Career as an Equine Massage Therapist

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If you truly love horses, and enjoy every minute you spend around these magnificent animals, then a horse job might just be your path to career fulfillment.

There are a wide variety of horse jobs available in today’s growing equine industry. And unless you live in a very large metropolitan area like New York City or Los Angeles, there’s almost always positions available working with horses within a comfortable commuting distance.

Jobs working with horses include horse riding, teaching riding lessons, working in a boarding stable, large animal veterinarian technician, horse sitting, non-profit equine rescue and adoptions, horse grooming, breeding, farrier, jockey, saddle and harness maker, and many more.

Some of these horse jobs can be secured without any formal education or training, and a strong enthusiasm for horses is enough to get an apprenticeship or entry-level position. For other jobs, a higher education degree will be required, especially in the veterinary medicine career fields.

Also keep in mind before you embark on this career path that many horse jobs aren’t high-paying positions. Many workers are willing to accept lower wages for the privilege of spending their work days surrounded by horses, and so job fulfillment and satisfaction is part of the reward in this industry.

There’s more to life than money, after all, and going home at night with the smell of hay on your clothes and a smile on your face is a big bonus for many people. Especially if you’ve ever worked at a job in a cubicle surrounded by computer screens and ringing phones all day, with a boss you can’t stand breathing over your shoulder.

Finding a horse job that’s right for you

A good place to start before diving into the large equine industry is by asking yourself exactly why you’d like to work with horses, and what skills and life experiences you would bring to the table.

If you’ve never owned a horse of your own, or spent any time riding or just being around these animals, but you thought that working with equines sounded like “fun,” you might think hard before diving in.

While there are many rewards and a lot of job satisfaction when working with horses, these jobs are also typically hard work. Usually you won’t be spending your days relaxing on horseback, singing songs and waiting for the next break time to arrive.

There are almost always other chores to be attended to, even for riders, including cleaning up the stable, feeding and grooming the horses, working with customers, and more. While everyone’s heard of massage therapists for humans, did you know that there are equine massage therapists as well?

Unlike most jobs relating to horses, which have been around for decades and even centuries, equine massage therapy is a relatively new career field. In many ways it is a spin-off from human massage therapy, but has been adapted to the unique anatomy of horses.

Typically the goal of this type of massage therapy is to soothe and relax the muscles of the animal, relieve tension, and enhance muscle tone. Other benefits of equine massage therapy are increasing the animal’s range of motion, circulation, and overall health and well being.

People working in this growing and exciting career field are able to work with horses on a daily basis. They also have the benefit of working for themselves and being their own boss, and spending much of their work day outdoors instead of being cooped up in an office all day.

About the Job

Typically equine massage therapists are self-employed individuals who work in the field, traveling from client to client as needed. Most specialize only in horses, while others also work on other animals – and even humans – to broaden their client base.

Many of these therapists also work in conjunction with a stable or a veterinarian, although some vets still haven’t fully embraced the concept of massage therapy as a legitimate form of conditioning and healing.

On a typical work day, an equine massage therapist will find him or herself performing the following duties:

  • Assessing and evaluating a horse’s condition, and meeting with and questioning the owner about the animal.
  • Helping the horse owner to rectify whatever has caused the problem, and develop a course of treatment, if appropriate.
  • Determining if the animal’s problems would be best helped by massage therapy, or a more traditional medical approach.
  • If massage therapy is required, providing it to the horse on a one-time or ongoing basis.
  • Equine massage therapy, while still a relatively new career field, is showing steady growth as it becomes more accepted by horse trainers and owners.
  • At the present time, owners of horses used for racing or dressage are most likely to hire the services of an equine massage therapist.
  • The majority of therapists work at this profession part-time, and many spend the rest of their work day attending to human clients as well.

Working Conditions

Generally, equine massage therapists work outdoors a good part of the time, attending to their equine clients. As a result, they must be able to work in all kinds of weather, depending on the time of year and the area where they work.

Most people who work with horses just take for granted that they’ll be spending time out in the rain, the cold, the heat, etc.

Typically people who work in this field are self-employed and spend a good deal of time on the road, traveling from one equine client to the next. You can also expect to work weekends and evenings at least part of the time.

Training and certification

Currently, equine massage therapy is a non-regulated profession in the US, and there is no national certification or test procedure.

There are a number of schools in the US that offer courses and training in equine massage. Many of these courses lead to diplomas or certificates in this subject.

It’s important to choose the place in which you’ll be studying carefully. Since there’s no standardization in the study of this field, the quality, length and price of courses varies widely.

The shorter one or two-week courses might be tempting, but be aware that the longer, more intensive programs will give a more rounded education, and will give you the skills that allow you to administer the type of massage that will truly help the horses in need.

Another route that many take into this career field is by becoming a massage therapist for humans first. That way you’ll be able to broaden your client base by giving massages to people as well as horses.

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