EAST HELENA — Horses are athletes, just like people, and like people they get sore, injured, and need to focus on their mental well-being. At Stockman’s EQ and Rehabilitation Center, they do it all.
Annamaria Maier calls her job at Stockman’s a “one man show,” where she is the lead therapist. She studied athletic training at University of Montana and got her certification in equine massage and has been putting the two together ever since. Throughout her time with both human and equine athletes, Maier has noticed some major similarities and differences between the two.
“The similarities between them is that a muscle is a muscle, training, getting in shape for your sport… but horses don’t have egos, they don’t know when their next show or rodeo is, they’re honest beings on the planet, they are not there for the buckle or the paycheck, they have a servant's heart, and that’s the difference by a longshot,” she said.
At Stockman’s they offer post-injury rehab, VibraPlate sessions, thermography scans, and equine massages. Though getting your horse massaged may sound strange, it’s just as beneficial for them as it is for humans.
“They need to destress like humans do, the psychological part is pretty big. The physical part, same as we do, it releases knots, toxins, helps them move better, compete better, it helps them move and stay healthy longer,” Maier said.
As for VibraPlate sessions, it's a shaking platform that gets the blood flowing, wakes up tensed muscles, and improves the range of motion in joints. Maier even says it helps with stomach aches.
Since horses can’t communicate with us — verbally, at least — Maier has a thermography camera that can help reveal pain points.
“Our thermography camera shows hot and cold spots, if they’re cold where they ought to be hot, it shows a lack of circulation, which shows injury, or increased circulation shows an acute injury that needs to be attended to. A horse can’t tell you 'my lower back hurts' but if they aren’t moving right, or clearing their jumps that thermography camera is just one more tool to help in the communication of horses telling us where they’re sore.”