Back to Basics: A Clinic Review

By Catherine Bird

When I decided to attend Equinology's Equine Sports Massage Foundation Course, nearly everyone looked at me quizzically and asked me, 'Why?'

To tell you the truth I am not sure why I booked in, and I even imagined myself being able to sit in the back of the class catching up on a few articles and gleaning the odd helpful hint while I listened with one ear. When students introduced themselves I was silly enough to say I was there for a holiday.

How wrong could I have been? I spent the 7 days glued attentively to the presenter, Debranne Pattillo, enjoying her expression of the horse's body and anatomical makeup, as well as her presentation on techniques. It was very useful to assess a horse through another practitioner's eye.

It has been eight years since I had last studied surface anatomy and, goodness me, did I get a solid refresher on each muscle. I also gained a few new techniques to include in my own approach to each of my client's horses. I now have homework more demanding than most of the equine courses I have done in the past, but I must say it is structured in a well thought out way and I know, even with my level of expertise, it is something I will benefit from.

I have to say it was a brilliant way to refresh my skills, especially with a teacher as knowledgeable and comfortable in her own knowledge as Debranne. I could relax in the class and be open to what she had to offer. It is rare to be able to drop my own perceptions in a classroom situation; I find I can only do it with a skilled teacher.

I found this course to be very suitable for the person wanting to start out in a professional capacity with a sound knowledge, as well as for therapists like myself who are at a point where they can be open to adding to their initial learning. You may not want to consider this course (or any additional course for that matter) if you have just finished equine massage classes with another facility because you could be as blocked as I was earlier in my career to further learning. I would let your learning settle and integrate because then you have had time to see where there are gaps that need to be filled, or have maybe been humbled by a few cases. However I would not wait eight years like I did to take the opportunity to learn from a true artisan of massage who has successfully integrated the world of science to enhance the benefit of the art of massage to the horse.

For me, the course showed that it is often worthwhile to revisit the basics. No matter how much knowledge I have, when it comes to horses I can always learn more.

About the author:

Catherine Bird is an Aromatherapist, Medical Herbalist and Massage Therapist specializing in working with horses. She is based in Sydney, Australia and consults in person and via the Internet worldwide. She is the author of "A Healthy Horse the Natural Way" and "Horse Scents". Catherine also offers the Equine Aromatherapy Correspondence Course, and can be contacted through her website,,, and