As a professional equine body worker, I am often asked after a session, what a client should do with their horse and should they ride him the next day. My most common answer is “Motion is Lotion”. A good hand walk or turnout is ideal after any bodywork session and/or light exercise the next day. The three greatest benefits are: it lubricates the joints, allows the tendons and muscles to expand and contract, and it’s simply in their nature.
Moving creates lubrication in joints. Cells inside the joint capsule create synovial fluid that helps cushion the cartilage inside a joint. Exercise helps create more of that fluid to help lubricate the joints. Hence “motion is lotion”.
Have you ever noticed how some horses take longer to feel more supple in their exercise than others? Depending on variable factors such as age and confirmation will depend on how quickly and effectively they produce synovial fluid in their joints. Not all horses are the same, so listen to their body and they’ll tell you if they need more time to get “lubed up”.
Allows the tendons/muscles to expand and contract.
After bodywork the muscles have increased circulation and the horse is generally relaxed. Motion by hand walking or wandering in turn out allows the horse to feel his body in a different state. Sometimes massage can create soreness from breaking down scar tissues or working deep on a trigger point until it releases. Movement facilitates expansion and contraction to help increase circulation and recover what was released.
It’s in their Nature
In the wild horses move on average of 28.3 kilometers a day. Based on a study of domesticated horses turned out in a field on average move 7.4 kilometers in the autumn and winter vs. 3.7 kilometers in the summer. With that said, our performance horses are treated with much care and diligence to keep them safe from getting hurt and unable to perform.
We all know the painful process of rehabilitating an injury from a silly romp in the paddock. So, with the combined efforts of what we know to be in their nature and a good training and turnout program we can keep them moving enough to ensure muscle elasticity and joint mobility.
In summary, I have adopted the phrase “motion is lotion” because it resonates with almost everyone. It creates a picture in the mind that says movement is healthy for me and my horse. It allows for joint lubrication, expansion and contraction of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and it’s simply in their nature to graze and wander.