by Stacey Johnston
Felicia Eick of Gasport, NY, has always had a love of horses. Many little girls probably share this love, but few are fortunate enough to turn it into a career. Hidden Aces Acres was established just 3 years ago, with Felicia, and her husband Ryan Eick. Since then, Felicia has started “EquiHands,” her very own equine massage therapy business.
Felicia says her father first introduced her to horses at the age of 8, when she began riding and participating in 4-H. She eventually started showing horses and found her passion in the saddle—barrel racing. Her childhood horse, “Thumper” is where it all began.
Felicia attended Equissage in Virginia after high school, participating in the Equissage Certificate Program in Equine Sports Massage Therapy. Equissage was formed in 1989 for the purpose of offering massage therapy services to the equine athlete.
Equine Sports Massage Therapy is the therapeutic application of hands-on massage techniques for the purpose of increasing circulation, relaxing muscle spasms, relieving tension, enhancing muscle tone, and increasing range of motion in high performance horses — although any horse of any performance level can benefit from these practices.
Equissage has graduated more than 20,000 Equine Sports Massage Technicians, from every state and 20 different countries around the world. Many graduates work in the racing world, as well as on the show circuit.
Felicia became a certified equine sports massage therapist and later returned to New York State. As she was starting out her career, she continued to barrel race competitively around New York, and still does so today. She also has many years of experience giving western riding lessons to children, which she says she loves doing. Felicia also enjoys riding and caring for her four horses: Kramer, Dakota, Dixie, and Hammer. She thought that as a young girl she would become a professional horse trainer, but helping horses and her compassion for the industry led her down a slightly different path.
In the equine world, it is common to see more and more professionals like equine chiropractors, equine physical therapists, and equine nutritionists. Just as the popularity of holistic approaches to health care in humans has gained in recent years, so too have these procedures and methods gained acceptance in the care and treatment of animals.
She has recently purchased an Equivibe vibration platform, which is an up and coming tool and program that creates vertical vibrations up and down the horse. During a demonstration, Felicia walked her horse onto the platform, and while he nibbled on some hay contently, she slowly turned up the vibrations through an electrical remote mounted on the wall. She says most of the horses love it and it feels good, just like a massage!
Felicia stated, “Equivibe and equine sports massage therapy is becoming more and more popular in the racing world and in the show circuit. I am currently working on becoming licensed through NYS OTB, so I can provide these services at the racetracks.” She is hoping to explore Batavia Downs and Hamburg racetracks.
Felicia currently goes to open shows around Western New York. She loves offering clinics to youth groups so she can show the kids how to do some simple massage techniques on their horses with their hands. Felicia said, “When a horse is acting bad or unusual under saddle, a lot of times the saddle is hitting a sore spot if the saddle is fitted improperly.”
She is also hoping to expand her business by adding more stalls to her barn to create an in-house rehabilitation center. This would allow clients to bring horses to her farm, where they can be treated and stay until the problem is corrected or subsided. This would allow Felicia to work on the horses several times a day. A big advantage to Equivibe and equine massage therapy is it is a drug free treatment. Many horse owners have replaced medicines with these practices.
Felicia notices that after she works on a horse, they start to move more fluently, bending better, have a smoother running pattern, and are overall more content and active. She also takes before and after pictures of the reduced inflammation. She enjoys traveling to clients’ farms throughout Western and Central New York to offer on-site Equivibe and equine massage therapy. Felicia stressed the importance of pre and post event massage, and regular maintenance to horses before or after shows, racing, exercise, jumping, and any vigorous activity completed by the animal.
Felicia and her husband Ryan also raise beef cattle, hay, horse boarding, and offer riding lessons at their farm.
At the age of 27 years old, there are many challenges starting and growing a business, but Felicia’s love and passion for horses keeps driving her. Her husband’s support and encouragement is very apparent, and it’s great to see a young couple embracing the agricultural industry and making their mark. This farm does not have any family history ties, but started from the ground up. Felicia and Ryan are very goal driven.
Felicia has launched an EquiHands Facebook page, and is working hard to get the word out about her business and the benefits of equine massage therapy. Felicia says she is looking forward to focusing on offering more clinics, and attending more horse shows. She is also excited to work with more equine 4-H clubs at various fairgrounds to share her knowledge with the youth.