Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

Equine Pre-Veterinary/Pre-Graduate Studies-BS


Equine Science


Steffanie V. Burk, Ph. D.

First Committee Member

Sheri S. W. Birmingham, DVM

Second Committee Member

Cynthia Laurie-Rose, Ph. D.


Massage Therapy, Equine Massage, Creatine Kinase

Subject Categories

Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Other Animal Sciences | Veterinary Medicine


Horses are elite athletes, and many of them receive specialized care to keep them operating at their highest potential. Alternative modalities of healing- such as equine massage- have begun to grow in the equine world due to many perceived benefits. Equine massage is thought to decrease inflammation and reduce muscle tension and soreness. The aim of this study was to observe the effect of equine massage on creatine kinase (CK) levels in the blood following intense work. A total of 12 horses were randomly assigned to either the control group (n=6) or the test group (n=6). All horses were exercised heavily. Horses warmed up the same number of laps in the arena following a set walk/trot/canter protocol, galloped continuously at 350 meters per minute for 9 minutes, and then cooled off to the discretion of the rider. Horses in the massage group received a full body massage approximately 2 hours post-exercise. Blood samples were taken from each horse at 24 hours prior to, 24 hours post-, and 48 hours post-exercise. All samples were shipped to Cornell University for analysis of CK. Mean CK levels for the control and experimental groups were compared at each time point using a two-way mixed-design ANOVA. There were no statistical differences or trends observed when comparing mean CK levels between the groups, showing no effect of the equine massage on plasma CK levels. Future studies should evaluate additional time points, inflammatory markers, and behavioral responses.