Muscle Rub for Horses

Written by erin maurer
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Muscle Rub for Horses
Work horses commonly experience muscle soreness, which may be treated with a muscle rub. (shire horse working image by lprendy from

Like humans, horses use their muscles for everything from movement to digestion. Racehorses, workhorses and other farm horses may experience more frequent muscle injuries or strains, especially when racing or engaged in strenuous activity. Muscle rub products can help a trainer or owner effectively treat stiff and sore muscles. Major injuries or muscle diseases will require veterinary care.

Muscle Use

According to the Horse website, horse anatomy is comprised of three main muscle groups including smooth, skeletal and cardiac. Smooth muscles respond to stimuli in an organ system and are found in the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and urogenital systems. The muscles of the heart make up the cardiac muscular system and are controlled by the central nervous system. Skeletal muscles are those responsible for a horse's movement and are generally made up of two types of muscular fibres. Type one fibres are known as slow-twitch fibres, used by horses engaged in non-strenuous activity. Racehorses and workhorses generally rely more frequently on their type two, fast-twitch muscle fibres.

Common Muscle Ailments

In addition to common muscle injury, there are several common equine muscle diseases according to the Horse website. HYPP and PSSM affect the function of a horse's muscles in various ways. HYPP, which is most common in quarter horses, is a genetic defect which affects the way muscles receive signals from the nerves. Symptoms include muscle tremors, shaking and weakness. PSSM is a type of disease found in quarter horses, paints, Appaloosas, draft horses and warmbloods. Horses with PSSM have digestive problems and experience muscle spasms. While these diseases require veterinary treatment, the use of muscle rub may help alleviate some muscle pain.


There are two main types of equine muscle rubs, according to the Horse Channel website. Liniments and poultices provide different types of muscle therapy and are made from different ingredients. Liniments are commonly used for temporary muscle pain relief and can provide cold or hot therapies. Poultices are used to provide temporary cold therapy and typically made from a clay base.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy products like poultices and some liniments are used to treat new traumas to muscles and as a preventive therapy for horses involved in strenuous work. Cold therapy muscle rubs help slow inflammation associated with muscle pain and injury. Many products also contain analgesic ingredients which relieve pain. Trainers and performance horse owners commonly use cold therapy to keep race horses in peak condition, according to the Horse Channel website.

Hot Therapy

Hot therapy liniments are used on older injuries and arthritis. According to the Horse Channel website, many veterinarians use a simple rule of thumb when deciding to apply cold or hot therapy. If an injured area is cold to the touch, use hot therapy. If it is hot when touched, use cold therapy.


Poultices and liniments are commonly applied to the injured area and wrapped with sterile dressing. Poultices are typically applied to lower legs, joints and hooves following an application of ice therapy. Many trainers wet butcher paper and use it to wrap a poultice-treated area, according to the Horse Channel. Wet paper helps the area stay cool. Liniments and hot therapy muscle rubs are commonly applied with a cellophane wrap, which helps promote sweating.

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