What is Horse Massage?

Thanks for Asking!

Horse massage is many things.  It is touching a horse to smooth its muscles.  It is palpating the muscles of your horse to determine where there is pain or soreness.  It can be deep tissue massage, the favorite among horses for the hamstrings area, and the glutes.  

I massage my own right leg when it hurts, using the heel of my hand – it helps.  Some of us even enjoy massage for our own selves.  I’ve heard that some don’t, but I love it.  Give it a try, someday.  Ask a friend for a referral.  Word of mouth is important – Good or Bad. 

Miriah kissing Washashe

Touching is valuable for the horses and our relationship to them.  Just like in the free roaming horse herds of the West, we can see horses massage each other when they are with a buddy in a paddock or tournout pasture.  I see them massage each other’s withers and backs every day.  It is the sweetest image, with their eyes peaceful and rested.  

Thank you to all the owners that think this lifestyle is proper for horses.  It is.  They need the benefits of being part of a herd, the freedom to move, and the mental and psychological health of being together. 

I like to bring healing to the animal, and really help the owner with follow up assignments to work on a specific area, like the shoulder muscles, deep descending pectorals 

If you have ever seen me work, you have seen the responses from your horse that I am talking about.  We see pinned ears, the head will swing to where I have just touched – like they want to bite me.  Sometimes we hear the grinding of molars and feel an expressive swish of the tail. 

All of these responses are signs to me.  I am a horse listener. 

I start my session with a (15 minute or so) conversation with the owner while I palpate the horse’s full body, and record my assessments. I want to know: 

  • about his or her exercise schedule,
  • how many days and what intensity and length of workout,
  • what changes have you noticed in his attitude or willingness,
  • what do you think is the problem,
  • does the saddle fit? 

During this poking and squeezing session, the horses are communicating so clearly when I have touched a painful or sensitive area.  It is imperative that the owner is with us so that YOU can see the responses.  Watching this will remind you about some similar behaviors that you have witnessed when being around your horse.  A saddle being raised over the horse’s back will get plenty of facial expressions and comments from the tail… if there is a saddle fitting issue.

Do you follow what I am saying? 

Assessment neck pain

We have all touched our horses – and perhaps all of us have received the message back from them, 

  • “Don’t touch me there!” 
  • “Ouch! That hurts.” 
  • “I hate this saddle.”
  • “I’m too tired to go again.”
  • “Get off of me”, followed by a bucking bronco or a horse that stands up to get us off their backs.

It works – the refusal at the jump, the bucking or biting or pitching a fit.  But have you ever wondered…

Is it pain?  Are you in pain somewhere and trying to tell me?

Many of my clients come to me with this question.  A full assessment and body work, along with the infrared camera, can tell us the answers to these questions.  And if it’s not pain, you can move on.


front view of Equine hocks, image taken between knees

The thermal image at left shows the front/anterior view of the horse’s hocks.  This is not a normal thermal image.  There is much more heat in one hock than the other.  This horse had been behaving poorly, and not wanting to work.  He had started to show a slight limp, so the owner wanted to know.

Click here to go to Equine Thermography Oregon.com to see more about this amazing new Technology. 

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or phone 503-980-8739.  Serving the Willamette Valley and Portland, Oregon region.

Topics on This Page: horses | massage | pain | saddle fit