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1. What is your business?

I started All Equines Bodywork to help equestrians keep their prized athletes healthy and happy. My goal is to be an advocate for each equine and a trusted resource for their owners. I offer equine bodywork that goes beyond horse massage.

My services use gentle movement and light touch. My bodywork yields powerful results that relieve tension and reduce pain which in turn promotes soundness and longevity. I have worked with hundreds of equines, but my passion is in serving the long-ear equine community of mules and donkeys.

 

2. What made you decide to start your business and/or switch careers?

Some life changing events occurred over a five year period that led me to seek something different. My dad died. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I went through a divorce. During that dark time, I was filled with deep sadness, loss, and anger. I felt empty and pissed off, and I was working in a J.O.B. that I found unfulfilling.

One afternoon, I visited my mom when she was really lucid and talkative. I will never forget what she said to me. Her message came at a time when I really needed some divine intervention. She said “Honey, life is too short. You have to do something you love.” I had to go back to my childhood to find the light.

To make a long story short, I adopted a mule from the pack station where I was working as a backcountry guide and packer in Yosemite National Park (not the J.O.B. mentioned above). When Feather and I started training together for competitions, she started showing signs of discomfort that I largely ignored because I had goals and a timeline. When I got bucked off because I didn’t know how much pain she was in, I realized that my ignorance, arrogance, and insensitivity was the reason I was injured.

As I recovered from my injuries, I found a practitioner that helped me recover via bodywork which was what she called therapeutic pilates. When I sought help for Feather, the Masterson Method, developed for equines, was so closely aligned in what I was experiencing to heal myself. I realized that I wanted to be able to offer bodywork and this kind of healing to equines. I had a lot of emotional and physical healing to do myself, but helping Feather helped me. As I worked with Feather, our relationship improved by leaps and bounds and her body released tension making it easier and more comfortable for her to do what I was asking of her.

There are two things that stand out in my mind that led me to create my business. One is the power of the body to heal when tension is released and movement is restored. The second is the graceful, forgiving nature and willingness of equines. This is where the idea of having my own business, All Equines Bodywork was born.

 

3. Were there any partnerships or advice that were particularly helpful?

My most supportive partnership has been with Jim Masterson, creator of the Masterson Method of Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork®. He stands apart in the equine industry because he has a much different approach to working with equines than most. This approach also plays a big role in his success as a businessman. One thing stands out that I have found particularly helpful:

When you meet with resistance, soften.

Working with equines (or people for that matter) simply doesn’t yield results and isn’t any fun if I am tense, demanding or harsh. All equines are masters at self-preservation. Mules and donkeys are survival specialists using resistance to their advantage. In the world equines live in with humans, we take away their most basic survival instinct which is to flee.

Thus, their self-preserving nature is to protect themselves by bracing internally to the things we do ”to” them. The more you do, the less effective you’ll be and the more resistant they become in their bodies, in their minds. You just have to work “with” them and a more successful approach starts by softening when they get tense or worried.

The simplest way is to soften and give them nothing to resist against. This concept of softening can be applied to just about anything in life. Doing less, often yields more, at least in my business.

 

4. What are some successes you have had with your business that make you proud?

There is one particular mule, Heart B Dyna, who has gained a worldwide following because she was the first mule to qualify for the United States Dressage Finals. A mule competing against horses is kind of a big deal in the greater equestrian world.

I’ve been working with Dyna for many years. She’s incredibly sensitive and an exceptional athlete. But she’s also quirky, spooky and a skeptic. It’s not easy to earn her trust, to work with her takes great skill and patience. When she sees me, she nickers and then shows me where she wants me to put my hands. She trusts me and she allows me to help her. To be a part of her success story, just makes my heart sing.

For two years I have been a clinician at the Bishop Mule Days Celebration. 2019 will be the 50th anniversary since the competitions began. It’s touted as the largest mule show in the world and is an event steeped in traditions and history. I care about the community of people who come together to celebrate the diversity and heritage surrounding mules. These folks cherish and love mules which means they also hold horses and donkeys in high regard as a mule is an offspring from a female horse and a male donkey.

To offer a new perspective, to speak as an expert in my field, to present as an educator at this event makes me very proud. I love being in a business that acknowledges the special relationships and connections between humans and equines.

 

5. Who did you speak to for support as you were working on the idea/launch?

I really didn’t speak to anyone nor did I launch my business in a big way. I simply consulted with myself and decided that I wanted to make a living helping horses, mules and donkeys feel comfortable in their bodies. So far, I’m happy with the way things are going.

 

6. What are some of your current challenges?

My business, as it exists right now, is dependent on getting my hands on equines. This requires a lot of time traveling to serve clients. Thus, I’m usually traveling three weeks out of the month. It can be really hard to manage my energy and self-care. I have to be mindful to focus on keeping a routine, staying healthy and rested.

 

7. What would be your biggest piece of advice you would give to yourself ten years ago?

Worry less, play and move more. I’m much happier when I don’t take life too seriously and when I can move. Working with equines brings me such joy and having a playful attitude is essential because when you’re too uptight or stiff around them it makes them uncomfortable and worried. And motion is medicine, a body in motion is a body that stays healthier.

 

8. Do you use social media for marketing your business?

Yes, I’m using it more and more. I’ve had to do a lot of learning, and I’m building my confidence and my distribution list which continues to take me out of my comfort zones.

I am learning to flex my marketing muscles and they are getting stronger. Shameless plug here: I do have a Facebook business page All Equines Bodywork and an Instagram account lifeandlongears.

 

9. What are your hopes for your business for the next five years?

I would love to teach and host Masterson Method Weekend Workshops at my own ranch working exclusively with mules, donkeys, and their owners.

I would love to expand my business by creating a community of equine enthusiasts that seek out holistic equine practices and practitioners. To coordinate and host retreats where both owners and their equines come together to relax and heal with specialized professionals that support wellness, communication and building partnerships would be really fun!

I have a vision for a podcast that highlights different professionals and aspects of “horse-keeping” so to speak. I’d also love to help elevate the status of mules and donkeys in the greater equestrian community. Frankly, I’m sad when an equine professional can’t tell the difference or care to differentiate between a mule and a donkey.

Ultimately, my goal is to create a platform for promoting compassion, understanding, and welfare for the working equines of the world. To ease the suffering for these fine creatures is a cause I would enjoy working towards.

 

10. Are you willing to serve as a mentor to others interested in your sector?

Absolutely! I feel most appreciative to be able to provide equines with bodywork as I see it as a gift for all the beautiful things they give us. The more folks doing this kind of work just makes our world kinder, gentler and more compassionate. Anyone looking to connect should reach out to me via my website.

Conversation Date: September 18, 2018

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