How often should my horse be massaged?
While regularly scheduled sessions yield the greatest benefit for any horse, specific indications for massage depend upon your horse’s workload and your goals for his performance. The following is a guideline for horses of varying levels of activity:
Elite athletes (horses in specialized training programs and/or regular competition): Horses trained 5-6 days a week and those who participate monthly in high-intensity activities (e.g. clinics or competition) benefit from massage 2-4 times a month. Frequent massage ensures regular muscle development, maximum efficiency, and shorter recovery time after exertion. Just as importantly, a consistent massage regimen keeps you and your horse’s wellness team informed of any irregularities in your horse's musculoskeletal system. In this way, adjustments can be made so that your horse may safely perform at his highest athletic potential and enjoy a long and comfortable career.
Athletes (horses in moderate training programs and/or periodic competition): Horses ridden 4-5 days a week and those who participate in monthly clinics or events will benefit from massage 1-2 times a month.
Pleasure horses and weekend warriors: Horses ridden lightly 2-4 days a week benefit from an initial massage and a tuneup every other month thereafter, and/or surrounding particularly rigorous events.
Horses resuming work after time off: If your horse is coming back to work after a period of inactivity, regular massage serves as a wonderful circulatory aid as he gets those creaky joints working again! After vet clearance, plan to schedule your horse’s first massage about a week into his new training program, and continue with regular massage once every two weeks for three months. Once a work routine has been established, continue with massage based upon need and workload.
- Horses on medical lay-up, stall rest, or in rehab: Ask your vet if massage is appropriate for your rehabbing horse! For horses who are unable (or unallowed) to move freely, gentle, weekly massage provides a vital service by stimulating circulation to help reduce fluid retention, support the lymph system, and deliver vital nutrients to tissues. Above all, massaging your horse during his downtime will help reduce the anxiety and depression that often afflicts stall-bound horses, as well as help him feel engaged and especially well-attended to during his convalescence. Providing bodywork for your rehabbing horse will help to ensure that his transition back into work is as comfortable and positive as possible.