EMHH Episode 18: Improve Responsiveness with Mindful Movement

Apr 03, 2022

Mindful movement improves your coordination, flexibility and confidence. It helps you and your horse become more attuned and responsiveness to EACH OTHER.

With mindful movement, your coordination, flexibility and confidence can increase. You become more aware of how you use your body and your mind. You become more centered, balanced and agile. You increase your FEEL.

This enhanced feel and freedom of movement translates directly to improved equine movement and athletic performance. It also refines communication and deepens the horse-human connection.

In this episode, you'll learn how mindful movement helps you and your horse become more responsiveness to EACH OTHER.

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Questions? Email [email protected].

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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 today. We're going to talk about how you can improve responsiveness by moving mindfully with your horse. You know, the word mindful is thrown around a lot lately. People's definitions vary a bit, but if you want to think about it as being a sense of awareness, that you're,

you're, you're more aware you're more tuned in of your sensations of, you know, how you're moving of releasing any unnecessary tension, all that kind of stuff. And there there's a sense of intentionality about it that you're not just doing things habitually and just out of habit, but there's an intentionality with it. That's what I mean by mindful. Let's think about this,

you know, awareness. When you start to have awareness of your own movement of your own sensations, what happens is that you strengthen the body mind connection. So this greater awareness of your movements of your internal sensations strengthens that mind body connection. Now, what happens with your horse is when you start to get a sense of awareness of your horses movement that strengthens the horse human connection.

And I have seen this over and over for more than 30 years, it's really pretty cool. So again, you know, awareness of yourself, of your own movement and sensations strengthens that mind body connection, but then your taking that a step further, and you becoming really aware, really mindful of your horses movements of your horses, emotions, all that good stuff,

really strengthens the horse human connection. Okay. Super, super important. Let me give you a few examples of how this works. So there was a woman, she was mid forties, I think she was 46 and we're going to call her Alice. And she heard about my work from various people at her barn. And she had seen that, you know,

I'd work with the horses and they would feel better and they would move better. And, you know, they would just perform at a higher level, all that kind of good stuff. And Alice had this beautiful lip is on her stallion that she just adored, you know, she would do anything for this horse that a really nice bond. And an as Alice that,

you know, the first day I met her, as she was walking down the barn aisle towards me, I could see, you know, you could just, you really get trained in, in, you know, you train your eye into looking at movement. And I could see that she was like, she was waiting her, left her, excuse me,

her right leg more heavily. And she was kind of throwing her rib cage out to the side just a little bit. I mean, it wasn't something that an average person would notice. Right. But it was something that, you know, cause I study movement for, for a living, right. This is my, my thing. And I noticed that and I thought,

well, that's kind of interesting. And she had like a lot of people kind of like a rounded posture, you know, she had learned how to kind of pull her shoulders up again, like a lot of people. So, so she's there and I start working with her horse and she wasn't quite understanding what I was doing because the work is really gentle.

It's really subtle. And this was a long time ago before I basically had a rule that if I work with your horse, I work with you too. Okay. So I was just there to work with her horse. And so, because she was so she was seeing that the horse was really liking it and that there was better movement through his body and all that good stuff.

But like she, the subtlety of it was confusing to her. You know, she was expecting something more, more vigorous, more dramatic, more harsh. So I said to her, okay, let's do this. I said, may I work with you for a little bit? And you know, I got, you gotta love horsewomen. Right.

You know how you would, you'd be the same way. Right. She was more than happy to just completely lie down on the barn aisle. You know, I think we grabbed a couple of saddle pads to put under our head, you know, and she was fine with that. So, so there we were in the barn aisle and I started doing these subtle,

subtle, gentle movements with her and really helping her feel how her rib cage could move in these different ways and working with the connection of her pelvis, to her trunk and her pelvis to her legs and all kinds of like very gentle, but like really significant stuff that I knew. She would feel a big difference. And she stands up and the look on her face was just priceless.

She could not believe it. Number one, she was standing completely straight and she just, she looked taller and she felt 12 feet tall and she was just completely elegantly upright. She just had this erect carriage. I mean, she was just amazing. And then she, I said, go for a little walk, walk up and down the barn aisle.

And it was so cool because she could even notice, she did not notice before that she was heavier on the right leg, but now she could feel that there was a grace, there was an elegance to her movement. So she was so super excited because then it made sense to her that now I didn't do, I wasn't massaging her. I wasn't doing chiropractic.

There was nothing. And there certainly was nothing harsh about what I did was very gentle and subtle, but the difference was profound because I was working with her nervous system. Right. And the nervous system is what controls everything. So she just felt so good. And then she could see, and then she was really excited to keep walking with her horse and to feel how now his rib cage was swinging evenly from side to side.

And the next time she rode him, she was super excited because she said to me, she felt so much more balanced on her horse and that his movement was just amazing that he was even and flexible from side to side, that he was much more balanced and much more forward. So it was really, really cool. And that was one of the times where I started to really get this sense that I really need to work with both the horse and the human,

because just working with one, oftentimes doesn't cut it. In other words, you know, you're leaving one big piece of the puzzle out. And this is where I really started to transition to helping people develop this mindfulness in their own movement and how they could bring that sense of mindfulness to sensing their horses movement. So they could be mindful more as well of their horses movement and emotional state,

et cetera. So let me give you another example. So Nancy was another gal. She, she kept her shoulders like up around her ears. A lot of people do this, right? You may know somebody who does it, maybe you do it. And her trainer was always telling her, you know, pull your shoulders down, pull your shoulders back,

you know, all that kind of stuff. And Nancy would try, she really would try. And she would like pull her shoulders down and back for a little bit. And then either she would get tense because of something our horse was doing, or she would get distracted. And suddenly her shoulders were back up around her ears because she was using for,

she was using conscious effort to pull her shoulders down, which is not a good idea because that just leads to more tension, more compensation in other parts of the body. So it was not a good strategy. So when, when she met me, what we decided to do with her is I gave her a session Feldenkrais session. And I said,

okay, I didn't even mention her shoulders. And I didn't even touch her shoulders. What I did instead was I started working with her rib cage and her spine in these very subtle, non habitual ways in a, in a variety of different ways, feeling how, you know, the parts could move in different combinations and bringing her pelvis in, in different ways and doing all kinds of things that felt really good,

very relaxing, but really novel, really unfamiliar to her nervous system. So her nervous system was really paying attention. Again, this is that sense of mindfulness or awareness, right? She started to get much greater awareness of what she was doing with her trunk and her pelvis. And so when she stood up and again, I didn't even go near her shoulder.

I mean, I was near her shoulders, but I wasn't doing anything to the shoulders directly. And when she stood up, her shoulders were just boom, just naturally in the place where they, they should be right where they needed to be for that, you know, for just standing. And she, again, she couldn't believe it because she was another example of a person who couldn't believe it because it took no sense of effort to have her shoulders now where she would like them to be.

And to have that freedom of movement even more important. It's not a matter of posture or how you look it's now, her shoulders were more functional and with a really, really cool thing was the next time she got on our horse. Okay. The next time she rode, she realized that she had so much more feel in her hands because his shoulder tension was gone and she had this,

she was so much more sensitive in her hands. And her horse just naturally became softer. I, she, I mean, she didn't know before that she was actually restraining her horse, that she was, she was lacking in so much feel because of this chronic habitual tension that she carried in her neck or shoulders, you know, her upper back. So when that was gone again,

so now she was more mindful of her movement or suddenly now her horse was more responsive. Right. But it was the improvement in her. Okay. That led to her horse being more responsive. So this is where, again, it's a, it's both, you know, you have to address it from both the human and the horse. So I always say there's a horse human system.

And H squared is what I call it. It's never just about you. It's never just about your horse. If you're with your horse, you are affecting each other. So in Nancy's case, I hadn't worked with her horse. So she just worked with her and there was an immediate improvement in her horse because she became more aware of what she was doing.

Her shoulders could be nice and relaxed. She lost all that chronic tension. Suddenly she had greater feel in her horse responded beautifully to that. Now she was inviting her horse to be softer because she could be softer. Okay. This is really, really crucial. You can't give your horse something that you don't feel inside yourself. Okay. You cannot do that.

You can't transmit a sense of ease, right. And pleasure and movement if you're not embodying it. So this is why, again, I always work with both the human and the horse. Aye, aye, aye, aye. Help improve the, the humans movement. And I teach them how to improve their horses movement, very with hands-on strategies, et cetera.

So that was really cool because once Nancy felt that, wow, my horse improved so much just from, you know, myself improving. Could you imagine if I learn this hands-on work, that Mary teaches. So she started to learn my method, which I call Debono Moves. And it's, again, it's very gentle. It's strongly based on the Feldenkrais Method, just applied to horses.

And it was really, really cool because this is where it gets super exciting about the hands-on stuff with the horses, because she now had more awareness, more mindfulness of her own movement. And the hands-on work then to me serves as a bridge, it serves as a way now for you to take that newfound mindfulness of your own movement, of your own awareness of your,

you know, sense of ease, right, and pleasure, and movement and transmit it to the horse. It's like a way to take it from the floor. Cause you know, we, we often do the Feldenkrais lessons on the floor. So I always say it's a way to take that. Learning that improvement from the floor to the horse, it's a really wonderful way.

And the hands-on moves. They actually improve both the human and the horse at the same time. So again, it's another way to reinforce the learning you did on the floor, but also transmit it to your horse. So really, really cool stuff. And then you can certainly transmit it when you're riding, but it's really, really nice to do the hands-on work with the horse because you directly help the horse with the hands-on moves are designed to help the horse,

but it's also a bridge for you. It's a bridge for you to take that learning the Feldon Christ, learning from the floor to the horse. Okay. And to also help you understand more about movement, about how to help improve the functions that your horse needs to do, whether it's bending or flection or, or, you know, whatever. Right.

It helps you understand that better. So I have so many of these stories, right? These stories of incredibly transformational things that happened with my students came. And as a matter of fact, one student just recently she's in my online program and she, you, she had emailed me and said how much this work has improved her life, her horses, but also her own life.

And she used a word that I just love it's transmogrified. And I looked it up. Okay. Cause that, wasn't a word that I used. I had heard about it, but I never had thought to look it up and it's transformation that occurs in a surprising or magical manner. So now it's like become one of my favorite words, K transmogrified,

I to transform in a surprising, magical manner. So I love that so much because even though this work is very much grounded in science, okay. It's very much grounded in science and working with the nervous system and this whole idea of, you know, the mindfulness drives the neuroplasticity, you know, your ability to create new neural connections and make these improvements.

I mean, it's like a physical thing. There's also, I like to think a little bit of magic in there too, because the change can happen in a pleasurable instant, and you don't need the sense of willpower and effort and all that kind of striving that our culture kind of promotes. I shouldn't say kind of promotes very often promotes. So again,

this idea of moving mindfully with, with your horse can really improve the responsiveness of both you and your horse, because now you can communicate on a much, much deeper level, much deeper level. So your horse realizes that you're listening to him, you're literally listening on a higher level. Okay. So that's really, really cool. So, but I'm going to tell you another story that isn't positive.

Okay. Because you know, let's balance the scales a little bit. So years ago I have this client we're going to call her Shelly and this is what she said to me. She said, Mary, I don't know what you do or how it works. And I don't care to know. All I know she said is that every time you work with my horses,

I win. And my husband said to me, if he's spending all this money paying for my horses, I better come home with blue ribbons. Now let me point out. She was an upper level dressage competitor. Kay. She boarded at a very highfalutin, fancy barn with a very top dressage trainer. And, you know, she had all the therapies for her horses.

She did everything. She was very fit. She worked at every day. Okay. And she took, you know, lessons five days a week, you know, to improve herself. But what was really interesting was when I watched her ride, she didn't look like she had a lot of feel or a lot of weirdness of her own body. You know,

she kept her, her hands really clenched. She seemed really tense and she was very single-minded focus. She just wanted to win. She wanted to get those top scores again. I've nothing against competition when it's done well with your horses, wellbeing at the, at your, at your highest priority, you know, it could be a great way to, to,

to gauge your progress and things like that. So I have nothing against competition. It's just, you know, you have to have your horse as your priority. That's my opinion. You know, and to look at her, if you just saw her sitting on her horse, I mean, she looked good, right? She had an educated position. She took a lot of lessons.

She competed at a very high level, but when I watched her, it was like, Hmm, she didn't really seem like she had a lot of feel. And our, you know, her timing of her aides was off and she was harsher with her aids and she certainly needed to be, you know, she didn't have that real feel or softness to her writing.

You know, she was pretty strong with her aids and her horses were always tense. And, and you know, I had worked with them, right. So I knew how sore their backs were, both of them in the same place. And I can see as she sat on her horses, that she was a bit crooked, like, which is very,

very common, but, and it's fairly easy for me to help people with that. It's a very strong habit for many of us, but with the Feldon Christ method that I have lots and lots of people, you know, change that. So they can sit more balanced and make it much easier for their horse and less wear and tear on their bodies as well and more secure on their horse.

So, you know, so this was the thing. The Shelley had no interest in learning this. She was used to people, professionals coming to her barn, taking the horse out of, out of the stall, putting the horse in cross dies, doing their therapy, you know, leaving and billing her. And she didn't have to be involved. And when I said to her,

she needed to be there. She actually hired a disinterested groom to be her stand-in like, she didn't get the reason why she needed to be there. So it was, it was interesting to me that she had zero interest in knowing why our horses were sore and tight and, and all this. And she, she did not want to, to do anything different than what she was doing.

So I felt it best to not continue to work with her horses because number one, she wasn't willing to engage. And number two, I was putting them back in that same situation. So, so their life was not improving. It would improve temporarily. They would feel much better after my, the sessions with me, but I was putting them back right into that same situation,

the same scenario of the tight restrictive nose bands, right? The harsh aides, the unrelenting pressure that was put on them, none of that was going to change. So I felt it best to take a step back. And I've done that with, with there, there's been number of clients over the years, and this is where then it was really important for me to say, this isn't going to work.

Unless a person has an understanding that their own awareness, their own, the mindfulness, you know, they, their ability to improve their own movement and improve how they're thinking and all those things. So, you know, I talk about movement. I'm a movement and mindset coach, right? Unless a person is willing to take responsibility for that. Isn't really best.

If I work with the horse, like to get, to help the horse, to the greatest extent I need to help the human really embrace this idea of mindfulness in, in, in all its beauty, if you will, right in the, in the movement, in the thinking, right at be mindful of your mindset, if you will, the thoughts you create,

because we have control over that the same way we have control over how we move, right? We can let go of these habits that aren't serving us. And you'll find when you do that, your horse immediately becomes more responsive because now you've let go of things that have been blocking your ability to communicate with your horse, whether it's physical tension or emotional tension,

some crazy thoughts you're having that, you know, that you have these whatever. Maybe you feel like you're, you need to, to do certain things to write whatever it is. You can let that go and have clarity of mind and clarity in your body and, and, and ride being fully present with your horse, okay. That will improve your responsiveness and automatically improve your horses,

responsiveness. And from there, then I encourage you to learn the hands-on stuff with your horse. If you want to take that to an even higher level, okay. That's why I teach this in my programs. It's a dual thing. I help you and I help your horse. It's all done online. It's awesome. Because remember, it's not just about you,

it's not just about your horse. You're the horse. You're a horse human system, right? H H squared. Okay. So really, really important that you realize that that's, the more you can bring a sense of mindfulness to your own movement, to your own thoughts, the stronger your body mind connection will be. And the more you can bring this state of mindfulness to your interactions with your horse,

the greater the horse human connection will be for you. Okay? So it's really, really a beautiful thing. And it's, again, a way to, for you both to share this idea that change, that improvement can happen in a pleasurable instant, Hey, and that you can, life can feel easier. That could be more joy, more bliss in your interactions with each other,

right. Has after all isn't that why we're with horses right? To, to, to have fun, to have joy, to have to feel the strong bond, this connection, this, this love for your horse. I'd love to hear from you. How do you develop a sense of mindfulness when you're with your horse? Do you feel like you're fully present when you're with your horse or do you get distracted either by,

you know, frustrations with your own, with yourself, maybe the way you ride, the way your training or something with your horse. And, oh, before I forget, let me tell you this. So I'd love to hear from you. You can email [email protected]. We also have a Facebook group happy, healthy horsewomen, but also in that Facebook group,

I will be offering a free class and it's free, like totally free. You will have to sign up for it because it's going to be on zoom and that kind of thing. But I want to take you through a way to improve your mindfulness, mindfulness of your own movements and also mindfulness of your horses movements. So the absolutely free. So connect with me somehow.

It probably the easiest way for you to get on, on the list is go to Mary debono.com forward slash rider, MaryDebono.com/rider. And there'll be in the show notes. If you don't remember that, and you can sign up for my three free videos. So this is all free. And then once you get on that list, I'll let you know when this free class is going to happen.

Okay. So make sure you start getting the videos because that means that my emails will be accepted. Otherwise they sometimes go to spam and yada yada, so make sure or email me directly and I'll make sure that you're on the list or, or join my Facebook group, happy, healthy horse. Women's free, or do all of those that would actually be best.

So anyway, remember if you want to improve responsiveness, start moving mindfully with your horse. Thank you so much for joining me. I can't wait to share more with, you. Talk to you very soon. 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 riders at 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.