Who doesn't like a good massage?? I love to learn from other Professionals in the horse industry, and my friend Sari Jokiulppo filled me in on the details of being an Equine Massage Therapist? Sari was wonderful enough to answer some of my questions!
Sari, what is your job title and what is your background?
"My job title is Equine Sport Massage Therapist. My journey started with the person who started equine massage ( Mary Schreiber),was very fortunate to be able to attend her school. From there on it has been a mission of learning and understanding more about the equine athlete. It also helped that I have a degree in human massage, after all, as funny as it sounds, we are not all that different!
I do sport massage which includes stretching and flexibility exercises for the equine athlete."
What are the benefits of massage for your horse?
- Improves blood circulation
- Improves range of motion
- Relieves muscle tension and spasms
- Improves performance
- Relieves tension
How can I tell if my horse needs a massage?
- Reactions to brushing (flinching or tender on the back or hip when brushed?)
- Uneven sweat marks on the saddle pad (this might also be saddle fit.)
- Short stride
- When bridling the horse and they move away from the pressure of your fingers behind their ears
- Flinching or grinding teeth while tightening the girth
- Cold back
- Sore withers
- Changes in behavior
What is a typical appointment with you like?
"When I have a new client it is important for me to watch the horse, walk, trot and canter on a lounge line, then I like to see the horse ridden, to see how much of the issues at hand are rider related. Short steps, hollow back, lack of power in the hind end, grinding teeth when brushed are some of the signs of muscles being tight. We all have issues in our bodies and as much we would like to ride absolutely perfect, it is not possible. I would also like to point out that we are not Veterinarians, we do not diagnose or try to cure anything, it is simply muscle work. Always work with your Veterinarian! Or if I see irregularities in any one gait, before I work on the horse I recommend a call to the vet to make sure there is nothing serious going on. Sometimes if the muscles are extremely tight it looks like the horse is actually off. At times he actually is, and the massage will not help before the under lying issues are taken care off."
What can Grooms and owners do to help their horses in between visits?
"It is very important that the groom or the owner of the horse knows what to do between sessions. Nothing is better than a proper brush down with a nice curry. Elbow crease goes a long way! Also, always make sure your horse stays warm after work outs and bathing. Stretching after working out is very important, needs to be done carefully and patiently. Riding low,deep and round goes a long way, helps horses really open their top lines and come through and stay supple. They say it takes a village to raise a child, I would say it takes a village to keep an equine athlete happy as well. Variation in work goes a long way, hill work, cavaletti work etc, whatever the horses "job" is, keep it interesting and change it up a little."
It's important to remember that your Massage Therapist is part of the entire team, and often works closely with your Equine Chiropractor and Veterinarian.