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New bill opens door for horse massage business

October 7, 2018

A Columbus resident’s dream took flight after she received pleasant news from the Nebraska Legislature earlier this year.

“When I got that email … It just said it’s done; it passed,” said Dawn Hatcher, owner of Peak Performance Equine Bodywork. “I just wanted to break down a little happy dance because that was the first door that needed to be opened for me to pursue really what’s been a dream of having a business and working with horses.”

Hatcher had to put her passion on hold until the Legislature in April passed LB596. The bill enables a horse massage practitioner to operate without being a licensed veterinarian, licensed human massage therapist or work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, in addition to having an animal therapy license. The new law was introduced by state Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte.

Upon completing an online three-month program at Midwest Natural Healing for Animals in Indiana to be a certified horse massage practitioner, Hatcher hit the ground running and established her business in August. Since then, Hatcher said she has been receiving requests from areas like Hastings, Duncan, Pierce and western Iowa. Hatcher said athletic horses get hurt just like human athletes and require massages to ease muscle tension, strains, aches and sores.

“Some little girls grow out of that horse phase, but some of us never do,” Hatcher said. “And I guess I am just one of those little horse-crazed girls that never grew out of it … To have something that you’re so passionate about and be able to go out and help them, actually makes a difference to them. To make them feel better, I mean … I can’t think of anything better than that.”

Hatcher said people have been receptive to her horse massage services and she said she operates every Friday through Monday. Those interested in learning more -- or set an appointment -- are encouraged to call Hatcher at 402-910-0416.

Without the new bill, Hatcher said she would have to enroll in a school roughly an hour and a half away spending up to $16,000 a year to be a certified human massage therapist.

“So it was cost and time prohibitive,” Hatcher said. “I already have a job, two kids and a husband. I just wasn’t going to be able to do that.”

Hatcher and a group of individuals with the same aspirations worked closely with the Platte Institute, an organization that provided a written testimony in support of the bill in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

“Every time the Legislature removes or reforms an excessive job licensing law, senators are making new opportunities possible for more Nebraskans,” said Adam Weinberg, communications and outreach director at Platte Institute, in a release. “Legislation like LB596 not only helps create new careers in communities statewide, but it sends a very positive message about Nebraska nationally, that our lawmakers see the value in creating an environment where unique, entrepreneurial ideas can take root.”

Just like any decision, there were those who opposed the idea which included licensed veterinarians and animal chiropractors. Hatcher said because she understood their concerns about proper education and training, she pursued an extensive and in-depth education where she learned the fundamentals of anatomy, biomechanics, causes of pain, hooves and dental issues, among others.

Hatcher is also working closely with these individuals to enhance her skills and is currently studying for her Level 2 certification.

“I wanted that knowledge (and) the skill to be able to do an effective job because horses are near and dear to my heart,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher said her two teenage daughters had the opportunity to witness her journey, from finding out she couldn’t carry out her dreams, to aiding the process of changing Nebraska law, to witnessing their mother signing the bill.

“I hope one day they will look back and be proud of that,” she said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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