Today, I’m going to give you a glimpse at what I do during every session of equine massage therapy. One Stride isn’t just about massaging a horse and hoping they’ll feel better, it’s about taking little steps (or strides, if you will) towards a healthy, happy horse.
The first thing that I do when I massage a horse is look for their energy. I know this sounds strange, and a bit too silly for some, but bear with me. You can learn a lot when you just take a second to listen! I can watch a horse’s movements to see if a horse is nervous, lethargic, energetic, or content. When I start to evaluate a horse and begin massaging, I look for their reactions. Some horses release in different ways. While my pony likes to lick her lips, others like to yawn or rest their hind leg.
What does this do for me? Well, for the remainder of the session, I begin to notice what is “normal” and what isn’t. If the horse is initially nervous about a stranger rubbing their hands all over them, then I can see if they begin to relax. If they don’t, then I can adjust the remainder of the session. In contrast, a content horse might further relax. Maybe I’ll see them let out yawn after yawn! Every horse can have a different response, so it’s important to read these cues.
Yes, massage is about helping a horse physically feel better. But I’d also like to think it’s about understanding they how they speak. That’s why I invite you to try it for yourself! You don’t have to know the exact massage movements or the sequence, just try running your hand down their neck, even currying their back. See if they relax or just see what they do! It’ll take you one step closer to understanding how you can help your horse.
Animal behavior and non-verbal communication are two of my favorite things to understand. I think it makes us better horse people if we don’t take for granted what our horse does for us everyday and that we try to understand them.