Lauren Shaw of LS Equine Massage realized her calling early after experiencing the benefits of equine massage therapy firsthand.
As a teen I owned and loved a very high strung Morgan Horse named Leo. He was the type of horse who was too hot to handle under saddle but an absolute saint in his stall. Leo was broken in an abusive manner creating a giant ball of stress who would never just take a deep breath and regain his confidence. He was shattered. We typically worked alone in the indoor and even then he was a basket case who would over think the very simple commands I was giving him.
My farm was approached by a young woman looking for practice horses for her massage school and we signed Leo up for three sessions. As she began massaging I noticed him stiffen slightly as he wasn’t so sure about this new person touching him but he quickly relaxed pushing into her and began licking his lips. After the first session I noticed an instant difference. We no longer went around the ring like a dragon was chasing us; instead we were calm, collected and sane. Leo was picking up gaits without exploding and we were finally starting to work as an amazing team.
I was convinced that this is was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. If something so simple could make my once-in-a-lifetime horse regain his confidence then there must be more benefits to help other horses. I set out as an adult to find these benefits including (but absolutely not limited to):
Reduction of pain and swelling: By allowing the muscles to relax there is less tension which in turn can reduce pain and swelling.
Stress relief: Massage can provide a huge amount of stress relief for the nervous horse, the schoolmaster or the pasture pet.
More efficient movement flexibility and improved posture: By allowing muscles to return to their natural relaxed state a horse’s range of motion and posture can return to their original state, often resulting in longer, more even strides.
Injury prevention: As with all athletes, ensuring muscles are in tip-top condition, free of knots or tightness can help to prevent injuries.
Increased benefits when used in conjunction with chiropractic/farrier work: This is the one I would really like to touch on. Many of us as owners have the farrier out as normal and “treat” our horses to a chiropractic visit once and a while. In reality all three of these work in unison. Without a solid, balanced foundation at the hoof, the muscles are unevenly strained during normal activity and exercise. Working up, massage is best before chiropractic work to achieve the best results for both types of body work. Relaxed loose muscles are the best for an adjustment so the adjustment holds. Tight muscles will over time pull the horse out of alignment quicker, and vice versa, muscles pinched in joints can cause stiffness and pain.
I often get two huge compliments while I’m working on a horse: one from the horse itself who grooms me and lets me know it’s helping and one from the owner who notices the differences in their horse’s attitude and performance.
As I set out on my lifelong journey I hope to improve many lives along the way even if I can only offer them bits of information. Massage truly is a great addition to your horse’s care routine. Even if you can’t afford to have someone out on a consistent basis it’s always a good idea to treat your horse.
Our horses carry the weight of our world on their shoulders both literally and figuratively and they need to feel their best in order to perform their best. I am so blessed to follow my dream and be able to help horses and owners alike.
Lauren is an Equine Masseuse in New Hampshire. As graduate from Doggone-U at the Bancroft School of Massage in Worcester, MA, she sets out to continuously further her education and pass on her knowledge to others. You can learn more on her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/lsEquineMassage).