How to Massage a Horse

Three Methods:Massaging Your Horse’s BackMassaging Your Horse’s LegsDetermining When Your Horse Needs a Massage

If you have a tense or worried horse, it might be a good idea to learn how to massage it. Massaging your horse’s sore muscles can help relieve pain and soreness from overuse, as well as increase their performance ability and quality of life. Just as humans get sore muscles, so do horses. So it is important to learn how to care for your horse in this way.

Method 1
Massaging Your Horse’s Back

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    Calm yourself and your horse. This may not make sense at first but horses are very perceptive when it comes to human emotions. So a calm you equals a calm horse. If you feel agitated, wait to perform the massage at another time.[1]
    • Before you begin to brush your horse, gently rub under his eyes with your index and middle fingers in circular motions. This will gain trust and keep him calm.
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    Palpate for tightness. This is a good move to help loosen up the muscles in the horse’s back/spine region. Make sure you position your horse so that the hind foot on the side you are working on is slightly behind the foot on the other side; this will position the muscles properly.[2]
    • Use your palm directly on the muscle, pushing in gently and releasing. Your touch should be soft, but firm.
    • Work your way down the muscles. If the muscle does not give under the pressure of your touch, then it is tight and needs working on.
    • If your horse moves away from you, this probably means that the method is working because horses instinctually move away from pain. So if the muscle is tight and you put pressure on it, this will probably be a little uncomfortable for your horse.
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    Perform compressions to relieve muscle pain. This method is beneficial for spreading out condensed muscle fibers and increasing blood flow in the muscle tissue. Begin in the middle of the horse’s back, just behind the withers.[3]
    • Use the open palm of your hand to apply moderate pressure compressions in a rhythmic pumping action.
    • Continue this pattern as you gradually work your way down the length of the muscle towards the back of the horse.
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    Use the effleurage technique. This is a type of gliding stroke typically used down a horse’s spine to help massage stiff and sore muscles. Make sure you stand behind the stroke so that you can use your weight to lean into the horse.[4]
    • Take the open palm of your hand (you can use one or both hands at a time) and stroke down the horse’s back in a gliding motion.
    • Make sure you lighten the pressure if you go over any bony areas.

Method 2
Massaging Your Horse’s Legs

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    Add leg massages to your grooming routine. Use a rubber mitt to rhythmically rub the horse’s legs, one at a time, while grooming. Move the mitt in a circular motion so that you are really able to get a good massage into the muscles.[5]
    • Make sure you go slowly enough that the massage is effective. If you work too quickly, the end result will just be a superficial rubdown and not a massage that affects the deep tissues of the muscles.
    • If you want to get a deeper massage into a particularly tense area, you can go back over this trouble area using your fingers instead of the rubber mitt.
    • Watch for signs that the horse is uncomfortable (like pulling away from your touch, wide eyes, etc.) as this is probably an indication that the massage is doing its job.
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    Use essential oils. If the massage techniques alone don’t seem to be working sufficiently, rub essential oils in sore or stiff spots as well. Use your fingers to gently massage the essential oils into your horse’s legs, focusing specifically on the sore spots.[6]
    • Lavender is a good oil to choose for its additional soothing qualities.
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    Repeat regular grooming every day. Maintaining a regular grooming routine will help prevent muscle soreness, especially in the legs. It will also help your horse stay more calm and focused during massage sessions.
    • Don't press too lightly, as horses have much thicker skin than humans. A light brush over will not be as thorough as a vigorous grooming session.

Method 3
Determining When Your Horse Needs a Massage

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    Watch for physical symptoms. There are many telltale symptoms of muscle pain in horses. These physical signs include flinching away when you attempt to saddle them, traveling with their head elevated, or trailing their hind end instead of stepping under themselves.[7]
    • These symptoms usually indicate that your horse has some muscle pain and would benefit from a massage.
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    Notice changes in performance. A clear sign that your horse is in need of a massage is when they seem to be performing at a lower level than normal. This can include things like resisting lateral work, cantering less often than usual, or a decrease in coordination.
    • When humans experience a stiff back or sore muscles, they have trouble performing their daily tasks in the same way. Horses are no different.
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    Look for personality alterations. If a horse is in pain, they will usually act differently. Watch for signs in their behavior like resisting being saddled, decreased interest in treats, or lessened interest in activities they normally enjoy.[8]
    • If your horse seems depressed or less interested in things than usual, you should check with a vet to make sure they aren’t sick. But also consider that they might need a massage.
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    Get professional help. If you are having trouble giving your horse a massage, you could consider looking into hiring a professional horse masseuse or being trained by one yourself. There are plenty of workshops hosted by professionals in the field to help you get the training you want.[9][10][11]
    • These kinds of training seminars are great if you have a horse that is resistant to your basic massage techniques or who seems to flinch away in pain when you attempt to massage it.


  • Watch your horse. If you know any of these steps may anger your horse do not do it.
  • Essential oils may sting eyes and, if not used properly, may be harmful to the horse.

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Categories: Horse Care