Curriculum

Equine Massage and Bodywork:

TeachingThe foundation modality is the ancient healing art of Asian massage called Shiatsu.

Shiatsu means finger pressure and is based on the acupuncture theory of chi (energy) and meridians the rivers of chi that run through the body. You dedicate a majority of your time here learning the principles, theory and application of this simple yet profound practice of influencing the direction the chi flows through the body. Taking the best from both East and West, you study and apply the modalities of

  • Shiatsu
  • Myofascial release
  • neuromuscular re-education,
  • craniosacral therapy
  • Five Principles of Tai Chi Chuan

In any action the entire body should be light and agile, with all of its parts connected like pearls on a thread. No one part should resist moving with the whole.- Cheng Man Ching
from the western massage traditions. Blending these methods seamlessly you learn to influence the body to facilitate change without resorting to force or a matching of wills. Working this way requires learning to:

  • listen,
  • connect,
  • follow and
  • influence

– our model to get the horses interacting with you so they can make the changes from within for themselves. Then the changes are lasting.

Equine Movement, Alignment, Balance and Rhythm:

Life is about movement.

Horses move, run, buck, rear up and kick out as they play and find their place within the herd. They have an inherent rhythm and a natural balance. We marvel watching them perform that dance of freedom and think, I want to ride THAT! Rhythm, balance and timing are only as graceful as the alignment and design of the skeletal structure and the supple workings of the muscles that move them. Knowing how to see when horses are struggling with restrictions is the first step to resolving problems within the structure.

Biomechanics of Equine Movement:

The impulse to straightness must emerge out of the inherent integrity of the spine. It cannot be achieved from without, only evoked from within.- Stuart Heller
Bones are the levers, muscles pull the levers, tendons and ligaments attach it all together and fascia is the covering that wraps the entire collection of pieces into one amazing whole.

How, why and what direction it all moves gives us an understanding of how to work within the boundaries of the natural design of the equine body. When we can listen to the inherent design we do not need force to facilitate change; the body knows when it is right. When it is correctly aligned, the body naturally expresses itself freely without pain or restriction.

Anatomy, Form and Function:

Photo of Sara lecturingWhat are the names of the bones of the axial and appendicular skeleton? What are the names of all those muscles that attach and originate on the many different shaped landmarks of the bones? And in which direction do those muscles pull and why?

All of this makes up the important pieces of the equine musculoskeletal puzzle. Names and directions are the road map to knowing which end of the horse we are talking about. Anatomy has its own vocabulary, not to be intimidated by, but to be truly fascinated with. The vocabulary charts the marvelous and mysterious landscape of a living and breathing organism. This is not just a clinical class on anatomy but a study in the artistry of movement and full expression of the spirit through the physical form. It is amazing how it all fits together to form the beautiful creature we call “the horse.”

Physiology:

By taking a microscopic look into the structures of the muscles, fascia, nerves and organs you will understand the internal workings of the equine body on a basic cellular level.

Learn the busy little components of muscle that creates the action to move the bones, the tough fibers of fascia that binds the horse into an integrated unit, the importance of nerve impulses for movement and understand why the heart beat keeps its rhythm whether resting or working during performance. Knowing the little things unseen by the naked eye is a marvelous journey to the tiny living cells that make up the body that we see when we look at a horse.

Reading the Horse:

Knowing when horses are listening to you and granting you influence is essential to this work.

Every movement means something to horses and learning to read and hear what they are telling you makes the difference between just rubbing a muscle and helping horses make lasting changes. Sometimes more than half of a massage session can be accomplished from the end of the lead rope when you know how to really supple and soften horses through their minds to their feet. This opens a horses mind, and softens bracing in his body so you can discern the real soft tissue restrictions from their mental and emotional bracing.

We live by communicating and we communicate to feel connected, to get what we need, to understand one another, to be understood by others and to feel a part of the whole. How we communicate says everything about the results we are trying to achieve and whether we can achieve the desired effect or not. Massage is communication with skillful hands to another mind, body and spirit. The more clearly you convey meaning the more certain and trusting horses will be of your intentions to help. We dont just rub muscles a certain way for a certain amount of time with a certain amount of pressure and assume everything will fall into its proper place. The body cannot make sense of that approach. First we learn to listen, then we can truly connect to another, when we connect we can follow what the other is telling us and then we might be granted influence to be of genuine help. Anything short of that is an effort to force our will on another.

Equine Business Management:

Photo of Sara and Sage

At the end of the day solid business management skills make the difference between working to live and just living to work.

Businesses fail from lack of business management skills – not from lack of skill in the profession. Whether you want to work as a massage therapist, riding instructor, horse trainer, farrier, barn manager, groom, or schooling rider you will succeed more quickly with a complete business management plan. So here, you create marketing and business plans to ensure that you’re doing the important things, that you can differentiate your services from competitors, that there are real opportunities you’re striving towards – that you’re really in business. You can also clearly state in your own words, readily believable and demonstrable value propositions with compelling links between the needs of your customers and the benefits of your services. Your business plan includes all of the essential elements required to manage your growth including pricing schemes, financial forecasts, one-year tactical plans and risk assessments with contingency strategies.

Hoof Care:

No amount of massage will help the movement of the horse if the feet are not functioning according to their natural design.

In Hoof Care you learn to pick up a foot and see if it is well-shod, identify warning signs of hoof-based trouble and understand the anatomy of a horses lower leg. Knowing how to look for lameness before the horse takes even a single step and identifying the likely cause is another key skill you study here.

You gain an intimate understanding of the confirmation of the lower leg, analyzing and trimming hooves, fitting shoes and reading the hoof capsule to assess whether a horse’s feet are helping or hindering their overall health and movement. You’ll also study how conformational differences and riding disciplines affect weight bearing on the hoof and overall soundness.

Here you see and learn first-hand how the anatomy is designed to support the function of the foot. Bones, ligaments, tendons, blood supply, sensitive and insensitive areas along with the physiology of the hoof are reviewed in-depth. Pros and cons of various types of trims and shoe fittings, corrective and therapeutic shoes, nail placement and finish will be discussed.

Pathology:

Photo of horse catchingIf the digestive system is designed by a graduate student committee, then the cardiovascular system is designed by an artistic and functional genius. Ed Wydallis, DVM.

Ed will walk you through things that go right and things that can go wrong and why. This is wonderful time spent learning to take heart rate, breathing rate, listening to gut sounds, the importance of floating teeth, and learning about all those mysterious internal workings. This is a great opportunity to ask all of your questions while not under the pressure of a farm call. This will also help you know where your skill ends and a veterinarians begins.