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Guest Blogger: What A Lifelong Foxhunter Learned From The Cowboys

Guest Blogger: What A Lifelong Foxhunter Learned From The Cowboys

My friend Pattie Boden hunts with the Oak Ridge Fox Hunt Club and the Farmington Hunt Club near Charlottesville, Va. She owns and operates The Animal Connection, a stylish holistic pet store in Charlottesville. Her knowledge of alternative pet foods always astounds me. I asked her a few months back to tell me about her new-found passion for alternative styles of horsemanship, because she, as I did for so long, lives amongst some of the finest traditional horse people in the world. But often, our ideas have clashed with those around us. For me, it was easier to keep my mouth shut, accept what I needed to learn from those infinitely more experienced than I, and move on. Pattie has found a way to thrive in place, revealing the beauty of personal reinvention found in devoting a different kind of time and attention to her horses.  

What A Lifelong Foxhunter Learned From The Cowboys

Sometimes you start on a journey before your bags are packed. That’s how it’s been with horses. I’d like to say I attended a mind-blowing clinic that changed my life, but it sure didn’t happen that way.

My first exposure to “natural horsemanship” was with a visitor to Virginia from Colorado. I was invited to watch Garth Eichler try to solve some issues with problem horses. I’d ridden in the hunter/jumper field all my life and I really had no idea what he was doing, but what impressed me the most from that first visit is that the horse needed help and he wasn’t about to finish this session until he was able to help this animal. This horse was pretty sure he was in charge of any human in his path and didn’t care who knew it. The Virginia hosts fussed at Garth for not staying on a pretty ambitious schedule, but he felt he needed to stick with this horse for whatever time it took. Even in the pouring rain. As I look back on that now, it was clear that Garth was in it for the horse.

Garth Eichler

I’ve followed foxhounds since my teens and I can tell you it is a pretty dicey deal for horse and rider. (I say followed, because hunters follow the scent of where the fox has been a good while ago – most times the fox is laughing at you.) It’s big energy at these meets and a whole lot to ask of a horse to come off a trailer into a flurry of nervous activity and be expected to stand still and behave nice. You’ve got riders from all walks of life and all levels of expertise (or not) coming together to follow ages old protocol and decidedly fixed trail manners. Some people get good help with good trainers but you do have a lot of people who wing it on a song and a prayer. I think I kinda fell somewhere in the middle.

That year, I bought my buckskin pony, Lightning. She is a saint, albeit an opinionated one. When I first met her, I’d had a pretty shaky couple of years with a “typical chestnut mare” who wasn’t good for my confidence level. So I was more than relieved to find a great caretaker. In turn, I believe she was also relieved to not have to be a school pony for kids anymore and she fell right into life with an adult who was all about fun.

Garth came back to Virginia that spring and I decided to see what this horsemanship thing was all about. It wasn’t easy – in fact, it took me all afternoon to learn how to get Lightning to give me “two eyes” or lead with a soft feel. I was amazed to find I wasn’t the leader after all and she was shocked to even consider that she wasn’t and even tried to kick me a few times for good measure. If you had told me years ago that it would take that kind of time to do these seemingly simple exercises, I would have laughed. Lightning got the one rein stop with no problem, it was her favorite exercise. But to move off when I asked her to (“I mean move off”) was met with resistance. It got better, but I still was just opening the door.

The best thing about that week was getting to know Garth. He’s as honest with his thoughts and his comments really made me think. He was aware of everything…. EVERYTHING. He taught me how to feel what a horse is thinking and doing from the end of a lead rope, to watch a horse’s ears, eyes and body position. If you think that is easy, just try to do this standing a distance in front of your horse without turning around to see. (I’m still working on this one.)

What got my attention was when Garth said the way we approach horses can teach us a lot about how we interact with people. As I was dealing with an alcoholic family member and managing employees in a retail business, that concept was huge. Garth suggested that I offer the right answers and the wrong answers would become difficult for them to select, I can tell you what a difference that has made in my life.

Now that this young horseman had this old foxhunter’s attention, I invited myself to visit Garth and his wife Jill at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Colorado to see what this was truly all about. The first day, I learned I didn’t know how to lead a horse or tie a knot. At that point, I decided to throw away everything I knew and to start fresh like the rank beginner I was. Garth took me into the corral of trail horses, draft horses and donkeys and this is where I started to learn real herd dynamics. Watching them play, move each other off from food, who hung out with whom was a start. Then we’d halter one and I’d learn to disengage a hindquarter or move a front end to the left or the right. Every horse was so different and I was trying to hard I was exhausted mentally.

But the lightbulb went off when we finally got to trail ride up the mountain. I finally understood how what we did on the ground worked in the saddle. I understood that when you disengage the hindquarters, you have reliable brakes. When you move the front end, you can open gates without kicking your horse. And you could ask your horse to stop and go by changing the energy in your body, you didn’t need crops or spurs! This was pretty neat and the week didn’t last long enough.

Fall came and so did another hunting season. Everyone likes to have their picture taken at Opening Meet, when you are dressed in your finest and your horse is spit polished and braided. All this aside, the photo from that year is my favorite. Last year’s photo I was stiffly posed, reins tight, ready for anything… or so I thought. This year, my body was relaxed, my reins were loose on my horse’s neck, Lightning looked calm and happy… now I was truly ready for anything. I keep my before and after picture side by side, just to remind me to strive for more knowledge.

Lightning and me BEFORE


Lightning and me AFTER

That year was the best year of hunting I can remember. My horse was easier, responsive, relaxed, no worries at all. It was also one of the hardest, because my eyes were opened and I really started noticing potential train wrecks before people even got on their horses. It annoyed me that people were content to ride up behind my horse hoping for a rump to stop them and they wouldn’t take the time to teach their horse how to stop. I wondered why people didn’t realize that the horse understood stroking as a reward and patting was not. (Try this on yourself and see what feels better.) And geez, you should have seen Lightning laugh when my friend got off of her horse to retrieve a lost glove, her horse took off to the barn, and she was waving her crop trying to chase him and get him stopped. Talk about predator and prey!

Since then, I’ve made it my priority to spend as much time with Garth and his wife Jill as time, travel and budget will allow and one day I hope they’ll be proud to call me a horseman. I was honored to be at his ranch and have the opportunity to have a day with their teacher and friend, Tom Mowry. Garth and Tom are like father and son learning from each other. Talk about respect for people and animals. Everyone should be so lucky. I’ve also had time watching other trainers like Bryan Neubert, Buck Brannaman, Martin Black work with people and horses – everyone presents information differently, it’s neat to see what they have to offer.

My “horse family” and I traveled this year to to the Ray Hunt Memorial Weekend in Fort Worth, Texas. Although “horsemanship” taught this way is not new and not restricted to “cowboy riding,” Ray was one of the first who started teaching in weekend clinics and preaching the gospel according to Bill and Tom Dorrance. Over twenty horsemen from all over the country were given an unstarted colt, two hours on two days to work with them, and on the second day, everyone was riding like they’d been on the trail all their lives (some better than some of the seasoned hunt horses I’d seen in Virginia!). It was neat seeing how all these trainers were able to adjust to fit where the horse was in his mind. All had a lot of the same “mental tools” but how they used them were pretty amazing. Most had the horse as a priority in their mind, one or two showboated a little to prove their skills, but they were not judged the winner of the competition either.

Meanwhile, back in Virginia, I was quickly becoming disillusioned with closed minded trainers and riding instructors. Breaking a horse instead of partnering seemed to be the norm. Riding by repetition instead of true feel just didn’t feel right. I just didn’t feel I belonged with the same old groups anymore. That’s where Kevin Freed and Lora Presgrave come in. I’d met them when he hosted Bryan Neubert at his Rockfish Farm, about twenty miles from my house. For some reason, I knew I was supposed to be at their barn. I am really blessed, because now I can ride with like-minded horsemen every day I can get out there. I feel safe with my horse and although riding time is distance limited, the time in the saddle is well spent.

The difference this has made in my now twenty four year old Lightning is unreal. Before she was always okay for a trail ride or competition but she could take it or leave it. She now meets me with a totally different attitude. She gets it that I’ve changed and she really likes it. Her eyes are bright with anticipation and she can’t wait to see what we are going to do from day to day. She is more balanced in her body and the change is amazing.

Although what I am learning helps me daily in my relationship with my horses, I really saw where all this came into play when I started looking for a younger horse. Although I didn’t buy a horse, a trip to an auction with my Colorado friends was one of the best lessons of my life. Arriving the day before the sale, Garth, Jill and Tom taught me how to evaluate a horse. What looked good in a photo, turned out to be a train wreck waiting to happen to an uneducated buyer. Watching how the sellers “prepared” a horse was crazy. We only saw a few horses advertised as “bomb proof” that might have actually been safe to ride. Most probably had big motors, but you wouldn’t have known it because they had their socks ridden off the day before. Talk about buyer-beware.

Next day at the ranch, Garth patiently took the time to help me learn how to evaluate a horse just from approaching his herd. I was overly tentative and didn’t feel I did very well putting what I’d learned into practice, but I learned a whole lot from watching him. Sometimes you can see and understand what the right thing to do, but you just don’t have the feel. I kinda felt like a stick in the mud and it was frustrating because he is so good at what he does and a “good job” from him is one of the best complements ever. You know you have deserved it when you get it. In his mind, though, one of the best complements is when your horse respects you, licks and chews, relaxes and likes being around you instead of their own kind.

I didn’t come home from Colorado with a horse. I’d been looking for one in Virginia a long time. I was pleased to find the right one was in the barn all along where I was boarding Lightning. I never really noticed the chestnut horse called Hank. But thanks to Garth’s teaching, I now knew what to look for. And boy did I start noticing. Hank is a kind sort who likes people and isn’t particularly pushy in the herd. He was used as a guest horse for all levels of riders so he’s adaptable and forgiving. When I asked if I could try him, he was responsive without being too reactive, which made me feel like I could learn a lot and not mess him up in the process. And, I knew his “history” – how he was started (by one of Ray Hunt’s students!), who rides him now and how he has been treated with kindness and respect throughout his twelve years of horse-human relationship. Thanks be to the horse gods who suggested to Kevin that he consider letting me share some time with this great animal.

Here's Hank, my newest ride.

My friend hosting this blog asked me to write about what foxhunters can learn from cowboys. Horsemanship knows no discipline, it’s not Western or English, it’s not cattleworking or foxhunting. Learning to be in partnership with animals is a language all it’s own and knows no boundaries or limitations. People are only limited by what they are willing to learn. And it’s okay, even if you’ve been riding for 40 years, to start fresh and learn something new. I’m looking at my relationships with horses and people in a whole new way these days, thanks to some really great teachers and friends. I’ve got a lot of wet saddle blankets to go before I get there, but the road sure is easier now that I’m headed in the right direction.

All the Best and Happy Trails
Pattie Boden
Owner of Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va
“The all natural store for dogs, cats and horses”

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Guest Blog Contest Winner: Lost Trail Ranch's High Mountain Muse

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Congratulations! Gin is the winner of the DVD series: Riding With Awareness by Linda Tellington-Jones.

Gin, come on down and collect your prize and your accolades.

Dear readers, please feel free to ask questions and comment. Gin will be checking in periodically. And now, without further ado, her winning post:

Late Blooming

I was not a horse kid. In fact, I barely knew what a horse was as a child. I couldn’t even convince my folks to get me a cat. Though I did catch mice from time to time and kept them in a fish tank with a screen over it. Mice can jump out.

As a youngster, I never saw a horse up close, never touched one, never smelled one. Don’t remember seeing a Western, and certainly never went to a horse show. Didn’t know anyone who rode, let anyone who actually owned a horse. The closest I got to a horse was the big gentle giants that pulled the fancy buggies around Central Park. We’d walk by them on the crowded city streets when we’d go down town to look at the Christmas lights, all bundled up and still cold in the damp winter air. I remember being little, holding a big person’s hand so I wouldn’t get lost in the push and crunch of the crowd, and trying to see those horses as they clip clopped past us on the frozen pavement. Peaceful dragons, with smoke billowing from their nostrils. They looked tired, but wise, and deep. I don’t know if that’s the right word for it, but that’s rather how I felt about them. Deep.

I grew up outside of, then inside of New York City. I never really fit in. As a kid, I was quiet and solitary. I’d play in the basement, alone with my Barbies or crayons or ballet. Alone down there, surrounded by cement and the Big Black Boiler which chugged and groaned and then suddenly let out a big clang every once in a while so I could never anticipate it coming and be prepared. Always a little spooky, but still safe and quiet and peaceful, because I was alone.

When I was 16, I remember jogging through a quiet section of the Park on the west side, lost in my own thoughts, unaware of my environment, just focusing on my breath and my rolling, rhythmic feet. Suddenly a beautiful and magical apparition appeared before me: a lovely fit woman clad in proper English attire atop a stunning horse with flowing tail, cantering down the soft trail. She passed me. I stopped. And I watched as she disappeared around the corner and into the trees.

I decided then and there that is what I had to do.

Claremont Stables, I believe was the name of a real riding stable right there on the Upper West Side, just a couple of blocks from Central Park. By the time I was 17, I earned enough money that I could take lessons about once a month or so. In addition, I saved up enough to buy the right boots and hat and breeches so I wouldn’t look as silly as I felt around all those fancy ladies and the beautiful horses. I tried to be really inconspicuous, hoping to blend in with the wooden walls and sawdust as I had done in the cement of my basement.

I must have taken at least a couple of lessons. Funny, because I can’t remember them, can’t remember a teacher, can’t remember being inside the barn arena for very long, with all those people and horses and noises and smells. I just wanted to take the horse and go out and ride. And they let me.

I don’t know if they still do things like. I wouldn’t! But they did back then, 25 years ago. And it was, well, indescribable. I can’t really find the words to tell you how it felt to be a young woman, in the crisp and cold and early morning calm and soft that can be found in the still sleepy city; so strong and empowered riding her powerful steed across a couple quiet intersections and into the park, and then to run, to run, to run… I suppose most of you know. Most of you already knew. For me it was new. And it was wild and free.

I couldn’t afford to go very often. But I remember when I could, I’d be on the subway so early in the morning, long before the rush hour crowds, dressed in my proper English boots and pants, with my helmet under one arm, holding on to the overhead handle for balance with my other hand. And I would feel so proud. Oh… if they only knew where I was going, what I was doing… they wouldn’t look oddly at this skinny little girl!

Life takes us on our twisted and tangled journeys, and sometimes we have to just go along with whichever direction we find ourselves caught in the current. Other times, we find a goal, perhaps a vision, a direction so strong that we have to do whatever we can to follow that dream. Working and living with horses was that dream for me. It was so strong, so driving, I knew it was right.

I have been lucky at times and struggling more often, but managed to create a life with horses. I live far off in the mountains with my little family of two leggeds, and larger family of four leggeds. It is a wonderful journey every day working and living together, and has been an interesting journey to get here.

I have been lucky at times, finding mentors and opportunities and open doors. Other times, most times, I have worked very hard, staying up late studying and waking extra early in attempt to make the grade. But I have made it work. I have been able to live and work with my horses. I’m not a famous clinician, or big name trainer, or popular riding instructor. I’m just an outfitter. I ride in the mountains for a living. I don’t make much money, but I am so rich inside: I live the life my guests pay to participate in for just a few days, or even a few hours. I feel blessed every time I am out there on top of a mountain on one of these magnificent creatures, and sharing it with my husband, my son, or even with a group of friends or strangers who have hired me to safely guide them.

That twisted and tangled road is still continuing. I’m only half way there, wherever “there” is meant to be. I only know it is with the horse. Our outfitting business is dying. Folks just don’t come to ride in the back country this far away from “civilization” very often any more. My in-laws have been feuding and have divided the ranch. We no longer have the land to graze all my four leggeds. It is time to move on, time to get in the saddle and hit the high trail, to see where it leads. I will follow.

And with my horses, my husband and son and I are going to move on together to build a new life, a new little world. I don’t know where, or when, or what I’ll do. But I know somehow it will be living and working with my horses. I have committed to them. I have committed to this goal. I believe it is right, somehow, yet so frightening too.

I try to be as brave as I was back when I was 17, when I bought my own proper gear and walked into a stable and a world I had never been a part of before. At times I look for the walls to hide along side of, but most of the time, I step up in the saddle and remember I need no walls. I ride, we run, we are free and strong and safe together. Where ever we may ride to. That is where I am meant to be.

Lost Trail Ranch, the High Mountain Resort and Outfitters on the Headwaters of the Rio Grande.

Please visit our web logs at High Mountain Horse.com and High Mountain Muse.com.

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch

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It's Contest Time Again!  Guest Bloggers, Sharpen Your Pencils!

It's Contest Time Again! Guest Bloggers, Sharpen Your Pencils!

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I’m fully aware that it has not yet been a year since the First Annual Guest Blogger Search and Sweepstakes. But hey, I’m really busy right now, and I only have a few posts in the can. I can’t keep you interested with posts about unpacking and buying a beater that will withstand the VOG and salt air for very long.

I am reduced to bribing potential guest bloggers.

Here’s the deal: I’m looking for three bloggers, telling three stories.

Everybody’s got one. A story. About what horses have meant to you in your life and how you came to your current (and hopefully ultimate) method of horsemanship. Are the two themes related in some way? Gobs of history. Facts. Emotion. Photos. Pimping your Horsemanship doctrine.

Go for it.

Submissions by email (click the orange envelope in the upper right hand corner) due May 9 at noon.  I realize that in this short time I may be asking you to forsake your own blogposts in favor of writing something for mine. However, I remind you that this is a blogging community.  I am in need! If you needed a warm blanket and a pace to sleep for the night, I’d surely offer it to you (provided you do not snore or drool). I’m hoping you’ll extend the same kindness to me. 

Winners (3) announced May 9 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time.  All three winners’ submissions will be posted here. 

Prizes to be awarded as follows:

FIRST PLACE:

A DVD: Riding With Awareness by Linda Tellington-Jones
A DVD: Riding With Awareness by Linda Tellington-Jones

SECOND PLACE:

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TTEAM LIberty Neck Ring, made of stiff lariat rope and adjustable in size, used in bridleless riding taught by TTEAM instructors and TTEAM Practitioners.

THIRD PLACE:

TTOUCH Cheat cards. TTouch Cards give an illustration and description of each TTouch and can be laminated for use outdoors. Vital for working on horses when it's not convenient to refer to a book or video. 15 cards.
TTOUCH Cheat cards. TTouch Cards give an illustration and description of each TTouch and can be laminated for use outdoors. Vital for working on horses when it’s not convenient to refer to a book or video. 15 cards. 7″ x 8.5″

OKAY folks, I’m counting on you. I do not want dead air on EHTT.

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch

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March Guest Blogger: Equine Ink, The Secret Handshake

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Liz Goldsmith writes Equine Ink, a very entertaining and informative blog. She also writes Equine Products Review, an exhaustive resource for user-written reviews of all equine and equestrian products. Go! Now! Read what she has to say. But before you do, read this. Liz and I share common prerequisites for places to settle.
Thanks Liz!

The Secret Handshake

Kim’s impending move to Hawaii has reminded me just how much I hate moving. I am a person who likes to settle into a community and stay put. I am married, however, to someone who loves to move and I’m sure that once our kids are out of school we’ll be trying new communities. For several years we did move a lot (by my standards) and I thought a lot about what is important to me. I came up with these requirements.

1) There must be a Whole Foods Market within driving distance. Okay, I’ll compromise if there’s a store of equal quality, but I Whole Foods is a tough act to follow.
2) There must be National Public Radio.
3) There must be an equestrian community.

With those three things I’m insured of good food, stimulating talk radio and a community of like-minded individuals. My equestrian friends have been real life savers during our previous moves. Often we moved for my husband’s job and I found myself in a community where I knew no one, often had radically different political and religious views and, since I’m self employed, had no immediate friends or colleagues. Except for the equestrians. In each place I’ve lived, once I found other horse people, I found an almost immediate acceptance. A secret handshake if you will, that serves as both an introduction and a reference.

These people never asked what I did for a living, what church I attended, or whether I was a democrat or republican. They wanted to know what type of riding interested me, what kind of horse I rode, and could they share some war stories about their horses. These friendships, born out of a shared passion, have spanned many years. They are people I came to count on and whose company I’ve relished. Some of my longest-lasting business relationships are with equestrians (in fact it was a client who started me riding again after an almost 10-year hiatus). Riding may not be golf, but when you run into another equestrian in the business world, you have an immediate bond.

The Internet has widened my circle of equestrian friends and made me realize that this shared passion is global. Although I will likely never meet many of these new friends face-to-face, I’ve been amazed how many people I now correspond with as a result of my blog and how much we have in common. I’m also amazed by how many people have found me after being out of touch for many years. In just the past three months I’ve found a mentor and teacher that I last spoke to 30 years ago, was contacted by a woman who owns one of just two horses sired by my Trakehner (obviously before he was gelded) and exchanged emails with a writer whose humorous columns I admired for many years.

So, Kim, while I don’t envy your move (although with a foot of snow on the ground here Hawaii sounds appealing), there is no doubt in my mind that the equestrian community there will welcome you — the secret handshake will guarantee you admittance into the global equestrian club. As someone who understands the healing power of touch in the human/horse relationship, your skills will be valued and appreciated wherever you live. I just hope that there’s a Whole Foods Market and NPR near where you’re moving!

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Who Wants To Go Next?

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March is just around the corner. Email me or reply here and you’re in. Thanks all, and have a happy Valentine’s day. Cuddle up.

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Guest Blogger: Sandy Rakowitz of One Heart Healing Center

Guest Blogger: Sandy Rakowitz of One Heart Healing Center

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I first met Sandy Rakowitz of One Heart Healing Center for People and Animals a few years ago at a Tellington TTouch training. Standing next to Sandy’s deeply grounded and very appealing energy, I felt like a tornado in comparison. With Sandy as a mirror, it was the first time I realized that, when nervous, my personal energy was fractured and frantic. Since then, I’ve made inroads. I don’t know where they lead, or if I’ve gotten very far, but I’ve been digging that path. Daily. Thanks Sandy, for the example of your elemental calm.

A couple of months ago, I asked Sandy if she would mind answering a few questions. I’m presenting her answers here, in original Q & A format. I hope you enjoy reading about the life and profession of one of our area’s leading horse and healing professionals.

Sandy Rakowitz

Sandy Rakowitz

Question What do you do?
SandyI own and operate One Heart Healing Center for People and Animals in Charlottesville, VA, where I offer Energy Healing Medicine, TTouch, Animal Communication and Young Living Essential Oils. I offer sessions and classes that teach people how to use TTouch and Young Living Essential Oils.

Question How did you get started with that?
In June of 1995, I graduated from the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, a 4-year professional training program working with the human energy field. In October of 1995, I moved to central Virginia to open my healing practice with people. I taught Centered Riding and to train horses using TTEAM (The Tellington TTOUCH Equine Awareness Method). I had already become a level 2 Practitioner of the method of working with horses developed by Linda Tellington-Jones that includes TTouch bodywork, Ground Exercises and Riding.

Then in the fall of 1995 I became a faculty member of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing where I continued to teach for 6 years. In 1997, I began the TTouch training program to become a practitioner with companion animals and became a Practitioner in Training for working with dogs, cats and other small animals, which I achieved in 2003.

In 1998 I began using Young Living Essential Oils for myself, my animals and with my family. I discovered many uses for these amazing gifts of nature in calming animals, soothing and releasing trauma, and help in speeding the recovery of injuries and wounds. Within a few years, I gradually began to integrate the use of Therapeutic grade Essential Oils along with Energy Healing Medicine, TTouch and Animal Communication.

By 2003, I opened One Heart Healing Center for People and Animals. I expanded to offer classes, workshops, write articles, a newsletter, and private sessions in person and via telephone consults for people across the U.S., Caribbean, and overseas. I have worked with many species. The majority of my clients are People, Horses, Dogs, and Cats though I have also worked with Mountain Lions, Birds, Lynx, Bobcat, Zebra, Lizards, Turtle, Fish, and Ferrets.

I have taught classes in Vet Clinics to teach employees TTouch so they can incorporate TTouch into their practices. I have worked in numerous Animal Shelters and Sanctuaries to help animals to be more readily adoptable with the combination of TTouch, Energy Healing, Animal Communication and Flower Essences.
Beginning in 1990, I began working with my animal communication skills. In 2004, after taking classes and practicing and honing my skills for those many years, I began officially offering Animal Communication services.

Question Tell me about your decision to go to the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, and a little bit about what that was like.
Sandy In the summer of 1991, I went to a four day Introductory workshop to the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. As I was listening to Barbara Brennan speak, I knew that I HAD to go to this school. I had begun researching schools earlier in the year. Although I had liked the other programs in Alexander Technique, Synergy, Feldenkrais, Herbalism, and so on, nothing seemed to meet this internal sense that I had for a spiritually-based program that was all-encompassing. I was not absolutely sure what I was looking for, but hoped I would know it when I found it. Going to the Barbara Brennan School was an interesting choice for me. One that did not make logical sense. Until that point, I had wanted to teach riding and train horses. Here was a school that focused on healing people and had nothing to do with animals directly.

After I arrived home from my first class, I went to the barn to visit my horse. While there, I decided to practice some of the skills that I had just learned. I brought my attention to my center, or Tan Tien, did the deep breathing that I had just learned, and focused on my Hara line that was grounding me deeply down into the earth. As I felt calmer, I noticed that my horse also got more relaxed and softened immensely. I was fascinated by his response to what I was doing. I had seen in Centered Riding that the correct use of self directly impacts the way the horse traveled while riding. But here I was witnessing these changes while I was just standing next to him, not asking anything of him. I was really amazed. I continued practicing the next set of skills where you sense the chakras and the colors. He continued to relax. I decided to test this out even more. When I rode him, I tried doing the same exercises. He was softer, longer and more relaxed than usual. He was very attentive to the changes in my body that these exercises produced in me. Then, I decided to do the actual healing technique called chelation. This technique works directly with the chakras and is grounding, clearing, balancing and replenishing.

I had learned these techniques with people, but I was drawn to translate them to my horse.

I explored where the chakras were located for the horse, tried out the chelation and proceeded to watch him get really relaxed. He seemed to enjoy the whole thing immensely.

Little did I know that my tendency to translate everything I learned for people into how it would work for horses, along with all that I was learning with my horse was the beginning of my healing practice!

Did you go to college? If so, what did you study?
Sandy Yes, I went to Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ. I began as a business major and found that incredibly boring. I began in 1978 and went part time for 6 years graduating in 1984. I ended up with a degree in Psychology and was a few credits shy of a second major in Sociology. I discovered that I had a knack for putting together programs and organizing events. For instance I developed a Peer Career Counseling Program helping students discover what they loved to do. The early stages of my healing practice to uncover someone’s life purpose.

In 1983, I won a scholarship for a program I developed for the University to reach out to prospective Freshman. That summer I attended Wroxton College in England for the summer abroad program studying Shakespeare. The following year I traveled to Ghana, West Africa with Operation Crossroads Africa, a program that was the inspiring predecessor to the creation of the Peace Corps. I spent time with a small group of volunteers from across the US, Europe and Ghana in the small Village of Brewniase with a group of volunteers helping to build a much needed community building and part of a school. We also were able to travel to Morocco, the Ivory Coast and through parts of Ghana.

Question When did you start your life with horses and animals?
Sandy When I was growing up, we had no animals in the house except for a turtle, goldfish and guppies who all had extremely short life spans. I craved having a cat, horse or a dog and begged for years to have an animal. Finally, when I was 8 years old, I was allowed to begin riding lessons. When I was 13 and 14, my instructors along with the horse owners in the barn where I rode in West Orange, NJ began asking me to ride their horses. This was the very beginning of my learning about training horses. The more challenging the horse, the more I loved it.

When I was 16, I got my first horse, a 5 year old Thoroughbred Canadian bred cross named Fiddlin’ Around. Fiddler was a huge hearted, playful, clever and talented horse whom I loved dearly. We taught each other for six years as we navigated through our flat work, jumping, showing and living of life. Fiddler became New Jersey Horse Shows Association Junior Hunter Champion in 1977. During that time, I continued to gain invaluable experiences by riding many other horses as well.

Sandy aboard Fiddler, Rolling Rock Horse Show, 1976

Sandy aboard Fiddler, Rolling Rock Horse Show, 1976

Even though I had been casually coaching friends for years, I did not begin formally teaching until I was 18. I had always thought I would just train horses. I did not see myself as a ‘Riding Instructor.’ Once I began I realized that I loved it immensely. I continued to teach and train for many years. There was nothing alternative about me at this time, I was traditionally trained, and this is how I taught. In fact, in the 70’s when I first heard about Linda Tellington-Jones and TTEAM, I poo-pooed it! I thought it was way too touchy-feely and hokey. Little did I know then!

Question What brought you to TTouch?
Sandy In 1987, I bought a horse that within the year had me totally stumped. I went to a Centered Riding Clinic with Sally Swift and was blown away by the perspective. This work showed me the ‘how to’ of riding and teaching in a way that I had not experienced previously. The calmness, centering and the understanding of the use of body made total sense to me and I could see the results.

Centered Riding began to open doors for me. While at this weekend clinic it was recommended that I contact a TTEAM Practitioner to help me with my horse. It took a few more weeks of struggling alone at home before I finally called someone. This woman spent 2 hours with me. I was blown away at the things she saw and pointed out to me. As she used the TTouches, I watched my horse melting and looking more relaxed than I had ever seen him. She gave me tools to use on my own. She recommended that I start using TTouches all over his body and to continue to use all of the ground and leading exercises that she had shown me. She recommended that I get Linda’s book and read it. This was one of those life-changing times for sure.
I began using TTEAM avidly with this horse and with my riding clients. I began seeing results that came much faster and more easily than I had previously seen.
I was working with a client at this time with her yearling Quarter Horse gelding who was difficult to lead and handle. As soon as I began using the TTouches and ground exercises with him he began to relax, soften and learn more readily. His owner and I were both impressed. I had some new tools to use to help with leading and teaching him about being handled in a way that he seemed to understand and be able to respond to more easily than before. I was intrigued and hooked!
Twenty years later, I continue to be amazed by the depth and power of TTouch. I am excited to have been invited to the Oakland Zoo in March 2009 with Linda Tellington-Jones, Robin Bernhard, and a few others to do additional research with giraffes, measuring their EEG’s (electroencephalographs) to gauge the effects of TTouch!

Question Tell us a bit about the EEG/brainwave research you have done.
Sandy Robin Bernhard, Jessica Eure and I worked with a group of people who have experienced traumatic brain injuries from June of 2007- April of 2008. We taught the group TTouches for self-help. EEG’s were taken of each participant before the group began.

I got the idea for the group after speaking with several people who had experienced TBI’s. I was talking with one woman about TTouch and the recent projects that we had been working on where we had been looking at the calming effects that TTouch had and showed up with EEG’s or brainwave patterns. She was intrigued, and so I showed her the Clouded Leopard TTouch. She tried it out immediately. I got an email from her the next day saying she had been using the TTouch since then and her head pain was greatly diminished! I realized that we needed to offer people how to do TTouch for themselves.

This group was the beginning of the most amazing journey for us all.

We found in the Traumatic Brain Injury Class that TTouch reduces the impact of many common symptoms. Pain has been reduced; mobility, motor function, coordination, concentration and memory have all improved. TTouch Heart Hugs in particular have been consistently calming and centering for people. Body wraps have helped with sharpening focus, pain reduction & calming. The unique pattern of the whole body sequence using Clouded Leopard Circles has helped physical- emotional balance, physical strength, motor function, and coordination along with the reduction of pain.

Participants said things like:
“The TTouch I did today is helping already. I’m not dragging that left foot anymore and I’m a little sharper in the head, with less pain.”

“My head pain has improved greatly over the last few months. I don’t know if I can convey how much that alone has improved my quality of life. I had begun to believe after 2 1/2 years that it was chronic pain I would have to try to deal with the rest of my life. In my dark moments, it was overwhelming. I’m also sharper and more focused generally.“

Question Tell me a little bit about the use of the oils, and about the oils in general. How do you feel they enhance what you do?
Sandy I love working with the therapeutic grade essential oils with animals and people. I find that they are helpful with behavior issues, emotions, and can help boost the immune system.
I had a dog come in recently who had just had surgery for amputating a cancerous toe. He was chewing on his foot a lot, was lame and very very restless. I used a wonderful blend called RutaVaLa that is extremely calming to the central nervous system and can help someone quiet quickly. I placed a few drops in the palm of my hand and wiped it down along his back. I then took a look at his paw that was quite red and sore. I used several oils directly on the foot that have anti-inflammatory, pain relieving and itch reducing properties. Fairly quickly he quieted and lay down with a big sigh.
I was then able to use TTouch along his back and shoulders, which were quite sore from compensating from the limping that had developed. I also used energy healing techniques. I did a combination of chakra balancing and grounding along with working with the structured levels of the energy field. The energy lines get severed when there is surgery and this creates pain and inflammation. Restructuring the lines of light help to reduce pain, inflammation and speed the time of recovery.

I have found this combination of using therapeutic grade essential oils, TTouch and energy healing to be quite effective. I am able to teach people how to do TTouch and use the oils so that they have tools to use and follow-up with at home.

The dog and his person had a peaceful night’s sleep that night for the first time in a few weeks!

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Sandy currently shares a farm in the magical foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with two wonderful horses Ibis and Zoey, two awesome dog helpers Liza and Haley, and the queen cat herself, Scarlett, wild Canadian Geese, deer, hawks and other wild inhabitants. If you have questions or would like to learn more about Young Living Essential Oils, please contact either Sandy or me.

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