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Dawn Hatcher, owner of Peak Performance Equine Bodywork, puts a halter on her horse recently. The passage of LB596 last spring allows Hatcher to do equine massage.

COLUMBUS — The Nebraska Legislature played a role in a Columbus resident’s dream.

“When I got that email. … It just said it’s done; it passed,” said Dawn Hatcher, owner of Peak Performance Equine Bodywork. “I just wanted to break down a little happy dance,  because that was the first door that needed to be opened for me to pursue really what’s been a dream of having a business and working with horses.”

Hatcher had to put her passion on hold until the Legislature passed LB596 in April. The bill enables a horse massage practitioner to operate without being a licensed veterinarian, licensed human massage therapist or work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, in addition to having an animal therapy license. The new law was introduced by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte.

Upon completing an online three-month program at Midwest Natural Healing for Animals in Indiana to be a certified horse massage practitioner, Hatcher hit the ground running and established her business in August. Since then, she said she's been receiving requests from surrounding areas. Hatcher said athletic horses get hurt just like human athletes and require massages to ease muscle tension, strains, aches and sores.

“Some little girls grow out of that horse phase, but some of us never do,” Hatcher said. “And I guess I am just one of those little horse-crazed girls that never grew out of it. … To have something that you’re so passionate about and be able to go out and help them, actually makes a difference to them. To make them feel better, I mean … I can’t think of anything better than that.”

Without approve from the Legislature, Hatcher said she would have had to enroll in a school roughly an hour and a half away and spend up to $16,000 a year to be a certified human massage therapist.

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“I already have a job, two kids and a husband," she said. "I just wasn’t going to be able to do that.”

Hatcher and a group of individuals with the same aspirations worked closely with the Platte Institute, an organization that provided written testimony in support of the bill in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

“Every time the Legislature removes or reforms an excessive job licensing law, senators are making new opportunities possible for more Nebraskans,” Adam Weinberg, communications and outreach director at the Platte Institute, said in a release. “Legislation like LB596 not only helps create new careers in communities statewide, but it sends a very positive message about Nebraska nationally, that our lawmakers see the value in creating an environment where unique, entrepreneurial ideas can take root.”

Just like any decision, there were those who opposed the idea, including licensed veterinarians and animal chiropractors. Hatcher said because she understood their concerns about proper education and training, she pursued an extensive and in-depth education where she learned the fundamentals of anatomy, biomechanics and causes of pain, among others.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at


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