Massage and other bodywork does not replace veterinary attention. A Bodyworker is one member of a team who care for your horse or dog. This team is headed up by the the owner and the veterinarian, and also includes the farrier, nutritionist, trainer, saddle fitter, groomer, and other specialists. Proper veterinary care is critical to your animal’s health and well being, and your vet should always be consulted first.
For the massage session, your horse and I require a quiet area where the horse is comfortable – no uncontrolled traffic such as running and playing dogs or children in the immediate vicinity. This is a safety issue for all concerned.
The area may be a small pasture or round pen (weather permitting), box stall, aisleway, shelter, wherever the horse is most comfortable.
On the first visit, it would be very beneficial to have the primary caregiver (owner, groom, or the person who spends the most time with the horse) present to answer questions and to lead the horse for a gait assessment. An additional person may assist in leading the horse to allow the primary caregiver the opportunity to watch their horse in motion from a distance. (If you usually ride your horse, watching from the rail can be very insightful.)
If appropriate, a short riding session with the usual rider mounted might be requested. A straight level area is necessary for gait assessment.
Veterinary approval is required to ensure that there are no conditions present that may contraindicate massage. If a horse is in rehab, verbal or written contact with the vet is mandatory.
When NOT to Massage Your Horse
You should not engage in activities that promote increased blood circulation, which includes massage (and riding!), under the following conditions:
- If your horse has elevated vital signs (temperature, pulse or respiration rate), is off his feed or is behaving unusually lethargic, has an undiagnosed lameness, swelling or heat. In these cases, your vet is the first person to call. Generally, massage isn’t recommended for about seven days after an injury, but your vet will know your horse and the specific situation, and can advise when it is safe and beneficial to proceed with massage.
- If you are entering an athletic event, a full massage is not recommended within three days before an event. This is for two reasons:
- Massage can increase your horse’s stride length, and this may cause horse and rider to be out of synch for a brief period of re-adjustment. ie: number of strides required between jumps may change.
- As with humans, a massage may cause some horses to be more sensitive for a day or so while their bodies get reaccustomed to certain muscles that may have been knotted up for some time, and are now in use again.
If your horse is used to regular bodywork, and you and your bodyworker know how your horse reacts to it, a light massage may work to relax and focus your horse prior to a show. The last thing we want is for a massage to mask a pain just before competition. A pain is there for a reason, and unheeded, could cause further injury. If you are booking a massage for the first time, allow a week before your next competition to be on the safe side.