RMSAAM Student Spotlight

RMSAAM student Bill O'Connell and Cinnamon Girl. (Photo: Bill O'Connell)
RMSAAM student Bill O’Connell and Cinnamon Girl. (Photo: Bill O’Connell)

by Bill O’Connell

Hello, my name is Bill O’Connell.  I live in Guffey, Colorado.  I’m very excited about starting a career in Equine Massage and bodywork.  I attended Level 1 Equine Massage in October, 2012.  I am enrolled in the March Level 2 Equine Massage class, 2013. I look forward to learning more and continuing my education for years to come.  Hopefully for a lifetime!  I’ve just turned fifty years old and this is an awesome way to be starting the second half of my life.

During my Level 1 case studies, I had the opportunity to perform massages on a BLM mustang.  Cinnamon Girl is a five-year- old mare.  She was rounded up by the BLM in 2010, just outside Reno, Nevada. She spent the next two years in a holding facility at the prison in Canon City, Colorado.  On September 17, 2012, Justin Dunn, a Colorado horse trainer and clinician, picked her up.  He had less than 120 days in which to train her.  They are entered in a competition called ‘Mustang Magic’ that will be held in Fort Worth, Texas January 24 -25, 2013.  There will be 20 competitors; horses and riders.  All the horses in the competition are mares.   The trainers will show what their horses have learned in just four months.  They will be judged and awards will be given.  On January 26th, the horses will be put up for adoption.  Trainers have been known to adopt the horse they have trained, as they develop very close bonds with them.

I did the first massage on Cinnamon Girl on October 24, 2012.  She had been in Justin’s care for only five and a half weeks.  She was undergoing a gentling, learning and training process with Justin.  Prior to this she had very little interaction with humans and had only been touched when she was freeze-branded and vaccinated. She had to learn to trust us humans.  Up to this point in her life, humans were something to fear and to run from, just like any other predator or scary thing.  This is the difference between a ‘wild’ or free-roaming mustang and a domestic horse.  Most domestic horses have been handled by humans since birth, or at least, during the first few months of their lives.  This is great imprinting, and helps the horse to trust and form a bond with humans almost immediately.  A mustang’s first experience with humans is to be chased, rounded up and corralled with other mustangs.  Then they are transported to a holding pen, where they wait to be adopted out by the BLM to the public.  It is a hard life for these horses and they are scared.  I believe massage could benefit these horses greatly during and after their gentling and training.

When I first started doing massage on Cinnamon Girl she had only been touched and handled by Justin for a few weeks.  She wasn’t quite sure at first, and I could feel her shaking, fearful of being touched like this by a human.  She relaxed rather quickly though, and seemed to enjoy her first massage.  She even yawned 8 or 9 times in a row, along with licking and chewing.  I was very happy to see that!  I continued to do massages on Cinnamon Girl through the month of November.  At times, she showed signs of being sensitive on her back and the crest of her neck became tight and sensitive to even light muscle-squeezing.  I’m sure that learning to carry a rider and the accelerated training, which can be tough not only physically, but also emotionally, and psychologically, is what was contributing to this.  I spoke with Justin several times about this, as he was concerned for her well-being.  He tried using a different saddle pad and that helped her back quite a bit.  Over time now, her neck is not as sensitive as it was earlier.  She has become very relaxed with me and I believe she enjoys our massage sessions together.

Since our first session it has been just the two of us, with no handler.  I’ve done our session in a small 30 x 30 foot square pen, or in a round pen.  During one session I removed her halter to allow her to decide whether she wanted to stand for the massage.  A few times during the session she moved away from me and walked around the pen, but then she came right back and stood beside me.  I continued the massage and she stood perfectly still again.  Now when I do a massage on her she will stand the entire 45 or 50 minutes with no handler.  She even fell asleep one day at the end of her massage.  I was happy to see her so relaxed.

I have enjoyed our sessions together very much and I feel that I have learned something new each time.  I believe every time we are around a horse they can teach us things about them and ourselves.  They teach us about patience, intention, understanding of each other, and our communication.  I believe Cinnamon Girl knew I wanted to help her feel better, both physically and emotionally.  I know the power of touch is very strong and I am so glad to have the opportunity and the privilege to learn continually and be a part of the exciting field of equine massage.  I love it and RMSAAM.  I am very grateful for this and the life I have being with horses.  I look forward to learning something new every day!

Today is January 22, 2013, and in less than 24 hours Justin will load Cinnamon Girl in the trailer and we will make the long haul to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Mustang Magic competition on the 24th and 25th.  On Saturday, January 26, Cinnamon Girl will go through the BLM auction process.  We will see if Justin brings her home or if she will go to a new guardian.  Either way it will be a very emotional time, as we have all been very close to her.

Buzz Words

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T. S. Eliot (Image: Office.com)
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T. S. Eliot (Image: Office.com)

by Sandi Martinez

The feeling never changes, but the presentation always does. A longing, a twist and turn of synchronicities, a nudge that comes from nowhere and everywhere, that leads to the same notion; idea. And each time, the buzz word, fear rears its head against that idea.

Each time the ‘impossible dream’ comes riding around, it goes right back from whence it came. The dream is here, it is now; it is you as you picture yourself doing what you love the most. As you run your hands down the powerful, solid muscles of a horse – the intention of love and pure energy working its way to those sore muscles. Each time you picture yourself massaging an animal, they reap the benefits of your love, the light you send, and receive. A wholeness, and the feeling of coming ‘home’ to yourself is no doubt the result of choosing such a rewarding career as an Animal Practitioner.

This is the heart-felt notion/idea of your dream and your passion, yet reality once again, the other buzz word, makes a come-back, the center of a never-ending circle, and the other word, ‘impossible’, makes that familiar, realistic, music in your ears. What do to do with such redundant, dull, and yet strangely comforting sounds?

Risk is a double-edge sword. One side speaks of unspeakable actions, and the unknown factors of doing something new; the other side is the risk of doing nothing – waking  up one day and asking ‘what if’? What if this question is asked when it’s too late to take the other risk? The one where fear lives?

What if there are too many ‘If’s’? As spirits living in physical bodies, our hearts are married to our souls; isn’t that the ultimate perfection of making a decision that ultimately leads back to oneself, the true self? It may be easy to say: Just do it. When the heart and mind find a solution, the possibilities are endless. But what makes that possible, is the determination to walk down the path that brings immense happiness, the belief that it is possible to be incredibly happy doing something you love.

And the path? Perhaps over time weeds and thick brush covered it. It’s a bit hard to see, but the outline of a road exists. The machete sits on the side of the road where it is easily seen, and the question arises once again, what if? Fear, Unrealistic, Impossible, Risk, the buzz words corner and freeze ideas, passion, and possibilities. The choices are simple, yet undeniably complicated: Do it, or don’t. Like the fool that rests his/her stick with a small bundle  of belongings hanging over their shoulder, set out on their way a cliff underfoot, a dog barking a warning… what if, a two-foot drop existed, and not the drastic fall that is presumably predicted?

RMSAAM would love to hear your stories on risk; was it worth it?



You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers!  Below are some of the most frequently asked questions by interested individuals, while researching the programs that we offer here at RMSAAM:

Q: How do your programs work?

A: We offer Large and Small Animal Acupressure and Massage programs. Small and Large Animal Massage consists of three levels of expertise. Level 1 focuses on therapeutic massage, Level 2 focuses on Sports massage and working with athletes, level 3 focuses on geriatric massage and working with seniors. Acupressure consists of 2 levels of expertise. For complete information on the break-down of these courses, please visit: http://www.rmsaam.com/class-information.html.

Q: Do I have to complete all three levels before I get certified?

A: No, certification is earned for each level.

Q: How much time do I have to complete each level?

A: 18 months.

Q: Can this time period be extended if needed?

A: Yes.  There is a $150 fee for an additional six-month extension.

Q: Can I take all three levels on-site, or do I have to complete each level first?

A: Yes, a person can complete all ‘on-site’ levels back-to-back.  The scheduling allows for this convenience as many of our students travel from out of state and the country.

Q: Are these programs offered on-line?

A: Canine Massage Levels 1 and 2 are offered on-line, and Level 3 to be offered sometime in 2012.  We do not currently offer Equine Massage courses on-line.  Large and Small Acupressure Theory Correspondence Program is also offered on-line.  For more detailed information on these courses, please visit: http://www.rmsaam.com/ondemand.html.

Q: Do you offer Tuition Assistance programs?

A: We offer RMSAAM Financing; monthly payments; State Department of Human Services and Vocational Rehabilitation; MYCAA Government Spouse Tuition Program; Corporate tuition assistance; Personal Loans; and RMSAAM Scholarship Program.  Please visit: http://www.rmsaam.com/tuition-assistance.html for more information.

Q: Do I need to be a licensed Massage Therapist, or have Massage experience prior to enrolling?

A: No.  In addition, Anatomy and Physiology pre-requisites are not required.  You must be 16 and over to enroll or accompanied by a registered parent or guardian.

Q: Do I have to be licensed or certified in my state to become a Canine or Equine Massage Practitioner?

A: Please visit: www.iaamb, and www.abmp.com, for your state’s licensure requirements or call us and we will try to help you however we can.

Q: Is the $500 registration fee combined with the entire course cost?

A: Yes.

Q: What are case studies?

A: Case studies are independent studies that the student performs over a six-week period once they have returned home from their on site class at RMSAAM. The student receives case study forms and instructions during class, returns home, and performs massage on a number of animals (three or four depending on the program) once per week, for six weeks. The student records their findings and sends their paperwork back to RMSAAM for review; review can take up to 30 business days.

Q: What are the school’s credentials?

A: RMSAAM is approved and regulated by the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Division of Private Occupational Schools. RMSAAM is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) as a continuing education Approved Provider # 451073-09. RMSAAM is an approved provider of Florida LMT CE’s. IAAMB/ACWT Approved Preferred Educational Provider #10-1.

If you have other questions not answered here, please call 303.660.9390, or email us: information@rmsaam.com, and we’ll be happy to assist you further!