I had already worked with 4 horses when I decided to take a course in Lexington KY with Mary Therese Agneessens, a former Rolfer™ who had busted out into the four-legged world. She rightly calls her work structural integration for horses, since the Rolfing® word is a trademark name reserved for the human structural integration.
Along the way to the workshop, I stopped in New Jersey for Maggie McVey, DVM, who had loaned me some books on horse anatomy for my first efforts. It happened like this: Maggie was a friend who became a client/friend. I paid her to come out to be a barn resource for one of my first horse clients, and then discovered that Maggie was just sitting around because I was a quick enough anatomy study, (pace, dead kitties at my first anatomy and physiology course) at least for what I needed to know.
So, when I realized that, I got her to work on the other side of the horse, just to get my money’s worth. She turned out to have talent at it!
Right from the beginning of the workshop we were immersed in the Lexington horse world. Mary’s small farm had a cute little horse hospital barn with stalls for the ailing quadruped athletes. We set right to work, and spent a fair amount of time with a horse who had a pedigree right from Danzig, a famous champion sire, and showed that famous short-ish back.
To work on a thoroughbred is like sticking your hand into a light socket, their nervous system is that active. Of course, all 4 legs are weightbearing, and there are niceties of gait to be learned.
There is no fatty bubblewrap right under the skin. The fascia of the horse is more like the fascia on a chicken just under the skin, when you lift up the chicken skin, there is a clear layer there AND THAT IS ALL. It is quite different from the human subcutaneous fascia. Humans have no hair to protect them, and perhaps thusly is created their thick layer of fascia filled with bubbles of fat for protection. (You have probably already figured out that I readily address those “God” questions of existentialism.)
Gives new meaning to the words, body armor, haha.
Also, it has become a fad lately to talk about Radical Release in some circles. To me that means that I can let go of my emotions which may be in the way or causing some trouble, just let them go for no reason. That way, supposedly the emotions don’t build up into an upset stomach or something. (How’s that for a comic book version of “somatization”?)
The Radical Release could include letting go of a “story” around some accident and allowing good structure to come back in.
The horse cares nothing for fads or “stories”; they just let their stuff go.
At the end, a Rolfer™ from Ireland and I were in a stall with Mint Bell. She had proven that morning that she was a heck of a runner, she had that quick start and stay-through quality that Michael Vick has in the open field which he just created.
Mint Bell’s trainer was hanging onto her head for dear life, and Ireland and I were moving FAST trying to stay out of her way; she was intent on pushing us into the stall sides, stepping on our feet, trying a vicious kick, like that.
It was general principles, we didn’t take it personally, and she was letting us get some work done.
We all received word a few weeks later of the horses we had worked with. Mint Bell had her gait problem solved AND the trainer was very happy because Mint Bell didn’t have to receive so many tranquilizers to be tended after her morning workout.
As for the grandson of Danzig, I got a call and went over to an off-track betting emporium screening in Philadelphia to see the horse run in Lexington. Poor baby looked great, wonderful flow, but was so slow that he was next to last. At least, he was no longer hurt.