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Equine bodywork questions

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  • Equine bodywork questions

    Hello everyone!
    My name is Gillian O'Brien, owner and practitioner of Goliath Equine Massage. I am starting a blog to help the every day horse owner understand the importance of equine body work, as well as support up and coming practitioners.
    I am looking for questions that you may have about equine body work.
    What would you like to know about your practitioner?
    What questions do you have about your horses overall health?
    What would you like to ask, but feel silly asking?
    Remember there is no stupid questions, especially when it comes to your horses health!

    Help me, help you!

    If you don't feel like responding here feel free to send me an email at

    Thank you all so very much for your time and I hope to hear from you soon!

  • #2
    About practitioner: What training/certification/etc do they have as far as equine bodywork? What all do they practice (just massage, or any other extra little therapies)?

    Not really a question, but I like being shown stretches and little exercises to do between sessions.


    • #3
      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


      • #4
        How often is massage recommended?
        Should there be before or after treatment to help "preserve" the massage?
        Can you point out areas of my horse that may be sore?
        Can you tell me ways I can help my horse's "problem areas"?

        My horse definitely appreciates a good massage!


        • #5
          Hmmm. I feel like I have enough people IRL to ask these questions, and there is no question I would feel silly asking them. Also, I would ask slightly different questions of my coaches, my hoof trimmer, my bodyworkers, my saddle fitter, and my vet (who is also a trained farrier). They all understand different parts of the puzzle. And before I ask a question, I will Google if necessary to disambiguate a term or make sure I'm not conflating conditions or acronyms, so I am asking informed questions that will get me the answer I require.

          I don't think any website can have this range of expertise unless they commission articles from a range of professionals.


          • #6
            Hi Gillian,

            Thanks for posting here! I think (I think) that you'd want to encourage an owner with a horse displaying issues to seek out qualified help in their area. In my experience, many people don't understand that most real training issues are due to pain issues, and seeking a qualified chiropractor or massage therapist can help them understand what is going on. My vet is also a certified chiropractor and her work helped my horse because of how he carries himself and ruled out specific issues . She's also very supportive of another well-known local chiropractor I used 5 years ago who ruled out structural issues even though there were significant behavioral issues. You can also explain the benefits of using a qualified massage therapist. I rarely use them for my horses but when I have, they were able to identify the "tight" muscles that explained what I experienced under saddle, help alleviate the tightness, and talk to me about my riding and the horse's way of going that support the muscle tightness, as well as exercises and specific stretches to help that horse. I've used good ones and they were right on. One was able to help determine that there was little palpable issue when my horse had a trailering issue at a Regional Championships.

            I think the biggest thing you can address is a) that not all horses need equine body work because let's face it: most horse owners can't afford it on a "prophylactic" level b) when horses can really benefit from it and what behaviors they might be exhibiting. Be precise. For example, my horse recently bucked when walking off after saddling. My vet did chiro worked that helped, but she also did radiographs to rule out kissing spines and my saddle fitter ruled out bad saddle fit. My vet and I did other things to break the cycle of stress that he has (he's smart and hot), and that worked. But she's coming out on Monday for another chiro session to be sure. My trainers don't see an issue with his way of going, even when one watched the bucking. We deduced that a large part of the problem is between the ears and addressed that. This is because we ruled stuff out with medical approaches and body work.

            I think you can walk the average horse owner through what body work can address in conjunction with a vet (I don't trust practitioners who aren't qualified and don't/can't work with vets) and the followup that body work can provide, and what qualified practitioners can notice about a horse and potentially work with a vet to develop a holistic approach to care will greatly help the average horse owner.

            Good luck!
            Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation