Jul 6, 2012

Kicking and Screaming

Mary Debono (www.debonosense.com) is a lifelong horse person. Years ago, she discovered the work of Moshe Feldenkrais (http://www.feldenkrais.com/)  I will leave her journey to her own website and links. But this is how Mary and her work affected *my* journey, and ultimately, Bryan’s, and the rest of my horses, as well.

So I go to the clinic. It was held at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. HW has a wonderful Therapeutic Riding program: we were to use the program’s lesson horses as our SENSE clinic horses. Typical of many TR horses, these were saints. Quiet, calm, non reactive, yes. Sound? Er..not so much. When Mary had us watch and discuss what we saw in their movement patterns, my brain just saw ‘lame. Yep, lame. Yep. Old. Stiff. Lame.’ Of course, I could see *where*, and naturally felt smug at my great abilities to diagnose where the issues were. And of course, I wanted to find the spasms and work them out. Poor Mary. She was always so kind and so tactful with me. By the hundredth time that she had to tell me ‘Softer, Ab, softer’ as I dug and poked and pushed she must have wanted to about literally kick me out of the clinic. But no. Mary is an angel. Clearly though, I was just not getting it, and worse, I didn’t really care.

Like I’ve said, I suspect I’m a slow learner. (Ya think?) But on the fourth day of the clinic four things happened.

The impact of the first event caused the other events that followed, so that’s the one I’ll describe first.

We had been fiddling with the Helen Woodward horses for several days. Blah blah blah. I saw that the horses seemed to like the work, sure. They'd lick and chew and close their eyes and sigh. But there wasn’t any earth shattering OMG moment in those four days, and I had spent a fair amount of the time day dreaming and wishing I were doing something useful. I really couldn't feel the things Mary was doing or describing and I couldn't see any big changes in the nice old crips we were working on. But on the fourth day things changed. An outside horse came in for us to work on. He was beautiful. Clean, fat, shiny, obviously loved and cared for. But he was hysterical, screaming and flailing about. He was neurological and ataxic and falling. He had been nerved and had had Wobblers surgery. Nothing had helped. When I first saw him I just felt anger and deep resentment. How tragic he was. How selfish for his person to keep him alive when he was clearly so beyond helping. I was angry, and disgusted. I really could hardly watch and thought ‘seriously?! SERIOUSLY!? WTF are you, or anyone going to be able to do for *this* trainwreck!’

And so Mare went to work on this pitiful creature, and I stood there, pissed and ugly, with my arms crossed.

She worked on that horse for over an hour. And in front of my eyes he became calm. In front of my eyes he became less ataxic, less hysterical, more coordinated, more normal. Was he 100%? No. But he could walk in a circle, he could walk over a pole on the ground without falling. He was quiet and thoughtful.

When she was finished, she turned to our little group. I was in front, no longer pissed and angry. She looked tired and spent. She looked right at me, with a coming back to earth look, a little unfocused. She said 'so....what do you think?' kinda to the group. I don't think any of us could speak. After a sec I said 'um...well...I think we have just witnessed a miracle'.

And so we had.

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