A 1-day course in sports massage for your horse

Written by Christine Nilsson, photo by Christine Nilsson and Emma Wold

If you are anything like me, or most horse-people I know, you freak out and call in the cavalry of vets and advisors when your horse has a tiny cut, limp or lump - but shrug off any injury to yourself as long as the limb is still somewhat attached to your body.

I have not had a massage in over six months, but my horse has had plenty – and he loves them. So I signed up for the sports massage course with Gry Catinka Wold wanting to learn about preventing injuries and getting a happier, healthier horse in the process.

I showed up ahead of schedule at beautiful Semb Hovedgård in Horten, with my notepad and pen like a good little student. Chairs were set up in the full barn aisle, and we were four participants which made for a very interactive session. Actually, it felt like we were six participants. Four-legged Diego and Lillen were paying close attention, maybe wondering why we had set up camp in their living quarters, but it really did seem like they were trying to get in on the action!

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Lillen is paying close attention to what is going on in his living quarters - was it possible to get one of those treats if he scores a perfect A?

Gry Catinka Wold is a certified horse massage therapist. She has several years of experience with rehabilitating sports horses and running Stall Nova. Gry started off by sternly telling us that we were only to practice what she was about to teach us on our own horses. Massage is a non-invasive treatment method. However, we are not professionals and needed to be made aware of the situations in which massage is not suitable. Gry quickly presented the different techniques we were about to learn, and then Emma Wold (Gry's daughter and partner at Stall Nova) brought out Diego for a demonstration.

The course was highly practical, and it was about applied learning, which suited all of us perfectly. We were all able to feel and practice on Diego, who seemed to enjoy the 8-hand massage significantly! Brego, Emma's Dole horse and Rey, my own PRE, also got treatments.

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Diego enjoying some serious attention and hands-on practice from eager students.

After a lunch break in the gorgeous gardens of Semb Hovedgård, we had some more theory where Gry introduced basic equine biomechanics and muscle theory. We then got to visit two other horses stabled at Semb, so during the day, we were able to look at horses of different ages, build, injuries and muscle definition which was extremely useful.

Gry is a great teacher and knows how to make critical lessons "stick", and I especially appreciated the practical and holistic structure of the course. We finished by drawing the major muscle groups on one of the thoroughbred geldings with pastel chalk, which he patiently put up with.

Drawing

One of the most important takeaways for me was the importance of knowing your own horse, and be able to identify any changes in their body. We also learned some stretching techniques, which I know I will definitely attempt to apply before and after riding.

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Gry demonstrating shoulder stretch on Rey.

I have seen others do this with their horses before, but I have been too afraid of doing something wrong and causing a strain in my horse to do it myself. Now, I feel more confident that I will be able to apply what I have learnt. Rey is a like a big dog and loves to be scratched and kneaded, I am really looking forward to spoiling my Rey with massages more often from now on.

Thank you Gry Catinka Wold for sharing your wisdom. Overall it was a great day, and I got my hands dirty :)

Hands-dirty

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Gry and Lillen the Shire, Stall Nova.

It was super easy to book and pay for Gry's clinic via Pluvinel. It is fantastic that you can get an overview of all of Gry's upcoming clinics on her Pluvinel profile. In addition you can find other happenings by location too. I know Gry has a few sport massage clinic coming up, which I can highly recommend for curious riders like me.