HANSVILLE — LeAnna Whisperinghorse’s hands broadly stroke Wyeth’s golden coat. They then pinpoint muscles looking for anything that might indicate a problem.
Whisperinghorse has combined her career as a conventional massage therapist with her love for horses. She has practiced human massage and holistic healing for the past 13 years. Her relationship with horses began about 16 years ago.
“If a creature is getting worked on regularly you can smooth out the molehills so it doesn’t become a mountain,” Whisperinghorse said.
In the state of Washington only a person who is a certified massage therapist and certified in horse massage can practice, Whisperinghorse said. Also if a horse is recovering from an injury, a veterinarian must give the OK before massage is applied.
Although Wyeth can’t say if he is enjoying or benefiting from the treatments, he can indicate his feelings through body language.
If Whisperinghorse hits a sore spot the animal might flinch, if he is feeling relaxed, then he might lower his head. But just like with people, every horse is different.
“I was working on my own horse and I had done one half of his body. He began walking around in a circle,” This usually indicates there is something wrong with the horse, she said. “Then he laid down,” she continued. The horse was far from being ill, it was relaxing.
Massage as in humans can improve the immune system, improve disposition, and increases circulation.
On a typical visit Whisperinghorse will talk to the horse’s owner and see if there is something going on with the animal. She’ll also introduce herself to the horse and get a sense of what needs to be done during the session. A session lasts from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
Whisperinghorse received her training at a school in California that specializes in equine massage.
She demonstrates using compression to help the muscle relax. She uses pressure until the muscle is fatigued and relaxes on its own.
“The fingertips and the muscle are having a conversation, then they begin to relax,” she said.
Although the field of horse massage is relatively new, with about nine people who are certified in the state, it is a systematic approach to healing or preventing injury.
“There is a science to it,” Whisperinghorse said.