EMHH Episode 15: This Small Move Has the Power to Heal

Apr 03, 2022

💥Click here to watch a short video of Mary demonstrating Rhythm Circles. Plus, read exactly how she helped the horse, Grace, make a dramatic recovery. 🐴

Would you like to know a no-cost, EASY way of helping your horse feel better and move more freely? You're in the right place!

This episode is the second in a 3-part series on how you can use the gentle, yet powerful Rhythm Circles.

You'll hear how this hands-on movement that has brought about surprising improvements in horses and humans alike. I'll share my own story of how I benefited from this approach after being in an accident.

This gentle, hands-on move can also help release tight muscles, calm anxiety and connect with your horse on a deeper level.

💥Want to get expert coaching on putting these hands-on moves into practice to help your horse - and yourself - have more flexible, balanced and confident movement?💥

Click here to join the waitlist for our online group coaching program, "Move With Your Horse."🐴 💖

You'll be among the first to know when we open our doors again. And you'll get special bonuses! ✨

Questions? Email [email protected].

More FREE resources:

xo, Mary

Important safety reminder: Riding and handling horses are potentially dangerous activities. If you feel anxiety or fear, it may be warranted! Please don't do anything that can put you in danger. Educate yourself and seek the guidance of a qualified, positive trainer or medical professional as necessary. The information in this podcast is for general education/entertainment purposes only and is never intended as professional or medical advice.


Welcome to Easier Movement, Happier Horses. I'm Mary Debono, your movement and mindset coach. If you'd like to have flexible, balanced movement or relaxed, confident mindset, and a joyful connection with your horse, you're in the right place. I can't wait to share what I've learned over the past 30 years of helping improve the performance and partnership of horses and their humans.

Thank you so much for being here. Now, let's dive in. Hello today. We're going to continue in our series about how you can use your hands in these gentle easy ways to improve your horses, mood, improve their body awareness and coordination, and very importantly, deep in your horses connection with you. So last week we spoke about how there is actually things that very particular things that happen in your horses,

neurology, like in their nervous system. When you use slow gentle movements on your horse, okay. If you use your hands in a very particular way, it activates particular what they call receptors in your horses body, and it had wonderful benefits. So if you haven't listened to that episode, go back and check that out. Maybe even before it doesn't matter,

you can listen to them in either order, but if you go to Mary debono.com forward slash slash H as in horse and the number 14, so MaryDebono.com/H14, that'll take you right to that episode. And you could learn all about that, but let's continue. So we're going to do two more episodes today, and then next week about specific things you can do to help your horse and yourself.

So just, just to review a tiny bit from last week, we talked about how these gentle movements help again, create this cascade of feel-good chemicals for your horse and increases that bonding with you. They've also been proven, at least in rats, that that type of contact with the animal can actually help them be more resilient to stress, right? It can help them on so many different levels.

So now today we're going to continue and I want to start by sharing a story that that's something that happened to me many years ago, I had an accident and in the accident, thankfully, I didn't break any bones, but my entire body was in spasms. I mean, it was unbelievable. I could hardly breathe. It was unlike anything I had experienced before,

or thankfully I haven't experienced anything like it since, but it was just really bad. And I remember also my left elbow was very badly strained, so, so that was very painful. But what was even more pressing was that my entire body was just in spasms. Again, breathing was difficult, it was just difficult to even move around. And I got in to see my Feldenkrais Practitioner,

Sharon Starika. And it was about, I'm going to say a day and a half, maybe two days after the accident was the earliest. I could see her. So I'd been like this for quite a while and during the Feldenkrais session. So this was a hands-on private session. I laid down on her table, right. Hardly breathing. And she started to do these very gentle,

circular movements all over me. And I remember very, very clearly that they felt very relaxing, but also just automatically. I started seeing in my mind's eye, like an image, like ripples in a pond, it was just like this soothing image. Like you throw a little pebble in a pond, right. And the, and the ripples just go out word.

And that's what I just was came unbidden in my mind, you know, basically for the whole session. So after about other session was probably 40, 45 minutes. I sat up and I was completely normal. It was amazing. And I have to say, if this had not happened to me, I'd probably find it a little difficult to believe like the, the juror,

how dramatic the improvement was. And from such a small thing, right. She didn't give me any drugs. You know, it was just these gentle, gentle movements. And when I started and there was a tiny little bit of pain left in my left elbow, that was it. That was it. All the spasming went away. I could take these deep breaths.

I mean, it was just amazing. So I was sharing my amazement with Sharon and sharing my gratitude. And I started to tell her what came into my mind about how I started to see. And I just said, and then in my mind, I just started to see, and she finished the sentence for me. She said, oh, like ripples in a pond.

And I have to say, I regret that at the time. I never asked her. Were you thinking that, was that an image you held in your head when you were working with me? I didn't think to ask her at the time, it would have been cool to say, you know, if she said yes or no, whatever, but in any case,

that is what my mind conjured up. And I think it was because the, the, the feeling of relief and calm just brought that into my mind. So, anyway, so that was, that was my story. And then Sharon shared with me that she learned that directly from Dr. Mark Reese, who was also my educational director in the Feldenkrais training that I did,

who learned it from Moshe, Moshe Feldenkrais, the creator of the Feldenkrais Method. And Sharon said that she had been in an accident where her body was an entire state of shock and spasm the way mine was. And that's what mark did to help her. And she said, it just like with me, it was dramatic improvement dramatic.

So I got really, really intrigued with this idea because this wasn't something that was spoken about much in my Feldenkrais training. It's a four-year training. Now, this was long time ago. I was still in the training. I wasn't a practitioner yet when my accident occurred, but it wasn't something that was spoken about that much. I mean, there's so much to cover in our trainings that maybe they just didn't have time for it.

But I have to say I was very lucky in the fact that I was able to do one-on-one mentoring with Dr. Mark Reese, even after I graduated from the training. And this was something that we did a lot of together, this idea of using these circular movements in very specific ways. And again, this was something that Moshe Feldenkrais did. And on one level,

like I spoke about last week, they work on these very particular receptors that we call CLTMs. They help the animal feel less stress, feel more connected to you, all that good stuff, but there's also another way that I use them. So I'll give you a horse example real quick. There was a horse I was working with. The reason they wanted me to the owner wanted me to work with this horse.

Her name was Grace was because the horse was suffering from basically extreme exhaustion. She had been taken on a multi-day camping trip in the back country, in the mountains, and the horse was not prepared physically or emotionally for this trip. And the woman was in over her head. She didn't realize it was going to be so arduous. She wouldn't have done this on purpose to her horse,

but once she was committed to it, she kind of had to keep going with the group. So it was not a good situation. She came home. The horse was kind of probably how I felt after my accident. She had spasming. I remember her right shoulder, the entire shoulder blade area was in a complete spasm. And the horse was just walking with really short steps.

And, you know, her breathing was shallow and rapid. Now, of course, the vet had been called immediately and the vet given instructions for, you know, rest and make sure she's hydrated. They were checking to make sure the horse didn't call it, didn't have laminitis, you know, all those things. So they took care of it, of course,

from a veterinary point of view right away. But then I started work. I worked with her and what I did was very similar to my, what Sharon did with me. What mark did with Sharon was we started, I started doing these very gentle, circular movements. All in this case, what I did was I worked all around horses, costal arch.

So that's like, you can think of it as like the edges of the, of the rib cage. Okay. And if you look at the show notes, it'll, there'll [email protected] forward slash H 15. I'll have an image there that you can look at, or actually I'll link to a post, a link to something that you'll, you'll get a lot of information.

So in any event, I started doing this with the idea in my head. I, number one, I was thinking of that image of ripples in a pond that healing vibration like spreading out throughout this horse's body. But I also was very specifically lifting the tissue towards the center. In other words, I was going from the outer borders of the rib cage,

lifting the tissue, like emphasizing that direction very specifically with the idea I, I, my, my thought was helping the diaphragm relax. That was my thought, okay, that was my intention, if you will. And then I worked all over and I worked specifically around the areas that were spasming. I mean, I did this whole session where though the main focus of the session by far,

or these very gentle circular movements, which I call rhythm circles. And by the way, I've been using them for years before I worked with this particular horse, whose name was grace. So it's not like they were something new to me at that point. I had seen their value with horses and dogs and cats and, and of course humans. And so I did all this and the,

again, the transformation was pretty remarkable. It was like crazy remarkable because grace is breathing deepened and slowed. The spasming stopped and she walked with a much freer longer stride. Okay. So it was something. And again, this is in my tool kit, let's just say, and I use these quite a bit, and actually we're going to keep talking about them today,

but next week I'll give you real specifics about how to use them with horses. And, you know, when you would use them in different areas, et cetera, et cetera. But those are just two stories, a human one and a, and a horse. One to give you an idea of the power of them. So now let's talk more specifically about them.

So why, why do they work so well? Well, when an animal or that includes humans, when we have any kind of trauma and it could be a really acute trauma, like, like this horse graze hat, or like I had from my accident, or it could be like a long-term, chronic stress of tight muscles soreness, things like that.

There is a dysrhythmia I feel that happens in the body. You know, you think about each individual, we have a certain rhythm, there's a certain flow, for example, there's a certain rhythmic flow to your cerebral, spinal fluid, a certain just kind of organization in your nervous system. And when there's a trauma that seems to get just dysregulated, it gets,

you know, the rhythm changes and it becomes something that can become like a vicious cycle. Okay. And I feel that this has been more than 30 years, I've been doing these rhythm circles. And when I do them rhythmically, Hey, I feel that it gives the animal, gives the horse arrhythmic stimulus to organize around. Okay. It doesn't mean that they copy that rhythm,

but they can get their own rhythm back. Okay. And I think of it like, kind of like a metronome, I guess I'm not a musician, so I'm not really sure about that, but that idea that you're, you're kind of, you can sort of in train to something and then find your own rhythm. Okay. It just gives the nervous system a sense of calm.

And when you think about it, like gentle slow movements that are done, repetitively can be very calming to the nervous system. So I think of them like really helping quiet the noise of the nervous system and noise being, you know, too much muscular tension, like tight muscles, sore muscles, anxiety, all those things act as noise in the nervous system.

And they drown out sensations that you want your horse to be listening to. Okay. So that's really, really important. So you want to think about that, that you want to provide kind of a stimulus, a rhythmic, gentle stimulus that your horse can organize around. Okay. So, so I haven't really explained what these rhythms circles are. I don't think so the way I do them and they're done in a few different ways,

but I generally use my fingertips. Now you can also, and I'll talk about this next time is you can use more of your hand. You can use different parts. The idea is it's a circular movement, but it's not even in its pressure. And this is what distinguishes it. And I think gives it a lot of its power. Okay. Because when you,

when I do them, okay, and you can learn how to do them too. You lift the tissue, the soft tissue of the horse in a very particular way where you're emphasizing like an arc, and then you're releasing it to allow the rest of the circle to be completed. And disclaimer, sometimes it's not even a full circle. It depends on where you're working with the horse.

Okay. Cause we do these around the joints. We do them in very, very specific ways, but it's that lifting motion. It's this idea of supporting the tissue that then sends a signal to the brain to let that contraction go. So if the horse has been holding the muscle, holding that area, maybe a little bit tighter than they need to,

right. It gives very clear sensory information to the horse's nervous system. So that lift is, is very powerful. So I really want to emphasize that it's the lifting of the tissue in a particular direction, and then releasing it, that gives them the power again, with the gentleness of it, with the idea of rhythm, all of that plays into it,

but there's a synergistic effect. So in other words is multiple reasons why they work so well, but that's very important. So there are other circles that people do in other, in other modalities, which are great as well. They work really well, but they're different because they tend to have even pressure all around. And they're very specific in how, where you start it,

where you end it, et cetera. This is more about lifting the tissue in such a way that you provide a feeling of support to that horse. Okay. You provide a feeling of support so that the brain sends a signal to let go. Now the support can be very light. It doesn't mean that this is a deep thing. Okay. It can be very light,

but it has to be different than the sensation of the release. Okay. That's what tells the brain, oh, this is different. Hmm. Maybe I can let this go. Okay. I can release any chronic ineffective contractions, right? The habitual ones where we have them, our horses have them too. Okay. So this is something that I,

when I, because I teach this a lot, obviously in my online programs, I have people do it with themselves so that they can do it around their, their wrist. For example, they could do it on the meaty parts of their arm. You could do it. It's really effective around the knee cap. People tell me, you know, if they have achy knees,

they love doing it around the knees. So you do it around your sternum and ribs. Very, very powerful stuff. So again, we want to remember that they work because they're gentle slow, right. And very importantly, they're pleasurable to the horse. Okay. You only do it. If it's something that gives a feeling of relief and pleasure to the horse.

So sometimes many times obviously people will ask like, well, what direction? Like when you say emphasize a lift, well, what direction do I want to be emphasizing? And again, I go into detail and I show my students exactly how to do this when I, in my programs. But you can think of it this way. We generally go in the direction of ease.

So what I would say to you, don't worry whether it's clockwise, counterclockwise, or whatever, think more about, well, if I, if I lift in this direction, does that feel easier than if I left in this direction? And there's a very good reason we want to go in the direction of ease. It's not just because it's easier for you,

right? It's because when you go in the direction of ease, that generally tells us where the horse is already kind of pulling the, the, that soft tissue. So there, they already have a habit of that. And if you lift and emphasize that lift right there, you support that habit. And when you support that tension, that tense area,

again, like I said earlier, the brain will send a signal to allow that to release. So if you try it with yourself, it'll be very, it's, it's, it's a really clear distinction. Now, if you use very hard pressure in both directions, you really won't feel the difference. But in other words, if you lift very gently,

right in one direction, and then you release, then you try an opposite direction. Again with gentleness, you'll feel the difference. In other words, if you use a lot of pressure overall, you're just not going to feel differences. Okay. It's always in proportion to how much effort we use, you know, our ability to sense. So what I love about this stuff is not only you helping your horse in this tremendous way,

but you're also developing your field. You it's, you have to be really clear about what you're doing. You know, you have to think about is this easier than this, that helps you really tune into your horse. So your horse starts to realize you're in a dialogue here that in other words, you're giving information to the horse and you're listening to the horses responses.

And when I say responses, it's not only the obvious things like their ears. And, you know, there are other facial expressions or stomping of their feet or swishing their tail. But the, the response of the muscle, the response in the, in the horse, whether this direction is easier than that, the horse can feel the difference. Okay.

They feel a fly landing on them. They're extremely sensitive. They know when you're listening and then adjusting. So you, that's a true to me. That's a true partnership. That is what refines your communication from you to your horse, from your horse to you, right? This, again, deepens your connection, allows you to communicate on a very subtle level,

very subtle level. So we go in the direction of ease. Generally speaking, we also just, again, this is general information go in the, like, towards if you're working around a joint towards the joint. Okay. Or towards the bony prominence. And when I say bony prominence, it's like the point of the hip, which is like the crest of the pelvis,

the outside of the hip joint, which we call the greater trocanter the horses point of the buttock, which is the, the technical term is, ischial tuberosity, right. That point, right on either side of the tail, that bone that sticks out. Okay. Would generally go towards the bone. And again, next week, I'm going to go into more detail about how to use the rhythm circles in very specific parts with your horse.

So I want to just say before we wrap up another reason why these rhythm circles work so well is because you're making a really powerful connection with your horse. A moment ago, I spoke about this idea of you're really refining your communication. So you have that, you're also meeting a need for your horse. I always say you make a connection by meeting a need.

So when your horse feels that sense of relief, when you do the lift in a way that gives your horse, that sense of, ah, oh, that feels good, great. That's meeting a need, right? You're providing them with that sense of relief of effort. Relief of strain, relief of anxiety. That's meeting a need that really builds your connection.

Really deepens your connection with your horse. Again, refines your communication and builds that, that idea of rapport with your horse. The another reason why they work so well is that they're, it's a non habitual feeling for your horse. Okay. You know, we grew more horses. We stroke them in certain ways. Those are more habitual sensations for the horse.

We know that the nervous system gets really like awakened when it feels something non habitual. So something novel, something different, well, rhythm circles are novel, right? That sensation of the lift and the circle is different. So you're the horses, nervous system pays attention to that area. So they're really good for improving body awareness, which then improves your horses coordination,

right? So many different things. We have to remember when we wake up the nervous system like this, we're helping the horse create new neural connections. So these non habitual movements stimulate what we call neuroplasticity. Okay. Very, very powerful stuff. That means that. And we have the same ability obviously, but we have this ability, our nervous system,

our brain has this ability to learn and grow, to adapt and changes in our environment. And these non habitual movements actually can stimulate that. Okay. That means that the horse can develop new movement options at any age, neuroplasticity is available at any age Ks, just so you know, there's different ways that it happens when someone is quite young opposed to when they're an adult,

but it can still happen. So you're bringing the sense of awareness to the area. When you do something non habitual, like these rhythms circles, I hope this gives you some idea. Again, I'm going to link to an, a blog post actually that has some video in it where it'll show me doing them. But also it talks in detail about how I worked with grace and has nice images and stuff.

So if you go to the show notes again, MaryDebono..com/H15. forward slash H as in horse, and then the number 15 I'll link to that blog post. So you can get that and you can get all that information. Okay. So next week we're going to do, oh my goodness. It's going to be so good. We're going to talk about how to use the rhythm circles in very particular ways to help your horse.

Okay. So thank you so much for joining me. This is so fun to share this work, and I look forward to talking with you again. Bye for now. Thank you for joining me for this episode of easier movement. Happier horses. Remember to grab your free video masterclass for a rider [email protected] forward slash rider. You'll get three easy effective exercises to improve your back hips position and posture.

People love these videos. It's important for riders and non-riders alike. I'm Mary Debono. Go have fun with your horses. Bye for now.