With a medication-oriented mind set, it's easy to overlook the benefits of topical therapy which can offer tremendous benefits, especially for joints and muscles. Simple touch can provide relief. The instinct to rub or massage sore areas is a good one. Just providing another sensory input to the nervous system will decrease unpleasant perceptions.
When done properly, massage can also relieve tension in connective tissues and muscles, and improve blood delivery. If you are unsure of the correct way to massage your horse, you can't go wrong by taking your cues from his reaction. If the horse objects, stop doing it. If he seems to enjoy the touch, keep it up!
Heat and cold can also be used. Use heat for stiffness, chronic edema without obvious temperature increase, and muscle tension. Brisk rubs, wrapping, blanketing and soaking with hot, wet towels are effective, as are Neoprene joint and lower leg wraps.
Cold is indicated for new areas of irritation or flare-up of chronic problems. Cold water hosing, soaking in ice water and ice wraps are all effective.
Adding a liniment to the mix can enhance the effects. Different ingredients will have specific effects, for example:
- Arnica and Capsaicin can promote potent relief of temporary discomfort related to overuse and activity.
- Comfrey, Chamomile, and Aloe help support normal counter-regulatory responses with inflammation.
- Rosemary extract: Antioxidant, supports normal muscle relaxation
- Lavender essential oil: Antioxidant, gentle circulatory stimulation.
- Peppermint oil: Circulatory support, provides pleasant and warming sensory stimulation
When applying liniments, be sure the skin and coat are dry and free from residue from prior products, shampoos or sprays. Clip the overlying hair or apply liberally enough to ensure good penetration down to skin level. A few minutes of rubbing will enhance uptake by the skin and stimulate blood flow to the area.
To avoid over-drying of the skin, choose a water or witch hazel base rather than alcohol or acetone. Some liniments can be used under cotton wraps or even Neoprene sweats, while others should not. If the product doesn't specify, use caution with heavily “minty” liniments, such as Capsaicin and anything including counter-irritants like iron, iodine, or cedar oil. If in doubt, or you know your horse has sensitive skin, do not wrap for the first day or two you use a new product.
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya®, offers topical formulas that provide support for joint and muscular discomfort.
Cool Muscle Gel and Liniment lets the power of herbs and essential oils soothe your horse’s aching body and support healthy muscle relaxation. Perfect for rub-downs after a ride or a long day of showing. Liniment easily penetrates the hair coat to soothe and cool muscles. The thick gel eliminates the need to wash clay off legs. Both dry clear, are excellent under wraps and magnets, and will not blister. Made with all-natural Aloe Vera and Organic Rosemary Extract to support healthy muscle relaxation, Comfrey Leaf to support a balanced inflammatory reaction, and potent herbal tinctures including Lavender Essential Oil to gently encourage healthy blood flow.
Capsa-Cream is for horses with muscular, joint or soft tissue discomfort. Capsa-Cream goes on cool, then starts to warm, and is perfect for a rubdown of the legs after a long ride or a strenuous day of showing. Not greasy, it is readily absorbed, and smells fresh and minty. A little goes a long way, and there is no need to wrap. *Please note that Capsaicin is a prohibited substance in many horse show jurisdictions.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. For more information visit www.ecirhorse.org.
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier. On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances. For more information visit www.uckele.com.