Although massage therapy is usually associated with day spas and medical facilities, human massage techniques are also used on ranches and race tracks, and in equestrian sports associations. In the equine massage therapy field, equine massage therapists treat horse athletes. These professionals help high-performance horses improve muscle tone, reduce muscle spasms, relieve tension and increase agility. Because there are no formal educational requirements for an equine massage therapy career, salaries depend on professionals’ level of training and job qualifications. Equine massage therapists commonly work on a client basis and charge an hourly fee.
Since horses cannot speak, it is up to equine massage therapists to identify and treat where horses have strained or injured a muscle. Equine massage therapists are paid by horse owners and trainers to diagnose the horse’s condition using soft-tissue therapy, fascial release and stretching techniques. Their goal is to increase horses’ muscle strength and circulation, and focus on preventative therapy to build endurance. One of the primary causes of poor performance of horses is musculoskeletal injuries, according to the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. Likewise, horse owners and trainers increasingly rely on equine massage therapists to help their horses compete at full potential.
As of October 2011, the average fee for a one-hour equine massage therapy session fell between $40 and $75, according to the equine massage therapy training school Animal Dynamics. Sessions lasting approximately 20 minutes averaged between $20 and $25. Southern Illinois University Carbondale stated that equine massage therapists averaged between $50 and $100 per session as of October 2010. Typically, these sessions lasted from 45 minutes to one hour. Other professionals charge according to treatment, which can start at approximately $250. Because most equine massage therapists are self-employed and work as independent contractors, average salaries vary significantly. Rates also depend on factors such as professional experience, clients serviced and work location.
Education and Training
Unlike veterinarians or equine physical therapists, previous training in disciplines such as physical therapy is not required to become an equine massage therapist. However, industry organizations such as the International Federation of Registered Equine Massage Therapists (IFREMT) have established professional standards and examinations to certify therapists working in the field. Professional designation, as well as educational credentials from a school with qualified instructors, can increase salary potential for equine massage therapists.
Horse owners and trainers increasingly rely on equine massage therapists to help horses compete at full potential. Animal Dynamics predicts that equestrians, trainers and owners will continue to pursue non-surgical and holistic treatments for horses.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also expects jobs for animal care and service workers to grow 21 percent through the year 2018. Moreover, jobs for veterinary technologists and technicians are expected to increase 36 percent during the same period. Since veterinary professionals will likely work with individuals who have expertise in horse muscular anatomy, the job outlook should be positive for equine massage therapists.