What is equine bodywork?

Equine bodywork is a hand-on complementary therapeutic modality aimed at addressing physical and behavioural problems and enhancing performance.  Bodywork techniques include soft tissue mobilisation, sports massage, range of motion exercises, stretching, positioning exercises as well as focal work to release stress and trigger points.

The Equine Bodyworker may also incorporate myofascial release techniques as well as therapeutic ultrasound, thermal imaging, TENS and EMS machines.

The Equinology Approach to equine bodywork developed by Debranne Patillo (MEEBW) addresses the whole body, using specific manual palpation methods to assess soft tissue and muscle symmetry and structure. Detailed static and dynamic evaluations  are used to inform the practitioner of the horses current condition.

When can a young horse first receive bodywork?

The earlier the better. This allows the bodywork practitioner to identify any issues that may be present and establish a baseline of what is normal for that particular horse. Of particular importance is the fact that it introduces touch therapy and encourages development of kind, healthy relationship with their handlers.

As soon as the horse starts to have any type of demands made of it, bodywork is indicated. This includes groundwork, lunging and backing.

Regular clients who have young horses prior to backing may ask for a complimentary short session for their youngster, anything from 5 to 20 minutes. The aim here is to introduce the horse to bodywork in a gentle, kind manner that will pay off in the long term.

When can a pregnant mare have bodywork?

As a guideline, mares should not receive bodywork for the first time within 6 weeks after breeding. A mare that was receiving regular bodywork sessions before being bred may continue with sessions, however the bodyworker will use a light approach and avoid specific “no-go” areas on the horse’s body. These areas have specific trigger points and they include the ventral midline, the medial surfaces of the fore- and hindlimbs and the flank area.

How often does my horse need bodywork?

This depends on the goal or reason for the session. Sessions performed with the specific intent of relieving problems should ideally be done weekly.

Variables that predispose a horse to muscle injuries, and therefore more frequent sessions, include: Conformation, overall health, training schedule, show schedule, conditioning, rider influence, injury.

The following is a guideline to recommended session frequency in the “ideal world”:

Leisure riding horse, ridden 3-5 times per week: Every 3-4 weeks.

The Serious Competitor: Every 2 weeks

The Highest Level Competition Horse (e.g. racehorses): Every 1-2 weeks

Retired and Pleasure Horses: Every 6 weeks

Injured and Rehabilitating Horses: Under veterinary supervision, a full session once a week for two weeks, and then sessions further apart as the horse improves.

How soon can my horse have a session before a competition?

New clients must arrange for bodywork sessions a minimum of one week prior to competition. Some horses can be a bit sore after massage and many horses need time to re-balance themselves and get used to their improved way of moving.

Only horses who are regular clients will be worked on within three days of, or on the day of a competition.

Racehorses can be worked on the day before a race once the bodywork practitioner and trainer know what the horse’s normal response to bodywork is.


Will my horse need time off after a session?

No, not usually.

Ideally, the sound horse should receive light exercise within 2 hours after the bodywork session. This could be 10 to 15 minutes of in-hand walking or trotting, or a short, relaxed outride in a long and low frame.

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