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Don't Overlook This if You Want a Sound Horse

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Mary Debono
Don't Overlook This if You Want a Sound Horse
25:25
 

Hello, and welcome to Easier Movement, Happier Horses.  My name is Mary Debono, and I'm so glad you're here today. I'm going to share with you a really critical piece of the puzzle as far as keeping your horse sound for a lifetime. And it's not even just for your horse. This applies to you too. If you want to stay sound and active and,

and have lots of vitality and free easy movement, it's really important that you know about this thing. Okay. So I'm going to start by telling you a little story. Some time ago, I worked with a horse. His name was Finnegan. His person had called me. Her name is Jenny, and she was really worried about him. And she was actually really frustrated.

He ha he was a wonderful jumper. He had a lot of promise. You know, he got the best care, the best training, the best diet. I mean the best of everything. And he wasn't quite right in his right hind. And he was a bit off. He wasn't using it properly. And of course she had her vet out multiple times and they couldn't quite pinpoint what was going on.

They didn't know why he was having this problem. So he was sent to the equine hospital. He had a bone scan, he had a whole bunch of diagnostics and they couldn't really come up with anything. So he was given a series of joint injections and they didn't seem to help. So he still had this problem. So someone told her about my work.

She called me. I came out to see Finnegan, lovely, lovely horse. And you know, one of the first things I did was I had her walk him up and down the barn aisle, and they had a concrete barn aisle, so I could hear his footfall. So I noticed that he definitely had a lower sound. In other words, the sound was,

he was quieter when his right hind would, would contact the floor and the other ones were clearer. Okay. So that's interesting. We already knew that though. We knew he wasn't using that right. Hind very well. And then I started to what I, what I do is I call it a scan with my hands. I started to slowly go over,

basically every inch of him with my hands, noticing for things like tension in the muscles, the development of the muscles, comparing it to the opposite side, you know, all these things and gently rocking him in different ways. All these little, little tiny, very delicate movements to help me feel like, Hmm, where are they meant? Might be some restriction where he might be not as coordinated.

So I get to his hind end and I feel and see that the, his inside thigh muscles were very asymmetrical from the left to the right. So on his left side, he had lovely developed adductor muscles as the inside thigh muscles and on the right, they were less developed. And no one had ever noticed that before. And again, it's not super obvious.

You know, the tail is covering that area, have to really look for it. And there was just a whole different feel to the tone of the muscle as well, the quality of the muscle. So I started to explore a different movement through his body. So in other words, something I teach my students in all the programs is that there's ways you can use your hands while the horse is standing still to simulate how movement goes through the horses body.

And I started doing it in all these different ways, like following different paths and feeling how movement went through his left side, how it went through the right side, how it went diagonally, for example, from the left hip to the right shoulder and compare that to the right hip from the right hip to the left shoulder, that diagonal, and they were vastly different,

vastly different. What I noticed was in the, when I, when I simulated the movement, a little wave of movement from the left hip to the right shoulder, it was very clear. It was like smooth and clear. You can just, you can both see it and feel the clarity of it. When I did it from the right hip to the left shoulder,

it was really mushy. It was not clear. It kind of got lost halfway through definitely was very different. Okay. So we know that he wasn't using his right Hein, so that wasn't a big surprise, but now my, my, my job was how do we, you know, how can I help him be better at that? How can I help him coordinate that part?

So this, that those parts I should say, this is what's key. This is really, really crucial. If you want your horse to be sound, have flexible balanced movement. If you want that for yourself as well, have to focus on helping them and yourself coordinate your movement better, okay. Coordination or organizing the parts is key. This is what we really,

really focus on in the Feldenkrais Method. And of course in my work, which, which is called DeBono moves, it's this coordination, Hey, this means that the parts that are supposed to work for that movement are really working and the movement is healthy and efficient and it reduces, wear and tear. The horse is more flexible, balanced, all that good stuff.

Okay. So back to Finnegan. So I started working for example, with his back and his rib cage, his ribs, his sternum, you know, all the different pieces to help him feel that look, the movement can go here from your right hip, and then it can go a little further and then we can do this and we can do that.

And I started giving him all these lovely, passive experiences of a feeling of ease and even pleasure at the movement going through. I helped him relieve any habitual tightening he had and really gave him many different experiences, non habitual sensations of how that movement can now go through. And this is important. It had to be done with a feeling of ease and pleasure because I wanted his brain to want to do it again,

to associate that movement, that coordination with a feeling of ease and pleasure. Very, very important to remember. You want to, to associate movement with ease and pleasure, both for you and your horse. Okay. Then you can let the movement get larger and more powerful and all that good stuff. The basis is really critical that you start small. Okay.

So I helped him with that. And then when I went back to doing those little waves of movement, I was mentioning before that diagonal from the right hind to his left shoulder got a lot better. So I was really, really excited about that. And when we walked him after this session, there was a, definitely an improvement in how he was using that right.

Hind. So it was super exciting. So the very next day, just coincidentally, the vet was coming, came back for a follow-up with Finnegan. And he didn't know I had worked with him and he was, he watched him in the arena moving and he was surprised. He's like, wow, he's, he's using himself so much better. His,

he seems so much stronger behind. And then he turned and looked at Jenny and he said, well, those joint injections must have finally kicked in. And of course that probably wasn't it right. They had been given a long time before. So she kind of like sheepishly looked at him and said, well, actually I had Mary Debono work with him yesterday.

And so he smiled and said, well, keep that up. It's obviously helping. So a week later I gave him an Finnegan, another session and just kept building on the coordination he had gotten from the first session. He got better and better. I worked with him three times total. And by the end of the third session, I knew we were like just golden.

He was just using myself so powerfully and the improvements were really sticking. In other words, he really got it. And his nervous system was happy to keep doing this so dramatic difference. And you could start to see the muscle development in that right. Hind was starting to come back. So that was really, really great. So that's one example. So if we had just focused on trying to isolate different parts of that,

right. Hind leg and should try to treat them, we would be very limited in our improvement for Finnegan K. So it was more the coordination that he needed and that we all need horse and human alike and every animal actually. So give you another, another example. I worked with a lot, a lot of horses that, and you know, this too,

right? That they may be more flexible to one side than the other. A lot of people will say, oh, my horse is so stiff to the right or to the left or whatever the case may be. And they'll do things like carrots stretches and things like that. And try to get them to bend more in the quote unquote stiffer side. I don't,

I don't suggest that I don't recommend that at all. Instead what I do is I help the horse feel how to coordinate all the parts. So that bending to that formerly difficult side becomes easy and pleasurable. So again, it's this idea of coordinating the parts, not focusing on, okay, this part of his back is out or tight or whatever. No,

no, no. It's how we can coordinate all the parts so that no one area or areas are stressed. Okay. Is they all work together harmoniously very, very important. And you do this by really breaking down the movement of bending into small parts, okay. Into tiny pieces, and then putting them back together and you do it in you don't just put them back together completely.

You put them back together in different variations. This is what gets the attention of the brain and helps the horse feel like, oh, wow, there's so many different possibilities of movement. What we want is we want to stimulate the brain, stimulate the nervous system so that the horse unconsciously realizes that he doesn't have to be stuck in his old patterns of resisting that,

bending to the side, for example. So very, very important. Again, it's all about helping them coordinate the parts. Okay. We want to interrupt their habits that they have. They've developed to be quote unquote stiff on one side or something like that and help them feel how they could have a new sense of coordination. Okay. So give you one more example from the horse world.

Again, it's a very common thing I work with is people will tell me, I want my horse to be able to round her back better. You know, it's difficult to collect my, you know, they use all different terms, difficult to get my horse in a frame or collect my horse or engage my horse, whatever term they might use. And again,

if we just focus on the back or if we just focus on the neck or something like that, that will be a very, very value. And it could be actually quite counterproductive. Instead, if you think about the whole function, what has to happen when a horse rounds her back and engages the hind end, all the different pieces, including very,

very importantly, the rib cage, the sternum, the ribs, the costal cartilage, all of that. There has to be a coordination there of the different parts, right. Of the different muscles have to be activated in such a way that they work together harmoniously. Okay. If you leave this out and you just focus on trying to soften the back through some external method,

right. You can have very limited value and can actually be counterproductive. Okay. So now what about in humans? Right? It's the same thing. I'll give you an example from my own life. So many, many years ago, before I knew about the Feldenkrais Method, I had a lot of problems, a lot of physical problems. And one of my problems was I had pretty severe carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms.

And it was very, very painful. And I would have a lot of w you had both, what's crazy is you have both pain. And oftentimes a low numbness. I would wake up numb from my shoulders down. Like it was crazy. I couldn't move my arms. I mean, it was a mess. And, you know, I had all these nerve conduction tests,

which by the way, are really fun. Ha ha not really. And they showed incredible nerve damage, all kinds of things. So I didn't, I did lots of physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, all kinds of things, and nothing was helping. So I ended up having surgery on my actually less effected arm first. So I didn't want to do the surgery was not recommended to do both at once.

And in my case, and this isn't true for everybody, but in my case, it made it worse. The body lay down scar tissue and, you know, all kinds of things happened in, in my pain. And numbness actually got worse, despite all the physical therapy and all the other stuff I was doing. So I later on found, discover the Feldenkrais Method.

Yay changed my life, by the way, totally changed my life in many, many ways. And I started going to a wonderful Feldenkrais Method practitioner named Lawrence Phillips. This was back when I lived in New Jersey and just, it was amazing, but he did not focus on my arms. He didn't focus on my wrists where the carpal tunnel is, you know,

he didn't do that. He helped me coordinate my movement in such a way that I no longer had the strain there. Okay. And suddenly then my, I had a very bad problem with my right hip that I had since a teenager, again, very painful that went away. And I had been given a really dire prognosis from an orthopedic surgeon about my hip and that all cleared up and you know,

all these things, I had a number of things in my neck, my back, et cetera, but it was all about again, coordinating the movement. Okay. Coordinating my movement in such a way that no one area was getting stressed. Okay. So I actually started feeling younger. So despite gosh, that was, you know, a long time,

it goes over 30 years ago. I actually feel younger now than I did back then. And that's what I want for you. I won't bat for you and your horses. So let me give you two more quick examples, plantar fasciitis, common problem. I've worked with a ton of people with that over the years. And again, if I just focus on trying to do something with your feet,

maybe your lower leg, stretching things, et cetera, you might get some temporary relief, but if I don't help you feel how you can coordinate that movement through your body and that there isn't a lot of pressure then put on the foot, right? I'm not going to be able to help you, right. It's the coordination. So I'll give you an example.

A woman contacted me about her plantar fasciitis. I had met her because I helped her dog. I helped I do a lot of work with dogs and I helped her dog or recover from a chronic lameness. The dog had had CCL surgery. It's the knee ligament. Some people call it the ACL, but in dogs at CCL, the dog had had the surgery nine or 10 months had passed.

The dog was still lame. The surgeon didn't know what else to do. Anyway, she called me, gave the dog a few sessions and the dog ended up being fine. Again. I helped him learn how to coordinate his movement now with the repaired leg. Okay. So she said, well, maybe you could help me. I've been dealing with plantar fasciitis for seven years.

She said, the only shoes I can wear are Dansko clogs. I have this major problem, very painful. I can't exercise. So I gained some weight and it's this vicious cycle. So she came to my office. I gave her a session. This is pre pandemic, by the way. And I didn't even touch her feet. Didn't touch her feet.

All I did was I, not all I did, but what I did was I helped her basically free up her upper and middle back and help her feel how her body could then coordinate the movement. And by the way, this was non-verbal. I wasn't telling her this. I wasn't giving her instructions. Kay. I was doing it through my hands.

Same way. We do it with the horses and the dogs, babies. Right. I wasn't instructing her verbally. I was giving her sensations. I was giving her experiences through her body and she could feel how the movement was going through and the ease and the clarity of it. Well, she called me the next day because she said she was so blown away.

She wasn't sure what I was doing. It was very gentle. You know, I never touched her feet. So she was kind of, you know, confused, but she didn't say much, but the next day she called me and said, Mary, I got out of bed this morning for the first time. In seven years, I did not have pain in my feet.

She was really, really excited. Now it was, it was really amazing because she went on then and I worked with her a number of times. It wasn't just a one and done thing, right? A lot of times you need a number of sessions to interrupt these habits that we have and help the, the new information kind of stick, you know?

So she was able to start walking again, hiking, I mean, doing all kinds of physical activity. And she was just a total believer after that because she felt it herself. And again, had I just focused on her feet, that would have been very, very limited value to her. I had to help her learn how to coordinate or organize her movement through her body and use herself more fully in a healthier way.

Okay. That's what reduced the strain on the, the, the plantar fascia. So, and in her case, and in many cases, it had a very immediate results in, in pain relief. So another last example for a human hip pain, this is something I struggled with for years before I found the Feldenkrais Method. So I know this firsthand and gentlemen came to me,

I've been working with his wife. I had helped his wife, his wife relieve her shoulder and neck injuries. And so he had had hip pain for 10 years, really bad hip pain. And he was a really active guy and he wanted to not have it pain. And it was really crazy. Cause I showed him that, you know, he was so worried about the,

the structure of his hip, right. And he had been to many doctors and things like that, but I helped him feel how, when he could organize his back and his pelvis in a new way, he wasn't putting strain on that hip. And I remember he walked around my office just with this total smile on his face, just going, I can't believe my hip doesn't hurt.

Like my hip doesn't hurt my hip doesn't hurt. And he kept walking around saying that my hip doesn't hurt. Right. Because I helped him coordinate his movement in a new way. So this is key, right? So then what happens is when you learn how to coordinate the movement for you or your horse, right? The wear and tear is reduced,

right? There's more, you have more vitality, you have more power, you have more elegance in your movement. It's just healthier and more efficient and it feels so much better. Okay. The other thing to remember is, and this is true for both us and the horses when our movement is not efficient. Okay. When we're overusing some parts more than the other,

there is often an underlying feeling of anxiety because our nervous system on some level recognizes that we can't react quickly. In other words, we're were somewhat compromised, somewhat compromised. And for the horses that can result in behaviors that you don't want, maybe spooking, you know, just a feeling of they're, they're anxious, maybe they're resistant, quote, unquote,

stubborn, you know, things like that. And for people there also can be that lower level of, or sometimes pretty high level of anxiety. So I find that people will often tell me about the behavior changes that they see in their horses after the horse learns how to coordinate the movement better. And then they also will tell me, you know, I just feel so much calmer.

I feel so much calmer. And, and at first, sometimes they don't put it together. Like they don't realize because they're not thinking that we're helping also on the emotional level, but we certainly are. So whenever you help your, your horse or yourself, coordinate your movement better, think of it as like you're upgrading your nervous system. So there's going to be benefits across the board,

both in the, you know, in the body, as well as the mind. And very importantly, in the connection between you and your horse. Okay. That's a big advantage. A big benefit I see to this work is that you just, when you feel more, you know, freer and flexible and balanced in your movement and you can help your horse do the same,

it just really deepens that connection between you. Okay. So I hope this gives you some ideas, some, some insight into how we don't want to just focus on individual parts, whether with us or our horses. But instead we want to really think about how we coordinate our movement. And to that end, I'd like to give you something you can do.

Okay. So if you go to MaryDebono.com/knees.  Knees, right? I will send you a little short video that you can do for yourself to help you have more flexibility and more comfort in your knees. Almost everyone that I see can help him, you know, can benefit from having some more freedom of movement in their knees.

And you'll see, it's not even just about your knees is right. It's going to be about coordinating your movement overall. So whether or not you have a knee issue, it's still can be highly beneficial to you. It's short, you do it in standing. You just need a wall. It's very, very powerful. So many people have given me tons of great feedback about how it's helped them.

So again, go to MaryDebono.com/knees. And it also be I'll put a link in the show notes, so you'll find it easily. Okay. Well, I can't wait to share more with you, by the way, in this podcast next week, we're going to talk about relaxation and how you can help your horse be more relaxed in many different contexts.

Okay. And why that's so important and why you may think a horse is relaxed when they're really not. Okay. So thank you so much for being here again. I can't wait to talk to you again and have a wonderful week. Bye for now.

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