The benefits of Equine Massage

The real benefits of equine massage and bodywork by Toni Horsley from Equine Bodyworx.

Equine massage and bodywork are rapidly growing in popularity as an alternative therapy for horses.  Many of us are well versed in the benefits of human massage and horses experience those same benefits and more.  It is fairly common knowledge that some of those benefits include pain relief, improved range of motion and locomotor function, improved circulation and relaxation.  When it comes to horses, it is a powerful tool for developing trust and relieving the anxiety that many horses experience.

So what isn’t commonly known about equine massage and bodywork?  In my experience the benefits go far deeper than simply the physiology.  I have been a professional bodyworker for over thirty years, twenty of those were with people and the last decade has been with horses.  I have studied a multitude of different modalities and this all falls under the wide umbrella of bodywork.  Essentially they are techniques to free up the musculoskeletal systems of the body, however in that process something magical happens as the horse relaxes, trusts and releases tension.

I am reminded of a brumby that I recently worked on.  I was called out to a trainer’s property for a client’s horse.   As I made my way to the horse, I passed a round yard and couldn’t help but notice an extremely vicious looking pony that was lunging at everything that moved with pure evil in her eyes.  Her ears were pinned tightly to her head and her teeth were bared with absolute conviction.

I also noticed that she looked lame on all four legs and her hindquarter was very twisted.  The trainer asked me if I could do anything to help her?  She explained that the mare was a brumby who had been run through the sales and rescued, then sent to her to start under saddle.  I looked at her incredulously – this certainly didn’t look like a sound let alone rideable pony!   I said I would like to try – that is if she even let me touch her.

So after walking her up, she was indeed very lame, I began to work quietly and cautiously.  To my surprise, she began to relax almost immediately.  Her body was a mess, nothing was in alignment but as she relaxed I was able to help her release tension and gently coax things back to where they should be.  She literally melted under my hands and I was able to make the necessary adjustments to bring her body back into balance.

When I had finished, I watched her walk out completely sound, with a lovely swing to her hindquarter.  Furthermore, her face was beautifully soft and sweet.  This evil looking pony had disappeared and in her place was a very lovely, trusting pony.  The trainer said to me “now there’s something I can work with”.

While this experience was personally very satisfying, I think it helps to illustrate the point that a lot of pain and discomfort in horses is frequently written off as bad behavior.

These issues can be helped and often resolved with bodywork with a qualified professional.  In my experience, having worked with both people and horses, I find that horses don’t have the mental barriers to healing that many people have.  Under the right touch, they readily surrender their bodies to be released and healed and their gratitude is immediately apparent in their soft faces.


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