Why massage a horse?
Horses are the premier athletes of the animal kingdom. Their size and power means it is unavoidable that in a lifetime of work, play, and occasional inactivity, most horses encounter obstacles that hinder their best movement and comfort. Competent care means that minor injury itself should not be of great concern to the average horse owner. But once tissue has been compromised, how to head off the associated patterns of compensation and imbalance?
Simultaneously preventative, maintenance oriented, and restorative in nature, massage can be instrumental not only in restoring normalcy to areas of tension and asymmetry, but also in ensuring that tissues are more resilient to future insult. Horses who receive massage enjoy a noninvasive method to promote a wide array of benefits that include reduction of tension, inflammation & pain, increased range of motion, and relaxation. Owners enjoy the resultant improvements to disposition, performance, and career longevity.
Just as humans athletes know that achievement depends upon appropriate preparation, horse owners respect that their horse's greatest success is fostered within a finely-tuned balance of challenge and comfort. For any athlete, massage presents a proactive and empowering adjunct to a lifelong training plan. Maintenance of "wellness" and homeostasis in the equine body can help to prevent "illness" and disease. Bodywork is a small part in this process alongside adequate preventative veterinary care, timely veterinary attention in times of injury or illness, nutrition, training, correctly fitting tack and good management of the environment in which your horse is stabled.
How does massage work?
Touch promotes a cascade of positive physiological, chemical, and psychological changes which benefit the whole horse. Superficial techniques influence nerve endings to interrupt muscle spasm and the transmission of pain impulses, and can selectively sedate or invigorate. Deeper strokes stimulate circulation to oxygenate blood, hydrate muscles, lubricate joints, and support lymphatic drainage. Targeted work releases adhesions and remodels irregular muscle fibers to restore mobility. Massage ensures optimal comfort and freedom of movement, maximum muscular efficiency, reduced recovery time after injury.
Techniques related to energy do not always require "hands-on" or a lot of physical pressure on your horse's body tissues, but can have equally positive effects on his nervous system, and the function of his musculoskeletal system.
How long will my horse's massage take?
An average appointment lasts approximately one hour total, from arrival to departure.
This time includes roughly 45 minutes of hands-on work, plus allowance for observation, discussion, and note taking.
A MagnaWave treatment without massage typically lasts 40-45 minutes for a full body session.
This can be extended to an hour if you require additional work on the legs or a specific injury.
Please allow an additional 15 to 30 minutes for your horse's first session, which includes an in-depth discussion of your horse's health history, as well as a series of initial dynamic observations and assessments.
How often should my horse be massaged? (also applies to PEMF)
While regularly scheduled sessions yield the greatest benefit for any horse, specific indications for massage depend upon your horse’s workload and your goals for his performance. The following is a guideline for horses of varying levels of activity:
Elite athletes (horses in specialized training programs and/or regular competition): Horses trained 5-6 days a week and those who participate monthly in high-intensity activities (e.g. clinics or competition) benefit from massage 2-4 times a month. Frequent massage ensures regular muscle development, maximum efficiency, and shorter recovery time after exertion. Just as importantly, a consistent massage regimen keeps you and your horse’s wellness team informed of any irregularities in your horse's musculoskeletal system. In this way, adjustments can be made so that your horse may safely perform at his highest athletic potential and enjoy a long and comfortable career.
Athletes (horses in moderate training programs and/or periodic competition): Horses ridden 4-5 days a week and those who participate in monthly clinics or events will benefit from massage 1-2 times a month.
Pleasure horses and weekend warriors. Horses ridden lightly 2-4 days a week benefit from massage on a monthly basis, and may benefit from an extra session surrounding particularly rigorous events.
Horses resuming work after time off. If your horse is coming back to work after a period of inactivity, regular massage serves as a wonderful circulatory aid as he gets those creaky joints working again! After vet clearance, plan to schedule your horse’s first massage about a week into his new training program, and continue with regular massage once every two weeks for three months. Once a work routine has been established, continue with massage based upon need and workload.
Horses on medical lay-up, stall rest, or in rehab. Ask your vet if massage/PEMF Therapy is appropriate for your rehabbing horse! For horses who are unable (or not allowed) to move freely, gentle, weekly massage provides a vital service by stimulating circulation to help reduce fluid retention, support the lymph system, and deliver vital nutrients to tissues. Above all, massaging your horse during his downtime will help reduce the anxiety and depression that often afflicts stall-bound horses, as well as help him feel engaged and especially well-attended to during his convalescence. Providing bodywork for your rehabbing horse will help to ensure that his transition back into work is as comfortable and positive as possible.
The short answer: sometimes immediately, sometimes imperceptibly over time—and in most cases, both! You will almost always notice visible improvement in the tone of your horse's musculature, overall posture, and ease of movement by the end of every massage.
Horses who are seen for the restoration of mobility after old injuries will, understandably, require a gradual course of therapy before significant change is noticed. The tissues of horses coming back after acute issues often respond rapidly with massage to facilitate the healing. Your horse's age, general health, receptiveness, and the goal of the treatment all play into to the result of each massage.
Because the benefits of massage are holistic and cumulative, a regular, ongoing regimen will yield the most stable results over time. Massage also works best as part of an overall wellness program for your horse, that includes other equine professionals. You're veterinarian and farrier and incredibly important in your horses overall health, and can offer you advice, support and information to keep your horse functioning at the best of his ability. Therapeutic modalities such as chiropractics, acupuncture, massage, PEMF, and laser are cumulative in their ability to assist in maintaining your horse's wellness and each individual horse responds better to some modalities than others. It is important to have the right balance of tools for your specific horse's needs which may include combining many of the above techniques, especially if your horse is in rehab or in heavy training and competing regularly.
How can I get the most out of my horse's massage?
Learn your horse's "normal." When you know how your horse operates in his usual state of being, you've also honed the awareness to perceive when something's off. With your input, your horse's massage can be more finely tuned in order to guide him towards his optimal state of equilibrium.
Schedule during barn down-time. With fewer stimuli to distract him, your horse will be better primed to achieve the state of relaxation that enhances the global healing properties of his massage.
Have him cool and dry. If you ride your horse before his session, please allow him ample time to cool down and dry off before his massage. It is difficult to assess the varied layers of tissue on a hot, damp horse, which could mean I miss important aspects of his condition that day. It is wise to schedule your first appointment so I can see your horse "cold".
Take your horse through the motions. Following your horse's massage, get him moving! The time immediately following bodywork is a valuable period of recalibration. An easy workout or hand walk will assist in helping your horse to repattern the musculoskeletal changes facilitated by his massage. Turnout works too - movement of some kind is better than them return to a static position in their stall.
Think prevention before cure: if your horse's massage/PEMF regimen makes him resilient to injury, you've gained months or even years of progressive training time that may otherwise have been spent rehabbing. Schedule regularly before issues arise to ensure that your horse is always at the top of his game.
Magna Wave & Pulsed Electromagnetic Field FAQs
What happens in MagnaWave session?
Magna Wave is applied at a low to medium-strength setting for a generalized treatment, and adjusted depending on your horse's sensitivity. The effect is a penetrating but comfortable "cellular massage" to relieve discomfort and stress. In this mode, the operator retains the ability to recognize more sensitive areas and then treat accordingly. Note that muscular twitches during the "pulsing" phase of the treatment indicate areas of cellular dysfunction associated with tissue restriction, ischemia, or tension.
Your horse's first MagnaWave session begins by introducing him to the device. Once your horse is comfortable with the off-power device, I will switch the MagnaWave on to familiarize him with the "clicking" sound of the pulse. Next, I will bring the paddle/loop toward your horse's body and apply it to a non-sensitive region, usually his shoulder. Once your horse is at ease with the pulsing sensation, I will then make adjustments to the power setting before sweeping the paddle/loop all over his body to locate sensitive areas. Following this initial assessment and our discussion of goals, the MagnaWave will be used to target problem areas and to incorporate them into a whole-body session for systemic healing. The majority of the session I will use the large "Equine Wings" double loop. I have smaller loops and a paddle that can be used to more sensitive areas, specific treatment of injury or hooves (abscess, laminitis, navicular), and full legs treatments.
What does the MagnaWave actually do TO my horse?
MagnaWave essentially acts as a massage for your horse's cells. When touched to your horse, the MagnaWave paddle or loop sends a pulsing magnetic field deep into his body. This affects the charge of the cell, making the cell membranes become more permeable, allowing the cells to exchange metabolic waste for oxygen and nutrients essential for muscular energy. This exchange process facilitates rapid cellular rebalancing, which in turn improves circulation, reduces inflammation, and interrupts pain signals to the horse's brain.
What are the benefits of PEMF therapy, and what is it used to treat?
PEMF therapy is clinically proven to repair and regenerate damaged tissue, accelerate the rebuilding of bone and the healing time for wounds, increase oxygenation of cells and increase the absorption of ATP.
utilization of nutrients
range of motion
How does it show areas of sensitivity and malfunction?
Muscle tissue fasciculates in problem areas due to molecular movement in the cells—only tissues containing imbalanced cells are acted upon by the pulse. Chemically and electrically balanced areas do not react to PEMF.
Is it the same as static magnetic therapy, like magnetic blankets and boots?
While the basis of therapy is similar, the difference is in the delivery method, which acts more deeply and efficiently upon the body. The higher power of MagnaWave provides shorter treatment times and immediate results. What a magnetic blanket can do in 2-3 weeks, the MagnaWave can do in 10 minutes.
The specific machine is use is not the highest powered machine that MagnaWave offers. This is because there is an FEI limit on the amount of power you are allowed to use for PEMF devices at FEI events. The machines operate the same pulse, which means they treat the body the exact same way with the exact same results. The only difference between the super high powered and my machine is that my machine operates at a limit of 1000 gauss at highest output - this meets the FEI regulations. Higher powered machines create the same effect in the body, however because of the higher power offer shorter treatment times. Therefore I offer a treatment time of 45 mins for a full body session as opposed to 20-25 which may be offered by someone with a higher powered machine. It is my personal experience (based on the reaction of horses that I have worked on) that the higher output is not always tolerated, even with my machine not all horses can tolerate the highest setting, nor do I usually need to go that high to get results. Many people when they feel the output of the machine expect it to hurt, almost like a TENs unit, and this is not the sensation that we are looking for with PEMF. The machine is working in the tissues at a cellular level, even when you can't FEEL what it's doing.
Why treat the whole body and not just the problem area?
In treating any condition, the balance and participation of all systems need to be considered—merely targeting a site of injury may bring short-term relief, but a whole-body treatment will efficiently balance all systems in order to facilitate overall wellness. In the case of MagnaWave, improving cellular health means improving total health and comfort.
How soon can the horse be worked after treatment?
Immediately! No downtime or recovery is needed. As with massage, it is beneficial for your horse to move around after treatment rather than to go and stand in a stall. Handwalking or turnout is adequate, your horse does not necessarily need to be worked hard, movement is enough.
Can it be used pre-event?
I suggest new MagnaWave clients to schedule their horse's first session well in advance of their horse's performance in order to assess for individual reactions. Many horses are more relaxed after a treatment and may lack the edge desired before a speed event, therefore it may make sense in these cases to have your session a few days up to the night beforehand. Other horses definitely enjoy the boost of energy MagnaWave provides and are ready to perform immediately! Other's who may be finding competing stressful or are suffering from tension will definitely benefit from the relaxation properties MagnaWave can provide pre-competition. If your horse is experienced with PEMF therapy, you may already know that he's one of the "good-to-go" guys or that he will require that extra relaxation on site at the horse show. Otherwise, I recommend first trying MagnaWave at a minimum of the day prior to your class. The key here is that each horse is an individual and it is best to know how your horse responds to treatment prior to using in a competition environment.
How long does a treatment take?
Normal treatment time is 45 minutes per horse for a full body session with Equine Wings. This can be extended to an hour to include full treatment of the legs and/or feet with the smaller loop or paddle. This is especially beneficial if your horse is recovering from a specific injury to the leg or hoof, or has recently had joint injections.
How quickly will my horse benefit from treatment?
Pain relief is immediate. As circulation and blood oxygenation are primary effects of a MagnaWave treatment, whole-system benefits will build for up to 72-hours after a session.
How long do results last?
Depending on the condition and the severity of the condition for which MagnaWave is sought, results can last days, weeks, or permanently. As a general guideline, expect an injury such as a torn suspensory ligament to heal in approximately half the normal time when treated with MagnaWave. Any problematic areas that continue to show up after repeated sessions will require a referral to your veterinarian or saddle fitter to investigate.
What are the side effects?
For unconditioned horses, the muscular contraction stimulated by PEMF therapy can cause minor soreness, similar to a light workout after inactivity. Extensive clinical research demonstrates that this is the only side effect. MagnaWave is 100% safe.
Who should not use Magna Wave?
PEMF is contraindicated for use in cases of the following scenarios:
acute injury; active bleeding, inflammation and joint effusion - this requires veterinary attention.
the presence of any electronic implants (such as a pacemaker)
We will thoroughly review your horse's health before use of MagnaWave to ensure your horse's safety.
***Please retain your vet's approval prior to treatment, this is state law***
Magnawave is not contraindicated post surgery or injury (after active bleeding has ceased), can be used to aid healing over sutures, and can be used for anti-inflammatory purposes post veterinary clearance.
MagnaWave & EPM
MagnaWave CAN be used in horses with EPM, however client's need to note that the horse may display worse symptoms after a single session before showing progress with multiple sessions. This is due to mobilization of the protozoa that cause EPM in the system following the initial treatment. Therefore anyone wishing to use PEMF for EPM needs to agree to multiple sessions, initially 2 or 3 in one week before re-assessment, this is a requirement of MagnaWave. Sessions cannot be started while the horse is still taking medication (such as Marquis). We will need veterinary approval, and to assess for practitioner safety, as severely neurological horses can be a danger to those around them.
Equi-Tape Kinesiology Taping for Horses
Equi-Tape® works by adhering to the skin with an elastic quality, which allows it to decompress the skin to help relieve pressure and pain, increase lymph and blood flow, and accelerate oxygen availability for healing. It can also aid in removing toxins commonly associated with injury and overuse in areas with edema.
The use of Equi-Tape can help your horse become and stay sounder longer. Equi-Tape can increase your horse’s athletic potential by aiding the quality of your horse’s movement through increased joint and muscle flexibility, strength, and recovery. Train harder and recover quicker!
Equi-Tape can be effective in reducing swelling, inflammation, soreness and stiffness. Equi-Tape can be useful for horse’s who exhibit: tense or shortened muscles, joint swelling, ligament/tendon or other soft tissue damage including; trigger points, scar tissue and lymph or fascia related issues. Equi-Tape can also help restore full range of motion.
Overall Benefits of Equi-Taping®
Increase oxygen supply and circulation
Aid in shortening healing and recovery time
Decrease inflammation, swelling and associated pain
Aid in toxin removal and increase natural metabolism of by-product build-up to help muscles and joints work more efficiently
Support joints, tendons and ligaments
Assist joint and muscle movement encouraging full range of motion making it advantageous for use in training programs
What is the Equi-Taping Method®?
The Equi-Taping Method refers to techniques, protocols, and training behind successful application of tape, which takes into consideration desired goals or outcomes. Below are categories applications fall under.
Muscle Relaxation Tapings
Muscle Assist Tapings
Circulation Tapings – Fan / Basket Weave
Fascia Release Tapings
Localized Decompression / Spot Tapings
Practitioner Advanced Tapings – Acupuncture, Sensory, biomechanical, etc.
Whilst Kinesiology Tape is not allowed to be worn during certain USEF/FEI regulated competitions, it IS allowed to be worn before and after and during warm up. It can also be used during competitions that are not regulated by USEF & the FEI.