Faith Fladeland [Photo: submitted]
The equine athlete, just like the human athlete, requires a specific program of exercise, diet, and routine body maintenance to perform at the top of their game. Over the last decade, Equine Bodywork has become a very popular therapy component, aiding in equine health and performance.
A young North Dakota cowgirl has found her passion helping horses feel their best in and outside the arena. Faith Fladeland, formerly of Ray, N.D. has received 4 certifications in Equine Bodywork and is working through her fieldwork to become a certified practitioner.
Fladeland, owner of Texas Rose Equine Services, LLC, gives us an inside look at how equine bodywork can benefit your horse.
When were you introduced to Equine bodywork?
I was introduced to bodywork around 8 years old, when my mom took a few rodeo horses over to a neighbor’s place to get worked on. I remember watching intently how the horse was responding to the bodywork and thinking this is what I am going to do when I grow up!
What is Equine bodywork and how does it benefit the horse?
Bodywork is a gentle, non-invasive therapy option that complements routine veterinary care. The type of equine body work I use is a form of massage using light touch and minimum pressure to certain pressure points, focusing on areas that carry lots of tension. A few benefits of bodywork are relieving tension and reducing body soreness from high levels of competition to something that was stressful on their body. It helps keep them sound and comfortable, optimizing performance.
I personally have seen many benefits in my own horses using bodywork. One example is when my good rope horse colic. After we had gotten him stable with medication, he still seemed uncomfortable. I started doing body work on him targeting his stomach and hind end, he was yawing from the moment my hand touched him to the time I was done. I was able to get his stomach to start making normal noises again, he was passing gas and had a bowel movement.
That moment opened my eyes and made me realize I need to start putting myself out there to help other horses besides my own.
Do you feel being a rodeo competitor gives you an inside niche in helping horses feel their best?
Being a competitor myself in the arena has provided knowledge and understanding of what areas on a horse may carry the most stress due to specific event needs. According to how they respond to bodywork, I can usually figure out what type of work they perform, which helps me target the areas that may require the most attention. For instance, most rope horses favor their hind end due to the specific work the horse is required to perform throughout a rodeo run.
I am also able to tell if the rider is riding square or if the person tends to lean more one way than the other. A horse will reveal the truth about their job and the rider during the session.
Many people think behavioral issues in a horse is just because “that’s just how they are” or “they were spoiled.” I can confidently say that if a horse is acting out of character, there is a reason. and it’s usually not behavioral. They have some sort of discomfort that is restricting them from being their best selves.
You knew early on you had a special connection with horses. You have taken your gift and advanced your skills by completing several certification courses in Equine bodywork. What is your future goal in continuing your education and working in the western industry?
My future goal is to travel across the county helping as many horses as possible, focusing on high level competition horses. I plan to add Equine Dentistry and Farrier behind my name, which will benefit the overall performance of the horse since it all ties together.
This is a very specialized means of helping our equine friends. What advice could you give to the next young individual who is interested in pursuing equine bodywork?
Absolutely do it! It is the best experience, and one you will not regret. Go into it with an open mind, be a sponge, and soak it all in. I just opened a time capsule from 10 years ago with a written note stating I wanted to be a “Horse Massage Therapist” when I grow up. Young me would be so proud to know I followed my dreams.
Every person is inspired by a saying or a bible verse that motivates and encourages them to keeping moving forward. To conclude, would you share your inspiration?
My favorite bible verse I live by is Philippians 4:13 — I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I am often told that everything I plan to do may be too much to handle, but if I can live by this verse, I will be able to accomplish anything I set my mind to.