I'm back in Virginia after another great trip to New England. Since beginning my equine massage training in 2009, going home to Connecticut–home to the herd of horses I grew up with—has been an opportunity to explore the endless curiosities generated by my immersion in the field of bodywork. What patience my old friends demonstrate as I subject them to hours of kneading and scrutiny! And how much they have helped me learn: How deeply can I stretch this limb? If I activate the trigger point of this muscle, can I encourage release over here? What’s the difference between strength and tension? Does massage even work?
I am a better equine massage therapist thanks in no small part to these diverse athletes and personalities housed in my mom’s barn. It’s home.
During the week and a half I was with them, I massaged those five horses a total of 20 times. My mom’s feedback as she rode them following my exploratory sessions was incredible. More than ever before, we gained new insight into old movement patterns and were able to collaboratively work towards profound breakthroughs. “Do you think part of it is that you’ve, well, become a better massage therapist?” my mom ventured. Undoubtedly. Thanks, herd.
They granted me a breakthrough of my own this trip, a reminder of an elemental part of every massage therapist’s training: to step back and to wait. In all my enthusiasm for affecting change, I somewhat lost sight along the way of the quiet truth that change only occurs when the body is ready to allow it. As a massage therapist, I cannot force change—I can only facilitate the environment in which change is possible, and then suggest it. Maybe it was in grateful recognition of the horses’ patience with me that I finally remembered to wholeheartedly grant them the same gift. Several times a session, often after a particularly intense move, I gently stepped away and waited. Invariably, the greatest transformations occurred in that space. Each time I rejoined the horse, we were able to work together even more deeply than before.
Over the years, the Connecticut herd has proven to me that massage works. And they’ve also helped me continue to hone my practical and technical skills. Most of all, in their subtle way, they’ve graciously imparted lessons that have allowed me the space to deepen my rapport with horses in general, so that I may be an increasingly effective bodyworker for all my clients. What generosity. Thank you Mars, Tristan, Chancellor, Grace, and Xanto.