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The Benefits of Equine Massage Therapy

By Anne Forsberg


Updated on

Equine Massage is a relatively new form of therapy for horses that began in the early 90’s. Equine massage is done for a number of reasons including rehabilitation and pain relief. The exact science behind the therapy is still up for debate but there has been a number of studies which have shown that horses can derive a number of benefits from such treatments.

Many of the benefits that horses get from massage therapy are the same benefits that humans get from hands on treatment. This is not a surprise considering the fact that we share many of the same muscle groups and biological processes as horses. Equine massage is usually performed by a professional who specializes in some kind of equine therapy. The exact qualification of the therapist and the type of massage that they offer will likely differ significantly depending on what region of the world you live in. In many cases therapists who normally specialize in human massage therapy will have a service that caters for equine massage.

The main benefits of Equine Massage Therapy Include:

1. Pain relief

This is the most common reason people seek out equine massage. The science and merits of massage for the purpose of pain relief is a hotly contested topic in the medical community. However there is the no doubt that many people find it beneficial for various different ailments and conditions.

For example many older arthritic horses may experience pain and stiffness in their joints. Gentle massaging of the joints and surrounding limbs can help to alleviate this joint pain.

2. Relaxation

The link between massage and relaxation is well documented. Horses are extremely emotional animals and can feel stress, depression and anxiety in a similar way to humans. A massage may the perfect way to alleviate these issues. During an equine massage blood pressure is reduced and the breathing rate is slowed which helps the horse to relax. The heat generated in massage can also help to encourage a general feeling of calm and well being which will ultimately improve the overall relaxation of the horse.

3. Trust

Trust between a horse and humans is essential if the horse is to be trained or ridden effectively.

However many horses may have trust issues for different reasons. Some horses may have been previously mistreated and may react badly when introduced to new riders. Equine massage is an excellent way of changing a horses perception of human contact. Starting off with a very gentle massage trust and confidence can slowly be build through numerous sessions. Overtime the horse will hopefully become less tentative when around new people and new surroundings.

4. Stimulation of the lymphatic system

Manual lymphatic drainage is a massage technique that stimulates the lymphatic system in order to reduce localized swelling in the body. The lymphatic system is a collection of slow moving vessels that transports cellular waste to the liver to be processed. Some health conditions can cause lymph fluid to build up. This health conditions can interrupt the normal flow of lymph, results in lymph building up in a particular area of the body. This build up often occurs in the arms and legs and can lead to nasty swelling and pain.

Lymphatic drainage is a specific technique that is normally only done by a practitioner with specific training in that area. Many people feel that lymphatic drainage can aid recovery from laminitis.

Photo Credit: @Mastersonmethod instagram

5. Increased joint mobility and flexibility

Many horses spend the majority of their day inside a stable and only get turned out once a day for an hour or two. As a result they can develop  significant muscle tension and reduced flexibility.

Older horses are also likely to develop stiffness when then they begin to slow down or stop work. Just like humans their mobility slowly declines. Massage can be a good way to keep the joints supple and ensure that a horse range of movement is maintained or improved.

Many horses will also have reduced range of movement after an injury. A targeted massage can help to regain this mobility over the course of a number of sessions.

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About Anne Forsberg

Anne has been riding since she was only 5 years old and she's been obsessed with horses ever since. An avid horsewoman now, she loves horses and this sport more than anything else, sharing stories and info that she hopes will be helpful and meaningful to anyone who's on their path to become a better horse owner, a better rider and why not, a better person. Learn more about Seriously Equestrian's Editorial Process.