November 30, 2021

Sweeney stable embraces alternative care

A healing hand

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

At the Sweeney barn, from left, Sara Knobel of Groton, Linda Sweeney of Summerhill and Colleen Hanly-Price of Solon with Jaxon the horse.

SUMMERHILL — Colleen Hanly-Price’s grandparents got her a pony when she was 4.

That was it for her. The Solon woman has made horses an integral part of her world for much of her life.

“They are amazing creatures,” Hanly-Price said. “They give us so much more than we give to them. They are teachers. They can teach us calm. They can teach us communication. They can teach us quiet leadership.”

Today Hanly-Price, a riding instructor and reiki practitioner, works part time at Sweeney’s Irish Spring Farm. She also is a paid firefighter with the Cortland Fire Department.

She and several others who board their horses at the Summerhill farm use alternative training and healing methods, in addition to traditional methods.

Irish spring farm

Linda and Shaun Sweeney own the 54-acre farm, which has outdoor and indoor riding rings and a horse barn, home to 11 horses.

“Lin” Sweeney, a retired nurse and riding instructor, owns two horses and boards the rest.

“The purpose of the farm is education,” Sweeney said. “We do clinics. We have instructors here, besides myself. We bring people in from all over the country to (teach) clinics.”

Three longtime instructors there are Sweeney, Hanly-Price, and Sara Knobel of Groton, all who teach centered riding, where riders focus on controlling their bodies to better communicate with animals.

Giving horses a chance

The three also have adopted horses that others have given up on. A fellow was ready to euthanize three horses after his wife, their owner, died. The women took them in.

Hanly-Price has a blind horse, is leasing another horse from a friend, and just acquired 14-year-old Jaxon, who has bounced around six homes.

Sweeney is working with Button, who has a hind leg injury and Knobel owns Rosie, one of the mares who was going to be put down.

“As long as they can have a quality of life, we can keep them comfortable and they can have a purpose, they can stay with us,” Hanly-Price said.

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

Hannah Wilson of Homer uses Horse Speak to work with Button at the Irish Spring Farm in Summerhill.

Complementary care

The three encourage several alternative techniques on horses:

  • Horse Speak, a way to talk to horses in their language.
  • Healing Touch for Animals, a system using energy work, sound and touch to help the animals relax.
  • Reiki, an energy treatment that fosters relaxation and comfort.
  • The Masterson Method, a massage method for horses.

Relaxation releases endorphins and relaxes muscles, which increases circulation and a host of other functions that promote healing and health, Hanly-Price said.

These practices all come with rigorous certifications and they can get pricey to obtain, Hanly-Price said. Healing Touch can cost as much as $5,000 to learn.

The trainers also use a vet’s traditional care, Hanly-Price said.

The American Holistic Veternarian Medical Association describes holistic medicine as “humane to the core. … Its techniques are minimally invasive and incorporate the patient’s wellbeing and stress reduction,” according to a 2019 report in “The Horse.”

One of the neighboring horses, Miko, a 14-year-old Appaloosa, was lame about a year and a half ago.

“His owner did traditional things with him,” Hanly-Price said. “He had a fracture in his front leg.”

The vet said to wait. The animal was on anti-inflammatories. The owner asked Hanley-Price: “I know you can do this stuff. Can you come down and work with him?”

Hanly-Price started doing reiki with him. The owner noticed Miko stopped limping. The limping would return in a couple of days. Hanly-Price continued reiki and then Sue Ellwin, another practictitioner, did Healing Touch.

The vet re-X-rayed him and was impressed. “He had rehealed the bone. There’s a good possibility he will go back to light riding this year,” Price-Hanly said.

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

Colleen Hanly-Price with Jaxon at Irish Spring Farm in Summerhill.

Horses are lovely

Jackie Hartnett of Truxton, a 4-H horse educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, owns a horse and teaches children at Cooperative Extension all about the animal, how to ride, feed and care for it.

They don’t delve into alternative practices, she said. Kids are learning the basics. But 4-H Kids have been to the Sweeney barn for community service projects.

Now 63, Hartnett has owned a horse since she was 8. She and her daughter both enjoy the animal. “The horse has always been in our family. You get a relationship with them. The animals themselves are very smart,” Hartnett said. “I love to take care of them, love to ride them.”

Caring for them creates a special relationship, she said.

Horse speak and Healing Touch

Hannah Wilson of Homer, a student of Hanly-Price, uses Horse Speak to communicate with Button, her favorite horse.

“I’ve been working with Horse Speak a couple of years. It’s changed the way I interact with horses,” Wilson said. She uses hand gestures and sounds that mimic other horses to move Button around the ring.

“There are nights we are here, only two of us,” she said. “I am listening to her and (she to me). We get completely in sync.”

Hanly-Price has owned horses for 18 years, since she returned to the area. She is working with her second blind horse, Tye, and has a “new” horse, Jaxon, 14, who bounced through six homes. She’s used Healing Touch and Horse Speak on Tye because he was so antsy.

“Now he’s settled down. We can ride him,” she said.

“I started doing reiki — energy healing — that had a good (result) with a blind horse, Ginger, who passed last year,” Hanly-Price said. “At the same time, my Arabian gelding, Tye, 26 this year, was going to be blind in one year. Now he’s used to blindness. He’s doing work in the arena: walking and trotting. He’ll be back to full work, trail work (and arena work soon). That’s the goal for him, to keep him happy and busy, well into 40. They like to have a purpose. They like to have a job.”

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

Colleen Hanly-Price with Max at Irish Spring Farm in Summerhill.

All the horses, save Button, are trail ready, able to have a rider, Hanly-Price said. Tye included.

Ruth O’Lill of Cortland, a reiki instructor, puts energy through touch on Button’s neck, throat and hip, areas she senses Button needs to relax. She works on three other horses at the barn.

Knobel boards her horses Cooper and Rosie at the stable. She is a reiki master and is trained in the Masterson Method.

“It takes away stress and tension of the body. It’s amazing … It’s kind of like getting your body reset. Horses, they can’t talk. They can’t say, ‘I wrenched myself and my hip is sore.’ They hide it,” Knobel said. “I help them focus on the area that is tense and help them relax. There’s a lot of healing going on here.”