Rachel’s a horse healer

Hu­man ath­letes are not the only ones who get sore mus­cles af­ter a work­out. Jenny Ling talks to an Auck­land equine ther­a­pist who is heal­ing horses through mas­sage. DAILY GRIND

Central Leader - - NEWS -

There are two vi­tal re­quire­ments for Rachel Har­ford’s job as an equine mas­sage ther­a­pist – you must love horses and driv­ing.

The Sil­verdale res­i­dent trav­els all over the greater Auck­land re­gion for her job as a horse physio, mas­sag­ing the mus­cles of race­horses, even­ters, ponies, dres­sage and en­durance horses.

It’s tough work and can be dan­ger­ous.

‘‘I still cop Har­ford says.

‘‘Ev­ery day they will try and kick you. ‘‘It’s hard work but it’s fun. ‘‘I like the va­ri­ety. Ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent.’’

Mrs Har­ford, 41, treats a horse in a one-hour ses­sion with mas­sage and ma­nip­u­la­tion tech­niques. She also uses an in­frared laser which helps re­duce in­flam­ma­tion and speed heal­ing.

When the Cen­tral Leader

bites,’’ Mrs vis­ited she was treat­ing Monty, a 13-year-old bay thor­ough­bred, owned by Whit­ford res­i­dent Steph Cross.

Mrs Cross called on Mrs Har­ford when Monty de­vel­oped stom­ach ul­cers af­ter be­ing on med­i­ca­tion for an in­fec­tion last sum­mer.

‘‘When I brought him back to work af­ter he was sick he was giv­ing me trou­ble and it’s not like him to do that,’’ Mrs Cross says.

‘‘A friend sug­gested Rachel who came to have a look at him.

‘‘He’s a dif­fer­ent horse to when she started treat­ing him.’’

Mrs Har­ford started rid­ing at age 4, got in­volved in pony club seven years later and be­gan com­pet­ing in horse tri­als and three-day events.

She worked as a groom and schooled young horses in Eng­land, France and Ger­many from 1994 to 1996.

She was work­ing in a gym in Lon­don when a friend sug­gested she try her hand at mas­sage – hu­mans that is – and she be­gan train­ing.

A few years later she com­pleted horse mas­sage train­ing in Aus­tralia fol­lowed by more cour­ses in Ger­many, and grad­u­ally switched to work­ing on horses only.

‘‘I came back here to New Zealand and bought a horse off the [race] track that had lots of prob­lems and started us­ing tech­niques on that horse and thought, ‘this is re­ally fun’.

‘‘I never liked mas­sag­ing peo­ple.’’

Mrs Har­ford has worked with eques­trian greats like Vaughn Jef­feris’ horse Bounce lead­ing up to the 2000 Syd­ney Sum­mer Olympics.

She also worked with Mark Todd’s horses for sev­eral years.

She takes a holis­tic ap­proach to her job, which in­cludes the use of sup­ple­ments.

‘‘It’s not just mas­sag­ing, it’s work­ing with what’s hap­pen­ing. Is the owner do­ing some­thing wrong? Is the sad­dle not fit­ting? Is there some­thing wrong with their diet? It’s like be­ing a de­tec­tive.

‘‘I work out what’s wrong and what you need to do to get them well again.’’

Mrs Har­ford ad­mits she does get a sore neck and shoul­ders from mas­sag­ing tall horses.

But that’s out­weighed by the pos­i­tives.

‘‘See­ing an an­i­mal in pain is not nice,’’ she says.

‘‘They can’t fix them­selves, whereas we can go some­where and get sorted.

‘‘The look on some of their faces when you put their neck back in place . . . they’re so happy.’’

Heal­ing hands: Equine ther­a­pist Rachel Har­ford finds a ten­der spot while treat­ing Monty.

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