Saturday, May 22, 2010

A real test

About a month ago a got a phone call from Dr. Kerry Ridgway of endurance racing fame. Dr. Ridgway is the US Olympic Endurance Team Veterinarian and someone I hold in very high regard. It seems he had read my book and was impressed enough by it to call me and arrange a time to come to Colorado to spend some time with me.
Well today's that day, he's come out and we'll be going out to work with some horses I've arranged for. I'm seeing this as a chance to talk to someone who knows a hell of a lot more about horses than I do about my ideas. It's intimidating for me since I hold Dr. Ridgway in such high regard and he's been very gracious in his praise of my book. The problem is that the book is just an attempt to get people started--create a common vocabulary--from where we can actually have a conversation about how one could integrate the structure of a horse. I'm hoping that I'm not being pigeon holed by the techniques that are presented in the book, since that's not how I work or teach in my courses.
I'm definitely going to take the opportunity to ask Dr. Ridgway about the nerve hypothesis I've been working up.
I'll try and remember to write more about what happens in our exchange of ideas.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Zen Goodbye

About eight years ago I was called to work with horse. The owner/trainer informed me when I arrived that I was the horse's last chance, if he didn't improve he was going to be euthanized. When I asked why I was told "he stops when you ride him". Huh?
At the time my horse was alone--my wife's horse broke his leg and had to be euthanized (put down)--and so I decided that I would take the horse that "stopped".
The previous owner brought the horse to my place and as I was taking off the halter to let him out into the pasture they warned me "you'll never catch again...". They were sort of right, it took me a while but I did catch him. He was always difficult to catch--and I mean we had to catch him, he never just came up to us to be haltered--but once we had him in halter he was a sweetheart. Since his only role in life was to be a companion and a model for my students when we did nerve work--he had sciatica--being in halter wasn't that important.
My son, who names all our animals, gave him the name Zen.
Yesterday we euthanized Zen after a year of his struggling with feet problems. Seven weeks ago my trimmer suggested that there wasn't much hope for him, I ignored him. My thought was that as long as Zen was willing to hang around, could get up and eat, he could lay down as much as he wanted. Even though he was addicted to eating my barn I still kept him alive. I couldn't come to the conclusion that death was the answer.
That's until two days ago when my wife had to feed for me while I worked late and she couldn't get him to come in from the pasture. When I got home that night I saw Zen lying in the pasture, where he was went I left that morning, I thought he was dead. Then as I turned into the drive he raised his head to look at me. I figured he just didn't know my wife well enough to realize she was feeding and he was waiting for me, like he had almost every day for the last eight years. I had to go out to the pasture put a halter on him and force him to get up. I thought he might have a heart attack walking to the barn.
Yesterday morning I went out to feed and he was lying down in the stall. I forced him to get up again and out of the barn--I was being disgustingly strategic knowing that if we had to put him down it would be easier to move the body outside than in a stall--where I feed him in the paddock so he has to move. He came out, I fed him and while I was leaving for work I noticed he was lying down. It looked like it was going to rain or snow and I couldn't bear pushing him anymore to move. I called the vet.
As Zen died a really light snow started to fall. It only lasted a few minutes and then the impending storm started to clear around our property and the sun came out. This is common here since we live in the "shadow" of a fourteen thousand foot mountain, but I like to think it was a sign that Zen was better off.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Busy Season

It seems like the year is already flying by. While I'm really excited about what this year holds I'm also a little bit intimidated by it.
I just got back from four days at Equine Affaire in Pomona California where I did two talks and two demos with horses. It turns out that the hotel the Equine Affaire people put me in put me in the wrong room, on the floor where the banquets rooms are. This meant little sleep as the wedding parties went on into the night. Me being from a place that is really quiet--out nearest neighbor is a quarter of a mile away--was woken up by every strange sound, which most were. I didn't complain since I assumed the noise was just a normal "city" thing.
Looking at my March and April schedule I don't get a weekend off for two months. I'll be at the Colorado Horse Expo in March for a weekend--they've scheduled 6 demos! I love it. I really do, there's nothing better for me than to work with the animal and to share a different view than people may normally have about what is happening with the animal.
In April we're having our first--of hopefully many--two day seminars in Illinois. The people who are putting this on are working really hard and have found a great venue for it.
My normal class schedule starts in March--looking out at the snow falling right now I can't wait until the spring thaw. Of course March is our snowiest month.
This year I took and passed my Structural Integration Certification exam, so I can now call myself a Board Certified Structural Integrator.
The online course is close to release which is a relief after such a long birthing process.
What's up with you folks?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Are we helping?

Many years ago I was providing a demo of Equine Rolfing, to a number of people, one of which was a reporter for the Boulder Newspaper. During the demo the horse released some manure and me being the smart aleck I am said "Oh, he's having an emotional release". This made it into the article the reporter wrote, which didn't bode well for my reputation. But I can imagine that in some bizarre way their are people who would read this article and think that when this happens during one of their horses sessions that the horse is releasing held emotions.

I am continually asking myself how I know that what I think is helpful is actually helping.

With structural work we are not looking for simple reflexive indicators from the client that our input is having the desired effect. We look for structural changes to indicate that we are on the correct path.

But these structural changes can not be whimsical--as I would suggest measures such as yawning, licking lips...are--they have to be orderly and have a predictable effect on how the body is used. In other words, if we are releasing a shoulder so the thorax can rise--this is something we want for people, horses and dogs--than we should see the effect of this on the arms and legs in humans, the front and rear legs in quadrupeds.

Our system of working has to follow a scientific criteria of : Observable, Measurable and Repeatable.

Observable -- of course we have to be able to observe the change. If we can't somehow "see" it, than we can't really know that it occurred. This "seeing" could be very precise, I flip a light switch and a light comes on. To more inferred, I leave out cheese and mice come and eat it leaving mouse droppings behind. One problem with observation is that it's prone to some corruption from our desire to "see" things that are not connected to the causal agent as connected, i.e. yawning as an indicator of tension release in the musculoskeletal system from our intervention.

Measurable -- we should be able to measure our observable change. I personally think that releasing the axial skeleton from the upper appendicular skeleton--what I call releasing the shoulders--is paramount to freeing the legs to move (front and rear). Unfortunately, "releasing" while observable and measurable. It is not precisely correlated to the change. I would love to be able to say " if you see a x inch change in the shoulder of a horse towards vertical this will increase their stride length by y inches.

Repeatable -- our observations and measures should be repeatable over a large population. If we say we have a particular intervention that has a resultant change associated with it, then this change should be repeatable over a large population. This is why I stay away from what people call "moves" or "techniques" as any thing other than potential tools to a more global structural change.

If you observe a change or response from your clients to some intervention make sure that you can measure and repeat it before you attribute it to something. Otherwise you risk the possibility of looking very foolish.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Re_thinking old Ideas

Recently I've been engaged in a new exercise routine: CrossFit. This routine doesn't map well with the normal health club with their use of machines--in CrossFit machines are evil--or to any other "routine" for fitness.
Since CrossFit doesn't map well with what most Rolfers would consider appropriate exercise I've been re-thinking some of these Rolfing myths as I gain more benefit from the CrossFit. For instance most Rolfers don't think that weight lifting, using free weights, is good for us. Yet when we use free weights to exercise we have to learn to balance the weight or get injured. The learning to balance weight is as important, in my mind, as the lifting of the weight. Learning to balance free weights--groceries, bags of grain, dog food, hay...--requires that we use more of our joint surface which "wakes" up the musculature.
Squatting is a big component of CrossFit, yet this is almost completely missing from our western culture of overly tight hip flexors. We bend from the hips to pick something up and strain our back in doing so. Recently my son--the one who got me involved with CrossFit 2 years after he started--and I were repairing fence on our place. We had to replace a wooden post that the horses--part beaver--had eaten down to almost nothing. I tried to pull the post out of the ground and it broke, I couldn't get it to budge. When I told my son to go get the tractor and a chain to pull it out with he asked if he could try. He squatted over the post and used his legs--that same move that is used in deadlifting--and pulled the post out. Proper mechanics!
As I use the mechanics of the squat to get myself out of chairs, lift hay, do anything with weight I started to notice that my knees don't hurt. This got me thinking about how many myths we have about body mechanics and especially conformation and how these thoughts may not be working since we continue to see injuries or should I say breakdowns in bodies that utilize these mechanics.
Through CrossFit I have come into contact with Pose running. (you can Google it) One of the concepts in Pose running is that the point of contact of the runners foot with the ground shouldn't be the heel but the ball of the foot. How many people where very expensive running shoes and still break down? Try 83% of all runners!
Think about the implications for the horse. We normally shoe, trim our horses so the land heel first. Toe first is a fault--I always suspect heel pain in horses that land this way--flat footed is barely acceptable but may actually represent the equine equivalent of the "ball" of the foot. (Let's not go all anthropromorphic with this!)
What do you think?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Equine Affaire Pomona CA Feb. 4-7 2010

I'm putting the word out that I've been asked to present at the 2010 Equine Affaire in Pomona California. I'll be doing two demos and two talks, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. I'll let you go to the Equine Affaire site and look at the schedule to see when and what, since I don't remember off the top of my head.
If you have any ideas--within the context of what's scheduled--about what I should present please let me know by commenting here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Old Ideas Die Hard

I haven't written in awhile, mainly because I had a very busy September and October, followed by a month of pneumonia in November and a slow recovery up to now. I'm feeling great right now, with more energy than I've had in a long time. I made this huge mistake of thinking that I either had the flu--wasn't H1N1 what we were all worried about--or a really bad cold. I was wrong but I had my really good logic for being wrong and I kept repeating my logic for my only having a "cold" until it was mistaken for fact.
This happens a lot in our world, the repetition of an idea until it is mistakenly taken as a fact. It's how advertising works. The message is repeated until we stop thinking about it as a message and start to accept it as a fact. "How do you spell relief? ROLAIDS!". A number of years ago there was a test of some 4th. grade students where they were asked this question and answered this way!!!
There are a number of myths or messages that I have believed in around how bodies, human, canine and equine, should be structured, move and be used that have been exploded recently.
My son introduced--convinced me--to try a "new" way of exercising called CrossFit, which does not really comply well with my myths about how the human body should be used. One exercise in particular is the "squat" which ones learns to do using only body weight, later progressing to using free weights. I rebelled against the squat because my myth told me that it was bad for my achy knees. (This is a particularly important point. I rebelled about this new concept while my myth concept produced achy knees! Am I dumb or what?) After squatting the CrossFit way for a couple of weeks--it's part of my pre-workout warm up--I noticed that my knees didn't ache anymore, no pain going up stairs, especially if I changed my walk a little to a very un-rolf like movement.
I won't bore you with the details of a squat--you could look at almost any indigenous non chair owning culture and see it in everyday life, or look at olympic weight lifters--I'm leaving that for an article you can find at
One thing I will say is that the squat mechanics are very much like a horse that toes out in the rear. You know that one that isn't cow hocked but had a rear leg sagital plane that's laterally rotated, which is considered a comformational fault. I wonder if these horses, like Olympic weight lifters, have adapted to this confirmation to be able to lift/move more weight without damaging their stifles?
What do you think?