Would like to welcome Emily Wolff of Heart to Hand Equine Massage
I’d like to thank Emily Wolff of Heart to Hand Equine Massage for coming into the studio or rather On Zoom.us today. Would like to thank you for coming to Equine Business Builders and I’d like to ask you to explain a little bit about what you do!
Thank you so much for having me. I think it is so good to collaborate and share our knowledge and that sense of community is always so important. So I am so happy to do it.
Heart to Hand Equine Massage is exactly what it sounds like. I’m an Equine Massage Thereapist. I work on a range of horses everything and every different industry. From riding horses to the standard bred industry, thoroughbreds, heavy horses, pleasure horses and a lot of ponies to. I work on the soft tissue of the body and I’ve grown my business over the past few years and have included dogs, and recently went back to school to work on my human co-workers.
I like what you said when you said you could see the horses issues because the riders were crooked and stiff and sore. You’ve gone full circle. You realized that you could make the horses better by helping the riders. You can make the horse more comfortable and straight but if the rider gets on it and the rider is crooked then the horse will still be crooked. So you have gone full circle there.
That is right. I realized that was happening to myself when all of my horses had a difficulty in exactly the same way. I was the common denominator there. It wasn’t that they were all crooked the same way… it was me!
I block them a bit with that shoulder. And I don’t use the shoulder on the same on both sides. So my horses, unfortunately, have difficulty softening and bending to the left, which is my stiff side.
That is so valuable. People need to hear that!
I haven’t done any formal studies on that. You know it even shows up on the driving horses.
So if the driver has a stiff shoulder or back the horses will have resistance as well?
Yes, it will usually show up in the neck, middle of the neck or the poll. With the drivers with an uneven hip or something, with their feet braced in the stirrups out in front of them, they are getting uneven pressure throughout their body as well. Those horses have such big hearts, they are just pulling through it and compensating with their body.
This is one thing that I am amazed by every time, when I put my hands on a horse and examining the tissue, “how is this horse doing its job?” And it is quite happy to do is job. It does it every day and every time. I have such respect and such compassion for the horses because I think, they’re just trying to do what we’re asking them.
If they are not doing what we want, we are not asking them the right way.
How did you get started with your riding?
I got started as a little, little girl. I may have been riding the sheep in the barn yard!
They had this really long hair you could really hold onto.
My riding career began pretty early. When I was in my late teens, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing woman in the Ottawa area, Fiona Henderson, she really taught me a lot about natural horsemanship, to see the horse a little bit differently. It set my heart on fire. I loved being in the barn and outside and the lifestyle of horses. I had never, you know, I had never looked at it from a different perspective. That there was more available to us.
I got a job working at a hunter/jumper barn on the “A” circuit in Toronto. We travelled and showed and we had some nice national level horses and some World Cup horses. I was so fortunate because not only my riding, riding nice quality horses, but by riding a lot of different horses my riding progressed.
And getting on all different types of horses. And the learning curve to. That industry, is tough, we’d travel and show every week.
And it’s not 9-5 either. Its 5 am till midnight or whatever it takes. If you have a sick horse you have to be there. Getting ready to go to a horse show. It’s a tough lifestyle that particular lifestyle.
Absolutely. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. We did long days and sometimes at the end of the day, sometimes at the end of the day having a paycheck at the end of the day wasn’t the biggest motivation. My motivation was to make sure I am doing a good job for the horses. Especially being a groom at a top level show barn you have to do what ever it takes to do the best for them. Whether it is travelling with them, flying with them. The long days, the long nights and early mornings you have to have a really good primary purpose. And a really good team. It is such a community. You spend so much time together, your day and your evening not just the horses but the other grooms, and trainers.
I like what you say about it being a whole team. You have to depend on each other to make it work.
Do you have some new and upcoming projects on the horizon?
Right now I am working on some videos. Some stretching videos. I find I am doing the same stretches over with each of the owners. It doesn’t matter how strong we are we still have to stretch. Tissue works its best when it is strong in a long position or in a short position. So often we ride in the same way all the time. The horses need to have that range of motion that is what keeps the joints happy. So that is where I am headed.
Do you have a website?
Emily R-M-T Registered Massage Therapist.
Are the videos up yet?
No not yet. We started last year and we ran into the winter!
What is your driving force that keeps you going to do a good job?
This is a great question it is so important to have a really big “why”. To have a really big primary purpose. Right now I am getting up at four in the morning to head out to Guelph to work on the horses before they go out for their workout. My every day I wake up and I am say, “why am I doing this?” And for me I want to help the horses. I have gotten so much from them for caring for them and taking care of them I want to give back. I want to give back. That is what gets me up. I think for anybody who is interested in this business and working with horses it is important they have a really clear “why”.
I like what you said before, it isn’t really about how much money you have at the end of the day, although that is nice to, particularly if you are in business, you have to pay the bills and buy your food and support yourself. I like where you said you want to give back. You have your why of supporting the horses so they can feel better and so they can work better and perform their jobs better. It’s not just about the money.
Yes. For me, getting into massage and getting into equine massage and becoming an RMT it was a lot of work. I had a really clear vision of what I wanted to look like and where I was going. I set some pretty big goals and some pretty clear dreams and focus. So I think that is the second part. You have to have a really clear why and a really clear direction.
You have to have a plan. You are starting here and you want to get there. You have to plan out all the stuff in the middle right?
I’m sure there are other massage therapists. How do you rise above and make yourself different than the others out there?
Great question. I think becoming an RMT was part of that.
You can do the full circle thing. You can get the riders in there as well. Do you have horse and rider programs. For example your horse is stiff here so you should do this to yourself.
I don’t currently but I always like to bring it up. I like the humans to be in charge of their own healthcare. Now, if someone suggests to them it may be their tight right shoulder, I will recommend that they come see me or will recommend someone in their area.
Having that community I can recommend to is important. If they are not close to me I will recommend someone close to them.
I think it is important to do both, although not everyone likes to be told what to do. I really keep my focus working on the horses. Doing a good job there.
Doing strengthening programs are so important because often with a tight muscle, they develop a weakness, it won’t be fixed right away because the muscle isn’t strong in that way. Having a strengthening program, some tools, a follow up. It is not always just one massage.
So I think building and having integrity in the relationship with the owner as well as the horse is what sets me apart from the others.
Being there, being available, communicating, following up, touching base, seeing the horse at the horse show. That follow up is essential to all of that.
That is very interesting.
We talked a bit about this before we started recording, about how we are involved in the horse industry because we love horses and sometimes we forget it is a business and I like were you said, you do the follow up and you keep in contact with the owners and the horses and touching base with people so you are available for them.
That is an integral part of the business isn’t it? Keeping tabs on your clients making sure they are ok.
Yes absolutely. I’ll often think of a horse and I will touch base that way.
I think business skill is one of those things you can never know enough about business. It doesn’t matter what you are doing. Business skills are the most invaluable skill you can learn. Even if it is something simple, it doesn’t matter what you are doing business skill are important.
You have had the opportunity Emily to develop yourself, grow yourself and develop a really good business. What do you think is the number one thing holding people back from doing what they want to do? You had a really clear idea, it’s quite clear from speaking with you that you knew where you wanted to go and what you wanted to do, but what do you think is holding other people back from having their dream job like what you are doing?
That’s a loaded question isn’t it?
Yes it is a loaded question. I had no idea I liked working with people until about half way through my RMT course. I didn’t necessarily like the interaction with people. I had a really big why that got me through that first half of school. My primary purpose was to help the horses more. I had a really clear reason why. It gave me direction all the time. Every step of the way it has given me direction. Whether it is what course to choose or how to build my website, where to put my focus during the month, the week or the day. It think that is what got me through school.
It turns out I really like working with people though, it’s good. If I hadn’t of had the clear focus; I had a really amazing woman in my life and she just told me, she said, “you should always be setting goals. Set a really big goal for yourself and then set 3 unrealistic goals.
So set a big goal and three unrealistic goals.
Ya! So something to work towards and then three things you think you could never accomplish. And put them on the list. I think that is what gave me the push to go outside of my comfort zone. That was the greatest gift I have gotten in a long time; to be pushed outside of my comfort zone and think “I can’t do that”, or “I don’t think I am worth it”, or “I don’t really like that”, I had a clear focus, I wanted to help the horses, so, If i didn’t like something and if I knew it was going to help the horses, I pushed myself outside of the comfort zone, to learn how.
You didn’t mind doing it because it was your “end game”.
Yes! So many of us get comfortable, where we are at with our riding, comfortable with our own aches and pains, to push past that a little bit to see if there might be a different way to do things, right?
My sister says, “Write your obituary and work backwards from there”. That is kind of a neat tool right?
Right! What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want people to be saying about you at your funeral? It is kind of morbid thing to think about but …
It comes back to having a very clear primary purpose, a really clear focus and a really big “why”. Goal setting and reaching toward your dreams that is what got me here.
We talked about some of your successes. Can you tell us about one of your not so big successes, a flop.
I’ve definitely had some flops.
Okay we will just restrict it to one!
I think, not trusting myself.
That is so huge. Not trusting yourself.
Do you mean not thinking you are doing any good.
The horses pick up on that in 5 seconds. They take one look at you and think, well you don’t know what you are doing. If I just trust myself, horses respond to such small amount of treatment, they respond so well to even a light touch, I have to get out of the way in order to help them.
The times I have failed I was definitely in the way. Either I was thinking about something else or wasn’t focused on what I was doing and got kicked. Or I was trying to do a good job with the owner and didn’t do a very good job taking care of the horse.
Myself getting in the way.
What do you think people in the equine business, any equine business, what do you think the biggest set back is with people who are doing their own equine business? What is the biggest set back people have. We have mentioned a few, self doubt, not setting goals, primary purpose. What do you think a big set back is for people starting out?
I think when you are starting out hearing “no” is intimidating. It takes a lot of “no”s to be successful. If you are just starting out, you have to put in the time and the effort, I did a lot of free massages, gift certificates, putting in the time and showing up at events, and just talking to people and putting in the time and the energy. If your intention is in the right place then it will definitely work out.
We are getting to repeat ourselves a bit here. What is the number one reason why some people succeed when others don’t?
I think some people succeed, and I’m going to say it one more time, they have a really big reason why. They trust that feeling and they go with it. And they don’t listen to what other people tell them, or what other people say. They kind of lead with their heart. With horses that is the most effective way to treat them.
A big reason why.
So, along your way, what were some of the major road blocks you encountered when you set out?
Focus too much on my office and not getting out there and talking to people. I’d spend all day at the computer and wonder why I wasn’t out there earning a living.
Road blocks are just opportunities to learn.
That is so good. Roadblocks are just opportunities to learn.
What was one of the major “a-ha” moments when you knew you had overcome that roadblock?Once you got your office all set up and your computer all set up, what was that big a-ha moment when you realized Hey-I better get out there and do something.
The second massage I gave on a horse. So, I gave him a massage and still a little bit unsure. I went back 3 days later, just to check his progress and it was an entirely different horse. He was happy, he was eating. It looked like he had gained 200 pounds. He was standing squarer in his back end, he had a nice shine to his coat. That was the moment I knew I had to get out of my own way because what I was doing was helping. Just that reassessment. Have another look and follow up.
Trusting in yourself that you are doing the right thing.
Horses every step of the way, even when I didn’t trust myself, horses are such good communicators, they are going to let you know. Even if it is subtle, taking a deep breath, or a sigh, or something more intimate. I just try to listen to the horse is trying to tell me, I will always have success. The more I can get out of the way the more I can listen to what they have to say. That is the biggest skill I’ve had is listening. If I don’t know what I am doing i just stop and take a step back and wait for the horse to give me some clues. They might give me some clues, give me some signs. They may reach around and scratch themselves. They are really good communicators.
Please continue onto part 2 of Emily’s interview.