Classes are moving right along with our mild Pacific Northwest weather getting warmer every day. Our students are doing great work on their class and homework horses and that makes us proud.During each course, Joseph picks a horse as his demonstration horse. Students learn the content of the session during morning class time. In the afternoons they watch Joseph do his demo and then each student works on their individual horse. Students each get a “fresh horse” that hasn’t received bodywork prior to classes. We do this so you can readily see the effects of the work, how you actually make a difference to that horse.
For his Level One and Level Two students, Joseph chooses horses that are relatively straightforward in their issues, good-natured and pretty easy to work with. This allows the students to stay focused on learning the work.
By the time our Level Three (L3) students arrive, they’ve practiced on a good number of horses here at school and back home and understand the basics. Now they’re ready for a horse that requires a higher skill level. In L3, Joseph tries to pick a more complicated horse.In the most recent Level Three module, Joseph worked on a high strung dressage horse who was what her owner called a “project horse.” This horse was in such poor shape, she’d been slated to be put down. Those plans got put aside when another mare in the same barn colicked shortly after foaling and died. The little foal was lost without his mom and this high strung mare, on her own, stepped in to care for the foal. That won her a reprieve, but she still had substantial issues.
This 16 year old mare was short on her right side, weak in her hind end. Rather than solidly pushing off, she pulled herself through her strides. She was touchy around her stiff hind end and pinned her ears even when being brushed. Her owner knew she was terribly uncomfortable and in pain. When a horse is uncomfortable in her body, it often magnifies other issues so it’s a challenge to find where the true source of the discomfort originates.
She was so nervous and sensitive it was challenging to work on her. She started each session with her head held high, watchful and concerned. She fretted a bit, but after Joseph started with her, she began settling into the work.
As the sessions progressed, she began to trust the work more, settling in sooner each time, and at her own speed, developing a pattern of partnership with Joseph. She lowered her head and sometimes she became noticeably introspective, a good sign that she was accepting the work and acknowledging the changes that were happening.
This is one of the most rewarding parts of doing this work. You take a horse who has physical issues that hold her back, emotional issues that prevent you from developing a strong relationship, or bad barn manners that make her hard to work with. Then as the work continues, you see them all fall away. The Equine Natural Movement work integrates the structure, making the horse more balanced and secure in her footing, more confident in her movement.
As she gained length through her back, she became capable of fluid movement. She started showing equal push-off from her hind end. The discomfort in her poll disappeared and she became more comfortable through her entire neck and head.
Suddenly the distractions from all the confusion in her body weren’t there. And that’s what allowed her to — for probably the first time in many years — become more present.
By the end of the series she was a different horse. Her owner told us she’s considerably freer in her stride and can now walk a straight line. Her hind end is more fluid and her derriere has a nice swing to it. For the first time ever, her owner and others at the barn have seen her playing in the field, kicking up her heels and romping like a youngster.
Want to learn this work?
The next LEVEL ONE class is March 13 – 19, 2016.
Our farm is in southwest Washington, just north of Portland, Oregon. We take six students each class. Right now we still have room for more.
Can’t get away for a full week? We are also setting up dates in April and May for a LEVEL ONE class that’s made of two three-day classes over different weekends. If that works better for you, please be in touch and give Jacqueline a few dates that work. She’ll choose dates from your input.
Returning students nearly finished with homework?
LEVEL TWO — April 9 – 15
LEVEL THREE — May 15 – 21
ADVANCED CLASS — March 27 – 31
More dates through the year are on our class calendar page.
We’re always happy to speak with new or current students. Pick up the phone and give us a call. 360-687-8384.
Graduate Janine Callaghan working on anAdvanced Class horsewho is thoroughly enjoying his new neck length.
Each month we host a week-long training for one of our three basic classes, Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3. Our September Level 1 & October Level 2 students came in eager to learn, each of them with a unique horse background. They are a joy to work with and are flying through this course with remarkably open minds. We love that!
Our November Level 3 students just completed their training here and as soon as they finish the last bit of homework at home, they will be certified as Equine Natural Movement practitioners. Then off they’ll go, ready and able to provide sessions that help horses move and feel their best. We expect each of them to have a fantastic practice.
Our Level 3 class will be done with all their practice sessions and homework in three more months, that’s about how long homework takes. Then we’ll welcome more practitioners in Idaho, British Columbia, Iowa, Montana and eastern Washington. LEANNA PAULSON-KITTLESON (Idaho) has a broad background in healing. KELSEY KOSICK (British Columbia) has a people practice in Structural Integration. NANCY ROSE, an osteopathic physician (Iowa) just retired from working with people and now will focus on horse care. KATHY COCHRAN (Montana) and came to our course after she lost her job; this work is her new career. JEN GARCIA is a vet tech and will be setting up her practice in Ellensburg, WA.
At work with student horses
(On the right) Once we free up restrictions, horses like to see what they can do with that part of their body. EMILY PETERS TORNGA (CA) got some nice release work done on her student horse and he approved by showing her how far he could reach, fully lifting his neck from deep in his chest. This is CORE MOVEMENT!
(Left) Students learn how to feel and identify the different layers of tissue. Student EVA GERSTER from Switzerland practices “deep listening” in Level One. Notice how the horse is tuned in and paying attention to her through his body.
Join us for an UPCOMING CLASS
Our next Level One class is December 6-12 and we’d love to have you here. Room and board are available nearby, airport pickups and no need to rent a car. Students fly in to Portland, Oregon. Our farm is in southwest Washington.
Winter Classes — More of the 2016 schedule here
Level One December 6 – 12 (2015)
Level Three December 27, 2015 – January 2, 2016
Level One March 15-21
Level Two January 18-24
Level Three February 15-21
Most students take a few months in between each class to complete their homework. As an example, this December’s Level One class will attend Level Two in April, then Level Three in August. Once all your papers and horse homework sessions are complete, most students will complete all the requirements (310 hrs) for certification in fall of 2016, just about a year after starting.
Call and speak with Jacqueline (the school director). We’re happy to get all your questions answered about our school. Learn more about us at www.EquineNaturalMovement.com
Equine Natural Movement:
Structural Integration for Horses
By Jacqueline Freeman
Joseph leans his body into his arms, smoothly lengthening tissue along the client’s hip to the thigh to the stifle and gaskin.
Stifle and gaskin? Joseph Freeman’s Equine Natural Movement (ENM) work is Structural Integration (SI) on horses.
A 1993 graduate of the Hellerwork SI training, Joseph spent the first few years of his career working on people. He found it rewarding but had a feeling that work was a stepping stone and that another future awaited him.
A Turning Point
One of his SI clients asked him to attend a course in Animal Communication given by Jeri Ryan, Ph.D. Dr. Ryan teaches people the internal visual and kinesthetic language of animals. The course changed Joseph’s relationship with animals. He felt the stirrings of a calling but didn’t know where to go with that feeling.
Later he attended a class given by Linda Tellington-Jones, the well known Feldenkrais® practitioner who pioneered perceptive somatic work with animals. Again he felt excitement about adapting his SI knowledge to work with animals.
As an experiment he started combining SI with information gleaned from other courses and books toward cats and dogs. They responded positively to his touch which encouraged him to move on to larger animals, horses. Hellerworker Mike McFarland had worked with race horses, so Joseph contacted him for guidance and ideas and Mike was generous in his support.
At the same time one of his clients, Feldenkrais practitioner Cara Landwehr from Enumclaw, WA, presented him with a request. Cara does holistic rehabilitative training with horses that have been emotionally and physically damaged. These horses have special problems and Cara was looking for a precise kind of help to treat them. She needed a sensitive person with animal rapport skills who understood equine movement and had a Structural Integration background. Certainly a tall order!
Cara asked Joseph if he’d try his hand with her horses. From the first moment he worked on her horses, he knew he’d found his calling.
Creating a Body of Work
Joseph helped Cara achieve the changes she needed with the horses and Cara encouraged him to pursue the work. He studied equine anatomy while Cara taught him equine movement.
In 1995, Joseph came up with the five basic SI sessions that sequentially unravel a horse’s fascial structure and bring the horse’s suspensory system of bones, muscles and connective tissue back into balance and alignment. He named the work Equine Movement (ENM). He describes his work saying …
“I work systematically with the fascial system, moving through the outer layers of superficial muscles, down to the deeper layers of fascia and intrinsic muscles, freeing up the planes throughout the horse’s structure. This allows a freedom of movement to emerge as the different layers begin to glide effortlessly over one another, bringing more potential energy and power to the muscles and rhythmic grace and smoothness to the horse’s gaits.
“Curiously , horses are not as invested in their body image as people. When horses feel freer movement, they readily adopt it. Even though horses are larger, the work seems to progress at a faster rate than human sessions. Coupled with an exercise program to support the structural changes, horses have steady improvement that lasts.”
The result is a five-session series with a designated purpose and specific body map for each section. Sessions 1-3 restore fuller mobility to each muscle. Sessions 3-5 integrate that mobility into the horse’s movement.
The Equine Natural Movement Series
Purpose: Build trust. Get to know the horse’s tension patterns.
Method: Release holding in surface musculature. Identify deep holding patterns that are the roadmap for a continuing series.
Purpose: Give the horse a better sense of stability so he’s more secure in moving on and off the ground. Bring out the power available in the horse’s hind end.
Method: Emphasize vertical line integrity in standing. Free up tendons and musculature of all four legs. Free up superficial and midlevel fascial restrictions in shoulders, pelvis, lumbar and hip joints.
Purpose: Integrate muscle groups that share movement functions.
Method: Begin to shift vertical line integration into horizontal plane. Work focuses on functional quadrants rather than individual muscles.
Purpose: Bring out fluidity of whole body motion.
Method: Connect front and hind ends through the barrel. Emphasize horizontal line cohesiveness.
Purpose: Reinforce changes after horse has practiced his discipline.
Method: Maintain flexibility of fascia while horse strengthens into an integrated movement pattern.
After a basic series, Joseph usually does two advanced ENM sessions over the next year.
People love their horses and take their care very seriously. Like any other professional athletes, when they find something that works, word spreads quickly.
Joseph primarily works with performance horses to help them achieve their full potential in competitions. Dressage horses improve their precision, competition jumpers get additional height and power, and western horses increase speed and dexterity. With athletic horses of this caliber, even a small change means the difference between a third and a first place ribbon.
Sometimes the results can be quite startling. After ENM, a palomino owner put her horse in a performance show. Her horse, normally not a big winner, won an unprecedented 21 events, every event they entered. The ENM series was the only different thing they’d done and she was quick to praise its effectiveness.
Gwen Blake, US Equestrian Olympic Team member, describes ENM’s effect on her training horses saying, “Joseph worked on several dressage horses in our barn. I have seen a distinct difference in how they carry themselves and how they have a more relaxed, willing work attitude.”
Hunter-jumpers can be high strung and often temperamental, something Joseph attributes to discontinuity in an imperfect structure. Kathy and Rick Countryman are well-known hunter-jumper trainers at the Countryman Stables on Bainbridge Island, WA. They wrote about ENM saying, “Joseph has worked with a dozen of our hunter-jumpers. Consistently, horses that are ‘too hot’ calm down. They stop their habits of pulling and collect under themselves easier. The horses become supple and limber, move better, are more comfortable and jump with better form.”
ENM is also effective with horses who need help getting back into peak condition after a history of unresolved old injuries. AFA certified farrier, Lisa Dillon, has a quarter horse who had a chronic imbalance. She says, “After an injury my gelding had movement problems that required therapeutic shoeing. I didn’t think he’d ever be able to overcome this. After sessions with Joseph he’s become more relaxed and supple, developed a better stride and an overall better sense of well-being and attitude. He no longer requires special shoes either.”
On the far end of the scale are horses whose injuries have also affected them emotionally. Horse breeder, Kitty Mac, runs the Triple W Ranch in Ellensburg, WA. Kitty’s 4-year-old quarter horse suffered debilitating injuries after tangling himself in barbed wire a few years earlier. “Dat Hickory” had great bloodlines but due to his compromised movement was unable to compete and bring in the awards necessary to make him a highly desirable breeding stallion. Trainer Cara Landwehr worked with Hickory during his rehabilitation. She tells this story:
“As a result of his injuries, Hickory developed tight movement patterns to protect his hindquarters and compensate for painful muscles and tendons. Even after those injuries healed, Hickory initiated about 80% of his movement from his forehand rather than his hindquarters. He had tension and apprehension about being handled anywhere in a broad area around his lumbo-sacral junction and was unable to stand balanced on any three legs so handling his feet was difficult.
“Both stifle joints were weak and wobbly and tended to lock. He wouldn’t allow me to handle his tail for the first three weeks he was in my charge. He didn’t know where his hind end or his feet were. He’d stomp and kick in the trailer which told me he didn’t know how to stabilize himself and didn’t know precisely where his feet were so he felt unsafe there.
“Although kind-natured he was also reactive. While not a bad horse, he was prone to temper tantrums and dramatics and became easily unfocused. He had trouble learning new things and then remembering what he had learned. After the ENM sessions he made amazing progress in two major areas:
- Bio-Mechanical: Once his muscles were no longer bound up, he was able to use them correctly. This cut a lot of time off his rehab program and enabled him to progress faster than I could have hoped. When he took a step, he used himself correctly so he got maximum benefit out of the gymnastic and strengthening exercises. He used to have trouble engaging and lacked energy. After the series he really discovered his engine! He became able to do better lateral and engagement work. For a trainer this is a HUGE payoff. A horse making faster and easier progress with minimum wear and tear is a win for everyone!
- Spirit: As Hickory’s physical balance improved, so did his mental balance. I believe these two things go hand-in-hand. Releasing the locked tension in his body helped him relax and enjoy learning again instead of holding onto the old fears he had when he was in pain. After ENM he began to have TONS of energy and started moving in very athletic ways. His workability, self-control and manners all improved tremendously.”
Horses Teach Touch Skills
“Horses are great bodywork teachers,” Joseph says. “If you do a stroke without being in rapport, if it’s too fast or deep or something’s not quite right about it, they’ll give you immediate feedback with their mouths or feet.
“They force you to become aware of everything you’re doing. Whatever energy you bring to them, they reflect back to you. They won’t put up with deep bodywork that’s less than perfect so you really have to refine your quality of touch and presence. If you love them while you work they will give you the moon, but if your mind is elsewhere they’ll snap you right back to attention.”
Horses are quite perceptive once they understand what ENM can do. They can also be quite participatory. Rolex, a very intelligent Westphalian dressage horse, would let Joseph know where he needed work. Joseph was working on the horse’s shoulder once when Rolex turned his head, pulled his lips gently over his teeth and gently pressed them against Joseph’s shoulder. Rolex used Joseph’s shoulder to show where he needed attention. Joseph moved to the corresponding spot on Rolex and found it was indeed tighter than the surrounding area. When Joseph moved to the other side, Rolex did the same thing but in a different part of Joseph’s upper arm, again a place that Joseph moved to and found fascial restriction in.
Animals and Complementary Care
Attitudes about animals are changing and many people in the horse community are becoming more open to alternative modalities. Interest sparks when their horses suddenly become more adept and alert. After seeing the effects of ENM on their horses, owners often ask about getting structural work on themselves. Because his practice is full of horses, Joseph refers humans to SI “people practitioners.”
Occasionally an owner has noticed after the ENM sessions that the horse moved with balance and precision, but after being ridden, the horse backslid and reverted to old movement patterns. When not being ridden, the unbalanced pattern wasn’t there. These riders were alarmed when they suddenly realized their loyal horses were contorting their bodies to compensate for the riders’ unbalanced time in the saddle. Most of them quickly requested work on themselves so they wouldn’t cause any further harm to their beloved animals.
At the completion of a Structural Integration training, each practitioner is qualified to begin their SI practice. Most people take that knowledge and parlay it into a successful SI career but some people forage into the unknown by taking the work into specialized areas. Each time someone takes the work into a new arena, the field of knowledge expands for everyone.
Joseph’s deep love of animals has found a richly rewarding avenue of expression. The work he’s developed offers people new ways to create health for their horses as well as themselves.
He also feels a responsibility to educate people about being compassionate with their animals. Through the hands-on work he’s able to experience an interspecies communication few people are aware is available. His skilled hands, calm and patient manner and deep love for horses and other animals are important elements. But the most telling of all is that horses enjoy working with him.
Joseph and I went on vacation shortly after he started working with horses. We stopped by a local hunter-jumper show. No one was in the barn during show time but the horses were in their stalls. As we strolled through, a horse at the far end of the corridor leaned out of her stall and started whinnying, vigorously tossing her head up and down.
I asked if he knew that horse. Joseph peered down the long corridor with a nickering horse at the end of it and said he doubted any horse he worked with would be at a show so far away. The horse continued her excited display, whinnying in Joseph’s direction. Just then the mare’s owner came around the corner and said, “Oh, hello, Joseph. I see Sally remembers you!”