Book Review: Pain Free
Video Review: Free To Move - A Saddle Fit Video
Video Review: Horse Stretching


Eye To Eye: The Language of Energy and Horse
By Karen E. Nowak
© 2002 by Karen Elise Nowak
ISBN 0-7414-1274-8
Infinity Publishing
519 W. Lancaster Ave.
Haverford, PA 19041-1413
Soft cover, 75 pages
Approx. $10 US

Like the infamous looking glass, or like a palace that looks like a mere cottage from the outside, "Eye to Eye" is a little book that opens to enormous scope and depth. Simple words and short statements generate profound but clear thoughts. This is a book that is read sentence-by-sentence - and thought-by-thought, experience-by-experience. Profound thoughts build sensibly upon profound thoughts, culminating in practical applications.

"Eye to Eye", whose text is as intriguing as the artwork on the cover, is an enjoyable book that takes the reader on a personal journey. Karen Nowak's poetic words evoke in the reader's mind new dimensions. This little book begins with powerful statements, sometimes just one per page, that readily engage the reader in reflection, pondering, and even humbling. Unique arrangements of words and thoughts on the page bring a new physical dimension as well to her work. The reader becomes enlightened about love, aura, language, vibration, energy, universality, spirituality, resonance, relationship, and more. The latter part of the book puts it all together in exercises for awareness, sensitivity, and connection. The author's intent is to "offer guidelines for which you will resonantly experience energy, satisfy the need to understand and spiritually make sense of your right brain intuitive side, and also exercise your ability to trust your own senses. " She accomplishes that and more.

" Eye to Eye" contains an introduction by Timothy A. Shea, followed by Karen's seven chapters of enlightenment and experience:
The Language of Energy
Intention Puts Energy In Motion!
The Healing Session
An Energy Observation
Introduction to The Chakra System
Common Space - An Equine Meditation
A Next Step

Karen explains that energy is something we cannot see, but if we think of the auric body as a muscle we can learn to strengthen it. We are multidimensional and can learn to hear with more than just our physical ears. We, and our animals, are all part of our environment and our universe, and are all interconnected; acknowledging and exploring this opens up a whole new world.

This little book is one to cherish - one does not just 'read through' it - each page is for savoring and processing at the reader's pace. Each exercise on a new day will bring new awareness and fresh experiences. Any page can be returned to another day; returning to this book again and again only opens more doors.

Because, as Karen states, "We are simultaneously blessed and cursed by our left brain analytical thinking", which is the predominant way of thinking, "Eye to Eye" offers an intriguing and stimulating alternative and complement, by accompanying the reader through right-side thought and experience, and leading one along a path of learning a new language and union with our animals - that of energy.


Pain Free
By Pete Egoscue
© 1998 by Pete Egoscue
Bantam Books Publishing
1540 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
ISBN 0-553-37988-7
Egoscue Method Headquarters
12707 High Bluff Drive
Suite 150
San Diego, CA 92130
Hard cover or soft cover, 300 pages
Approx. $15 US

As I performed the easy exercises in Pete Egoscue's "Pain Free", I wondered if they would really help me recover quicker and prevent another injury like I had just had with my aching back. It all seemed so simple. Lie on my back with my legs propped up a certain way to align my ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders… relax… let gravity do the work. These static and low-motion exercises seemed too easy - I had more trouble getting to the floor and back up than doing them. But they worked, as they reportedly have for so many others. My back felt much better and I was functional in a few days. What a generous person this author must be to share these gems of alignment wisdom with the world. The knowledge gained in these pages and their easy exercises enable the reader to understand and maintain her own musculoskeletal alignment herself (or himself).

"Pain Free" is a must-have for the rider and horse caretaker, and for anybody. It's a very well written text, much more than just a pain-relieving exercise book. It is part documentary on man's physical development and how we have come to be, and how we have become unfit, unhealthy, and in pain. It is part textbook, educating the reader about the biomechanics of the body and how all parts of it are connected and interactive. It is part health and fitness manual that explains why the musculoskeletal system is so vital to us and movement so vital to the musculoskeletal system, and (most thankfully) what to do about its dysfunction. It is part reference book and troubleshooting manual for zeroing in on what one can do about a painful or dysfunctional body part.

In "Pain Free", Pete Egoscue explains that joint pain is due to muscle dysfunction and joint misalignment. All the parts of the body are interconnected; what happens to one zone affects all others. Muscles move bones, so muscles must be addressed, and we must move. Motion is crucial to the body's operations and overall welfare (just like the horse). However we must move the right ways or we accentuate our problems.

How do we know if we are moving the right way? "Pain Free" explains. How do we fix a body part that isn't moving the right way? By doing the appropriate exercises. Why do knees roll inward or outward? Because certain muscles are not doing their jobs and others are doing the work for them. Where does a wrist problem really originate? It could be the hips, where many dysfunctions originate. "Pain Free" gets to the heart of the matter and gives exercises to rectify the situation where it originates, with relief coming sometimes in a matter of minutes.

Other questions that "Pain Free" answers include: What is pain, what is chronic pain, and why do we have it? Why do accidents 'happen'? Why are surgery, joint replacements, ergonomic fixtures, and many common exercises unsuccessful and counterproductive? Do they really resolve the problem, or will it return or cause a problem elsewhere? Are the Egoscue exercises (E-cises) still beneficial if surgery has already been performed? Why do certain muscles refuse to develop? How can relaxing the muscles help more than powering them up? How can so little help the body heal so much, and so quickly? How is it that only one hour of these static exercises relieved 10 years of untouchable pain? Questions we never thought to ask are answered as well, such as what important questions we should always ask the doctor before considering surgery.

A myriad of common ailments are discussed, including runner's shin splints, postural problems, heel spurs, disc problems, athlete's injuries, rotator cuff problems, arthritis, and many more. Regarding a herniated disc, the author says that if muscle took it out, muscle can put it back. All kinds of conditions can greatly benefit from the appropriate E-cises outlined and pictured in "Pain Free". The simple tests in the book help the reader determine which sets of exercises to do. These E-cises could be thought of as 'position' exercises, although they are not contortions, not like yoga or martial arts postures. These exercises are physical therapy and body balancing that you can do for yourself, by yourself. They re-align the body's musculoskeletal system. The body can restore itself naturally, with a little help from Pete's aligning E-cises.

This extremely helpful book offers pain relief through its easy daily exercises, then outlines a maintenance program to strengthen and balance the entire body and prevent problems. Pete's sensible and refreshing perspective on the musculoskeletal system puts "Pain Free" in a category of its own. There are many things we can do for ourselves when it comes to health care, and reading "Pain Free" is an essential one. Pete's empowering book offers his simple and natural solution of low-motion exercises for the entire body - from head to toe. Starting today, we DON'T have to live in pain, thanks to these simple and straightforward basic E-cises. "Pain Free" is definitely a book that should be in every household, especially that of the rider and horse enthusiast.


Free To Move - A Saddle Fit Video
Written and narrated by Caroline Hamilton
© 2002, Produced by Freehorse Productions
Melbourne, Australia
Phone: 03-9436-1439
US orders:
Equine CranioSacral Workshops
PO Box 843
Solana Beach, CA 92075.
45 minutes
Approx. $50US

"Free To Move", written and narrated by Caroline Hamilton, is a well-organized, professionally produced video that teaches about the importance of correct saddle fit and how to achieve it. Opening the show is a thundering herd of domesticated horses, unhampered by any tack, running free and moving gracefully across the screen. In stark contrast, what follows is all too commonly witnessed - horses moving stiffly and reluctantly under saddle and/or exhibiting 'behavior problems', which are actually responses to pain. The horses shown are clearly reacting to pain; one horse acts out just knowing that pain is about to happen with saddling. For other horses, their pain is evident by the way they move - or cannot move.

Because poor saddle fit is the culprit, there is something that can be done for these horses, and "Free To Move" explains the how and why of properly fitting a saddle to a horse. With the use of animated diagrams, the viewer can see how the skeleton and muscles work when the horse moves, showing the necessity for proper saddle fit to allow movement. An example is given that the viewer can try himself to feel what the horse feels when trying to collect with the back hollowed from a restricting saddle.

The concept of saddle fit is not new. In fact, mounted soldiers in the early part of the 1900s were responsible for the health and well-being of their horses, including saddle fit, as was clearly written in their manuals. Clips from these early times are inserted in the video to demonstrate how mounted soldiers were expected to ride without burdening or compromising their horses, to get off and walk for a portion of every hour, and to check their mounts for any ill-effects of saddling. Today we can learn from these teachings and spare our horses pain and suffering. Sometimes the damage done is permanent; fortunately, with a little knowledge, these problems can certainly be avoided.

Caroline Hamilton, an Equine Myofunctional and Craniosacral therapist, shares her expertise when pointing out the indicators of saddle problems and how they can be avoided. Demonstrating are several unhappy horses and riders, struggling to get around a saddle issue that only a proper fit can alleviate. Caroline offers ways to minimize the stresses from saddles and riders, and how to look and feel for a good saddle fit. Master Saddler Peter O'Brien is featured, who further explains the fitting of a saddle.

"Free To Move" competently addresses many saddle-fit issues, including examining a saddle and recognizing trouble spots, what can be done with your present saddle, determining if the rider is imbalanced, rechecking movement after changes, ways to measure the horse's back to fit a saddle, rebuilding the muscles of the back, and when NOT to fit a saddle, such as when the horse needs to build up his back muscles.

Poor saddle fit causes pain and a world of related problems for both horse and rider. "Free To Move" educates the viewer so he will not only recognize problems, but can apply solutions. This video is a must-have for any rider.


Horse Stretching
Featuring Frank Lloyd
© 2001, HeadInjure Productions
PO Box 802676
Santa Clarita, CA 91380
45 minutes
Approx. $30US

From its comically surprising start to its Wild-West finish, "Horse Stretching" is surely an eye opener. What else would one expect from a professional stuntman and horse trainer? Frank Lloyd has trained numerous horses to do tricks that require flexibility, balance and agility - just like any athlete. And just as athletes stretch, so should horses.

This video is designed to teach the viewer how to perform simple but effective horse-stretching techniques, safely. It is clearly stated that the video must be watched at least FIVE TIMES before anyone should attempt to do these stretches, to avoid problems. I agree - something is always missed with only one viewing, and with stretching, there may be lever forces that can cause harm if stretching is done incorrectly. Fortunately, the stretching sessions are repeated from horse to horse, so the viewer gets a good idea of how each stretch should be done, and in what sequence. Frank stresses the importance of learning the techniques before going for increased range of motion, and explains why the horse must learn to let you guide him.

It is evident that Frank enjoys stretching and working with the horses, as it is obvious that the horses like it too, and not just for the carrots he uses for motivation and reward. Stretching feels good. Frank narrates throughout the video explaining the benefits of stretching, preparing the viewer for what lies ahead, and explaining what is happening as the stretching is demonstrated - first with a horse familiar with the routine, then a young horse new to stretching, and finally an older horse also new to stretching. It is interesting to watch them quickly learn what is asked of them, and to see their favorable responses to the stretching. The range of motion in the first horse is astounding.

"Horse Stretching" equips the viewer with ways to manipulate the horse's limbs safely and effectively, and with minimum effort. Frank provides tips on cueing, positioning, balance, and weight-bearing so the horse holds his own body weight. What to wear is also discussed, and what to do to prevent or correct a horse developing an undesirable way of stretching is demonstrated.

Frank emphasizes that stretching should never be forced. It should be fun and feel good. Patience and affection are the tools, and the stretching should be reinforced with praise. Anything can be misused, but if common sense, patience, and respect for the horse are applied, these stretching exercises can be fun, safe and rewarding. "Horse Stretching" is a treat to watch, and is an excellent tool that will be embraced by every horse caretaker who wants to spend some quality time with his horse.