Editor’s Note: This series on therapeutic options is meant to offer basic information on the history of the therapy, what the therapy is, and how it is being used in the equine industry. Information presented in this series is not intended to promote use of the therapy; simply offer an objective primer of how it is being applied to horses. Owners and managers always should discuss their animals’ health problems with their veterinarians before using any therapies or medications.
A gentle massaging of tense and tight muscles in neck or back can be a pleasant experience, bringing with it relaxation and a release from stress for human or horse. There is, of course, more to massage than just loosening tight muscles and providing a feeling of well-being. Massage, say its proponents, has wide-ranging physiological benefits, ranging from increased blood flow to a positive effect on the skeletal system.
Massage is a very old remedy, with descriptions of its proper application appearing in Chinese literature some 3,000 years ago. There also is evidence that massage was practiced by early-day Egyptians, Romans, Japanese, Persians, Arabs, and Greeks.
The word massage is derived from two sources. One is the Arabic verb mass, “to touch,” and the other is the Greek word massein, “to knead.”
The founder of modern day massage appears to be Peter H. Ling, a Swede who incorporated some French massage techniques into his system. He lived from 1776 to 1839. Credited with continuing research and teaching of massage are Albert Hoffa (1859-1970), James B. Mennell (1880-1957), and Gertrude Beard (1887-1971). Positive changes in massage techniques and understanding have occurred over the past 50 years as science and research have broadened the boundaries of knowledge concerning the physiology of man and horse.
Massage is described as the systematic manipulation of the