Muscular Cell Repairment in Percussive Massage Therapy: Equine Science

Research is done by Lily Thorgren from Culver Academies with Honors in Equine Science.

The Thumper Equine Pro has been used with remarkable success on racehorses, hunter/jumpers, rodeo and reining horses, dressage horses, eventing, professional cutting horses, polo ponies, draft horses, and chuckwagon teams. It is ideal for horses in training, competition, recovering from an injury, and nervous or sour horses (1).

The Thumper Equine Pro can help relieve muscle aches and improve the attitude of physically strained horses while preventing muscle injuries from developing in prone horses. It can also help compensate for the lack of exercise and muscular contraction in horses because of injury, illness, or age. The percussive action from the Equine Pro increases the blood supply and nutrition to the muscles to prevent the buildup of “fatigue” from strenuous exercise or injury.

What is percussive massage?

  • Breakthrough treatment for soft tissue pain
  • Accelerates growth and repair of tissues
  • Provides concentrated, rapid, short-duration pulses deep into tissues

How will Thumper provide this treatment?

  • Provides short rapid movement
  • Increases blood flow supply to the horses muscles
  • Stimulates tissues to increase time of recovery

The Thumper Equine Pro is a product that provides many different benefits to all breeds of horses, such as injury treatment and injury prevention. This product was fascinating! Graciously, Thumper Massager Inc. donated an Equine Professional Massager to the stables at Culver Academies where it has been used for a wide array of treatments on many of the 85 horses in the stable. Although there are many uses for such advanced technology, the research project narrowed to specifically working with muscle atrophy.

Lily Thorgren

At the Culver Academies stables, there are several older Friesian horses who have significant muscle atrophy. Muscle atrophy in horses, according to Equinews, is “generalized muscle loss that gradually results in weakness… most frequently noticed in the large muscle groups such as those along the topline and over the hindquarters” (2). The concept of atrophy became the basis for research.

Within the project, the hypothesis became: ten minutes of treatment on muscle atrophy each day could increase blood flow to the cells of the muscles in order to help repair damaged muscles in senior Friesian horses.

The three horses that would be used for the research project are Friesian horses.

Thomas, a Friesian gelding born in 1998, arrived at the Academies’ stables in 2003 and is the Squadron Commander Horse for all Parades. Thomas has also led five Presidential Inaugural parades including the most recent in 2021.

The second senior Friesian gelding is Dom Perignon, born in 2002. He arrived at Culver in 2012 and is used as an officer horse for military parade, part of the Friesian Mounted Color Guard, and has participated in three Presidential Inaugural parades. Additionally, Dom Perignon is used for Equestriennes, an honor organization for the Culver Girls Academy, and Equine Science classes.

The third horse that became the control for the research project is Maverick, born in 2005. He is a Morgan/ Friesian cross Gelding that arrived in 2018. Maverick is used as a Varsity Jump horse, Friesian Mounted Color Guard, and participated in the 2021 Presidential Inaugural parade. Additionally, he is used as an officer’s horse for military parades, and Equine Science classes.


Dom Perignon:

  • Equal atrophy in both hips
  • Swayed back

Needs percussive massage of the Longissimus Dorsi and the Gluteals.


  • Severe left hip atrophy
  • Mild right hip atrophy

Needs percussive massage of the Tensor Facia Lata.

Treatment Plan

Dom Perignon:

  • Two and a half minutes on the Longissimus Dorsi on speed 1 to 2
  • Two and a half minutes Gluteals, Tensor Fascia Lata and Quadriceps on speed 3-5


  • Three and a half minutes on the Longissimus Dorsi (left hip) and One and half minutes on the Longissimus Dorsi (right hip) on speed 3-5)
  • Two and a half minutes on Gluteals, Tensor Fascia Lata, and Quadriceps on both sides of the body on speed 1-3


Dom Perignon before:

Dom Perignon after:

Thomas before:

Thomas after:


Dom Perignon:

  • Muscle growth in the topline along the spine
  • Balanced hip musculature growth


  • Hip musculature is balanced
  • Left hip muscle growth
  • Topline flows into hip muscles

Detailed research

Throughout the project, percussive muscle therapy was the focus. According to Fortitude Sports Therapy, “Percussive massage is a breakthrough treatment for soft tissue pain. Percussive massage accelerates the growth and repair of tissues by providing concentrated, rapid, short-duration pulses deep into the tissues of the body” (3). Percussive massage heavily increases blood flow to the area of focus and gently. In humans, it can be successful in recovery from injury, muscle enhancement, and growth, breaking down scar tissue, and elongating muscle fibers alleviating stiffness and restriction of the muscle. Rehabilitation processes are expedited by percussive massage. The Equine Thumper has rapid movement that increases the blood flow of a given area of the horse’s body. This particular product helped to achieve the main goal: reducing the atrophy in the aged Friesians. Both Thomas and Dom Perignon’s muscles were stimulated by the Equine Thumper Pro through percussive massage, resulting in muscle development.

The research process began by studying different ways to use percussive massage to benefit the horses included in the project. Studying the visible atrophy of both horses allowed an understanding of the connectedness of the muscle groups within the horse’s hindquarter. The muscle groups focused on in the project can be seen in figures one and two below. For Thomas, the inner hip was his primary issue, therefore it was important to understand how this tool could be beneficial to his tensor facia lata. The tensor facia lata is a superficial muscle located in the hindquarter and is complex in nature due to its connectedness. This muscle tissue connects to the gluteals, which then connects to the spine. The tensor facia lata also connects to the quadriceps. It is important to understand that these muscles work together to help with the horse’s overall gait and muscle strength. Given Thomas experienced more atrophy on his left hip than the right, treatment was focused on the left side.

The second Friesian, Dom Perignon, was equally atrophied on both sides of his body in his hip muscles and additionally has a swayed back. A swayed back refers to the abnormal bent-back postures that can cause physical damage to the spinal cord and associated ligaments and tendons resulting in severe pain. The longissimus dorsi connects to the gluteals, the large muscle group surrounding the top of his hip. It would be imperative to focus on the longissimus dorsi muscle as well as the gluteals. The gluteals would support his hip joint as well as his longissimus dorsi. A balanced treatment would be done on Dom Perignon since his condition was balanced on both sides of his body.

When finished working through all of the preliminary requirements, the eight weeks of treatment began on both Dom Perignon and Thomas. The first-day treatment was performed was on January 22nd. A ten-minute treatment was done on both horses. For Dom Perignon, the focus was on a balanced treatment on both sides of his body. This included using the thumper on a speed of 1-2 for two and a half minutes on his longissimus dorsi muscle, the major muscle group along the spine, given it is a tender area. Next, the focus moved to working around his gluteals, tensor fascia lata, and quadriceps on a speed of 3-5 on both sides for two and a half minutes. This would become his twice-a-week routine. Additionally, on Thomas, both sides of his longissimus dorsi were worked, focusing more on atrophy in the tensor fascia lata on the left rather than on his right hip. His left hip is more severe than his right and before working a balanced treatment on both, his hips need to even out in muscle tone. Treatments continued for the next eight weeks. Unfortunately, the Thumper was sent out for repair midway through the project. Thumper Massage Inc. responded immediately and sent a replacement allowing the project to continue.

In the reflection, it was noted that there has been significant improvement in the muscle atrophy of both horses. Particularly, there is visible evidence of the drastic improvement in Dom Perignon’s topline. In his before images (see below), Dom Perignon has a swayed back and his hips are equally atrophied. He has more muscle starting at the withers, down the top line, and eventually reaching the hips. His muscles experienced cell repair and rapid growth as seen in the after images (see below) because of the properties in the Equine Thumper that allows blood to have improved circulation in the large muscle groups. Similarly, Thomas has shown great signs of improvement, particularly within the muscle growth of his left hip. As one can see in the ‘before’ images (see below), Thomas had little to no muscle surrounding the point of his hip on the left side. It is now evident that Thomas's muscles improved and his hips have begun to appear more balanced in the after pictures (see below). The extra time spent on his left, more atrophied, hip than his right allowed for the muscle groups on the left to repair quicker to catch up with the right hind end to balance the musculature.

Overall, the Equine Thumper Pro was successful in rehabilitating the atrophied musculature of two senior Friesian horses at Culver Academies, Dom Perignon and Thomas. Percussive massage therapy given to the horses by the Equine Thumper Pro showed success in the hypothesis of the project. The muscles treated by the Thumper had significant growth throughout the eight-week period of treatment. It is apparent that the Thumper performs exactly in the way it is designed. Blood cell respiration increased allowing for muscle repair. The success of the project can be attested to the Equine Thumper Pro and its successful percussive massage.

Works cited: