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Q: What is the difference between Bowen and the Equine Touch?
A: This is a question which arises in classes time after time. It is usually instigated by Bowen people who have said ET is the same, yet all Bowen people who come on the clinics are adamant it is not. The best way to describe the difference other than we are a continually evolving equine bodywork system, growing each year as we learn more, is the move and the intent and integrity behind it.
Bowen clinicians, and there are a multitude of Bowen schools out there all teaching differently, base their work around their recognized ‘Bowen’ move which involves a gentle rolling motion over the muscle. The ET move involves challenging the muscle to distortion, moving through the muscle thereby causing a convulsion which in turn brings about a powerful recoil. This recoil causes vibration within the tissue, muscle and fascia. This in turn causes resonance at various frequencies throughout the soft tissue, both at the site as well as some distance away.
ET is also the only Equine Bodywork which utilizes the recognized principles of horsemanship when applying a hands on-address to the horse’s body. I am assured by the Bowen students who attend ET classes the others do not. I do not know how many set out procedures there are in Bowen Equine Schools but in ET we are well over 100 with ET and Beyond growing annually as the technique developed internally and integrates suitable non-invasive techniques from different but very compatible techniques such as Cranial and Osteopathy for example.
Q: Eva asks: The moment I put my hand on this horse to to brand him he moved away. No matter where I put my hands he moved away. I tried his forehead, and he moved his head away. What do you do in such cases?
A: We hear about these types of responses now and again. I have had it happen on occassion and it took me some time to work out that there were two reasons for this. One, the horse has such a sensitivity and fear often associated with a neurologic or emotional problem that it does not want to be touched in any way whatsoever. In this case walk away, tomorrow is another day and who knows – then the horse may just allow you in. The other similar cause of this behavior by the horse is the most common, the horse is reading your intent which even while correct is not wanted by the horse at that time. This may be due to fear or emotional attachment to the injury. The horse, reading your intention, is letting you know it does not want to be touched, or perhaps it is remembering or associating that perceived intent as being the same as that used by some person such as chiropractor or bone setter who has hurt him in the past. In these cases I will switch off my intent, and focus on the owner, or handler, leaning on the horse quite naturally and allow my hand to just sit on the horse while I chat away to the owner or handler and ‘sneak’ in the moves without mentally focussing on them at all, build in observation periods and then just walk away. The last time I did this I had a Level 4 class watching me, the following day at question time they were quite disappointed that I had not done ET. Luckily Merrily Morgan was there to point out that I had. Point made, if the Level 4 students were not aware that I had done ET then neither was the horse! The same day the owner phoned to say he had a completely different horse. The answer is, don’t push it, just accept that which is presented to you and work around it. There alas one other scenario. Recently we had a student on a clinic in Australia. This man who turned up to a L1 clinic, only wanted to show everyone how good he was at what he did and looked down on ET. The fact was that no horse would willingly allow him to touch them. He went home and shortly thereafter we received an abusive letter stating how bad ET was, no horse on his wife’s property would allow him to touch them either. Some people are in the horse world, some people are of the horse world, there is a big difference, and the horse is the one that will tell you if you are welcome in their world or not.
Q: Veronica asks: I have been trying the first rib release with the ‘catch the fly’ trick on a very stiff cold blood but I am having no luck with it at all. Any suggestions, and what else could I do to address this area?
A: Cold bloods are always a problem from the point of using reflex to achieve positive reactions. I found out very early in my career that Clydesdales and Friesian would only on rare occasions react in the way that was required. You must remember why they were bred, war horses, cart horses, their skin had to be less sensitive to cope with pulling wagons, ploughs, knights in armour with swords and lances, and now Police horses because of their stoic nature. When I find that I cannot use the tickle to obtain the desired effect, I will often try this prescription of techniques. (Unfortunately some of these procedures are only taught in ET and Beyond): Forequarter (L1) Neck (L1) Serratus (L2) Subscapularis (L2) Foreleg (L1) Pectoral (L2) Brachiocephalic (L2) Advanced Neck (L3) Foreleg Rotation (ET&B) Spinnaker (ET&B) Tassie Tickle (ET&B) Duet Wing Stretch (ET&B) followed by a normal leg stretch followed by a cross over leg stretch, ending up with a normal ET supported forward leg stretch. I have had some degree of success with this procedure prescription. You can also encourage the horse to bring his head all the way round using treats. A few sessions such as this should pay dividends. This is one of the reasons why we have decided to introduce the new one day Layering Clinic where we can introduce students and practitioners to the concept of putting together prescription address to work on specific areas of concerns and in which order relating to the specific area of address and what the horse has presented you with.
Q: Judy asks Jock: My 11 year old gelding developed eczema some years ago and it has always taken a great deal of veterinary intervention to clear it up though it kept coming back. A few months ago I completed my Level 1 and returning home I practiced on Szabo who was having an outbreak at the time and was amazed when after three days his coat had cleared up and it has stayed that way ever since, though I do give him an ET session at least once a week. Why has it had this amazing effect?
A: Many skin problems are caused by stress and a low immune system. Equine Touch has been proven with its powerful ability to relax the horse to be the antidote to stress as well as being a proven booster of the equine immune system while encouraging the flow of blood, enhancing the lymphatic drainage network and thereby aiding detoxification. All of this has can have a positive effect upon the skin and coat of the horse. Often when a horse that has been worked on is returned to the herd one has only to glance at the whole group to immediately pick out the glowing horse as the one that had experienced ET. In the first ET clinic that I ever taught way back in 1999, to vets in Czech, I was presented with a bad tempered horse which had chronic eczema, although all I was teaching was Level 1. The horse calmed down after about 15 minutes, went into ‘deep trance’ and full relaxation. Amazingly after the three day clinic was over this old tree pulling horse from the forest had virtually no sign of eczema. The scars were virtually disappearing before our eyes. That was the first time I had run across the problem and have worked on many more since without the intent of ‘curing’ the disease, however in many instances the skin problem, almost as a byproduct of the main intentional address, cleared up. Always remember that ET is a gift to the horse, and it is the horse which ultimately decide what he wishes to do with it.
Q: Gina from USA asks: My horse has total objection to me working on its neck mid neck and in fact when I place my hands on his neck his eyes roll in fear and he is so agitated and mistrusting, but the rest of his body he has no problem with. I know he had neck problems before I got him but the owner said the chiropractor fixed it. What can I do as he always seems a little stiff there?
A: Whenever I hear the word ‘chiropractor’ my first questions are who, and what was the style? There are some awesome horse skeletal adjustors out there, but alas there are also some nightmares who use very rough long lever approaches without first relaxing or releasing adjacent connective soft tissue. The neck is one of these areas which can be easily and sometimes aggressively manipulated using too much strength and thrust, especially if the horse is resistant. This can result in soft tissue injury or character armour where fear is injected into the tissue injury and so the fear memory remains even if the original problem was ‘fixed’. The horse then picks up on your intent to work on the neck and translates it back to the time when he trusted someone with the same ‘intent’ and then had pain and fear inflicted upon it. You must always remember that as soon as you give a horse a clue as to what you are going to do he is five moves ahead of you next time you repeat that intent. Go back to your horsemanship and find the answer to your problem. Desensitizing is of course important; in ET we can do this by scratching the area of concern, placing hands gently on the horse and eventually working towards the area of concern, without any intent to perform a move.
Q: Lisa asks: Is it safe and what advantage is there to performing ET on new born foals?
A: During the pregnancy the foal is compressed and folded up inside the womb. The legs are bent towards the abdomen and the neck is bent over to one side which means that the soft tissue on one side will be quite different for the other. The birth itself can also be a source of traumas. As we ALL know, the mare prefers to give birth during the night, without any disturbance or audience. If the mare is in a hurry and the birth canal is not open wide enough the foal may be jammed within the bones of the pelvis. The thorax of the foal is its widest part and is the area which can show signs of trauma: we all know girth sensitivity. Girth pain can be caused by many things, but young and unridden horses can carry this trauma from birth. As soon as the sensitivity and tightness is released the foal can use its body in truly symmetric manner, without favoring one leg. This picture is also very common – a young horse grazing with the same foot constantly out in front. This pasture habit can be rooted from sensitivity at the girth area and pain in the muscles behind the shoulder, and if carried for a long time it is very hard to change. Actually the horse will develop two different feet and uneven shoulders, and when the problem becomes structural it is hard to reverse. I would not work on the foal directly after birth, if there is no obvious problem. Leave the mare and foal together, and do not interfere with their interaction. The second day is a great opportunity to gently approach the foal. Making the session very pleasant for the foal (and mare), you can perform the TMJ procedure on the mare and then gently address the foal. First make gentle contact, placing the hand on the foal followed by gentle branding. Search for any tightness, especially in the neck area, and for any sensitivity in the girth area and withers. Perform the ET move wherever you can, just get the foal to feel the move and your calm, quiet hands. TMJ procedure or BBB may be beneficial, but perform the procedures without observation periods. Perform the whole ET session with feel and listen to the foal (and mare). Most youngsters do not have patience so sometimes less is really best, try to avoid placing any stress upon the mare or the foal.
Q: Amanda asks: Darcy, the horse, was a stiff, sore horse with unpredictable temperament. One day he came out of pasture with swollen glands at the throat region and a lumpy face, on top of his usual problems. After the ET session consisting of BBB and some AoC he became even more lumpy, his hair was standing on the bumps, exactly defining the location of the moves. What is that, is it dangerous or what to do with it?’
A: To the best of my knowledge this could be reaction to the manual pressure. In the subcutis there are cells called mast cells. These cells are full of granules containing histamine. When the pressure is applied on the skin or deeper they squeeze their contents into the surrounding tissue and heparin starts to produce many kinds of reactions: swelling, redness and itchiness as it causes vasodilation, which is often identical to an insect bite. These lumps are usually not painful and do not create any discomfort and disappear of their own accord, usually within a few hours.
This sensitivity to fascia bodywork is known also from the human techniques. Studies with patients suffering from fibromyalgia and with trigger points showed that their tissue had greater amount of the mast cells and so those reactions were more occurring. Also clients with tighter muscles (especially under occipital) presented the reaction of swelling, redness and welts on the skin. Larger problems – greater reactions. Interesting, is it not? These humans findings responded to our case, Darcy had tight muscles and surely some trigger points, as he delivered some well aimed kicks’ and squeals during the session which was the only way he could show that his body hurt.
Q: Mary a horse breeder in Australia asks: Is it ok to do the Abdominal procedure on a pregnant mare? Are there any contraindications/ precautions at all?
A: Performing ET on a pregnant mare who is still working (riding, training, competing) could be beneficial, as releasing trauma muscles, and general relaxation, can speed up the recovery after work and be helpful for keeping the soft tissue healthy and free of restrictions. The healthy mare can benefit from gentle bodywork, as her body and main musculoskeletal system is, and will be even more, challenged over this time by the growing weight of the foal. Over the past 10 years of teaching ET we have received negative comments or case studies regarding working on a pregnant mare. Personally Jock and I are often working/teaching ET on pregnant mares, as part of our class, we never saw any side effects, only relaxation. Q: Nicole a naturopath in Australia asks: “I arrived home from work & my horse had colic. I called the vet and did the Abdominal procedure and then one side of the Level 2 ABB before the vet arrived. The horse was sedated for drenching. When the vet had finished treating the horse he left. While coming out of the effects of sedation would it be ok to continue the ABB? Previous study (other modality) had indicated that receptors would not be working while horse is sedated. Can it be aware and process the ET work? What would be the best thing to do in this situation?” A: A colic is a general term to describe abdominal pain, which can have many origins – reproductive, urinary or gastrointestinal system and a veterinarian can use many diagnostic techniques to locate the pain and start treatment. While you are waiting for his/her arrival, try to calm the horse with the Equine Touch. We have many case studies from our students helping their horse with BBB and abdominal procedure. I have, in my own experiences with my mare and colic, performed the back procedure (holistic back opening L3) and hamstrings procedure. She is always relaxes when I address her thigh. I worked recently on a horse with colic, once again saddle procedure to address the bladder meridian and abdominal procedure. You are right – the sedation can change the proprioreceptors threshold, and this can definitely have an effect upon the bodywork. I personally do not work on a sedated horse, even when we are addressing the horse after dentistry, we wait until after the horse is fully recovered from the sedation.
Q: Jenny ask Ivana: I have been working on a horse that ‘ snaps’. It does not bite or attack as such, it snaps, at anything and everything, even nothing, in front of its face with every single move I do, no matter how light. It is almost like a reflex action. If I repeat an area gently several times it will eventually stop the snapping action, however as soon as I move on from that area it starts again. I am being so gentle, my handler has to be on her toes all the time. Do you have any suggestions, as to why, and what I can do about it?
A: Without seeing (and mostly important without touching the horse) it is very hard to say what is the problem. But let me think ‘out loud’. I had a horse ‘snapping’ like that and he was very sensitive. I generally work very gently all the time but even my light touch triggered that reaction. So I started to use my whole hand and performed the ET moves with that large working area, which dispersed my pressure even more and horse kindly accepted my work. Try that first. Some horse can be so sensitive due to a systemic inflammation reaction, when the whole body is ‘sore’ and stiff. This is linked with leaky gut syndrome, and must be sorted from inside – normalized the function of the intestinal wall and diminish the inflammation around the gastrointestinal tract. A veterinarian and nutritional can exclude this case, by analyzing his diet and observing his body. I have also on my mind one case, when I was working on thoroughbred which was nervous and snapped around. I do not like to do so, but in this case the owner advised me to cross tie him, which calmed him immediately and the snapping stopped. The horse was used to that habit, and standing with a loose lead rope push him into a distressed behavior pattern. Try the hand work, you and the ‘holder’ be extremely careful, ask the owner if the horse exhibit this kind of behavior before or in certain situations, if yes, try to avoid that situation and work in another environment – arena, or round pen. Looking at his food may also bring some light if but perhaps he is oversensitive, and generally sore – you have several possibilities to eliminate in this situation.
Q: Why is the observation/processing time so important?
A: You will remember right from level one all of you were taught AII. The A for the horse stands for awareness. As you become more and more proficient in using the Equine Touch you should instinctively know when to insert these observation/processing times from the horses reaction to the touch. Just as the horse at both a conscious and subconscious level must be aware of the challenge and the intent and integrity behind it, so the cellular and indeed the subconscious level must be aware of what is now happening as a result of the glide and the resonating recoil that it evokes. Several years ago in the USA as a busy Equine Bodyworker I had embarrassingly allowed my principles to drop and was out there ‘chain working’, by that I mean lining them up and moving from horse to horse going through the motions, ten horses in a morning great, good business. Then one day I stopped and during a break I watched one horse process like never before, it was amazing. The horse came over to me rubbed me up and down with its nose and went to sleep in my arms. I had lost my integrity and it took a horse, just like my original teacher to give it back to me. It is during these processing times that you will see and feel the link between us and the equine even more strongly. Watch for the signs as the horse realizes that his pain has reduced, that a spasm has relaxed, that he can move his neck and TMJ and watch the onion slowly peel as he gives that message to his whole body. The processing time is when this begins to happen, sometimes it is instantaneous, sometimes it takes a while for all the dominos to drop. I once spent ten minutes observing a horse waiting for him to process, and when he did it was profound, eyes inside out, yawns, tongue out and head on the ground. Feel it, connect with the horse, listen to your inner voice and your experience then observe and allow the horse to process and watch your success rate go sky high.
Q: Marie asks: How do we tell a client that the problem in their horse may e caused by the trainer or training, they just do not seem to want to know?
A: Now that is a hard one, in fact the hardest! Alas, it is all too common and any wrongly worded comment by you may not only loose you a client but gain you an enemy. I have many of them, diplomacy not being one of my strong points! Firstly you must evaluate your relationship with the owner in comparison to that of the owner and the trainer. Talk about the positives in the horse, not the negatives. Very often the trainer has no knowledge of the pain syndrome or influence, considering it a behavioral problem. Sometimes it is actually good to point out the pain to the owner and the trainer together, show the pain reaction and state that it could be manifesting itself as behavior or training problems. Try to involve them in the ‘ouch syndrome’ that you have discovered. Unfortunately that does not always work. It is a sad indictment that to many the sport and performance is more important than the well being of the horse. Just recently I had to deal with three young ‘trainers’ all of whom had horses in severe degrees of chronic pain. One of them was so grateful that I had worked on her charges and was hungry for any advice I could give, one just continued training after I pointed out the horse had a rib problem, the third who’s own horse I worked on and cleared the pain, immediately rode it for two hours the following morning and brought the pain back. When Ivana checked the saddle it was horrific. When all this was pointed out to the girl, she just shrugged, picked up her saddle and walked out of the arena leaving us to handle her horse (the one on the pix). Her comment “What does he know” (Why is youth wasted on the young?) It is heartbreaking but we just have to keep on trying to stick to the mission statement – Helping horses by educating humans! Good luck, you will need it.
As Linda Parelli once said to me, “It’s sometimes easier training the horse than the human.”