Benefits of Massage and Bodywork For the Horse and Rider

The Synergistic Approach

With summer upon us, many horse enthusiasts are enjoying the longer days trail riding, competing in their desired discipline or both. No matter the discipline of riding you are involved in or if you ride for pleasure, bodywork and massage are imperative to the health of both the horse and the rider. When either one of the partnership is out of balance due to muscle restriction or pain it will most often lead to compensations by both. This often leads to frustration and anxiety in the rider and the horse. When a rider is in balance, they instill more confidence in the horse. When a horse is in balance they instill more confidence within the rider. It creates an unparalleled synergy between the two.

A rider would benefit by addressing areas in their bodies that may need more stability, strength or flexibility. A rider can be out of balance due to tight and restricted muscles, which causes a limited range of motion and flexibility. They may find it difficult to complete flexion/extension or rotation of a body part that is crucial in riding. Adhesions in the muscle fibers and connective tissue (fascia) can cause inflammation, this can also lead to compression of nerves. The rider’s biomechanics can be altered due to any of these factors. This can cause undue pressure on the horse, which causes the horse’s self carriage to be altered, which can affect performance and disposition.

Including massage and bodywork as part of a rider’s self care can create balance within their bodies, by easing restrictions or painful areas. They can become more balanced in their posture, which allows them to ride in a more fluid manner. If a rider is in pain or discomfort while riding it also affects them emotionally. Their concentration is not always on their horse or their task, but how much discomfort they feel.

The horse must also be taken into consideration in the equation of the partnership. We, as humans, can stretch ourselves, knead sore muscles or apply a topical muscle relief aid. The horse cannot do this for themselves. It is the responsibility of the rider to provide care for their partner that allows the horse to find relief from stress physically and emotionally. If the horse is experiencing areas of tightness, restriction or instability this can affect the horse’s physical and mental state which affects the ability to perform. They often compensate due to pain and restriction, which puts them out of balance. This can lead to the rider adjusting their posture to a less than balanced seat which exacerbates a less than favorable riding situation. If the horse’s body is in a more relaxed state physically and emotionally, they can achieve more balanced self carriage. Including massage and bodywork as part of a maintenance program to ease areas of restriction and pain is beneficial to the horse.

Both the human and the horse benefit from massage and bodywork. It can reduce aches and pains by decreasing lactic acid and increased blood flow within the muscles. There will be an increase of elasticity within the muscles by decreasing adhesions in the fascia. It also produces an overall “feel good” sensation by releasing endorphins in the body. By addressing the mutual needs of both participants, the rider and the horse can achieve a more cohesive balanced partnership.

Benefits Of Massage For The Horse


  • Great way to warm up or cool down
  • Positive effects on nervous system
  • Improves blood and lymphatic circulation
  • Releases endorphins which aids in pain relief and sense of well-being
  • Improves muscle tone
  • Relief from restlessness or agitation
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased range of motion
  • Immune system support
  • Injury prevention
  • Aides in recovery from an injury
  • Regular maintenance massage is a powerful preventative measure and a wonderful way to keep your horse balanced physically and mentally

Benefits of Massage for the Rider

  • Improves range of motion
  • Improves flexibility
  • Relief from stress
  • Improves sense of focus
  • Improves blood and lymphatic circulation
  • Releases endorphins which aid in pain relief and a sense of well-being
  • Injury prevention
  • Shorter recovery time after an injury
  • Immune system support
  • Become more balanced
  • Regular maintenance massage is a powerful preventative measure and a wonderful way to keep yourself balanced physically and mentally

A combination of horse/rider massage creates more balance in both. This balance leads to more synergy between horse and rider. When a horse is in balance it creates confidence within the rider. When a rider is in balance it increases confidence in the horse.

Courtesy of Synergy Equine Bodywork