Why Go to Animal Massage School?

Sitting down with coffee in hand at your computer, you realize that you really want to work with animals in some capacity. Actually, you decided this a while ago but now you are ready to Handmake the commitment to do some research on the topic. Working with animals…think harder…okay, you want to help them feel better. What different avenues are there to help them feel better? After exploring the possibilities you land on the one that really reels you in: massage. Having your hands on the animal, being part of the team that helps keep them happy and in good quality of life, sounds ideal. So…what now? What is involved with getting from here- sitting on my comfy couch with coffee, to running my animal massage business? Furrowing your brow at the computer, you realize being educated on the topic is probably a good idea.

Taking the plunge to begin a career in the animal massage industry can seem a bit overwhelming, whether this is your first time envisioning a career for yourself oKoar changing from one you are already pursuing. There are many different options to consider: what species do I want to work on? What schools specialize in those areas? What kind of time commitment am I willing to make? These are the questions the logical side of our brain starts firing off. On the other side of our brain we get questions like am I too old/young for this? My background was never in this subject area…what if I don’t understand it? What if I start out loving it and then decide it’s not for me?

Let’s think about the latter conversation with your brain. This industry is made up of people from all areas of the age spectrum; so long as you want to be passionate about your life and career and are excited to learn, age is just a number! The beauty of institutions that teach animal massage is that they are comprised of founders, instructors, staff, and workers that come from all backgrounds and walks of life. This means that there is going to be someone, at least one out of that whole matrix of people, that you resonate with and can easily learn from. Many people had zero background in this subject area before beginning their own journey, as is natural with anything in life. Should you decide to pursue a career in animal massage, you might realize while doing so that it isn’t the career for you. The incredible thing about an experience like that is that you know what you don’t want to do, which is just as important as the opposite! There may be something you covered in class that really resonates with you, and that’s the avenue you decide to explore instead; awesome!

Now back to what your brain was first thinking about, the more logic-based questions. In regard to what species you would like to work with, some people are very comfortable with dogs and somFritze with horses, and some prefer both. That’s a question you should be able to reason through pretty quickly, as both dogs and horses have their easy aspects and more difficult ones as far as massage is concerned.  Make a list of the pros and cons for working with a species if you are not sure about it, but remember that comfort level and skills will grow in time. This means that you may want to work with horses down the road, but while building your skillset you feel comfortable just working with dogs for the time being. Totally doable. The next question is also easy to answer, as a quick internet search will readily show you what schools are available that teach the program you are interested in. Some schools focus on one species or modality, and some have a wide range of offerings.

Deciding how much time you can commit to the education process is also key in making the decision for what school you’d like to attend. As the nature of massage is hands-on, many people opt for on-site programs where they have many opportunities during the duration of the class to have their hands on animals. The length of program varies by school, as well as when the courses are offered during the year. There are a variety of locations of schools around the country (and world), and many schools have satellite locations. Animal massage programs are designed to teach you a marketable skill, and are not typically set up like standard higher education institutions. One course may last a week, and you travel to the location of the school and stay in that area while you complete it. Many schools help students find affordable lodging nearby to make their stay easier. This can be a great option for those that are able to take a week or so off from current jobs or be away from home. It can be a way to see some areas of the country that you may have never been to before!

Newer on the horizon are schools that have seen great success in their onsite programs and are now also branching into long-distance or correspondence programs. Students might opt to do one level or class on-site, and then future classes or levels through correspondence after their confidence and skill set has begun to grow. Or there are those that are great at working on their own in a self-paced manner. Correspondence programs offer interaction with the instructors through email, webinars, videos, tutorials, video chats, and more to ensure that students studying from a distance feel as part of the school and learning process. Students are also typically able to travel to the school if they so desire for one-on-one time with an instructor.

Send an enquiry email with your questions to the schools you are interested in. They have awesome people with the answers to your questions, and answers to some you may not have thought of! They can make sure you have the most updated information on their courses so that you are able to make the best decision for you to find what is the best fit. Check out their websites and social media pages to see what other people thought of their experience at the schools.

With so much information out there, it can seem overwhelming when you are looking into attending an animal massage school. A final question that pops up is ‘do I really need to go to school for this? Can’t I just figure it out as I go?’ Great question: why attend school to become an animal massage therapist? Legality, scope of practice, and knowing what lies beneath the skin are the heavy-hitting answers

First let’s think about legality. What an animal massage therapist is legally allowed to do varies state by state. In some states only licensed veterinarians may perform massage therapy. CoriOthers allow massage therapists to work under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Others allow for legal practicing so long as the massage therapist has obtained a certification from a recognized school. If you were practicing against the laws of your state, you could be assigned a cease-and-desist, meaning you are shut down. It is very important, therefore, to understand how the laws of your state work, and how being certified keeps you on the happy side of the law.

Scope of practice is a huge area of concern for massage therapists. This is also an area where cease-and-desists can be issued by the state veterinarian board. The term “scope of practice” means that we stay within our area of knowledge, legally and morally. Massage therapists do not treat, diagnose, prescribe, or cure illnesses. They do not replace the care of a veterinarian. This may seem very simple in concept, but the more you become immersed into the language and actions, lines may begin to blur. How you write up a report can be a breech in scope of practice. How you interact with a client, or the client’s veterinarian, can be a scope of practice issue. Going through the education process with a recognized school means that you will learn the “do’s and do not’s” for being a massage practitioner, and help you to be confident that you are staying well within your scope of practice.

Finally, knowing what lies beneath the skin may appear obvious, but the body is a very complex thing. Reputable schools offer in-depth anatomy and pathology portions of their courses so that anatomy pros and newbies alike can benefit from the modules. It is imperative to know and understand the systems beneath your hands, for it is possible to cause damage if you are unaware of the situation. Knowing when it is and is not okay to massage, based on anatomy and pathology, is something clearly learned through the education process. Also important to learn is how to interact with the client’s veterinarian when the client has certain conditions. When should I consult with their veterinarian? Is it okay to just go ahead and massage? This is an impJimmyerative part of animal massage.

So as you finish up the last bit of coffee in your mug, you look at the pad of paper or Word document where you’ve been taking notes and feel much more confident in your decision to pursue animal massage. You have locations, numbers, prices, contact information, and a much better feel about the whole process.  What’s left? Taking the reins of your life firmly in your hands and making the decision that is the absolute best for you.

Written by Callie Rulli of Skylark Animal Bodywork, LLC

The Human-Animal Bond: FREE Webinar on 1/17/16

human-animal bond


human-animal bond

The special bond that humans share with both equines and canines originated thousands of years ago. Deepening our understanding of that bond can help us to become better animal guardians as well as better animal bodyworkers.

Both dogs and horses have undergone a process of domestication, although some will argue that horses have not been domesticated, but rather, simply tamed. Regardless of this distinction, the relationship that humans share with both horses and dogs is a relationship that is deeply complex, with roots extending thousands of years. In our upcoming Human-Animal Bond webinar, we will discuss this rich history, as well as the depth of the bond we share with them today.

Register here!

This webinar will be presented by RMSAAM webinar instructor and digital media & marketing specialist, Emily Tronetti. Emily also owns Heal to Howl, a canine massage, Reiki and photography business that focuses on the human-canine bond. Emily is currently a graduate student in the Anthrozoology program at Canisius College. Anthrozoology is the study of the interactions between humans and nonhuman animals. Emily is excited to combine her anthrozoology education with the knowledge she gained in RMSAAM’s canine massage program in this brand new webinar!

Gone, but always near…

Image                                                                Contributed by Sandi Martinez
Gone, but always near…

Some of you may remember me as the former Administrative Assistant and Receptionist for RMSAAM. I also was the blogger and blog Admin for this wonderful blog, (If I do say so myself!) and thought I would update you on the sad news of the departure of my best animal companion, Samson. He left me on February 26th.

Some of you were students here when I had my little man as my little assistant during my time at RMSAAM. Some of you even massaged him, and had quite a time getting him to sit still! In some cases I had to sit next to you, while you held him in a comforting and loving position in order to work on him; and indeed your hands were magic… he let you gradually melt away his angst and all the other stuff that comes with an adopted pup with a history. You were his human angels.

We have all lost a member of our fur-animal families… every one of you can attest to this. Yet, how do we live without them? I find myself becoming restless, and I feel empty and lonely.

He spoiled me – in retrospect, everyone might think he was spoiled but in reality, I was spoiled. He gave me love, care, protection, and a kind of company that no human is capable of.

Samson came to a point in his life when it was just his time. There was no dramatic or tragic end to his life – for this I am truly grateful. He stepped onto his next path quickly. I have no idea where he is right now as I write this. I only know there is light and love that surrounds him. He is ready to move on to his next great adventure, but he waits patiently for me to let him go so that he may arrive at his next destination with success.

I wish I could say I’m ready to let him go, but I’m not – yet.

How many of you have been here… right here where I stand? RMSAAM needs some inspiring and hopeful stories to help us move on to the next stage. Thanks in advance!



The Mystery of Knowing

Just how much does fate or destiny play a role in our ‘passion’? (Image: Office.com)
Just how much does fate or destiny play a role in our ‘passion’? (Image: Office.com)


The whole idea of knowledge is that it’s based on information. Making informed decisions gives us ample room to maneuver around what we already know.

We’ve discussed in the past few entries, following your heart; your passion. Let’s face it; the unknown is not a ‘known’ factor. So how do we begin to know what our passion really is?

Many people rely on education, experience, and other valuable sources of information. Others rely on pure gut instinct; the intuitive mind. They are often drawn as if by a magnet, to peruse a certain website, magazine, or even by reading a book.

They will make certain connections to others that open unexpected and surprising doors. Many prospective RMSAAM students have been drawn to study at Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage, and just ‘knew’ it was the right school for them. They did searches on Animal Massage Schools, and RMSAAM’s website popped up. They began by asking a few questions, which then turned into well-rounded, and specific questions, which then ultimately provided the necessary answers to make an informed decision.

Just how much does fate or destiny play a role in our ‘passion’? RMSAAM would love to hear your take on it, and even how you came to read this very entry at this moment; especially because you love animals, and you are wondering how you can help our animal friends, and make a living at it at the same time! We are looking forward to hearing your story!

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?


The Heart and Soul of Reiki

Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it. ~Buddha

by Shelley Sheets; RMSAAM Animal Reiki Instructor.

It is not always clear what the best ways are to support the body, mind and spirit of our animal friends.  Sometimes a single form such as Animal Massage, Reiki or Acupuncture work fine as standalones.  Other times a combination of healing modalities paired with traditional allopathic vet care works best.  It is up to how each individual animal responds to what treatment.

All living things respond to touch.  As a Reiki Master and Animal Massage Therapist I have seen healings of every type come about from the simple act of touch paired with the powerful intention to heal.  Reiki has been practiced throughout the world for many years, including over 300 major hospitals and medical centers in the U.S.  Until recently, Reiki healing was available only to humans, but increasing numbers of Reiki practitioners are establishing practices devoted exclusively to animals.  Almost 100 veterinarians are now listed in the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) directory as Reiki practitioners. Because Reiki does not involve the administration of any drug, just gentle physical contact with the animal; it is considered a safe alternative to use in partnership with traditional veterinary care.  It is recommended for treating pain, anxiety, and behavioral problems.

Reiki is especially helpful in supporting the end-of-life process.  Each animal has its own time to physically transition when their life’s chosen aim and purpose is complete.  As a trained animal Reiki Practitioner I have had the privilege to be present during this difficult time.  For both animals and humans, having the gentle Reiki energy present during the animal’s transition helps to create a sacred space for a more peaceful passing. I recently partnered with a local veterinarian for an in-home euthanasia. I arrived early and assisted the couple, in making the living room a warm comfortable space for themselves and their two dogs, the one who was passing and her sister, and litter mate.  We lit candles and created a big comfy bed on the floor where the family could all be together.  We said a prayer and set an intention for ease and grace that could be felt by all. Throughout the euthanasia process, there were tears and continual words of love and support being spoken.  It was a beautiful, calm passing that left no doubt in anyone’s mind, that this dog had been given only the best care up to her final moments; in this body, on this earth.

Every animal is unique, and Reiki teaches us that only by working with them, and not on them, will we come to appreciate the freedom (not domination) of animals, and be gifted with true “unconditional love”.

Animals are our earthly and spiritual companions.  We all share a deep connection and with each act of kindness, and with each loving thought; the entire world is lifted closer to a state of grace for all beings.  It is said that the beating of a butterfly’s wing is felt by the farthest star.

The next Reiki Class will be held on March 13 & 14, from 10 AM – 3 PM, in Castle Rock, CO.  To view our calendar, please click here.