In The Saddle: Easing away the stress and strain

Anita Marsh
Anita Marsh

Last week I decided to try a little bit of equine holistic therapy on my horse April after hearing some good reports from a friend of mine.

After competing at the Hunter Trials in Belton, I thought she might enjoy some downtime relaxing at the hands of a professional. I know after being thrown on her neck, I definitely would.

So what is equine holistic therapy? Hayley Drakes is fully qualified in a large range of holistic therapies and is based at The Sunflower Studio, Belton.

She explained how a combination of equine massage and Reiki treat the mind and body as whole, rather than separate entities and how stress and anxiety often cause physical problems.

By calming the mind, the body also benefits and Reiki (a Japanese technique) is said to accelerate the body’s own natural ability to heal itself on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level.

Hayley arrived at my home and I immediately felt very at ease. She brought with her a special chair, which I sat in and received a wonderful back and neck massage. She noted I was very tense on the left of my neck, into the back of my head - which is where I had jarred myself when jumping.

I did feel amazing afterwards – but all was not done. I had chosen to receive her ‘Horse and Rider’ package, so it was straight outdoors to show her April moving in-hand in walk and trot before my horse’s treatment started.

April had a combination of Reiki energy therapy and equine massage. She was a little unsure to begin with but soon settled in. Massage encourages circulation to the muscles bringing oxygen and nutrients and flushing out toxins, which helps to ease tension and give a general feeling of relaxation. Hayley found April reflected me and was also tense in her shoulders and neck, particularly the left. She helped to show me and it was great to be able to feel the ‘knots’ in my horse.

She massaged April’s whole body, focusing a lot on the tense areas on her neck and shoulders and also showed me some great ways to help her by teaching me ‘carrot’ stretches. This involved using pieces of carrots to tempt April to move her neck long and low to the side of her body.

This should only be done after exercise, so muscles are warm. I knew to look for ‘signs’ April was zoned out such as licking, chewing, eyes closing, resting her hind leg and sighing. They were all apparent during her massage and apparently breaking wind is one too!

Luckily, for Hayley, relaxation signs are different when working on humans.

Overall, I felt really peaceful and calm. I later rode April that evening and I don’t think either of us could be bothered as we were both so chilled. Over the weekend I found we were both much improved on our left rein, with better flexibility.

I really recommend the ‘Horse and Rider’ package, especially after a hunter trial competition. You can find more out about her packages at www.hayleydrakes.co.uk or contact me through Facebook or Twitter. In the meantime, I’m off to slice carrots ready for our stretches!