Ballyday Taz: A Reiki Success Story

By Caroline Madden

Ballyday Taz at home in the Horse Therapy Centre with Heidi Sheane


As Ballyday Taz flew over the finish line 20 lengths ahead of the rest of the field in a recent point-to-point race in County Tipperary, Ireland, few spectators would have suspected what an achievement this actually was. The sleek 10-year-old thoroughbred had barely broken a sweat completing the 3-mile course, while his competitors, all at least 3 years his junior, visibly struggled to reach the finish line. However, 2 years earlier, Taz's racing career had been written off due to injuries resulting from a horrific fall.

Taz was bred by a racing enthusiast who keeps a small number of horses at his family home in County Wexford, and he competed successfully in point-to-point races for 4 years, showing great enthusiasm and stamina. However after his fall, it looked like Taz would never make it back to full form. His owner exhausted all options known to him, such as chiropractor and spa treatments, and although Taz recovered enough to resume training, he broke down soon after. It seemed that Taz was destined to go the route of most retired racehorses, until a woman called Heidi Sheane heard about Taz through the grapevine and offered to buy him.

Heidi, a fully qualified Reiki practitioner, was looking for a real challenge. Although she had successfully treated horses before, she wanted to explore the full potential of Reiki and to completely rehabilitate a horse who seemed beyond hope. Although Taz's owner was surprised to find someone willing to take on what he considered to be a white elephant, he was happy that Taz had found a loving home to spend the rest of his days. The whole family waved Taz goodbye as he left for the Horse Therapy Centre in Wicklow, where Heidi and her husband Philip run their holistic healing centre.

Ballyday Taz at the Punchestown point to point

Before beginning her treatment of Taz, Heidi called in the chiropractor and veterinarian to assess the extent of the physical damage sustained from the fall. Taz's entire back was so sensitive that the chiropractor was unable to make any progress. The vet confirmed that Taz's back had suffered severe damage and his spine was now slightly L-shaped, explaining Taz's restricted movement. He was unable to move forward in a straight line, and couldn't distribute his weight evenly over all four legs. The vet also thought it possible that Taz had fractured his pelvis, and detected signs of tendon problems. "You're wasting your time!" he announced, and advised Heidi not to bother with a write-off like Taz - why not just concentrate on patients with one or two quick-fix ailments? He didn't realise that this only served to encourage Heidi to continue with her project. To Heidi, Taz was the perfect case study, and she was determined to succeed.

Reiki is an ancient holistic healing method in which the hands of the practitioner channel energy to another person or animal. Reiki practitioners believe that the memories of past traumas (for example, separation from a close companion, or an accident such as Taz's fall) are retained in the cells of the body. These cellular memories block the flow of energy throughout the body, preventing complete healing. Through Reiki these blockages can be removed, restoring the balance of energy in the body so that it can heal itself. Heidi hoped to address Taz's underlying problems in order to bring his physical and emotional condition back into balance. During her initial treatment sessions she noticed a 'disconnect' of energy between his front and back half - his hindquarters were noticeably colder than the front of his body. She felt that previous rehabilitation attempts had failed because the memory of his fall was preventing Taz from healing fully.

In October 2003 Heidi began intensive healing sessions, with the hope of gradually restoring Taz back to full health, even if several years of treatment were required to achieve this. Her plan after rehabilitating him was to someday use Taz as a "teacher" for her training courses, allowing her students to practice Reiki techniques on him. However, Taz had other ideas! He responded extremely well to treatment, and his movement became much more coordinated and energetic, and his true character began to shine through. He started sending clear signals that he was back in action and ready for some excitement. Where previously he had been lacklustre and avoided unnecessary movement, he now began cantering laps of his field, and moved up a gear to flat out gallop if any of his companions joined in and tried to pass him out. "The turning point came one day when he arrived back in the yard by himself after jumping out over the rails of his field," Heidi remembers. She felt that this was a huge achievement for him, both physically and emotionally.

It soon became clear that Taz would not be a suitable candidate for Reiki practice on Heidi's courses, as he would only allow Heidi and another Reiki teacher, Mary K. Hayden, to treat him. By late spring/ early summer 2004, Taz was brimming with life and seemed to be getting bored without any focus for his energy. Although Heidi and her husband Philip had never in their wildest dreams imagined that Taz would race again, it became obvious that he was ready and willing to return to his old career.

Ballyday Taz with members of the Equine Reiki Sydicate, after winning the Nenagh point to point.

After much deliberation, and several visits from the chiropractor, Taz returned to training in June 2004 under the careful management of the Equine Reiki syndicate (members include Heidi and Philip Sheane, and Mary and John Hayden). A naturally athletic horse, he only needed one gallop per day to maintain his fitness. Any more than that and he immediately lost condition. His competitive streak returned, and whilst out on gallops he refused to tolerate any position other than leading the other horses. When he had first arrived at the Horse Therapy Centre, his tendency to weave was extreme - he would sway from side to side, drenched in sweat, and he was also inclined to box walk. Now that he had regained his enthusiasm for racing, all of his previous stable vices disappeared.

In October 2004, Taz made his comeback at the Shillelagh and District point-to-point race. He came very close to winning, but lost some ground over a downhill jump - his bad fall had been over a similar jump - and finished in second place, one length behind the winner. His success was particularly fitting as the race ground was close to his first home, and his original owner, and many of his family and friends, recognised Taz and could hardly believe it was the same horse! In January of this year, Taz not only won the Nenagh point-to-point race, but did so in the fastest time of all the horses competing there that day. He finished in second place at the Punchestown race in February, narrowly beaten by a horse 4 years younger than he is. His confidence has increased dramatically since his race in Shillelagh and it is clear that he has overcome any negative memories that jumping may have held. Taz returns home regularly for periodic Reiki and pampering sessions, and has become a much-loved member of the Sheane family.

"He constantly surprised me," remarks Heidi as she reflects back over the past year and a half. When she took on this challenge, she never imagined that Taz would return to form in such a spectacular manner, and generously attributes the degree of success to Taz's indomitable spirit.



About the author:

Caroline Madden is a freelance equestrian writer living in Ireland, writing for publications such as Ireland's Equestrian Magazine and The Irish Field. Favourite activities include hunter trials and showjumping on Chancer, a brilliant little black cob, kindly on loan to her by his owner. She can be reached at


For more information:

Horse Therapy Center
Ballynabarney, Wicklow, Ireland
Phone: +00 353 404 64434

The Horse Therapy Centre in Wicklow, Ireland was established in 2002 by Heidi and Philip Sheane to offer a complementary Holistic Healing Treatment service for horses in Ireland. The Horse Therapy Centre's staff use a number of therapies to attune a horse so that treatment may be tailored to its particular needs.