Most everyone—even our horses—loves a good massage, right? But results from a new study by Italian researchers suggest that horses might like the Tellington method—termed “T-Touch”—even more.

Riding horses undergoing a T-Touch session had improved neck relaxation and fewer aggressive reactions (such as kicking) than riding horses experiencing general massaging or rest, and tended to “autogroom” (meaning that they tried to groom themselves)—all signs of a content horse. According to Barbara Padalino, PhD, researcher at the University of Bari Aldo Moro Veterinary School, in Bari, Italy, this content state of mind could improve equine welfare as well as the horse-human relationship. Padalino presented her findings at the 9th Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science, held July 17-19 at the University of Delaware, in Newark.

“In general our results showed that T-Touch was positively accepted by saddle horses without eliciting any aggressive behavioral responses,” said Padalino.

T-Touch, originally developed by Linda Tellington-Jones, PhD (Hon), is a particular method of applying pressure to animals’ muscles and skin with the fingers, nails, or hand in a counterclockwise, expanding circular motion. Padalino said the T-Touch is theoretically based on “cellular activation,” according to Tellington-Jones.

“It may work on the different organ senses present in the dermis, and that could induce pleasure, as tested already in mice while stroking their fur,” she added. However, science has yet to explain what makes the T-Touch effective o