Bowen therapy was always something I was a bit unsure about. Does it work? What does it do? How does it work?
My horse had a bad back for well over a month at this point. I had only ridden him a handful of times before I realised he was in so much pain! I had a strongly recommended physiotherapist come out to see, who solemnly declared he had a sore back. Interestingly, that was not news to me, and it cost me $130 to have a little bit of a massage done on him and have his back taped. I was told to continue lunging him and stretching him and he would be fine. He wasn't fine. The soreness didn't improve, and because countless people had come up to him and pushed on his back to see the soreness for themselves, he had learned that if he kicks out, people will stop doing something he doesn't like. He now started kicking out during grooming and when the leg straps on his blanket touched his leg. Some days, I could press on his back and he wouldn't care the first time, and then all of a sudden he'd be upset you're touching his back, then he wouldn't care again. It became more and more difficult to figure out how to help him.
I was exhausted. I had spent so much time, effort, and money, and no one could tell me what was wrong or how to fix it.
Just for fun, I decided to take him to a led hack show with my trainer. The round only involved a quick walk in a triangle shape, and the exposure would be great for him. Even though he was very excited from the commotion the day before, he was an angel when it was our turn to walk! Now, my horse is definitely not a hack. Lots of other horses were plaited, had perfect muscle, a shiny coat, and the owners were dressed to the nines. My horse had his mane laying wherever it liked, and I walked with boot polish on my jodhpurs. We didn't go to the show to win, but with how well he behaved, I truly felt like a winner with him, and it just emphasised how much I wished I was riding again. On the way back, my trainer mentioned she was getting a Bowen therapist out to just do a tune up for her growing horse. I asked what Bowen therapy was, curious, and what she described sounded like true magic. Deciding I had nothing to lose, I made my first appointment.
The first treatment wasn't anything like I expected. All of the movements she was doing were very specific and small, and my horse definitely wasn't happy about it. He even tried to bite her at one point! She also tried just holding her hand near his back, and he still acted like she was pushing on it. When I previously had the physio out, my horse would lift up his leg in pain during a palpation, causing her to be too uncomfortable to get on a stool and do a treatment, which I completely understood. The Bowen therapist didn't mind that he was picking up his leg or kicking out, and really took her time to make sure he got a full treatment. It took about an hour in total, including questions. I was told to do 20 minutes of hand led walking every day for the next week, and to prepare for the fact that he may just be a trail horse for the rest of his life, if he was ever even rideable again. I was also told he could have kissing spine.
The first treatment didn't really change too much with him. He seemed to respond slightly less when pressure was applied, but he still wasn't happy whatsoever. The second treatment is what completely changed him.
The Bowen therapist came back out a week later and ran another treatment on him. I was told at the end of the treatment that it seems he may be rideable again, and I was over the moon! I now had to do walk poles with him, 5 each way, which is harder than it seems in the sand! This was supposed to strengthen him, but I couldn't see how that was going to happen. Eventually I was told to do 10 minutes of trotting on the lunge, as well as trotting over the poles. This was all still in-hand/lunge work - nothing ridden. Surprisingly, muscle started to fill out over his back, hips, and rump. Nothing dramatic, but definitely noticeable.
A few days before his third and final treatment, I decided to very lightly push down the length of his back to see if he was still reactive, being careful to stand out of the way of his back legs. No reaction. I noticed his head was down and he was eating, and sometimes if he's eating, he won't react. I pulled his head up and tried again. No reaction. I kept his head up and pushed on his back harder. Nothing. No kicking, no shaking his head, no stepping back. He seemed perfectly content. I was shocked. I reminded myself that sometimes he won't react to pressure one day, but that the next day he will be reactive again. I came back the next day and repeated. Still no reaction. Could it be true? Could his back pain truly be gone?
The Bowen therapist came out a few days later, and finally told me what I had been anxious to hear since my horse's first treatment. I could start riding. Not just walking. I could start trotting, cantering, bending, flexing, everything. No jumping yet, and take it easy.
A month ago, I had a horse who would kick out if you even dared to pretend to touch his back, and was told he may never been rideable again. Now, I have a horse who doesn't react to back pressure and had his first ride back on Monday. I have no idea if he'll suddenly be sore again, or if he'll never have a problem again, but I want to remain honest with myself and with my horse.
The results of Bowen therapy showed not only in his lack of pain, but the fact that his abdominal muscles loosened and resulted in less ribs showing; toxins were released as dandruff all over the body; his kidneys starting working hard to process everything that had been released; his coat almost seemed to have a new sort of glow to it.
Bowen therapy completely changed my life and the life of my horse. I truly believe that if it wasn't for Bowen therapy, I wouldn't be able to ride him. I wish it was something I would have looked into sooner, and it's something I recommend for everyone to try with a reputable Bowen therapist if they're having issues with their horse. One treatment only cost me $70, and the final treatment was just a very small kidney maneuver, which didn't cost me anything. $140 to strengthen my horse and stop his back pain. I plan to keep him maintained through Bowen therapy every 6 months, and if there is ever a problem, I know I have my Bowen therapist on speed dial.
Photo Credit: Flickr
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