Equine Sports Massage – A Brief History
Published on Nov 14, 2022

Archaeological evidence of massage has been found in many ancient civilisations, including China, India, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Mesopotamia. The first written records were found in China and Egypt. Several ancient cultures believed that it was beneficial for their health, and the first known Chinese text, “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine,” was written around 2600 BCE (the date is debated).

It is believed that humans have practiced massage for thousands of years, and early in the 1990s, it began to gain popularity among horses as well.

Jack Meagher

The development of Equine Sports Massage Therapy is attributed in large part to Jack Meagher (1925-2005), who is regarded as “the father of equine sports massage”. While working as a physical therapist, Jack developed a technique he called “sports massage,” which addresses the underlying causes of muscular problems before they become injuries.

Jack combined anatomical, physiological, and muscular kinetic applications to treat soft tissues. Sports massage techniques like these became known as the “Meagher Method.”.

A friend asked Jack (in 1970) to “try his magic” on a poor old quarter horse described by Jack as “so old it wasn’t able to pick up his hind legs.” This was the start of Jack becoming the first professional horse massage therapist. Upon discovering the horse’s muscle spasms, Jack is said to have said, “Well, after I worked my magic on that horse, he was as frisky as a colt, and that piqued my interest enough to study horse anatomy and practice on every backyard nag I could find”!

“A muscle is a muscle”

In Jack’s opinion, a muscle is a muscle, and for any athlete, horse or human, the primary concern was to be “as good as possible, as safe as possible, and last as long as possible”. With Jack’s pioneering work and the quarter horse who was able to feel like a colt again, Equine Sports Massage Therapy is now available to all horses and ponies.

Jack served as the massage therapist for two United States Equestrian Teams and National Football League athletes represented by Professional Sports Management. Jack worked with horses and people, tending many of the top horses in the world, leading athletes in a variety of sports, as well as European royalty. In 1976, he served as an assistant coach for the United States Equestrian Teams at the Montreal Olympics and at a number of World Championships in the U.S. and around the world. Jack received the USET certificate of achievement and an honorary membership in the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) in recognition of his work.


jack meagher equine sports massage


THE American Massage Therapy Association

Jack graduated from two massage therapy schools and one physical therapy school. The AMTA hired him as a technical advisor for sports massage. The concepts of sports massage were introduced to massage therapists and athletes through his book Sportsmassage (Doubleday and Station Hill Press, 1985).

Jack’s book was required reading for many schools and the New York State Licensing Board. Jack conducted many teaching seminars on his sports massage technique throughout Canada and the United States for both horses and humans. He was the first recipient of the Dr. Marty Simensen award.

Jack’s publications include: “Beating Muscle Injuries for Horses,” “Beating Muscle Injuries for Runners,” and “Sportsmassage.”

Sadly, Jack Meagher passed away March 6, 2005, but he left a legacy in the world of horses, many benefiting from his sports massage techniques to this day.

About the Author

Louise is a fully qualified Equine Sports Massage and Rehabilitation Therapist working in the Southwest of the United Kingdom.

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