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11.9.2022 The Ripple Effect

“A ripple effect occurs when an initial disturbance to a system propagates outward to disturb an increasingly larger portion of the system, like ripples expanding across the water when an object is dropped into it.” Wikipedia September 2022

“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.” Wikipedia September 2022

The news of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II was in some ways a shock, and in other ways not. Each of us will have our own individual emotions in response to the loss of an incredible monarch. I mourn the Queen with a mixture of sadness and gratitude, as I know do many of you. Sadness that the world has lost such a person. Gratitude that it happened the way it did, with minimal suffering (at least that I am aware of). Sadness that we will never again see a new picture of the Queen with one of her horses. Gratitude that her support of Monty Roberts and his work ultimately allowed me to do the work that I do.

Every so often I read a post on social media about how an act of kindness can spread far and wide. It’s impossible to know what effect your behaviour will have in wider circles. You have probably heard of the ripple effect, or the butterfly effect. I find this a powerful motivator to be the best version of myself. One of my favourite poems is ‘Smile’ by Spike Milligan:

“Smiling is infectious

You catch it like the flu

When someone smiled at me today

I started smiling too

I walked around the corner

And someone saw me grin

When he smiled I realised

I had passed it on to him

I thought about the smile

And then realised its worth

A single smile like mine

Could travel round the earth

So if you feel a smile begin

Don’t leave it undetected

Start an epidemic

And get the world infected”

Many years ago, the Queen invited Monty Roberts to work with some of her horses. She liked what she saw, and she encouraged Monty to do demonstrations in the UK. Several years later, a dear friend of mine, the late Vera Lacey, took me to one of these demonstrations. What I saw fascinated me. Eventually, I was lucky enough to enrol on the Monty Roberts Preliminary Certificate of Horsemanship course at Witney College in Oxfordshire. This was a 10 week course taught largely by Kelly Marks (www.intelligenthorsemanship. After completing the course, I took what I had learned into my work as a freelance groom and rider. More and more of my work became training horses, young and old, both in hand and ridden. As the demand for horse training rose, and the Intelligent Horsemanship Association came into being, I registered as an Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Trainer. I loved my work.

Gradually, I began to recognise that many of the ridden problems I was seeing seemed to be linked to physical issues. I was not, at this point, qualified in physical therapy of any kind with horses, but I had always had an interest in it. When I was 18yrs old, my own mare received physiotherapy for hind suspensory damage. At the time, physiotherapy was a relatively new profession in the equine field. I completed an ITEC diploma in anatomy, physiology and massage for fun in my early 20s, just because I was interested in the subject. I am a huge fan of massage, and my enthusiasm for that therapy grew when dad treated me and mum to a spa weekend as a reward for graduating with a BSc from the Open University. Over the years, I learned Equine Touch, did my Reiki level 1 and 2, completed an ITEC diploma in Sports Massage, and enjoyed a year-long hands-on healing course at a local college.

I might not have understood much about the connections between mind and body, but instinctively I knew how important they were. I can still picture the bay gelding who really clinched the deal for me, in terms of persuading me to go back to university to study Physiotherapy. He was a bolter, and his owner called me to assess him and to advise how to work with him, in my roles as an Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Trainer and BHSAI. I watched the owner work with him on the ground, including lungeing. On the lunge on the right rein, I could see the point of hip on both his left and his right side, because his right hip was dropped so low. On the left rein, his quarters were much more level. I knew nothing about how this might be linked to bolting, but I did know that a horse’s movement should be relatively symmetrical. I advised that the horse be checked out physically, and to call me again once the problem had been resolved. A few weeks later I went back to the supposedly ‘fixed’ horse, to see exactly the same pattern of movement. I decided, if you want a job done properly, do it yourself!

The next summer, I was taking some time out (read – escaping for a while!), and working at summer camp in Maine, New England (author’s note – if you’re considering working at Summer Camp in the USA – do it! Amazing experience in so many ways!). The attitude of ‘You can do anything you put your mind to’ rubbed off on me, and at 28yrs old, I applied to go to university to study Physiotherapy.

The rest is history… do you see what I mean about the ripple effect?! Without the Queen’s support of Monty Roberts, these opportunities wouldn’t have arisen in this way. It was through the Intelligent Horsemanship Association and the Monty Roberts demonstrations that I met my ex-husband, and our son Philip is my world. Without the knowledge, experience and connections that I gained along the way, I wouldn’t have written ‘Horse Massage for Horse Owners’, or ‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’. I wouldn’t be co-authoring ‘Recognising Pain in Ridden Horses: Performance, Partnership and Potential’ with Dr Sue Dyson.

There is so much to be grateful for. You never know what’s round the corner. You never know what effect your words or actions might have on someone, or on someone connected to that someone. Be kind. Smile, it’s infectious.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

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September 11, 2022
Sue Palmer