Jun 15, 2012

Clarity from the Murk

So here I was, after my Centered Riding experiences and my LTJones experiences, having to totally rethink the way I had looked at riding in particular and horses in general. I wouldn’t say I had been particularly cocky in my riding but I’d had no fear; now I was fearful. I’d been sympathetic to horses, but now I was *really* intrigued by the relationship of the ‘physical’ to the ‘mental’ to the 'training'. I kept riding at the Smith campus and was lucky enough to audit lots of cool clinics (Todd Flettrich, Jane Savoie, Judy Richter, Ronnie Mutch, The George); schlepped the kids even as babies to Indoors and whatever events and horse shows we could get to. I was riding the Smith horses and Tucker; they were proving the efficacy of what I was learning, time and time again. It was pretty heady.

And in that same theme of kismet or serendipity or fate, I heard about Jack Meagher.

(Please, let us genuflect and have a moment of silence in honor of the memory of a Great Man)

Jack Meagher (http://www.sportsmassageinc.com/index.htm) was revolutionary.  His protégée Robert Altman was a fixture at many barns in New England, and I knew people who used him and I knew their horses. I bought Jack’s book (see side bar) and studied and studied. It was pretty fascinating, and again, new to me. I saw horses that were lame, and then *were no longer lame*, just because someone had *touched them in a certain way in a certain place*. Whoa. I got to watch Robert work a few times. I had a friend who spent a week getting a certification at the Equissage facility in Virginia (a spinoff of Jack Meagher’s work). Here was an approach that was more comfortable for my methodical brain. ‘Feel here. Press here. Release here’ No woo-woo, no exhaustive discussions about 1’s or 3’s. It was great.

But the longer I saw the how Jack Meagher stuff worked and how the LTJ stuff worked, and as different as those two approaches were, as much as one appealed to me and the other mystified me, I saw that they were not mutually exclusive. One addressed the actual site of the problem and one addressed the physiological responses *to* the problem. I saw through my own trial and error on the horses I could fiddle with, and on the horses of people I knew, that the horses who had *both* approaches were the ones that responded most remarkably, and with longer and more stable results.

Really, think about it. If you have a movement or injury situation that has created a muscle spasm, and you release the muscle spasm but do not change the situation that caused the spasm to begin with, you are going to get a spasm again. And again. If you only do the LTJ work (which is based on Feldenkrais principles), without addressing the actual spasm, that spasm may go away eventually, but how much better in the long run to get rid of the spasm itself, and then treat the movement pattern that created it. Does that make sense? It did to me at the time, and still does, all these years later. It’s why chiropractic and acupuncture work also only have limited long term value. If you fix the misalignment or the chi blockage or whatever, but don’t change the situation that creates it, it will recur, again and again.

So, can you see how cool all this was? First I saw through Susan Harris and the Centered Riding stuff how the rider body formed the horse, for good or ill. Then I learned through the LTJ stuff how intertwined the physical and emotional worlds of horses were, and how ‘training’ issues could be resolved by just looking at ‘physical’ issues. And then I saw, through Jack Meagher’s work how specific muscle spasms could make the difference between lame, and sound. Three different concepts, totally interrelated, with the end result being a sound horse, physically comfortable, with a rider who enhanced, rather than inhibited, the horse's way of going.

I felt like anything was possible in the world of riding, performance, and soundness. I finally had some answers as to why you would see x-rays that looked like swiss cheese and the horse would be clinically sound, and why you could have x-rays that looked pretty good and the horse was lame, lame, lame. Why horses were sound in the field but lame under saddle. Why horses seemed ‘wilful’ but weren’t even remotely so. Why some riders were ‘talented’ and some couldn’t ride no matter how hard they tried. Why some horses were great with one rider and ‘naughty’ with another. But the most life changing thing of all was that idea that horses are strictly the sum of their parts; that all of those parts must be addressed, and that through these common and deep seated misunderstandings of their bodies and their natures, was the realization of how deeply, and silently, horses suffered.


  1. A great explanation of how a holistic approach works and why it's best. Thanks!

  2. I went to Amazon and bought a copy of his book. Unfortunately I think it was the last reasonably priced one available. Sorry everyone.