A Loving Touch Opens the Hearts to Champions

The Life
Tyler Cerin works as an equine therapist in the barn of Doug O'Neill. (Julie June Stewart photo)

He emanates calmness. There is the presence of an old soul within him. And horses know this. You simply need to watch him walk down the shed row and every horse leans out of their stall towards him. When he stops to talk to them, their heads lower and their eyes close. He has their trust. He is their friend. When Tyler stops and places his hands on a horse, there is an instant communication link between them. It is fascinating to watch. We stop and visit with the 3-year-old filly Jeremy’s Legacy. He said she is a real sweetheart. And yes, she is. She leans into him and looks at the world with complete serenity as he visits with her. 

Tyler Cerin is an equine therapist. Only 28 years old, he has spent his entire life around horses. He grew up in Arcadia, Calif., and is the son of trainer Vladimir Cerin. One of his first memories of horses is hanging around the barn on his dad’s shoulders. He is blessed because he has never had to seek out his purpose in life. He has always known that his life would be with horses. When he was growing up, he would go to the barns in the morning before school and often got in trouble for leaving school early to go to the races. Looking at a photo of him as a kid in his dad’s barn, it is easy to see that horses are his destiny.

Tyler Cerin as a child. (Courtesy Tyler Cerin)
He grew up riding horses. He loves to trail ride and enjoys the peace and quiet of hiking and scuba diving. Yet his true love is working with horses. His stepmother (who has passed away) did therapeutic work with horses and had a hyperbaric chamber for oxygen therapy. He learned about horses doing everything he could. He hot walked. He learned how to check legs. He would watch the training in the early morning hours. His dad studied kinesiology (the study of movement) at UCLA before he became a horse trainer so consequently, when he was working with his dad’s horses there were always machines and massages.  He briefly worked as a production assistant for TVG which is a horseracing television network, but left to start his own company known as Tyler Cerin’s Equine Body Works.

Today Cerin is a success with numerous clients. He is forward-thinking and loves looking at technology that can be helpful such as electromagnetic pulsing and microcurrent therapy. He is grateful for two mentors: equine chiropractor Larry Jones (aka “Thumper”) and his partner Reo King. Through them he learned about horse anatomy, their skeletal needs and what to look for. He is excited that Santa Anita is going to set up their first cold water salt spa that replicates the age old practice of soaking horse’s legs in the ocean. Thoroughbreds are athletes at their best and a lot is required to keep them in top shape. He has been applying his intimate knowledge of the needs of equine athletes while traveling with the Doug O’Neill barn and Nyquist since the Florida Derby.  

Cerin’s primary education comes from good, old-fashioned, hands-on experience. He estimates that he has worked with more than 10,000 horses. He originally started massaging claiming horses. Now he has a resume that includes working on a world class lineup of champions such as Kentucky Derby winners I’ll Have Another and Nyquist.  He has also worked with numerous Breeders’ Cup winners including Albertus Maximus, Dancing in Silks, Goldencents, Judy the Beauty, Texas Red and Main Sequence and Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Kinsale King. Through his work, he has traveled to Japan and Hong Kong. 

Doug O’Neill’s Assistant Trainer Leandro Mora is proud that Cerin is a member of the O’Neill team. He said that what he has “chosen to do in his career is great and that it is all about the love of horses. Mora continued that owner Paul Reddam and Doug O’Neill “are happy to have him under our wings.” Trainer Carl O’Callaghan said, “Tyler worked endless of hours on Kinsale King and was a huge part of my success with him.  He pays attention to detail and loves what he does.  He always has an interest in watching them perform to their best on race day.” As he works daily with Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Land Over Sea, Cerin is thankful to Doug O’Neill and Paul Reddam for the privilege of being part of their team. 

Cerin and Satire. (Julie June Stewart photo)
He approaches each horse with love in his heart. He slowly becomes their friend. He explained that a horse senses your energy. He lets the horse come to him and doesn’t pressure the horse. He doesn’t tell the horse what to do. It can take time to establish a relationship especially if it’s with a horse that has frequently changed barns. He doesn’t just walk into a stall and start working. He stands outside and evaluates the horse. He is looking at their energy and studies their body language. He loves to take the time to transition a horse with a mean reputation. It takes patience and he loves it when they become the sweetest horse in the barn.

I watched him work with Satire the pony in the O’Neill barn. Satire is a wise old horse who is affectionately called “Coach” for how he handles the often high-strung youngsters on the track. The first thing Cerin does is to stop and stand calmly in front of the stall while talking to Coach. Coach is studying his hay and at first attempts to ignore Cerin. But Cerin is a smooth talker. It’s a quiet melodic conversation. Satire’s ears helicopter back and forth and then he gracefully moves towards the stall door and looks at Cerin. After some head and neck scratches, Satire nuzzles him with his head. 

It’s peaceful and calm as he steps into the stall. He allows the silence to fill the area and all the activity that is happening outside ebbs away. This is about trust.  It’s pure and simple. He leans on Satire and never stops watching every nuance of his body language.  He reaches down and lifts a hoof and proceeds to stretch the leg. It’s a progressive stretch and happens slowly. Satire turns his head to watch casually but seems to enjoy the process. Cerin works his way around Satire and stops to give him rubs and pats. 

He quietly tells me to watch Satire’s reactions. “Now he will close his eyes. Now he will lick his lips. Now he will drop his tongue.” And yes, Satire did all that as he slowly lowered his head in complete relaxation. Cerin moved forward and found a pressure point on Satire’s muzzle while simultaneously putting pressure on his cervical vertebrae. It must have felt fabulous as within seconds Satire lowered his head, closed his eyes, licked his lips and let his tongue hang out. It’s intimate and serene to watch such a demonstration of trust.

You just don’t barge yourself into a horse’s heart. Trust must be earned. Trust must be created. Tyler Cerin has a soft touch coupled with strength that opens the heart of a horse to trust him. It’s a gift and a talent. As for his next step in life, Cerin is contemplating being a trainer someday. But for now, he says he is “blessed to be where he is right now.”  His grandmother is a psychic and likes to say that he has healing hands. After watching him with the horses it certainly appears that way. The one word Cerin used repeatedly during our visits was “love.” It’s not just talk.  He lives a life of love with the horses he works with. As we started to leave Coach in his stall, Cerin reached forward and hugged the old fellow. It was one of those quiet mystical moments to witness where two beings share a moment of affection. Love, trust, respect and care.  With love in his hands, Cerin reaches out and finds his way to the heart of a horse. 

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