The First Meeting: You
It starts off with meeting the owner/rider/trainer (or all 3 in some cases) to figure out what the goals of the massages are. I'll be trying to determine these goals from our first telephone conversations. Some clients just want their horse to move better, some would like more relaxation. Either way I have to complete the dreaded paperwork. This should only take 5 to 10 minutes total depending on the complexity of the horse.
You are welcome to stay, watch and ask questions.
I like to approach the horse (if not on his own terms in his stall) with something that is routine and normal. I am a new person with very different energy and intentions and this can be unnerving for some horses. I like to brush the horse down from head to tail to identify any chronically sore areas before I apply any pressure and to introduce myself to the horse.
Next I like to watch the horse move. On a lunge line, free in a round pen or walking up and down an aisle. All are good ways for me to analyze the horse's movement. I prefer young horses to be lunged or free in a round pen.
The Initial Massage
After the gait analysis, we bring the horse to a quiet area of the barn free from distractions (if possible) where the horse feels comfortable. That's when I start in on the initial massage. This massage can go smoothly or it can be kind of choppy. This all depends on your horse. If you have a young horse you'll notice that I break it up to keep their attention.
Within this initial massage I'll be able to identify areas of tension and/or pain and hopefully the horse will allow me to release that tension. If trigger points are causing the restriction of movement and are active and painful most horses will not allow me to release those until we've built up a better relationship (usually session 2).
The moral of this story is not to be discouraged if your horse didn't improve as much as you initially expected after only one treatment. The big improvements usually happen after 2 or more sessions.