Your horse is a little stiff. Last time you felt like that, you felt terrific after you had a massage. The problem? In some states, massage is considered a veterinary procedure and must be administered, or supervised, by a vet. In fact, equine massage is only one service where licensing is becoming an issue. Equine dentistry (vet vs. having your horse’s teeth floated) and even farrier work is under the microscope.
Equine massage kind of falls into its own category for me. While I certainly like my own massage therapists to be licensed and/or certified, when it comes to horses and body work, some of the people who’ve worked on my horse weren’t certified. Of course, many were, but some of those didn’t do the greatest job. And don’t get me started on equine chiropractors. The very worst one that worked on my horse was actually a vet!
I don’t actually have a problem with certifications but I do draw the line at having your veterinarian required to supervise or provide massage services. If I had to take into consideration the added cost and logistical coordination required to get my vet out every time I wanted my horse to get a massage, they would get them even less than I do! Not to mention, my vets are so busy already, I can’t imagine that they would want to tie up an hour of their time to give my horses massages.
Much of the time I do my own form of massage/acupressure on my horses. I’ve picked up some techniques using Jim Masterson’s CD and workbook and have learned a few things from my saddle fitter,
various vets, and the better massage therapists that I’ve used. Nothing that I do has the potential to injure my horse and it, at least, makes me feel closer to my horses when I have put my hands on them, felt where they are tense or where their muscles are knotted, and where they are sensitive or sore. That baseline of information is very helpful because it lets me know when something has changed in their bodies; information that I can share with my vet if I think there’s something wrong.
But, while I’m safe in Massachusetts if I put my amateur hands on a friends horse, it’s best to know the laws in your state. There is no unified regulation in the US. Each state has its own laws — and the legality of equine massage can change from year to year!
Using this site as a resource, I’ve listed only those states with restrictions:
- Alabama – Only vets can perform
- Alaska – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Arizona – Only vets can perform.
- Arkansas – Only vets can perform.
- Colorado – Requires certification from an approved school.
- Delaware – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Hawaii – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Illinois – Previously allowed, now under discussion
- Indiana — Unclear. “Complimentary or alternative therapy” is defined as the practice of veterinary medicine.
- Iowa – Not specifically called out but, vet board states “animal physical therapy, veterinary acupuncture and acupressure, animal chiropractic, and all other branches or specialties of veterinary medicine” as the practice of veterinary medicine.
- Kansas – Allowed with veterinary supervision.
- Kentucky – Gray area.
- Louisiana – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Maine – Only vets can perform.
- Mississippi – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Missouri – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Nebraska – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Nevada – Gray area.
- New Jersey – Gray area.
- New Mexico – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- New York. Only vets or veterinary techs under vet supervision.
- Ohio – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Oklahoma – Allowed with vet referral.
- Oregon – Allowed with vet referral.
- Pennsylvania – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Rhode Island – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- South Carolina – Vet may delegate.
- Texas – Allowed under general or direct vet supervision.
- Utah — Allowed with vet referral.
- Vermont – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
- Virginia – Vet may delegate.
- Wisconsin – Allowed with direct vet supervision.
Note: I have heard that in some states where “massage” is no longer legal. You can pay someone to “rub” your horse.
What do you think about massage? Should it be performed only by people who have been certified, making it similar to human massage? Should it be regulated as a veterinary practice? Write in and let me know your thoughts.