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Equine TLC 101: Exploring the Fundamentals of Horse Massage

What is massage?

Taken from ‘Horse Massage for Horse Owners’ by Sue Palmer MCSP

‘Massage is the practice of applying structured or unstructured pressure, tension, motion or vibration – manually or with mechanical aids – to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints and lymphatic vessels to achieve a beneficial response.’

Defining Massage

I particularly like this definition because it covers so much. Take the first part of the sentence, ‘massage is the practice of applying structured or unstructured…’ In the online course ‘Horse Massage for Horse Owners’, you will learn a structured approach to massaging your horse. This is because I believe that it’s easier to learn initially if you’re following clear guidelines. However, massage can be structured or unstructured, and my hope is that once you’re confident with the techniques taught, you will start to develop your own massage routine, with or without structure, that is individual to you and your horse.

The next part of the definition states that massage involves ‘ pressure, tension, motion or vibration.’ Again, I find this useful and thought-provoking. Throughout this course I will talk about using pressure, albeit often very lightly, to massage your horse. There are many ways of describing massage techniques, and many massage techniques to describe. Please bear in mind that the techniques I discuss, I have chosen because they suit my purpose of creating confidence in you, the learner, to give a safe and effective massage to your own horse.

Manually or with mechanical aids

That sentence goes on to mention the fact that massage can be done manually or with mechanical aids, and this is as relevant in the equine field as it is in the human field. This course teaches you about manual therapy, using your hands to help your horse. I believe there is something about the healing power of touch that most people are aware of but that has not yet been fully proven by science, and so far cannot be replaced by any machine. Massage allows you to use this potential for the benefit of your horse.

The definition states that massage is applied ‘to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints and lymphatic vessels.’ This is a great reminder that when we massage our horse, we are having an effect on the whole horse. It is clear from the horses’ response that massage affects far more than just the skin and the muscles.

To achieve a beneficial response

The last part of the definition points out that massage is done ‘to achieve a beneficial response.’ This is probably my favourite phrase from that descriptive sentence. There are so many reasons you might have for massaging your horse, but all of them can be encompassed in one simple phrase: ‘to achieve a beneficial response.’

The massage that you will learn through this course is known as ‘Swedish massage’ or ‘classic massage’. There are five basic strokes in Swedish massage – don’t worry if the names of the techniques sound strange, they will be second nature by the time you try them on your horse! The routine you will use with your horse will involve effleurage (stroking), petrissage (compression and kneading), and tapotement (cupping). The ‘Problem-solving’ chapter includes the use of friction (cross-fibre friction).

Massage is here to stay

Massage has been around for a long time and is here to stay. It is a manual therapy that can be practised by almost anyone. At its most basic, massage is a simple way of easing pain while aiding relaxation and promoting a feeling of well-being and a sense of receiving good care. It is something to be enjoyed both by the person massaging and by the person or horse being massaged. Once learned, it is a skill for life.

Horse Massage for Horse Owners, by Sue Palmer

About ‘Horse Massage for Horse Owners’

The Online Course For You And Your Horse

”This course is a must for anyone who would like to improve the health, well-being or performance of their horse. Practical, educational and easy to follow, Sue Palmer The Horse Physio shares with you the knowledge and skills you need to massage your own horse. Learn about equine anatomy, massage techniques, and how to combine the moves to develop a complete massage routine. With an emphasis on how you can work with your own horse, Sue offers insight into how to reduce pain and stiffness in your horse as well as improve performance. Massaging your horse gives something back in return for all he does for you and will help you and your horse to truly enjoy the time that you spend together.”

“Informative and easy to follow.”

“As with all of Sue’s teachings, her passion for horses and their welfare is evident throughout the course. It’s informative and easy to follow whilst giving background knowledge on what and why these techniques benefit your horse. I found the troubleshooting section very interesting; it makes you think about what your horse is trying to tell you and how to help using Sue’s tools. I would recommend this course to anyone who enjoys spending quality time with their horse and who wants to improve their horse’s and their own well-being.” Sam Thompson

About Sue Palmer

Sue Palmer MCSP, aka The Horse Physio, is an author, educator, and award-winning Chartered Physiotherapist. Sue specialises in understanding the links between equine pain and behaviour, caring deeply for her clients, and promoting calm, connection, courage and confidence through curiosity, compassion, clarity, and creativity. Sue is registered with the RAMP, the ACPAT, the IHA, the CSP and the HCPC.

Popular books and online courses from Sue Palmer include:

Harmonious Horsemanship, co-authored with Dr Sue Dyson

Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?

Horse Massage for Horse Owners (book)

Horse Massage for Horse Owners (online course)

Stretching Your Horse: A Guide to Keeping Your Equine Friend Happy and Healthy

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2024

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