Jul 13, 2012

Loose Ends and New Beginnings

So now you have The Background. Over ten years I had had one conception shattering experience after another. The Centered Riding work started the process by showing me that the rider forms the horse, whether they know it or admit it or can feel it or not.  The Linda Tellington-Jones work was the first to reveal the connection between physical pain, emotion, and and personality and training behaviors. The Jack Meagher sports massage therapy proved what I had always suspected; that clinical soundness, or the lack thereof, might have nothing to do with xrays or scans or what have you. And then the Mary Debono/SENSE work showed that addressing the neurological system with work based on Feldenkrais principles could transform the entire system.

And so with this gigantic and wonderful toolbox we worked with Cody, and Petey, and Austen, and Shadow, and Philip, and Bonnie, and Wonder, and Leisle. They all went from …er…challenged in some way, to sound and rideable and quiet and happy in their work.

And just to tie up loose ends, Tucker, beautiful Tucker who put up with my experiments, restored my confidence, and gave me the most spectacular trail rides through the western Massachusetts countryside, developed neurological symptoms and after months and months of study at Tufts with the amazing Dr. Mary Rose, and every alphabet soup of neuro test available, was euthed and donated to the Tufts vet school. There was never a final diagnosis; ideopathic changes at the cellular level in his cervical spine; ‘rare swollen axons’ and similar findings. I didn’t think I’d ever get over losing him but of course, life goes on. I always know when I am stressing though cause I will still dream about him; that I am looking for him, that I just get to where I am finding him, and then he’s gone again. Or maybe he does just visit me in my dreams; he was a very playful character and maybe he visits me when I’m stressed to remind me that he is still around. I don’t know, but I always wake up feeling wistful but also strangely comforted.

Dixie went with us to North Carolina and became a winning pony hunter. She repaid me a thousand fold for rescuing her that day. When I had to sell my horses and ponies I knew I couldn’t bear to sell her to another show home and risk her going through anything bad again, so I sold her to my friend Tamara who bred lovely Welsh ponies for many years. Dix lived with her on her incredible farm in Tennessee for many years, was an excellent pony mom, and never knew a days stress again. She is buried in one of Tamara’s pastures where she grazed and raised her babies.

I moved back to California in 2000 and met Mary soon after. So I had four years of study and experimentation when I bought Bryan in 2004. I bought Philip at the same time, and they actually arrived at my barn the same day, March 1st. I was so fascinated by their respective stories, which were actually exactly the same; expensive and loved show horses that through no fault of their own became fairly lame somewhat useless and unwanted inexpensive has beens. But whereas Bryan had become shut down and overreactive, Philip had become shut down and…well….shut down. When Bryan was stressed he would prance and spin and take off, but Philip, no matter what you did, would plod. He didn’t react to anything, he was just over all of it and had learned to tune *everything* out. Two totally different responses to the same life events.

So with the tools in the toolbox at the ready, we started to see what could be done.


  1. Abby: Is this work that Mary does helpful for kissing spine?

  2. Feldenkrais work can be considered 'somatic education', meaning that the body can be taught to move in more useful less painful/damaging ways. I see it as a way to restructure the way the animal is coping with whatever issues it currently is experiencing or has experienced in the past. So, yes, it is very helpful for all pathologies. BUT, in a specific case such as kissing spines, I would use it as an auxilliary to Hillary Claytons excellent exercise program. You want to strengthen the longissimus dorsi (sp) and the whole upper body stay apparatus, and *then* or *at the same time* teach the body to carry itself in a different "better" way. I highly recommend the Hillary Clayton book and DVD. Her work with computer models is fascinating, and echos well the work of Gerd Heuschmann. Experience has taught me that back problems respond very well to these two approaches. And when you add the correct riding exercises (Racinet, Heuschmann, Phillippe Karl among my favorites) you can truly transform a horse's body.

  3. Thanks! I will certainly pick up her book and DVD.

  4. You can order it off the little Amazon widget on the blog >;-> All of those recommendations are 'must haves' in my experience.