Shelley Thomas– MPT, MBA, CERP
Hi, I’m Shelley Thomas. I graduated from the Mayo Clinic in 1999 with a Master’s in Physical Therapy and have worked for over 20 years with orthopedic and neurological injuries. I also received additional training to work with horses and am a Certified Equine Rehabilitation Practitioner from the University of Tennessee and a Permitted Equine Therapist for FEI events. I’m currently working on my postgraduate diploma in equine osteopathy through the London College of Animal Osteopathy. There is so much to learn!
My business, Intrepid Wellness, was founded in honor of my horse, Intrepid, aka “Trep” in 2017. At the time, I’d been a physical therapist for about 18 years and had this idea of working with horses but hadn’t left a traditional practice to pursue that dream. I wasn’t sure where to start or if there was truly a need for my business idea.
It’s a very long story that I’m happy to share one day, but the short version is that sometimes, the Universe knocks you on your ass when you don’t listen.
Trep had always been such a fun horse to ride. He loved to jump and made me feel like we could do anything together. Around 2013, things started to change. He had some minor health issues and became trickier to ride. I worked with vets, farriers, and saddle fitters and everyone thought he was okay, so I told myself it was my fault and I needed to be a better rider. I really took responsibility for “ruining” such a fun, amazing jumper and turning him into a horse that didn’t
love his job. I took about a million riding lessons and tried desperately to get back to solid ground.
You can imagine the confidence blow and insecurities that created, right?
Fast forward to 2017 and Trep got very sick. He got diagnosed with cholangiohepatitis (a liver disease). My vet went back through all his records and thinks signs of it started showing up in 2013.
Hindsight is 20/20. It was like suddenly I could see the ways he had tried to tell me he didn’t feel great. To be fair, I tried to listen, but I just didn’t have a good system in place to see the patterns, and because of that I couldn’t communicate effectively with my vets, so they missed it too. Plus, I had been trained to take responsibility for my horse, riding, and skill sets. When things are going poorly, work harder to learn more and improve.
What Trep taught me is that horses have tremendous try. They show up and do their very best for us, and when they don’t feel good, they often communicate their discomfort or challenges in subtle ways, while still trying to do their job. Trep taught me to observe more, listen more, critically think more, pay attention to the little things, and blame myself less.
When Trep got sick, I suddenly had clarity on how I could help horses and riders. I launched Intrepid Wellness, with the mission to help horses and riders move and perform better, and help riders listen to their horses. I’ve worked with thousands of horses and riders at every level, and honed in on how to catch problems early with the help of the whole team (riders, grooms, vets, farriers, and more). When you work with performance horses, it’s not “if ” but “when” they will have some soundness and health issues. We ask horses to do repetitive work, travel long distances, and live in very unnatural environments which leads to problems. These problems can be mitigated and managed, but you need to be on the lookout. The same is true for riders. Improving body alignment and strength not only helps your horse but lessens your risk of injury and makes
you a better “backpack” for your horse to carry.
When you know better, do better. I’m constantly trying to learn more and bring that learning to you. Together we can all do the best for our horses, our greatest teachers and friends. I hope we can go on that journey together.
Intrepid Wellness was inspired by a horse named Intrepid. This horse was my partner and for 10 years, we had a great run together. Intrepid taught me so much about horsemanship, riding, loving, and being true. He inspired me to take a risk, start Intrepid Wellness and pursue living a passionate life. Intrepid was my horse, and I was his person. What an amazing gift I was given!
To my magnificent friend. I will love you and be grateful, for always.
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