International Association of Animal Therapists
Case Study


Massage to Stimulate Hair Follicles

Bronwen is a 25-year-old, 15.2, Cob ex - broodmare, who had been with her previous owner from the age of 2 until 22. She then was taken on by her current owners.

As a two-year-old, she injured her tail by catching it in a barbed-wire fence. The wound was then bandaged too tight, became infected and the tail had to be amputated, leaving her with around 8cm of dock. Adding to this, the dock is bent in the middle at 45° to the left – which over time resulted in restricted tail movement, and constantly holding her tail to the left.

The little hair that remained was a maximum of 10cm long, brittle, sparse, greasy, and never grew. This was not helped by the fact that her diet consisted of a leaf of hay twice a day, which meant she spent several hours at a time with no food. Her water bucket was also very rarely cleaned out. The hairs did not grow long enough to protect her from the flies, and so she has always suffered from mild infections in her genital area. Due to her very rarely being turned out and lack of proper nutrition, she lacked muscle tone and had a dull and greasy coat.

As a 22-year-old, she moved to her current life of 24-hour turnout, with several other herd members, access to Forage Plus supplements, marigold, rosehips, and seaweed. She also receives grass pellets in the winter to help maintain her weight. There was a rapid change in coat quality – it became smooth, shiny, and free of grease. Her tail hair also improved in quality, however, there was still stunted growth.

I began to massage her in Spring 2020, particularly focussing on her hindquarters due to her lumbar tension, but also specifically targeting the base of the tail, hamstrings, and dock.

After three sessions, we noticed a significant change in tail posture and ease of movement – post-massage she was able to swing the dock to both sides relatively equally and smoothly. Previously, any movement was jerky and looked difficult.

Once the base of the tail had relaxed, I began to manipulate it in slow rotations to encourage and improve flexion. At first, there was resistance, but eventually, things loosened up – in a right rotation, the bent part of her dock clicked and immediately was freed.

Since her massages began, Bronwen has shown exponential tail growth, to the point where her dock is no longer visible and her genitals are fully covered with tail growth. The longest part of the hairtail is now upwards of 30cm and consists of several strands.

There is still a tendency for her to hold her tail to the left, and there will always be a bend in the dock – however, the overall hair quality, length, thickness, and growth has significantly improved resulting in a very content Bronwen. This case study was so interesting for me to work through, as it highlighted the ability of massage to stimulate hair follicles and so positively influence hair growth.

A case study conducted by IAAT Member Fiona Egeler (member number 1659)

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