More and more horse owners are turning to alternative and holistic therapies like acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic care for their horses. In this post, you will know the differences and similarities between equine massage and chiropractic care for horses.
What’s the difference between equine massage and chiropractic? In summary, although both equine massage and chiropractor work on the musculoskeletal system, equine chiropractic is focused on the spine and joints. Equine massage on the other hand is focused on the muscles.
In this article, we will discuss these differences in great detail.
Check out this table to see a summary of the differences and similarities
|Equine massage||Equine chiropractic|
|Focus||Muscles and soft tissue||Spine and joint adjustment|
|Personnel||Massage therapists||Chiropractors or veterinarians|
|Pros||Reduces muscle soreness, improves muscle flexibility and performance.||Reduces muscle tension, corrects posture, relieves back and neck pain.|
|Cons||The risks are generally lower compared to chiropractic. It can cause temporary muscle soreness, there are no regulations for certification and licensure.||It can cause temporal muscle soreness. Must be done by a professional to reduce the risk of lameness.|
Equine Massage Therapy
Equine massage has been in the US as far back as the early ’90s when therapists agreed that horses could also enjoy the numerous benefits of massage therapy. Equine massage therapists use their hands, elbows, and fingers to manipulate the muscles and soft tissue of horses. Apart from their hands, they also use vibrating tools and tennis balls.
These techniques increase blood and lymphatic circulation, loosen tight muscles, tendons and joints, reduce swelling and pain, and ultimately improve function.
What are the Benefits of Equine Massage Therapy?
- It provides pain relief.
- It calms the nerves.
- It improves the posture.
- It treats restlessness and insomnia.
- It provides release from stress.
- It prevents injury.
- It speeds up recovery from healing.
- It is used for muscle rehabilitation.
- It increases muscle coordination, range of motion, and flexibility.
- It improves muscle tone and coordination.
With these many benefits, it’s no surprise that horse owners use equine massage therapy to improve the performance of their sports horses.
As for maintenance therapy, equine massage reduces the risk of all sorts of sports and work injuries. Apart from using massage therapy for horses active in sports and work, horse owners use it to care for old and retired horses.
This not only improves the quality of their lives, but it is also a great way to show that you appreciate all the years your horse spent in active service to you.
I won’t forget an incident I witnessed two years back. I visited an old friend of mine up in Texas, the visit wasn’t work-related, it was a holiday.
I wanted to be away from the bustle and noise in the city. Well, I got there and saw an old American quarter horse, Shelby.
My friend said she was about 18 years old. She wasn’t interested in taking walks in the field or anything at all. She wanted to be left alone. Don’t get me wrong my friend didn’t mistreat her or anything, he fed her, brushed her, saw that her hooves were tended to.
He said he didn’t know what to do, it looked like she had lost her spark. Maybe being put out of work had crushed her spirit, it happens to us humans a lot.
I told my friend that since I would be around for a week, I was going to massage her on alternate days, for free. I didn’t charge him a dime for it. I examined Shelby and saw that she was doing pretty well for her age. She didn’t have arthritis, and her hooves weren’t compressed.
I started with light and basic massage techniques then moved on to trigger point therapy later on. Well Shelby got better, she responded to touches, she was interested in her surroundings, and in a matter of time, she began taking those walks.
Maybe all she needed was a caring touch, or she needed relief for her aching muscles that have worked all those years. What I know is that equine massage is good for not only horses in active service but retired horses too.
Equine massage isn’t useful for horses with fractures, cancers, infections, and neurologic diseases. If your horse looks ill, you should first book an appointment with the veterinarian.
What to Expect from Equine Massage Therapy
Equine massage can cost anywhere from $75-$100 per hour. A session can last as long as 60-90 minutes.
The duration and frequency of the message depend on the horse’s current state. Horses don’t speak as humans do but they have a lot to say. I can’t overstate the importance of getting a certified and knowledgeable massage therapist who can listen to your horse.
Physical assessments are done to assess the needs of the horse after that, the therapist creates a treatment plan.
Your horse should show improvement after three sessions of therapy but this is not always the case, particularly for horses with chronic pain.
After the first session, your horse should have a full day of rest. After consequent sessions, you should give at least three hours of rest.
Be sure to use a certified and verified massage therapist. Remember that equine massage therapists can’t diagnose or prescribe veterinary treatments for horses.
While equine massage can be used as a preventive measure for horses, chiropractic is almost always curative. This means that in most cases, chiropractic is used only after a diagnosis is made.
The reasons are obvious. Chiropractic is expensive and it has potential risk for spine and joint damage.
In equine chiropractic, the veterinarian or chiropractor is concerned with restoring alignment of the spine and joints, relieving pain, reducing muscle tension, and improving mobility.
This is no easy task. Chiropractic is more than just making joints pop, it involves a skillful application of force in the right direction, magnitude, and speed. To do this, the chiropractor must have a working knowledge of the vertebral columns, nervous plexus, and biomechanics.
Uses of equine chiropractic
- Equine chiropractic provides myofascial and muscle release.
- It corrects posture, reduces pain and abnormal muscle tone, and improves mobility.
- Unlike equine massage, it should not be done for stress relief or muscle repair and conditioning.
Ideal horses for chiropractic are horses suffering from neck pain, back pain, joint stiffness, and altered gait not caused by lameness. All these symptoms can only be assessed and confirmed by a veterinarian.
The veterinarian makes a diagnosis of any of these conditions after thorough examinations and diagnostic workups. This must be done to exclude bone diseases, lameness, and neurologic conditions as underlying causes.
What to Expect from Equine Chiropractic
A session can cost anywhere from $100-$250. A session can last for 60-90 minutes.
It is important to give your horse downtime after each session to reduce the risk of muscle soreness.
Chiropractic doesn’t cure all forms of neck or back pain in horses. Be aware of this. It can not also reverse the effects of degenerative musculoskeletal diseases.
Chiropractic shouldn’t be used for horses with fractures, cancer, infections, non-mechanical causes of joint disorders, acute muscle strain, sprain, and arthritis.
Does My Horse Need Equine Massage or Chiropractic Care?
It can be difficult to notice musculoskeletal changes in your horse. This is because horses are very good at concealing their discomfort. They also know how to bravely carry on with their duties.
Most times when these changes are discovered, the problem is already advanced. However, seasoned horse owners can spot these changes and tell when their horses are not okay.
If the cause is a musculoskeletal one, horse owners want to know which is better, equine massage or chiropractic care?
The answer can only be determined by a veterinarian. A rule of thumb is this: if you want preventive or maintenance therapy for your horse, then an equine massage is what your horse needs.
However, if it is a curative therapy you need, then you must first consult your horse’s vet.
The vet will then decide if your horse’s condition will respond to chiropractic. Generally, chiropractic is good for chronic and recurring conditions that don’t respond to typical vet care.
Now that you know the many differences between equine massage and chiropractic,
It’s time to hear from you:
which option do you think is best for your horse?
Why do you think so?
We can’t wait to read your comments below.