Your horse is ‘off,’ doesn’t perform like he used to, has unexplained lameness, is stiff or doesn’t want to pick up a lead. It may be time to involve an equine bodywork practitioner. How do you find the equine bodyworker who is right for your horse?
Things to Consider...
1. What type of modality (massage, reiki, etc.) is right for my horse?
2. How do I locate equine bodyworkers near me?
3. Are equine bodyworkers regulated in my state?
WHAT IS BODYWORK?
According to the Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers, bodywork is “a general term for therapeutic methods that center on the body for the promotion of physical health and emotional and spiritual well-being, including massage, various systems of touch and manipulation, relaxation techniques, and practices designed to affect the body’s energy flow.”
Your aim is to find a practitioner who will promote your horse’s health and wellbeing and thus aid in optimizing his performance. Bodywork is a wellness modality and does not replace veterinary care. Be cautious if a practitioner claims to heal or diagnose disease, treat injuries or adjust skeletal elements. In most states, these fall within the realm of the vet.
HOW A BODYWORKER MAY HELP
A multitude of possible applications exist for the services of an equine bodyworker. In my experience, the most common reason for an owner or trainer to involve a bodywork practitioner is when performance issues arise in generally healthy horses. You know when your horse is just not himself.
Some problems an equine bodyworker may help resolve:
- soft tissue restrictions
- tight fascia
- general anxiety
- negative movement habits as a result of past injury
- tightness around old scar tissue
- postural issues due to external factors (i.e., ill-fitting saddle)
Describe your issue or goal to your selected practitioners and see what they have to say. Do they have experience with your particular problem? Will they thoroughly evaluate your horse? Will you be involved in the process, possibly get some ‘homework’? Will you receive a written report to refer back to or show your other service providers (vet, farrier)?
QUALIFICATIONS OF AN EQUINE BODYWORKER
The qualification requirements for equine bodyworkers vary greatly from state to state and in different countries. Animal massage and bodywork schools abound, offering anything from home-study courses to programs that span several months of full-time study. No uniform qualification guidelines have been established in the US.
Any person who is serious about his or her profession will put in the effort to learn from others who have mastered their craft. Ask the bodyworker where she learned what she practices; you may even want to research the method, type of bodywork or certifying school on the internet. Then see if the goals and philosophy of this type of bodywork align well with your goals for your horse.
WHAT RESULTS CAN I EXPECT?
No matter what type of bodywork or practitioner you decide to employ, you should be able to observe results. This may be real-time results during the bodywork session (how your horse reacts, immediate positive responses) or results after the fact, such as improved performance, mood, or ‘friskiness’. In other words: If you can’t see it in your horse, it’s not happening, no matter what the practitioner tells you.
In my experience, horses have expectations, too. When I first approach a new horse, the horse often expects me to pull out a syringe, but quickly learns this is not the case. After the first session, the horse should know that this will be a pleasant affair. If your horse is fearful or discontent in the presence of the bodyworker, change bodyworkers.
WHAT RESONATES WITH YOU?
You may have received the name of a bodyworker from a friend and he or she may come warmly recommended. Still, you will want to find your own answer to the question “is this person right for me and my horse?” You will want to find someone you can trust to work with in the long run, someone who will give you straight answers and also admit when he or she does not know the answer. Simply said: After considering the basic points above, find someone who resonates with you and your horse.
Stefanie Reinhold is a Certified Masterson Method™ practitioner, instructor and clinician. She is co-author of Jim Masterson’s book, “Beyond Horse Massage” (Trafalgar Square Publishing). Stefanie lives in Madison, WI, practices nationwide and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org , 608-513 8777, www.reinholdshorsewellness.com