I met Suzanne in 2004 during a phone survey that she was conducting for Feldenkrais practitioner Paris Kern; I had visited Paris a few times for functional integration.
Since then I have taken innumerable Feldy Lessons, as I call them, at her home in Chadds Ford, in various workshops and now on zoom, which I love by the way! (I am always on time.) I have taken many riding lessons with Suzanne as well as learn some in-hand over the years.
I can’t imagine a better combination of training and continuing education for the equestrian. Suzanne has a real gift for finding issues in my body and those in my horse that could use Feldenkrais attention. Often with slight changes, a demonstration of movement in me or in my thoroughbred Sunny, we have made dramatic improvements.
To be clear, I am a trail rider, plain and simple! I have no aspirations for competitive riding of any type. But I do want to ride as well as I can and do what’s best for my horse. I have been riding since I was very young and showed in the Pennsylvania Junior Circuit. Leisurely, safe riding in Beaver Valley of Northern Delaware and southeast Pennsylvania is what I now love. (With a few slow paperchases thrown in during the spring and fall.)
And now, so many years later, Sunny is 22, I am 70. I was thrilled to discover that Suzanne was offering classes on zoom during the Covid Pandemic. She has an equestrian podcast too.
I had a total knee replacement on November 23, 2020. And while the surgery and physical therapy went great and I was back in the saddle and on the trails on February 1, 2021, things were off. I didn’t feel fully integrated. I cautiously proceeded with Feldenkrais lessons, not quite sure what I could and could not do. (Full knee rehabilitation isn’t complete until 10-12 months.)
Suzanne was very understanding and always had suggestions for me to adjust the lesson, all the while taking care of myself. Literally within two lessons I felt like my old self, a full connected body! Of course maintaining that wonderful feeling requires regular Feldy work. I keep a diary of our lessons and often repeat them, in whole or partially, throughout the week.
This summer, after I felt comfortable my new knee, I decided to focus on other body parts needing attention. In particular my shoulders were killing me. Just two visits to Suzanne for Functional Integration (private lessons on her table and other slow movements off the table), and I was back on the road to success. My posture had been excessively upright, shoulders forced back and up. That led to so much strain in my upper body. I conscientiously practiced walking correctly and in particular, relaxing my shoulders … All The Time! I was pain-free, with a relaxed upper body within a few weeks. And the bonus? If things go south again, I know what to do! Suzanne literally helped me reverse a life long bad habit.
I would recommend Suzanne DeStefano’s Feldenkrais lessons and Functional Integration to everyone! And if you are a rider, the combination of getting your body working correctly with your improved horse, through lessons with Suzanne, is simply amazing. Life suddenly becomes so much easier. And finally if you are a barn manager, having Suzanne teach riding at your barn is wonderful for your boarders, leasers, students AND horses. I urge you to consider a series of workshops that combine riding, in-hand work and Feldenkrais lessons and/or Functional integration. Whether you are a beginner or advanced eventer, Suzanne is the best instructor you could hope for! Don’t believe me? Well try her out for a few lessons. If you are willing to listen and adjust, you will not be disappointed!
“I’m someone that gave up riding because I felt like I was always nagging my horse. Thanks to Suzanne, I’ve started riding again and I’m much happier in the saddle.
Lengthening my spine and finding myself over my legs has made me feel like one continuous unit. Until I felt connected from head to toes, I didn’t realize that sitting back in the saddle had caused me to feel and operate as if I were two separate pieces-disconnecting my legs from my pelvis. I’m more secure in the saddle, feel more connected to my horse’s movements and my aids are clearer. . . and instead of nagging, I’m giving my horse space to respond for a more pleasant conversation.” -Joan Adelman“I got to ride Aslan yesterday. Very interesting.To back up: I had morning chores as usual — where I “walk the earth” for about 45 minutes brining horses in. As I walked, I was mindful of allowing my sacrum to drop. I could feel the release and recognize it from what we did in session. From there, the rest of my brain/body just sort of wanted to reorganize itself all the way up.The most interesting thing that I noticed from allowing The Drop, is that my hips leveled out to a good degree without any force or readjustment on my part. My walking felt less heavy/shuffling. And much more efficient.So back to the saddle: same thing happened there too. What you and I worked on is still similar to what I located last week. But much less “EFFORT” was required. No grunting or holding. The simple drop of that plumb line made a good counter resistance and resulted in balance. For the first time, Aslan and I were able to stay in sync for a longer period of time. Even at the trot — if either of us fell out of balance, we managed to get back together without having to transition down to the walk. So now I am finding balance AND no pulling. I was also able to modulate the tempo by increasing and decreasing the tone. Both of us are very pleased with ourselves!” -Jenni Vance
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Suzanne (from the bottom of my seat) lol.I am a very grateful student of hers.The combination of her wisdom,experience and feldenkrais have taught me and helped me more with my riding than anyone else has in my 39 years of riding.As a result I have been able to find a better relationship with my horse,my seat and truly feel and enjoy every stride in the saddle but doing remarkably less!-Maria Vandegrift
My horse, Callie, wouldn’t go forward from my leg or with a tap of the dressage whip. She would stand in the ring and kick at my leg if I attempted to ask or push her into a trot. Suzanne’s approach is quiet with no drama, plenty of explanation and going just past the horse’s comfort zone to ensure progress After only a few lessons she is moving more comfortably, efficiently and “balanced”. I am learning to feel when Callie is “balanced” and straight to make the upward transition to the trot easy for her. Also, Suzanne has changed my position to allow Callie to do her job and taught me not to be so busy with corrections. I am finally developing a “feel” for what Callie is doing instead of just riding. I am fully confident with Suzanne’s help I will have my horse and partner back. Suzanne is a wonderful teacher and can help the horse and rider at all levels-Julie Huston
As you well know I suffer from severe “Planatar Faciitis” a disease of the foot where the bones move, the foot rotates, and arthritis develops between the joints in my feet. Without your lessons, I would be unable to move or walk. Even the lessons involving the twisting of the torso helped me in walking and carrying myself as well as eliminating the pain under the shoulder blades. The “Feldy elves” do wonders in rewiring my system at night. These little guys can explore and initiate nerve circuits all over. I have had the pain in my feet create pain in my knees, and lower back because the pain in my feet force my body to compensate by transmitting the gravitational forces incorrectly through the joints.
Since I am old (well older than you) and have been pretty restricted in my mobility, I have found that the ATMs and FIs we have done have re-awakened my nervous system permitting me to walk normally, well, as best as I can, with minimal discomfort. Obviously, nothing can cure my affliction, but the Feldenkais work has made a big difference in total flexibility of my torso as well as my limbs. I get out of bed with ease and no pain or stiffness. Now I know it is a continuous process and I am looking forward to further Feldenkrais Inspired lessons. I may get “Inspired” to get back in my dressage saddle.-Dale Wennagel