« Bwa Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!! | Main | The Journalism Biz is "Frighteningly Male" »

April 27, 2014

The Equine Experience

The idea behind the Equine Experience at Miraval near Tucson is for participants to learn to manage anxiety and tension by cleaning a horse’s hoof.

So writes a journalist for the NYT, describing a tour of Arizona's tony spa resorts. Read out loud to the Editorial Staff over coffee and a cinnamon roll this morning by the spousal unit, it confirmed our instinctive take on fancy spas, which mostly consists of a lot of talking about going to a spa "someday" without ever actually doing anything about it.

Our fave passage:

The extravagance of the experience almost felt silly, like when she set down a path of towels from the massage table to the tub so my feet wouldn’t have to touch the floor. Then there was the inevitable upsell. She asked if I wanted to “enhance” my service with a scalp massage for $25. I declined. The massage ended with her placing the crystal on my forehead in a symbolic gesture for clarity. “Your third eye,” she said.

We saved Miraval for our last stop, knowing it would probably be the most memorable, given its reputation as the place where Oprah and Ellen go to recharge. We started our first of two days and nights there with the famed Equine Experience. The point was not to learn to ride the horse but to treat him as a kind of therapist. We were skeptical of the abilities of a horse to teach us much about dealing with anxiety, tension or resolving conflicts. But it ended up being quite a revealing two hours.

After a quick stop at the juice and smoothie bar, which is free to guests and one of the better perks we enjoyed on our trip, the staff packed eight of us into a van and drove us off the grounds of the resort to its stables. The first thing we noticed after taking our seats in a little circle was the Kleenex box. Carolyn, our guide, assured us that it was O.K. if we didn’t cry.

The way it worked was Carolyn showed us how to squeeze the back of the horse’s leg in just the right spot to get him to lift his hoof so we could then scrape it with a little cleaning tool. This took some perseverance and patience, since the horse usually responds to cues from the human’s body language. So if you aren’t confident, attentive and careful, the horse just ignores you.

Carolyn chided Brendan after he started laughing nervously at his inability to get the horse to respond. “Laughter is just a defense mechanism, and it solves nothing,” she told him. Re-approach the horse and communicate what you want. It worked.

Once I got my horse to lift his foot, he started to struggle. My impulse was to let go of him. But Carolyn said to stick with it. Just like any conflict, you want to see it through. Then it came time to walk the horse. I guided him out into the middle of the ring. Then he stopped suddenly. What did I do wrong, I wondered urgently? What character flaw did he detect in me? Nothing, it turned out. He just had to relieve himself.

Who knew true inner peace could be achieved by paying a few hundred bucks to scrape meadow muffins off the hoof of a horse who is totally NOT judging you?

Stop laughing, O Unenlightened Ones. Laughter is just a defense mechanism.

It doesn't solve anything.

Posted by Cassandra at April 27, 2014 11:34 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


*snort snort*


I would never laugh at you. I only laugh with you.
You were laughing, right?

Posted by: DL Sly at April 27, 2014 12:31 PM

Thanks for daily laugh!
and morons *are* Paying for this!
. . . one born every minute . . .

though, oddly, I'll admit I find that simple chores like dishwashing are relaxing.

Posted by: CAPT Mike at April 27, 2014 09:30 PM

I will happily charge anyone large sums of money for Equine Therapy.

Feed Therapy: On your first day you will purchase the horses' feed, and stack it in the hay house. Please note, psyllium, mineral oil and COB mix are part of their regular diet.

Grooming Therapy: Your second day will consist of bathing, brushing and combing of the horses. We will also teach you the basics of being a farrier.

Saddle Therapy: Today we will learn the proper care and repair of several saddle types. English. western, and pack.

Training Therapy:...

Posted by: Allen at April 28, 2014 03:18 AM

I forgot, at the end, you receive the secret.

The horse, the saddle, the rider.

Posted by: Allen at April 28, 2014 03:25 AM

My first thought on hearing the hoof scraping therapy was, "Sacre bleu! These folks are marketing geniuses!"

They've figure out how to charge wealthy people to do jobs they would otherwise have to pay someone to do.

I'm waiting for the "Spend two hours cleaning hotel rooms" therapy.

Posted by: Cass at April 28, 2014 08:40 AM

The other hilarious conflict in the article was the little signs guests were encouraged to hang on their hotel doors:

"I CHOOSE to reuse my linens and 'terry products' to conserve water..."

...followed by placing perfectly clean 'terry products' on the floor so no one's bare feet will be sullied by the [almost certainly clean] tile. How much you want to bet they wash those towels after every use?

Posted by: Cass at April 28, 2014 08:43 AM

Yes. Laughter is a defense mechanism.

My laughing at you prevents me from slappy you silly and having to hire a defense lawyer.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 28, 2014 08:58 AM


Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at April 28, 2014 08:59 AM

P.T. Barnum certainly knew these people well.

Posted by: MikeD at April 28, 2014 10:12 AM

It is funny, but think of the contrast between doing these infant-level horse-care tasks and what the author and her set are used to filling their days with. It probably does them a world of good to interact with a powerful creature that's not interested in their ambivalent, self-conscious BS, only in their ability to communicate clearly and follow through. If it also cleans up some hooves, so much the better.

No doubt it was an early sign of pathological alienation, but I vividly remember that my favorite chore to be assigned at Girl Scout Camp was mucking out the horse stables, which made hugely more sense to me than the mandatory social activities. People who have no clue how to interact with other people can respond very well to being shown how to interact with animals. Prisons and drug-rehab centers have had good results with this.

It certainly beats touching the forehead with a crystal or obsessing over the potential contamination of floors. Or--Heaven help us--vapid seminars and slogans. It's simple, honorable activity with a humble, benign purpose.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 28, 2014 10:54 AM

I don't know, YAG, I kinda liked "slappy".

Posted by: DL Sly at April 28, 2014 12:18 PM

"The point was not to learn to ride the horse but to treat him as a kind of therapist."

A kitten would be much more effective.

Surely this story is further proof that fools and their money are soon parted.

But that lead to the question: why are these fools so rich?

Texan99: You have reached Enlightenment. Maybe they need to package the "dude-ranch" thing in that New-Age mumbo-jumbo so the guests will feel important. If you asked one of then to just go clean a horse's hoof, they'd think you were crazy.

Posted by: ZZMike at April 28, 2014 09:03 PM

It's great you picked out a hoof. Now ride, and see what you learn.

Posted by: Grim at April 28, 2014 11:52 PM