Therapeutic Insight: The Myofascial Release Perspective—Animal Friends Part 1, MASSAGE Magazine

I have been successfully treating animals (racehorses, dogs, cats and birds) for many years now. The myofascial release techniques you will learn in our introductory course, Myofascial Release I, will teach you not only to evaluate humans, but also your animal friends successfully.

Years ago, a friend of mine who had some racehorses called me. He had a 2-year-old horse that had wonderful conformation, with great potential. Every time they would run this horse, it would go lame within 100 yards or so. My friend was an interesting guy who had a very successful business where he had picked every one of his employees based on their astrological charts. You wouldn’t have thought their talents had any relationship to the business, but whatever he did, it worked for him. I was up at his ski house once, and most of the time he had his head buried in this magazine. Eventually I said to him, “What is it you are reading?” He said he was looking up information on horses because he was going to buy a racehorse. I said “Well, do you know anything about racehorses?” and he answered, “No.” I said, “Aren’t they rather expensive?” and he replied, “Yes. I’m going to pick my horse by his astrological chart.” Oh right!

He paid $19,000 for this horse. After he purchased the horse, he called me and was very upset about this horse’s performance; it wasn’t doing well. He had taken it to New Bolton Center, which is one of the leading veterinary centers in the world, based out of the University of Pennsylvania. The vets had done everything they possibly could and eventually told him, “There is nothing else we can do for this horse. If you keep running him, he is going to be destroyed. The only thing you can do is put him out to pasture.”

This certainly was a huge financial problem for my friend. He loves animals and really cared about this animal, so he called me and told me the situation and asked me to treat his horse. I told him I didn’t know anything about horses, but he kept after me—and I kept telling him I didn’t know anything about horses! He was persistent and eventually he said, “Listen John, I read your chart last night. Do you know you’re a healer?” I said yes, and he added, “But I mean for animals, too.” I knew I was sunk, so I said OK and made arrangements for him to pick me up the next morning. After I hung up the phone, I quieted down and asked myself, What was this horse’s problem? I got a picture of the left forequarter of a horse with a big red swirl on the left shoulder and another one down near the hock.

On the way to the stable the next morning, I asked where the horse’s problem was and my friend said, “The left forequarter.” Interesting, I thought. We took a couple other people up with us, and when we arrived at the stable, they brought this magnificent animal out. Now here I am looking at this horse, and this horse is looking at me, and I’m thinking, now what do I do? So I thought, well, I know something about the energy system of a human being, maybe I ought to check this horse’s energy first. So, in those days, the only thing I really knew about horses was that the front end bit and the back end kicked and did other things. So, I made a big sweep around the ends. I started to feel the energy on the right side and eventually got around to the left forequarter. Sure enough, right where I had seen the red swirl, I felt a tremendous amount of heat pouring out of him. I also felt a lot of heat on an area called the hock, which is just above the hoof. I then started to check the tissue texture and I felt this hard, gristly buildup in those hot areas. It was very similar to what I felt with human beings, but a much bigger version of it. The trainer was holding the horse by the bit, so I started doing some elbow work and some strumming-type techniques on the horse. We had somebody on the other side of the horse to help stabilize and to be sure the horse wouldn’t move away.

I will continue this fascinating story about my experience with this racehorse that transformed from being a cripple to shattering records racing next month in my “Therapeutic Insight” article.


John Barnes, MASSAGE Magazine

John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is an international lecturer, author and acknowledged expert in the area of myofascial release. He has instructed more than 50,000  therapists worldwide in his Myofascial Release approach, and he is the author of Myofascial Release: the Search for Excellence (Rehabilitation Services Inc., 1990) and Healing Ancient Wounds: the Renegade’s Wisdom (Myofascial Release Treatment Centers & Seminars, 2000). He is on the counsel of Advisors of the American Back Society; he is also on MASSAGE Magazine’s editorial advisory board and is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association.  For more information, visit

For more information about myofascial release, you can now access two separate excerpts from the Fireside Chat with John F. Barnes, PT DVD on YouTube. Just click on the following links:

Part 1

Part 2

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