STRESS, TRAUMA AND CONSCIOUS BODYWORK

As bodyworkers, we learn during our studies that stress and trauma that is not fully processed at the time it happens, and I mean fully processed and released, lives on in the body. It is stored in our tissues, organs and brain sometimes resurfacing as physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual (or any combination of the above) distress or illness. I doubt that any living being on the planet lives a life without several instances of stress and trauma. What that looks like for each being can be different and anyone else may not understand what comes up for another, especially when the other is of a different species.

I feel fortunate to have attended a very eclectic and unique school for human massage and natural healing. Even if I’d never received a degree, the healing process that I went through would have been worth every moment. I could probably use another go at it! We worked and practiced on each other every single day in our studies for months. Our teachers knew what would happen but didn’t necessarily tell us (or I just didn’t hear it). The days and then months of therapeutic yet intimate contact caused memories, some we didn’t even remember we had or couldn’t really define, to start bubbling up. At first, they might feel unimportant or simply an annoyance. Yet, they persisted. To complement our studies and the process we were going through, the school facilitated daily group processing time as well as a course or two in counseling which we could begin applying with each other. We experienced uncomfortable physical ailments and complete emotional breakdowns, yet we continued to process deeper. The experience was really life changing for me and I am forever grateful for it. That program helped me to not only develop greater empathy but gave me some tools to accept and allow the process to unfold in others.

When working with animals, these stresses and traumas will come up. What this looks like can be different for every animal and each time we provide a bodywork session. The processing can be pretty and relaxing like so many pictures we see of yawning horses or it can be ugly and fidgety when something unpleasant is bubbling up or we might not even notice it happening at the moment. Learning or accepting to not judge or try to name it can be difficult. We humans tend to want answers wrapped up in distinct boxes with labels so we can get them categorized and move on. This work doesn’t always come with distinct answers but it does have significant and powerful influence. Owners and trainers often want to know “what is happening, what do you feel?” Sometimes, the most sincere and truthful answer I can give is, “I really don’t know, but it sure is amazing”. Hopefully we can find our inner strength to hold space for the animal to process and release in the manner they need to.

What does stress or trauma look like for a horse? We can all identify the obvious when a horse has been abused or survived a horrible accident, but so many little things that we might not attribute can be a big deal for a horse. Yes, he might have gotten over it and we all moved on but there it is, hidden somewhere in the body; that first saddling incident that didn’t go just right, a dramatic ride in a trailer when there was an accident but no one was badly hurt, weaning stress or the loss of a pasture or barn mate, being stuck in a stall needing to move freely but can’t, gelding, vaccinations and deworming, being tied to a post while fraught with claustrophobia, facing something completely terrifying. These are things that commonly happen in the lives of our horses. Fortunately, as equestrians, we are coming up with better and more humane methods of managing our horses all the time but just like with us, stress and trauma happens. Conscious bodywork is a great tool to access little bits of stored stress, allow it to surface and assist processing and releasing from the body and psyche.

We take an in-depth look and provide a means to access stress and trauma in horses as well as several approaches to facilitating a release and letting go of the energy that might bubble up in MODULE #2 – EMPOWEDED EMPATHY.

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BONDING AS A COLLECTIVE: Animal Massage, Bodywork and Acupressure Practitioners

After listening to a very inspirational Keynote address entitled “YOUR MISSION IS BIGGER THAN YOUR FEELINGS” from the incredible Joan Ranquet (Animal Communicator, Author, TEDx Speaker and Founder of Communication with All Life University) at the NBCAAM / IAAMB Animal Bodyworkers Continuing Education Conference, I came away really excited about all of us as an incredibly significant, caring and professional collaboration of Animal Bodyworkers! Joan talked about our work as some of the most important work on the planet right now. Wow, how does that make you feel? If there was ever a time for us to come together, support each other and provide our professional services to the planet, this is
it!


When I graduated from human massage and natural healing school in early 1992, massage therapy was in the early stages of becoming a respected modality of therapy in the United States. Our profession was finally beginning to move away from being referred to as masseurs and masseuses to massage therapists. I remember one of my fellow students, when returning to school from winter break, telling a story about looking for potential jobs in our industry when she graduated. We all got a big chuckle when she recalled that after a long conversation with a woman who was advertising for help, she finally realized that the type of therapy this establishment was looking for had nothing to do with what we were studying but rather ventured into an entirely different industry of massage – if you know what I mean. That was what massage was still thought of and even advertising for at that time. The NCBTMB (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork) was created in 1992 helping to create standards for human bodywork practices and monitor continuing education. We have had two professional organizations to choose from since the 1980s that provide national certification in human bodywork, liability insurance and continuing education resources, ABMP and AMTA. The ABMP (Associated Bodywork and Massage Practitioners) now provides the same benefits to animal bodyworkers who can provide proof of professional training.

I am really proud when I think about the changes in the massage therapy profession over the past 30 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Massage therapy as a profession is projected to grow 26% between 2016 and 2026, much faster that the average to all occupations. The ABMP (Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals) reported 328,799 massage practitioners in 2016 and the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) relates that between July 2017 and July 2018 roughly 47.5- 63.6 million American adults (19-28 percent) had a massage at least once. Many insurance companies are now covering massage therapy and doctors prescribe it for pain and stress relief.

What does that mean for our industry as Animal Bodyworkers? 30 years ago, I searched for a school to teach me animal bodywork. I could not find one. Human schools were not yet terribly common and hard enough to decipher at that time. I did some of my externship in my human school on horses with some guidance from a man doing bodywork on horses at the racetrack. It sure wasn’t enough for me to feel comfortable charging for these services after I graduated. Animal therapy simply wasn’t much of a thing at that time. Yet, today we need only to attend a dog or horse show/event to find any number of therapeutic resources and services available to help our animals. Some of these services come and go as fads and others can be seen as consistently offered. Although we don’t have the issue of sexual connotation to deal with that human massage industry had in the past, animal bodywork hasn’t been publicly defined and promoted in a way that everyone knows the scope of what it is we actually do.

I am often contacted to provide “animal chiropractic” because this has become a keyword in animal therapy circles. Animal owners and trainers just want help for their animals and they have to pick and choose what and to whom they go based on limited information. Obviously, chiropractic is a modality all in its own and just as in human bodywork practice, animal bodyworkers do not perform chiropractic. Unfortunately, without universal standards of practice, we have no way of regulating or even proclaiming this to the public. Unfortunately, I have witnessed animals very damaged and sometimes permanently from “animal bodyworkers” who are limited in training or self-trained so I whole-heartedly believe in the importance of industry standards and ethics. These regrettable incidents are talked about
far and wide and they harm the reputation for all of us who want to provide good and quality animal bodywork. Without a clear scope of practice in our profession, we often find ourselves in conflict with veterinary boards or other professionals as legitimate and safe practitioners.

As a practitioner, I have so much gratitude for the founders and members of the NBCAAM (National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage) and also for the IAAMB (International Association for Animal Massage and Bodywork) for their work toward legitimizing and setting standards for our profession. These organized groups have built resources to work with state veterinary boards and other professional organizations which help allow us to legally work in our states.

The really fun part begins once we have met and maintained professional standards and ethics and we can find our personal niche, developing our practices tuned into our preferences and strengths from the vast pathways that this amazing profession can take us. Just having returned from the Animal Bodyworker Continuing Education Conference, I am re-energized with new information and exciting directions I didn’t even know were available. It is so refreshing for me to continue learning, growing and
sharing this remarkable work. There are so many different directions to take our careers as professional animal bodyworkers. Sharing our work contributes enormously to the value we collectively provide to the planet.

People often ask me if there is enough work for everyone wanting to go down this path as an animal bodyworker and I recall when I first graduated from human school. I traveled to a somewhat small town where I thought I’d like to relocate. I stopped and asked a chiropractor who advertised an in-house massage therapist if he thought there was room for another massage therapist in his town. His answer has always stuck in my mind. He replied almost harshly that there is room for as many willing and good practitioners as want to be anywhere. He said it had nothing to do with per capita and everything to do with providing consistently good work so each person that leaves your office wants to tell someone about their experience. He said, “do good work with good intention and you will have all the business you want”. Over the years I have found this advise to be exactly right on.

If we continue to collaborate and support one another as a professional and caring group, put in the effort to do our best work, believe in the personal gifts we each provide to animals, and know that there is more than enough work for all of us, our industry can only grow and flourish. Congratulations to everyone taking the step to be a leader on the forefront of a very promising career for yourself and animal bodyworkers of the future and thank you for contributing to the wellbeing of our animals and our planet.
Kim Kizzier Sherrodd
Applied Integrative Therapy, LLC
School of Applied Integrative Therapy

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New Directions and New Courses

From the Desk of: Kim Kizzier Sherrodd, LMT
Here we are at this special time of Giving Thanks and approaching the holiday season. I am reflecting on how fortunate I feel for so many things in my life. I am blessed with a loving family, amazing friends, good health, beautiful home and a wonderful business chock full of clients who I also consider great friends. I am fortunate that I get to spend my days experiencing the world through my hands. As one little girl said to me, “when I grow up, I want your job where I can just pet horses all day long”.
I try to keep those words as my mantra when I am exhausted and body sore having just worked a week of 12-18 hour days and logged over 1400 miles on my car. “And yet, I get to pet horses and dogs all day long. I get to listen to the interesting and touching life stories of so many lovely and inspirational people who come to my office for massage and bodywork.” Through it all, I give thanks for the gift I was bestowed and inspired to follow, to be of assistance in easing pain, discomfort and dis-ease and passing on a little joy and solace in an amazing world that can also be awfully harsh at times for everyone and every species.
For the past 35 years, I have searched and traveled and studied and practiced and worked in the attempt to understand and feel what it is to be truly healthy, happy and whole for all life on this planet. What I have learned remains small in comparison to what I have yet to understand. The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know. I may always have more questions than answers but my discoveries have been considerable and vast. I am at a juncture in this journey where I feel sharing what I have learned and compiled is where I can be of the utmost service. The core of my work has been in bodywork for people and animals but there is no wholeness without an integrative approach and I can say without a doubt that I have gone down so many amazing and sometimes some not so great roads to find answers. My thirst for knowledge and understanding will never end but it’s time for me to share what I have accumulated so far. Thanks to so many willing souls, wise and motivating teachers and inspiring colleagues, I have accumulated a lot for the sharing!
Although I have been teaching some hands on courses for the past 10 years, I’ve been promising I will be developing some on-line and certified courses. Now that I am in my slower winter season – I am in the beginning stages of putting together a compilation of materials and courses to share with you. There will be something for everyone whether you just want to learn a little more to help yourself, your family and animals or if you want to delve deeper toward making or adding to a career. I’ll be sharing tips, ideas, E-books, videos and interviews as well as offering short and full blown courses.
Happy Holidays! I am excited to begin sharing with you all and looking forward to learning and growing together! Keep an eye out for further emails and feel free to share!
Stay tuned for more information coming out soon by watching for these newsletters, on the Website: www.thesoulinmyhand.com and visit on Facebook or Instagram!
Side Note: The Soul In My Hand name came to me in a meditation almost 4 years ago. The name was supossed to be for a Memoir I’m working on but has been on the back burner for years. I couldn’t let go of the name. It stuck with me almost hauntingly; like the name had a message for me about something I should be doing that I wasn’t. Later in another meditation, the name returned and with it I saw the hand symbol now in my logo. My talented daughter, Nahani Wood, took my little sketch from my vision and turned it into something professional for me. And so….The Soul In My Hand has been rather creating itself. Now, I just have to put in the work on my end! With this new avenue, I hope to inspire, educate and share all that I know, learn and experience about wholeness and wellbeing in and of this world. Peace…..
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As the Voyage Evolves…….

After nearly 30 years of study and experience in the art(s) of healing through integrative therapies, I find that there is never a day I don’t learn something new. I get really excited for each new piece of the puzzle that I learn and I LOVE to share with those who are interested. As with most healers that have been studying and practicing for many years, I find myself evolving and revolving continually. I have come full circle on many of the routes I’ve taken through the years and with each circle, my understanding and involvement grows deeper, richer and takes more hold on my being and my work.

 

Applied Integrative Therapy is the name of my practice. I deliberated a lot when deciding how to name my initial business because there is no one direction to what I do. I’ve studied veterinary technology, veterinary sciences, human and animal massage therapy, natural healing, nutrition, animal acupressure, horsemanship, herbology, meditation and energy work all through reputable schools and teachers. While there are many very gifted and skilled healers who focus on one modality and become experts in that field, my curiosity and wonder lust have led me to gather many arrows for my quiver. For anyone interested in learning the deepest intricacies of a particular modality, I will always refer to a professional or organization who I’ve found to be proficient and quality.  I LOVE to share and I love to look at different sides of a coin but I have no interest in reinventing the wheel.

 

Equine Massage and Beyond is my collection of stories, discoveries, techniques, experiences, thoughts and dreams through a long and unique journey searching for what is health and what is life. Although it feels like a long voyage so far, I hope it is only just beginning because there is a world of discovery lying before me.  Horses have always been my guiding force for many reasons but what I learn from horses transfers to my work with humans, dogs, and other animals including wildlife. What I learn from life transfers to my work with horses. In the end, it is all the same.

 

The magic of it all, for me, lies in the moment when my hand comes in contact with the aura, then the hair, the skin, muscle, and if I am lucky, the spirit of the horse (or other animal). Each animal has a unique sensation and ambiance of spirit and each species conveys a distinctive vibration. Equine Massage and Beyond talks about horses and it talks about massage but mostly, it talks about BEYOND.

 

As I am working on my book, Equine Massage and Beyond, I look forward to to sharing stories and experiences with you through this email newsletter as well as keep you updated on schedules, events and special news.

 

Thank you for joining me as the voyage continues,

Kim Kizzier, LMT

Applied Integrative Therapy

 

 

 

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Remembering Caballa

I lost an icon in my life a few weeks ago.  Caballa, my special little mustang mare laid down in the late October, yet still green Black Hills field, and was unable to get her arthritic and tired hips back underneath her to  pull herself up. It was a beautiful, warm day when we let her go to find her new journey. That little mare knew more about me than I did. Her big, brown eyes saw deep into my (and everyone’s) soul in a way that you knew there was no sense in hiding. She taught me so much in our years together; about horses, self preservation, confidence, and mostly about life.

Caballa came to me (or I came to her) more than twenty years ago when she was already six. She had previously roamed the deserts in Nevada and was a very opinionated lead mare. I was in Santa Fe, NM going to massage and natural healing school and asked if I could do part of my externship on horses. At the time, there wasn’t much available for training or schools in equine massage so the school agreed to let me if I could find some experienced teachers and complete an additional thesis. I managed to find a tutor from the racetrack in nearby Albuquerque and did some of my case study at the combined BLM / New Mexico State Penitentiary Wild Horse center. While there, a truck load of mustangs came in from Nevada and I decided I had to “have” one.

The horses were released into very large lots with tall concrete fences and I stood at the far end watching. I was both sad for their capture, their fear, and their confusion and awed by their power and presence. I chose a wiry, strong little bay mare who was running herd on everyone. She had every intention to keep all the other horses safe and in line all at the same time.   When I arrived the next day, the inmate trainers had “my” little bay mare in a bucking shoot and had just gotten a halter on her. I stepped up on the bench to meet my new adventure and suddenly a half-dozen inmates were telling me to get down because she would hurt me. They continued by warning that she was one of the meanest horses they had seen and I needed to choose a different horse. Their warning just made me feel that I had to have her in my life even more. Something about her was just special.

I named my little horse right away – well really, I mis-named her. My Spanish leaves a lot to be desired. Horse in Spanish is “caballo”.  My little knowledge of Spanish told me that male words end in “O” and female words end in “A”. Since my new mare was female, I mistakenly thought that a mare would be a “caballa”.  I was wrong but I didn’t figure that out until she was already named. Her name fit her well in spite of my poor Spanish!

Within a week or so, I was loading her on my rickety little trailer and took her to an even more rickety pen in an arroyo behind the tiny little adobe cabin I rented for my daughter and I while I was in school . The next several years spent developing our remarkable partnership was life changing for me. We only made it through because we were both too stubborn to give up (and believe me, I was advised quite often to do just that)! She didn’t let anything come to me easily with her but she did make sure I learned the lesson well! She made me work for every step of our journey!

Over the years, that little bay mare became the best partner I could ask for. She let kids climb all over her, carried a bride in a wedding, packed throughout the wilderness and worked cows in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana, traveled state to state with me and gave confidence to all other horses who lived with her.

Caballa was always the boss in a herd but she was fair and never hurt anyone. She had an immediate sense as to how much attitude a new horse in the herd would have and she would meet them with that much attitude plus a tad more. She never kicked or bit but would simply run a circle around the new horse (saying what, I don’t know) until that horse would drop their head in submission. She appeared to say, “OK, then” and would go back to what she was doing. There would never be a question again. In the early years, Caballa would jump barbed wire fences like a deer. If there were horses on the horizon, she would jump the fences and head out to round up a new herd. I got several calls from neighbors that my horse was trying to steel their horses. But, whom ever was in her herd was safe. She kept things in order and she instinctively knew what was needed.

When Caballa was about 20 years old, I gave her to a friend for a year or more so my friend’s son could trail ride with her. I had a big gelding who always looked to Caballa for a sense of safety and order. When Caballa left, the gelding thought he should take over the position. He wasn’t confident about his role and he worried and bullied any new comers. It was really hard work for him and he was mean. The day Caballa came home, the gelding met her at the trailer. I was worried he would be nasty to her as she was getting older now and I didn’t want her hurt. I let Caballa out while I kept him back but he instantly recognized her. His head went down and he made little sounds to her as if to say, “I missed you so much, this job has been so hard, I am so glad you are home – Thank God!” He was no longer mean and his confidence was re-established.

I was living with Caballa near Yellowstone Park our first winter after we moved from New Mexico. Many horses had a great fear of the large moose that travel by. One morning I came out of my cabin to find Caballa with a moose trapped against the cabin wall. The moose was trying desperately to get away and that little mare was cutting him like she was going for top score in competition. I had quite a time at calling her off.  She was just one of those individuals that knew how to take care of herself and everyone else. She was stubborn and had her own way, but I always felt safe with her. There were times that I actually asked her what or how to do, even in my personal life. With Caballa around, everything felt grounded and like it would be OK, no matter what.

Although this isn’t really a massage story, Caballa has been a large part of my quest toward equine massage and healing and she is my story in so many ways. When I told my Mom that I lost Caballa she said, “You rescued her and then she rescued you many times over the years”. That was my beautiful, strong, elegant Caballa – my rescuer.

A special thanks to Judy and Rick Vee of Ghost Canyon Ranch and B&B in Hermosa, SD for watching over my lovely lady the last year of her life. It means the world to me.

 

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