Mike Watkins, Horse Masseuse

<p>Mike Watkins &amp; Lacey</p>

Mike Watkins &amp; Lacey

A Milton-Freewater man is taking a natural approach to rejuvenating race horses. Instead of injecting them with steroids and other drugs, he's massaging them back to health.

For ten years Equine Masseuse Mike Watkins has massaged race horses back to prime condition.

He began this journey after a severe back injury and undergoing massage therapy himself.

He believes horses are essentially athletes who need conditioning to stay competitive and healthy...

For Watkins horse massage is a passion - Through gentle or strong manipulation he rubs and kneeds the animal, to relieve pain and relax the muscles.

"We ask them to do tremendous things - jumping over fences, racing around barrels... they're basically athletes. You show me an athlete that doesn't have chiropractic, or massage. It's just another piece of the pie in the overall horse's health," said Watkins.

For horse owner Kelli Barichello, it's the best care possible for her seven-year-old mare, Lacey

"You can tell, she's not in pain, not swishing her tail or fighting me at all. She just wants to go out and do her job, and does it correctly," said Barichello.

Many of the horses on Barichello's The Lazy Spur Ranch, including Lacey are barrel racers - a rodeo event where a horse and rider follow a clover-leaf pattern around barrels.

She says it can be rough on horses and believes Watkins offers the best conditioning and recovery for the animals.

"Horses ar built just like humans. I mean they have muscles and tendons and  bones and ligaments; and they are athletes," said Watkins.

Each session is about one hour long. Watkins finds the horse's sore spot and as in human massage, gently works on those areas.  He knows it's working when the horse licks its lips.

"It's definitely worth the time and the expense. Seventy-five dollars for my horse to feel great afterwards and go out and perform is absolutley worth it," said Barichello.

"I love that they're able to go back and do their business and word as hard as they do for us. We ask a lot of them. This is one more way to treat them correctly," said Watkins.

Watkins travels throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as Canada and Texas to recondition horses.  He's also worked for some of the top horsemen and clinicians in the country.