Gua Sha for your Horse

Gua Sha

For centuries, the Chinese¬†Gua sha technique has been used to promote healing by¬†scraping muscle tissue to stimulate blood flow, stretch and relax muscles, increase range of motion and reduce pain. You may also have heard it referred to as the Graston technique, named after David Graston who popularized this treatment in the U.S. in the 1990s, or as “muscle scraping”, which describes the way the massage tools — which can be stainless steel, jade, quartz or bone — are used, or as myofascial release.

I started using Gua sha, to help with the tightness that I’m experiencing as my broken ankle heals. I have very tight spots in my calf and on the outside of my knee. Using a metal, bone or stone tool, you scrape across the afflicted area to stretch and relax muscle tissues. Scrape only in one direction, rather than back and forth, and don’t use it over bony areas.

Once I realized that it helped me, I decided to try it on Zelda. I’ve incorporated it into my grooming routine and she seems to love it. I get lots of releases from it — she yawns, licks and chews. I can find tight spots during our sessions (since I’m stiff and sore now that I’m riding again, I can only imagine that she is, too).

For $15 you can’t go wrong with this Stickon tool. After all, you can use it on you and your horse!

The tool I like is a small stainless steel one from Stickon. For barn work, I think stainless steel is the best choice because it is easy to keep clean. I have a slightly larger one that I’m going to try, but for $15 this is both effective and comfortable; it fits nicely in my hand. Using this tool allows me to give her a deeper massage without without tiring my hands. I’ve always been a fan of equine massage, but especially in the winter, I’m not able to do as much (I have Raynaud’s syndrome, which means I’m affected by cold), so this gives me the chance to keep doing body work.

Have you ever tried muscle scraping tools or massage tools? What are you favorite ones?

3 thoughts on “Gua Sha for your Horse

  1. I massaged horses professionally for twelve years, until I blew out my shoulders. Now I only do it for friend’s horses, not for money but to help the horse.
    My favorite tools were my hands and my mind, but I did use four others. Three were solely for massage: a wooden ball, a wooden ‘apple’, and a wooden ‘bowling pin’. They were all small, the pin of course was not regulation size! The ball and the apple were about baseball size, the pin a little smaller. I got them all from Michael’s, a craft store chain in the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t always use them, most of the time I worked solely with my hands. But the smaller end of the bowling pin was useful for getting deep into a muscle, especially to get to an accupressure point, the flat part of the apple was for broader coverage at less depth, and the ball was for the divisions between big muscles, like the glutes.

    I’ve never seen the Stickon tool, I’m at a bit of a loss at how it works, but if it does, go for it.

    Oh-my last tool, and by far the most effective for making a horse happy was a wooden pasta fork. They look like a paddle with the pegs sticking out on one side of the paddle. They’re hard to find these days, and I won’t use plastic or metal ones.
    The pasta fork was a treat. It is the best way to scratch a horse without buggering up your nails, and every horse I’ve scratched with it loves it. I trained my own horse, Jordan, my leased horses and Raven, Sue’s horse, that my saying ‘scraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatch” meant he was about to get a loving, superficial massage.

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