If a person begins having back pain, the first place they go might well be a massage table. For horses, the first step toward alleviating pain is a trip to see Shannon Paige of Soul Healing Horses. Paige provides horses and dogs in the area with therapeutic massage and chiropractic services, both to reduce pain and aid performance in competition. She also offers therapy for children and adults who are struggling with anything from abuse to grief to addiction. Paige offers her services at her Oroville ranch, and she can be reached for an appointment at (707) 322-8393. Log onto www.soulhealinghorses.com for more information.
How did you get into equine massage?
I was a massage therapist on humans for over 25 years. My daughter started barrel racing in 2009, and she had a $15,000 horse. He needed to be stretched out and massaged, because he was having a hard time staying hydrated, so I started doing hands-on work and energy work on him. That’s how I got into equine massage.
When did you switch to equine massage as a full-time profession?
About 2010. We were competing every weekend, and I just knew that my daughter’s horse needed to be taken care of. I started working on other horses, and I kept practicing and studying to see how I could improve their movement and agility. I travel to events and let people know I’m there, and people can also bring their horses to me.
Is the work the same year-round, or do you have a busy season?
Right now it’s show time; everyone’s qualifying and working their horses a lot. During the winter, horses usually go out to pasture and don’t work as much because of the weather. Now, during event season, the horses need more attention. With the heat and the traveling, now is the time for people to really start treating their horses.
Do you only work with horses?
No, I also do canine massage. If a dog is aggressive, there’s a good chance that it’s in pain. I’ve had dogs that are afraid and in pain turn to putty in my lap after a few minutes of contact.
You also teach “natural horsemanship.” What is that?
It’s a way to connect with your horse that’s not in an aggressive, abusive or hostile way, where you develop a personal relationship with the horse by learning their physical reactions. We try not to use bits, and we control the horse just with our bodies and our energy. You kind of become one with the horse, instead of just using them to chase cows. You have to know how the horse thinks.
How do you use horses as therapy?
I do animal-assisted therapy. I had a 4-year-old incest survivor who was scared to tell the truth about what happened. I had her work with a pony, and she was able to talk to him and build her confidence. I also put her on a horse to let her practice being in control. I also use horses for grief therapy, and for family communication. It’s all part of natural horsemanship. I go into halfway houses and homeless shelters and do family nights there.