Information for Horse Owners, Trainers and Veterinarians
*) Please note: Equine massage and bodywork is a non-invasive, gentle wellness modality aimed at enhancing performance in the healthy horse and never replaces proper veterinary care. If in doubt regarding the physical health of your horse please consult your veterinarian.
Dear horse owner, trainer and/or veterinarian!
Above disclaimer is listed on all of my evaluation sheets, on several pages of my website, and on barn fliers and hand-outs I distribute.
After having worked on well over 1000 different horses, I can say from experience that equine massage and bodywork can be very effective when aiming to release tension in the horse's muscles and thus lead to improved performance in the healthy horse. However, as an equine massage and bodywork practitioner I do not treat or diagnose illnesses. This is a very important distinction to point out in order to manage expectations and define clear boundaries between a medical profession and a wellness service.
A typical full equine bodywork session takes around 90 minutes and includes:
pre-session evaluation, also in movement (longe) if indicated
front, back and sideview images (for later comparison and record)
massage and bodywork according to horse's needs
targeted work on areas of concern
recommendations (bodywork or exercises the owner/handler can do with the horse)
Every session starts with a thorough evaluation and closes with recommendations for the owner or handler. There are a number of easy bodywork exercises or massage strokes and owner can safely perform on their horse to maximize the wellness effect and relaxation until the next session. In some cases gymnasticizing for strengthening of certain muscles groups will be recommended (e.g. cavaletti work, hill work, etc.).
The bodywork as such is gentle and non-invasive and is never more forceful or assertive than the horse allows. I take my clues strictly from the horse and monitor the horse throughout the session for the subtlest responses.
The bodywork is often done in an arena or stall, with a loose halter and lead-rope, never in cross-ties. Nothing is ever 'forced' on the horse and the horse has a say as to how deep, far and intense the bodywork is performed. When encountering deep, long established tensions or hardened tissue I work 'peel away' these tensions slowly over several sessions. The goal is to never leave a horse sore.
Note: Even though there should be no to minimal soreness after a bodywork session, it may seem to the rider/owner/trainer that the horse is almost 'lame', since equine bodywork can release enough tension in only one session to have the horse regain a considerable range of motion, thus leaving him 'uncoordinated' for a few hours. This effect is even more obvious when a horse has developed a 'movement habit', perhaps as compensation for a former injury. This is an exception, but it may happen and usually resolves within 24 hours.
Usually, it is advised to let the horse move about freely for a while after the bodywork session (free longeing, pasture, paddock, etc.) with access to water. You should be able to ride your horse right after he had a chance to stretch his limbs out and move about freely. If the bodywork was a bit more intense, you might want to give your horse a day off.
Riders who show in dressage will want to schedule their horse's session a few days before the show to ensure that the horse is not uncoordinated by the improved freedom of movement.
Horses recovering from illness or injury: Owners, please check with your vet whether equine massage and bodywork can be practiced on your horse.
Pregnant mares: I do not work on pregnant mares.
Arthritic horses: Arthritic horses can benefit from equine massage to relieve tensions in muscles that are compensating for limitations (for instance musces in the lower back). However, arthritis cannot be improved by massage, the contrary is true. So the areas directly afflicted by arthritis will not be massaged. Your horse can merely be made more comfortable in his condition.
Horses that rear, kick out and bite: Yes, I will take a look at your horse if it rears, kics or bites. If determined that bodywork cannot safely be performed, I may decline to work with the horse.
Stallions: I will gladly work with well-behaved stallions.
Mules and other equines: Mules, donkeys, minis, ponies all basically have the same anatomy and can greatly benefit from equine massage and bodywork and I"ll be happy to work with them.
Draft horses, harness horses, driving horses: These horses often have a lot of tension in their front end (shoulder, sternum area) and can especially benefit from equine massage and bodywork. I'll be happy to work with any size draft horse, as well as other harness or driving horses.
Cattle, bulls: Show cattle and even bulls can have disabilitating muscular tensions for various reasons (pasture play, transport, etc.). I will work on your cattle/bull (chute required for bulls and aggressive cattle).