Massage for Horses? Students Take ‘Special Populations’ Massage to New Level

You might not think of a horse barn as an educational setting for massage therapy school students, but that’s exactly where some Globe University-Madison East students took their skills recently. The students, enrolled in the Pregnancy and Special Populations massage therapy class, visited a farm in Prairie Du Sac, Wis., to learn more about equine massage. Dr. Jody Bearman worked with the class to show them the similarities and differences between animal clients and human clients.

massage therapy schoolDr. Bearman is a veterinarian who practices traditional Chinese veterinary medicine.  She incorporates Tui-Na (massage), acupuncture, homeopathy, Chinese herbs, and food therapy into her treatment of animals. 

Dr. Bearman explained how to approach horses. Just like with human clients, you need to get the animal’s consent before you begin.  To do this, you let the horse know what you will be doing, keeping in contact with the animal so they know where you are going and moving to next.

The class was introduced to three animals—Buddy, a 24-year-old horse; Cash, a horse referred to as the king of the barn; and a donkey named Rebecca.  Dr. Bearman explained that horses and humans are similar in muscular structure, and horses typically have problem areas in the low back area and the sacroiliac joint as humans do.

Massage therapy student Deborah Brandt said, “It was interesting to learn the movements of the front legs on a horse are the same as the movements of the arms on a human.”

Dr. Bearman demonstrated a traditional Chinese exam on one of the horses which determined where she placed the acupuncture needles.  The students were able to feel how tightly the connective tissue was wound around the needle prior to being ready to fall out. 

“The first time massaging a horse was incredible,” said student Flutura Hajdini. “To see and feel what the horse wanted and didn’t want was so interesting.  You truly go by what you feel and use nonverbal communication with animals; you can’t ask them how the pressure is.  You just know if they don’t enjoy it by the way they react with their body movements.”

Massage therapy program chair Robin Rinehart said, “Massage benefits humans and animals; we all need to be touched.  It relieves our stress and makes our muscles

massage therapy school

Massage therapy students visit a farm to learn about equine massage.


This field trip left the students with a better understanding of horses and how they, too, can benefit from massage.