Restoring Healthy Movement: A Conversation with Karen Rohlf and Mary Debono

#equinemovement #humanmovement debono moves equine injury equine tendon injury feldenkrais feldenkrais method recovery from injury Apr 01, 2023
Photo of Mary Debono with horse. Title of podcast episode

I recently had the honor of being a guest on Karen Rohlf's Horse Training in Harmony podcast. Karen is an exceptional teacher and trainer and puts an emphasis on developing a relationship based on connection with your horse. Plus, she's a delightful person! I hope you enjoy our conversation. 

Please scroll down to check out the resource links.  

1. Exploring Healthy Movement with Mary Debono: Retraining Your Nervous System for a Better Connection with Your Horse (00:00 - 06:25)
2. Exploring Habits of Movement with the Feldenkrais Method (06:25 - 11:46)
3. Building an Environment of Awareness with Feldenkrais and Horses (11:46 - 17:00)
4. Unlocking Movement Possibilities through Hands-on Work (17:00 - 23:08)
5. Revealing the Habits Formed from an Original Injury: A Story of One Horse's Road to Soundness (23:09 - 28:54)
6. Examining the Benefits of Moving Massage for Horse Injury Recovery (28:54 - 34:18)
7. Building Trust and Sending Love Through Movement (34:18 - 39:58)
8. Using Sternum and Ribs to Unlock Better Horse Movement (39:58 - 45:14)
9. Discovering 'Permission' Through a Horse's Vulnerability (45:14 - 50:13)
10. Receiving Messages from Horses: A Vulnerable Moment of Transformation (50:13 - 54:51)

If you’re interested in learning how YOU can improve your movement and that of your horse, please sign up for the waitlist for the Move with Your Horse group coaching program. (There's no obligation and you'll be eligible for free classes.)



Here's what Karen Rohlf wrote about our conversation: 

In this episode, I’ll be talking with Mary Debono. She is a certified Feldenkrais® practitioner focused on helping horses and riders enjoy freer, healthier movement even if challenged by injury, arthritis, anxiety or again. We found a lot of common ground with how we approach improving horses' movement so I think you will really love our conversation!


About Mary Debono:

Mary Debono helps horses and riders enjoy freer, healthier movement even if they are challenged by injury, arthritis, anxiety or aging. A Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner, Mary’s clients have ranged from pleasure riders to international competitors. Her ability to address the underlying cause of a problem sets her work apart and can lead to surprising improvements in both horse and human.

An international clinician with over 30 years of experience, Mary helps horses and riders be more athletic, balanced and confident at any age. Based in California, she offers online programs and works with equestrians all over the globe.



▪ Improve your position and balance effortlessly. Get free three FeldenkraisⓇ video lessons to do in a chair:

▪ Sign-up for free introductory online classes:

▪ For information on general FeldenkraisⓇ for people:

▪ Basic Rib Rope exercise for humans:


About the Karen Rohlf:

Karen Rohlf, author and creator of Dressage Naturally, is an internationally recognized clinician who is changing the equestrian educational paradigm. She teaches students of all disciplines and levels from around the world in her clinics and the Dressage Naturally virtual programs.

Karen is well known for training horses with a priority on partnership, a student-empowering approach to teaching, and a positive and balanced point of view. She believes in getting to the heart of our mental, emotional, and physical partnership with our horses by bringing together the best of the worlds of dressage and partnership-based training.

Karen’s passion for teaching extends beyond horse training. Her For The Love Of The Horse: Transform Your Business Seminar and Mastermind/Mentorship programs are a result of her commitment to helping heart-centered equine professionals thrive so that horses may have a happier life in this industry.


Karen Rohlf's Resource Links:

▪ Video of Atomic and Moving Massage:

▪ Mary Debono free videos:

▪ Sweet Spot Of Healthy Biomechanics Program:

▪ The Dressage Naturally VIDEO CLASSROOM:

▪ Online Programs:

▪ The Dressage Naturally Book:

▪ Get 3 free training videos:

▪ Take the Happy Athlete Quiz:

▪ Course: Habits For Excellent Horsemanship:

▪ Join the conversation in our Dressage Naturally Facebook Group:

▪ See all of Karen Rohlf’s Online Programs here:


In this episode, I'll be talking with Mary Debono. Mary helps horses and rider enjoy freer, healthier movement, even if they're challenged by injury, arthritis, anxiety, or aging. A certified Feldenkrais practitioner, Mary's clients have ranged from pleasure rider to international competitors. Her ability to address the underlying cause of a problem sets her work apart and can lead to surprising improvements in both the horse and human.

She's an international clinician. With over 30 years experience, Mary helps horses and rider be more athletic, balanced, and confident at any age. She's based in California and offers online programs and works with equestrians all over the globe. We found a lot of common ground in how we approach improving horses movement. So I think you're gonna really love our conversation. I know we did.

So here we go. Episode 137, restoring Healthy Movement with Mary Debono. Hi, I'm Karen Rolf and welcome to Horse Training in Harmony. This podcast is about you making progress with your horse in a way that you both can love. It's about learning how to move and be in harmony, because yes, you really can develop a horse to be both athletic and happy.

When we show up as our best selves for our horses, our horses will show up for us. So let's get started. Well, I am here with Mary Debono and thank you Mary for taking the time to be here on this podcast with me. Oh, it's my pleasure, Karen. Thank you for having me. Yeah, I'm, I'm excited to do another conversation with you.

I think I should share how I came across you in, in the first place. I had posted a video of one of my horses who was lame, and I was doing this thing that I call Moving Massage, which some of my listeners may have heard about. I'm just putting a gentle touch on, and then he stops limping, you know, at the walk.

And so I had posted that video saying, Hey, does anybody know, like, what the heck is going on here? Because it was pretty remarkable and got lots of people commented, but for some reason, Mary, your comment stood out. I just thought it was interesting and yeah, it, it was interesting. So it made me reach out and,

and talk to you some more about what's going on. So I think, we'll, I'll talk a little bit about that video and what you had said and what was going on a little bit later as we go. But I thought maybe we should just start by, you know, introducing you and letting you describe a little bit about what Feldenkrais is, because you do Felden,

you're a certified Feldenkrais practitioner and work with horses and people and dogs, I guess, too. Yes, yes. I'd love for you to share just like, what is Feldenkrais and then we'll kind of get into what you do with it. Okay, sounds good. So the Feldenkrais method is, it's a, it's a holistic approach that uses directed attention and gentle movements to basically retrain the nervous system.

And the key thing here is directed attention. So with humans, for example, I will lead, cuz I do programs both online and in person, where I will lead people through very specific sequences of movement and I will verbally direct their attention. Okay. Cuz I can do that with humans, with adult humans. Anyway, I also have worked with children,

you know, babies, but with horses now, it's obviously a little bit different. So we use our touch in such a way that we direct the attention very specifically. And before, before I clarify that, I wanna say that with humans, we also do a hands-on form of it, and that's called functional integration, which is a part of the Feldenkrais method.

And I've done that also for 30 years. So, so basically you're either using verbal instructions or your hands, or both to have the individual horse or human have more attention in very specific ways. Because when you think about it, if you have attention and movement, what does it do? It actually stimulates neuroplasticity, it potentiates the brain in a very meaningful way.

So this work is very much about stimulating neuroplasticity, but, and really meaningful neuroplasticity, meaning something that you can take into your functional life. So for a horse that's being able to move the limbs easily to round the back easily, to bend the neck, what whatever it happens to be. And that's how we do it, because it's, if you think about it,

Karen, like we all have habits. We have habits of how we move. And this is one way I, if I have like a few minutes to, to teach a little group or something, I tell everyone, go ahead and interlace your fingers. Now, of course, if you're listening in the car, don't do this, but do it later.

That Might be problematic. But, but if you can go ahead and interlace your fingers and notice which index finger is on top, you know, which is your, and then open your hands, you know, lengthen your fingers, slide them all over so the other index finger is on top. And does it feel different? Everyone, I, I think I had one person once say,

it didn't feel different out of all the people I did this with. And one, one student had a really nice way of describing it. She said, it's like holding hands with a stranger when you do it the second way. Oh, interesting. Yeah, Because it feel, isn't that a great, isn't that great? And I thought, wow,

that, that makes sense. So to me and to everyone that's a habit. So in other words, the way we interlace our fingers is a habit. So when I just say it without, you know, telling you why I'm doing this, you just do it your habitual way. Right. No big deal. And habits can be very useful. You have a habit of how you tie your shoes,

right? Like all these things can, can be good for us. However, we also have habits about how we use our, our bodies. So for example, we have habits of how we coordinate our low back and pelvis, how we hold the muscles around the hip joints, what we do with our neck. Another big one, how we use our ribcage.

So many people, I'm going to say virtually everybody, if they haven't addressed this fold a little bit more to one side than the other. And a lot of times you don't see, right? You see it as a trainer, I bet all the Time. Oh, I, I do it in my, I see in myself. I've got all kinds of things I ha that take a lot of maintenance of my attention.

Okay, well I, yeah, I always say if you gave me, if you said, okay, Mary, you can only help people with one thing rider, especially like one thing, it would be that because it's so pervasive, it's like everyone does it. And I was the poster child for this before I started the Feldenkrais started training in the Feldenkrais method.

So in the Feldenkrais method we help, again, this could be verbal or it could be, you know, hands on movement. We help people feel that they're doing that and give them very unique strategies to be able to change it. Because as you know, if you just tell someone to sit up straight and not bend that way, they're going to create other compensations,

other habits. So it's really important to do it in a way that brings a sense of awareness and ease and pleasure to the movement. So the brain will want to do it automatically. So this is really distinguishes the Feldon Christ method from other approaches because we're focusing on function and we're doing it in a way that it's, you know, we're stimulating neuroplasticity and in a very,

I'm gonna say like practical way. And what I love about it is people matter of fact, just the other day, someone told me this after doing the, the lessons with me, they, the movement lessons, they start spontaneously doing the movements. And I, I can see it in my students on Zoom, I see how they're moving so differently and it's so beautiful.

So, so it's a way of basically in simple terms, using directed attention and mo and hands on contact to potentiate the brain, to, to bring in new options in how an individual moves and feels. And I, I wanna just clarify something just a little bit. So I was trained as a Feld and Christ method practitioner. So it's a four-year training,

but I adapted it to four-legged animals. So I call that adaptation Debono moves, and that's what I teach people. So we use the Feldenkrais method to help the humans, and then we use Debono moves to help the horses, the dogs, the cats, et cetera. There's so much in what you just said, I mean, like nearly we're eight minutes in and I'm like,

wait, wait, wait, we gotta go deeper. That was so cool. And you know, just that, that simple activation of, you know, to experience the difference in your hands. I mean, this is something I think where I got so excited talking to you and, and in what I do to try to help create alignment with horses in a way,

like what you said, in a way that has some ease so that they, you end up wanting to, right? And so I've been a, I have actually a lot of asymmetries in my body. Like when, when doctors take an x-ray of my back, they all go, Ooh. And they call in other doctor friends and go look at this.

So it's been like, That's never what you wanna hear, by the way, Right? No, no. They're like, that's cool, you have scoliosis, but you curve the same way twice. You know, I'm like, oh, okay. Anyway. But so I've been a little bit obsessed with, you know, I, for me the dressage is almost like physical.

It is physical therapy for me. Oh it is. Cause I get all this feedback, but I've noticed, you know, when I'm, if I, if there's a couch, I will tend to gravitate to the side of the couch. So I'm always leaning a little left and looking, you know, look in the certain direction and if I catch myself,

I will pick myself up and move myself to the other couch side of the couch. So I have to do the opposite. But you're, that's like the gross version because you're right, there's still the original contortion. I just retort another way, but it's a, it's a good way to start having awareness. You're driving in the car, I'm leaning on my left elbow.

If I catch myself, I try to like put more weight in my right elbow on the console. So I think there's a way to practice just becoming aware and doing one's own version of that. And then when I go to, you know, the person that I work with, she's always like, oh my gosh, you're so aware because I've already been thinking about it.

And then she helps do it more. Right. But I think the Feldenkrais just seems I really need to find a protection or, because it's so, yeah, I know, like, I'm like mental note because it just seems to get really deep into the, the neuro part of it, not just a absolutely put your body somewhere, but absolutely. How are you?

Yeah. So I really love that idea and, And it's really tailored to the individual because, and, and even when I'm teaching in a group, so I do all the, you know, I do my programs online and I have a group. So what what we do is you become your own inner authority. Just what you were saying, Karen,

how aware you are. And because you are a brilliant writer and trainer, you have that already a heightened sense of awareness. And so you know what feels, oh, that feels a little bit easier, that feels a little more comfortable. And then you build on that, right? So, but, but a lot of people, they just, some things feel familiar and they think it feels good or comfortable,

but it doesn't, it's just familiar. So the nervous system has basically zeroed it out, like said, oh, she does that all the time. I'm not gonna pay attention to it. And that really dulls our awareness. So I always say small things become big things, both good and bad. So having that level of awareness, which is what the Feld and Christ method brings out in people is real.

And horses, the way we do it is really, really powerful. Yeah. And, and it really helps people because not everyone embodies the side bending the same way. So maybe, maybe we have a group of 12 people and they all, you know, have a habit of side bending more to one side than the other. Very common. But the way they do it and the man,

you know, the way they manifest that habit can be very different. So for a lot of people, they'll side bend more, I see it more on the right that they shorten the right side, then it often throws the weight onto more onto the left seat bone. But it doesn't have to some people, that doesn't happen. It comes, they do something funny on the right side of the pelt,

you know what I mean? So, so it's very Individual. It gets complicated really quickly. It gets complicated. And, and this is what I love because the Feldenkrais method addresses it all and puts the, gives you that level of authority and awareness that you think, Hmm, what if I try it this way and I'm, you know, and I'm giving verbal cues,

right? Tell, helping people along, but they ultimately make the changes their nervous system. And that's how, it's why it's so powerful. It's not something done to a person or a horse, it's you're, you're creating a learning environment for the human or the horse and their nervous system decides what's good and what isn't. Yeah. And this, this is something that really excites me.

And I think we should at some time be in the same place at the, the same time with some horses because Oh, I would love that. Yes. Part of the, yeah, part of the strategy of like my sweet spot and the, the basic alignment exercise is where, you know, we let the horses, you know, just look,

you know, let the horse go and find their crookedness. And when we start to identify the crookedness, then I have the riders even like, we'll go a little bit more crooked and, and then, and just like stop and rest there in the shape of that crookedness and just let them alone. Don't try to hold it there. And then I,

I say, well what's the opposite of that? Like, what would be something in, you know, overshooting, whatever we think maybe aligned is like, but go the other direction. And we kind of play with that, with their shoulders, their hips and just like, it's an experiment. I'm like, well, what moves and try that. Leave it alone.

And so what happens is the horse goes from their familiar crookedness, they're like, this feels good cuz I'm used to it. They pass through a line, they go past it to this other thing that usually feels harder, but we only stay there for a moment and then we relax and then we let them do what they want and they go back and forth across this midline.

And at some point the horse goes, Hey, this new spot actually feels better. And they start to breathe and blow. So when you were talking, I'm like, oh my gosh, this is like, yes, the same concept. That's this very, very similar. So, and, and so you're doing it, I'm assuming mostly, well I guess groundwork and writing Yeah.

On, we'll do it online and on the saddle, but it's really based on, I'm using communication. So I see the horse being crooked and I go, Hey, can I communicate to you, to the request to move your shoulder? And then of course they're gonna, they have to understand the request and then they go, Hey, but that's hard.

There's a reason I've been avoiding this. Right? And so then how do we do it in a way that like, I know it's hard, just do it for a moment and we're gonna like actually just let you halt there when you get there and leave you alone and we'll just let you swing back. So there's, there's communi, it's building on communication and then a lot of trust,

right? Yes. Because I'm saying, can you do the thing that you've been avoiding, but do it in a way where they go, oh, that wasn't so bad. I'll give that a try. Because if we get them in defensive mode, nothing's gonna happen. So, so that's sort of the, I think it sounds like, you know,

you are, what you're doing is probably more deep down sophisticated, you know, hand, you know, directed where I'm kind of slinging a sloshing. But in that sling and sloshing we're like what you said, we're opening up pos movement possibilities. Absolutely. And as long as I don't tweak the defensiveness system, that's, That's the important part, right?

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S w e e t s p O T. All right, now back to the pod. So, so the way we do it in the work I teach is that I'll have the, the person do it with the hands first. So in other words, just say, to use a common example, a horse bends more easily in one direction. So we,

you know, we go down and we find all the nuances of that, but just start with something simple like the, the way the ribs and the spine are, are coordinating and we actually just like what you're doing, exaggerate that actually support that. So we call that supporting the pattern. So here you have a habit that the horse has and instead of saying,

oh no, don't do that, right? We're going along with what this sounds like what you're doing, right? You're actually going more into that. And that does a number of things, to your point, yes. It actually helps the horse relax because that is familiar and it feels safe to the nervous system. It's like, that's what I already do.

Yeah. But when you use, for example, the hands and, and people actually learn how to do this with, in the saddle, when you use the hands to do it, you actually start to take over the work of the muscles. So the brain gets a signal that says, oh, I can let that go. Oh, interesting. And so suddenly now you have more availability to be say,

maybe neutral, and then in due time you start to just suggest the new direction. But you go back, just like what you're saying, you go kind of back and forth. But that's really important that the way we do, cuz I do teach the hands on, I don't teach writing. I, I leave that to brilliant trainers like yourself. I teach how they can use their hands,

and then we do some, i I give them hints of what they can do in the saddle, but the idea is to take over the work in very particular ways that the brain is paying attention and then says, someone's doing that for me. And you know, I do this with humans too. So if I have someone lying on their side, for example,

or even sitting on a chair, but it's better lying down and I hold their ribs in the position that they like so much that I say like meaning their habitual position that their, their brain likes when I slowly let go. And the key is very slowly, they're straighter because a and, and they didn't ha and there was no conscious decision to be straighter.

It's just that the brain recognized I don't have to hold those muscles so tight to hold that position. So it's so fun because it's, you, you know, you become just like when you're training, right? You're, you're like a detective finding all the different nuances and how does this horse do this and how does this person do this? And then we address it on this level of the nervous system had a good reason to develop that habit.

And that's what I always remind people of your nervous system had a, whatever the habit is, whether it's sitting crooked, you know, whether it's weight-bearing more on one leg, always leading with one leg, which is very common, or whatever habit your horse has, the nervous system had a good reason. And so it's attached to that habit. It's,

it's, it feels okay, this got me through and maybe it happened years ago, but, so this is why we have to be very careful when we bring in a new possibility. So we do a lot of like relieving efforts, supporting, doing all this, and then we can gradually introduce new options and make sure the horse is feeling safe or the human.

So a, a quick story I'll share with you, Karen, if you don't mind, was about, I was called to work with this horse who had a chronic suspensory ligament injury and three different vets had worked with the horse and they all agreed that the horse would never be sound, this was never going to heal, you know, it was all calcified and everything.

And she was only 10 years old, the horse. And the woman w who owned the horse was very upset, you know, wanted to help her horse. Someone told her about me and or she arranged for me to come to her barn. And what I noticed about the mayor was she was at, at a standstill weight bearing more heavily on the injured leg than the other one.

This is not uncommon, believe it or not. So nobody had noticed that and, and I'm talking subtle things. So in other words, when I very gently moved her, like I, I do it from the ribcage in a, in a circular way, she was like, she wanted to be on that injured leg. She didn't wanna be on the other one,

on the, the other front. And I noticed, I think was the left front. So her whole left side, she wanted, that's where her habit was, was to weight bear more on that side. And even her muscle development was a little bit more developed on that side. And when I pointed this out to the owner, she said, you know,

she even sweats more on that side. Oh wow. So, so yeah, it was very interesting. So what I ended up doing with her was, again, I, I supported what she was doing, but not that I was taking more weight onto it, but I was very gradual and I did it actually through working with her sternum helped her feel that she could be safe weight-bearing on each of the legs.

Now if I had tried to just push her weight over, like rocked her away from me onto the other leg, the, the sound one, everything in her nervous system would've reacted badly to that and said, oh no, no, no, we don't do that. We don't do that. And what you end up doing is you create a lot of resistance in the horse and a lot of tension.

And by the way, this is true for any species, US dogs, whoever. So I had to be very careful in how I was introducing that new possibility. She caught on, she did great. She went on to full soundness and she never had another problem. But the interesting thing was, the owner told me once I got started and, and,

and figured this all out, she said five years ago, she badly injured her right front. So, and it, and it was in a situation where there was a lot of emotion attached to it. So, so it was, I think really stuck in her that her brain said, oh, we have to protect that leg. So she learned over these five years to use the other side more,

which then of course led to this injury, which then wasn't healing because she wasn't giving it the chance. So even though she was, she was lame at the trot when she was at rest, which she was on stall rest, she was constantly overstressing that leg. It was, and I've had many situations like that with both tendons and ligaments and whatnot,

back problems where they're stressing it more. That's so Interesting. By the way, humans do this too, isn't it? So this goes down to that idea of habits, right? We have our habits about these things. So it's, but again, it's very crucial how you introduce the new possibility, right? And that you can't just, you know,

tell the horse, okay, we're gonna be this way now. And I know I obviously you don't do that. I'm just speaking for, for to help other people, that they have to be very respectful that the nervous system has a good reason Yeah. To do What it it's doing. And so you have to communicate that. Yeah, I mean I think it's worth highlighting because it seems to me,

you know, there's such a, if we discover something like this, it's easy to think, Ooh, I need to help them get over there. You know, you know, I mean, I think I can be guilty of being way too eager and you know, like, ooh, ooh, I have a great idea horse, we need, we need you over here.

But it, that's really fascinating that from an original injury, this habit is set up and it's so ingrained that the brain, you know, your brain can't think about your posture all day. It just goes, this is normal to the point where now the injured leg is being more stressed and you'd think that the body would go, Hey, I need to shift away from that.

But that you can still be limping on an injured leg, but still your weight is going towards it without the body being even aware of that. So that's pretty huge. And I wonder if, I mean, I would imagine that sometimes when you're helping a horse with a situation like this and then you bring them back into, you know, more alignment that maybe you can discover,

oh, that's why they've been moving off. Because now you know, did you find that the, the lameness shifts a little bit. Like they, you know, now they're more here, but then you go, oh, now, now you find out actually they've been protecting this other side, but now at least you can, you're still getting to the root.

Now you can go, oh now let, I better, I better now look at that Right Stifle. Cuz maybe that's, wait, That's a, The reason, That's a great, great question Karen, so thanks for asking that because I am going to say that doesn't happen in my work and I'll tell you why. Interesting. Because I am not making the change for the horse.

I'm just setting up the learning environment. And this is where it's a big distinction between approaches that focus on structure. Like, oh, okay, this is tight or this is sort or whatever, I'm going to do something to change the structure. But when you do this with this nuanced way where you're asking the nervous system, does this feel easy? Does it feel pleasurable?

Does it feel safe? The horse isn't going to make the change unless the nervous system is on board. Gotcha. So they're not putting themselves in a more vulnerable place, they're always No, none if you do it correctly. I'm so glad to ask that question. Yes. That was a great question. Thank You for that. Or made that That.

Yes. Wow. Yeah. So that's really, really important. And, and, and it actually is a little bit of a pet peeve of mine. What I used to see, like in different horse publications, they will teach people how to say, for example, massage one part of the body per month. Like, okay, this month we're doing the neck.

Okay everybody grab up your horses, you're gonna learn how to massage the neck. My question is always, why did the nervous system decide to restrict movement in the neck? So if you don't address that and you do some something that probably would feel really good to the horse and the horse would really love and would result in freer movement of the neck, but you don't give the horse the infrastructure to support that freedom.

Now you have a horse that's vulnerable to injury. Interesting. Hmm. Yeah. And the same thing with a human. Like if you just got some nice massage or something I have, and nothing against massage by the way I've done many years in the past of massage. You don't want to do it in a way that isn't, that the improvements aren't integrated through the whole system.

You don't wanna focus on stru, in my opinion. That's, I don't focus on structure, I focus just like in the Feldon Christ method on function. So we improve the function, the movement of the whole self rather than focusing on individual parts. So Interesting. That's so, yeah. Yeah. I, I love that. And maybe this is a good moment to,

for me to describe a little bit more about that video that I posted. Oh Yes, Yes, yes. Your answer because, so yeah, so my horse Atomic, who had pretty major tendon injury, but he was able to be, you know, walked. And so I was doing what I call my moving massage technique, which is, I feel like everything I do is kinda like a caveman version of what you're doing.

But, but you know, moving massage technique is basically going, I'm gonna put my hands on my horse and feel what I feel and if my hand wants to stop in a certain area, I'll just send love into that area and give the message of what do you wanna do with this? You know, so, so he's in the video, he's walking and limping quite obviously,

and my hand ends up going kind of on his ribcage, behind his scapula and I mean, very light touch, like touching the hair. And I just noticed like, okay, my hand wanted to stop there and when I stay there, I'm walking with him. Because for me, I love doing moving massage because I'm getting feedback from how the horse moves.

Yes. And, and it's just like, you know, so I don't have to guess like, did I get the trigger point, you know, I'm like, I'm watching the horse move and then he starts to not limp and, and being Very, that was remarkable. Yeah. And then I take my hand off, I'm like, what's going on here?

And he starts limping again. I put my hand back on and he stops limping. And that's when I called my husband. I'm like, you gotta video this. So, yeah. So, and what you had, you know, wrote back is that, you know, it's something about the, how much this scapula sliding. And then when I touched there,

you know, my quote unquote magic spot, he just made a little shift to his ribcage. Yes. Which allowed the scaffold to move. But I think it's like this integration, it's like, Hey, here's something going on. And his body made all the decisions. Right. And that's what, that's what caused me to post the video going, somebody knows a little bit about what might be going on here.

Yeah. And you really went to that ribcage and then you had sent me a video about with you moving the sternum and moving the ribcage. And so yeah, I'd love just for you to kind of riff a little bit more Okay, sure. What, what you think was going on there and, but that, I love the, the moving massage,

you know, to doing that while the horse is moving to me is, has been incredibly powerful for so many horses because I think of that integration of the movement. It's not just absolutely me working out a, what I think is a tense muscle. Right. And I, I totally agree. And I, I, we do a lot of the work,

the debona moves while the horse is moving as well. So we do it for a standing, but then we bring it into movement. But with that one that was so impactful, like to see how atomic just softened through his ribcage when you put your hand there, that told me a lot, by the way, about how wonderful your moving massage is.

Cuz he immediately softened there and he had this lovely leg bend. So it allowed the, the scapula to mo to slide more easily, which change how the forces go through the leg. So often when I'm working with horses that have leg injuries, front leg injuries, for example, we do a lot of work with the ribs and the sternum because that is key to being able to move the limb.

All the limbs actually all four easily. And it changes, literally changes how the force goes through. So that, that, to me, you did a such a beautiful, you know, example of that you showed by, by having your hand like that. And so I'll, I'll give you another quick story about a horse with a different horse with a suspensory injury.

I knew, I could see the way the horse was walking. I knew if I could work with his ribcage, he would help, it would help heal this injury. Again, he had a chronic one, it was a long time that he was injured, he wasn't healing. I tried to put my hands on his ribcage and he was no go about that.

He was lying, I don't want you touching my ribcage. So this is what I always do in those situations, if, first of all, there's always other places to touch, et cetera, you don't ever have to touch a horse where they don't wanna be. But sometimes if you put something else between your hand and them for a horse that's really like that,

it works. So I looked down on the ground, there was, I remember a maroon lunge line. I picked it up, I asked the owner how was he with ropes and things around him. Oh, he's fine, he's fine. And I, I made sure he was, and then I put it around his ribcage. And so instead of using my hands,

I used this lunge line. Well he thought that was the best thing ever. Oh, interesting. And it's, it was really interesting. And so I, I was able to really, very, very, this work is really delicate and subtle, but to move his ribs and to work with the tissue between the ribs and do all this stuff, that horse,

first of all, he loved it. He totally changed the way his neck was, totally changed the way his scapula could, could slide over his ribs and he walked off and he also went on to full healing. So I knew I was onto something with that lunge line and I started really playing with this. And I gradually, I, I did a lot of experimenting on one of my students who's,

she's a Feldon Christ practitioner or horse person and a sailor and a rock climber. So she knew ropes and we, we did, yeah. She was like the perfect partner. We came up with, you know, a, a rope, a good quality yacht rope that you would probably use in your as a, as a lead line. And I started teaching people how to use this.

I called the rib rope on their horses, but also you can do it on yourself and it's really good and it feels really good. I use different diameter usually for the horses and the people. But that was a game changer for a lot of people and a lot of horses because when you, especially when you do it with the humans, they realize,

oh wow, when I improve my ribs, suddenly my shoulder pain went away. Or I could move my arm more freely or I could turn my head more easily. So they start to get the connection between improving the movement in the center of the body and what it does for the extremities. And that's really important. So atomic you, you, that was just perfect what you did and why your hand went there was cuz you knew Right.

You knew that was gonna help him on some level. Yeah. So I also love something, I also love something else you said, Karen, if you don't mind me, me just underlying it, you mentioned with the moving massage that you send love there and I, I, that to me is very key. And one way my work is with the horses is a little bit different than the Felder Christ method is I actually put a focus on this synergistic effect we get from sending loving energy and also receiving loving energy.

Right. So that, that is something that like, that having that intention and having that gratitude, I found that that kind of like turbocharges the results of what we do with the horses. Yeah. Yeah. So I love that you said that and I just wanted to emphasize that for people because I just think that's so important. Yeah, thank, thank you.

Because it is, you know, there's so much with horses that we're asking things of them, do this, do this, do this, you know, we're, we're, you know, even if we're asking nicely, we're still asking. And so every time we touch them, we're asking for something. And this, you know, the moving massage,

this just putting your hands on and saying, I just love you and want you to feel better about everything is, you know, it's such a great partnership, trust building way for them to think about our touch differently when they see us coming. You know, they, oh, I'm gonna, you know, and, and then we have to of course not violate that trust,

but I've just seen it be so impactful to so many horses. So I I love that you highlighted that. Absolutely. Absolutely. One thing that, you know, I have to look up this rope method, do you have any videos on that accessible? Oh, I do actually. I do as a matter of fact. Yeah. I, I'm,

I could link, you know, I could send you a link to The Yeah, yeah. Send me link. Yeah, Absolutely. Absolutely. We'll make Sure we get That. Yeah. And you know, you could use any, I mean I did do a lot of experimenting with the different kinds of rope, but if you didn't have something ha you know,

around people just sometimes use their dog leash or their belt or whatever. Yeah. But the, the high quality yacht rope just works a little bit better cuz there's more life to it. There's more feel to it. Yeah. But yeah, That I'll definitely, that's Awesome. We can do that. And, and I wanted to make sure I said I will post in the show notes to this episode.

I, I'll post the link to the video of my horse atomic that we're talking about too. You know, the other thing, when you're talking about the importance of the ribcage and how powerful that is, you know, e in training, I tell people all the time, like at first, you know, we might think we have to something with a neck and,

you know, yielding the neck and yielding the shoulders, yielding launches, like all training eventually comes down to we're moving the girth area of the horse. Like, yes. You know, first you gotta get the big stuff done, but in the end it all happens in the girth area. And then what do we do? We sit on it, we put a saddle on it.

Yes. We tighten a girth in the area. So when you were talking about the, the rope method, which I can't wait to go see, I'm thinking, I wonder if that helps the horse sort of be able to re to be able to deal with, or that's not the right phrase, but to when they're wearing a saddle in a girth.

Yes. Can they sort of, can it help get, you know, diffuse the original tension that must come up when we first put a saddle and a girth on, you know, that original thought, even if we're careful, I'm sure there's a habit that's set up around that, or sometime in the horse's pass somebody's cranked on a girth with a saddle that doesn't fit.

And I, I will it help maybe unwind is a better, you know, some of those old defense systems around that area. Absolutely. And I feel, Karen, like you're in my brain. So this is Like likewise like, Like we're on the same, like same wavelength, Pierre, I just feel like, oh, she's reading my mind.

So you're absolutely right and you know, when I said earlier if I had, if you only gave me one thing to improve with people, it would be this idea of, you know, how how they side bend habitually. If you only gave me one thing to be able to improve with horses, it would be to help them not only tolerate saddling,

but to actually enjoy it. So I actually have a whole program that I teach people how to make tacking up enjoyable for the horse and in such a way that improves their movement. Oh That's a, a big part of it is Yes. And that's a big part of it is using the rib rope and kind of simulating like, like a girth but done in a,

you know, very particular way. And we have to lead up to that and then we use the girth separately and move the sternum with the girth and do all those things. And I, I wanna, so, so you're absolutely right. But before I go more into that, I wanna say two things. You mentioned earlier about, I sent you a little video about using the sternum to help a horse soften the back.

The, that is so important because your other point about somewhere in the horse's past, probably someone did something to make the girth thing up, not comfortable. I read a, I read a about a study once, I can't cite the study cause I never got the original publication, but they said that they, they had done bankruptcies with quite a number of horses and they found that a,

so many of them, like a big percentage of them had evidence of hairline fractures of the costal cartilage. So the cartilage, those who don't know, that attaches from, you know, from the ribs down to the sterner and you know, the costal arch and all that, that's extremely painful. And wow, none of the people knew that this had happened to their horses.

So, you know, horses tolerate so much, but they learn to brace as we know, and they learn to, to contract the abdominals to protect. So these are things that if they're not addressed, it actually impedes the movement then of the sternum and the ribs. So, excuse me. So that is so crucial to be able to work with the sternum and the ribs in such a way that you're helping the horse rediscover that easier movement again.

And to be able to, for example, you know, move the sternum and ribs in such a way that the back can round, right. And to move it sideways and to, and to be able to distribute their weight over their limbs in a healthy way. So that, that's number one. So your point about that, that's spot on Karen,

like spot on about that whole, the importance of it and how we do have to kind of retrain the horse. And I, it was so fun because I've had horses in my program that they hated this being girl up, like pinning the ears, gnashing the teeth, the whole thing. They often get to a point where they're like, bring it to me baby,

bring it to me. Like, give me that girl, gimme the girl because it feels so good. It feels so Good. Wow. Well that, that I'm gonna have to learn about because the, when I do tacking and teach hacking, I talk about this thing of permission, right? So we, yes, we wanna ask our, and the horses know,

I mean, after it's happened, once they know, they know what's happening when you go pick up the girth, like they know where it's going. Right? And so just to, you know, to teach, to observe them. And, and often if they pin their ears and I wait and I go, okay, not now, how about now?

You know? And if they pin their ears, I go, okay, how about now? And I find often if I just play that permission game, they go, okay, it's not gonna be done to me. And then they go, I'm ready now. And then you do it. Yes. So that's like one layer of just the mental emotional defenses,

you know, being let down and then I'm sure whatever, what your technique is, just a deeper version. Cuz I, you know, to get to the point where like, oh, it feels good. Like I would really love to learn that I'm gonna have to Yes. Now I'm super curious. Oh good, good. But I had a horse years ago.

He, he was fantastic horse named Spotsy. He was a leopard happy. He taught me a really good lesson around that, Karen, what you're saying about permission. So I was getting ready to tack him up. I was getting ready to tighten the girth and he, he was loose. I don't tend to tie my horses if possible. So he wasn't tight and he,

he was a horse that would nip, he turned around just as I was about to do it. And he put his teeth on the soft fleshy part, like of my waist. I did not stop him. I did not say put your head back. I thought, oh, this is interesting. Now I don't recommend anybody at home letting your horse do that.

But I felt he had something to tell me. I know that may sound strange, but I felt he had something to tell me and I got a clear indication that he was saying, this is how we feel. In other words, that that, even though I had never done tacked him up in a, in a, in a uncomfortable way, it's like they're putting,

they're at our mercy, basically, like you said, you know, they, and so they have to tolerate certain things and he was letting me know like, this is what it feels like any moment someone can hurt us. And so he was letting me know like, okay, and, and you know what? I continue to very slowly the way I do it,

tighten the Garth, he never bit or anything and then he put his head back and we were fine. Wow. But I thought that it was, I felt that inside me of how it must feel to be subject to, yeah, I'm gonna stick this spur in you. I'm gonna tighten the Garth real roughly. I'm gonna put in a bit that doesn't fit,

you know, whatever. And it made me even more aware of that. So I always thank him for that, that lesson. Yeah, interesting. So that's beautiful because that to me is, you know, our responsibility to the horse is one of my number one priorities and we have to be aware of this at all time. Like they're, they're,

we have control over their entire life experience. And that's, to me that's a huge responsibility. So I love that you, you know, you were vulnerable in that moment, but you let yourself be vulnerable the way he's being vulnerable. And I have had that happen with him early on when I was doing more of this kind of work and, and at a clinic and there wa you know,

there was this horse that was, I usually get everybody playing with the basic alignment exercise and all this other stuff. And, and usually by the end of the clinic, like every horse is like blowing out and swinging and stretching online. And there's this one horse that had a really nice owner, very capable, was getting the exercise and it, I was like,

this horse should be stretching. Like everything was saying, like, this ought to be happening. And, you know, you could feel it. You're like, oh, any second now they're just gonna blow up. And so I, and it was just not quite there. And so I took the horse, said, can I play with the horse?

And I was doing my thing and it got right to the edge of that, oh it's gonna let down and I will never forget this moment. The horse right at that moment pinned its ears kind of leaped at me. I remember seeing teeth beared and it all happened so fast. It was like, ah. And then it went out and then it blew out and stretched and swung and it was totally cool.

And like I, it was so fast I didn't have time to rec. And I remember the message I got in that moment was like, if I could put a thought bubble above the horse's head, it was like, listen lady, this is a vulnerable position I'm go about to go into. Oh wow. You know, when you think about, wow,

you think about like, what if I walked into a room all confident and someone like sucker punched me in the stomach, right? Would I walk into a room all open and vulnerable? No, I'd probably be like a little hunched and protective. And then I think all the times of horses have had, you know, saddles put on and weight put on them and everything that makes a horse go inverted and contracted.

Yes. And here I was inviting the horse to do the op, put their top line in the most vulnerable position, put their emotions, you know, their head down, you know, that's v And I was like, wow. Right. I really felt like the I'm where, where I'm tempting horses to go with this is extremely vulnerable. And now,

and from that moment on in clinics, I, I let go of the ego thing of like, oh yeah, at the end of my clinics, all the horses are stretching cuz I go, if it doesn't want to, There's a reason and it's okay. It's like I just make sure people are taking the next step. But I, I realized like,

wow, I had a little bit of an ego thing about like, I can get any horse stretch and let go. And I was like, that horse is like, okay lady, but you better not violate this. And I was like, wow, message receive. Wow. But the horse did make a transformation, the owner that it, that it was with a new human and oh,

the old humans were not the good ones. This one was a good one. And so he, you know, he actually said, he's like, that was a life changing moment for him in the horse. But it was, I was like, oh, okay, wow. Messages. That was a powerful experience. And yeah. And, and for all of us to hear that I think helps us be more aware of that.

Like, in other words, it it speaks to that a whole idea that the nervous system and not just like thinking physical movement, like the horse was capable of it, but emotionally, the, the nervous system has to be ready for that, for that big change. So that, that was beautiful. Wow. Yeah. Just reminded me when you said about what your hor that horse did.

Yeah. It was like, we're both gonna be vulnerable here, you get it? Yes. You know, I was like, gosh, the, the Yeah. The messages they, the messages they give us. I think we probably, I'll speak for myself, I probably get 10% of what they're telling me, but Oh, I'm Sure. I'm sure.

I'm sure. Yeah. For me, you know, I'm sure we're not getting all that we could be getting. Wow. But, but as long as we, I think Karen though, as long as we are open to, you know, I, I have a thing I say to my horse, you know, I say, call me if you need anything.

And you know, like you would say to your husband, like, if he's going somewhere, whatever, like, call me if you need anything. I say that to my horse and I actually mean it because it, it helps me feel like I wanna be open. If I feel something, I'll receive it. You know, if he's sending something,

I'll receive it. So that's, that's like one of the things after I tell 'em I love him and thank you and all that, I'm like, call me if you need anything. So it's that being open, being receptive, I think is, plays a, you know, is obviously a, a big part. It's so cool. I could talk to you for another hour,

but I know I could talk to you forever. This flew, this flew by. So how about we just say we'll do another, we'll do a part two at some point. Oh, I'd love it. Or just I'd love it. Yeah, we'll talk again. But yeah, this is, I mean, I have a list of stuff. I don't even know if we answered all those questions.

So we have to, you have to come back for more. But I think this is, this was so cool. I think this is enough for this one. Okay. Sounds, and I really want people to soak this in because this went up a different direction than I even thought we were gonna talk about, but like super, super powerful. Cool.

Now I'm more committed to, we have to be in the same place at the same time with I would love it. Horses in front of us. Yeah. So thank you so for taking your time. Do tell people where, and I will add links to this in the show notes, but please tell people where they can find out more about you and,

and find some of the things you offer. So my, my website is mary Debono dot com, but if they go to mary Debono dot com slash rider, they'll, you know, you put in your email and you get three free Feld and Christ videos that they're done in a chair. They're super, they're short, they're 10 to 15 minutes. And it really addresses that side bending issue among other things.

It's like the first step of that. I'm not gonna say, you know, it, it makes a big change for people. And Yeah. And I would love, if people have any questions, they can always email me at mary mary Debono dot com. Beautiful. Yep. And I'll add the links to that. Yeah. And in the show notes,

wherever those are, you can always find on my website or most places where you're here listening to your podcast will have the show notes if you click down enough. Sounds good. Thank you so much, Karen. This was such a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you. Likewise. Love to be able to talk to your audience. Thank you so much.

You're welcome. Thank you. Thank you. If this episode resonates with you, make sure you subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you're listening. Training horses is a long game. The more you listen, the more pieces of the puzzle. You'll have to see all your learning resources visit dressage That's where you'll find free videos, online courses, my book,

you can sign up for my Wednesday Wisdom email or even book a private console. Most of all, remember you got this. Never underestimate the possibility for things to improve in ways you cannot yet imagine. Till next time, love your horse, move in harmony and enjoy the process.