Nebraska’s Change In Law On Horse Massagers Another Skirmish In Battle Over Licensed Occupations

By Elaine S. Povich

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Licensed occupations range from cosmetologists, school bus drivers and emergency medical technicians, which are licensed in most states, to florists and interior designers, which require licenses in only a small number of states. But a horse massager? Reporter Elaine Povich takes a look at what’s happening.


On the November day in 2011 when horse massager Karen Hough got the “cease and desist” letter from the state of Nebraska, she was at first bewildered, then scared, then angry, and finally, determined.

Why, she asked herself, should she be prohibited from massaging horses when horse owners were willing to pay for her services and the horses visibly felt better?

It took six years, but Hough and other horse massagers finally succeeded in changing Nebraska’s law this year. Now, she can massage horses without a license and without being under the auspices of a veterinarian.

A copy of the law, autographed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, the Republican who signed it, is enshrined in a scrapbook in the kitchen of Hough’s farmhouse, reached by several dirt roads miles from the crossroads that mark the center of her town, posted population 597.

“I felt like I was being bullied, and I didn’t like that,” Hough, 66, recalled over homemade lemon pie and coffee prior to giving a massage demonstration on her quarter horse, Prince.

Hough, a talkative, native Nebraskan, isn’t easily bullied, but getting the law changed was hard.

She was up against the powerful Nebraska veterinarians’ lobby in this farm-filled state, which aimed to keep the massagers under their purview and require that operators either be licensed veterinarians themselves, work in conjunction with a vet or get a certification in human massage therapy. But in deep-red Nebraska, the free market idea to break the tether between equine massagers and vets prevailed.

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