By Deneen Peckinpah, CESMT
Once we had practiced the techniques, we adjourned to the barn. We led Cherokee, a twenty-five year old Appaloosa gelding, out into the open where we would work. Geary started by showing us how to relax a horse before beginning the massage. He then went on to trace the lines we were to follow as we worked with the acupressure techniques. By the time the sun was low in the sky, each of us knew how to do the front half of the horse, practicing all the techniques under Geary’s alert supervision. Fortunately for Cherokee, we finished the job on Tuesday. Cherokee grew more beautiful every day. He’d been pretty swaybacked. I was amazed at the technique that actually lifts a horse’s back. You know when you’re doing it right because you can see the change as you do it. Each day Cherokee’s back grew flatter. By the end of the week he looked like a much younger horse.
Because the field of horse massage is a relatively new (and very lucrative) profession, there is controversy over the amount of training needed for a practitioner to be qualified to work on a horse. Does a student have to have hundreds of hours of training in order to be a trustworthy horse massage therapist? Geary Whiting has a very high degree of integrity and so many years of success in the field of massage therapy that I tend to listen to the man when he says that a sixty-hour training is quite adequate for someone entering this field. Geary makes sure each individual has a solid grasp of essentials and then leaves it up to the individual student to continue learning at home and with experience.
Fortunately, the field of horse massage is still relatively free of governmental interference. There are those, however, who favor regulation. Geary is not one of them. “Massage is something that should not be regulated, because it is an art form. Just like music, massage is an art. It preceded veterinarians. It preceded schools. It is an art, and it has to come from within the individual. We are going to regulate ourselves to the point where we are a bunch of robots and automatons. Art is wide open. It is a form of expression. When you start regulating people, saying, ‘You have got to learn it this way,’ and it is not a healing art anymore. The bottom line at my school in order to graduate and get a certificate is: students have to demonstrate that they know how to massage a horse. And the horse is generally the one who critiques them.”
Geary suggests that students fine-tune their skills before putting themselves forward at professionals. "I tell my students, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so do not go out until you feel confident that you can do the job. Results should be the determining factor in whether or not to have someone back again to work with a horse.
"To regulate something, you need to prove that the public is in danger. You have got to regulate veterinarians because they diagnose and dispense volatile drugs that can be dangerous if misused. In twenty-two years of massage practice I have never heard of a horse being injured from a massage. I have heard of therapists being injured by horses. A horse is not familiar with ‘no pain, no gain’ and will not allow a person to use more pressure than is comfortable. With a horse, regulation is intrinsic to the process. When you regulate something through legislation, you often require a lot of unnecessary subjects. I have seen people who had had 500 hours of massage training and still could not give a decent treatment. They had quantity but no substance. Their lack of business showed this, as well. Our system of free enterprise allows the customer to determine whether or not someone is providing a satisfactory product or service."
The benefits of massage for equine athletes (in fact, for horses of all kinds) are well documented. The following letter from two health professionals shows how simple and effective an art this is. The work they refer to in the letter was done entirely by students, all as new to massage as this particular horse was! (Letters of amazed appreciation are frequent in this business.)
When I first heard about horse massage, I had not a clue that a relatively brief training could enable one to accomplish such seemingly miraculous results as these beginning students achieved with Billy. I thought it would be a great career because it would allow me to travel anywhere in the world and open up a whole new realm of adventure. The field is still wide open, and a good CESMT can make an excellent living. I did get a new career out of the training; only it is more than I had expected.
One mild evening while we sat outside enjoying the fire and waiting for the coals to be right, Geary taught us some techniques for helping people get rid of headaches in three minutes or less. Another day one of the students asked Geary what she could do to help her father, who had problems with his lower back and legs. Geary showed us how to treat such a condition with Shiatsu. As soon as I left school, I started working with friends who were having headaches, as well as neck, back, and leg problems. I enjoyed the work so much and the results were so spectacular that it was not long before people began paying me for bodywork. Fortunately, I live in a county where I can practice without a certificate. Now, I intend to learn even more skills. This way I can travel, go to horse shows, and do Shiatsu sports massage for horse and rider. I have also incorporated the Shiatsu into my “Bright Body” rejuvenation program. All this and a return to professional writing, after a hiatus of nearly twenty-five years, has come out of my one week with Geary Whiting. I would say the Geary Whiting Equine Massage School was a life-changing experience for me, just as I had been told it would be. Just as Geary intends it to be for everyone (including the horses.)
Note: Many of the letters on this site were written reflecting school activities / functions that may not be available year-round. Please contact Geary for specific activities / functions available during your projected course date.