Product Review: Sportz-Vibe Massage Therapy Blanket

Mia enjoys her Sportz-Vibe. Photo by Josh Autry. Mia enjoys her Sportz-Vibe. Photo by Josh Autry.

It’s no secret that massage therapy is beneficial for both horses and humans alike. Regular massage treatments can help to manage and reduce pain, increase blood flow to tissue, relax muscles and alleviate tension, and decrease inflammation. Plus, getting a massage is just awesome.

We’re very lucky to have a wonderful, affordable massage therapist, Darlene Latshaw, visit my barn every month, and the difference in my OTTB mare Mia is so noticeable after a session with her. Massage played a key role in helping Mia transition from racehorse to sporthorse after retiring from the track, and I’m a big believer in it.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have the benefits of massage therapy for your horse on a daily basis? It’s a realistic possibility thanks to Sportz-Vibe, a lightweight, portable massage therapy blanket designed by Horseware Ireland, the same innovative team that developed Ice-Vibe boots.

Have you spotted this backpack at a show? Photo by Jenni Autry.

Have you spotted this backpack at a show? It holds one very awesome massage therapy blanket. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sportz-Vibe has previously been marketed primarily in Europe, which is why you might not yet have heard of it here in the States, but the success stories and strong testimonials coming from users across the pond mean it probably won’t be a secret in the U.S. for much longer.

Just one 20-minute session in a Sportz-Vibe blanket can relax and prepare your horse’s muscles before work, and a 20-minute session after work can ease soreness and stiffness and speed recovery time, making it extremely versatile for supporting and caring for your horse’s muscles both at home and at competitions.

Sportz-Vibe hangs in Michael Jung's tack room at Rolex. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Sportz-Vibe hangs in Michael Jung’s tack room at Rolex. Photo by Samantha Clark.

So how does it work? One of the best things about Sportz-Vibe is that the blanket and its accessories arrive neatly tucked into a handy backpack, which you might have spotted hanging in Michael Jung’s tack room at Rolex Kentucky. Yup, The Terminator himself uses Sportz-Vibe on his unicorns horses. That alone should be enough of a reason to convince you to give it a try, but let’s talk about a few more.

The blanket is extremely easy to use, and the four massage panels that come with it can be positioned on the blanket and detachable neck cover to target four key areas on both sides of your horse’s body: neck, shoulders, back (saddle area), and hindquarters. Extra panels and an extra battery pack can be purchased to give your horse a full body massage at once on all eight locations.

Sportz-Vibe treatment areas. Illustration via Horseware Ireland.

Sportz-Vibe treatment areas. Illustration via Horseware Ireland.

The panels work their massage magic thanks to the small cordless battery pack (about the size of a credit card), which is easy to charge (and fully charges in two hours) with the included USB cord and wall plug. Once the battery pack is attached to the panels, it zips neatly into a little pocket on the blanket and stays safely out of the way during the massage session.

The cables that come with Sportz-Vibe confused me a little at first — until I decided to stop plugging things into random places and consulted the very handy user manual, which also arrives in the backpack and includes step-by-step photos of how to set up the blanket (click here to see how it’s done).

It’s actually pretty easy for us eventers to remember — the red cable attaches to the panels on the right of the blanket (red on right!) and the black cable attaches to the panels on the left of the blanket. Connect the other end of the cable to the battery pack and you’re in business and ready to go.

The blanket has two settings. Pressing the power button on the battery until you see a green light will activate the first setting, which is the more gentle setting and your go-to for use before and after work, as well as to target key areas that might be healing from an injury. Holding the power button down again until you see a red light activates the second setting, which is more intense and works deeper into the muscles to help reduce tension.

Doug Payne uses Sportz-Vibe! Here's Minnow modeling the blanket at MCTA. Photo via Instagram.

Doug Payne uses Sportz-Vibe! Here’s Minnow modeling the blanket at MCTA Horse Trials. Photo via DPEquestrian Instagram.

Since Mia is in good shape thanks to Darlene and doesn’t have any particular problem areas to tackle right now, I’ve been using the first setting before and after riding to help loosen her back and the muscles in her hindquarters and just get her feeling good, and it’s pretty remarkable how much more supple and eager to work she is after a treatment.

An added bonus has been using the blanket when Mia is in heat. Fellow mare owners can relate to how tight and sensitive a mare’s back and hindquarters can become when cycling, and a quick 20-minute massage session before work makes a noticeable difference in Mia’s comfort level (and leads to fewer mare glares).

Some of you might remember that Mia had a serious pasture accident last summer that sidelined her for the rest of the season. While her shoulder healed beautifully and she retained full range of motion, it’s comforting knowing that the shoulder panels on the Sportz-Vibe align perfectly with the injury site. Should any problems crop up as she returns to competing and heavier work, I’m armed and ready, and that gives great peace of mind.

With eight different locations to place the massage panels, there are a number of different ways you can customize the blanket for each individual horse. For example, while Mia mercifully doesn’t have any sacroiliac joint issues after coming off the track, I can see horses battling that type of pain benefitting immensely from the blanket due to the strategic placement of the panels on the hindquarters area.

Did I mention Sportz-Vibe is also available for dogs? Photo via Horseware Ireland.

Did I mention Sportz-Vibe is also available for dogs? Photo via Horseware Ireland.

Another great thing about the blanket is it’s really lightweight and breathable and also looks sharp. It can easily do double duty at shows as a light sheet to keep your horse clean while also being at the ready for massage treatments. Sportz-Vibe is machine washable (after removing the panels, cables and battery) and easy to keep clean, which is a big plus in my book.

The blanket comes in three different sizes and is fully adjustable to fit horses in each size range. The small fits sizes 63 to 69, medium fits sizes 72 to 78, and large fits sizes 81 to 87 (Mia is a 16.2-hand Thoroughbred and is wearing a medium in the photo at the top of this post). The front straps and surcingles are elasticized to ensure a snug fit, which helps the massage panels stay in place during treatment.

You can click here to check out many more details on Sportz-Vibe’s website, including testimonials, a size guide, FAQs and the user manual. Click here to find a Horseware retailer near you. Sportz-Vibe has a retail price of $599 — which isn’t that many massage appointments when you think about it! — and can be purchased online at Dover Saddlery.

Curious to try Sportz-Vibe? You’re in luck! We’re partnering with Horseware Ireland to give away a Sportz-Vibe Massage Therapy Blanket next week right here on EN! Stay tuned next Monday for the Fab Freebie announcement, and don’t forget to enter for your chance to win.

Go Massage Therapy. Go Horseware Ireland. Go Sportz-Vibe.

 

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I highly recommend reading the entire user manual before use to ensure you are using the product properly. Sportz-Vibe should not be used if your horse has physical problems that might be aggravated by massage therapy, like fractures, certain cancers or skin conditions. Sportz-Vibe should also not be used if your horse has an open wound or if your horse has a high temperature. If you are unsure about whether Sportz-Vibe is right for your horse, please ask your veterinarian.

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