About Sara Stenson, CMT, CEMT, CNMT
“I work from the principle that change should never be forced upon a body/mind; rather the body/mind must be allowed to find its natural alignment and rhythm through relaxation and coordination.”
Sara Stenson is a Certified Massage Therapist with over 40 years of massage and bodywork education and experience. In 1994, Sara included horses in her practice. She has worked on humans, horses, dogs, as well as many other creatures needing a helping hand. With years of experience, practice, study, and teaching, Sara has developed a unique way of working with horses as well as knowing how to teach others to be skillful equine massage therapists. Sara has taught human massage in several schools and started teaching equine massage in 2001 when she started her school, Prairie Winds, The Art of Equine Massage and Bodywork.
One of my greatest joys is in teaching other passionate equestrians how to touch a horse. Yes, this is about massaging them, yet massage can be mere techniques so we move beyond techniques to working with principles of how the body works. I am talking about reaching the soul of the horse through the simple yet profound act of truly touching to help another’s well being.
I hope my story gives you encouragement and inspiration to follow your dreams of working with horses. In addition, I hope that my journey tells you some of what I know about bodywork and horses. I like to share the skills that have been taught to me by dedicated, skillful, and passionate teachers. Through all the experiences of practicing, teaching, and studying massage for horses, I have developed a unique mix of Eastern and Western bodywork modalities that work best for horses. When I included natural horsemanship philosophy into my massage work, I learned how to help the horse be a willing participant in the massage session. I wish to share with you as much as I can and as much as you want to learn so that we may all create a happier and healthier horse world.
After receiving my first ever shiatsu massage treatment, I immediately became an apprentice of Barefoot Shiatsu. I was impassioned to learn how to do for others what it was that I felt during that first massage. I came alive realizing I was a body both during and after that massage session. That sounds strange yet that is what I felt at the time. I had been living unconsciously with pain that had me closed to experiencing joy in my own body.
I grew up riding fences and herding cattle on a cattle ranch in eastern Wyoming. Summers were spent playing horse tag, riding through streams and ponds, and sneaking a ride on “Big Red” the rogue horse whenever the opportunity presented itself. I worked on the ranch helping with the cows, horses, and sheep and a lot of that was on horseback. When I wasn’t working, I was daydreaming in the pasture with the horses while they grazed. It was a rough and tumble life at times and my body was a reflection of all the falls and hard work. The ranch life had taken a toll on my body by the time I was 26. I didn’t realize how much I had battered myself as a kid until I received that massage in 1977. I was hooked.
I became a student of Barefoot massage the next day. It resonated with me and I wanted to share it with others. I began to seek out as much bodywork as I could possibly afford, and studied with the best teachers I could find. I began studies in T’ai Chi Ch’uan, meditation, yoga, and bodywork modalities. In 1994, I received my Certification in Massage Therapy and Body Insight Neuromuscular Re-education. Through time and experience with horses and humans, my work has evolved into a unique combination of shiatsu, myofascial, neuromuscular and CranioSacral Therapy. I still love learning.
In 1995, at the urging of a neighbor who was a barrel racer, I started including horses in my practice. I put my hands on horses and again, I was hooked. I realized how much I missed having horses in my life. At one of the barns, I spotted a young colt that was starving to death and convinced the owner to sell him to me. The colt survived and grew and grew. Then … I needed to train him, so again, I began to seek out the best teachers that I could find and afford. Through helpful friends, I discovered the principles of classical dressage and natural horsemanship along with patience, gentleness, and kindness as my guiding principles. My and our life became horses, riding, training, trucks, trailers, leather, hay, and barns. Full circle to the life I loved as a child.
When asked if I would teach, I started my school of equine massage and bodywork. That was in 2001 and since that time, I have taught hundreds of wonderful equestrians how to work with horses in this way. Many have continued to learn and have successful careers with horses.
I maintain a private bodywork practice near Ocala, Florida where I live with my husband, Michael. We share our small farm with three horses, three dogs, and three mischievous cats.