The Making of an Equine Massage Therapist

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Sal Salvetti - Equine Massage Therapist

photo credit: Brigitte Bouchard Volk
photo credit: Brigitte Bouchard Volk
His affinity with horses is instantly recognizable, but surprisingly Sal Salvetti never set foot in a barn or a stirrup until 1995 when he was a 29-year-old undergrad student tending bar to cover expenses. He’d spent a decade in the sales and financial services industry and was looking for a fulfilling career. He credits dressage rider Paige Finnegan for piquing his interest in horses. “She came in to the bar and told horse stories,” Sal recalls. Intrigued, Sal went to the barn with Paige. He felt an immediate connection to the horses. “I was blown away,” he admits. “I knew this was what I was looking for to fill up that space inside me. I decided to find a way to have a career in horses.”

Paige took Sal under her wing and taught him how to lead a horse, pick a hoof, clean tack, muck a stall, and groom. To discover his equestrian talent, Sal secured a job at Jane Karol’s Bear Spot Farm – a 22-stall dressage facility in Concord, Massachusetts. He had daily lessons from Jane, often taking instruction twice a day. “She realized what I was trying to do. I had 20 years to make up and she indulged me,” Sal recalls. Jane offered a supportive environment and Sal worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Less than a year later, he competed in his first horse show, contesting a Training Level Test.

After a year at Bear Spot, Sal met rider/trainer Jane Hannigan. Sal took lessons from Hannigan in addition to his training with Karol. “I wanted to learn more than one system,” Sal explains. Eventually, Sal became the barn manager at the facility Hannigan taught at in Harvard, Massachusetts, and trained with her exclusively for several years. During that time, Sal was exposed to the field of equine massage therapy, pioneered by the late Jack Meagher, a Massachusetts native, and the work of Mike Scott. He saw the impact massage could have and the improvements it could produce on horses. “I could feel the difference,” Sal recalls. “I knew massage therapy was what I wanted to do.”

A typical equine cadaver for studying muscles
A typical equine cadaver for studying muscles
Sal trained with Mike Scott in a six-month, one-on-one program in Massachusetts and South Carolina. He also attended a school for two years to learn human massage therapy and worked in a spa for more than a year as he started his equine practice. In 2001 Sal launched his practice in Massachusetts. Initially, he admits, he was hesitant to throw his hat into the crowded arena of professionals in his locale. “I was seeing massage therapists springing up left and right, especially after Mike left the area,” Sal recalls. “But Jane Hannigan said, ‘Trust me. Do it. There’s not so many of you’.”

Sal approached the establishment of his business analytically. “It never seemed like a struggle,” he says. “I looked ahead to my goal, backtracked from there, decided what the necessary steps were, and went to work. My goal in the beginning was to be successful combining human and equine massage therapy and to build a nice life for myself in New England.”

[#24893 override="Carol Lavell Introduces Sal Salvetti to Wellington" title="Carol Lavell Introduces Sal Salvetti to Wellington"]