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Many of us are familiar with massage and even the more specialized sports massage, designed
specifically for athletes and the stress of physical competition. Equine sports massage therapy is the
manipulation of the soft tissues of the body which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. It is
an ancient complementary therapy first documented in around 2,700 BC. Equine sports massage is my
first tool to help a horse with bodywork.
Like people, animals can suffer from muscular pain and discomfort that can inhibit the way they move,
causing them to use their body incorrectly to compensate. This can lead to leg, spine, and neck problems
in addition to problems under saddle. Although referred to as sports massage, it is beneficial to all
horses and ponies from the beloved retired trail horse to the high-level competition horse.


Massage has been scientifically proven to help muscle soreness, joint stiffness and more by increasing
circulation to an area, which helps in healing.


  • Reduces muscle soreness, pain and tension

  • Reduces stress and increases relaxation

  • Improves circulation and energy levels

  • Lowers heart rate and blood pressure

  • Overall, improves immune system function

I use a combination of different massage techniques, including trigger point release and myofascial
release. In addition, I use palpation to check for any muscle swellings, tightness, spasms, trigger points
and uneven muscle tone across your horse’s body. There are basic, classic massage techniques for
equines that focus on their unique body structure and pressure points from working under saddle.​


Once you make the appointment for a massage session, the process begins with an assessment.
After introducing myself to your equine, I’ll make a visual observation of overall body condition,
stance/alignment and a general view of your horse’s full body. This is done first by taking a holistic view
of the horse, from head on, both sides and behind. This allows me to see any imbalance in the basic
skeleton, musculature, and hooves. Some of the elements I ask about and keep in mind are: horse’s age,
discipline (English, Western, racing, polo, etc.), level and experience of rider, any previous injury (ies),
and details of any equipment used in training.

The next step is palpitation. This is not diagnostic as I’m not a vet, but I do use the sense of touch to
distinguish areas of the horse’s body that are different in tone, temperament and reactiveness. This
helps me decide how to proceed and with which specific therapies. After consultation with you, we
decide what is the best course of action for this horse.

The palpitation starts at the jaw and works down through the body to the tail. I’m looking for and
evaluating pain response; any evidence of heat and swelling; tight muscles which can be striated,
stringy, or have adhesions; spasms; trigger points; scar tissue; uneven development (left side to right
side or opposing muscle groups), tone, whether hypertonic (excessive tension) or hypotonic (lack of
tone), and reduced fascial glide.

Typical indicators of tight muscles and/or fascia can include shortened stride, tripping, resistance to
training, unhappy attitude, lack of flexibility, and refusal to move forward.

We then make a session plan and usually start with massage aided by Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue
Mobilization or IASTM. This technique is similar to standard massage, with specialized instruments
instead of a therapist’s hands. These instruments provide direct treatment of the soft tissues—muscles,
fascia, ligaments and tendons—often associated with discomfort in horses.

Laser/ light therapy and PEMF can also be used in a massage session, dependent on what is uncovered
in the previous work.

Massage therapy can offer your horse many benefits and gives you a better equine partner. Contact me
today to book a session.

Disclaimer: Any information shared on this website is a representation of the experiences of Sally Moehring/ Cottage Farm Inc. aka Cottage Farm Therapy and Wellness and is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition.

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