’t have much time. And it’s good for you too, because everything that is noted here strengthens your relationship with each other. Perhaps you know this – anyone who has ever had a sick or lame horse and has therefore not been able to ride for weeks, but instead had to hand walk and work with it differently, often experiences a positive change in the quality of the relationship. So: Dedicating time is worth it!
Here are ideas that will strengthen your relationship with the horse and luckily, each of them doesn’t take much time.
Massage & stretching exercises
Alizée Froment does it before every riding session, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl also massages her sport horses herself. And with good reason: “I notice how my horse’s body feels before riding,” explains Alizée Froment. She uses arnica oil and massages with her cupped hands, fingertips, and palms of her hands, from the neck to the base of the tail. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl also uses a Matrix Rhythm device to massage her horses. In addition to the physiological effect, this treatment also strengthens the horse-human bond. After all, grooming is at the top of the list of favorite activities among friends in the herd. You can find more methods and techniques from various trainers such as Jim Masterson or Linda Tellington-Jones in our bodywork courses.
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl also does the massage herself to feel what is going on in the body and muscles of her horses and to strengthen their relationship. In her course, “A Holistic Concept for Success in the Dressage Ring,” she explains this in more detail.
Acupressure for the horse as an immune booster
With just a few simple steps and in less than five minutes a day, you can do more than just strengthen your relationship, you can also help your horse strengthen its immune system. Acupressure is the name of the method that will help you with this. Anyone can do acupressure on their horse themselves, but a specialist needs to do any acupuncture. With the acupressure technique, acupuncture points are not needled, but addressed with your own hands.
Supplement your training with acupressure
By activating certain points, you can help a horse to get its balance or support any healing that is already being treated by conventional medicine. When waves of colds roll in, you can help the horse arm itself through targeted activation, for example.
Horse acupressure works like this: You apply light pressure to certain points on the horse’s body with your fingertips. How exactly is explained in the text below and of course it is explained in more detail in the course Acupressure for Horses. Dr. Ina Gösmeier looks after the horses of the German riders, for example at championships. The nice thing about acupressure is that every rider can use the method themself.
Acupressure cannot heal, but therapies can support and strengthen the horse in general and help with behavioral problems.
Acupressure in horses can prevent coughing
If horses in your stable are already coughing or have other infectious diseases, you can do some acupressure so that this cold goes past your horse. In this case, veterinarian Dr. Ina Gösmeier recommends the following acupressure points:
1. The first point you address is Lung 7 (Lu7). It lies just above the chestnut on the inside of the front leg and has an influence on the immune system.
The points circled in green are those that can positively influence the immune system.
2. The point large intestine 4 (Li4) is a pain point and together with lung 7 also activates the immune system (do not press at the same time, but one after the other). It is also on the inside of the front leg, below the carpal joint.
3. The point Magen 36 (Ma36) is “a very impressive point!” says Ina Gosmeier. The following is said about it: “It activates the exhausted runner so that he can run three villages further.” It has been proven, explains the veterinarian, that acupressure on this point stimulates the production of white blood cells. It lies on the lower leg, i.e. on the horse’s hind leg between the knee joint and hock joint, and tends to be on the front rather than on the side of the lower leg.
Use the right technique
The technique you use to press depends on the goal of the treatment. To boost the immune system, Dr. Ina Gösmeier recommends the Yan technique, as it has an invigorating effect. To do this, you exert light pressure with your fingertip for only 30 seconds. In order for the treatment to take effect, you apply acupressure daily and stop the treatment five days after the last horse in the stable is no longer sick. Ideally, the horse reacts immediately after the treatment by snorting and taking a deep breath.
In Chinese medicine theory, acupressure does the following: It affects the flow of chi, a flow of energy in the body. An even flow of chi keeps the body in harmony. Important: Never use more than five acupressure points.
Walk & be together
Yes, that sounds simple. It is simple, but it’s also highly effective to strengthen your relationship. Go for a walk with your horse and just spend time with him without having a task or a training goal in mind. We usually approach the horse with high expectations: we want to do gymnastics, maintain health, build muscle, and do groundwork. All of that has its justification. But stopping every now and then and simply being there and observing has qualities that are so easily forgotten in everyday life. Incidentally, that’s exactly what the ones at the top do too, like Philippe Karl.
This is also a massage method: the stress point massage according to Jack Meagher. These pressure points are always in the tendon attachment and tendon origin areas. If the treating person notices a pain reaction at a point (triggered only by light, increasing pressure), then they remain there for a few minutes, which causes histamine to be released. The equine physiotherapist explains how he works at one point with pain reactions – super interesting, although not quite as easy to use as our first two tips.
Clickers & Trick Training
While you can simply do the things mentioned above from time to time, the following two tips require a little more familiarization with the topic. But: if you know how to do it, you can always incorporate exercises from the clicker and trick (circus) training in between, even on days when you can’t spend hours in the stable. Note: Both options have exercises that can be done cold and exercise where the horse should definitely be warmed up; in winter this means 15-20 minutes to warm up. Both have the advantage that the horse’s mind is also addressed and occupied.
Bea Borelle not only devotes herself to dressage training at the Légèrté school but has also been well-versed in the circus for many decades. In the Circus School: Basic Lessons and Tricks course, she demonstrates popular circus tricks (with the adorable Ben in his prime!).
The most important lesson, to begin with, is feeding consistency. This means the horse is being conditioned not to beg for treats. Check out how it works in the Allez Hop: An Introduction to Circensic Lessons course, because good manners always help!