The most common approach to becoming an equine massage therapist is to take a short course which range from a few days to a couple months. These courses are a good way to find out if you actually enjoy massaging horses before enrolling in a longer program. It gives the potential therapist a good base of basic skills to use to encourage relaxation and affect the superficial layers of muscle. Although some of the short courses include trigger point therapy and other specialized techniques they are often not sufficiently taught to the students to the full understanding of the affects, potential harm and execution of the individual specialized techniques. Therapists that go this route are perfect to work on horses that have had no prior injuries, are not recovering from an injury and are generally very relaxed individuals. I personally recommend this route for already licensed, registered or certified human massage therapists who are interested in adding horses to their repertoire.
Therapists who used a short course use abbreviations such as:
CESMT: Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist
ESMT: Equine Sports Massage Therapist
The other way is to take a mort intense and thorough course (or series of courses). Most of these last about 6 months but can be as long as 2 years. Massage therapy is often taught at colleges (usually based somewhat of Equissage’s approach) in conjunction with a higher degree. Typically for equine rehabilitation or complementary therapy degree. These courses teach in-depth about the anatomy (most important), physiology, and pathology (very very helpful for injured horses) of the horse specifically. The best schools teach in-depth the specialized techniques that when used properly are more affective than Swedish massage alone. Many have intense hands-on standards that they hold their students too. These standards help to teach the student what healthy, tense and damaged tissue feels like. That is a point that generally is missed in the shorter classes. Many of these programs have veterinarians teaching and lending their personal experiences (what works and what doesn’t) to the mix of learning. The therapists that come out of courses like these are the ones that are the best at handling any rehabilitation a horse may need. These individuals have the “whole picture” of how the horse moves, thinks, acts and reacts (mentally and physically) and they typically develop some sort of treatment/action plan for the horse. I highly recommend these long and intense courses for the potential therapist that want to know why and how massage works and/or has a passion to help rehabilitate horses.
Therapists who used a longer course use abbreviations such as:
REMT: Registered Equine Massage Therapist (make sure they’re in good standing with the IFREMT (international federation of equine massage therapists) they are the governing body of REMT’s)
****P: The ’P’ stands for Practitioner. Therapists who use this title tend to use techniques that are under the category of bodywork. Many are also human therapists.
I hope this gives any prospective therapist or potential clients a glimpse into what the education is BEHIND all those fancy letters after our names! I cannot stress enough for clients to ASK what their therapist’s education is! Especially since equine massage therapy is UN-REGULATED in the United States (Ontario residents… the IFREMT is based in London, ON).