Animal Massage: Equine Therapy by James Coulter

Animal Massage: Equine Therapy

By James Coulter

Special massage therapists help animals such as dogs and horses regain their natural, pain-free movements.


About a year ago, Taz, a 17-year-old Painted Quarter Horse, started experiencing problems in her shoulder. Her hips weren’t moving properly, and the pain prevented her from wanting to be groomed around the chest, her owner, Danielle Splinter, explains.

Splinter requested the assistance of Melody Horne, a horse masseuse, to come to her ranch outside of Bartow and attend to Taz. Horne discovered that Taz had issues causing her muscles to tighten up, which would require some massages to loosen up.

Using essential oils, Horne, who also works on other animals such as canines, began to massage Taz’s muscles to get them loose and limber. She even used a photonic red light to help the muscles heal.

Since receiving regular appointments for the past year, Taz’s conditions have significantly improved. No longer stiff and cumbersome, Taz remains as agile as any performing horse can be.

“She is [suppler] in the bridle, she is more willing to accept the bit and move forward with her shoulders and not be as restricted like she used to be,” Spritzer says.

Taz loves being pampered and massaged. She even knows when Horne has arrived on the property, and expresses disappointment when she hasn’t received a massage for a long time, Horne says.

“They do recognize that I offer relief,” Horne says. “If I don’t massage them, they will actually pout. There have been times where she has been next to another horse. You can see her looking at me, asking, ‘Are you going to massage me next?’ They know what I am about.”

As with humans, horses, as well as other animals, often suffer issues with tight muscles that can lead to neck and back problems. This can prevent them from freely and comfortably moving their legs and head, and thus prevent them from walking and moving properly.

“That is why a massage is good for the horses because it helps muscles loosen [up] and move the way they are designed to move,” Horne explains.

Horne has been giving massages to horses for the past two years. She started when her own horses began developing hip problems. This led her to take a class in horse massages and become a Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist. She has since been using that knowledge to not only help her own horses, but those of friends and clients.

Horne massages horses by rubbing and kneading their muscles in their legs, backs, and hips. Often she uses essential oils, which help loosen the muscle and skin tissue and also relax the horses with pleasant aromas.

She also utilizes a photonic red light that she shines upon especially sore muscles. The wavelengths aid in the healing of muscles, she says. She also uses a tuning fork, the vibrations of which help horses relax their muscles.

Such treatments help the horses become looser and limber, and thus help ail their back and neck problems. Taz had previously suffered from such issues to the point where she did not even want to be touched; now she eagerly awaits being touched through Horne’s visits, Horne says.

“When we started working with her, she did not want to move certain ways in the saddle, she would want to strike and bite when you touched certain parts of her,” she says, and adds that the massages help the animal to perform better.

Whenever Horne is called out on a first-time appointment, she will perform a thorough evaluation prior to her first massage to assess the horse. After that, she moves forward with a proper treatment plan for helping the horse and its needs.

While most owners would assume one massage is enough, Horne recommends multiple visits, as well as a proper exercise regiment, for the horses to receive full treatment.

“You cannot do one massage and the horse is perfectly fine,” she says. “Two massages is not fine. You cannot massage them two or three times, get them to a good place, wait for six months to a year, and wonder why they are all tight and tense again.”

As she is neither a certified veterinarian nor a chiropractor, oftentimes, she will encounter severe medical problems that are outside of her expertise. She advises the owner to seek professional medical care. Otherwise, her helping hands usually offer the tender loving care that most horses need.

“I don’t necessarily massage horses just to massage horses,” she says. “A lot of people don’t see this as a necessary care, but once they start using the massages, they do start realize that it is important for the horse’s health.”

For more info contact Horne at 863-224-5452 or doublehemt@gmail.com. Or visit her Facebook page: Double H Animal Massage Therapy & Rehab.