Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow Training Blog: Ally-Gator Gets a Massage

In previous blog posts about Thewifedoesntknow (nicknamed Ally-Gator), I introduced you to her breeder, trainer, and jockey. I photographed and shared 5 training sessions with you. This week, it's time to sit back, relax, and have a spa day. On Saturday, my friend Christie Kerr did a massage session with Ally-Gator. After the massage, Christie answered a few questions about her background, her experiences working with Thoroughbreds, and what benefits horse owners and trainers can expect from equine massage therapy.
Christie Kerr works on a pony at Helping Hearts Equine Rescue in Perrineville, NJ.
TDN:  What is your background with horses, and how did you get started with equine massage?

Kerr: According to my mother, my love of horses started in my preschool days when I would wander off and play with the neighbor's pony; there weren't any kids nearby, and my sister was in school.  Despite a lifelong love and admiration of horses, I only became actively involved with them about 18 years ago. To some of your blog followers, that may seem like a long time, longer than they have been alive, but as the saying goes, "the more I learn, the less I know." I’m an avid pleasure rider, and am currently enjoying exploring the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area with my young mare, Brigid.  Recently, I began volunteering at the Horse Park of New Jersey through the Friends of HPNJ.

Having dealt with a chronic knee condition for most of my life, I developed an interest in both complementary and alternative therapies for humans and animals. Equine massage is one way I can give back to the horses I enjoy so much. I love how massage is a natural extension of the grooming and care that we do on a daily basis with our horses. I enrolled in a self-study program in order to learn proper techniques and their application. My late mare, Mary, was a trooper about being used for practice. Although the recent increase in demands of my “9-5” career prevents me from dedicating as much time as I would like to equine massage, I have been working on my new horse, Brigid, some friends’ horses, and some local rescue horses.  
Thewifedoesntknow enjoys her massage session with Christie. Her ears are relaxed and her eyes are soft.
TDN: How did you like working with Thewifedoesntknow?
Kerr: It was an absolute joy- she is such a sweet, expressive mare.  She has heaps of personality and impeccable ground manners. The rewards of working with such a pleasant horse are priceless.
Click on the two videos below and watch Ally-Gator enjoy her massage session:

 TDN: When you massaged Thewifedoesntknow, what muscle groups were strong and supple? What muscle groups were sore/tight?

Kerr: In general, she is a nicely-muscled mare. Her tender spots varied from side to side. On her left, she was quite reactive from her withers through to her tail set.  She also had a bit of tenderness near her girth area.  She seemed to enjoy having her neck and haunches and inner thigh worked on.  On the right side, she was more reactive in her upper neck and girth area, and most liked the work on the haunches.
As you can see by her expression, Ally-Gator was a little tender through her girth area.
TDN: During your massage sessions with Thoroughbreds, have you noticed any particular muscle groups that commonly tend to need more work than others?   

Kerr: Problem areas tend to be due to discipline more than breed, but most of the Thoroughbreds I’ve worked on are off the track and tend to have tension in the shoulder and hind end.  Generally, the tension builds in the left front and right hind.  One of the things that does stand out about Thoroughbreds is that they have such well-defined musculature.  That makes it very easy to see and feel the tension in the various muscle groups.   
On the left side, Ally was reactive to pressure from her withers to her tail set. On her right side, she was reactive in her upper neck and girth area.
TDN: What benefits can a person expect to see under saddle from a horse who is receiving regular massage therapy sessions? If a person is training an off-the-track Thoroughbred, what type of massage schedule do you recommend?    

Kerr: While the primary goal of the type of massage I do is to prevent injury, the benefits manifest in many ways. An example of this is freeing up tension in the shoulder area, which allows a longer, more open stride.  By releasing tension in a given muscle group, you not only help that area, but you also help avoid any problem that might arise in the opposing muscles due to compensation.  Massage can help horses remain relaxed and supple as they strengthen and even out the muscles needed for a new discipline.

The frequency of massage depends on the horse as an individual and the intensity of the work. If treating a specific condition, the severity of the condition is also a factor. In general, a massage every two weeks for a horse in regular competition is ideal.  Horses in light work or occassional competition can be massaged as needed.
Ally returns the favor and "massages" Carole.
 This is Part 10 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison.   
 -Sarah Andrew

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