Rio Gets A Spa Day

It’s been a cold and hectic holiday season. Going and getting an hour long massage would be lovely, wouldn’t it? Having a masseuse get into those tight muscles, really putting some pressure into it, and working deep into the tissue. Sigh. I wouldn’t know how good that feels, but now a certain hunky hanoverian does.


Looks relaxing, doesn’t it?


That’s right, Rio got a visit yesterday from Christy, an amazing equine bodywork therapist. Christy has been coming to our barn about once a month for awhile now, doing all MM’s other client’s horses, but I admit to declining to have Rio done. When it comes to “extras” (aka something not essential to his basic well-being) I have to be a bit choosy about where to put my money, seeing as I still haven’t figured out how to grow a money tree. Last time she was here it was about a week before the Waco show, and although I was tempted to have her work on Rio then, I didn’t really have the cash with a huge impending show bill on the horizon. Now that we are in the off season and I don’t have a pricey A show scheduled in the near future, I decided to take the equine massage plunge.


Bad move on my part.

Rio liked it so much that what was once considered an extra may now be considered a necessity. Le sigh. I am pretty sure that I am trying to figure out how to increase the cost of horse ownership every single month.



But ya, I admit to being skeptical of chiro/massage/acupuncture etc. Not skeptical of whether it “works” per say, more like, I am just not always sure that the value is there. Is $150 for a chiro adjustment (the running rate in my area) really worth the 20 minute popping session? Does it $150 make Rio feel better? Rio got 2 chiro sessions in the first 6 months of me owning him, and hasn’t had any since then. I’m sure that the value is there for some horses (I don’t have anythijng against chiro!), but I honestly didn’t feel a difference in Rio after his adjustments. I have never tried acupuncture, but would be willing to try it (Amazing Vet is currently training in it).


This is my first time to have massage bodywork done on Rio and I think I might be a convert. I haven’t ridden him yet (I will today) but after talking to MM about how it went, and how Christy was able to perfectly pinpoint several issues that Rio has just by laying her hands on him… I think I am sold.


MM sent me this cute video- apparently Rio yawned like 15 times in a row at one point:


RioMassage1.4.18 from Kelly on Vimeo.


I mean look at that face! How could I deny him a massage in the future after such apparent relaxation?! I can’t. So, apparently massages are now going to be part of his routine care. Given no background info on Rio at all, she sure was able to figure out many of his weaknesses. For example, she said his hocks are sore, left worse then right, which hit the nail on the head as I have x-rays that prove this, and he is also a couple weeks overdue for hock injections. She talked about his roach back too. She believes it to be more of a product of his early training versus conformational. She wanted to know if he was started in dressage (he was) and said that sometimes horses of a more subserviant nature that are ridden harder then they have the muscle development for (such as horses asked for a high degree of collection) can stress/strain/tear some of the ligaments/muscles in that area of their back which can then cause the development of a mild roach. I had never heard of this, so I did a bit of digging. I found this article that actually sounds really similar to what she was saying.

Excerpt from the article, on detecting if your horse is being asked to perform beyond his fitness level:

“…swelling, heat, or pain anywhere on the body, a roach back—slight upward curvature (hump) to he horse’s spine that wasn’t there before training began.  Re: roach back. This conformational change often indicates that psoas (the long, strap-like muscle which supports the lumbar spine from beneath) is abnormally tight. A shortened, tight psoas is very common in horses early in their training, particularly in dressage horses asked to do collected work before they’re physically ready.”


Now, I do not know if Rio had a roach back when he was born or not. I am also not pointing any fingers at anyone from his past. I just found what Christy had to say interesting. She feels that if I continue to strengthen his ab muscles (with exercises such a lateral work), his back will continue to strengthen with correct muscling and overall decrease the appearance of a roach.  I actually do feel that it has improved over the past several months of solid training. Rio used to feel REALLY cold-back/humped-back when I would first get on him, especially if he had had a few days off. Like that feeling where you think they are about to let out a huge back. He never did (buck), and I have noticed that that “tight” backed feeling has disappeared entirely in the past month or so. Even when he had 3 days off earlier this week due to the super cold weather, and even though it was mid 30’s when I did finally get back in the saddle, I did not feel that old sensation of a humped back.



Christy also said she didn’t think my saddle was doing him any favors. She hasn’t actually seen it on him, but I’m assuming she could tell this by how he felt. Thankfully, my Voltaire should be here in the somewhat near future. Fingers crossed that it is a perfect fit!


So what say you fellow bloggers? What non-vet care does your horse indulge in? What do you believe, or not put stock in? What have made a huge difference for  you horse, and what hasn’t?





Updated to add Rio’s “report card” that Christy filled out from his session. I’ll be interested how it compares to visits in the future.


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  1. Mine gets massage/osteopath work done currently. I was bad and would only get her a massage once a year or so but I noticed how grumpy she was getting about certain things and decided she needed it.

    The osteo came out once a week for about 3-4 weeks and then christmas hit and I haven’t had the time/money to have her out. She was super tight in her sacrum area, so tight that my girl couldn’t really get in there to do anything! She has made a huge improvement thus far.

    It’s funny too, Luna is showing signs of soreness in the exact same spots that I currently am from my car accident! I think she has had a lot more relief then I have though.

    1. Forgive my ignorance- what is osteopath? I’d love to hear more about it and what it means for the horses! I admittedly have never heard of it.

    1. Count me in with the believers now. I also think about how much better I feel after massage work. My job is known for a lot of workplace ikke injuries a d must of myh co-workers and I all get some sort of massage regularly to keep injuries at bay.

  2. Libby, Like Rio, didn’t show me any significant change when I did chiro work, BUT she’s always shown marked improvement with massage/magna wave therapies.

    I’m super interested in what she said about his back though. Do you have a picture of it? Libby came to me, at a price I could afford, because she was cold backed and had unseated numerous riders. She has a more developed left shoulder, and The attachment of her trapezius muscle is enlarged on the left side of her withers, making saddle fit tough. I feel it also contributes to her discomfort. I wonder if it’s something similar, but I’ve never heard it called a roach back.

    1. Interesting about Libby shoulder! Ya I can imagine saddle fit for something llike that would be tough. Rio’s “roach” is a slight upward curvature of the spine in the SI region of his back. It’s not instantly noticeable to most people but it is there. I’ll snap some pics at the barn today for ya!

  3. Funny that we had very similar posts for today! My chiropractor spends an hour to an hour and a half on each horse. First, he does gentle body work, not exactly massage, but he does get the horses feeling relaxed. Once they’re a bit looser, he targets the sore spots and makes mild adjustments, but he tries to let the horse’s weight do most of the adjusting. He rarely “jerks” on them. It’s mostly pushing and pulling and leaning. When he gets a sore spot to let go, you can always see the relief on the horses’ faces.

    Now that Izzy is showing more regular soreness, the chiropractor comes out quarterly. Speedy hasn’t been done in nearly two years, but he doesn’t seem to “need” it like Izzy. I wish I had more money. LOL

    1. Wow I’ve never hear of aan equine chiropractor spending that much time on an adjustment- yours sounds really thorough! If I had had that same experience I might be more inclined to use a chiro. I’d also do it “all” is money wasn’t an issue 😂!

  4. I got Maestro a massage in early November and haven’t really decided how I feel about it. He felt pretty much the same when I rode him the next day but his sweating increased and has stayed that way (actually why I ended up clipping him some). I was told he was evenly tight in his back and butt so no really issues just overly tight.
    The actual massage was different than I expected, almost more trigger point. She would work in a section and he would get agitated (to the point of pawing and/or moving away sometimes) and then release and yawn. So it didn’t seem like he particularly enjoyed it in some ways…
    I know personally I prefer a certain kind of massage and avoid deep tissue ones so maybe there are different types of horse massage as well? Would be interested to know if others have experienced similar.

    1. I think you’re totally right (about the different kinds of massages and various preferences). I personally think that deep tissue/trigger point type massages are more beneficial, even if not super enjoyable at the time- at least that’s how I feel about deep tissue massages. Rio felt wayyyy better- particularly in the right lead canter afterwards, which earlier in the week the right lead had actually felt a bit jarring. I’m definitely going to give it another go next time she is here 😊.

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