Just the FAQs
General Questions about Massage
- How long does it take to give a horse a massage?
- Can I ride or work my horse before the massage?
- Can I ride my horse after the massage?
- I had a therapist come out one time and give my horse a massage. Boy! She just didn't seem to enjoy it at all. I don't think I will have a massage given again. My mare just hated it.
- How often does my horse need to have massage therapy?
- The massage is done. So now what? What happens next? Will I notice anything? Will it do anything bad to my horse?
- A friend of mine had her horse massaged and it came up lame afterwards. She claimed it was the massage that did that to the horse as it was perfectly alright before the massage. Is this true?
- Should I have my veterinarian check over my horse before I have massage work done?
- What exactly does a massage therapist do to my horse? What is massage?
Generally, 40 minutes to an hour and a half. A great deal depends on the horse. Is this the first massage? It will take longer. How often are massages given? The longer you go between scheduling a massage, the longer it can take as there are more reactive areas to contend with. Horses that are on a regular massage schedule generally take around 40 minutes to an hour at most. Their muscles are in good condition. Many troublesome areas are worked out and the massage goes quickly and very pleasantly for both therapist and horse.
No. It is best for the horse's muscles to be "cold". In other words, give at least 2-3 hours (preferably 3-4) after a workout before you schedule your massage therapist to arrive. We simply cannot do the same job with a horse when you have scheduled a workout just previously to the massage. Also, the reactivity level will be different. With a hot horse, which I have been given in the past, a therapist can do very little at that time. Basically, your therapist can perform a cool down massage, which will not be nearly as therapeutic as if the horse's muscles were "cold."
Yes! Riding or working after a massage is acceptable and perfectly fine. Horses I am seeing for the first time, depending on the individual horse and the level of reactivity that I found, I may suggest a light workout instead. On occasion, it is best to leave the horse rest with turn out only. I will advise the owner of such at that time. But, most horses can go ahead about their business.
The first massage can be one of very mixed reactions. Basing the value of massage on just the first encounter is not really fair to therapist or horse. Some horses really get into at the get-go. Others, the therapist must move slowly and carefully, judging each reaction as they go along.
Therapists are trained to get into areas of the muscle which may, indeed, be very reactive. The horse generally exhibits quite openly how they feel - good or bad. If you were to go to a professional massage therapist, you would then realize how they can find areas in your muscles that elicit a reaction from you that you didn't expect and other areas you did. Addressing these reactive areas doesn't always feel good. When a horse is that reactive, it clearly shows how seriously he was in need of massage. I have found the highest percentage improve greatly on succeeding massages until it takes no time at all and they are thoroughly enjoying the process. Long term muscle problems cannot be addressed all in one massage.
Many horses do well with once per month. Race horses and others that are highly competitive in full training, may benefit from a more aggressive schedule. Much depends on how the horse is used, how often he is ridden, other physical problems he may have that contribute to muscle tension and, of course, your own personal budget. Initially, the horse may need massage more frequently to work out a long term problem. This may range from twice per week to twice per month, for instance, and will then return to a longer time frame between massages. One should always wait at least 3 days between massages.
One reaction that occasionally happens is hives. Massage releases toxins and some horses exhibit a short case of hives. It normally disappears quickly. Soreness can be an issue after a massage. We are addressing the soft tissues and sometimes this happens. In fact, we are addressing areas that were sore to begin with. This can create a little "healing crisis". This again, will quickly leave. Mostly, what you will notice are positive changes as you ride and work him. Massage will not do anything "bad" to your horse. It is a hands-on, non-invasive therapy. It is very beneficial when used properly.
It is very possible that the horse came up lame after the massage. Did the massage make the horse lame? NO! The horse was already having problems and it wasn't all that noticeable to the owner even though there may have been small indications all along. Horses are masters at compensation. They can easily mask a problem. When a therapist begins to clear the muscle tension that develops from the compensation, you will begin to see where the problems are. A vet check is advisable to discover the cause. Addressing compensation problems is one of the positive benefits of massage.
This is an excellent question. By all means, yes, please do. It is always a good idea. Any time there is injury, lameness issues, health issues or anything that you are in doubt about, a vet check is always advisable and preferred. Also, do not be surprised if I also advise a vet check depending on the information I have gathered on your horse. I may even refuse to work on the horse until you do. The rule of thumb is when in doubt, call your vet. Massage is an adjunctive therapy. It is not to replace veterinary care nor to be considered as a cure all. It does, however, work very well with most types of therapies and treatments and aids the healing process.
Massage is a hands-on therapy. It literally dates back to ancient times and has long been valued as a viable modality. We literally work from the head to the tail, using our hands to perform various techniques on the muscle, fascia, tendons and ligaments. Generally, this is accomplished with fingers, thumbs, elbows and hands. There are some massage tools that can be used, but these limit the sensitivity a therapist has regarding the "feel" of the horse and his reaction level. Hands-on is generally best.