Become an Equine Massage Therapist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an equine massage therapist. Research the education, training information, and experience required for starting a career in equine massage therapy.

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Do I Want to Become an Equine Massage Therapist?

Equine massage therapists use their hands to put pressure on a horse's skin and muscles in ways that can relax the animal, decrease pain and stress, and assist in injury rehabilitation. This is a physically strenuous job. In many cases, massage therapists travel to met clients where they live or work; they may also meet clients in healthcare settings. Many people in this field are self-employed, and working fewer than full-time hours is common. Massage therapists may also have irregular schedules. Time spent in between client appointments can be filled with accounting, marketing and other business-related tasks.

Job Requirements

There are multiple educational paths that can lead to work in equine massage therapy, including certificate programs in animal massage, certificate or bachelor's degree programs in equine studies or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs. In a few states, an individual must be a licensed veterinarian to practice equine massage, while other states require less education.

The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage also provides certification for those who can prove a certain amount of training. Opening a small massage business and contracting with other animal facilities are both common ways equine massage therapists practice their skills. The following table lists the common requirements for starting a career in equine massage therapy:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Requirements vary between states; some states have no educational requirements, while others require a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine*
Degree Field Equine massage therapy**, equine studies*****, veterinary medicine*
Certification After completing courses and/or a training program, students can apply for voluntary certification through the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage**
Experience None required****
Key Skills Judgment and decision making, critical thinking, physical strength and dexterity, coordination and stamina****
Additional Requirements Knowledge of equine anatomy**

Sources: *International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork, **The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage, ***Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage, ****U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *****Centenary College.

Step 1: Choose a Career Path

Since there are several different routes a person can take to pursue a career in equine massage, students should decide what type of education matches their personal and professional goals. Some therapists obtain massage education through equine or large animal massage certificate programs; others may take a massage course through an associate's or bachelor's degree program in equine science. Veterinarians may also choose to specialize their training by practicing equine massage.

Step 2: Complete Education and Training

Only a few schools offer courses or programs in equine massage therapy. However, some programs in equine science offer massage therapy courses. These courses and programs usually provide students with knowledge of equine anatomy and physiology with special attention paid to muscles and other tissues. Students also learn about body movement through courses in biomechanics and kinesiology. Hands-on training allows students to learn how to physically manipulate muscles, ligaments, and joints in ways that promote relaxation and healing. Veterinary programs don't typically cover equine massage, but they do include coursework in broad topics, like large animal anatomy, clinical diagnosis, animal physiology, and medical management.

Success Tip:

  • Tailor your curriculum for eventual certification. For those who are interested in becoming certified by the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage, documentation of completed courses and hand-on training is important. This certification requires applicants to prove they've completed 200 hours of study in certain areas of the massage therapy field. Some training in human massage may count towards certification.

Step 3: Start a Small Business and/or Build a Clientele

Many practicing equine massage therapists advertise their services through a personal website that describes what they do and how to make therapy appointments. Certain animal massage therapy schools allow graduates to list their websites and contact information on the school's webpage to help gather potential clients. These same people may also list their services through animal massage organizations.

Success Tips:

  • Make professional connections. Networking with other equine and large animal massage therapists can help make a career in the field more successful. Organizations and workshops provide opportunities to connect with other therapists, some of whom may have business and marketing strategies to share.
  • Take supplemental courses in other animal therapies. Some animal massage therapy schools offer additional courses in related areas, such as animal CPR and first aid, aromatherapy, and Reiki practice. A massage therapist with training in these areas may draw additional clientele.
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