Massage for humans has been around for centuries but it is usually thought that Equine Massage Therapy is a product of the modern competitive age. However it’s not as new as you would think and in fact it is believed that the ancient Chinese used massage techniques on both animals and people, as early as 3000 B.C. In addition to pre- and post-competitive applications, massage therapy is currently enjoying a resurgence as horse owners become interested in the treatment of the whole horse and the holistic and alternative therapies available.
As well as being a tool for remedial treatment of specific injuries, massage therapy is popular as a preventative tool. The branch known as sports massage therapy, which specializes in preparing the musculature for exertion is especially important in the competitive lives of equine athletes.
In addition to the direct physical effects of the specific strokes and pressure of equine massage which can release tension within muscles, massage therapy also improves the well-being of the horse by improving circulation, either soothing or stimulating the nervous system and aiding in digestion.
There are some signs you can look for to determine whether your horse might benefit from massage therapy:
- Shortened strides
- Sore back
- Stiffness, unwillingness to bend to the left or right
- Problems picking up the canter, bucking during transitions
- Tripping and stumbling
- Change in demeanor
A horse doesn’t have to be an athlete to benefit from massage therapy. Just fooling around in the pasture, a horse can pull a muscle and come up sore. Ever seen horses galloping in a muddy field, slip and catch themselves? Imagine how you would feel if the same thing happened to you — you might pull a groin muscle or some other muscle and feel the effects for days. Horses that are sore like this can’t possibly perform at their fullest potential and very likely will be uncomfortable, even just standing in the stable.
Equine Massage Therapy as a Career
The field of Equine Massage Therapy is becoming a popular career choice nowadays. Training to become an therapist often starts with a short one-day seminar, to give you an idea of whether this field will suit you.
Students can follow a certification program and graduate with a certification in EquiTouch?, Equissage? or Equine Massage Therapy?, depending on which program the school they choose is affiliated with.