Once you’ve decided your horse needs massage sessions, you might say, “Now what?” How do you decide who to choose to provide this service? Here are some tips for selecting the right equine massage therapist for you and your horse.
Where to Find Equine Massage Therapists
Probably the best to find an equine massage therapist is through word of mouth. Ask around your barn, consult your trainer, or call some of the top stables or the racetrack in your area to see who they use. Ideally you want to find someone who knows your breed and riding discipline, but most seasoned practitioners will have experience with a wide range of both.
Other places to find or inquire about equine massage therapists include:
What to Look for in an Equine Massage Therapist
You want to find a therapist who has completed a formal training program in equine massage because this isn’t something one can learn on one’s own. Ask any prospective therapist where they studied, were they certified or accredited in some way, and do they still perform that particular type of massage and what continuing education they have completed.
Styles of equine massage and bodywork vary greatly, just like with humans, and you may feel one type is better than another for your horse’s physical and emotional needs. Therefore, you also want to ask about what type of massage/bodywork the therapist performs.
Do they do myofascial release working on key points on the horse’s body, or do they use more of a Swedish massage technique that vigorously rubs all the major superficial muscles? Do they incorporate stretching into massage sessions? Some therapists combine techniques they have learned from several schools or add things they pick up in continuing education (another thing to ask about).
Ideally, you want an experienced massage therapist, but it’s perfectly okay to select one right out of school too, provided they have had lots of hands-on practice with horses, either as part of a formal program or as part of their own self-study.
Ask your prospective equine massage therapist about the types of cases they’ve treated, to see if they have knowledge of your horse’s particular problem or training needs. Your horse’s workout as a jumper is going to differ radically from a dressage or driving horse. It’s also worth asking about the therapist’s general experience with equines, such as riding, training, or grooming.
Other Questions to Ask a Prospective Equine Massage Therapist
Once you’ve narrowed down your favorite practitioners, there are still a few more questions you should ask:
If you like what you hear, schedule a trial session and see how it goes. With any luck, you’ll have met your horse’s new best friend and will want to schedule regular appointments from there on.