Bowen Therapy and The Equine Touch: An Interview with Jock Ruddock

We at Natural Horse asked Jock Ruddock what readers have been asking us about Bowen. Jock, a Bowen Technique specialist and instructor worldwide, answers your questions.

Q. What exactly is Bowen Therapy and why is it used?

Essentially Bowen is a non-diagnostic, non-invasive, hands-on energy release modality that has an amazing result on the body when properly applied. It appears to work at a complete, holistic level; that is, it addresses the body as a whole without paying any particular attention to the named problem. A self-trained osteopath called Tom Bowen originally pioneered it in Australia. Since his death in 1982 the modality has spread throughout the world and has been accepted by doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, veterinarians and other therapists as one of the most profound healing modalities ever discovered.

On a practical level it consists of a programme of gentle non-invasive moves over specific points on the musculo-skeletal structure. This program of moves, when applied accurately in the pre-prescribed manner, relaxes, realigns and rebalances the entire body. It improves lymphatic flow, aids detoxification, releases energy blocks, encourages the flow of Qi, and awakens the body's innate wisdom, enabling it to address any area of concern in its determination to achieve homeostasis. There is no problem that cannot safely be addressed with Bowen, and apart from two specific moves that should not be applied to a pregnant client, Bowen has no contra-indications.

Bowen has been used successfully in the treatment of an eclectic array of problems. I have treated clients suffering from Cerebral Palsy, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Strokes, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Psoriasis, Asthma, Colic, and Scoliosis as well as backache, sciatica, frozen shoulder, stiff neck, TMJ problems, sports injuries and many other musculo-skeletal problems and I am continually astounded by the results.

Q. Is it as useful for animals as it is for people?

Bowen on animals is extraordinary, to say the least, especially on horses and dogs, the two animals that are so spiritually and emotionally connected to us. Unfortunately, however, Tom kept no notes and on his death there was no evidence to substantiate his therapy in this quarter. I began to research and develop a manual on the treatment based on his work, which I call 'The Equine Touch', as a result of an incident with a horse in Aberdeen in Scotland.

What I am doing here is releasing the tension in Shadow's pectoral (chest) muscle. The "listening" is a personal habit I have developed. it gets me closer to the horse, bonds me, and I can on many occasions hear the release of the stronger elements of soft tissue and sometimes the realignment of bone as the horse adjusts itself when the muscle relaxes.

I was visiting an equestrian centre with a friend and saw this rather desolate looking gelding called 'Shadow' standing in a stall. It had just completed a weekend seminar with Monty Roberts and had been labelled as having 'no respect for humans'. My friend had deserted me to talk 'horsy' talk with the owner so I thought 'What the heck' and started to treat the horse, transferring the points from human to the equine in my mind.

I had completed the entire back body balancing routine when the owner rushed in and told me not to touch the horse on the withers as he would try to bite and kick me. 'Withers'. What were 'withers'? Upon showing me the 'withers', the owner was stunned to see me touching, prodding, and poking that area quite firmly. She was even more amazed to see the horse falling asleep.

The change in Shadow was immediately noticeable. When I was invited back to treat him for the second time I did not recognise him as the forlorn looking animal I had treated the week before; his posture had altered dramatically, he was taller and prouder, more relaxed, calmer, affectionate and less skittish. (See photos 1 and 2.)

Q. How did you further develop the technique?

I am releasing an energy block in Shadow's common extensor in the foreleg.

With hard work and loads of research. It was hard getting through the gobblygook that is written in many horse manuals to find something that a 'non horse' person like myself could understand. One thing that did stand out however was that almost 60% of all horse injuries were soft tissue related, and are to some extent associated with the paraspinal muscles and the relevant connective soft tissue. This immediately told me that Bowen would be excellent for the equine.

I started treating every horse I could lay my hands on. The most positive results came from the gentlest touch, and it was evident that the results were on several levels: physical - that is, soft tissue, lymphatic, detoxification, hyper-tonicity, muscle trauma; emotional - unlocking character armour or emotional trauma locked within the muscles; and finally, it works on the unseen energy level, that level that all people know is very prominent in the equine and which bonds so well with the human energy.

Q. How does the Bowen or 'The Equine Touch' differ in hand movements from other massage types?

The Equine Touch is not massage. That is the first most important statement I make to all my students. In massage it is the therapist that does the work, the therapist that impresses their will on the equine. The Bowen move itself is unique; it consists of a 'slide, bump and glide' process. The practitioner performs the move with the tips of the thumbs or fingers. Utilising the skin slack the practitioner draws or slides it back over the top of the muscle and then bumps against the edge of the addressed muscle. This 'bump' is referred to as the challenge and is maintained for a period of 2 - 3 seconds allowing the muscle to energise. The move is then completed with the glide, where maintaining the same pressure as the 'bump', the practitioner moves medially or laterally over the belly, the insertion, or the origin of the muscle as required, causing the fascia of the muscle to convulse.

Q. I understand that you teach it . what kind of people makes up your student body?

This horse is Cipisek. Working at the withers, I am inserting two energy block moves over the paraspinal muscles which will encapsulate the work that I am about to do on the upper neck.

I started off just teaching horse owners, horse lovers and other Bowen practitioners who wanted to treat equines. However I was in the Czech Republic last year teaching a human seminar and had a vet on the course who was married to the leading veterinary professor in that country. One of his charges was 'Cipisek', their national steeplechase champion which had been very seriously injured. Cipisek had fallen badly two months earlier and three other horses had landed on him. He was in constant pain and could hardly walk. Immediately after the first treatment he walked out of the stall. It was obvious that a neck restriction and the associated pain had vanished. On examination by the vet over the following week it was immediately noticeable that other problems were correcting themselves and there was a drastic reduction in pain in the other injured areas.(See photo 3.)

As a result I returned to Czechoslovakia this year to teach a course on 'The Equine Touch' to vets from all over Europe. They were amazed and very enthusiastic, to say the least. All are now using the modality in conjunction with their other healing techniques and another international class for vets has been booked for later this year.

Q. Tell us about your courses and what one learns from them.

The entire seminar is taught in three days. In the morning the students learn to perform the moves on the human. They learn the 'touch and the move' and also where to perform them in relation to each procedure. In the afternoon they transfer the move to the Equine. I have found in many instances the equine has 'picked up' the injury from the human it has bonded with, physically and emotionally. Therefore if the human is out of balance, he may transfer this imbalance to the equine. On the course the student is taught this premise and at the end of the seminar is able not only to balance the horse but the rider also if required. Many people who learn the equine side of the therapy then decide to come on the five-day human course that, apart from allowing them to treat the rider, also gives them a deeper insight into the therapy.

The therapy is extremely easy to learn. The manual is completely user friendly. The only requirement is a love for the equine and a pair of responsive and caring hands. I hold seminars anywhere in the world, wherever they are required. This year I was in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Czech Republic and Hawaii. I have been described as a professional nomad, but I love what I do and will travel anywhere to teach this gentle treatment. People just have to get in touch with me and I am on a plane.

Q. Are there any contraindications to Bowen?

There are two moves which should not be performed on a pregnant female due to the possibility of uterus contraction. As the anatomy is similar I would not perform the 'coccyx' procedure on a mare that is in foal. Apart from that there is no condition which cannot safely be treated with The Equine Touch.

Q. Can it be used with other therapies?

Yes, provided these therapies are non-invasive. I have worked with a vet from Austria who specialises in homeopathy and acupuncture, and the results were very positive. He now uses Bowen on a regular basis integrating it with his other modalities or using it on its own and he is full of praise for the therapy. Massage however is a definite NO-NO as it can weaken the effect.

Q. If massage can weaken the effect, what about grooming?

First time I have been asked that question. Personally I would like to have the horse groomed or exercised prior to being treated. Many horses fall asleep during the treatment, I therefore feel that it is best to leave the equine on its own to process what has just happened to it. With there even being the slightest chance that grooming could have a downgrading of the result I would advise against it.

Q. What does a typical Bowen session entail?

With both thumbs at the right flank, I am making a move over the fascia lata which directly relates to hip pain and is, in essence, the start of the hindquarter treatment.

First I bond with the horse until I feel it has accepted me. I will start the treatment at the hindquarter making two moves over the paraspinal muscles, followed by a small sequence of moves over the fascia lata and then leave the horse for two minutes. On returning to the horse I will perform some more moves on the hind legs, wait another 2 minutes and then reinsert the fascia lata moves before addressing the withers, forequarters, and upper neck sections of the equine in a similar manner. I would then address the middle back before turning my attention to the areas of concern. Prior to addressing an area of concern or a problem, I would ascertain the condition of the back. Experience has shown that there is a reduced chance of effecting a 'cure' on an extremity if the back is not relaxed.

Attention is then given to the shoulders, hamstring, neck, chest, and subscapularis areas until the equine has been treated from top to toe; it is then left to relax and process the work. (See photos 4 and 5.)

Q. Is one session enough to get results?

This move is the start of the shoulder sequence.

Yes, in many instances. However there are no rules. I have seen amazing improvements in just one treatment, and then with others I have had to treat up to four or even five times. There are a lot of factors involved, physical, emotional and external.

Q. How do horses like this technique?

They love it. I was doing a demonstration in Prague. I had an audience of vets and they brought me out a log puller covered in mud, suffering from eczema with the attitude of a starved Doberman. I spent 15 minutes avoiding side kicks and snapping teeth, then all of a sudden the therapy kicked in and it propped its jaw on the fence post and went to sleep. By the end of the 3-day course the students were popping their manuals on its back, and the eczema was starting to clear up. (See photo 6.)

Q. How do horses benefit in the long run?

"Log Puller"; I am releasing tension in the neck.

Balance, or homeostasis, is essential for good health. Bowen or Equine Touch is the key which appears to open the door to the inner healing; balance or homeostasis being essential for good health. It is not necessary that the equine have a recognised problem or area of concern to benefit from the therapy. Many owners build the treatment into the training of the horse for equestrian events; others treat their charges to a treatment after having transported them in horse boxes [trailering] or after exercising. Others use it to assist the body in healing serious injury in conjunction with orthodox veterinarian treatment.

Whatever the reason, all who have tried it have found it to be beneficial.


Jock may be contacted regarding the Equine Touch (Bowen for Horses) at or visit his web site at