First Massage weekend!!

So as most of you know, I’m working towards my massage certification through a program in my state for equine massage therapy. And this past weekend was the first!! I also want to apologize for not being able to get this out as fast as I would have liked, I’m in the middle of my finals week and everything hit me like a freight train. My goal was to have it out by monday, but then we went and saw Endgame, and then I had about 17 assignments due on Monday, and Tuesday was a wreck so, here we are, posting at midnight on Wednesday.

Day 1

So like a doof, I did not take any photos on the first day which I so should have. First off I need to mention something about myself. With the whole major anxiety thing I’ve got going, being any form of late is a major tick/trigger for my anxiety. Even if I’m late to my own set times I lose it. So guess who was 2 hours early to her first class?? This girl!! I ended up wasting some time in a McDonalds down the road before heading back and going in to see if I could find any humans. I got the 10 cent tour, and then got to wait another hour for everyone else to show up!

The first class set started on intros like most first classes that aren’t massive college classes do. There are 8 other women in the class with me, and I am the official baby of the group, being 20. It was fun to meet a range of people, who had either years or minutes of horse experience and basically compare notes of our experiences.

Alright, moving on. The first thing we covered was bones!

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(i love b99, so i couldn’t help it)

The head instructor, Lisa, had two buckets full of bones and had us pull them all out and match them to the correct table where diagrams were. We also had a handout to work on and ID specific lumps, bumps and projections. We also have a lovely mascot to reference, his name is Boneapart. (They’re so punny over there, and yes he is real).

We also went over any and all skeletal projections you can feel on the surface of the horse, like the facial and zygomatic arch. After that, it was a quick intro to the whole internship ideal which I will explain a little more at the end.

Then my favorite, lunch. I was told by one of my classmates who had been certified by the human massage course at the same school that last time she had been there, the soda vending machine did not work. I waited till all the regular massage people left to try the faulty vending machine in case of embarrassment if it failed.

The second set of lectures for the other half of the day was the history of massage and massage techniques. Of course, we breezed through it all, and moved on to practicing! I did appreciate having the ability to practice moves on a living body that can give feedback in English as well as someone observing. Also having a massage was pretty great, I haven’t had one since finals freshman semester. I am a little sore from it but I think it’s just because of how deep they had to go to get a release. I’m a tight kid, what can I say?

Then once that was done, we were dismissed and I zipped my way to the barn. Traffic was miserable but what else can you do during rush hour on a Friday? I got to the barn by 6:30, and was on by 7, but by 7:15 a thunderstorm rolled in so I had to get off. Bently was so confused, but I got to see my boy for a little bit before going home. At least we cantered a little and got some trot work in before it started up bad.

Day 2

Day 2 seemed a lot easier! The drive wasn’t as hectic as it felt the day before, maybe because it’s a Saturday and who gets up at the ass crack of dawn to go to Worcester? Like before, I was ridiculously early, but I now had a keycard to get in and knew where to park, so I wasn’t as nervous. I also spent a half hour watching a live stream of the Brayton Point cooling tower demolition before I went in, so it ate up some time sitting in a parking lot alone.

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Actually broke a world record for tallest towers imploded

Day 2 started with a lecture on myofascial releases, and then we went back to practicing the movements and massage techniques. We spent most of the day practicing, and then we had a practical where we went through a message sequence on the instructors. I was told I had lovely hands that were always warm and sometimes seemed on fire, which I was told was a good thing. My self-heating hands came in handy for something else other than cleaning frozen water buckets in the winter with no gloves. I also earned the nickname Young One, after being the only one who knew how to work a CD player, which I find hilarious that no one but the youngest could figure out the older tech.

my first practical results and comments!

All in all, Day 2 was a practice day, so there wasn’t tons on the report back. However, I did get out an hour early for taking my practical first, so I got to the barn at 5:30. Which gave me ample time to ride my boy. Aaaand have a mini photo shoot, I mean look at his butt, its all filled out! I got so many photos but they were either of him right in my face or super far away. My horse is so clingy.

Cutest Nugget
Day 3

Day 3 was the day I was the most nervous and the most excited for. This was the first day we would be working with real horses, and I was so ready for it. The farm where we were at for this weekend was in Southbridge MA, and it was mainly a carriage driving barn! The lady who owns and runs the whole 158 acres does combined driving and competes in it. The barn itself was an old cow barn with gorgeous stalls. There were only 15 horses there, 9 being her own and the other 6 being boarders. The indoor was massive, mainly for the driving factor.

I was drooling walking in

We started our morning with bones again, this time comparing them to a willing living model. We used two, the picture below was a lovely gelding named Sunny, and another gelding named Jack who didn’t tolerate it for too long. After bone comparing, we felt for all the boney areas that you could feel through skin and went through the whole body twice. At this point, I think my toes were about ready to fall off. Despite being in the 50s, it was wet and windy so it made it feel about 20 degrees colder then it was. I broke out footwarmers it was so bad and passed them out to some people.

Bone modeling is my new career I think

The thoracic vertebrae of the withers

After lunch, where we all raced to the closest Big Y for the soup bar, we practiced on three horses with an instructor. My group ended up getting the 8-year-old Dutch Harness horse who still acted like he was 2, and was extremely mouthy. His full blood sister pretty much stalked us the whole time we worked, she was such a cutie.

Getting stalked by the neighbors

It was extremely helpful to do movements on the horses, but at the same time, it was discouraging, because I had done so well the day before, and now I was back at square one. I did get a lot of good comments from my instructor, but I wanted more time to just play and figure out my own movements and my own preferences. Everyone does it a little different, and I was getting a lot of compliments on how I never lifted my hands off the horse to keep the flow.

After working on the horses, we ended up going into one of the heated tack rooms and going over a simple massage sequence for horses. I also ended finding out the real reason hamstrings are called that, and I am 100% for changing the name. One of the instructors, the woman who started the whole program, is trying to find a new name for it, and I ended up giving her an acronym to replace it which she was in love with.

I honestly went into this weekend terrified and came out so much more confident. I still have a few chunks of online work to finish, which is all just tissues and organs. I had previously mentioned my internship, which I will be able to start after the May classes. The internship is pretty much all self-monitored, and I have to complete somewhere around 38 to I think 40 hours of work on horses and keep a detailed record book. There are some rules, like only 12 hours can count of friends and family horses, only 3 hours per horse, etc. The whole idea is to get us out into different barns to essentially recruit clients before they have to pay us. So if you live in South Eastern Mass, or within an hour or so of Berkley, wait a month and I’ll be able to give your pony a free massage!

Planes aren’t so Plain…

So besides the fact that I am very behind in my classes for massage, one of my current struggles continuing with my secondary equine education is with directional terms and planes. So many things have different definitions relating to humans and to horses and each one has about 5 different names for the same thing.

Like for example a sagittal plane and a medial plane are pretty much the same thing…till you start dissecting limbs. And I’ll be honest all this is pretty relevant when it comes to X-Rays, but I’m not sure how relevant it will be for me, yet.

Plain old Planes

Another thing that bothered me about horse anatomical directional terms is leg terms. So above the carpus and the tarsus, aka knee and hock, you only have to remember two terms: cranial and caudal. Simply put, the front of the leg is the cranial and the back is caudal, for both front and hind legs. But below the carpus and tarsus, it’s a whole different story. The front of both sets of legs is dorsal. But the backs of the front legs are palmar and the backs of the hind legs are plantar.

It’s all based on humans and the fact that our feet point up and the horses front legs are pretty much human arms, but still. How to confuse a 20-year-old in two simple steps. Step 1: name one thing at a certain point. Step 2: literally right after that single point, change everything. Either way, now I can read equine x-rays.  Cue me losing my mind.

And I start the skeletal system next, and boy will that be interesting. Did you know horses have 205 bones? One less than a human. All well and cool, but Arabians have 203. Don’t know where all the other horses managed to find 3 extra vertebrae but they did. Those dang primitive Arabs. Which I wonder if its just Arabians are still considered a more primitive breed or selective breeding created that loss of the three bones. I’ll find out eventually.

2019 Resolutions and Goals

As much as I hate change, I am welcoming 2019 with open arms. There is a lot to do this year and there was way too much drama and stress from last year. Every now and then someone suggests something new for me to do. Like “oh, maybe you should pick up this new book, or what about taking summer classes?” or, “Maybe you should sew this super cool bolero that has dragon scales Anna!” Thanks for that by the way Amber.

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Even though I’m a little late to making this post, (10 days to be exact), they say you are 70% more likely to do something if it’s in writing, so here we go!

1: Receiving my Equine Massage Certificate
It’s been on my goal list since 2016, maybe even 2015. The process began back in October, but in typical Anna fashion, I’m a bit behind on it. (Still can’t get over the fact that there are two different directional terms from the back of the legs from the hocks and knees down.) The goal with this is to run my own small equine business, operating out of my little corner of Massachusetts. The fact that I found a school that offers equine massage therapy in my state was pure luck, and horse people haven’t scared me yet!

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2: Place at a rated horse show
This is another long term goal I’ve had. I’ve been showing and competing since 2010, but they’ve all been local non rated or schooling dressage shows. Those gave me the experience of being at a show, but not like a rated one. I got the chance to groom for Trainer S, this past summer while she made her attempt at her bronze, and being at a rated show vs non rated was very different. I already have 3-4, the fourth being very dependent on how I do in the other three, rated shows lined up with the barn manager, Trainer C. She trains and shows Arabians so this little country mouse will have some fun on the Arab circuit this year. I’m still figuring out my options of who I will be showing but I can’t wait for the first show in May.


3: Get Good Grades and Keep Ahead
This feels kinda cheap to say it, but because I have overloaded myself with classes, and I’m moving into the tougher more major-specific classes in the Spring and Fall, my grades have suffered greatly. I had a 3.5 going into my summer 2018 semester, but it dropped to a 2.9, resulting in losing my scholarship. I’m lucky enough that I can afford college, with or without that scholarship, but it did help. I’d like to keep those grades a little higher and hopefully above the 3.0 level. The second half of this resolution is more towards the goal of graduating a semester early. My older sister managed it in 3 years, which is super hard, but I just want to get out earlier if physically possible. It might not be, we’ll see.

Pinpoint the stress to de-stress

4: Work towards First Level
This one might be another 2020 goal, but I would love to be able to get up to first level. I love dressage in the sense of everything is very well planned for my little anxious brain, and the only things unplanned are what the horse’s reactions are to unplanned things. I feel better knowing that there is a permanent, well semi-permanent, pattern that I will always follow that is a standard, so there are no suprises on the test end.

5: Find a new lease
I’m currently in horse limbo, and I need a project. I’ve been trying various horses at my current barn, and one may have potential. Trainer C brought her younger son’s horse for me to try, but because of the Big Sick that went around during the holidays, he still hasn’t been brought back into work, and she’s considering bringing him home. Trainer C and S both are trying to help me find my way with a new lease. I am definitely leasing one of Trainer C’s horses as I know she won’t screw me over with a lease, which has been an issue in past leases.

6: Blog more!
This one I really want to make work. I made this blog in October, and have made about like 2 posts since then. I would love to use this blog to follow any kind of equestrian activities I do, and I’ve worked towards making it work. So this will be an interesting goal to see if I follow.

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7: Enjoy myself
I got into this sport for the fun of it, so I’m hoping to keep it fun and as drama free as possible. The barn is becoming a little less stressful as we are getting moving, but Trainer C keeps a good handle on everything.