Massage therapy for all creatures great and small

Stephanie Torres is supervisor at The Spa at Delamar Greenwich, a licensed massage therapist and licensed aesthetician. WAG had the pleasure of experiencing her expert gentle touch during a facial for our January “Celebrating Family” issue.

It was during that facial that we discovered something unusual about Stephanie: She is also certified in equine and canine massage — a growing field, she says.

Torres grew up riding in Litchfield. Her parents would drop her off at the home of her aunt, who had a horse. At ages 5 and 6, she was comfortable around horses. By 9, she was jumping with and showing them. For her, the benefits were both physical and emotional.

“I have a little bit of scoliosis, and (riding) has helped me build up a fluid motion,” she says. But she also speaks of “the therapy you receive by being around (horses).

“They cherish you,” she adds. “Everyone has his own personality. They love you.”

That was the relationship Stephanie had with her own horse, the mare Gunner’s Flower, whom she had for six years.

“She was my baby. She truly was.” In the end, however, Torres realized she wasn’t spending the time with Gunner’s Flower that the horse needed and sold her “to a wonderful lady.” She loved her enough to let her go.

Her years as a horsewoman had taught her the benefits of riding for the animal as well. “I wanted to do equine therapy.”

First, she had to establish herself as a massage therapist for humans. She had no sooner graduated from Branford Hall Career Institute’s massage therapy program when she landed a job at The Spa at Delamar. It must’ve been a sign: The Delamar Greenwich Harbor is a pet-friendly hotel.

Two years ago, Torres went to the Oasis School of Animal Massage in Springville, Ala., for a weekend course. She learned that massages for animals and people “are very similar. They do the same thing. They reduce anxiety and inflammation and aid in digestion.”

Torres begins by approaching the animal with respect and a clear mind, introducing a light touch to the head and the ears. The ears of an animal are important, she says, as they offer clues to the animal’s mood, depending on whether they are pricked and perky or drooping. Then Stephanie moves on to the animal’s back and legs, all the while using a gentle pressure and almost watery movements as she continues to talk to the animal.

She’s able to practice her canine massage therapy at the Delamar. The cost is $40 to $50 for a 15- to 20-minute session. For equine therapy, she’ll travel to you for a session that will last from 90 minutes to two hours and cost $150 to $200.

As she massages an animal, Torres is also teaching its “parent” how to do some of the techniques and one thing more — “always listen to your pet.”

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