Jul 6, 2012


Resisting an urge to fall to my knees, hug her about the ankles and sob ‘We are not worthy’, which is what I *felt* like doing, I just babbled out…’ I’m impressed!’ Typical humble, sweet Mary, she smiled and said ‘Really?’ and looked surprised.

And I was. This was amazing stuff. Man, who coulda thought that horse could be reached by *any* means. And here he was, with what looked like just nothing almost, with no weird names and no agenda and no talking trees. No hammers, no injections, no magnets or lasers. Just Mary and her hands. Better. So much better. Humbled, I now was determined to learn it and apply it. That day, after the clinic, I went to my barn and took a horse I had at the time, Cody, out of his stall. Cody was a big Holsteinor that I had acquired in North Carolina. He was wonderfully bred, a Condino son, who had been well broke and well ridden, until he wasn’t. Then he had developed all kinds of issues and behaviors that had made him pretty unmarketable. Natch, that made me want him. Maryanne, my wonderful Jack Meagher trained massage therapist had done great things with him in NC, and we were doing ok together. But I knew his neck, like many big dressage horses, had issues. He had the big knots behind his poll that so many of them have and the massage work had never made them go fully away.

So I put Cody in the cross ties and tried to do the work I had been not trying very hard to learn from Mary. I was serious, though, this time, and tried to do what she had taught us to do, and to feel what she was trying to teach us to feel. It felt awkward and pointless but I kept at it. True to the Feldenkrais principles, I did not work on the knots in his neck. I worked on Cody’s ribs and tummy. I had already recognized the work as Linda Tellington Jones type stuff with out the dumb names, so I had my LTJ clinic notes with me as well, and tried to consolidate the two approaches. After maybe twenty minutes I gave up, frustrated with myself and wishing I had paid better attention the previous four days. Disappointed, I groomed Cody and put him in the equicisor for a session.

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.