(formerly known as ESMA and operating under ESTA)

Mary Bromiley


The late Mary Bromiley MBE FCSP was the inspiration behind the Equine Sports Massage Association (ESMA) now ESTA. Mary was a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (a licensed human physiotherapist in the UK) and a pioneer of the transfer of human massage and rehabilitation techniques to equine athletes. In 1984 she built Downs House Equine Rehabilitation Centre which was the world’s first rehabilitation centre for treatment of both horse and rider. For many years Mary lectured frequently at international equine medicine conferences and she was the official physiotherapist for both horses and riders of the New Zealand Three Day Event Teams at the Olympics and World Championships.

Mary established a teaching facility alongside her rehabilitation center to deliver courses in Equine Sports Massage and in 1995 the successful graduates from Mary’s first ITEC diploma course in Equine Sports Massage founded the Equine Sports Massage Association. The first ESMA committee set out a clear mission:

  • To ensure every client receives services from a highly and fully trained, qualified and insured Equine Sports Massage therapist.
  • To maintain a high standard of practice and code of conduct by all its members.

Mary retired from teaching the ITEC diploma in 2015 handing over delivery of the course to veterinary physiotherapist Helen Tompkins who had assisted Mary in delivery of the ITEC diploma since 2008. Mary was still closely involved with ESMA as an Honorary member until her passing in 2019.

Since its foundation, ESTA continues to be recognised, both in the UK and abroad, as the leading professional body for Equine Soft Tissue Therapists, still holding the fundamental aims of Mary Bromiley MBE at the heart of the association.

What's in a name?

There sometimes lies confusion around the terminology when describing practitioners. Sports Massage Practitioner? Sports Massage Therapist? Soft Tissue Therapist? Sports and Soft Tissue Therapist? The permutations are endless.

We have consulted many points of view over the years regarding this issue:

  • The use of the word ‘Sports’ is too narrow to reflect our members' client base.
  • The use of the word ‘Sports’ puts off potential non-sporting clients.
  • The use of the word ‘massage’ doesn’t define adequately what our members do.
  • The use of the word ‘massage’ puts off some of our members' clients. 

Additionally, the skillset of our members has developed beyond the core discipline of massage, with some members also being qualified Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Chiropractors.

Current Chair Dee So’oialo saw that the evolvement of the equestrian industry required a change, particularly following the Covid-19 Pandemic with issues surrounding ‘massage’ therapists and guidelines. During 2020, the Equine Sports Massage Association started plans to evolve to the Equestrian Soft Tissue Association. The update in branding aims to communicate to a wider audience and illustrate our work with all equestrian disciplines. The lines which sit within the new logo illustrate the connecting web of fascia, something which Dee feels has become an integral part of learning for therapists.

Demands on the equestrian and human athlete are ever increasing, it is imperative that practitioners have an in-depth understanding and experience with an array of issues to be able to practice both competently and effectively. Horses cannot explain where they may feel pain or tension, so working with them respectfully is pivotal for delivering an effective treatment.

We believe that the use of the terms Soft Tissue Therapy/Therapist provide an umbrella which encapsulates the broad spectrum of skills offered by our members. These titles are not protected and can be used at each practitioner’s discretion to best describe their skills and practice.

Behind the logo: 

We know we wanted something completely fresh, different and exciting whilst keeping some key principles of what we do and highlighting the history of the association with the new. 

Navy was a colour we all agreed we wanted to keep from the previous logo, however a new blue was added to brighten the logo. 

Lines within the horses and 'ESTA' are to subtly refer to connective tissue

Orange synonymous with The SMA

Horses and Riders both jump and flat to try and include multiple disciplines and the human and equine athlete. 

History we thought it was important to highlight the associations age within this new change

Equestrian was also added in replace of 'Equine' to represent practitioners working with both horse and rider and our partnership with The SMA

Dee So'oialo's (ESTA Chair) words: 

Mary was the inspiration behind the ESTA, a teacher of many that have qualified through ESMA and the pioneer of therapy for horses and riders. A fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and a woman that has inspired many.

Mary has left behind a legacy and an understanding very few therapists will ever rightly gain, a true pioneer of our work, whom I personally feel very honoured to have been trained by. I know she is very sadly missed.

I am sure many that had the privilege of meeting her will reminisce on some very fond memories of her 'true to form' character that has made many a story for both students of ESMA and clients. A formidable lady with an extraordinary gift and the kindest of hearts.

I particularly love this excerpt from 'The Independent’ published in 1997 aptly titled 'Woman With Touch Of Gold'.

"…But if the idea of a personal physio for a horse seems indulgent, why should it? These days no self-respecting athlete would run a step without one, and racehorses are but sportsmen and women in equine form".

Downs House, Mary's home, was the first equestrian rehabilitation yard in the world in 1984, and it is quite astonishing now to think how far the equestrian world has come.

It is now commonplace for sport horses to have personal 'therapists', but there is still so much to be done and so much knowledge and understanding to be gained from and about these beautiful animals.

That paragraph reminds me why it is so important to keep this dear and incredibly well founded association alive, continuing in Mary's quest to make 'therapy' for horses and riders thought of around the world as a requirement, not an indulgence, and ultimately to always try and educate and help the horses as much as we can.

Mary played a huge role within Team New Zealand at the Olympics and there will be many professionals saddened by her loss and grateful for all that she gave. Her books will continue to be read by every student with a passion for healing horses, and students and client’s stories of her larger than life character will live on.

I, along with all those that had the privilege of meeting her and the many that have read about her or read her books, thank her for so much, for not only defining and paving the careers for equestrian therapists, but teaching the world of the wonders of therapy to both horse and rider.

My aim as Chair is to uphold what I see as 'Mary's association', I know Mary would have understood and supported our vision for changing the name, branding and focus behind this great association, and I will always try my hardest to uphold the ESTA. 

RIP Mary Bromiley. MBE (FCSP, RPT)



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