Article by Celeste Leilani with Kim Roe
When Celeste Leilani of Wild Magic LLC was introduced to equine bodywork ten years ago, she was quite the skeptic. That soon changed.
Celeste grew up as a competitive rider-turned-trainer in a culture where equine bodywork was never done, much less talked about. But the results from that first session a decade ago changed her skepticism to awe. The horses were star athletes, showing zero evidence of discomfort. Yet, after the session their increased freedom of movement and expression could not be argued.
Stunned, she decided to have bodywork done on herself. She discovered that she was carrying substantial myofascial holdings that restricted her ability to support her horses in the way she wished. And, due to the large amount of mirror neurons and the energy transfer that occurs between horse and rider, Celeste’s horses carried her dysfunctions in their own bodies. She discovered her guarded psoas, a locked right hip, and a left pectoral so tight she could not adequately lift her left shoulder—all matching what was found on her horses.
Post bodywork sessions, Celeste and her horses were able to connect and perform together more effortlessly—full of the ease and newfound awareness with this discovery of the missing pieces to what holds back many promising athletic teams.
Soon, it became Celeste’s goal to integrate this knowledge into her horse training business. She went back to school and became a licensed structural integration massage therapist—for both equines and humans. She chose structural integration because it most embodies the transformation she wishes to facilitate in both her human and equine clients.
Created by Ida Rolf (who developed Rolfing) the techniques have been used for over 100 years to relieve postural misalignment through myofascial release, giving equal emphasis to the emotional releases that occur as well as the physical.
There are many places of restriction in horses and riders, but a common finding is an extremely tight neck and shoulder. Due to the limitations of the muscles that elevate head and neck movement, horses feel a constant state of stress, perpetuating anxious behavior. This creates a vicious cycle that, until the fascia is released through manual manipulation of the tissue, makes it uncomfortable for the horse to carry itself in a relaxed state, even without the burden of a rider. In severe cases the tension can cause cervical nerve pain, head tossing, and undiagnosed lameness in the front end.
Correcting this unbalance the “old fashioned way” would take weeks of training, equipment adjustments, and multiple vet visits to get the horse relaxed and stretched out. With quality bodywork it can take one to three sessions, combined with some instruction to assist the handler on focusing their eye toward the underlying fascial restrictions.
The most rewarding and pivotal piece of this work is the on-the-ground and under-saddle schooling sessions post-bodywork. Here, Celeste gets to hold space and help horse and rider soften and communicate with awareness on using their bodies correctly. This allows more ease and balance when working together. With severe cases it often involves working through some PTSD, which is a beautiful thing to witness but must be handled delicately.
Celeste Leilani travels regularly in Washington State for sessions and coaches top trainers of all disciplines on how to implement bodywork, breathwork, and physical therapy rides into their programs. The goal is to prevent injuries and increase performance and tranquility by utilizing the dance of the mirror neurons. Celeste brings mindful horsemanship and biomechanics awareness to the forefront of their training regimens and helps trainers recognize areas of unbalance before they become clinical-level restrictions in their students, both horse and rider.
In recent years Celeste has had the privilege of working alongside Arizona-based bodyworker and biomechanics master Katherine Calkins. They travel together all over the USA from Florida to New York hosting clinics on Mind-Body Integration training and mindful horsemanship.
Celeste is also available for clinics, phone and video consultations, and rehab/body reconditioning at her home ranch, Wild Magic, in Tacoma, Washington.
“We all want to do right by our horses and bring an end to the culture of more gear, more force, and unnecessary joint injections for undiagnosed and misunderstood lameness and restrictions. I truly believe that this work will help riders and trainers do exactly that” – Celeste Leilani
Learn more at www.wildmagicllc.com.
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The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.