We all want to ensure that our money is well spent. Of course, spending money on our horses tends to come rather easy for some of us… But unless we have an endless supply of it, we do need to spend it wisely – so that when we do choose to do something, we make those dollars count.
Ultimately the first step in getting the most benefit from equine massage is selecting a therapist that has the appropriate experience, education and qualifications behind them. It also helps to have someone you get along with, and most of all, with whom your horse does too.
There are also a number of things you can do to help prepare for the massage session, as well as care to be taken afterward that can make a real difference.
Here are my tips for making your massage money count:
1. Be sure to have your horse cooled out, dry and cleaned off in time for their appointment — It is difficult to massage a wet horse effectively!
2. Try to schedule your equine massage appointment during a quiet(er) time in the barn. It’s nice to see a barn bustling with activity, and most horses that live there are used to that too – but do try to avoid feed time and turn-in or turn-out. Not only do we tend to get in the way then, but it can be distracting for your horse too.
3. Homecare — An REMT (that is, someone who is registered with the International Federation of Registered Equine Massage Therapists) will be able to provide you with exercises or other “homework” that you can do between sessions to help your horse. Homecare may include things like hydrotherapy, carrot stretches or other exercises that target specific muscle groups.
4. Keep the lines of communication open. This is SO IMPORTANT. When everyone is on the same page, and working towards common goals, all aspects of your horse’s health care and training can work together in a complementary way to encourage the best results. Each person involved in the care of your horse has valuable knowledge and insight to share, including you. Feedback from your trainer, what you feel when you are riding or observe when working around your horse, what your vet, farrier, massage therapist and other health care practitioners are finding – all this information is helpful in developing the most appropriate approach that works for your horse.
5. Avoid having a strenuous schooling session after your horse’s massage. Many people ask if they should ride before or after their massage appointment, and to me it depends on the horse and the circumstance. For the more high strung individual a ride before can be great (so long as they have enough time to cool out and dry afterwards). Conversely, some clients like to have a light ride after, and feel that their horses go wonderfully. Certainly movement is good, just be sure to give your horse their time to decompress, both physically and mentally – and for different horses that will mean different things.
6. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before you book your horse for their next massage appointment. How often you have your horse massaged is going to depend on a number of factors, including their condition, work/competitive schedule, your goals with using massage and your budget. In some cases a weekly session is desirable, in others one massage every 2 months is what works best. But whatever the frequency, massage therapy ultimately works best when it is used on an ongoing basis – as a preventative approach and means of monitoring issues as they crop up before they develop into bigger problems.
7. Know that your vet is the only one with the training, skills and tools to diagnose lameness and illness in your horse. Equine massage therapists should always work under the direction of your vet. Where injuries and lameness issues arise, having a correct diagnosis is key to developing an effective treatment plan, and your vet is the only person qualified and legally allowed to do that for you.
Obviously I have a biased opinion, but I see the difference massage can make for horses on a regular basis. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give it a try. Your horse will tell you if it’s worth it!