The Basic Principles of Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy
Here is a book with a companion video that may be the next best thing to a course in equine massage. This is not surprising since the author is Mike Scott, Nationally Certified Sports Massage Therapist and Director of The Massage/Muscle Therapy Center in Bolton, MA. Mike is the founder of The Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy Program, a certification program which includes an Introductory Program, a Post Graduate Certificate Program, and even a non-certificate program. Mike has worked with Olympic caliber athletes, human and equine, as well as amateur athletes who take their sports seriously, and has been an active competitor himself.
In the book The Basic Principles of Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy, the author presents not only a comprehensive manual on the subject but also a case for why horses can benefit from massage and that any owner can learn the basics of massage. The information provided is geared toward both the owners who wish to massage their own horses and to the aspiring equine therapists. In both the book and video, Mike stresses that it is necessary to treat each horse as an individual and that one should work within the horse's means.
The book takes the reader systematically through the essential knowledge base for understanding and performing massage. Chapters include Muscle Construction and Action, Anatomy, Movement, Massage Techniques, Applications, and Stretching. There is also a helpful chapter with commonly asked questions. In other chapters Mike covers related areas such as saddle fitting, managing injuries, and appropriate exercises while riding. The book is loaded with excellent photographs (by Annie Converse) and clear illustrations (by Shawn Scott), which give the reader a visual pictorial of equine massage and the anatomy of the horse.
Mike's words and descriptions are such that the reader actually gets a mental feel for massage. The reader will come away with a great understanding of the anatomy, physiology, and function of the muscles and deeper structures of the horse and, most importantly, will gain the ability to apply the knowledge. The book includes tips on dealing with both new and old injuries, when not to massage, and when to call in a professional. Mike cautions throughout that one should never use more pressure than the horse is comfortable with.
The reader is also cautioned not to diagnose. Involving the veterinarian is of utmost importance when working with an unsound horse, and Mike emphasizes that all the health professionals - veterinarians, massage therapists, chiropractors and acupuncturists alike - should openly communicate for the horse's sake.
Other complementary therapies, though not really incorporated into the earlier chapters, have an entire chapter devoted to them. In the Integrative/Adjunctive Therapies chapter, Mike provides a sound introduction to alternative therapies for general information and to expand the reader's awareness.
In the companion video, Mike takes the viewer through Basic Anatomy, Stretching Exercises, Muscle Construction, Movement Evaluation, and Technique and Application. The presentation is divided into body parts to maintain a logical order of doing massage. Mike demonstrates the techniques on a live horse, a wonderful warmblood named Delta, and performs the various massage strokes on the horse from head to tail. He completes the massage with stretching exercises, showing how to safely stretch the horse.
This video also contains an excellent presentation of the anatomy and physiology of the muscles and the skeletal system and how they function. Mike uses drawings and sketched still shots to show muscle arrangements, with overlays on a still shot of an actual horse to visualize their locations. Mike narrates the video separately from performing the massage so that the viewer can hear every word in addition to the natural ambient sounds such as the massage strokes and the horse's reactions.
Mike also shares tips on how to use your body effectively while massaging even the biggest of horses. In both the book and video, Mike stresses the importance of taking the time needed with each horse.
As the perfect mate to the book, The Basic Principles of Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy video brings Mike's teachings to life and enables the viewer to see the maneuvers in action. It is a pleasure to watch Mike perform the strokes with finesse, expertise, and even efficiency, and to see the horse respond to the massage.
For the owner or massage therapist, this book and video pair is a very valuable one to have.
Note: Mike Scott's Equine Training Log and Health Care Diary is an additional book that goes along with this pair for recording your horse's appointments and progress.