EMHH Episode 16: Talk to Your Horse's Brain, Not Muscles

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. 🐴

This is the third episode in a 3-part series of using the gentle, yet powerful, Rhythm Circles with your horse.

You'll learn how this hands-on move can help you communicate with your horse's nervous system. You'll discover how you can help your horse create new neural connections, allowing your horse to move easier and feel better in body and mind.

This 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 and welcome to Easier Movement, Happier Horses. Today is the third part in our three part series about how to use very gentle hands-on moves that I call rhythm circles to help your horse. So last week, if you haven't listened to that podcast episode, I would encourage you to do that.

You could find it marydebono.com/H15. forward slash H and then the number 15 K H as in horse, and the number 15 that gives you a really solid foundation about these rhythm circles and why you would use them. And today we're going to jump in and talk about how specifically you can use them with your horse. Okay? So the rhythm circles are very, very powerful in many ways.

And one of the things that I've seen over and over again with horses is that when you have a horse stance, a bit distracted on focus, maybe they don't like to stand still to be touched. I found that if I do these gentle rhythmic rhythm circles, especially around the joints, like around the fat locks, the knees, the Hawks, et cetera.

Now you have to be super careful, especially if the horse is moving around. So only do it. If it's very, very, you know, completely safe for you, but I've found them to be very helpful at calming the horse. And you don't, I wouldn't even recommend that you start on the legs. Obviously, if you have a horse that's unfocused and distracted,

because that isn't that safe. But if you do them, for example, around the horses shoulder blade, if you think of, and this is where having a little bit of anatomy knowledge is good. If you think of the skeletal image of the shoulder blade, right? The scapula, if you go all, all along the top and around the shoulder blade,

and you think of just doing these rhythm circles where you're emphasizing the direction towards that shoulder blade, if you don't know what I mean, please go back and, and listen to last week's episode. Okay? Because I explained this whole idea of this lifting motion that we do, where we emphasize one direction. If you do that, first of all, the horses tend to get very quiet,

right? And it also really helps them develop that body where instead ability to realize, oh right, my whole shoulder blade can actually slide a little bit. You're not sliding the shoulder blade, but they start to have better awareness and therefore better use of the shoulder blade. And so you're really helping to, to not only calm the overall nervous system of the horse,

but you're starting to really affect the soft tissue in a local way. In other words, the lift that we spoke about last week, right? We're lifting the tissue, sends a signal to the brain to allow the muscle to relax. Okay? So again, this, these rhythm circles work on many different levels here. There's a lot going on physiologically when you do them.

Okay. But so they are very powerful for helping calm a horse that maybe otherwise wouldn't want to stand still and be touched. Okay. Now you only do them with a horse who's cooperating. In other words, if the horses don't touch me, please don't persist in doing it. Okay. So you want this experience to be pleasurable and safe for both of you.

Very important. So again, now you, we have to remember that it's that non habitual nature of them that really improves the body awareness and the coordination, and also that relief of effort that you're providing for the horse. So generally speaking, we do the lifts towards joints. So for example, if you were working around the fetlock joint very carefully, you would always be going in the direction of the joint.

So if you're below the joint, you're, you're emphasizing the lifting up. If your fingers are above the joint, you're emphasizing the downward part of the circle and don't get hung up on whether it's a full circle or not. It's a circular movement. Okay. Like in other words, it's an arc sometimes many times it's a full circle. Sometimes it's not.

So I don't get hung up on that. I find that the direction of the support is more important and then the feeling of release. Okay. Very, very helpful to do these all around these, these bony prominences of the horse. So in other words at bony, prominence would be the point of the hip, the pelvic crest, right? If you think about how the muscles and you know,

all the soft tissue attaches there, and there's different things that run over the, you know, run over the top of it, all those things, you can really help that. So many parts of the horse when you focus on these bony prominences in the hind end. So the point, the point of the hip, which is the pelvic crest, the outside of the hip joint,

which we call the greater trocanter and also the horses seat bones. Okay. They have seat bones too, which are the ischial tuberosities. And you find them at a place where a horse people call the point of the buttock. If you look at your words from the side, that's the point that sticks out the most. It's up towards the top on either side of the tail.

There's one. Okay. Your horse has two seat bones the way you do. We don't usually call them seat bones in horses. Cause they don't tend to sit, but they're a similar structure okay. In the pelvis. Okay. If you were on, think of it this way, if you went on all fours, where would your seat bones end up?

Right. If you went on your hands and knees, right? Where would your seat bones end up? So the horses have those same, you know, a similar, not the same exact structure, of course, but as similar anatomy where their seat bones would be sticking out back there, eight on either side of the spine. So excuse me, either side of the tail.

So this is a powerful place to do the rhythm circles. Again, if you can safely access that area with your horse. Okay. So some of my students call them donut moves when they're done, like around a particular circular type thing. So if you think of the, do you think of the outside of the hip joint or the issue tuberosity is like a circle.

It's not quite, they're not quite circles. Of course you can think of like, you're doing like a donut move around it because you want to go all around it. Okay. Same thing with the joints, we tend to go all around them and horses particularly love the fetlock joints, the carpal joints, meaning the front, what we call the knee in the horse right there in the front.

Very, very useful, especially right at the back of that joint, right. Where the, you know, there's all those strong tendons and ligaments right. Working in that whole area can be very, very helpful for your horse. Same thing with the Hawks, you know, working all within that. If you think of the Hawk and again, I would really encourage you to look at some skeletal anatomy.

So you get a sense of all the little bones that are involved in like the, the knee joints of the horse, the hock joints, you know, there's a whole bunch of stuff going on there. And if you think of using your fingers very delicately to do these lifting circular movements, right, where you're emphasizing one direction of the lift would be very,

very powerful for your horse, but even just thinking of the Hawk as a whole and going from underneath and lifting up and going from the top and lifting down very good stuff. Okay. Your horse will be very happy. I also use them again very, very carefully around the stifle joints around the TMJ. So your horses TMJ, you know, in the head,

the temporomandibular joints, really, basically they can be used anywhere. They are very helpful in this idea of outlining parts of the skeleton. So I spoke earlier about outlining the shoulder blade. Okay. I also outline the horse's spine. So for simplicity sake, we'll just think about it from the withers to the tail. Okay. We, I also do the cervical,

the neck spine, but that's a little bit different. But if you think about bringing the tissue, like emphasizing that lift right towards the spine. So you, you go on one side of the spine and work your way all the way down. Then you do the other side. And again, the, the lift is in the direction of the spine.

It's towards the spine. Okay. That's a wonderful way to help kind of wake up the different parts of your horse's spine, help them have more awareness and thus better use of their back as well as just relieve a lot of the strain that tends to happen. So it's done lightly, it's done carefully. You're always monitoring your horses responses. If the back kind of drops,

when you do it, then you're using too much pressure. Okay? So you really want to be careful that you're listening to your horse. It does not have to be a lot of pressure. That's usually counterproductive. We want to have this feeling of non habitual member. We talked about this last week, the non habitual nature of these movements gets the attention of the nervous system.

Okay. If you just do something, if you press very hard, number one, you won't be able to feel any sense of, of, oh, this is the easier direction. Okay. And your horse won't either. Cause it be too much pressure and it may be uncomfortable. So don't do that. So super, super helpful. Another place that I love,

love, love to outline is all along your horses, sternum. So if you think about the sternum and I'll include some images in the show notes, so again, MaryDebono.com/16 forward slash H and this is 16. So age 16, you'll, I'll make sure we link up to some things. But if you think about outline, if you find your horse's sternum,

which is right in the center of the chest. So if you're looking at your horse from the front, there's like a groove, right? That is down the front of the chest. You can find the sternum usually quite easily because that part of the sternum sticks out in a lot of horses. It's a little bit prominent or doesn't have a lot of tissue in front of it and you can feel,

you know, from the top. And then you let your fingers travel all the way down until you're in the area where we girth the horses up. Right? So pass the F the front leg. So PA like around the elbow area, right? And you, you may feel how the sternum actually changes shape the first two thirds of it. If you think of starting from the top of the chest,

it's like, like a knife edge and then lower down it flattens out. So when it's, when it's in the girth area, right, it'll be flat. And when it's in the front of the chest, it's like a knife aid edge, and you can feel this. So if you do the rhythm circles again on either side, right, you take,

you do one side than the other. This is super powerful because actually the costal cartilage, which is the, the way the ribs attached to the sternum, K the ones that do attach to the sternum, the way they attach is they don't the bone doesn't attach directly to the sternum. It's there's cartilage in between. Okay. So there's the bony part of this sternum.

Then there's this cartilage. And then the bone of the rib attaches to that. So there's a little bit of flexibility in the costal cartilage. And there's like little joint, like things that attach the costal cartilage to the sternum. So when you do these gentle rhythm circles around either side of the sternum, right, you do one side than the other. What happens is again,

that non habitual nature, that feeling of support helps to kind of awake in this area, right? Awaken those little joint, like things, and the horse can suddenly start to use their sternum and ribs more effectively. Now, why do you care? Most people don't think too much about their horses, sternum, and ribs, and they should, because it is key to virtually every part of your horse hay.

It is so important. It, it will impact how your horse uses her neck, her back, right? Her, her front legs are hind legs. I mean, virtually every part of the horse is affected by restrictions in the rib cage. And conversely, when you free that up, virtually every part of the horse will benefit. And certainly mentally too,

because it just feels so much freer. And when I, you know, I, I work with humans as well as horses and other animals. And when you really give a person a feeling of freedom and the rib cage, oh my goodness. Their whole life changes because they suddenly can breathe better. They can, they see the world differently. Their head is held differently.

Same is true for your horse. There's so many things that are affected by restrictions in the rib cage. So, and it's an under appreciated place in my opinion. So I'm doing all I can to change that her right. But it's so very important. Think about it this way, too. You know, a lot of people wouldn't equate, like if they,

if their horse has stiffness in the front legs or they're having injuries in the front legs, they wouldn't necessarily think about, well, if I improve my horse, his rib cage, that's going to help, but it does. And I'll explain why when the ribs are moving more freely, which means the sternum has to move more freely, that costal cartilage is all involved.

All of that, the shoulder blades can slide more easily over the ribs when the shoulder blades slide more easily. Obviously the whole leg moves more easily through space. Okay. And it changes the degrees of tension down into the leg all the way to the foot. In other words, you can influence structures of the lower leg by improving the rib cage. Okay.

So it's very, very important, same thing with humans. If you think about, if you're having any difficulties with your hands, your arms, something like that, working with the rib cage. Okay. Really Mo you know, helping improve your awareness and ability to use your rib cage and move in all different directions with it will allow your arms to immediately be freer.

And there'll be less strain in say the wrists and the hands, things like that. Of course, obviously the shoulders too. But what I'm saying is all the way down. Okay. So very, very important. And we know about all the connections between the horse's rib cage and the, and the pelvis, even. So if you think of even something like the rectus abdominis,

how it attaches, right, that's going to influence how a horse uses his pal, his pelvis and hind legs, right? If there's restrictions in the rib cage, that can actually cause restrictions in the ability to use that muscle and to allow the hind end to come under in the back to round. Okay. So by doing these rhythms circles all around the sternum,

right? Thinking about the costal cartilage, thinking about creating better awareness of the horse's sternum and that coordination that comes from awareness, right? You can do a whole lot to help your horse. Okay. Now I've talked a lot about how to do these rhythm circles around joins around bony prominences, but you can also do them very, very effectively just on the more meaty parts of your horse.

So if you think about the big muscles, so think about the big muscles of the hind quarters, rhythm circles work great just directly on that soft tissue. That's, you know, they're, you know, that those big thick muscles, again, you don't have to use pressure. We're not trying to manually change the muscle fibers. We're working with the nervous system.

Okay. When the horse experiences that sensation of lifts of relief of effort, Hey, the brain gets a signal to release the muscles. So we're not trying to manually Rob anything out, right. We're providing sensations. So the horse's nervous system can make the changes. This is really what differentiates this work from many, many other modalities, right? They rely on,

you know, manual manipulation, manual pressure to like literally stretch things apart and do things like that. We're not thinking that way. We're, we're communicating directly with the horses nervous system after all, it's the nervous system that controls whether something is contracted or not. Okay. So again, you can do these on the muscle, right? In the middle of the shoulder blade.

I ha I have a little video. You can see if you, if you listen to last week's episode, I linked to a blog post, which showed that right. You can do them on the neck. I mean, virtually anywhere, another fantastic place. I spoke about the rib cage in relation to the sternum and the costal cartilage. But there's also tons of value in doing them in between your horses,

ribs. You can do, you can spend a lot of time actually doing that because you do one little circle. You slide your hand, you do another, you keep going up for example, between two ribs. And then when you get from, you know, say, you know, low down on the ribs all the way up, as far as you can go,

then you just shift over and you go to another, what I call rib channel the area between the two ribs, horses love this. Again, it's not an even pressure on your circle. You want that sensation of lift, okay. That you're emphasizing the lift and you can just, you know, you stick your fingers in between that space on horses.

There's definitely space, generally speaking between the ribs, okay. That you can do this very gently with your fingers, kind of lined up and you lift the tissue, make sure you take like a breath and you slowly let it release. But that emphasizing that direction of lift is very important. Okay. Very, very important. That's what gives us that idea of relief to the horse and helps the horse then relax those muscles.

But also very importantly, you're, you're meeting a need, right? You're making a deeper connection with your horse, your horses, feeling that sense of relief. And I find that this work will help you as well, because as you're doing it with your horse and you're sensing, and you're feeling you're getting into like getting in sync with your horse, you're,

you're coming into what I call, you know, physical and emotional harmony with your horse, really powerful stuff. So again, these rhythm circles work on many, many different levels. Okay. Now you may be wondering, well, okay. For example, I mentioned working with the horses hindquarters. Well, that's a big thing, right? The horse's hindquarters are big.

If I'm using my fingertips, there's a lot of real estate there. Right? Well, you certainly can use your fingertips on those areas. You don't have to cover every square inch of the horse, but also you can use your entire hand and do rhythm circles, as long as you have that idea that it's a circular movement, right. Circular issue.

We're going to say that there's a definite feeling of emphasizing one direction, which means a little more pressure in one direction. And then you release in an arc. Okay. You can do it with the full hand, maybe just the fingertips, the heel of the hand. I mean, you can do different things depending on where you're working with the horse.

Certainly when you're doing around the sternum, around the, the, the small joints in the legs that you're going to be using just your fingertips. Okay. But other areas you can use, you know, larger parts of the hand, okay. To cover more ground, so to speak. Right. But that's important though, is to have that sense of rhythm.

So we call them rhythm circles. If you didn't listen to the previous episodes, the reason they're called rhythm circles is because I find doing them in a particular rhythm helps reset or calm your horse's nervous system. Okay. So they're done in this rhythmic way. It also helps you. So think about it, right. If you were doing things kind of haphazardly,

you're on focused, but when you really tune into, okay, I'm going to breathe and just do these, right. It's a win-win we always want to think about, I know in my work, I'm always, as I create, I created these moves now for over 30 years, I've been doing this teaching other people how to do it, doing it even longer with this idea that it's a win-win for the human and the animal they're working with.

Right. You both come out of it being, you know, better, somehow improved. Okay. So let's see. I just want to make sure I covered all of this good, good stuff. So, yeah. So I hope that gives you some ideas about how to use them. You really want to be, you know, gentle with the work,

always be safe. And, you know, if you want to take deeper dive into this, I will be opening up another online equine program where we do the Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons for the humans. Okay. And it really powerful, extremely effective for riders. And we also do. I teach you, and this is all online. It's amazing how well this works.

I coach you very specifically, you know, many one-on-one sessions as well as group sessions, where you learn how to do these, what I call Debono Moves with your horse. Okay. And we really take a deeper dive into this work. So if you're interested in that, I'll have a link in the, in the show notes about how you can sign up for that for the list.

Okay. And we're planning to open doors again in March for the level one program. So anyway, thank you so, so much for being here. Let me know. I would love to hear from you. If you have any, any questions or maybe want to share your experiences with doing this, you could always reach out to me. And my email will be in the show notes as well.

Show notes can be found for this episode marydebono.com/H16. All right, thanks. Thank you so much. I can't wait to talk to 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 is MaryDebono.com/rider. You 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.