Traveling with the U.S. Equestrian Team

Thursday, November 12, 2009

[#24892 override="Sal Salvetti - Equine Massage Therapist" title="Sal Salvetti - Equine Massage Therapist"]

Jane Hannigan's Maksymilian'sstall at the World Cup Final
Jane Hannigan's Maksymilian'sstall at the World Cup Final
“Eight years into this, I still love what I do,” beams Sal Salvetti. “The everyday is wonderful. The cherry on top is when I get to travel and have an impact on a horse’s performance in a major competition.”

Sal notes that he was never the ‘official team massage therapist’, but he has been on hand for U.S. team horses at events including the Pan American Games, World Cup Finals, and Nations’ Cups. “It depended on how many riders on the team I had as clients whether or not I went,” he explains. “My expenses were covered by the team and then payment was up to the individual riders.”

U.S. Equestrian Team Veterinarian Dr. Tim Ober noted, “Managing a sport horse in top level competition is particularly challenging given the limitations of FEI rules. Having Sal available gives us an advantage because his massage therapy is invaluable when a horse needs help. He has been there for us on many occasions, and contributed to the solution of some difficult problems. I am always glad to have him involved.”

Sal’s first experience with the U.S. team was the 2003 Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as massage therapist for Carol Lavell’s Much Ado and Susan Dutta’s West Side Lady, the alternate. Dr. Rick Mitchell and Dr. Tim Ober, team vets for dressage and show jumping respectively, had the opportunity to observe Sal’s work. Dr. Ober asked Sal to work on a jumper the day before the jog. “I found an area under the shoulder blade that I thought was the primary cause of the problem Tim wanted me to address,” Sal recalls. The jumper passed the jog. Both the dressage and show jumping teams won Team Gold Medals. “The Pan Am Games were really important professionally because I got to know Tim and Rick,” Sal says. “Now we share lots of clients and work together a lot. They helped open the door to the fantastic relationships I have with many of the top vets in the U.S.”

In 2005, Sal traveled to Aachen, Germany, for the CHIO World Equestrian Festival where the U.S. was competing in Nations’ Cups for dressage, show jumping, and driving. Prior to the competition, Sal worked at Dressage Chef d’Equipe Klaus Balkenhol’s barn attending to Floriano ridden by Steffen Peters. During the show, the work continued with Tip Top and Kingston, Leslie Morse’s two stallions, and Aragon ridden by Guenter Seidel. Sal also worked on the four-in-hand horses for driver Tucker Johnson. At the 2005 FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas, Sal was the massage therapist for Leslie Morse’s Kingston.

Jane Hannigan and Mak enterthe arena at s'Hertogenbosch
Jane Hannigan and Mak enterthe arena at s'Hertogenbosch
The 2008 World Cup Final in s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, was a high point with Sal because Jane Hannigan represented the U.S. with her Maksymillian. “Jane was my trainer for most of the time that I was riding,” Sal says. “She was my first professional as a client and that horse was also one of my first clients. I’ve known him since he was six years old. To be there for them in their European debut was an incredibly emotional experience.”

“Sal was an integral part of my team at the 2008 World Cup where he kept Mak feeling fantastic by stretching and massage before every ride,” Jane avers.

Finding Fulfillment in Horses