I come from a horsey family. In his youth, my father was a puissance jumper and professional rider. My sister excelled at the Pony Club and show jumping thing as a teenager. My family breeds award-winning race horses. My athletic talents lay elsewhere. I avoided horses (and unfortunately even my horsey-smelling sister) because as a child, I was severely allergic.
Luckily, I grew out of it, and just in time.
I returned to horses in mid-life, when my daughter Katherine began hippotherapy after a series of strokes. From day one, we were both hooked. Horses are the gift that keeps on giving. They are remarkable animals. By virtue of their size and power, they are not compelled to give us their attention, their obedience, their trust. Yet they are often affectionate and eager to please. I have seen horses offer comfort, affection, patience and trust to children who know nothing of these things. I have received it from horses myself. As a way of repaying the unfathomable debt owed to all horses who grace us with their gifts, I began a career as an equine massage therapist, in order to give relief and pleasure to every horse I can lay my hands on.
I experienced excellent results with my clients’ horses. Areas of significant soreness, swelling, and lack of flexibility can all be alleviated using standard sports massage therapy. However, I soon began to notice that the aches and pains, stiffness and soreness I found in the horses seem to stem from habitual patterns of movement under saddle in and longeing. Hmmm…what causes horses to hold to habitual patterns of movement which cause them pain? Perhaps these issues could be prevented rather than treated? Moreover, I noticed that owners were relating complaints of undesirable behaviors exhibited by their horses as a result of soreness and lameness. Again, Hmmmmm….why wouldn’t a horse behave badly when in pain? Rather than discipline a horse for unwanted behaviors, why not seek out and eliminate the root of the behavior?
Formerly a proponent of Lord Admiral Nelson’s “Never mind maneuvers, always go straight at ‘em” approach to life, recent years have seen a change in my world view. I have made a change in my life, in my riding, and in my career, from unexamined activity, traditional natural horsemanship, and the mechanical application of equine sports massage to a more mindful, holistic approach, tuning in with more awareness to locate and appreciate the roots of all experience. Not that I’ve taken up completely eliminated “maneuvers,” mind you, but I’m not going straight at ‘em, anymore.
Through my desire to treat the root of pain-related behavior issues, I met Linda Tellington-Jones, founder and creator of Tellington TTouch®. Thus began what I hope will be a lifelong cooperative project in extending the reach and power for change of her non-profit, Animal Ambassadors, Inc. My job entails locating funding for new projects and creating an environment in which people and animals learn to work together for a better world. It is immediately evident that animals have the power to radically change our lives when watching a group of at-risk children in Soweto learn to do the TTouch on rescue animals. Increased empathy, connection with their environment and one another, cooperation, and greater willingness to learn blossom before our very eyes.
Reverent mindfulness, the awareness of the gifts that all animals bring us is what I wish to put forth in this blog.
Here in enlightened horsemanship through touch, I explore all these issues with an open heart and mind, with an eye toward offering relief and freedom to horses, who offer us so very much of themselves.
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