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Equine massage therapist Lindsay Thomes gave her horse Bogie a massage to help keep his muscles flexible. The massage treatments help the 22-year-old Thoroughbred gelding age in comfort.

Every athlete can benefit from massage, even equine athletes. Equine massage has been gaining popularity among horse owners, especially for horses used in physically demanding activities. According to Lindsay Thomes, it can also help aging horses maintain overall health.

A certified equine and canine massage therapist, Thomes has been offering horse and dog massage treatments through her business, Top Line Therapeutics, since March 2017.

She’ll commute to regular clients’ homes or stables within an hour’s drive from her base in Sheboygan. She also will travel farther to do clinics or other educational events or where she can work on groups of horses and/or dogs.

Thomes received her training and certification through Equissage International. The Equissage program was founded by Mary Barlin Schreiber and is offered through an at-home study or on-site schooling in Round Hill, Va.

An avid equestrian for nearly 23 years, Thomes’ passion for forming a relationship with horses has grown over the years.

“I continuously look for new ways to connect with horses and other equestrians, and massage allows me to do that,” Thomes said.

She saw how massage benefited her own horse, Bogie, but found scheduling the gelding’s therapy sessions difficult because of the lack of trained therapists near her horse. That was the motivation Thomes needed to become a therapist.

“He has always benefited greatly from massage therapy and as he continues to age,” Thomes said. “I recognized the opportunity to learn massage myself and be able to provide it to him on an as-needed basis. In the past, I have found it difficult to create a tailored scheduled with him being located in an area where the closest equine massage therapist is over an hour away.”

Thomes and Bogie have been together for nearly 16 years and have competed in three-day eventing competitions through the preliminary level as recognized by the United States Eventing Association.

Similar to the effects of massage therapy on humans, massage in horses and dogs helps them relax and reduces stress and anxiety.

Massage therapy is never considered a substitute for veterinary medicine. However, it can complement veterinary treatments to promote overall general health by focusing on both the cause and prevention of muscle injury using whole body treatment.

According to Thomes, massage can increase range of motion, increase flexibility and enhance muscle tone, while reducing inflammation, edema and swelling in joints. Massage stimulates circulation, increases the flow of nutrients to muscles and helps to carry away excessive fluids and toxins.

Those benefits can be particularly helpful in performance horses or also retired horses, as massage helps to prevent the atrophy of inactive muscles and can help them maintain good posture despite not being exercised regularly.

“Of course, horses benefit most from a regular massage schedule tailored to their work,” Thomes said. “The more intensive their work or underlying issue, the more regular massage sessions need to be until a level of muscle maintenance is achieved. This varies horse to horse. Massage also works well hand-in-hand with equine chiropractic.”

Thomes advises horse and dog owners their animals might benefit from a massage whenever they become tense, stressed or display soreness. Horses will signal discomfort through body movements.

“They may pin their ears when being saddled or brushed over a certain part of their body,” Thomes said. “They may be stiffer going one way versus another when being ridden or they may just be slightly off. Or, their overall demeanor may seem slightly ‘dull.’ Sometimes, all that is needed is a simple release of tension, which massage can provide.”

“Of course, I advocate massage as a proactive therapy, so would encourage horse owners to consider massage before their horse displays any of these symptoms,” Thomes said.

During a massage, horses will indicate tension release by yawning, moving their jaw, sticking out their tongue, sighing or passing manure.

Thomes can be reached at toplinetherapeutics@gmail.com, or visit Top Line Therapeutics’ Facebook page.