How a student of Equi-Bow, a unique healing technique, helped a lame, easily- spooked horse become a champion.
I met Dara and her horse Roch after finishing my first unit of the Equi-Bow Canada practitioner’s course. Dara was using a heated massager on Roch’s back to help him relax, and we got into a conversation about some of his problems.
Dara asked me about Equi-Bow and I managed to stammer out a feeble explanation of the technique. Having only just completed Unit One, I knew it worked but wasn’t very good at explaining how. Dara told me a little more about her horse and asked if I would be interested in using Roch as a case study for my course. I was delighted to have a horse to practice on so I agreed.
A Complicated Case
My excitement dwindled and turned to nerves when she brought out “The Binder”. Inside this very thick binder were copies of every vet bill, write-up, suggestion, x-ray and ultrasound result. She had it all – dates, times and suggestions from each and every professional who had been hired to help her horse. She also handed me a timeline that summarized his diagnostic journey, which, while easier to follow, was still eight pages long!
When I got home, I read through the binder, poring over all the different veterinary and specialist reports that referred to Roch. I don’t need to tell you that the costs totaled into the high thousands.
Roch had vague, intermittent level one lameness from the time he was purchased two years earlier. But it was a roving lameness – difficult to pinpoint. Although his pre-purchase x-rays revealed nothing, he was very tight, guarded and uncomfortable, with explosive spooking episodes. Although it appeared he had stifle issues, x-rays and ultrasounds were clear. It looked like he might have had neurological issues, but a visit to the neurologist ruled that out. So did neck x-rays. Hocks were also x-rayed clean. Kissing spine and a spinal impingement were also ruled out after a nuclear scintigraphy at the Ontario Veterinary College revealed nothing of clinical significance.
A Lesson in Belief
After reading through the binder, I felt decidedly overwhelmed and thought it might be best to talk to my instructors, Cheryl Gibson and Simone Usselman-Tod, to see if they could help Roch. After all, who was I to be performing Equi-Bow on Roch? I was only a student and Roch was one of the first horses I ever worked on. I felt totally out of my league.
Handing the binder over to Cheryl and Simone, I asked them if they could help Roch. They handed the binder back to me and said, “No, but you can.” I was in shock and disbelief! A million thoughts swirled through my head: Me? Are they sure? How can they be so sure when I’m not?
We talked about my strategy for Roch’s first session, discussing the different procedures we had learned in class. All the while, Cheryl and Simone reassured me this was something I could do and was ready to do. I wasn’t so sure, but decided to give Roch and Dara my best efforts.
I met with Dara at her barn a few days later with my Equi-Bow manual in hand. She had Roch groomed, ready and waiting in the crossties. I explained the process to her: I would be making a series of light movements on various parts of his body, then stopping and waiting for him to process the information. This processing time allows the brain and body to connect with one another and recognize that a change is occurring.
All eyes were on us. I could feel other boarders looking, watching and judging. I pushed them out of my mind – there was only Roch and I. We worked together. I made the moves and Roch let me know when he needed a few more minutes to process, or when he was ready for more moves.
After about ten minutes, it was evident he was beginning to drop his guard and relax. He was starting to trust me and seemed to know I was there to help him heal. The session ended with lots of yawning, licking, chewing and deep breathing – all wonderful signs of relaxation as his nervous system went from “fight/flight” to “rest/digest”.
I made a commitment to Dara to come and perform Equi- Bow on Roch every five days. Since his problems were so chronic and so complex, I worked with him every five days for the next three months, then every seven to ten days after that. As I progressed with my studies and learned more procedures, Roch reaped the benefits – he was becoming less stiff and moving more freely. His dangerous spooking behavior was decreasing. He appeared to be “one horse” again rather than disconnected.
I continue to see Roch and Dara every other week and had the honor and pleasure of watching them dominate the show ring at Fallfest 2010, where they became Grand Champion Amateur in First Level dressage. What a feeling of accomplishment to see such a dramatic change in a horse that months earlier had been written off as dangerous, unrideable and never likely to be sound again! He is more comfortable now and the spooks are less frequent. They have not stopped completely, the lameness still is roving, but their good riding days are easily outnumbering the bad. Dara has kept up with Roch’s Equi-Bow maintenance and he is a much happier horse because of it.
A Change for the Better
Equi-Bow has changed the way I see and handle horses. Cheryl and Simone’s guidance, along with their trust and gentle nudges, have helped me expand my skills and knowledge to a much higher level. Since I started this journey, I have helped many people reconnect with their horses, and have helped lame horses find soundness, stiff horses become suppler, and head-shy horses love having their faces scratched again! The fulfillment I take from being a practitioner is far-reaching. I feel I can be a catalyst to help any horse’s body find healing. I would not trade these experiences for anything!
Amelia Connolly is a recent Equi-Bow Canada graduate (equi-bowcanada.com). She may be contacted at straightarrowstables.com.