Equine body worker Noni VanSon kindly took the time to answer some questions about her profession and business The Right Touch Equine Sports Massage and Rehabilitation.
How much of your day/week is related to horses?
At least 40 hours a week are devoted to horses–probably more if you add in all the time that I spend thinking and talking about them.
What is it exactly that you do?
I am an equine body worker. I am certified in equine sports massage, equine rehabilitation, and balanced equine structural therapy. I mostly use sports massage and body mechanics (both mine and the horses’) to alleviate chronically over-used muscles and over-stretched muscles, passively mobilize joints, and initiate exercises to generally improve the horse’s performance and comfort. I also provide the owner/trainer with exercises to reinforce the work that I have done and/or build strength in the horse’s core or other targeted areas.
I also spend considerable effort in educating owners and trainers and help them to coordinate saddle fit, farrier and dental work, veterinary work, and their training programs to enhance the horse’s physical well being as well as his or her performance. I strive to work as part of a team by improving communication between the various professionals and nonprofessionals who are responsible for each horse.
In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
Yes, it is possible to earn a livable income, but it takes time to build the reputation and clientele to do this. I would say that it makes a better second income for a family than the only one. However, if you are single, it could be done as long as you have some type of support while you build your business.
I worked part time during the first 8 years of my business, but was finally able to only do equine body work as my only income. I think the area you live in and your connections have some impact on how fast you are able to build a business. Certainly an area with fewer horses and lower per capita incomes would not provide a livable income doing this type of work.
What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
I think certification or course completion in some form of equine body work is a must. I highly recommend Dino Fretterd’s Equine-DO Institute in California and The Animal Rehab Institute in Florida. Having said that, professional horse experience is also important to success.
One must know how to handle horses quietly, firmly, and with respect. The course one takes will definitely influence how well you do, but your mission statement and follow-through will also affect it. Additionally, you have to look at your career as one that involves continuing education and continual improvement.
Favourite horse memory?
My favorite horse memory is knowing that as a child I had no one really to help me with my horse addiction. We lived in an area where there were few horses, but many farms. My parents who knew nothing about horses, bought me a pregnant mare. I foaled the baby, raised him, started him myself, and rode him through the countryside without a care in the world, sometimes for the whole day.
And I never had him gelded! This stallion took care of me and never dumped me or even scared me. I never knew that it was dangerous. When I went to college, my mother gave the stallion to a friend of hers that had a herd of ponies that he wanted to breed for larger size.
A year later, I went to visit him and rode him bareback up the hill and away from his herd of mares to where my mom was. He never even looked back! Knowing what I know now, makes me feel that this entire relationship was a miracle of sorts and I am very thankful for the memories.
My future goal is to obtain funding for an equine rehab facility with a water treadmill, cold water spa, Theraplate, therapeutic ultrasound, effective body work, and employees who love horses and learning. This would be a place where horses could not only be rehabilitated, but actually improved and the people working with them would be treated with respect.
Best thing about your sport/profession?
The best thing about my profession is that I am an educated equine advocate. I help horses in real and tangible ways and I can also help their owners/trainers to achieve their goals for these horses.
“His is a power enhanced by pride, a courage heightened by challenge, his is a swiftness intensified by strength, a majesty magnified by grace, his is a timeless beauty touched with gentleness, a spirit that call our hearts to dream.” – Author unknown