Equine Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a serious business in Bluegrass country.

For the past three years Barbara Haney, of Lecompton, Kansas has been a certified equine massage therapist. At the recommendation of an acquaintance who gave massages to both people and horses, Haney got into equine massage. She explains: “I was talking to a lady who gave massages to both people and horses. She knew I had horses and suggested I get into horse massage, too. She said if I got serious about it I should go to the Western Montana School of Equine Massage in Corvallis, Montana.”

Haney contacted the instructor at the school, Coreen Kelly, about enrolling soon afterward. Since then, she has seen the real benefits of massage therapy in preventing injuries, helping relieve pain, improving circulation and relieving stress in the horses she treats. “I’ve had horses since I was 8 years old. I’ve been around them my whole life,” she said as she leans into her hands as she massages Cowboy’s neck, Haney’s 30-year-old Arab gelding.

She begins just behind his ears to the withers and then moves on to his body. “Horses who have had massages before tend to lean into me as I perform one,” said Haney. “They really seem to enjoy them.” Cowboy soon stands with his lower lip drooping, a sign he is very relaxed.

“It takes a while to get on the list for the school,” said Haney. “She [Kelly] only does one or two sessions a month, and she usually spends the month of July teaching in Ireland. The more I read about her program, the more interested I got.” Kelly perfected her techniques at the Beijing Institute of the Blind and teaches these massage techniques at her ranch.

“She’s legally blind, so she teaches her students to develop their sense of touch so they can determine which methods will work best for each horse,” said Haney. “I rented a cabin about two miles from her place while I was there. I often didn’t get back to my cabin before 7 or 8 p.m., and then studied until midnight.” When students are not in the classroom they are out getting hands on experience working on the horses, she said.

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