Animal massage is a viable career path for massage therapists who are interested in working on nonhuman clients, and equine massage has, especially, emerged as a respected specialty.

In new research, massage therapy has been found to increase protraction of horses’ hind limbs, and the researchers say this could have implications for massage’s role in equine performance and rehabilitation.

“Massage is widely used in physiotherapy, but there has been little previous research examining its effectiveness in increasing equine soft tissue length,” noted an abstract published on

The study used a crossover design in which eight horses were randomly assigned to two groups of four horses. Group A received massage for 30 minutes, while group B received sham treatment for 30 minutes. Then, seven days later, the procedure was repeated but with group A receiving sham treatment and group B receiving massage.

Passive hind limb protraction was measured before and after each intervention, using a modified version of the human sit-and-reach test for general muscle flexibility, according to the abstract. Active protraction was measured using two-dimensional kinematic analysis of stride length.

Test results showed massage to the caudal limb muscles significantly increased passive and active limb protraction.

“This study indicates that massage can increase protraction of the equine hind limb,” the researchers noted. “Massage may, therefore, play a valuable role in the development of strategies used to improve a horse’s locomotor function, e.g. during rehabilitation or optimum performance for competition.”

The relationship between massage to the equine caudal hind limb muscles and hind limb protraction” was conducted by researchers art The Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, and published in Equine Veterinary Journal.