A question I often get asked is: how often should my horse get massaged?
If you're interested in creating a massage therapy schedule for your horse, think about the other schedules your horse is on: farrier - once every 4-6 weeks, typically; chiropractor - maybe once a month or once every other month; dentist - twice a year; and the list could go on.
Here are my recommendations for creating a massage therapy session schedule for your horse based on its workload and performance demands:
Actively Competing Sport Horses/In Heavy Work: After the initial massage depending on what I find, I may suggest another in two weeks. However, no matter the discipline I recommend a massage session every 4 weeks; every 6 weeks at the longest.
Pre-competition sessions are great, but I suggest more than 24 hours before your competition. Why? Because you've spent countless hours getting your horse tuned exactly to your aids - the lightest touch of your leg or shift of your seat, the softest of half halts or the quickest reaction out of the gate. After a massage a horse can react differently to aids than before due to the relaxation and physical changes during the massage.
Post-competition sessions benefit the horse after the strenuous activity. These sessions aid in increasing circulation to help reenergize tired muscle groups, ease tension and increase mental relaxation and clarity.
Horses in Light Work: A horse in light work would benefit from a massage every 6-8 weeks. This timeframe allows the horse to ease back into it's exercise program while still reaping the benefits of the sports massage session.
Horses Recovery from Injury or on Stall Rest: After consulting your vet, and depending on the injury or ailment, I would suggest anywhere between every 4-8 weeks. Massage therapy on an injured or stall-bound horse can help in decreasing muscle atrophy, increases circulation and helps relieve any mental stress or tension from being confined to a stall.
Pregnant/Expecting Mares: In early stages of pregnancy, you can follow a normal schedule depending on your horse. As your mare gets further along I would recommend every 6 weeks then upped to every 4 weeks when she's closer to full term. Massage therapy sessions help relieve muscle tension, aid in muscle flexibility, and will help make her more comfortable and relaxed as she gets closer to foaling. Postpartum massages are great as well and aid in muscle recovery and strengthening.
No matter the discipline or activity level, massage therapy benefits the overall well-being of the horse and can make for a happier, healthier partner.
I do suggest that there is no longer than an 8-week break between sessions as after that time the work done has elapsed and it'll be like starting over potentially encountering the same issues I started to resolve during the initial or previous session.
I'd love to help create a massage therapy schedule for your equine partner and friend. Please contact me for more information and to schedule a session.
*Massage therapy is not a substitute for routine veterinary care.