Hands-on Healing

11/01/2022 01:18 AM By Lisa Anderson
From the Paddock
Marla Bauknecht
Marla Bauknecht
Story by Cynthia McFarland • Photos by Joshua Jacobs

Hands-on Healing

Massage Therapist Treats Humans & Horses

A lifelong passion for animals and problem–solving has led Marla Bauknecht to exactly where she was meant to be. The Florida native was raised in Jacksonville in a family where animals were a constant presence—dogs in particular. 

“I’ve always loved horses and dogs,” says Marla, who was 10 when she got her first dog, a purebred Sheltie named Bo Derek. “I did shows with her. She was way smarter than I was.”

The first horse she truly bonded with was a Morgan mare named Gretchen that her family leased when Marla was about 8. “She was built like a freight train and ran like one,” says Marla. “She taught me lessons: Wear a helmet and hold on!”

After high school, Marla took a job trail guiding for Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. When the urge to travel struck, she took her skills and eventually worked in multiple states, including at the well-known Sunnyside Farms in Rhode Island. “I moved around from 1989 to 1994, even went to Puerto Rico and then back to Jacksonville,” says Marla, whose next adventure took her much farther west.

Living and Learning

She ventured to Alaska where she ended up getting married and working for a safety training company that taught Wilderness Medicine with other safety training programs. In true Marla fashion, she did dog sledding with Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs (ASARD) and managed a barn where she did equine-assisted therapy.

An experience with the therapy horses triggered what would later guide Marla to her current career. Some of the horses had bucking and biting issues, which wasn’t safe for working with autistic kids. Marla recognized that the horses were acting up because they were in pain. At the same time, she witnessed the remarkable turnaround of a friend’s horse, which was seriously injured and completely recovered after chiropractic work. “I said, ‘I want to learn this!’” 

Her marriage had ended, but as she left Alaska, Marla was excited about a future in hands-on therapies that could help horses. She began studying at Aims Community College in Loveland, Colorado, and in 2014, she transferred back to Florida State College in Jacksonville to finish earning her Bachelor of Science in Bio Medical Sciences.

“My 103-year-old grandmother was dying, and my dad needed some help. He was 81 and retiring from his dental practice,” says Marla. “I came home to take care of my family and finished college at the same time. I took care of my dad for the last five years of his life and wouldn’t trade that for the world. My dad died the same day I graduated in the fall of 2019; it about broke my heart.”

With the end goal of becoming an equine chiropractor, she attended Sherman Chiropractic School in Spartanburg, South Carolina. During this time, she experienced intense physical problems after two vertebrae in her neck fused together and affected her nerves. After a combination of chiropractic work and massage therapy restored her health, she knew she was on the right track in her pursuit of using such therapies to help others.

In 2020, she completed the program at Brandenburg Animal Massage Therapy School in Ohio and got certified for animal sports massage therapy. That same year, she went to the Colorado Springs School of Massage and became licensed to work on people. 

“I was then licensed in the State of Colorado and got hired by the school,” says Marla. “I finished out the year working there and started doing equine massage on the days I wasn’t working at the massage school.” 

Charging Forward

Today, Marla’s business, 3H Salt & Massage Therapy, is based out of Ocala. The 3H stands for horses, hounds, and humans. “Ocala has always been a place I wanted to call home, because it’s the intersection of horses, hounds, and humans,” she says.

Marla is a licensed human massage therapist and also certified for animal massage. She provides sports massage, trigger point, neuromuscular, and deep tissue massage, in addition to myofascial release (MFR) therapy to the great relief of her clients—both two-legged and four-legged.

As a certified halotherapist, Marla also offers dry salt therapy, a therapeutic process using pharmaceutical-grade sodium chloride. “It’s a natural, non-invasive therapy with no side effects. It reduces inflammation and increases circulation. The body uses it to rid cells of toxins, allergens, and inflammation,” she explains, adding that salt therapy’s number one use in humans is for cystic fibrosis. Marla has seen great success using salt therapy to treat clients who can’t catch their breath or have lost their sense of smell and taste after COVID.

Because salt therapy requires a controlled environment, she has an equine trailer and an enclosed salt booth where she can control the temperature and humidity. Her practice is mobile, so she travels directly to her clients.

Since she decided not to finish her doctorate program, Marla isn’t licensed to do chiropractic work, but she’s thrilled with how her business has evolved. Her goal has always been to relieve pain and solve problems, which she’s now doing on a daily basis, often working six days a week.

“I’m very glad I made the decision to get my license to work on people,” says Marla. “I love meeting different people. I find Ocala such a cool place to live after traveling to all these places.”
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Lisa Anderson