Laura Bateman • Horse and Mind

Love Me, Heal My Horse

10th May 2013

There are an estimated 900,000 horses in private ownership in this country, and not far short of another 100,000 in the professional sector. That’s a lot of hay to find, a lot of hooves to be shod – and a large number of aches and pains (in horse, not rider) to be healed.

Alex Gray talks to riders and equine practitioners about some of the more unusual treatments available for the horse in your life…

When Team GB rode to gold in last year's London Olympics, one competitor in particular caught the public’s eye, both for her meteoric rise from stable hand to gold medallist, and for the very special relationship that she described having with her horse. Dressage rider Charlotte duJardin told of how she and her horse are ‘virtually telepathic’, and the special bond between the two was evident. She’s not the only one who feels that way.

“Fifty years ago horses were very much working animals, and if one went crock you'd simply get another one,” says Watford vet Mark Gardiner. “Nowadays there are a lot of people who keep their horses as a pet and the relationship is more akin to that of a family dog – they take it for walk or a ride.” This change in perception has led to a corresponding shift in how problems with horses are dealt with and with that, a rise in the number of therapies now available.

“I think it was Monty Roberts who championed the aspect of working with a horse's own instinctive behaviour, and using that as a way of breaking horses,” Mark continues. “The term itself – to ‘break’ a horse – is telling, because traditionally, you had to break the horse's spirit to gain control of it. But actually, using a carrot instead of a stick approach leads to a happier animal. Like us, they have feelings, moods and memories, and benefit from a much more individual approach.”

Rebalance-EQ, who offer equine healing and intuitive training for horses with emotional, physical and behavourial problems, have a unique approach to horse therapy. They describe horse and rider as a partnership, rather than the horse as a tool for the rider: “In terms of the horse, it's is no longer about ‘harder hit, bigger spurs,” but a much more intuitive and gentle way of approaching horse problems,' says Carrie Allen, a British Horse Society Assistant Instructor who has over 20 years experience working with, and training, horses and their riders.

Rebalance-EQ was established after a conversation between Carrie and friend Ramni Kortman gave rise to an extraordinary healing session. Carrie's horse, J’Adore, a Selle Français, was in a lot of pain from a broken jaw through being ridden too hard, and Carrie had been advised by her vet that an operation would be necessary. Instead, Carrie asked Ramni, who for years has practiced healing on people, if she would consider some energy enhancement sessions – a sort of hands-on horse healing.

“I was sitting on J’Adore, talking to Ramni,” Carrie recalls, “and she said: ‘just stand there for a minute’ and started doing some energy work on the horse. Within minutes he did what's called going ‘long and low’, his head went to the floor and he stretched all the muscles in his lower back.”

Anyone involved with horses will know that they only do this when they’re utterly comfortable with every aspect of their body, Carrie explains. “It was a very emotional moment,” and she was delighted too when the vet confirmed that an operation was no longer necessary.

“When I see the horse in action I can see where it’s holding pain or emotion,” Ramni says. “It was one of those magical moments where something that would have taken years to heal came about in a matter of minutes.”

As a result of that unexpected session with J’Adore, Carrie and Ramni joined forces to set up Rebalance-EQ, which works with a horse's natural energy in a two-step livery programme. The horse experiences profound energy enhancing sessions with Ramni, and then a tailored and intuitive training programme given by Carrie, who also imparts healing onto the horse.

“The training that we do is the same as you’d find in any livery,” Carrie says, “but alongside it we do energy work which brings about amazing results to the horse’s wellbeing.” Traditional retraining can take much longer and, in some cases, may not be in the horse’s best interests. Rebalance-EQ’s procedures mean that the rider can also experience these sessions, and, as Carrie adds, this enhances the horse/rider partnership.

Rufus, a thoroughbred who was 7/10 lame, was brought to them in a last ditch attempt to avoid ‘de-nerving’ his lame leg. “When he turned up he was a complete emotional and physical wreck,” Carrie says. “His condition was all wrong and he couldn't move properly. He was with us for five weeks, and in week four he became sound. The owners couldn't believe it; they went home on the Sunday and on Monday the vet confirmed the horse was sound. In fact, they checked with two different vets, and kept checking every three weeks… and he's still sound.”

Laura Bateman is a horse behavourist who works with individual clients and runs courses and workshops teaching riders and owners how to better understand their animal. For Laura it's all about the science-based approach – she's a qualified psychologist but, after a decade treating people, followed her dream of working with animals. She retrained as an equine behaviour consultant and started her own business, Horse and Mind.

“I've been around horses since I was six years old and I've always had a fascination about their behaviour,” she tells me. “One of the things that I am often asked about is horses who excessively ‘spook’ when being ridden… usually what we call a learned behaviour; the horse experiences a fright of some sort and the rider might have fallen off or ridden the horse home as a result. Inadvertently, the horse has been rewarded for having ‘spooked’ (by getting a rest) and as a result, repeats the behaviour.”

Laura provides retraining programmes and teaches clients how to appropriately extinguish this behaviour by removing the positive reward, using specific and, of course, humane techniques. “Many of the problems I see are a result of the relationship between the horse and owner. I teach people about how horses interact with one another and how we, as humans, can interact with them in a way that they understand.”

Laura finds that clients seem to gain genuine confidence and enjoy understanding their horses better and being able to work through their problems.

RedLight Phototherapy & Leaps & Bounds

Physiotherapy is also making its way in the horsing world, and gaining greater respectability. Helen Newell, who is an animal physiotherapist, often has vet referrals. Tricia Dulcamara took her horse, Jigsaw, to see Helen at Leaps & Bounds because of a damaged tendon. “Years ago an injury like this would have had the horse put down,” says Tricia. “But they're more like pets now,” she adds, stroking Jigsaw's nose.

Helen incorporates both electrotherapeutic applications and manual techniques in her treatment programme, with remedial exercise. She explains that while each is an effective therapy in isolation, combined they can achieve vastly improved outcomes, with significantly reduced incidence of re-injury. “One of the main bits of equipment I use is the Pulsed Magnetic Field Machine which works to beneficially affect cell behaviour. It's effective on pain relief, soft tissue healing, fracture repair, circulation and nerve regeneration.”

It’s all very coherent, integrated and structured, and the owner is also involved. “Helen left me with exercises to do with Jigsaw and a set of pads to use on her a couple of times a day,” continues Tricia. “Part of the healing process is to ride them in a controlled type of exercise and I did that too. She's much better now.”

Of course, just as alternative therapies for humans don’t take the place of the GP, none of these replace the vet, and most practitioners see themselves as part of a team. “I work in a very holistic way alongside vets, physiotherapists, saddle fitters and farriers and will refer any clients accordingly,” says Laura. Carrie, from Rebalance-EQ, agrees: “The relationship we have with our vet is really important.”

The proof is in the results. Two of the horses that recently underwent livery at Rebalance-EQ because of an inability to compete have since gone on to do very well in county shows, so Team GB may want to watch out…

Rebalance-EQ is a member of the British Complimentary
Medicine Association and the Healer Foundation • 07917 625503

Horse and Mind is registered by the Society of Equine Behaviour Consultants • 07590901503

Leaps & Bounds Animal Physio is a member of the International Association of Animal Therapists • 07548 749424

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