Equine Massage Therapy: How It Evolved Through History


Equine massage therapy is the application of traditional massage techniques to increase the health of the horse, as well as improve their performance, fitness, endurance, and well being. It also helps in the prevention and the recovery of injury. Massage is an ancient technique that developed in many different cultures around the world. Read on and know how equine massage evolve to how it is today.

2000 BC – This is the appearance of the first written record of massage. References to hydrotherapy and massage appear in ancient medical texts from Japan, Persian and Egypt.

430 BC – During the Roman Empire, massage was widely used in the public baths and was used by notable historical figures like Pliny the Great and Julius Caesar to treat medical conditions like chronic asthma and epilepsy. In this period was the first written record of massage for use on animals was made. A Greek historian, philosopher and administrator to the Roman Emperor Hadrian named Arrianus recommended that massage be used on horses and dogs to help keep their muscles strong and supple and their coats glossy.

Early 1800s – Per Hendrick Ling developed a therapy on massage and movement system that will become recognized as the precursor to modern physiotherapy. By 1813, the Royal Gymnastics Central Institute of Stockholm incorporated the work of Per Ling and became the first college to include massage therapy in its curriculum.

Early 1900s – Mary McMillan brought massage therapy to America, which earned her the title “The Grandmother of Modern Massage in North America.” Massage continued to grow in the new world with contributions from experts James B. Mennell, Harold D. Storms, and James Cryax.

1993 – In Ontario, massage therapy for humans became a regulated health profession under the Regulated Health Professions Act. This step further reinforced the validity of massage therapy as an alternative health care choice.

1996 – The International Federation of Registered Equine Massage Therapists was created to promote Equine Massage Therapy as a health care profession and is working for the legislation that regulates the practice of equine massage therapy. With the components, techniques and principles similar to human massage therapy, this practice is now slowly being accepted.

Equine Sports Massage

is used as a maintenance and preventative routine to keep your horse in prime condition. It is also used as a vehicle to assess the horse for stress and trigger points and muscle spasm requiring release.

Should be performed every 4 to 6 weeks on healthy muscle.

During show/event season it should be performed every 2 to 4 weeks.

Benefits of Massage

Helps to Prevent Injury – As you exercise your horse, you are building up his muscle. This is done when many small tears are made in the muscle fibers during exercise, which are then repaired with scar tissue over the next couple days. Massage helps to break down the scar tissue, allowing muscles to be elastic and flexible. Well moving muscles without tension help keep joints aligned and put less stress on tendons, reducing wear and tear.

Improves Circulation – Massage dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to the area. Increased circulation can help speed recovery of injured muscle tissues and restore mobility.

Increase Range of Motion – Between stretching tissues, improving muscle tone and lowering stiffness and swelling, equine massage therapy can expand a horse’s range of motion, allowing them to become more effective under saddle.

Reduces Stress – Horses experience stress and anxiety just like we do, and massage relaxes them just as it does us. When muscles are rubbed, there is a sedative effect on the nervous system, which helps with relaxation and can improve disposition. 

​Kinesiology Taping

Kinesiology taping can reduce or control pain, manage swelling or edema, increase joint range of motion and muscle function, and maintain a level of functionality and comfort for the horse throughout the rehabilitation process.

Benefi​ts of taping

Pain relief via structural support for weak or injured body parts

Muscle support

Swelling Reduction

Increase joint range of motion

Can be left on for several days or up to a week depending on the issue.s