WHAT IS EQUINE BODY WORK?
Body work is more than just massage, area specific stretches and exercises help to create a well rounded program for your horse to aid in the prevention of soft tissue issues and/or address current problem areas. The first session will also consist of a history, as well as static and dynamic observations. Changes in these findings will be tracked and recorded in following sessions. There is a wide variety of modalities that are encompassed within body work. Some of these include massage, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, reiki, and soft tissue mobilization. A body worker may be a key member in your horse's wellness program, but they should not be replacing veterinary care.
WHY BODY WORK?
Body work helps to improve circulation, posture, flexibility, muscle tone, and range of motion. It promotes healing as well as reduces inflammation. In many cases, improved stamina, overall disposition, and enhanced performance are often noted. Body work is a great way to reduce the chance of injury by keeping the horse feeling their best and enabling them to use themselves correctly. It is a great way to be proactive in your horse's health and can provide an early alert to any compensatory issues that may be developing.
WHEN IS BODY WORK INDICATED?
Any horse, no matter their discipline or work load, can benefit from regular body work. Whether you have already noticed an issue developing in your horse or just want to be proactive in their wellness program. Although regular body work can benefit most horses, there are a few instances in which it may be contraindicated. If the horse is showing any signs of dehydration and/or elevated vital signs, it is best to wait until another day. Any recently injured areas, or areas with unexplained heat and/or swelling should be avoided. If your horse has any undiagnosed issues or signs of lameness it is strongly recommended to see a veterinarian prior to a body worker, and have your veterinarian clear your horse for body work.
HOW OFTEN CAN A HORSE BE WORKED ON?
Some horses, depending on severity or timeline of problem areas, don't need to be worked on as often as others. In the ideal world a horse in heavy work, whether that be due to their everyday job or level of competition, could be seen on a weekly basis. In most cases, this is not practical, so the golden standard is every 4 weeks. On average a horse that is being ridden 3+ days a week should be worked on every 4 - 8 weeks.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
Various musculoskeletal issues benefit from body work and by addressing them early on in their progression, massage can both decrease pain as well as accelerate overall recovery time. Changes in muscle and overall posture don't happen over night, but positive change should be noticed within the first few sessions. If this is not the case, another team member may be brought in to address problem areas in a new light. It is not uncommon for the horse to show signs of soreness up to 48 hours after a body work session. To help combat this, it is ideal to walk the horse out shortly after the massage for about 10 - 15 minutes. Even a light ride or hand jogging within 2 hours after the session is often recommended. The horse can return to regular work the next day, but it is best to keep the ride light and nonrestrictive by avoiding any tighter circle work, and longer periods of collection. An extended cool down period will help to eliminate any accumulation of waste products and ensure that your horse is feeling their best.
HOW TO PREPARE?
Ensure that the horse is dry and relatively clean. Ideally, avoid using any grooming sprays immediately prior to the session. Thus, ensuring that the coat is not slippery and allows for proper tissue traction to be maintained. In colder weather, having a cooler or blanket available can aid in warming up and/or keeping muscles warm throughout the session. Plan on having an open and flat area available to watch the horse move on the straight as well as on a circle/lunge. Brooke may ask to see any tack that is used on the particular horse. In some cases, it may also be helpful to watch the horse and rider under saddle to further pin point any problem areas. Be sure to allow the horse access to free choice water before and after the session. Brooke will guide you on any case specific recommendations she may have for your horse prior to the session.
WHY ARE ASSOCIATIONS IMPORTANT?
Brooke is proud to be a professional member of the International Equine Body Worker Association (IEBWA), as well as the Vice Chair for the Canadian Division. The IEBWA expects its members only to provide professional services set within their scope of education and certification, to abide by the laws in their state/province, and strictly adhere to the Code of Ethics. As a member we are required to provide the highest standard of practice in body work, complete a minimum of 300 foundation education hours, hold full indemnity insurance, and fulfill a minimum of 16 continuing education hours each year. Brooke is also an Individual Professional Member of the International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork (IAAMB). The IAAMB is dedicated to promoting, advancing, and growing the practice of animal massage and body work through education, establishing industry standards, and building an international network of support. As a member we have completed a minimum 100 hours of general education from accredited schools, and uphold the association's Code of Ethics/Standards of Practice. Membership is important to us because body work is unregulated so it is crucial to maintain a minimum standard of care and provide a peace of mind guarantee to our clients. We are dedicated to working within our designated scope of practice and do not diagnose medical conditions, prescribe medications, or preform medical procedures. Taking a team approach is very important to us, and ensures that all wellness team members are able to comply with, and excel in their respective scopes of practice. As a Registered Veterinary Technician, Brooke is also a member of the Alberta Veterinary Technologist Association and the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, as well as the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians & Assistants. When seeking out a body worker for your horse, it is important to take time and ask them what steps they're taking to provide you and your horse with the best possible care they can.
*For additional information on any of these associations, please follow the links on the logos at the bottom of the page.