I often get asked whether my job is difficult. People think I must get bitten or kicked often (I don’t) or that I must be exhausted by the end of the day (I’m not). The truth is, I really don’t find any particular parts of my job difficult. I love the fact that horses let you know exactly what they think of what you’re doing. I love that my job is a wonderful balance of a physical job combined with the need for critical thinking. The special bond your form with a horse during a massage is very different from almost any other interaction you can have with them. It is also a fantastic combination of working with horses, but also dealing closely with people. I thrive on a good challenge, and it’s not rare to get asked to work on a horse who I’m told doesn’t like to be touched or is very wary of strangers. When these particular horses come around (often within minutes) it really is a fantastic feeling. It is great to collaborate with veterinarians, chiropractors, trainers and saddle fitters to help fill in some parts of the puzzle in some challenging cases. Even on a long, hot, busy horse show day my work is extremely rewarding and I seldom feel tired even after a (rare) eight massage day. Basically, every day that I go to work, I think about how lucky I am to have a career I am this passionate about even after twelve years.
There is really only one aspect of working with horses (and most of our companion animals) that makes some days very difficult. Sadly, even under the best circumstances, the lifespan of a horse is much shorter than ours. Also, for those of us involved with horses, we know all too well the meaning of ‘if anything can go wrong, it will.’ Sure, as owners, we do what we can to prevent accidents and make sure that our horses have the best chance at health and soundness. No matter the effort, it is not always enough.
Amazing, caring, educated horse owners often deal with horses getting seriously injured or becoming very sick. In the best case scenarios, the horse will eventually recover to return to its previous job. In others, the horse will never return to the same level of work, but they will happily become a pleasure horse or spoiled pasture puff. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions and top notch veterinary intervention, combined with blood, sweat and tears, some horses just will not make it. The situations where there is a high probability of recovery and good quality of life are particularly hard to see as. Understandably, owners will do whatever they can for their horse. These cases are often financially and emotionally extremely draining. The daily wound flushing, handwalking, monitoring, administering meds, doing everything in your power to give your horse the best chance at recovery can lead to exhaustion. As a bystander you hope that everything will turn out to be ok, for both the horse and the owner.
Inevitably, the longer you work with horses and the more horses you are lucky to get to work with, the more often it happens. It really never gets easy.
To all my clients, friends and colleagues who have lost a beloved horse, I’m so very sorry for your loss. Whether it is a horse you have owned for 20 years or more, an amazing athlete in the peak of its career, or a life cut short before it has even had a chance to really begin, they are all devastating. I know there is nothing that can be said to ease your pain. I just want to express how grateful I am for the opportunity to have been involved in your horses’ lives, to get to know their unique personalities, their extremely generous nature and their favourite itchy spots. I will always remember them all.