Heather Wallace is a jack-of-all-trades. She originally attended the University of Delaware as a young adult, where she received degrees in English and History. After graduating, she worked in publishing for twelve years before deciding to take on a new career – Equine and Canine Sports Massage Therapy. Heather studied massage therapy under Mary Schreiber of Equissage, located in Virginia. Heather’s previous experience with horses helped her equine massage education to go smoothly. Heather now lives in New Jersey, where she works as an equine and canine sports massage therapist and as a blogger.
The Small Town Equestrian: What is involved in equine therapy?Heather Wallace: Sports massage is a wonderful way to prevent injury and aid a horse’s’ body to relieve muscle tension and pain. As a massage therapist my partner, Danelle Stukas, and I travel to the barn or equestrian facility where the horse is located. We use our fingers, hands, and elbows to manipulate the soft tissue and treat tension in addition to releasing pressure points. We always treat the whole body, but will focus on problem areas such as the crest, neck, and hindquarters. Problem areas depend on the horse’s discipline and level of exercise. Most of my clients are seen regularly to get the best possible results. No two horses are the same.
The Small Town Equestrian: What is involved in canine therapy?Heather Wallace: Sports massage on canines is quite similar to horses, but we go to the client’s homes. We use the same techniques albeit with less pressure and smaller movements. Dogs are unused to being handled like horses so they tend to move around a lot at first. They wander away and come back when they choose, because our goal is to create relaxation and positive association with massage. By the third session they plop right down and beg for more. The owners always laugh!
The Small Town Equestrian: What do you love most about your job?Heather Wallace: I love everything about my job. It’s really hard to choose one thing. My husband jokes that I spend all day petting animals. But sports massage is much more than that. When I begin I can feel all the tension and pain in the horse or dog. While I’m working on my client I feel them release all the tension and it makes me so proud to be able to help them. When I see them performing well in competition, or an arthritic dog going hiking with his family it is the best feeling in the world.
The Small Town Equestrian: What do you like the least about your job? Heather Wallace: There are so few down sides to massage therapy. To me, the most frustrating thing is most owners feel massage is a luxury, not a wellness therapy that complements veterinary medicine. Massage is wonderful at preventing behavioral and physical problems as well as helping to heal injury. It should be incorporated into a regular wellness program.
The Small Town Equestrian: Tell me about a time when you faced a challenge in your career field. How did you overcome this challenge? Heather Wallace: The biggest challenge we face is spreading the word about the benefits of equine and canine sports massage. It’s still a very niche profession and many people have never heard of it or realize it is available to them.
The Small Town Equestrian: What inspired the beginning of the Bridle and Bone blog? Heather Wallace: I launched Bridle & Bone in December 2016 because of our clients. We would find that a lot of owners had similar questions and I wanted to reach as many people as I can to help all animals. Anyone who has met me knows I have a lot to say. I was nervous to make my writing public, but with the support of Danelle and client Amy Molnar Schwebel I took the leap. Amy’s beagle Jaxson is a long-time client and we used to work at John Wiley & Sons, Inc. together. So I made her contribute and Amy’s writing the Dogcation guest series on the blog. I’m so glad I did it, I’m having so much fun.
The Small Town Equestrian: Tell me about your business and blog’s missions. Heather Wallace: Our mission for business is to improve the quality of life for animals through sports massage, and to do that we are trying to spread awareness of its benefits.
The blog has a much wider scope. It addresses wellness, my passions for rescue animals (like my two dogs Gonzo and Beau), and returning to the equestrian world as an adult and mother of three children. Confessions of a Timid Rider is a personal journal of sorts. Luckily a lot of people can relate and I’ve had some amazing feedback. It’s nice to feel like I’m not alone in my insecurities and triumphs.
The Small Town Equestrian: How has social media made your business easier to run? How has it made it more difficult? Heather Wallace: Social media has been a wonderful way to spread the word about my business and blog. It’s been interesting though. Before I owned my own business I would check Facebook periodically. But now I’m all over: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. It’s a learning curve. I particularly love Instagram because I’ve been working hard on my photography. In the end though, I think the best part of social media is meeting and engaging with other people who have similar passions. My husband doesn’t have to hear about horses as much because now I have another outlet!
The Small Town Equestrian: How have horses and dogs impacted your life? Heather Wallace: I’ve been animal-obsessed ever since I can remember. My earliest memories are of my German Shepherd dog. By the time I was 7 I had an imaginary stable in my backyard and would prance around on my pretend horse. Sadly, I still have a pretend horse (Earthly Delights). He’s not mine but I pretend he is. Luckily his owner doesn’t seem to mind.
Growing up I loved animals and writing. Now, working as a sports massage therapist and blogging about it, I get to do both. I love my job and I hope I can be a good influence for my daughters. Follow your dreams, but work hard to get there.
The Small Town Equestrian: Where do you hope to be with both your business and blog in five years? Heather Wallace: Danelle and I have big ambitions. We will continue to learn and build connections with other massage therapists and intend to become certified saddle fitters. Proper saddle fit is so important to the wellbeing of your horse. In five years we would love to work with the US Equestrian Team (based here in New Jersey) and work at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
As for the blog, Bridle & Bone, it’s still very new. It’s helped me gain confidence in my writing, photography, and riding. I would love to grow my readership and spread the word about animal bodywork and helping rescue animals. It’s about raising awareness.
About the interviewee: Heather Wallace of Monmouth County, New Jersey is a certified equine and canine sports massage therapist, co-owner of Bridle & Bone Wellness LLC, and equestrian & canine blogger at Bridle & Bone. She is an adult amateur equestrian in unrequited love with an OTTB and has two rescue dogs, Gonzo and Beau. Check out her blog bridleandbone.com and follow on social media @bridleandbone.