Here at PetJam, we're in awe of those who are able to help animals on a daily basis, whether volunteering or working as their 9-5 job. Recently speaking with Sam from 'Hoof to Tail Healing', we found out about the role of an animal holistic therapist and how she works around the clock to help dogs, horses and many other animals.
So tell us, what exactly is an animal holistic therapist?
I’m a practitioner of Reiki, acupressure, massage and animal communication. But treating animals in a holistic way has become my passion. I look at the whole animal, so they get the most benefit from the session. Many illnesses that affect dogs physically, such as arthritis, cause compensatory issues, as they move differently to ease the pain, so it is important that these are addressed as well as the initial illness.
I tend to carry out my sessions in two different ways. Either hands-on where I visit the dog in their own home, or over a distance where the animal isn’t present with me in the room. The beauty of animal communication and Reiki is that they are energy based, energy can travel long distances just like radio waves. This means that when I carry out an animal communication session to find out the reason for a particular issue, I can also use Reiki to heal any problems I find.
How did you get into this career, and does it involve a lot of studying?
8 years ago, my husband and I took on a rescue Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As with many rescue dogs, we discovered she had separation anxiety and would wee when left on her own, even for short periods. I had always been interested in natural remedies, so started researching how I could help her to feel more comfortable when she was alone.
This sparked my interest in working with animals, which I had had since a child, but hadn't found a career that I wanted to do. I started to search for courses I could do whilst I continued working in my office job. I eventually found somewhere I could study for a couple of days at a time for each therapy.
I originally wanted to do acupressure, but Reiki was a clearer route to becoming a practitioner, so I started with that. After which, I got the training bug and did Reiki up to master level, three levels of acupressure, massage and animal communication!
We love your business name! When did you open Hoof to Tail Healing and what made you so passionate to work for yourself?
Thanks! When I first started my business in 2013, it was called Salamander Therapies. I didn’t really know then what I would specialise in, or what other courses I would do after Reiki and acupressure, so I based the name on me. I have a Salamander tattoo, so thought this would make a good logo.
This year, though I felt I had outgrown Salamander Therapies. I have naturally fallen into working with dogs and horses, as I have grown up around these animals, and wanted something that represented my loves and my business! Hoof To Tail Healing was born.
When I first started my business, I had to fit it around full-time work, so working for myself was the only option. I actually really enjoy it, as I can take the business in any way I want, and any achievements have been due to my own work. After always working for someone else, it has been an interesting change to working for myself, choosing which events to go to, which other businesses to work with etc.
So at what point would someone come to you for help with their pets?
Often people come to me when they have tried everything else! Especially with animal communication sessions, other professionals have offered advice that hasn’t worked, and owners don’t know who else to ask. The animal themselves are the best ones to answer! I can’t diagnose, but I can ask where there are any pain areas, or if there is something that is causing anxiety, and ask how myself or their owner can help them.
The other time people tend to contact me is just after a diagnosis from the vet for a long term health condition such as arthritis. It is now becoming more popular for people to use holistic therapies alongside conventional medicine, as people are recognising that symptoms can be reduced. I love working with senior dogs, it is great to hear from owners that they are climbing the stairs again and enjoying walks more, after my therapy session.
Can you treat all pets and animals?
Yes, both Reiki and acupressure can be used on all animals. When the energy of the body is out of balance somewhere, it causes physical or emotional problems, Reiki and acupressure balance these energies so they flow clearly through the body, and allow it to heal itself. It works the same for any animal or human.
Animal communication can also be transferred to any pet as it is an intuitive conversation between them and myself. I often send Reiki to my cat and chickens. It is such a gentle and relaxing therapy, that the chickens just nod off, sat on my knee!
Massage, however, is very different. It works on the soft tissue to release any tension and increase mobility. I would only massage animals which I have been trained on, as their physiologies are so different.
Once diagnosed, what types of healing treatments do you offer?
This is the question I dread when speaking to people at events. The answer always sounds like I am just saying what I think people want to hear! But the truth is, you can use holistic therapies for any illness. There are thousands of acupressure points, and they help with physical and emotional issues. More often than not, I use a combination of therapies during a session, responding to the needs of the dog.
The issues I work with most regularly are arthritis, hip dysplasia, and anxiety. The energy therapies are great for rescue dogs as they can help to heal past trauma, so I love to work with them! I also love a challenge, and to help a dog with a condition I haven't come across before. The more unusual sessions I have had, have been a Dachshund with a slipped disc (which was a hands-off Reiki session), and a Pomeranian with colitis.
Do you think it takes a certain type of person to work in holistic therapy? What qualities do you need to possess?
The most important quality, I think, is listening. Things are always changing in the dog world and there is always something you are told is a must have for your dog to be happy or healthy. But dogs are always trying to tell us what they want if we are just willing to listen. Following my instincts was the most valuable lesson I learnt in any of my training.
I am also a very calm person around dogs, and I think that definitely helps. The energy you give off is important to dogs. I had a therapy session with a trained police dog, and his owner was slightly worried that his training to bite strangers may kick in. But I went in with the intention of helping the dog with his hip dysplasia, and he soon settled into the session and was flat out on his side, enjoying some pampering!
You definitely have to go into things with an open mind. When I found out about animal communication, I thought that it was something you could either do naturally or not. But when I saw the trainer communicate with a dog in another training session; finding exactly what the dog needed within a couple of minutes, I knew I had to learn how to do it too!
Do you own any pets yourself? Tell us a bit more about them...
My husband and I seem to have an ever growing list of pets! It started with our tuxedo cat, Smiley who is now 12 years old. We had him as a rescue from the RSPCA when he was 2 years old, he had been hit by a car whilst lost and was recovering from an injury to his pelvis. He is a great therapy cat if you are feeling unwell, and is very independent. He was recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism but moves away from therapy sometimes when I offer it, he seems to want to be the healer instead!
Next, we got our Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Beth, who I mentioned before as being the inspiration for my business. She was a rescue from Babbington Rescue in Nottingham. She was a stray and had obviously been used for breeding, as she still had milk when she arrived at the rescue. She had separation anxiety when we first had her, and she tends to hold her anxiety in her stomach, so occasionally has an upset stomach. She is also noise reactive and used to be scared of fireworks. After using crystals regularly for general health and well being, I found that I had also cured her fear of fireworks! She is now a very important model for my photos on social media, I'm so proud that she gets lovely comments on Instagram, as Staffies get such a bad reputation, but she is a complete softy!
In the last few years, we have also added chickens to our household.
And finally, two and a half years ago, I decided to take on a loan horse, as I didn't feel part of the horse world. It is the best thing I ever did. Having the stables to go to, being away from everything else, really helped me get through a stressful period in my office job last year!
So what's next for you and Hoof to Tail Healing?
I have just started doing Therapy Thursday on Instagram, where I give tips on essential oils which can help with specific issues that dogs suffer with, so people can help their dogs at home. I've had some really great feedback, so I'm planning on writing an ebook of all the tips.
I love to be able to recommend crystals and essential oils so that owners can continue the healing after the session is over. The ebook will be an extension of this.
I have only done two events this year, and when I had my first one the other week, I realised how I have missed getting out there, speaking to new people, meeting lots of dogs, chatting to other stall holders. So I also plan to do more events next year. I recently started selling handmade collar charms, and I got some great feedback from owners at a recent event, so I want to continue and develop this. They use crystals for specific illnesses, such as easing car sickness, or anxiety, so the dog can benefit from the healing properties of the crystals when I am not there.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Sam. It has been a great insight into what an animal holistic therapist can offer that we for one never knew about previously. If you want to follow Sam's journey and get more holistic therapy top tips, then don't forget to follow her on Instagram @hooftotailhealing.