3 Books I Take Everywhere

I love books. I love everything about them: the way they look, how they feel, how they smell…the soothing bibliosmia of those extant pages is right up there at the top of my list, alongside the bewitching aroma of horse.

The 21st century has endowed us with e-books and apps, offering accessibility, portability, and easier search functions. However, I can’t be the only one who downloads things and then never finds or uses them again. Also, technology isn’t always practical or reliable when you’re out in the field, whether you run out of signal or battery, your phone overheats in the hot Australian summer, or you just can’t find the right angle to see that damn screen outside.  

Books are reliable. Books are always there for you. Needless to say, I have a bit of a collection; I think anyone who also loves to learn tends to accumulate books.

There are so many fantastic equine books out there that it’s almost impossible to choose any favourites. This list is not meant to reflect the most comprehensive or ground-breaking equine texts out there – it is simply a compilation of the books that I refer to most frequently in my career as an equine bodyworker due to their content, ease of use, and portability. They are the books that travel with me on work trips, the books I use to educate clients and students, to double-check taping applications and red light plans, and the books I most frequently recommend to budding equine massage therapists. Just to be clear, I receive no compensation for endorsing these books, I just genuinely love them.

  1. Atlas of the Equine Musculoskeletal System (second edition) by MVDr Ivana Ruddock-Lange

When it comes to learning anatomy, 2D black and white drawings can only get you so far. Nothing beats learning from real-life subjects and, if you’re unable to attend a dissection in person, then this book is the next best thing. This book is filled with cadaver images to give a true demonstration of what lies beneath the horse’s skin. I believe this one is also actually available for purchase as an e-book (if you are so inclined).

An oldy but a goody (pardon the pun). This book was first published in 1976 but remains a well-respected resource in equine anatomy. Developed with both the layman and veterinary student in mind, this book is an easier read than some veterinary texts and relates internal structures to external features of the horse. The clearly labelled illustrations mean it is very easy to find the information you are looking for.

This is an easy-to-read guide to equine acupressure, introducing key concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine, meridians, and includes acupoint plans for specific conditions. I use this as a reference book when creating red light plans or addressing specific issues. But I also love recommending this book to clients – you don’t need to be physically fit or own an expensive red light torch to give acupressure a go. (Apparently also available electronically for the contemporary consumer).

These three titles are the books in my collection that look most rough around the edges, but this is by no means a complete and comprehensive library. There are so many good resources and reference books available, and of course any one is encouraged to obtain as much information as possible. But if you are just starting out, or looking to add to your library, I hope you’ve found this post useful.

What’s your most-loved text book? Let me know in the comments below 😊

I’m a fraud.

Photo by Sam Lion from Pexels

*Warning, this post contains a clickbait title and a little bit of swearing*

When I started this blog, I think both my audience and I expected that I’d be writing about horses. I still do plan to write about horses, eventually, but for the moment, my own personal development seems to be my muse. I hope that through sharing my experiences I may help others in their personal and professional endeavours.

Before I became an equine massage therapist, I wanted to be a writer. Specifically, I wanted to be the youngest published author in Australia, but Alexandra Adornetto beat me to it.

By the time high school ended I was already well on the way to fulfill my destiny as the next J. K. Rowling; I’d already written an entire 154,898 word manuscript and received my first rejection letters from potential publishers. I went to university believing myself a prodigy – all my teachers had believed in me, after all. But at uni, I was average. My stories were criticised. I compared myself to the dark-haired girl who had confidence and wrote in the style of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I had been rewarded for good grades my whole life. Being a high achiever was part of my identity, my value. I worked very hard to be good at things, because if I wasn’t good, I was a failure.

My problem is that my inner critic is also a high achiever. It reminds me that I am a fraud, that I am not naturally talented, that I don’t know as much as I should, that I don’t deserve success and opportunity as much as somebody else. It warns me that one day I will be exposed for not being as competent as people think I am.

There were a number of reasons I didn’t pursue writing in the end, but imposter syndrome was a big one. The thing is, though, you can’t escape it by switching focus to something else; it follows you with everything you do. And there are plenty of experts in the horse world, which means plenty of opportunity for comparison.

Imposter syndrome is not an official diagnosable condition but describes a pattern of thinking that may have developed in response to a number of influencing factors. Telling someone with imposter thoughts to ‘be more confident’ is a bit like telling someone with anxiety to ‘calm down’. It’s just not that simple, and there’s usually a lifetime of habits, behaviours and ingrained beliefs to contend with. If any of this has sounded familiar, you are not alone; apparently imposter feelings affect a large number of the population. Not surprising in our results-driven society. I haven’t yet learned to silence the inner critic entirely, but I have learned a few tricks that can help.

Be kind to yourself

It sounds cliché, I know, but in my experience overcoming imposter thoughts has less to do with gaining confidence and more to do with breaking down the impossibly high expectations of oneself. Comparing yourself to people that may have 20 more years of education and experience than you is not fair. And expecting perfection in everything you do is unrealistic. Cut yourself some slack.

Compare the pair

Following on from the previous point, if you are going to compare yourself to others, at least level the playing field. As much as there are people out there who are amazing at what they do, there are also people who are just good at marketing themselves. Have you ever heard the phrase “Those who know least shout the loudest”? When I come across these people I remind myself that I do belong; and even though I am not perfect I am doing a better job than some.

Everyone has doubts

The truth is that no one has all their shit together all of the time. When I learned that others in my industry (people I idolise, people I compare myself to) have doubted themselves as well, I realised that being great doesn’t mean having the absence of doubts, it just means getting on with things anyway.

Use it for good, not evil

A friend said to me: “I think you’re one of the best ones out there, Anna. But you doubt yourself, which as much as that fucking sucks, it makes you better for it as you don’t have your head up your ass.” Imposter feelings can paralyse you completely if you let it (remember that writing career?) – set your expectations too high to be attainable and what’s the point of even trying? At this point you may be thinking imposter syndrome is a curse, but it does have some redeeming factors that you can make work for you. The critical mindset helps keep you humble, for one. But it also fosters a desire to keep learning. Just make sure that you check in with yourself – learn for the sake of growth and improvement, not perfection or validation.

Look after yourself

Although mainly discussed in a professional sense, imposter thoughts could intrude on any aspect of your life. It goes without saying that nothing written here is a substitute for professional advice – if you are really struggling with imposter thoughts then therapy may help you develop strategies to manage it.

This post has been challenging to write (what imposter wants to admit they’re not perfect!) but I hope you have found it useful. If you struggle with imposter thoughts too, and are brave enough to share your experience, or any other tips, please leave a comment below 😊

A horse owner’s guide to finding a qualified practitioner/bodyworker for your horse in Australia

Equine bodywork is a growing industry; once upon a time you may have been lucky to find a ‘chiro’ and now you’re spoilt for choice between various bodywork modalities and magical devices. As a horse owner, the hunt for an equine bodyworker usually begins with recommendations from friends and other equine professionals, but it soon becomes apparent everyone swears by somebody else! While word-of-mouth recommendations are a solid place to start, it also helps to have an understanding of the industry and what kind of professional you are after.

So, with a veritable smorgasbord of services on offer, what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, the equine bodywork industry in Australia lacks standardisation and regulation. This means that many people do go out and charge for services for which they have had little/inadequate or even no formal training. As a consumer, the horse owner often puts faith in the practitioners and trusts that they have adequate training and qualifications. However, in reality, the onus falls on the horse owner to ensure their practitioner is up to standard. This can be very tricky terrain to navigate, especially when the language people use to market themselves can be a little misleading (for example, training with a company is not the same as being certified by them).

How do I find a qualified practitioner?

The simplest way to screen your practitioner is to directly ask them about their education/experience and proof of qualifications (any practitioner who has gone to the effort of achieving certification will likely be more than happy to share this with you). Years ago, when I was still studying my first massage course, I’d moved to a rural area and was looking for a chiropractor for my horse. It turned out that they were hard to come by, but the locals put me in touch with someone who did service the area occasionally. When I contacted them for information about what they do, they said they had over 20 years of experience and if I needed someone with a piece of paper to say they are qualified, I’d need to find someone else.

Now, it’s worth noting that someone may lack formal qualifications and still be very good at what they do. But, on the other-hand, 20 years of experience doesn’t mean so much if it’s 20 years holding on to outdated ideas and doing an average job. Importantly, someone without qualifications is unlikely to be insured. Unfortunately, accidents can happen and it’s peace of mind to know your practitioner is covered.

If you’re not the type of person to confront people directly about their credentials there are still plenty of ways you can try to screen a potential practitioner. One of these is a simple Google search to see what information is available on their website and socials. Even better, therapists can often be found in databases and registries. For example, in order to source insurance, practitioners need to complete training with a recognised provider and obtain membership with a professional industry body (I’m with the Equine Therapies Association of Australia). These educational providers and associations often have practitioner databases where you can check the details of a prospective practitioner, or search for a practitioner near you.

It’s important to note here that there are differences between bodyworkers (anyone with training in a musculoskeletal modality such as massage) and chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths. In Australia, to become an equine chiro/physio/osteo usually means completing tertiary education in human practice (or veterinary medicine), followed by clinical experience and further education for animal therapy. These pathways require many years of higher education, and often relocation to another state (or even overseas). The difficulties in obtaining this type of training (especially if your passion is animals and not people) may account for the lack of these qualified professionals in Australia. Vets, chiros, physios & osteos need to maintain registration to practise, and this means you should be able to find them on registries such as the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) or through your state’s veterinary board.

What next?

Once you’ve found a potential practitioner and evaluated their qualifications and experience, the next step in the screening process is simply to book them in and see how your horse responds and if this person is the right fit for your team. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that no modality should be considered a ‘one-fix-wonder’ and your horse may need more than one session (and your commitment between sessions) in order to progress. Choosing the right modality is a very individual decision – and perhaps another blog post all on its own – but there is no one modality to rule them all and, in fact, different modalities often compliment one other. Skill of the therapist is also an important factor.

What makes a good therapist besides qualifications and experience?

In my opinion, a good therapist is one who continues their professional development through ongoing learning, is open to ideas and willing to work with others, refers you on to other professionals when further investigation is needed or the situation is beyond their abilities, practises with integrity, and advocates for the well-being of the horse.

I hope you have found this information useful – let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Dealing with webinar FOMO

Dealing with webinar FOMO

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

It’s the first day of 2022 and I find myself writing my first ever blog post.

Starting a blog was not a New Year resolution of mine, but in reflecting on 2021 an important topic came to mind that I thought worthy of sharing.

The COVID pandemic has seen the rise of the webinar. In many ways this has been a great opportunity for people, both as a way to supplement income, and as a learning opportunity. There’s no doubt the online learning movement has made it easier to access information and professionals from all around the world. It is now easier than ever to meet CPD (continuing professional development) targets, even if you live rurally.

So what’s the problem?

The sheer abundance of online learning material available, means that consumption of material is limited by time and financial costs. It is simply impossible to consume all the available material. For myself, already a part-time university student, this led to serious feelings of what I call ‘webinar FOMO’ – fear of missing out.

And I know I am not alone in this. Many other therapists (or professionals in general) struggle with perfectionism and imposter syndrome. These two qualities can be both a blessing and a curse, a driving-force for continued learning but the catch is that you never actually reach a point where you feel knowledgeable or good enough. I felt that if I missed a popular webinar I’d be missing out on an essential opportunity, vital information that I needed to be on par with other professionals. This, of course, led to feelings of stress and anxiety.

It was actually a conversation with another professional that made me realise I may not be alone in this struggle – that many others may be paying for webinars they never watch, or flooded with feelings of guilt and anxiety at missed opportunities. A career in equine bodywork can already be demanding on our emotional and mental health so the added stress of webinar FOMO is important to address.

How do we deal with it?

I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers, or have all my ‘stuff’ together, but I think it’s important to realise that with so many webinars available, it is likely that for every missed opportunity there is probably another one just around the corner. To be honest, some of the webinars I have watched contained a lot of information I already knew, and if I had missed it, I would have survived. So, I have comprised a list of tips to help me through 2022, and I hope they will help you too.

  • Know your limitations. Set a time/financial budget for online learning and stick to it.
  • Practice saying ‘no’. This is about learning to put yourself first and realising that your path to being a good therapist lies in looking after your mental health.
  • Prioritise the webinars you think you’ll benefit from most. Quality, not quantity.
  • Remember that if you miss an opportunity you will survive, it’s very likely another opportunity will present itself soon when you may be in a better position to accept it.
  • You are not alone. I’d bet a lot of therapists have the same struggles but because we often work alone, we don’t get to talk about these struggles. Make sure you have friends and colleagues you can confide in.

It’s quite possible this may be my one and only blog post, only time will tell! Let me know if you found it useful.

Happy New Year,