He doesn’t call himself a horse whisperer, and in fact it’s quite the opposite: The horses do the talking and for Tom Mayes of Lotus, the message is loud and clear.
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“She’s talking to me now,” said Mayes as he ran confident, sure hands over the shoulder of a copper-colored chestnut Arabian mare standing in the front yard of his home. “This shoulder is really stuck, indicating possible frontal trauma and causing the spine to be affected, which leads to other troubles, like with the stomach.”
As Mayes, 57, put moderate finger-pressure on the 22-year-old mare Baskette’s backbone, the horse flinched smartly and quickly side-stepped. Explaining what he was doing with rapid descriptions that defied the writer’s notebook, Mayes took about 10 minutes to put Baskette through a series of prodding diagnoses, smooth, flowing rubs and gentle but firm pushes to get the mare’s body “back to base,” as Mayes put it.
Grabbing the Arabian by the top row of her teeth and firmly holding the grip, the mare calmed and stood quietly as Mayes ended the treatment. Pressing on the horse’s spine in the same spot that earlier had caused Baskette to nearly jump out of her skin, the mare stood quietly in the shade.
“And now, see how her stomach lifts, as it should, with my touch,” the horse listener said.
Mayes, with the assistance of wife Yolanda, will share his expertise at osteopathy as it applies to horses during the 16th annual Western States Horse Expo set for June 13-15 in Sacramento.
Tom and Yolanda will not only present informational demos during the nationally acclaimed expo, but will actually have a live demonstration with an intriguing and unique prop.
“We’re going to take a white horse and paint the body organs on it,” said Yolanda, 53, smiling at the prospect. “We’ll be able to more easily explain the work Tom does with the horses, which I do professionally with people.”
Tom grew up around horses, but never developed an affinity for their personalities until about 14 years ago, when the majestic animals began speaking more and more clearly to his increasingly receptive ears.
“My daughter brought a horse home in the late 1990s and I didn’t even know how to put a halter on,” recalled Tom. “But I learned that horses are ‘clear,’ they’re more honest than people, more present. People tend to hide stuff a lot better and with horses their speaking is more obvious.”
By the time a horse became a part of the family, Tom was ready to hear their wisdom. And it’s largely because of a tick bite.
“I came down with Lyme’s disease 14 years ago and it was a journey through hell at first,” he said. “There’s no standard way to treat it, with the symptoms manifested in so many ways, including heart palpitations, painful joints, disorientation, flu-like symptoms, deep depression. So many people go undiagnosed because of the nature of Lyme’s.”
Because he was in such misery, Tom and Yolanda, who have been married 32 years, began exploring alternative medicines and treatments, coming across the knowledge that allows them to help others today.
“It wasn’t a simple recipe to beat Lyme’s disease; it involved detoxifying and a combo of homeopathic remedies,” said Tom. “You have to get rid of something bad and then reset the blood vessels and nerves into healthy cohesiveness.”
The long search for an answer to his pain and ill health involved visits with multiple traditional doctors and other health professionals, but it wasn’t until they found osteopathy and concomitant practices that the tide started turning, the couple said.
“We built a bonfire with the literature and pills (that didn’t work) about six or seven years ago when I started feeling OK again, and we came out on this side of the journey,” said Tom. “I guess it was a blessing in a way.”
Running the business, called Integrated Equine Therapies, the Mayeses seek to make their form of medicine better understood, conceding that it’s not yet considered mainstream or standard.
“We love the work. It’s kind of a combination of me working on the person who fell off the horse and Tom working on the horse,” said Yolanda to illustrate their professional relationship.
“We’re independent but our practices come together,” added Tom, who began his work with horses prior to his wife’s entry into the field of osteopathy. “I explain to people all the time how to work with inner organs — on the outside of the body — and Yolanda innately has that gift. She’s empathetic; she can fine-tune the anatomy, and that dovetailed nicely with my work.”
Craniosacral is one of the modalities involved, for which Yolanda took a course and made a complete transition into osteopathy. Formerly she was a secretary at Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs.
Even though their type of practice has yet to be widely accepted, Tom says he understands, and even embraces, that way of thinking.
“I’m a born skeptic myself,” he said. “I have to be shown over and over again that something works. I’m skeptical by nature — but I’m also open to new ideas.”
Because osteopathy, which is the practice of moving, stretching and massaging muscles and joints to help the body heal itself, is not initially sought by a majority of folks, Tom often is consulted as a sort of last resort.
That’s just fine, Tom said.
“Actually I enjoy being able to save the situation (after others have tried),” he said, eyes twinkling as he added, “I use really high-tech tools — my fingers.
“I work the organs, which are the primary cause of lameness in a horse because form follows function,” he added. “If the organs are irritated, everything else is held hostage. I can affect the organs with the precision use of my hands, with deep tissue palpitation skills. If you can unwind the blood vessels and nerves, getting them back where they belong, you are working at world-class level.”
Judging from Baskette’s contented demeanor as she stepped back over toward Tom, seeming to seek more of his magic touch following the afternoon treatment, osteopathy works wonders.
During the Western States Horse Expo at the Cal Expo Fairgrounds, 1600 Exposition Blvd. in Sacramento, Yolanda will help Tom by handling the animals used in demonstrations and to help interpret his rapid-fire speaking, which picks up speed as the obvious excitement he feels toward his practice takes over.
“I’ll be there to slow him down,” she said with another smile.
The couple attends horse shows and other events frequently to promote and explain their osteopathy practice, but they are particularly excited about attending the Western States Horse Expo.
“This is the big one,” said Tom. “This helps us move forward, which is what we want to do — because this (osteopathy) gets great results.”
Tom Mayes may be reached at 530-417-1694 or visit IntegratedEquineTherapies.com.
The Western States Horse Expo, which runs from 9 a.m-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, features dozens of other horse experts and champions, including Bob Avila, winner of 37 World Championships/Reserve Championships. Cutting edge products and information for avid horse lovers also will be featured, including the latest in nutritional advances and horse-and-rider biomechanics.
Horse fans, it would behoove you to check it out.