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Gina’s magic touch with horses

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Gina Sivyer uses several techniques to help treat injuries a horse may have.  Photograph by Declan MonaghanTulla resident and horse breeder Gina Sivyer has the magic touch when it comes to horses, as she has a unique ability to help relieve pain and discomfort. 
Gina has an unusual but rewarding job as an Equine Touch and Tennington Touch practitioner. These are energy and connective soft tissue disciplines used on horses to addresses injuries the animal might have, in many cases leading to behavioural changes for the better.
Equine Touch is a gentle, hands-on soft tissue bodywork technique that encourages tight muscles to relax, stimulates blood circulation, reduces pain and boosts the immune system, helping a horse’s whole body improve its functionality.
Gina breeds horses and works with this technique to rehabilitate sport and race horses at Kiltannon Home Farm in Tulla, where she works through horses’ physical and behavioural issues. 
“For the last eight years, I have been involved in learning alternative techniques, I started with the Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method (TTEAM), which is a worldwide method of handling horses. I qualified as a Tellington Touch practitioner and I got interested in connected riding, which was taught by an American, Peggy Cummings, in Scotland. I used to go over twice a year with horses for weeklong courses. While I was there, I met an Equine Touch practitioner, he spoke about the technique and recommended it highly for one of my own horses and after that I got interested in it,” she said.
Since qualifying in the techniques, Gina has worked closely with a number of horse owners and breeders across Clare, including John Brassil in Newmarket-on-Fergus, and has identified injuries and discomfort in horses. By using the Equine Touch and Tennington Touch techniques, she has helped horses to recovery and a return to their normal disposition.
“Once you work on the horse, they are very intuitive and become aware that you are trying to help them. They release tension when they know what you are doing and through these techniques you learn how to recognise when horses release this tension. It is soft tissue manipulation which addresses the fascia that wraps our muscles and tendons together, when injuries occur they tighten and Equine Touch relaxes and helps with their natural alignment,” Gina said.
She explains that by using this technique, the horse, in effect, tells you where the problems are.
“Once the horses release the tension in their body you can then help assimilate changes through movement, physical and leading work. I take in racehorses for rehab or behavioural problems and combine these techniques. In my experience, bad behaviour is 99% related to a pain reaction in the horse so I do the bodywork to relieve the pain issue and help them through the behavioural problem. This can take a couple of days to a couple of weeks. I am not veterinary trained and I don’t fix all the problems but once I do the body work I can find out whether it is a structural problem that can’t be fixed but the vast majority are helped by the technique,” she added.
Gina works toward identifying why they got the problem, whether it was structural, such as an old injury, or a birth defect. It could also identify whether the horse needs an equine dentist, equally it might be an issue with their feet or the saddle being used needs to be adjusted or changed.
“The first horse I was called out to was a four-year-old racehorse who was just not going right, his hind legs weren’t running as they should. It turned out that he had a wolf tooth in his jaw and was avoiding contact with the bit on the right side of his mouth. By not connecting with the bit and because he was being trained repetitively, it led to problems on his right side and he became lame. I was able to correct him physically and once he had the dental work carried out he was fully treated within two months and went on to win a point-to-point,” Gina revealed.
In another case, she explained how a mare went from acting out and being violent with its handler to becoming a completely different horse that was calm and welcoming.
“I visited a local farmer, who had a draft mare that was impossible to handle. She would kick and bite and all he wanted to do was put her in foal. I went to see her and she tried to beat me up with her front legs. I could see she was in a lot of pain in and around her head, and she was putting up this defensive armour so that when anyone held her she was acting out. I worked on reliving the pain in her head and she changed altogether in a short period of time and won’t kick out again,” Gina explained.
The technique itself is easy to learn and takes approximately two years to complete by undergoing four weeks of training courses, in addition to exams and reviews.
On June 18 and 19 as part of National Equine Touch Awareness Day, Gina will attend the Galway County Show in Clarinbridge, where Equine Touch students, Maire Gleeson, Ennis; Kim Hutchinson, Ennis and Maria Wood, Ennistymon and Samantha Connolly, Oranmore, will be assisting in a nationwide effort to use the technique on up to 1,000 horses.
The national awareness day will see demonstrations and taster sessions held at various locations across the country to try to achieve the 1,000-horse target.
Gina will be holding demonstrations at the green Equine Connect lorry at the Galway County Show, which will be located near jumping arenas 1 and 2.
For more information, contact Gina on 087 9021666.

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