The chestnut horse stood before me, her long mane gracing her arched neck.
I watched as the veterinarian and the horse’s person looked at a radiograph of the mare’s left front lower leg, which showed a clearly defined suspensory ligament.
The vet explained to the woman that the horse would not be able to recover from her suspensory ligament injury and would be permanently lame.
The woman was distraught by the news.
Confidently, I strode forward and announced that I could help the horse return to full soundness. I did my signature Debono Moves* work with the horse for five minutes and, magically, the horse healed.
Magically, indeed! Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I recounted my dream.
I laughed at the arrogance of my dream self, but I didn’t dismiss the dream. It felt important. And there had to be a reason why the suspensory ligament was shown in such detail. I wondered what it all meant.
And just who WAS that beautiful horse?...
The chestnut horse’s life changed so drastically, so wonderfully, that having the ability to pick up both leads easily is hardly worth mentioning.
Except that the story starts with a problem at the canter. And an upcoming horse show. A big one.
I was teaching a two-week Debono Moves equine workshop at a large, picturesque facility. Green lawns studded with shady pepper trees surrounded the large barns, and riders had access to trainers of various riding disciplines.
Horses enjoyed the ample turnout paddocks and many happily lived outside year-round. All in all, it seemed like a lovely place to be a horse.
Except if you happened to be a horse in Barn A, Section 2.
That part of the barn was leased by a trainer who kept his charges locked up in dark stalls, the windows clamped shut to keep out light and to prevent the horses from experiencing the outside world. The equines were always outfitted with blankets and tail sets, and sometimes wore...
Part 2: The Horse's Habits
In Part 1, I introduced you to Gina and her bay Arabian gelding, Piper. Gina was frustrated that Piper resisted bending, especially to the right.
Gina’s trainer had demanded that she use stronger, more insistent aids, but that just created more conflict and unpleasantness between horse and rider.
When Gina consulted me, I noticed that she sat heavier on her left seat bone, which made it difficult for her horse to bend. This unbalanced sitting can cause back pain, stiffness and tension in both horse and rider.
I led Gina through a Feldenkrais® exercise that improved her body awareness and helped her to sit balanced on her seat bones. Happily, it also got rid of her back pain and sciatica!
But the next time Gina rode, she was disappointed to discover that Piper still didn’t bend easily. She was sitting in balance, so why wasn’t her horse bending...
***Important note about the video: Please be gentle! Your pressure should be VERY LIGHT and the movements should be subtle "suggestions." Never use force. Keep your hands and shoulders soft and relaxed.***
Don’t you love when something good comes out of something bad?
A number of years ago, my client Suzanne had a bay Morgan gelding with a suspensory injury.
Despite several months of veterinary care, farrier attention and TLC, the 12-year-old gelding was still off.
What ended up helping the horse was surprising.
Here’s what happened.
Suzanne asked me to give her horse, whose name is Bravo, a hands-on session.
I knew that helping the Morgan move more easily through his rib cage could alleviate stress on his front legs.
Less strain on his fore legs meant that he’d have a better chance of recovering from his suspensory injury.
But we had a small problem. Bravo wouldn’t...
“Damn it! Just give me your leg!” Hearing these harsh words, I snapped my head around. Just as I suspected, a farrier was holding onto the hind hoof of a horse who was trying to break free of the man’s grasp.
The farrier, Joe*, had been patient with the big chestnut Warmblood. But Joe’s patience – and his back – were wearing thin. He had completed the trimming job, but he told the gelding’s owner that the horse needed stretching exercises to improve his ability to extend his legs. Joe picked up the chestnut’s leg again, and began to stretch it behind the horse. This time the gelding pulled it away from Joe violently.
Someone’s going to get hurt”, I thought. Both the horse and Joe were in danger of sustaining an injury. I caught the owner’s eye. My face must have conveyed my dismay, because she suddenly asked Joe to stop.
The woman thanked Joe, putting a check into his large, calloused hand. As he got into...
Sarah, a 43-year-old brunette with the tan, toned arms of a longtime equestrian, was visibly frustrated. She had hit a disappointing roadblock in her training.
Despite working with a respected dressage instructor, Sarah was beginning to feel as if her imported warmblood would never do well in dressage.
Her horse, an eight-year-old Dutch warmblood named Ace, had lovely conformation and an impressive pedigree. Generally easy-going and amiable, the bay gelding became tense whenever a rider asked for any degree of collection.
A tenacious researcher, Sarah had already explored medical, diet, training, turnout and saddle-related reasons that could prevent a horse from rounding his back and engaging his hindquarters. But despite all her expensive efforts, her horse was getting more resistant. She constantly worried that his back might be sore and tight. No wonder Sarah was frustrated!
When Sarah heard about my work, she figured that one more opinion couldn’t hurt. And less than five...
Does your horse pin his ears when you tighten the girth? Does he get grumpy, swish his tail or threaten to bite or kick when you cinch him up? Does your horse seem to hold her breath (“blowing up” or “bloating”) when you’re tacking her up?1
Any of those reactions would fit the definition of a “girthy” or “cinchy” horse. Cinchy horses are so common that many equestrians think nothing of it. But resistance during tacking up can set the tone for your whole ride, and lead to diminished equine performance too.
Tying your horse up short may prevent you from being bitten, and disciplining your horse may discourage the biting, kicking, or tail swishing, but neither method will improve how your horse feels about saddling. In fact, punitive measures usually increase tension in your horse’s mind and muscles.
That’s no way to build a trusting relationship with your horse! Plus, it can lead to diminished performance and a...