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Equine Sports Massage

Massage is not a new concept it has been around for thousands of years.

As with so many of the complementary therapies that have been revived in this 21st century, the benefits to humans have long been known. The word Massage is derived from the Arabic ‘mass’ or ‘Mas’h’, meaning to press softly and has been cited from as far back as 380BC.

Although massage appears to be a ‘fairly’ modern concept in the equestrian world, little did the horsemen of previous centuries know whilst strapping their horses with a hay wisp, they were actually massaging them!

Equine Sports Massage

What is Massage?

Massage is a ‘hands on’ treatment. It has both a psychological and physiological effect. There are several massage movements, which can be used in a combined treatment, and have great effect on the skin, muscles, blood vessels, lymphatic system and nerves.

What is Equine Sports Massage?

Equine Sports Massage is the therapeutic application of professional sports massage techniques applied to the horse. The key to a good massage is in-depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, gait analysis and the pattern of movement. A masseur looks at the horse as a whole and attempts to consider all possible causes and effects of any tension whilst interpreting the horses reaction and expression.

There are many reasons why a horse would benefit from a massage.

Few human athletes would compete without preparing their bodies using massage and stretching exercises, surely the equine athlete is entitled to the same. Every horse would benefit from massage, not just sport horses!

Massage can enhance performance by helping the horse to reach its full potential by improving and increasing circulation, enhance muscle tone, relax muscle spasm, prevent and relieve adhesions and increase the range of movement.

Massage can also help prevent injury. Small muscle injuries can take up to 90 days to become apparent, through a change in attitude, decreased performance or lameness.

Prompt attention could relieve any future problems.

Equine Sports Massage

A massage will be both physically and psychologically relaxing for your horse. For those of you that have already had the pleasure of being massaged, you will know the relaxing ‘feel good factor’ it can bring.

Massage can also help to create a bond and mutual trust between you and your horse.

Equine Sports Massage

There are many factors to consider when massaging your horse.

As previously mentioned you are looking at the whole picture, so there are many factors to bear in mind:-

  • How does the saddle fit the horse
  • Are your horses feet & shoes balanced?
  • Teeth – are sharp teeth the cause of any tension in the jaw?
  • Conformation – long or short backs, cow hocks
  • Breed – Does the horse’s breed have a particular way of going?
  • The rider – are they balanced? Does the rider fit the saddle?
  • The discipline the horse is worked in.
Contra-indications for massage
  • Where a horse has “tied-up” i.e. suffering from Azoturia.
  • Any lameness that has not been seen by a vet.
  • Any horse suffering an infection. Whether it be suffering from a poisoned foot or Equine Influenza.
  • Where a horse is suffering from Lymphangitis.
  • Any fungal skin infection.
  • Any undiagnosed abnormalities.
  • If in doubt ask your veterinary.


Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

The Equine Sports Massage Association was formed to ensure that the client receives services from a fully trained and qualified equine sports masseur. It also endeavors to maintain a high standard of practice and code of conduct by its members. All members of ESMA are experienced horse people and in addition are qualified in human massage. Practicing members have all passed the ITEC Diploma in Equine Sports Massage.

Case Studies Please click here to learn how sports massage has helped these horses return to full, active lives

This article and all accompanying illustrations were kindly provided by Clair Andrews.
After training as a Human massage therapist, Clair has trained with the world renowned equine physiotherapist, Mary Bromiley, to qualify as an Equine Sports Massage Therapist. Mary was the official physiotherapist for both horse and rider at the Olympics and World Championships for the New Zealand 3 Day Event Team.

Clair has vast equestrian experience, having Show Jumped at County Level, worked with Race and Hunt horses for the past 6 years and is a qualified riding instructor. Clair aims to teach both horse and rider by schooling them in a natural method. Therefore, enabling both horse and rider to "Work in Harmony".
To learn more about Equine Sports Massage please click here

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