A cautionary tale for all those human physical therapy practitioners considering using their therapy on animals. Even with the best of intentions, the anatomy differs, yes there are similarities but the are significant and fundamental differences, which require knowledge and training.
This is a case where a little knowledge can be dangerous. Sure it can also be seen as bureaucratic, but surely safety is paramount for the practitioners and animals?
Laurie Wheeler poses with her horse Jazz. Wheeler is fighting the state of Tennessee, which has barred her from practising massage therapy on horses without a veterinary licence.
Every time Laurie Wheeler massages a horse, she risks six months in jail or a $500 fine.
“When I get a call from a friend whose horse is in the hospital and she’s desperate, I’m gonna go,” the Leiper’s Fork, Tenn., woman told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. “So here I am in the equine hospital doing what I’ve been told I can’t do or I’ll go to jail.”
Wheeler practises a technique called myofascial release, which she says she learned at the Motion For Life school in Indiana. She says she often gets calls from local veterinarians to help out a horse in pain.
“People don’t know how to take care of their horses in general. They ride ’em, they use ’em up and they don’t understand nutrition,” she said.
“I’ve seen about every muscle, every part of the body on a horse, just hurting.”
She says business was booming until she decided to apply to become a licensed massage therapist to practise on humans, and included a recommendation letter from vet she often works with.
That letter, she says, got flagged to the Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, who sent her a cease-and-desist order, barring her from working on horses without a veterinary licence.
“Even if I did go to vet school, which is basically what they’re telling me I would have to do to massage horses, I wouldn’t learn massage therapy in veterinary school. It’s not even a part of their curriculum.”