By Katie Hawkins
As a certified equine acupressure and massage therapist, I enter every session ready to listen to the unique story of each of my equine clients. I use my hands and intuition to hear their story and feel the needs of each as told through their muscles. Muscles tell the truth about how a horse is using its body, where the horse has areas of tension or weakness, and even how hydrated it is. Muscles never lie. They give an unedited snapshot of the horse’s overall health.
From trainers to grooms, and farriers to veterinarians, it takes a team of specialists to keep our equine athletes happy and healthy. As a part of a horse’s healthcare team, I am able to utilize non-invasive, healing techniques that aid in soft tissue health and recovery. Equine massage and bodywork facilitates increased blood and lymph fluid movement, relaxes and repairs soft tissue, helps pinpoint areas of sensitivity, and promotes overall wellbeing. The horse’s comprehensive health is foundational to how well they feel under-saddle and in the show ring.
A recent case I cared for was a ten year old warmblood gelding that was tripping dangerously while being flatted and jumped. The owner cared immensely for this horse, and exhausted every training method and medical work up. The horse had been to numerous collegiate veterinary schools and local specialists to have neurological work ups for EPM, blood work, x-rays, ultrasounds, injections, medications, supplements, chiropractic care, and the list goes on from there. The owner was almost resigned to the fact that this sweet, talented horse would need to be retired. In a final effort, she decided to give equine massage therapy a try. After a couple months of weekly sessions utilizing therapeutic and deep tissue massage, myofacial release work, trigger point therapy, kinesiology taping, therapeutic blankets, and a whole lot of sweat and love, this amazing horse has made a miraculous comeback.
When I began working with this horse, he would have his ears pinned and a defensive posture for most of the session with small glimpses of relaxation and relief. His muscles were as hard as rocks and his demeanor was cold and defensive. After a couple of months, he returned to his caring and loving nature with ears perked and sweet nuzzles. He was slowly returned to a training regimen and is now ready to take on the dressage ring! This story is one of the many examples of a persistent and loving owner working tirelessly to find the right modality to heal her horse.
Horses have an intense connection to their body. Over centuries, they evolved as grazing animals that were meant to roam in groups throughout the day. Our way of managing them in modern culture has changed the dynamics of their lives. The modern horse lives in a stall, eats at scheduled times throughout the day, has finite turnout, and is used for riding lessons and horse shows. In this environment, it is vital that we find the right team of players to help our horse partner thrive. As horse owners, riders, caretakers, or enthusiasts, it is our responsibility to advocate for the needs of our horses. Their only “voice” is through the people that love and care for them. So, the next time you grapple with a training issue or unresolved soundness problem, try tuning in to the horse’s story with a certified equine masseuse. We can bring muscular and overall health to your horse. Happy, healthy riders and horse teams make an unstoppable combination!
For more information contact Katie Hawkins
[email protected] • 847.987.1350 • unbridled-equine.com