Jenna Marie Townsend
New York City
Jenna Marie Townsend
New York City
I started on the path of a horse trainer. I had a different mindset then; as I got older and learned more, my thinking shifted to healing work. I have a very holistic approach; when I work with horses it is centered on how I help them with their environment and how they interact with their humans.
A lot of people don’t take the time to understand horses and their language. My job is to come in and be the voice of the horse. I help humans and horses have a better relationship. I am a certified equine sports massage therapist. I do sports massage techniques and also bodywork for the horse’s nervous system. It is very subtle and looks a bit boring to watch, but it is fascinating.
My whole thing with horses is to be the change I wish to see in the world. The horse industry is very hard and challenging ; it is cruel sometimes. People have a very traditional way of thinking. So I kind of come in and plant the seed; if there is a better way, why not? Try it. It gives the horse a chance and a choice.
What would you say are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from horses?
To take the time to listen. To put defenses down and get the ego out of the way. To communicate. To be aware of and recognize what the horse is saying. They communicate all the time but we have to be willing to listen and willing to learn what to look out for. Again, it can be very subtle. A lot of the time horses will behave in a way that is “not appropriate” when in reality they are communicating pain, fear or confusion. People will look at that and reprimand them, but instead they need to take a step back and ask: how can I help you? How can I help you understand what I want to do with you? They are the best teachers. The horse will teach you the most.
I read that you had a horse called Babe; what was special about this horse?
I don’t know how she put up with me. I was young and I was stupid. I was twelve or thirteen. When I first saw her I knew she was for me. We saw her, we left; the price was too high, I think. My father decided not to buy her at the time, so we got another horse. Maybe a year or so after, the barn that we were boarding at had an empty stall next to the horse we had; the first one. I asked my dad to see if Babe was still available. Not too long after that, my parents went to the barn to help a friend unload a horse. When we got there, we saw Babe. I was confused. I was expecting a palomino. I lead her into the paddock and took the halter off and then tried to give the halter back to the woman who brought her there but she told me she was my horse.
I was so happy. I never felt like I belonged anywhere; she was the one who made me feel like I had my place, like someone had my back. We grew up together; she taught me a lot. I had that traditional mindset we were talking about before; it was what was taught to me. I was applying it to her; as the years went by I realized it wasn’t the way. She was the one who shifted my thinking. She is the reason why I am on the path of holistic healing. If I had the mindset I have now, back then, I could have done so much for her. I kind of felt bad for a while but I forgave myself, and I think she forgives me too.
What is the relationship between your work with horses and your artwork?
My very first sketches were mostly horses and nature.
Embracing the Calm
I started with horses and did landscape and mountains. Now more than ever, I am in tune with how I want to express myself and the mediums I am most drawn to. I am free-spirited; I want that to be reflected in my work. I want there to be movement and stillness.
How did you choose acrylics?
I am not really sure. I took art classes and worked with oils. As the years progressed, I got used to using acrylics because it dries fast and I get to use different kinds of mediums. I am really trying to get more into mixed media right now. I am eco-conscious and aware of the environment. I want to use eco-friendly acrylics. There are powdered pigments. I don’t want to do things that harm the environment. I also love watercolors. There is a lot of flexibility and the way they move. I let it flow the way it is going to flow. When I have leftover paint I bang out small pieces of art.
What inspires you?
When I was a kid, art was another way for me to belong. And as I got older, horses inspired me, as did everything about the planet. My Deafness and Deaf culture inspires me to express who I am through my art. I want to create something that is a visual representation of what it is like to read lips. I am going to use circles and dots and lines. I’ve jotted down some sketches. I read lips so well, but people have no idea how exhausting it is. If I can put it on paper visually then maybe people will understand that my brain is constantly working in overdrive. When I am out of it, it looks like I am not paying attention. In reality my brain is tired. I also have sketches of trees. There are two groups. In one, the branches are the arms, like signing. The other group of trees have no branches; they are the hearing people, they don’t sign. I am trying to express something that will connect the two worlds together.
“We Are Here to Stay”
Issue 16: MORE
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