A peppier Peppy

As I was chatting with a friend my cell phone went off. I answered it and heard a gentleman introduce himself as Doug Bowe, a Cutter trainer.

“What may I do for you Doug?” I asked.

“I heard about you and what you do. I was wondering what Equine massage therapy is.”

So I told him the basic idea behind it and he jumped right on by saying “I have 3 horses I want massaged, when do you think you can come out?”

We set a date for his horses. My day was booked! I had three horses to do in Oregon and one in Washington. This was pretty exciting for me.

The day arrived and off I went to Doug’s ranch. Upon exiting the van I found myself shaking hands with a kind hearted guy. He was Doug, the Cutter trainer. We headed off to his barn and as it turned out he and I knew another horseman. That did it. We were fast friends and have plans to ride together.

One of his horses I did for him was an eight-year-old mare. Doug told me that she was his favorite cutting horse. Peppy’s neck was tight but I find this to be common among horses. Peppy loved her neck massaged and made several attempts to groom me back, making Doug laugh.

As I worked my way along her body, massaging out knots in her pectorals and back, I thought Peppy was in great shape. This was true until I found a rather tight muscle under her tail and inside one of her hindquarters. Peppy reacted right away by kicking out to the side. She did not catch me though her attempts were only half hearted; Peppy just wanted me to know that she was hurting there. I spent quite some time massaging this big fat knot out. Peppy soon relaxed realizing that the knot was reducing and the discomfort was fading.

I was quite thrilled that this was the only serious spot. I complimented Doug for his good care as his horses had wonderfully smooth skin and shiny coats.

“Pasture grass and local hay.” He told me. “That’s all they need.” Well, that explained it, simple diet, hard work and having fun! I think I be a happy horse in his care.

Several days later Doug reported back to me.

“Peppy is softer and responds with lightness and more willingly than before.” Thumbs up! Doug experienced a peppier Peppy!

Angel moves like an angel

One day I sat at my computer doing some work when an email found it way into my inbox. I paused to take a look and saw that it was a horse breeder seeking a massage. She wanted her horses done and asked me to come out to her operation. As she told me she had 15 horses I arranged for an examination of the horses to hand pick which one needed the massage done. After spending some time at her place I choose an older mare as my first client with her.

Angel was tight through out her body. When I started massaging her, she did some dancing around but I stuck with her, gently talking and stroking her neck with one hand. After a while Angel settled down and allowed me to massage her without fuss. I focused mainly on her neck, shoulder, lower back, and hindquarters. Angel soon relaxed into my hands. Her head lowered and she licked and chewed in understanding and relief. I smiled knowing that Angel was feeling better.

I walked away from the session feeling pleased, and my happiness went up when the breeder contacted several days later. She excited told me that Angel was now cantering in the pastures and being her old Alfa mare self. As Angel was feeling good, she rolled and kicked, and played like a young filly. Wow! Angel moves like an angel!

Dolly, why she’s Lucky!

As I touched the mare for her third massage she leaned into my hands. I haven’t even started and Dolly was all ready asking for a massage. That day was going to be a unique day. As her neck and hind quarter muscles were tight that was my main focus. Dolly was feeling in good spirits and we did a lot of moving around. As I worked away on the neck muscles she started chewing, licking her lips and leaning more into my hands. Soon it felt like I was supporting that old mare! My, she was really getting into the softening of muscles!

I spent a great deal of time digging deep into Dolly’s neck muscles before moving on, to work on her hind quarters. There was one muscle that concerned me, the one under her tail and inside the leg. It was tight on both sides and I was determined to loosen them up. It took some time, technique variations and patience but I manage to soften them. Still not satisfied with the neck muscles I returned to working on them. Dolly, to my pleasant surprise, kept turning her head and nuzzling me with her nose. It felt as if she was both observing me and thanking me for the ease of tightened muscles. Soon I was done and feeling happy and seeing Dolly turn her head to where her nose could touch her shoulder on her own gave me the satisfaction for that session.

I will now work on Dolly once a month to maintain the softness in her muscles. I am sure looking forward to working with her again. She is so sweet and understanding. I know that she loves receiving her massage!

Dolly, her leg?

I was asked by someone at the stable where I ride to massage her mare. I listened with fascination as she explained the case.
Dolly fell ill as a result of eating a toxic plant in her paddock. The owner gave her medicines and very little happened. Her leg swelled with the trapped toxins which were addressed by wrapping a towel around it to reduce the swelling. This helped slow it down but still needed help.

After hearing about Dolly’s case I scheduled a massage right away. It took place a week after she became ill. When I saw her there was no question about it—she was recovering but not well. Her right foreleg was swollen twice the size. I started off with the bonding, a way of getting to know the horse through touch around the head, under the jaw and finding the favorite spots and rubbing or scratching them.

After I bonded with her and gained her trust I proceeded to massage her. I worked my way down one side then started over on the other. Her leg was warm physically but burning hot with negative energy. After spending a good amount of time on her swollen leg I finished the massage.

I went home dirty but happy. I helped an ill, older mare feel better by opening her blood flow and softening her muscles. Several days later I called to check in on Dolly. I was told that her swelling went down vastly. This is because the toxins were pushed and moved as I massaged and it went into her body and the body naturally rid it self of it. I hope to lay my hands on her soon!


“Vaughn recently massaged two of my horses – a 13 year old Morgan and a 3 year old MFT/Arab. In both cases he found issues with them that I wasn’t aware of.

In my Morgan, he found tight neck muscles and as he massaged, my horse, Pepper started making snorting like sounds I had never heard him make before&elipse;as he continued working, Pepper stretched out his neck and yawned many times. This horse had been recovering from a severe case of strangles so I hadn’t been riding him the past two months. I was concerned about how long it was taking him to recover…the massage was his first one —I was impressed with Pepper’s reaction during the massage…not only the snorting, yawning, stretching but also just looking and standing very relaxed. Afterwards, he has seemed increasingly brighter, more himself each day. I think the massage may have had an affect on his lymphatic circulation as well as loosening up tight muscles. At any rate, his recovery seemed to have been given an extra push with Vaughn’s massage.

Zeke, my 3 yr old ½ Arab also received a massage. I was expecting everything to be fine because of his youth and his clean confirmation. Vaughn however found some tight muscles in his back that led to an investigation of the saddle I had been using on him. I’ve now switched saddles and those back muscles are feeling loose again. Zeke is also not objecting to the saddling process as he was before.”

Leslie Neumann

Vaughn has worked on several horses for me. One of the horses had strain and fatigue from rigorous weekend clinic, one was recovering from a systemic illness, and another was having bending problems in training. In all three cases, Vaughn was able to provide noticable relief for these horses, and was able to point out specific problem areas where the horse needed more attention, to maintain the horses level of comfort and performance.

I highly recommend Vaughn Brown as a massage therapist for your horse. His strengths are his innate feel, his findings and observations, and his genuine love for the horse.

Leslie A. Neumann
dressage trainer
Vancouver, WA

Levi’s Story

One March morning I received an email from a concerned horse owner. She told me his story. Levi’s current owner explained that she wanted to find a way to make him feel better. I agreed to pay them a visit.

The afternoon of the massage turned out to be cold and wet. Rains persisted through out the entire day. I made a quick phone call to make sure we would be working indoors before heading out. Arriving at the barn I and a friend who drove me found Levi in good spirits. He did his best to hide his discomfort but it still remained obvious.

After chatting with his owner for a few minutes I went to have a conversation with Levi. He told me that he was holding a lot of negative emotions in. I spoke to the owner on this and she followed up with a brief story that explained it.

He was born into a Halter discipline, where he received rough treatment. He was gelded at a later age, too. She noted that the owner before her allowed a heavier rider to ride him, leading to part of his soreness issue. The good news was the Western saddle weighed only 15 pounds and fitted Levi perfectly. The weight of a rider and saddle combined should weigh no more than %20 the horse’s weight.

Levi had trouble trusting others but he still had a friendly attitude toward life. I massaged Levi the first day, exploring his comforts and discomforts.

He had superficial tightness in his dorsi muscles and right hindquarter. His offside appeared to be the most problematic. Listening carefully to my intuition I slowly loosened his knotted muscles.

The relief showed itself quite plainly. Levi lowered his head, licked his lips, and had a soft look in his eye and posture. I quietly told Levi that he was a good boy and that he was receiving help to ease his physical and emotional discomforts. Levi’s owner wrote the next day saying that he was so much better and snapping his teeth less.

I made several more visits after that. Each time I saw him Levi showed strong improvement. His muscles became softer and his emotions were less suppressed. He became more playful and moved better. His owner reported Levi’s attitude improving as he was in lesser pain. During the sessions I felt that Levi was out in his lower back. I also thought his diet may need some adjusting. A second animal massage therapist came in with vibrating forks, which uses vibration to stimulate and relax tight muscles. She seconded the opinion that Levi should receive further treatment.

Levi received some help from a holistic vet by the name of Dr. Mark DePalo. Dr. DePalo, who is a friend of mine, had a similar observation. He quickly changed Levi’s diet and did some bodywork. Mark also insisted on performing a hair analysis. This is what truly determines diet related problems, and with this information an animal’s diet can be modified correctly. I suggest this as it can cut down on costs and investments in the future. Here is what Levi’s owner reported back.

“His ulcer is gone but he is on a supplement called EXCEL to protect the tummy. Dr. DePalo said 90 percent of his farm calls this year are ULCERS. He believes it is due to the cold weather we had & the horse not being used to it. The last time he saw it this bad was the flood of 1996.

Levi was much better. Dr. DePalo adjusted him all over, and now it’s a wait and see. Most health problems are related to nutrition problems such as allergies,cushings, muscle soreness etc. Often it involves mineral & electrolyte deficiencies & heavy metal toxicities. Blood testing would show normal while hair shows serious imbalances. 8 out of 10 horses came back with some sort of irregularity. Many of the horses came back with serious lack of electrolytes, iron, zinc, chromium, selenium, & cobalt.”

I will continue to pay visits to Levi to ensure his health. This experience was wonderful for everyone involved. Each one of us learned new knowledge and gained new insights. I thank Levi and his owner for allowing me to share this journey with them.

My back hurts

It was a hot, dry summer’s day. I had just done three horses that morning and was on the way to a therapeutic riding stable to massage my fourth client.

Earlier that week I landed myself a volunteer position as a massage therapist for Healing Winds, a therapeutic riding stable. The instructors had never heard of Equine massage so they asked me to come out and try it on their horses. I walked into the barn and introduced myself as the therapist. The instructors showed me the horse, a 15 hand mare, who they wanted me to massage.

“Had she been showing any problems or behavior issues?” I asked as the mare sniffed my outstretched hand.

“Yes, a matter of fact she is showing some behavior we are unsure of. She does not like being saddled and this is a recent problem.”

I started massaging the mare’s neck while I pondered my next question.
“Does she have any ulcers?” The instructors didn’t think so. One of them did step forward and started looking for sores.

“She has an ulcer on her front, right leg. It looks to be a cinch sore.”
Yes! That was indeed part of the problem. They were thankful that I pointed this out to them and started applying ointment right away. Thank goodness!

The mare’s neck was rather tight requiring me to spend a good amount of time on it. As I worked along her body I paid close attention to her reactions and muscular layout. The mare started to doze under my working hands.

“At least she is enjoying it.” I thought to myself as I massaged her near foreleg. “I’m glad.”

As soon as I touched her back the mare woke up and looked back at me. Oh no! That meant trouble! And indeed it was trouble for as I gently pressed down I could feel big, lumpy knots. They were the biggest knots I’ve seen in a very long time.

I started off with light massage to help the mare know that I was not trying to hurt her. She was not convinced. Who can blame her? It occurred to me that this would require the most attention and time. OK, so let’s put the rest of the body on the back burner for a while, no rush. Moving carefully, exploring with my fingertips, and slowly applying pressure I started the most aggressive deep tissue massage I’ve done so far in my career.
The mare was handling the massage quite well and moving only when she needed to. The knots, some as big as baseballs, slowly reduced to the size of a quarter and right down to the size of a dime. Finally the knots were mostly out if not completely gone. I explained to the instructors that this horse should be check regularly to insure comfort.

I finished up the massage without further concerns and hugged her at the end. She nuzzled my hand and as I stroked her forehead and massaged her ears the mare dozed off again. The instructors asked me to come back in a week to do multiple sessions. I agreed, shook hands and left, the horse watching me with a smile in her eyes.

The next day I received a note from one of the instructors. The once sore and unhappy mare was now playing in the field and acting filly like! Well shucks, she is eighteen years old after all but comfort goes a long ways, don’t you think?

Skech in need!

I study Dressage under instruction of Leslie. She and I are now wonderful friends and support each other greatly. One day while untacking my Dressage horse (he’s a wonderful teacher), Leslie mentioned a horse she was working with. She told me that he was not moving straight and that he was having problems with his paces, even on his own. I listened intently as I rubbed Slick’s neck giving him my healing chi. I did not make any comment that day and went home pondering the situation deeply.

I called her up the next day to arrange for another lesson and mentioned Skech, the horse she was having problems with. She invited me to massage Skech after our lesson. When I met Skech and he told me all of his troubles; it was clear to see that he was a very willing horse, doing as you asked without you needing to touch him, but in much pain.

When I touched him I at once felt nothing but slabs of cement for muscles. I massaged him slowly, carefully but deeply. Skech took immense pleasure in the release of his muscles, as painful as it was. He was so badly twisted that his back and limbs were out of place.

I massaged his whole body and found many muscular problems. I did not, by any means, fix him. However, his blood circulation became so much better. His muscles were as soft as clay, not the softest but certainly better than before!

Skech was leased to the stable and returning home that week. There was no way I could “fix” him for he needed a lot of sessions to loosen him up. I was quite pleased with the results though, so was Leslie and most importantly, Skech. That poor fellow just touched my heart. I wanted to pay for his lease and take him on for another three months. Of course, that could not happen.

As I observed Leslie touching him I noticed how he moved smoother when Leslie asked him to, how he picked his feet up with more grace, how his shoulders, hips and hind quarters were more flexible. I learned much from Skech, he taught me a great deal and he is a perfect example of a horse in need. His mind was gentle enough, his heart caring but his body in more pain than any reasoning person could handle. Skech is a great example for those who tend to be viewed as “problem” horses but who are not at all “troubled” but need help in other ways.

Thank you Skech and Leslie for letting me help with my massage techniques. I will never forget the feeling of sorrow when I touched him the first time and the feeling of joy when he softened under my healing hands. Working with a horse should always, 100 percent, be a humbling experience. I was greatly humbled by Skech’s cries for help and his relief an hour later.