Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lisa Carter, Heavenly Gaits Equine Massage

From North Texas, USA, Lisa Carter is the proprietor of Heavenly Gaits Equine Massage. She is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist serving locations around North and Central Texas since 2007.  Lisa has multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools - incorporating her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork, using essential oils for animals and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses.  She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the whole horse.  

Since childhood Lisa has had a passion for all things horse and a deep love and empathy for animals.  In 2002 her husband brought home three beautiful Arabian mares and she never looked back.  In 2005 she started her first horse-related business as an equine photographer and videographer of local Parelli Natural Horsemanship clinics and has strived to incorporate her love of horses into all aspects of her business. 

The Author of A Prescription for Parelli, Lisa provides natural products, articles and information to help horse owners find natural inexpensive and practical alternatives to common problems that face horse caretakers. 

Welcome Lisa!

Where did you obtain training to become an Equine Massage Therapist?
I obtained my first massage certification through the Northwest School of Animal Massage in Washington.  I did a lot of research on equine massage schools and found their program to be very thorough with lots of opportunity for continuing education, and it fit into my existing life of having to work full-time and care for my family. However, after completing the program I still felt there was something missing, and I craved something more in the way of why did things happen to horse's bodies.  What were the underlying reasons that some horses would continually have the same problem crop up over and over even after multiple sessions with chiropractors and other bodyworkers? 

I finally found the answers I was looking for in February 2007, when I traveled to Arizona to study with equine bodyworker and Certified Equine Massage Therapist, Dino Fretterd, through Advanced Whole Horse Dynamics (now known as Advanced Whole Horse Dentistry).  Here I was able to study with other equine healthcare professionals (farriers, equine dentists, and veterinarians) in treating the horse as a whole on a working dude ranch with access to many different horses.  I learned to look at the horse from a completely different perspective and how each of the different aspects of the horse's body (feet, teeth, musculoskeletal system) affect one another and the importance of teamwork within the equine healthcare community and horse industry.  I believe I have become much more effective in what I do because I have learned to recognize when the horse needs help in other areas of the body before it can achieve a balanced state.  

What equine massage techniques do you use?
I use what would be considered typical Swedish massage - using various relaxing, stimulating and deep tissue movements applied to problem areas followed by therapeutic stretches to help improve range of motion and alleviate soreness and bring relaxation to the body.

What are the statistics for using essential oils for therapeutic healing?
In the wild, your horse would be instinctively seeking out these very same essential oils or their equivalent from their natural environment! I was watching a television show with the family recently on Animal Planet, and the subject matter was– Herbal Remedies & Essential Oils for animals!  The entire show was devoted to how animals use the resources provided them in their natural environment to take care of what ails them. 

Since before historical records were kept documenting how humans used plants for their medicinal properties, animals have been instinctively self-medicating themselves for things like parasite control, digestive upset, pain relief and even inducing labor. As for the proof, all I can tell you is the proof is in the pudding.  I see the results on a regular basis with my own horses, my clients see the results with their horses...seeing is believing.  But for the scientifically inclined, there are numerous clinical studies being conducted on the health benefits of essential oils on both humans and animals which can be viewed at www.PubMed.gov, and a large number of hospitals are beginning to incorporate them as well. 

Are there certain oils preferred for different benefits/uses?  
Yes.  Each essential oil has its own unique properties that make it beneficial for certain things.  For example, Lavender essential oil has properties that make it an excellent choice to help relieve nervous tension.  So offering a horse a whiff of Lavender before starting an equine massage session is one of my favorite things to do.  It's also very beneficial for relieving sore muscles.  So you can see why it's a must for a bodyworker!  Eucalyptus oil would be very beneficial for supporting the respiratory system.  Lemongrass is excellent for soft tissue, supporting the circulatory system, and the liver.  There's pretty much an oil for everything.

Can you share a successful anecdote using essential oils?  
I was attending a natural horsemanship clinic, and one of my long-time clients was going to be there.  She asked me to work on her horse, Sapphire, to see if I could help with some recurring issues. Because I have a shoulder injury, I had been unable to work on her horse in over three months. The mare had started to become painful and locked up again, with big knots in her neck and shoulder. She was also favoring her left front leg.  Her equine chiropractor said she needed to start having regular massage again.  Since I was unavailable to work on her, a local bodyworker was brought in who uses a different method than I do. Unfortunately they were getting very little results.

This poor horse was so extremely tense by the time I saw her on Friday; her lips were clamped tight and wrinkled up, her neck muscles were bulging, she was visibly lame at the trot and she would flinch when you reached your hand out to touch her. I immediately broke out the bottle of Lavender and let her smell it. I also put a couple of drops at her poll and rubbed several drops of it into my palms and rubbed her bad shoulder with it. As soon as I started to rub on her shoulder, she let out a HUGE breath and lowered her head like a great weight had been lifted off of her.  Her head lowered and her facial expression softened.

Even though I could not perform a regular massage session on her because of my own injury, by using lavender and several other oils like marjoram and copaiba, I was able to get similar results. Her knots were visibly reduced within minutes. You could tell she just felt better, and after several more applications over the weekend she was no longer traveling more comfortably.  She was feeling really good by Sunday – so much so that we were afraid she would hurt herself with her antics! My client was extremely thankful and impressed with the results we got with such minimal physical involvement.

On Saturday morning Sapphire was very much engaged and interested as soon as I brought the oils out. She loved it!  Every time she would see me break out with the oils, she would come over and check them out.  She was VERY particular too about which ones she wanted me to use.  She was extremely interested in the marjoram, which I used repeatedly on her neck, shoulder and lumbar throughout the weekend.  So basically she chose which oils we used, and they were always something that directly correlated with a problem she was having.  Marjoram is an excellent oil to help ease muscle soreness, so is a great addition to a massage blend along with lavender. 

As a horse-owner, what essential oil would you recommend for overall equine well-being and how do I administer essential oils?  
It's SO hard to pick just ONE!  But if I had to...I would probably have to go with Lavender because of it's one of the most versatile and gentle of all of the essential oils.  It's good for skin, wound care, sore muscles, seasonal issues, relaxation and the list goes on! 

Administration is going to depend on what your goal is and what the essential oil is.  There are 3 main ways that you can use essential oils - inhalation/diffusion, topical application and taken internally as a supplement.  This only applies to pure therapeutic grade oils.  Adulterated or chemically synthesized essential oil can cause great harm if used in this way. 

For inhalation (aromatherapy), the easiest way is to rub a drop or two into the palms of your hands and allow your horse to inhale or you can allow them to smell right out of the bottle.  Just be careful to hold it in such a way they can't grab it out of your hand, because they will try!

For topical application, when using oil like Lavender, which is one of the mildest, you can either rub 3-5 drops into your palms and then pet the desired area, or you can add it to a carrier oil (fatty oil) like coconut, jojoba or almond oil to extend it to cover a larger area.  Oils like Peppermint, which are considered "hot" can cause skin sensitivity if applied without dilution.  For these types of oils I will take about a quarter-sized dollop or more of carrier oil and about 2-3 drops of essential oil into my palm, rub together and then rub into the desired location on the body.  They can also be added to a glass spray bottle with water and an emulsifier like witch hazel.  I'll usually use about 20-30 drops essential oils to an 8-oz. spray bottle and fill it the rest of the way with water and a couple of tablespoons of witch hazel. 

If you want to give it as a supplement, like Peppermint for digestion, it's always best to start with a small amount (3-5 drops twice/day).  Less is more with horses!  You can always add a drop or two more at a time if needed, but you can't take it away.  So depending on the oil I will usually just drop it into my palm and let them lick it, drop it in the lip or on their feed. 

You are also an Equine Photographer and Videographer for your local Parelli National Horsemanship Clinics. 
What has been your favorite Parelli event to photograph/videograph to date?
I have to say I just LOVE to film the Level 1 clinics and see the progression of confidence in both horse and human, and of course the Trail Challenge clinics.  It never ceases to amaze me the changes that occur in the course of just 2 days when things are presented in a way the horse understands and also helps develop the leadership skills in people.  Plus the obstacles just make for really fun and exciting pictures :-)

What does horsemanship mean to you?
For me horsemanship is the ultimate expression of the bond that can be nurtured between horse and human.  It represents a mutually beneficial journey between horse and human, each the better for the journey/relationship.  Each half of the partnership must set aside their primal instincts for the relationship to be successful.  Together they can accomplish so much more than individually.  Watching that beautiful dance of a bareback and bridle-less ride is always moving to me. 

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