The History of Equine Massage

A look into the origin of equine massage.

Information on the history of equine massage and where it all began.

Over 200 years old, equine massage is the oldest healing behavior known to man. Whilst the basis of massage are unchanged, there are modern therapies and techniques which have evolved over this time and niches which will continue to develop. Equine massage greatly owes itself to Jack Meagher (pronounced Mar), born in 1924 who was known as the “father of sports massage” where he began his journey as a physical therapist, where he later built upon his foundations in the industry of equine massage.

"Equine massage is the oldest healing behavior known to man."

Jack Meagher Equine Physical Therapist
Jack Meagher - Equine Physical Therapist

Being a World War II medic, he attended the Massachusetts School of Physical Therapy before dedicating his life to solely working with athletes. Through working for the NFL he developed a technique known as sports massage which led him to diagnose the underlying issues effecting muscles before developing to become sports injuries. It was purely by accident that he became the first professional equine sports massage therapist.

Image © Wilson Meagher Sports Therapy

“Well, when I got through with that horse, he was as frisky as a colt.”

Jack Meagher Equine Physical Therapist

It was through one of his clients who owned an old broken-down quarter horse, in fact so old he could barely pick up his hind legs. Meagher was asked to work his magic and by treating muscles spasms in which he found, similar to those that his master suffered, he said “Well, when I got through with that horse, he was as frisky as a colt” and taken from his own words, that is what got him interested enough to study the anatomy of the horse and “practice on every backyard nag I could find.”

Maintaining his human practice half the week, he spent the rest of his time serving as the first equine massage therapist for the U.S Olympic Equestrian Team at numerous International Championships where trainers who used him to treat their horses identified a 20% increase in performance following treatment. With the quality of his work being a success he was high in demand. The Jack Meagher Institute of Sports Massage was established along with two books written detailing his techniques before he sadly died in 2005.

Quoting “a muscle is a muscle”, in his mind the primary interests for any athlete albeit a human or a horse are:

  1. To be as good as possible.
  2. To be as safe as possible.
  3. To last as long as possible.

From the story of the ‘broken’ quarter horse feeling like a colt and his proven success in the benefits of equine massage where horses perform more efficiently, lets continue to evolve the techniques used and allow our horses to enjoy being treated in the most natural and long lived way of healing.

It is from this pioneering moment in history, in which I endeavor to achieve the same result by massaging and being able to help many horses throughout many disciplines perform and improve their general well-being.

Nikki Hall massaging Ruby