Equine massage therapist Cindy McVey prepares to work on Hard Spun.
...Cindy McVey, an equine sports massage therapist from Pennsylvania, made a special trip to Kentucky to help get Hard Spun ready for his run for the roses. following victories this year in the Lane's End (gr. II) and LeComte (gr. III) Stakes.
"A small percentage of horses, two or three percent, will get stiff the day after a massage, so it's best to massage a horse 48 hours before a race," said McVey
of the timing of Hard Spun's
(McVey) makes notes, and she
can remember what he
was like before his
other races.If she
finds something different from what he
normally has, we can pay attention to it and see if things are changing."McVey
arrived at Churchill Thursday morning around 10 and got started after Hard Spun finished his
morning meal and settled down.She
started on the colt's left side at the neck and worked her
way down his
body to his
hind left hind leg before moving to his
At times, Hard Spun became restless, tossing his
head and raising one of his
hind feet to kick.
"Easy, boy, easy; no, no, no," said nightwatchman Jeff Poindexter, who was holding Hard Spun's shank and soothing the colt while McVey
"It's not a loosey-goosey, feel-good Swedish massage," McVey
said."It's grueling; it's hard work; and it's tough.I'm pushing very, very hard, and a tremendous amount of toxins will be excreted through his
, who uses only her
hands, starts with a series of "opening" strokes to warm up a horse's muscles and prepare them for treatment.Next she
performs a series of "locating" strokes to find places where the horse is sore.
"You may call it poking and prodding; I call it palpating," McVey
treats each sore spot with direct pressure.
"I use light pressure for 10 seconds, moderate pressure for 15 seconds, and very heavy pressure for 20 seconds," she
said, "The last treatment stroke I use is called cross fiber friction, which is what it sounds like.It's a very small, tiny stroke back and forth, back and forth over the muscle."
According to McVey
, equine sports massage therapy has numerous benefits.
"It stimulates circulation, and it increases the production of synovial fluid, a natural lubricant, in the joints," McVey
said."Massage also increases the range of motion, and it reduces inflammation and swelling in the joints.It relieves tension and eases muscle spasms."McVey, who has been an equine sports massage therapist for three years, has approximately 100 equine clients, and they are involved in variety of sports in addition to racing.
They include hunter-jumpers, barrel racers, and Western Pleasure horses."This is a second career," said McVey, who completed an equine sports massage therapy certification program at Equissage in Round Hill, Va. "For 20 years or so, I was a professional violinist, so this is a quite a change of pace.