An equine sports massage therapist (ESMT) makes horses feel good by applying
the principles of professional sports massage, developed and used by human
athletes, on our equine counterparts.
It's not unusual for human athletes to require a massage to soothe aching,
tired muscles. The same principles are used on horses to increase performance
levels and endurance.
"Massage is an old field," says Debranne McDaniel, an equine sport massage
instructor and owner of an ESMT training school in California. "Years ago,
a groom was expected to know how to massage a horse." But as people began
to own horses for recreation, the art was lost.
ESMTs learn equine anatomy, various massage techniques, proper stretching
and warm-up exercises.
The therapy can be long term, and convincing owners that it's useful isn't
always easy. "It's a very new trend," says equine massage therapist Sherry
Seymour. "It's a little slower out west, but hang in there. It's up and coming."
Many ESMTs have already trained as human massage therapists, taking on
equine therapy as a sideline. Most are involved with horses in other ways,
too. Some transfer their skills to use on show dogs.
Though equine massage therapy isn't regulated in America, experts predict
that will change in the next few years. So it's important to get trained by
a qualified instructor now to avoid problems in the future.
ESMTs are hired by horse owners, barn owners, veterinarians and trainers.
Many of these employers, however, often send an employee to a course, or even
take the training themselves.
Though ESMTs are trained to work safely, McDaniel points out that whenever
you are working with horses, there's a risk of injury.
The job often involves a considerable amount of travel, because you have
to drive to where the horses are. It helps if you live in "horse country."