Searching for a niche in the Equine Industry?

By Debranne Pattillo, Equinology CEO

You want to continue working with horses. You may want to continue showing but need to supplement your income or find a way to pay for your entry fees. You may have a boarding operation and would like to offer more services such as massage to complement your other offerings. You may be a trainer with that awesome eye that notices the horse’s asymmetry in motion, and you would like to know how to investigate and address it. You have an up and coming clipping service and think, what better way to end a clipping service with some relaxing techniques? You are a horse owner who was just advised to start supporting their own horses or realize it’s time that you did.

Have you ever considered a career in the equine massage and bodywork industry? Just ten sessions a week is a great living. Considering new sessions done by a qualified and thorough practitioner last around 2 hours and regular follow ups 1.5 hours, that’s less than 20 hours per week of work. That’s not a bad return on your investment. Plus, the feedback from most horses is priceless.

However, you’ll notice one thing in particular about the discussion in the first paragraph; the individuals are already involved in the horse industry. While it is not imperative that you ride horses, you do need to understand what is involved in their training and care. What is most important is that you understand horse behavior and are used to handling and working with a variety of horse personalities. No massage or bodywork course can teach you this. There are some individuals that arrive to training without previous knowledge of equine behavior and handling, but they soon learn they need to follow through and acquire this knowledge. No horse owner is going to allow you to work on their horses if they feel you are not able to read them and address them properly and fairly.

Typically, the best way to get clients is word of mouth. You need to get into barns and start working so people can see how you interact with horses. Every time you are at a barn working on a horse, consider it a job interview; people are likely watching. So if it means volunteering or completing some free sessions at sanctuaries, friend’s boarding stables or therapeutic riding programs to get in the public eye, then do it.

Sound great? Yes, it is a wonderful profession. If considering training as a practitioner, there are questions you should ask if considering an equine body work qualification or course in the USA.

What are the qualifications of the instructors?
At Equinology, we strive to produce the leaders in this ever-challenging field. Veterinarians and specialists who are household names from around the world teach our many courses. Where else can you find Dr. Hilary Clayton, Dr. Barb Crabbe, Dr. Nicole Rombach, Dr. Narelle Stubbs, Dr. Carrie Schlachter, Dr. Mila Speciani, Ken Bains, Ruth Mitchell Golladay, PT, Dr. Kellon, Brenda Aloff, Tina Watkins, Dr. Anne Bondi and Debranne Pattillo, MEEBW? Our instructors keep up with the rapidly changing information in the equine and canine health industry to make sure our students evolve and stay current in this wonderful field.

Taking a course from a particular instructor does not qualify a participant to offer instruction in that field, but unfortunately, this happens all the time. So many others attempt to copy our long-standing certification program as well as our continuing education course, and we are flattered. To be brutally honest, you get what you pay for when signing up for a lesser program. Don’t choose a program by cost, instead, measure the course by the quality of the instructor, the material provided for the course (not photocopied articles) and the fact that an externship and testing is required.

What does certification mean?
Certification means that an individual has met the requirements of a particular outline of study. To be certified by Equinology means that you have done the precourse study, attended an onsite course and completed the externship following on the onsite course. A “certificate” is only as good as the program’s reputation for turning out qualified practitioners. We love our wonderful reputation. Students are referred to us from veterinarians who utilize our body workers for their clients. Why? Because we are team players and we teach our graduates proper protocol in this profession. We make sure they recognize “red flags” and contraindications to body work. We give them techniques that allow them to sleep at night, not concerned about causing any harm.

We do not merely hand out certificates as door prizes as you walk out the door. We cover an enormous amount of information during the course. The participant needs to experience and assimilate the material after leaving the class before they approach the real world. This experience is provided through our externship (final projects of case studies and extra learning activities) which is turned in after completion to be reviewed.

How long has the particular certification course been offered?
Courses are always evolving. Through the years they change as new information emerges.
We have been offering our Equinology Equine Body Worker Course for well over 20 years. Every year it is reviewed and updated to address the needs of today’s clients.

How many people are allowed in the class? What is the ratio of horses/dogs to people?
Most hands-on are courses limited the number of participants to 14. With this number, there should also be a qualified teacher’s assistant to make sure everyone’s needs are met. Having 40 people in a class with 10 or fewer horses is not going to provide the supervision required. Even having one animal to 3-5 people is not ideal. In most cases, 2 participants to one animal is best. This way the participants get the feedback from each other. The animal used should also be rotated, so the same ones are not used for every session.

How much time is allowed for actual hands-on during the courses?
At Equinology, it is around 45% lecture and theory to prepare for the practical hand’s on sessions and 55% hands on. This work wells for delivering the required material

Does the Institute carry insurance?
Very important. Valid businesses and schools carry insurance.

Are there continuing education courses offered?
We never stop learning. Valid educational businesses and schools offer CE opportunities. If a program tells you their course is the only one you will ever need, run! Don’t end up being a bottom feeder.

Is anyone available after the course to ask questions?
Is the romance complete after you attend a course? We hope not! Valid programs are open to answering your questions about the material and case studies after attending.

How is the material presented?
We all learn differently. The presentation should involve many different platforms. In our Equinology certification course, we have our famous “painted horse”, muscle ID sessions, hands on supervised practicals for the sessions, power point presentations, online visual presentations of the techniques, overhead projection illustrations, lectures, audios for session reviews and two course manuals that are around 700 pages written by veterinarians and specialists. The main author is Debranne Pattillo with contributions by Dr. Peter Flood, Dr. Kerry Ridgway, Dr. Kalyani Premkumar, Dr. Barb Crabbe, Ruth Mitchell Golladay, PT, Dr. Nicole Rombach, Dr. Carrie Schlachter, Dr. Amy Cohen and Dr. Joanna Robson. Yay baby.

If I can’t travel, can I take this course anyway?
Sorry, no. We feel your education should be presented by the best in the field and in a classroom setting with plenty of hands on instruction. We do have you begin the course with our precourse study: EQ50: Equine Anatomy: at home to review some of the material before arriving to the onsite course. You don’t want to be looking at the skeletal system and terminology for the first time when you arrive for the actual course. While distance learning works well for some subject matter and course preparation as in the EQ50 Equine Anatomy course; applied techniques need to be supervised for accuracy and value.

Once you come to the course, the comprehensive materials we offer are supervised by instructor participation, not distance learning. If you were planning on receiving a massage, wouldn’t you prefer a practitioner that attended a program for the fine tuning and the modification required with on-site training rather than a practitioner who earned their certification from a book, video or other distance training? Wouldn’t you also feel more confident and assured knowing that your chosen practitioner has been examined by the issuing certification institution and completed case studies before earning their qualification?

Is the school recognized and do they advertise this correctly?
Recognized and approved are very similar and means that the educational business or school has been reviewed by an authority of the particular agency.

Unfortunately, many operations advertise as being “accredited” by associations. Unless they are accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education; this word should not be used. In most cases, they should advertise as recognized or approved.

Equinology is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) as a continuing education Approved Provider. Equinology’s courses are approved and recognized by the International Equine Body Workers Association (, UK’s McTimoney Chiropractic Association and the Society of Osteopaths in Animal Practice.

Equinology’s EEBW certification course is utilized as a module fulfilling the requirements for the Writtle University of Essex UK’s three-year BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Therapy & Rehabilitation and the MSc Veterinary Physiotherapy Program.

Equinology is an approved veterinary continuing education provider for RACE. Select courses are registered and approved for this continuing education. RACE-approved continuing education is recognized by most AAVSB Member Boards; however, providers and participants should verify recognition with their board(s) and should be aware that some boards have limitations on the number of hours accepted in certain categories and/or restrictions of certain methods of delivery of continuing education. Equinology’s and Caninology’s courses and online classes are accepted by the American Council of Animal Naturopathy (ACAN) as electives and/or continuing education for certified animal and veterinary naturopaths. Click here for more information.

Equinology is an approved educational provider by the International Equine Body Worker Association.

How is certification achieved?
For the most part, certification means an individual as completed a course outline successfully by the parties offering the certification.

Some states set requirements detailing a certain number of educational hours for animal bodywork and also require that your certification is a state licensed school. Equinology is state licensed and approved to operate by the BPPE (Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education). BPPE approval to operate means the institution is in compliance with the minimum state standards contained in the California Private Postsecondary Education Act. BPPE is the regulatory agency for private postsecondary schools. Equinology and Caninology are the only approved private postsecondary schools in California which are strictly dedicated to Equine and Canine Bodywork.

Is bodywork allowed in your state?
Check! If you plan to advertise yourself as a professional, you need to know if your dream is even allowed. Sure, there are lay people working on animals providing wellness sessions in states where it is not allowed, but they can’t get insurance since technically, they are working outside the parameters of the law. Some vets may look the other way because they like the individual’s work but everything is under the radar and frankly, unsettling for all parties involved. Thankfully, not all states follow the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Model Veterinary Practice Act which includes complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) in the definition of veterinary medicine. This model defines massage as the practice of veterinary medicine. Not so fair for residents of those particular states where veterinarians are not trained in massage limiting their access to care for their animals. Some states allow massage and certain types of bodywork but have outlined criteria for education hours and acceptable providers; fair enough. Others have allowed but have specified exemptions and requirements such as direct or indirect veterinary supervision. In those backward states that follow the AVMA Model, the layperson would be practicing veterinary medicine without a license leaving them open to cease and desist letters