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Setting the Standard in Equine Massage

Informational Clinics

Clinics are a great business‑building tool and are a perfect platform for you to become known in your local horse community. Informational clinics get the word out that you exist and you are in business for your clients' benefit. A clinic can be scheduled for a minimum of two hours, or as long as four hours, a full day, or can even encompass two days of training. Much of the information you choose to present in your clinic will depend on the amount of time you have available as well as the amount of information you feel comfortable presenting to the attendees.

The first rule in presenting a clinic is "teach what you know." In other words, don't attempt to present material that you do not thoroughly understand, or know. If you're handing out literature that includes a 'bullet list' of the benefits of equine massage, make sure you know and understand every item on that list. For instance, if you include a statement like "massage helps alleviate tying‑up syndrome," be sure you can back it up with knowledgeable information.

Questions to ask yourself include: Do you have a through knowledge of what tying‑up syndrome is, e.g., the disease pathology, prognosis, etc.? Do you know what the word "alleviate" means? Do you know exactly how massage helps the horse who has experienced this syndrome? Do you know when to defer to a veterinarian when it comes to this issue?

Too many people tend to regurgitate bullet lists without fully understanding the issues noted on those lists. So be sure to stick to discussing only information you do know and always expect one or more attendees to ask detailed questions of any item you list in your handouts. Teaching what you know and feel comfortable with will ensure that your clinic goes smoothly and you'll share your knowledge with the attendees with skill and confidence.

Arranging Your Clinic

In order to arrange your clinic well, you will need to know some things about your audience. What is the approximate range of ages? Are they average horse owners, trainers, or competitive riders? Are they interested in massage as a means of connecting with their horse, do they just want to learn a bit more about their horse's structure, or are they looking to maintain their horse in between professional massages? In other words, what do they expect, want, and need to take away from your clinic?

The best way to learn this information is by contacting your hosts, or the people who contacted you about setting up the clinic. Usually they will have specific attendees in mind that they expect to attend. Your hosts will also have ideas of what they'd like to see presented. Once you've learned what your host and attendees want and expect from your presentation you can clarify what you can and cannot accomplish in the time allotted. Follow this rule and you'll ensure that the attendees are not expecting something you are unable to deliver in a clinic setting. It is then a simple matter to arrange your advertisement of the clinic to reflect what you will be presenting so the attendees will know what information they'll learn.

Be sure to organize your clinic well ahead of your presentation date. Draft a basic outline of your clinic and presentations. Carefully choose what you will present and in what order the presentation will be made. Plan your 'visuals' such as charts, overheads, slides, etc. Then plan and arrange handouts and any tools you will need such as pens, crayons, or colored pencils, colored chalk, etc. Remember, if you are providing chalk for your attendees to use for drawing on their horses, be sure it is artist's chalk. Sidewalk and blackboard chalk is too hard and will not draw well on the horse. Although artist's chalk can be a bit pricey, Grumbacher and several other companies make a lesser quality, but acceptable, lower priced artist's chalk that will work well for clinics and won't strain your budget.

Prior to solidifying your plans for your presentation, investigate the facility that will host the clinic. Nothing is worse than arriving on the day of the clinic to find out that there are no electrical outlets when you planned to use a projector, no indoor space for a large group in the case of inclement weather, or that other amenities you need are lacking.

If you're planning on a hands‑on session in your clinic be sure to find out if the host facility will allow attendees to bring their own horses. Also ask whether there will be a 'haul‑in' fee and if health records need to be provided so your clinic attendees will know what to expect if they plan to bring their own horses.

If you or your host plan to use 'resident' horses for a demonstration or the hands‑on sessions with clinic attendees, it is very important for you to learn the various behaviors and personalities of the horses to be used prior to the clinic date. Even though you'll require a signed liability release form you will still want to ensure that your clinic participants will be as safe as possible when working with the horses.

Working with quieter horses will also give your clinic participants the best scenario for learning what you plan to teach them. Naturally you will have no control over horse personalities and behavior if the participants are planning to bring their own horses. You can, however, encourage them to bring a horse that will stand quietly and not be perturbed by being in a strange place and around other horses.

You'll also want to become familiar with the horse you'll be using for your massage demonstration. You certainly don't want to learn at the last minute that you are going to be massaging "Jaws" or "Damien the attack horse." With a difficult demonstration horse, you'll spend most of your time 'handling' and clinic attendees will learn little beyond your horse handling capabilities. So be sure you are given a relatively quiet horse so you can give a proper demonstration and the attendees can get an idea of what they'll be doing with the massage.

Last, but not least, we recommend you keep your first clinic small, allowing no more than four horses and perhaps a maximum of eight attendees. You can pair people off so that you have two people working on each horse. This will ensure that you can give some one‑on‑one attention to each group to help them with the application of the various strokes. In addition to your hands‑on participants, you can allow a small number of auditors since these people will not be participating in the hands‑on session.

It is best to plan for your hands‑on session for the afternoon. The morning hours should be taken up with your lecture and your demonstration of a few of the simpler massage techniques. Teach only a few of the easier strokes such as effleurage, friction, and light petrissage. Explain their value and benefits in your morning session, then allow attendees to work with the strokes in the afternoon. Never teach deep tissue work in a clinic setting, as it can be harmful when used by those without adequate palpation experience or massage training. Keeping it simple will also ensure that the attendees learn things they can take home and use on a regular basis.

Once you get the hang of it, you'll find out how easy it is to have fun organizing and presenting informational clinics. Offering clinics helps you to advertise your business while making new friends and gaining support for equine massage. Remember that the more people hear about you, the more likely they are to think of you when they seek professional massage for their horse. What a great way to get your name known and to increase your client base!

© 2002; © revisions 2006; © Proprietary Trade Secrets of EquiTouch® Systems, Inc.

For more about EquiTouch® equine massage therapy
please contact us at 1-800-483-0577 or
email to: EquiTouch Systems® Inc.