By TONY WHITE
THOROUGHBRED masseuses are a relatively new addition to the centuries old Sport of Kings.
While veterinarians ? and in latter years chiropractors ? work in conjunction with the trainer to play an ever increasing role, a specialist masseuse can add a new dimension to the thoroughbred's health and welfare.
Arrawarra-based thoroughbred masseuse Vicki Byrne, Dip EMT, is part of a new breed of practitioners making inroads with a new application to a time-honoured art.
Byrne, 42, also has the distinction of having worked with this year's record breaking Grafton Cup winner Stormhill, trained by Tim Martin in Sydney.
Byrne and Martin's wife Melanie both completed a two-year diploma together at the Western Institute, Sydney University.
Before Stormhill ran in the Queensland Derby, Melanie Martin arranged for Byrne to fly to Brisbane to treat Stormhill.
Byrne gave the powerful three-year-old a deep tissue massage on the Tuesday prior to him running a gallant fourth in the Derby (Saturday) and next start winning in Sydney, then the Grafton Cup.
For most of her life Byrne has enjoyed a love affair with thoroughbreds, from pony clubs to endurance riding, to trackwork rider and now masseuse.
"I've had a long history with horses," she said. "Horses are my passion.
"Using massage you can develop a real association with thoroughbreds.
"Massage is a holistic process. We consider a big variety of factors ? from the horse's gate, symmetry, balance, its diet, nutrition, type of training and all the things that contribute to its health and well-being.
"There are normally three main factors to consider ? muscular or skeletal problems which can often be attributed to a poor saddle fit, teeth and feet (hooves).
"Having a horse properly balanced is a major factor."
During training and racing horses, like humans, put a large stress on muscle tissue and massage helps relieve tension and loosen the various muscle groups.
Massage for thoroughbreds can be therapeutic, or in some cases, a real treat to relax the animal.