How to massage your horse from head to tail: Practical tips, tricks, and takeaways

Click on the video above to see how to massage your horse from head to tail.

You’ve learned how to palpate your horse. You’ve done exercises on the ground. And, you’ve found areas of tightness – even soreness.

Now what?

Don’t think I’d leave you hanging without a go-to resource to work on those problem spots. Of course not. Follow along in the above video and refer back to the bullet points below on how to massage the five main areas of your horse.

Here’s how to massage the 5 main areas of your horse

You’ll want to start at the base of the skull and work your way to the hind end. I’ve given you the exact times in the video in parentheses where you can find each step.

The neck

While facing one side of your horse’s neck, use firm pressure along the topline with a loose fist. As you move toward the base of the neck, extend the pressure down into the shoulder. (1:17) To encourage suppleness, you can move your hands up and down the mane in a back and forth or vibrating motion. (1:36)

The shoulders

Use firm pressure and a loose fist from the top of the shoulder to the bottom to work out any tightness. (2:07) I like to divide the shoulder into 3 areas, working each a number of times. If your horse will tolerate the pressure, use the same technique to loosen the muscles in the front of the chest. (2:28)

The back

Start at the withers with a flat hand and firm pressure. (2:52) After 3-4 times of firm but gentle massaging with the flat of the hand, use the heel of your hand to get deeper into those same muscles. (3:22) Depending on how tight your horse’s back is, plan on doing this from 5-10 times.

The hind end

Brooke demonstrating how to use a massage tool on a horse
You can grab one of these plastic massage tools at Target or Amazon.

Run the flat of your hand along the hind end several times. (3:57) Once those hind end muscles have warmed up, use your fingers applying firm pressure in an up and down motion. (4:23) Massage from the top of the hind end to the bottom 2-3 times before switching to the palm of the hand moving in concentric circles. (4:47) If you have a hand-held massager, place both hands on the tool moving along the muscle with firm pressure. (5:11)

The hamstrings

Start with soft pressure with the tips of the fingers to determine how sensitive your horse is to being touched in this area. (5:43) If your horse accepts your hands, apply firm pressure with your fingers from the top of the tail down along the hamstring. (6:10) After the muscle has loosened up, you can use a back and forth motion with your hand perpendicular to the muscle. (6:17) Do this up to 10 times on each side.

Always remember to stay safe and keep your body ache-free

While we’re focused on helping your horse feel his best, I don’t want you to forget about yourself. Here are a few tips and takeaways to remember when massaging your horse.

  • Start light then get heavy – Even the most stoic horse can get agitated when he’s uncomfortable. Be cautious and use a light touch when you begin massaging each new area. If your horse pins his ears, picks up a back leg, or otherwise seems like he may want to flatten you, stop what you’re doing and reassess. Listen to your horse. He will give you the best feedback.
  • Take care of your body first – Don’t twist yourself into knots trying to massage your horse. Consider standing on a stool or block (as long as it’s stable and safe) while working on your horse. The added height provides leverage and means you’re not straining muscles as you reach.
  • Use props when you can – Plastic massage and grooming tools are cheap and easy ways to make your massage more effective. You can grab a tool like the one I use in the video on Amazon for less than $10. The plastic fingers help you get deeper into those large muscle groups of the horse and they save your hands from overuse.

Once you’ve massaged your horse, check in with how he feels under the saddle next time you ride. You may find yourself with a more relaxed and supple partner.

Let me know if you found the video and post helpful. And, make sure to follow Drassal Equine Bodywork on…