Whole Horse Approach

I believe in a whole horse approach to bodywork and sports massage. I treat the horse as a unit because he must function as a unit. Using compression massage and stress point therapy, muscle adhesions and spasms are released, freedom of movement is restored, circulation is improved and pain is eliminated.

A muscle’s response to overuse and over stretching is by first tightening, then shortening and ending in spasm.  Muscle spasms, also known as trigger points, interrupt the free flow of motion and energy in your horse and, left unattended, are a source of pain that lead to larger injuries.Bob Keller ~ Certified Equine Sports Massage

In order to perform the bio-mechanics of motion, muscles are arranged in pairs and each muscle has two functions: Contraction and Release. When one muscle contracts (shortens), the bone or joint is moved in the direction of the contraction. The muscle must then release in order not to interfere with the opposite contraction. Spasms interfere with a muscle’s ability to release completely and this is where problems begin.

As we ask our horses to “move up” in dressage, on a hunter jumper course, or pushing for a few tenths of a second off the clock, we tax the horse’s muscular system to achieve the new goals. Strain and exertion is the road to increasing your horse’s ability and performance level but you have to be careful. How much strain and exertion is required for maximum performance and how do you know when you’ve reached it? You really don’t.

When a muscle is stressed, it produces the greatest amount of strain at a very specific point. This point is usually located near where the muscle connects to the bone as the muscle has more tendon fibers (less give) and less blood vessels (low oxygen). These areas are the first to show problems and spasm –  and the last to recover.

Millions of muscle fibers contract and release in the bio-mechanics process. When a muscle is stressed or strained, it may only be a small number of fibers that react by shortening and forming a spasm through the tissue and fascia. The muscle fiber surrounding the spasm now must do the job of the injured tissue – now under stress – and the problem becomes cumulative, cascading from one muscle group to the next. Result? Restricted movement, compromised performance … and pain.


  • Harder to one side than the other.
  • Shortened stride.
  • Switching or refusing leads.
  • Restricted bending.
  • Sore back.
  • Jumping flat

As a compliment to my sports massage work I incorporate cold laser and pulsed magnetic frequency (PMF) blanket technology.

Luminex Vet Class III Laser by Respond Systems, Inc.

Luminex Vet Class III Laser by Respond Systems, Inc.

Both are non-invasive modalities that help to dilate blood vessels, lymph ducts, flush lactic acid build up and encourage the production of endorphins and dopamine that are the body’s natural pain-relievers. They help to relieve soreness from over-work, arthritis, fatigued muscles, poor circulation and joint problems.

I also incorporate techniques and methods developed by Jim Masterson of the Masterson Method into my work. His technique is unique in that it employs the horse’s interaction to guide a practitioner in locating and facilitating the release of stress throughout four primary regions of the horse’s anatomy: 1. The Poll 2. The Withers Shoulder 3. The Sacral Lumbar and 4. The Back. This method has proven very successful in many situations.

Utilizing Cold Laser Therapy and by applying the correct  massage style with correct pressure, blood flow is increased, knots are broken down, and muscles regain their ability to flex and release. Proper range of motion is restored – often immediately.

To some the idea of giving a horse a massage may sound a little over the top, unnecessary or extravagant, but, if you’re a rider and especially if you are a competitive rider, you understand that your horse is an athlete just like you. And, as an athlete, your horse is as susceptible, maybe more so, to muscle injury as any human athlete who runs, races, jumps, jogs, turns, spins, pulls and lifts – all the while with you on their back!


Bob Keller  C.E.M.T.
Certified by EquiTouch Systems, 1994
Equine Massage and Bodywork
Cell – or Text : 916-212-8707

Equine Massage and Bodywork is not intended to replace veterinary care.