Have you ever paid close attention to your equine athletes’ massage? Do you notice when your VE team member does something different or does it just look like we are petting these wonderful athletes for an hour?

In today’s blog we are going to dig a little bit deeper into the different types of strokes we use and why we use them. #DifferentStrokesForDifferentFolks #InThisCaseHorses The strokes we are going to address in this blog consist of effleurage, compression and a cross fibre stroke. While there are a handful more, I figured these were the most common strokes used on virtually every muscle in our equine athletes’ bodies. These strokes are generally the main stokes used for larger muscles, but can also be altered slightly to manipulate some smaller muscle fibers.

Photo by Rockin' A Photography


An Effleurage stroke is basically an introduction stroke and is a great way to warm up the muscles, promoting relaxation prior to applying pressure. Essentially for this stroke you are using a flat palm with light pressure to stroke the muscles in the fibre direction. Essentially this is a soft and long motion going from the muscle origin to insertion…this is where our equine anatomy comes in handy!!  As the muscle starts to relax/warm up and blood is circulating a bit more, you can gradually and slowly increase the pressure applied. This stroke is also very efficient in fluid/lymph drainage, in which you gently flush any inflammation or fluid towards the lymphnodes. However, when discussing lymph drainage, it is very important to note the location of such nodes as to not flush the buildup of fluid in the incorrect direction. It is also important to note that when dealing with drainage, you are not gradually increasing the pressure. The purpose of this stroke during fluid drainage is to gradually and slowly guide the fluid to a drainage outlet but you do not want to force it by increasing the pressure. Increasing the pressure and forcing that fluid to relocate can cause other issues within our horse’s system.


The compression stroke is one of the main strokes used in sport massages. Similar to the effleurage stroke, the compression stroke generally goes in the same direction of the muscle fibers. The upwards thrusting motion actively separates the muscle fibers to break up adhesions and increase circulation. Compression strokes can be used on many muscles/muscle groups as long as practitioners avoid going over top of bony landmarks. Compression can be used at a variety of pressures, tailored to the equine athelete’s needs.


Lastly, we are going to discuss the cross fibre stroke, this stroke is significantly different as this broad stroke is intended to move across the fibres instead of in the same direction of the fibres. This stroke is very efficient in breaking up adhesions and increasing circulation. We as practitioners use this stroke method primarily when there is an area which is difficult to release, as well as any areas where adhesive fibres may be forming. In areas where adhesive fibres are forming it is important to breakup these adhesions as to prevent any limitations within the muscle fibres during the contraction and relaxation phases of a muscle. An example of this would be scar tissue forming an adhesion in the muscle causing and indentation or some form of discontinuation in the muscle fibre which if left to form could interrupt the muscle function. This stroke is used for tight muscles, scar tissue, areas of tension, and more! If your horse has a knot, you better believe we are applying some cross-fibre strokes to release this tension.

Photo by Rockin' A Photography

We hope you enjoyed learning more about our 3 common strokes that we use within our #TeamVE approach. Other stokes we use comprise of myofascial techniques, deep tissue activations and acupressure! Now you know that we are not just petting your horses ;)

The #TeamVE approach is intentional, and we make sure that every muscle we address, is being addressed with intentional strokes. Your horse derserves it.

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