Catherine Dachtler is a qualified Sports massage therapsit IIHHT ITec (Equine) VTCT.
In her early 20’s Catherine took a long holiday to the island of Mauritius. What started as a break away from working with horses, ended up with her continuing her ‘work’ whilst briefly supporting the rehabilitation from race horse to riding horse for Remi Barrot, the previously acclaimed French, International Showjumper. She had left the UK to have a break from horses as they had been her whole life, it was all she had ever known and she felt she needed to see what life would be without the thunder of hooves and sweet grassy breath daily, the filthy clothes, the bruises and aches and pains and the every increasing heart aches that naturally come with the rise and falls of owning and working with horses.
However, as you can probably guess, like most Batty Equestrians two days after being on a tropical island, doing what most of us do, you may guess, she didn’t visit the beach as she probably should have done owning that bikini with the brown tan line arms accompanied with the spindly white equestrian legs, yet instead, obviously for most, she went to visit what was then the main riding school in Mauritius.
Previously, whilst working within the equestrian industry it had become apparent and recognised that as capable as Catherine’s riding and handling skills were, she also had a notable natural eye and feel for horses that many couldn’t explain, she could often see and feel horses hiding areas of tension, yet not showing lameness but demonstrating behavioural problems or degrees of unbalanced, or intermittent unexplained gait lameness as us non veterinarian surgeons may call it. She realised that she had a knack of locating areas of blocked energy, areas of tension, restriction and likely pain many years before she studied and really understood the complicated biomechanics of the horse. Her riding and strategies in schooling often helped these sticky horses become unstuck, but there was still more to come in her ever increasing unpredictable future.
This ability she had, to truly understand the horse, led to her working with racehorses, particularly those who showed problematic symptoms which hindered their retraining as riding horses. This is where the seeds of The Mindful Touch were already being sown and Catherine used this mindful method to provide the extra attention some horses needed in order to recover, retrain and rehabilitate (mind and body!) and from here she went on to make a natural change of direction in her career from exercising, handling and rather successfully competing client’s horses in the UK to making the slightly magical process of extending her understanding of herself, her feel, and her hands abilities to massaging horses, which may have never have happened had she not have made the radical move to Mauritius to what should have been the break to give up the four leggeds became the catapault to her lifes purpose of helping as many horses as she can.
This is one of Catherine’s notable stories of how she discovered her purpose:
“One particular horse that had retired from racing and was in training to rehabilitate to riding horse was extreme in his behaviour with very severe aggression – he was very unsafe to be around in the box and would dangerously lunge at anyone entering, immediately attacking with teeth and legs with a view to biting or kicking – he was extremely dangerous, probably only the 2nd most dangerous horse id ever met, and ive met some!
I watched him for a while, being ridden, only the biggest boldest handler could intimidate him enough to have him standing at the back of his box shivering to be able to tack him up. I watched him bolting in the huge arena and saw him having to be ran literally into the fencing to be able to be pulled up – somehow, this didn’t seem to fit with the deeper personality, the aura, the eye of this horse because I knew underlying in him he had a nature that was not natural to what was now being seen as the most severe aggression. I knew in my blood and my being this behaviour had manifested from an underlying state of fear & confusion, he was a very misunderstood horse. He if not physically was mentally in a lot of pain.
So I, and the very strong, brave, bulshy groom just about managed to secure him in the back of his box again. It took me atleast 20 minutes of trepidation to gain some form of low level connection and trust. Trust, just enough to allow me to very slowly, manage to stroke his shoulder in a rhythm, we then led him outside into the sunshine where I thought he would feel more at ease. Working from his shoulder again, I managed to gently knead (I didn’t really know it was massage that I was doing at the time) up to his poll area to just behind his ears.
For some reason and I cannot explain this, he went from wanting to bite, strike, kick, and leap forward and back again, to now, he wanted to lower his head and ultimately relax… I whispered to the groom to let out the rope, to give him his head – his nose wanted to come to the floor, mutual trust – Essential, between all 3 of us at this point, which still gives me goosebumps now as he could have literally killed us had his head have shot up again, his nose touched the floor – something changed there and then – they called it hocus pocus, i still dont really know what to call it, i logically, yet also spiritually followed my hand, thats all i did. The horses’ eye looked at UP at me, differently. I could feel the handler ease his grip on the rope. His beautiful head came up, slowly, he stepped forward, i braced, but, he was moving to balance and to stand square. All of a suddenly WE had a relationship. A connection. Little did i know it would go on to inspire me more than any moment id ever had before with horses.
It took only moments really, from here I was able to stroke him properly and use (what I call) a light grape pressure massage, infact all i was doing was grooming lightly with my hands & I did so all over his body and he stood simply. We were all amazed, he had gained my trust and intentions and that is how I got recognised in Mauritius for this skill (AKA hocus pocus) that I didn’t really even know I had. Id saved a life!
Slowly he came back into work, we went on to train him as a show jumper, not a riding club horse and after 8 weeks of further rehab and schooling plans by me and the team he was sold to the next island as a showjumper, and i was so sad as i had hoped to bring him back to the UK, yet i was also so pleased, how bitter sweet looking back now. #fortheloveofthehorse
What was extraordinary was that I gathered his information much later than my initial meeting and 2 weeks with him, i hadnt given him a name, just ‘little horse’ (Remi and i had previously had a deal on this horses head, that if i couldnt retrain him within 2 weeks, if there was no improvement, i had to give it up as a bad job!) well, who would believe when i saw his passport i saw his true name, his racing name was FightForLove and it was, TRULY the Fight for Love that changed my confidence in my purpose, and he, still, continues to influence me, my intentions and my purpose every day, to this day.”
Upon eventually returning to the UK, after riots and troubles in Mauritius, Catherine started to study human massage (which became 6yrs since Mauritius with child birth in the middle) she went on to study a then, new course in the UK, the Equine Sports Massage International qualification and was lucky enough to secure a place with Mary Bromley MBE. It was a very intense course in Equine Massage and Catherine was one of the first to hold this qualification in the UK.