Ochoa has Standing Massage Appointment

Champion athlete Ochoa enjoys beneficial massage.

By Amy Owens
Q-Racing Journal
August 28, 2012

ochoa quarter horse

Anyone who has had a massage, been to a chiropractor or practiced yoga might understand how these regimens could benefit racehorses and other equine athletes with tight muscles and other physical ailments. Perhaps the most well-known equine masseuse is Larry “Thumper” Jones – not only because he is a big, outgoing guy who wears shorts and cowboy boots, but because he worked on this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, I'll Have Another.

Jones, who lives in Morgan Mill, Texas, also is well known at Ruidoso Downs, where his most famous client is 2011 champion and All American Futurity (G1) winner Ochoa. On Sunday, the Tres Seis gelding, who races for the J Bar 7 Ranch owned by  breeder John T.L. Jones Jr. and his wife, Brenda, with partners Monte and Katsy Cluck and Doug and Shavon Benson, will bid to win the $2,234,539 All American Derby (G1) and become the sport's all-time leading earner.

On Tuesday morning, Ochoa stood in his stall at trainer Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath's barn, a dreamy look in the gelding's eyes and his upper lip quivering in contentment while Jones spent about 15 minutes going over his body with an electric machine about the size of a shoebox. The machine, which makes thumping sounds that gave Jones his nickname, delivers 26 beats a second – each a quarter-inch deep – designed to soothe sore muscles and encourage bloodflow.

“I just come and do a major massage on him every other day or couple days in a row and give him a day off,” Jones said about Ochoa. “He just leans into it and loves it. He's just a happy, happy horse.”

Jones and Gilbreath met two years ago when Jones was working on the Soileau family's JLS Mr Bigtime, who was stabled in the trainer's Ruidoso barn when he made a run at All American Futurity. Jones invited Gilbreath to his rehab facility in Morgan Mill, where Gilbreath had him work on a horse, then another one. Impressed with the results, Gilbreath asked Jones to begin treating his stable at Remington Park more than a year ago. Jones also has worked on world champion Cold Cash 123 for Gilbreath, and the two have become great friends.

“Sleepy delivered a filet mignon to me,” Jones said about Ochoa. “That's the thing with his horses. He's patient, and he takes his time with them. (There are) a lot of similarities with (late Thoroughbred racing training legend) Charlie Whittingham (for whom Jones worked in California). They respect the horse, they look out for the horse.”

In treating horses, Jones also performs a kind of adjustment – he once called himself “a positionalist” – by flexing and extending a horse's legs and neck. “I set the horse up and the horse does his biomechanical manipulation,” he said. “I don't do it. I hold and support. I use their balance, their weight and they put themselves (in position).”

Jones said muscular Quarter Horses and rangier Thoroughbreds have the same types of physical issues in their necks, shoulders and lower backs, and he has seen both breeds respond to his treatment.

“The horses really love it,” he said. “I mean, who's going to turn down a massage?”

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