RQF Registered equine therapy courses in Devon

Equine therapy courses faq

Equine Sports Massage Course FAQ

Course Contents

The L4 ESM course covers an extremely comprehensive, wide ranging syllabus designed to provide all graduates with an understanding of the management of the professional horse in an athletic sphere . Subjects covered include: 

  • Extensive Equine Anatomy and Functional Anatomy
  • Farriery  and Foot balance
  • Saddlery, tack and training aids
  • Understanding and managing injury, disease and health
  • Conditioning and training requirements

Crucially we look in detail at the interaction between the rider and the horse and how rider balance throughout equestrian movements affects the horse’s balance and athletic response.  We consider the difference in demand on the horse of separate disciplines so our  therapists understand the different therapeutic needs of the various horses on which they work.  

This depth of understanding helps to produce therapists who do not need  to rely on a routine but who are capable of finding problems and choosing the most appropriate manual therapy treatment approach in each individual situation.

Happy hackers, leisure horses and horses recovering from injury also benefit from the knowledge of our therapists who can explore and understand their different needs.  Our therapists consider each horse in depth on its own merits.

Why do we ask for human massage experience?

On our Equine Sports Massage Therapy course, we do not teach our students how to massage; instead we teach how to apply their existing manual skills to the horse in a way which will ensure every horse receives an individual treatment which is right for their body, their physical issues, and addresses the demands of their discipline or work as evident on that day for that specific horse.

For this reason we ask for a qualification, preferably at Level 3*, in human massage. This ensures graduates are able to work on both horse and rider, but more importantly as students, that they have a baseline knowledge of massage and good manual skills and can progress forward together in the equine training. In our experience the human background produces far better independent, thoughtful practitioners at the end of training.

Students may undertake their human training from any approved source but, to ensure there is one course available which fits with our timescales and standards we have linked with a local therapy training centre.

Students are not required to use this centre but it is an example of the type of training needed. Active IQ Level 3 Sports Massage Therapy Diploma — Ali Sizmur Poise, Power, Performance (sportsandequineperformance.co.uk)

*alternative qualifications may be accepted, please contact us to discuss.

ESM Course Frequently Asked Questions
ESM Course Frequently Asked Questions

What are the entry standards for the course?

Pre-requisites for the Level 4 Diploma in Equine Sports Massage are:

  • 5 GSCE passes at A-C including English (or equivalent)
  • Applicants must be 21 years of age at commencement of the course
  • Qualification in human massage, preferably at level 3 [The level of human experience may affect ESMA Membership – please discuss this with us on application]*
  • 3 years experience in a professional yard (supported by references)*

*Applicants who do not strictly meet this criteria should contact Helen Tompkins to discuss their experience levels.

What professional standing will I gain from the Open Awards Level 4 Diploma in Equine Sports Massage?

The Open Awards accredited Diploma course is the only equine massage qualification registered on OFQUAL’s Regulated Qualifications Framework

The Diploma course is also Quality Assured and Accredited by the Animal Health Professions Register and successful completion of the course entitles our graduates to direct entry on to this national, RCVS recognised, Register of Therapists

Depending on each graduate’s level of human massage training, they may be entitled to membership of the Equine Sports Massage Association. Different tiers of membership may apply depending on each therapist’s experience. 

Who teaches on this course?

The lead tutor is Helen Tompkins, Veterinary Physiotherapist, who has delivered this course via her training company Animal Therapy Solutions for 5 years. Prior to this time Helen taught equine massage for 7 years alongside the late Mary Bromiley FCSP, who developed the original training course in 1997. Helen has a busy clinical practice throughout Devon and also provides clinical training for veterinary physiotherapy students from Harper Adams and Nottingham Universities.

Various visiting experts join us to deliver lectures in specialist areas such as equitation,  saddlery and farriery.  Another equine sports massage therapist is present to assist with practical sessions so we have a very low tutor: student ratio. 

How is is the course structured?

The course is delivered over 6 taught weekends on set dates over 8 months plus an exam weekend.  This structure keeps students on track with their learning and enables us to carefully and progressively monitor and develop  crucial equine massage skills, as our regular contact means we are able to ensure students are practising correctly at home.  

Having a cohort of students progress through the  course together also means that students benefit from strong peer support in addition to our tutorial and mentoring support.  By the end of their course, students have also thus begun to develop a network of fellow equine sports massage therapists across the country. We encourage each cohort to actively participate in a closed social media group to maintain communication between students and tutors throughout the course and thereafter as they venture out to build their client base.

Other courses may allow for more self directed or flexible learning, but in our experience of this demanding course, a well supported, cohesive group of students having regular intergroup/tutor contact finds the learning process easier. Students do, however, need good time management skills and commitment to the course.

The course commences in September and is delivered from a dedicated classroom at Downe Farm Event Centre, Devon.


The course is stringently examined to ensure that our graduates are of the highest quality. Examiners are all external and include a veterinary surgeon, a veterinary physiotherapist,  and other experienced equine therapists. 

Our graduates are justifiably regarded very highly by other members of the vet care team.

  • Equine Sports Massage Association
  • Animal Health Professions Register
  • Open Awards
  • RAMP