AUBURN — Ruby the rescue horse wasn’t happy being ridden.

She bucked and reared every time trainer Candy Gleason tried to nudge her into a canter. Her saddle was fine and her legs were OK, but Ruby’s anxious hop-skip signaled something was very wrong.  

“She really almost came right up on me,” Gleason said. “I said, ‘This girl’s in pain.'”

Until, on one recent afternoon, Chris Harris got his hands on her.

The Ayurvedic practitioner gently probed Ruby’s spine, pressing the muscles around her vertebrae with his fingertips until he felt the tension give. Within a few moments, Ruby’s head drooped. Her ears relaxed. Her eyes drifted shut.

“He is,” Gleason pronounced, “a horse god.”

Harris, 37, of South Paris, got his start 22 years ago as a holistic practitioner working with humans whose backs and necks were out of alignment. About 11 years ago, he began to specialize in horseback riders, who develop back and muscle problems from riding and competing. 

But a human is only one part of an equestrian team. 

“I said let’s go ahead and do an experiment,” Harris said. “Let’s see what happens when we work with horses.” 

What happened was he became known for easing their aches and pains, leaving them happier after a few minutes than some have been in years.

“Usually when you turn them out (into the field), they start bucking and kicking and dancing and they jump off the ground,” Harris said. “They crow hop. They do all sorts of activities that are really fun and athletic for them.” 

He now travels to two or three barns a week, mostly in central and western Maine.
He sees multiple horses at each stop.

At Rebecka Campbell’s farm in Auburn one recent afternoon, Harris saw a half dozen horses, including Ruby. All were rescues. Many had the lingering affects of physical abuse or neglect.

Harris ran his fingers down each horse’s spine, pausing to gently press at problem areas. If the light pressure didn’t work to relieve the knot of tension, he rose on his tiptoes for better leverage.

Some were only slightly out of alignment, a little soreness here or there. Others had been dealing with problems that were obviously more painful.

“Ruby, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know,” Gleason said, leaning in to stroke Ruby’s head after the horse’s session with Harris.

Harris first started seeing Campbell’s horses four or five months ago. She’s asked him back every month since to help with new horses or to maintain the ones he’s already worked on.

“They just seem happier; we have like zero behavior issues,” Campbell said. (We used to see) anxiety, a lot from past abuse. Stuff like that. And that usually takes a really long time to work through. It’s almost like with them physically cohesive, all of that stuff falls into place much better.”

Harris, who estimates he’s worked on over 1,000 horses in the past 11 years, still handles human clients, many of them equestrians. He’s found something interesting in horse-and-rider partnerships: Horses’ back problems mirror their riders’ back problems.

“Tempi is a little carbon copy of Rebecka with four legs,” Harris said after working on the horse Campbell rode while recovering from her back injury.

Harris also does animal communication and energy work, teaches yoga and has written a vegan cookbook. And he does back work on other animals, including cows, cats and dogs. But when it comes to animals, he’s probably best known for his work with horses.

Harris charges $100 to see a horse for the first time and $40 for a maintenance session. Travel can cost extra.

Harris doesn’t advertise. All new clients learn about him from other horse people.

Like Gleason.

“It was clear something was not right,” Gleason said of Ruby. “He’s just fixed it. He just aligned her spine. He’s brilliant.”

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].

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