Involves hooking tissue and moving it in a circular fashion (not sliding over muscle tissues). Movement at the active pressure point improves tissue circulation. Performed in conjunction with rotation/sedation, sedating the active pressure point induces muscle relaxation.
Stagnant energy is allowed to move through the body freely. Active pressure point stimulation directly causes muscle relaxation.
Application: Tight muscles
Applying direct pressure for equine sedation, relaxation and de-tensing muscles
Application: Equine massage tissue relaxation technique
Percussive movements of the hand used for gaining the horse’s attention and focusing it on the massage expert, as well as making muscles supple. It’s routinely initiated at the beginning of horse massage therapy and an attention-getter.
Application: Suppling muscles
Involves hooking muscle fiber across the fiber to de-tension muscles. According to Whiting, “a lot of people would just slide over, but it doesn’t do any good.” Whiting uses the analogy of an acoustic guitar: Strum your thumb over the strings, and the strings will stretch. “You want the guitar strings of the horse to stretch to take it out of tension,” Whiting says.
Strumming over the guitar strings of the horse isn’t enough; it’s important that the cross-fiber technique be done the proper way to achieve results.
Application: To break up adhesions or tight muscles. Traumatized muscles can be the result of muscle fiber tightening. This results in improved range of muscle motion.
In kneading a horse, use the fist or heel of the hand to move and slightly stretch the horse’s muscles, which helps supple the muscles.
Application: Muscle softening/relaxation/suppling
Stripping is routinely performed on the legs of the horse to separate fiber muscles. Similar to the art of rolfing, slide between the muscles to separate the facia from each other with muscles running parallel to one another to avoid sticking.
“Now the muscle can move,” Whiting says. “And the muscles can move independent of one another.”
Application: Preventing facia stickiness, improving facia independent movement and freedom of movement.
Whiting explains his sagacious technique on how to massage a horse:
• All six horse massage techniques are used collaboratively in conjunction with one another.
• Begin horse massage therapy with percussion to get the horse’s attention and start muscle relaxation. Percussion segues into rotation/sedation. Rotate three to five times then sedate three to five seconds.
• Slide to the next point and repeat process (rotate three to five times and sedate three to five seconds).
• Generally, within three to five seconds, muscle areas will begin to relax by stimulating the active pressure point, releasing stagnation.
Shiatsu horse massage is not designed to work the muscle, per se. Rather, shiatsu is designed to work active pressure points.
There are 14 meridians, or energy pathways, in the body. A total of 12 meridians are dedicated to the organs such as liver, stomach, large intestine, bladder, spleen, heart and gall bladder. Each organ produces energy.
“Anything that gives life to it gives off a source of energy,” Whiting says. “That energy travels through a conduit system, which we call a meridian.”
Within the conduit system is an intricate network of pressure points — upwards of 30 or more active pressure points in one given meridian!
Horse lifestyle choices can adversely affect pressure points — positive or negative. Whiting likens the effect to that of water around a given point. Blockage causes buffering, and energy will not flow as it’s supposed to.
“If you’re affected in a negative way, it will block the energy that comes from that organ, and it will stop that energy or slow it down at that point,” Whiting says.
Beautifully-flowing energy is the key, with grace and fluidity. That primordial force — internal strength and power, or chi — can prevent the buildup of stagnant energy. When acupressure points are blocked, the whole energy within it may become stagnant, Whiting says. When stagnation starts to move out, because of touch a channel is opened for the energy to move free once again.
“Clearing the logjam out of the river,” Whiting says, is easier than you think. Introduce rotation and sedation, and at that point you start to move out of stagnation.
“That energy has been stuck there,” Whiting says. “Now you open up the channel for energy to move freely once again, like clearing a logjam out of a river. You remove it, and everything moves nicely.”
Another analogy: you’ve all seen it — a murky-green pool of stagnant water caused by an obstruction. You can’t drink it, you can’t purify it and you can’t use it for anything.
“Once your remove the block, stagnation goes away, and in comes this nicer, healthier water that cleans up that cesspool, which makes it habitable again,” Whiting says. “In comes a new, vibrant energy to clean it out.”
The same approach equine massage expert Geary Whiting embraces can be used when analyzing how to massage a horse.