While I was in line at the grocery store the other day, I overheard a teen aged daughter telling her mom how much she hated going to work. Her mom told her to get used to it because this was just the start. I couldn’t help myself, without thinking I suggested she find a job she loves going to instead. They both looked at me and the mom asked what I do. I told them that I massage horses for a living. In response I heard the same thing many people tell me; that I am so lucky to have found a job I love.
I agree. I am incredibly lucky to wake up every morning looking forward to my day. Twelve years into my career I actually enjoy what I do more now than when I first started. It is a job that still has its challenges. Anyone who has ever tried to convince 1200 lbs of horse to let them do something painful (such as some deep tissue work), can attest to this. It is just as rewarding today to see a tense horse relax and enjoy their massage as it was when I first started (and with practice, happens more quickly). Receiving update texts from happy clients will also never get old.
It wasn’t just luck that brought me down this path, however. I spent my entire childhood thinking I wanted to be a veterinarian. I got good grades and got into my top choice university and began the first year of the pre-vet program. Less than a semester in, I had realized I made a huge mistake. While volunteering with horse vets I gained a huge amount of respect for what it is they do. At the same time I realized, this was not what I wanted to do at all. I enjoyed most of the courses I was taking, but Organic Chemistry was not my friend, and I didn’t think I could put myself through three more years of it.
At this point in time, equine massage was a relatively new field. Even though I had ridden for years, I had never seen a horse receive a massage in real life. In my search for career options I came across the website for the D’Arcy Lane Institute and their fantastic equine massage therapy program. As over the top as it may sound, even though I’m generally a very rational person, at this moment I had a strong emotional reaction and realized I had found my calling.
The hardest part was telling my university educated immigrant parents that I was going to drop out of UBC, move to London (no, not that London, the one in Ontario), attend a small private college, and pursue a career in equine massage. To say that in that moment they were very disappointed in me would be a huge understatement. My friends told me, almost unanimously, that I was making a huge mistake. In many ways, at that time, it would have been far easier to stick with my original plans or at the very least stay at UBC.
If luck was involved in ending up exactly where I am today, it’s because I was fortunate enough to be independent, strong willed and not too worried about the opinions of others. I also realized at an early age, that in my case, I really needed to be passionate about my work in order to thrive.
I applied to the program, worked my butt off for the next few months saving every penny, found a roommate on the internet (this actually worked out extremely well), booked a flight and waved goodbye to the family.
I did well in the program, worked hard and received the Award for Excellence in Achievement upon graduating in 2004. I came home and naively thought that after attending such a good program, clients would start calling immediately. I’m sure anyone who works in the horse industry just had a good laugh at that. This industry, more than any other I know, is based almost entirely on word of mouth, even more so before the age of social media. Also, equine massage was still considered very alternative and was not as popular in BC as in Ontario where people were familiar with D’AL graduates. It would take a lot of work and quite some time before the phone would start calling.
There were a few times early on when I seriously doubted my decision. Loving your job is wonderful, but unfortunately that alone does not pay the bills. I worked part time in addition to massaging and still felt guilty for not contributing more to our household bills, especially at a time when my husband didn’t love his job. I felt like I was being selfish, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
Ultimately luck alone was not enough. It took taking some very scary risks, including leaving a part time job that had become a bit of a security blanket and making big investments into the company all at the same time. In the long term, I am happy to say that it was more than worth it. I honestly can’t imagine having a different job. In many ways it is not just what I do, but who I am.
Having passion for my job has helped me spend countless hours keeping on top of the latest equine research. It has made me want to improve upon the service I provide by adding new modalities such as a cold laser. It motivates me to keep myself strong and fit so I can continue to do what I love for as long as possible. It keeps me smiling during long horse shows when my day suddenly doubles in length and I realize I won’t have time to ride my horse after all. I love hearing that it shows how much I enjoy what I do.
Instead of just telling me how lucky I am to have such a fun job, I would wish that people would feel inspired to pursue their own passions, whether they are career related or not.