Healing with Horses:

An Interview with Sara Light-Waller


by T. M. D'illon

Sara Light-Waller, a Seattle-based equine massage therapist and riding instructor, has been using flower essences in her work since 1997.

"My practice is divided between body work and teaching.  I teach something I call 'Partnership Awareness' which is based around people and their horses learning to communicate more clearly and thus work better together.

"I've been doing massage and teaching horses for many years. It was during the rehabilitation of a horse named J.D., an 11 year old Thoroughbred, that I first started using flower essences."

J.D. had been a Dressage horse in very serious training. That kind of strict discipline is very hard on many horses, physically and emotionally. According to Sara (pronounced SAHR-ah) J.D. had become thoroughly traumatized by his trainer and was a very dangerous horse.

"I started using flower essences when it became clear that he needed some further emotional help in order to recover. He had a very timid nature underneath but had built up very aggressive tendencies on top to protect himself. The flower essences helped him to break through those aggressive barriers and learn to trust again."

At the time, Sara lived in Massachusetts, and had brought J.D. in from Arizona.He had been used to a hot, dry climate, and the dramatic environmental change created new problems for him."His new surroundings caused him a lot of stress. In addition to the weather being different, the new barn was very busy and tense. I wanted to see how flower essences would help. I started him on Aspen, Mimulus and Vervain. J.D. stayed on this combination for about six months, taking them several times a week."

In the past, J.D. had been plagued with teeth problems and was extremely "mouth sensitive." Sara placed a few drops of the essences on little baby carrots that she fed to him. "Sometimes I would put the flower essences in one of his buckets of water. Occasionally, I would put them in warm water and sponge them onto his body."

After six months, Sara discontinued the Aspen and added Chestnut Bud and Larch to the Mimulus and Vervain. Mimulus was very important for J.D. because of his many fears. Vervain helped him become less hyperactive and overbearing.

"I used the Chestnut Bud mainly during schooling sessions to help him break old patterns and learn new things. I used Larch to help his self-confidence," Sara explained. "Eventually, I also gave him Rock Rose. I kept him on Mimulus and Vervain for quite a while. The Rock Rose gave him the courage to face new and frightening challenges. There were spots in J.D.'s re-learning pattern that triggered memories of past frightening experiences. During those times he would become fairly dangerous. It became very important to help him work through those blocks safely."

He soon began to show a more stable attitude."At that point," said Sara, "he was progressing steadily forward. I used massage, acupressure and gentle training to help his body get stronger and I continued to use flower essences as necessary.

"At this point most of his stumbling blocks were gone and he just needed to be a little smoother overall in order to resume the role of a working horse. So the next combination of flower essences I gave him was Water Violet and White Chestnut. It proved to be a very successful combination for him.

"Overall, the transformation was incredible," Sara continued. "It took several years of patient and steady work, but then, he started out as a very dangerous horse. His ground manners were horrible. He was dangerous under saddle. He was a mass of fear and tension, and didn't trust or respect anyone, and he had a good reason not to.Now everyone thinks of him as the sweetest, calmest, most gentle horse. He's also become a trusted riding horse."

Sara has worked with horses for over 30 years and knows that they're extremely sensitive to our energy."One day I happened to be talking to a student of Shiatsu (for humans) who said he didn't know much about horses, at least in terms of massage. He seemed to be a sensitive man, so I invited him in to touch the horse that I was massaging at the time. He said, 'My goodness, this horse's energy is so close to the surface! It's so easy to feel. People's energy is so much deeper.'He could tell right away."

Sara calls her massage technique TEM or Therapeutic Energy Massage, and it's a combination of equine Shiatsu, myofacial release, acupressure and energy work. "I find that horses respond very well to the lighter energy forms of massage. Touch makes all the difference though; many horses are actually unfamiliar with being touched. I once treated a horse that I couldn't actually touch because of his level of distress at contact. I needed to work completely out in his energy field at first until he trusted me enough to let me actually touch him."

Sara noted that she has recently begun using flower essences a lot more on the actual body of the horse. After reading our interview with Paul Wyman, Sara has been using Star of Bethlehem essence on old injuries. "I've been working with a horse who has an old wire injury on a back foot that tends to get stiff. I've been massaging Star of Bethlehem into the scar. I'll let you know the results!"

She reported no difficulties in getting horses to take the essences. In fact, once they get used to the idea (and that doesn't take long) they're usually happy to see the little bottles because they know they'll make them feel better. "Once the horses see me putting flower essences on the carrots, they tend to ignore the carrots and try grabbing the bottles!" Sara says.

Sara also shared the case of Honey, a little Morgan mare who didn't live up to her sweet name. "Honey's owner brought me in to massage her and I could tell right away that this was a frustrated horse. I asked to watch her work in order to see where her frustration was coming from. Honey was a carriage horse and also a riding horse and was very intelligent. I could see that she was frustrated with what she was being told to do. She wanted to be able to work as a team with her driver/rider instead of just being forced to mindlessly obey. This conflict not only made her body tense but it gave her a bad attitude. She was angry and aggressive. She'd bite people, hard, and she couldn't be turned out with other horses because she'd attack them.

"One of her nastier tricks was when she was being hitched up to her carriage. While one person attached her harness to the carriage another would hold her head. She would wait until a critical moment in the hitching process and then she would bite the person holding her. And I mean hard! She knew that it was just the wrong moment for the person holding her to discipline her and so she took advantage of the situation time and time again. Her owner was really quite frustrated with her.

"I started massaging Honey regularly and suggested that her owner start giving her flower essences. I suggested Snapdragon, Vine and Agrimony. Honey's owner switched her to a Vervain / Five Flower combination for more stressful situations like competitions or multi-carriage trail rides. She put the flower essences on treats or in Honey's water.

"Her owner started taking flower essences herself as well," Sara smiled. "They helped her too."

After a few months of the therapy, Honey stopped biting, Sara reported. "She became gentle around people, and began to do much better in competition. Her trainer commented on how much she'd changed. Her owner even gave me a testimonial about how her hot-tempered mare had turned into a calm, responsive athlete."

For more information about Sara Light-Waller and her healing work with animals, you can go to her web site at www.seattlehorsehealer.com.


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