janet and a client
Equine Equanimity
through craniosacral work and massage
Janet M. Young, PhD, EEBW
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The Benefits of Massage for Horses

Provide Comfort
Relief from pain and anxiety is a prerequisite for any successful person/horse partnership. A state of physical relaxation and mental tranquility is a great place to begin new activities.

Improve disposition
Think back to when you had a nagging muscle pain and reflect on how difficult it might have been to maintain a calm composure at home or at work. Some people, and horses, manage to do that, but most of us manifest that pain in some way, often by changing our behavior, and not for the better.

A horse that pins his ears back - or worse - when you ask him to do something that has not caused that response before is a signal for you that he is most likely responding to pain that has not been present previously.

Enhance performance
Several specific benefits of massage, when combined, can lead to an enhancement in performance. An overall expansion to the full natural potential of your horse can be observed.

Expand range of motion
Range of motion (ROM) generally refers to a joint’s direction of movement and the optimal distance a joint may move. While many factors can influence ROM including joint disease, scientific studies have shown that massage can increase ROM in certain situations.
(see JBodyw Mov Ther. 2008 Jul;12(3):281-9. Epub 2008 Apr 10;
and International Journal of Neuroscience, 2001, Vol. 106, pp. 131-145)
Increasing the ROM can mean a race horse that has a longer stride, or an eventer able to clear a jump more easily, or a dressage horse that has a higher score for the extended trot and lateral movements.

Improve gait quality
By relieving minor tensions in muscles that are caused by underlying old injuries the muscles are able to move more freely and economically. When the muscles are free of tension the limbs are more able to move naturally, increasing the quality of the gait.

Increase stamina
When the muscles are working more economically there is less energy required for movement and stamina is improved.

Maximize physiological potential

Improve circulation
Scientific studies have shown massage to increase peripheral blood flow.
(see, for example, J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jul;16(7):723-32.)
Normal blood circulation plays a key role in health including removal of toxins, removing or preventing pathogens from settling in different areas of the body, enhancing immunity by bringing defense mechanisms to sites of infection, and carrying oxygen and water.

Reduce tactile defense
Massage can benefit the horse that is too sensitive to touch (if other medical conditions that might cause this sensitivity have been eliminated by your veterinarian). Often they are simply not used to the physical sensation of hands or grooming tools. Massage gradually applied can reduce this sensitivity, benefitting regular handling and saddling.

Assess the physical condition

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