How do you give an elephant a massage? No, it’s not a riddle. It’s what’s new in the zoo. When I asked that question of certified massage therapist Jill Deming, she replied matter-of-fact, “It’s very similar to massaging a horse. You use your knowledge of biomechanics so you don’t injure your body.”
Massage is being used to alleviate the physical and emotional stress of exotic animals in captivity, from elephants to dolphins and penguins.
Even though he’s received thousands of massages over the past decade, Nicholas is still a bit stiff. Albeit the horse’s body is clearly marked with locations of pressure points to help students learn equine massage, he’s the only one of 16 horses at Equissage they haven’t been able to loosen up. “We can’t get him to relax,” said owner and director Mary Schreiber. Of course, that’s probably because Nicholas is a life-size fiberglass horse used as a teaching aid.