WORKING WITH MARTHA
“You know that Alexander Technique teachers now work with horses?” I said to my friend Laura.
Laura was standing underneath the neck of her horse Martha and making long strokes down in the direction of her shoulder blades.
“No I didn’t know that Alan.”
I knew that Laura would not know this rather esoteric chunk of Alexander/equestrian information. I just wanted to be the centre of attention by sounding, I hoped, rather clever and well informed.
I went on to tell Laura about an article in ‘Direction’ an Alexander Technique journal, which had recently devoted an entire issue to equitation. Most of the articles were about Alexander Technique for the rider but one fascinating article was about Alexander Technique for the horse.
The editor of the magazine, Jeremy Chance, was visiting Alexander teacher and rider Sally Tottle. Sally told Jeremy about one of her horses who, after having sustained an injury some time ago now needed much longer to warm up. Jeremy, a non-rider, suggested putting Alexander hands on the horse… The results were impressive. The horse in question had several twenty minutes Alexander sessions. Following each session the horse would seem slightly disorientated for several minutes and then slowly start to move in a freer and more efficient way. The same process was repeated with several other horses who also improved their performance in a steady cumulative way.
Laura listened tolerantly to my ‘learned’ discourse as she continued stroking Martha. “How do Alexander teachers go about putting there hands on anyway she asked?”
Laura had already had several Alexander lessons and knew what it was like from the recipient’s point of view.
“The first thing an Alexander teacher does is to take care of the way that they are using their own self… By freeing their neck … so that their head can balance more freely and efficiently on top of their spine … and thus allowing their whole spine to lengthen and back to widen. By freeing the core of their body in this way the Alexander teacher can use their legs, arms and hands more efficiently. When the teacher is well balanced the quality of the way they touch a human being or horse is automatically more gentle, skilful and effective.”
Although I was talking theoretically Laura was utilising my instructions practically. As she adjusted the way she was standing the quality of her manual and emotional contact with Martha automatically changed. The quality of her touch became somewhat stiller and more sensitive. Martha also became stiller and an attentive look came over her face and eyes.
“Ok, then what happens? What do you do next?” Laura asked with growing curiosity.