Equine Massage or Feldenkrais MethodⓇ: What's the Difference?

#equinemovement #horsehumanconnection debono moves feldenkrais method Feb 09, 2023

Many people who see me work with horses assume I’m doing a gentle form of equine massage. And I can’t blame them. They see me touching a horse, who is usually quite relaxed and happy. When I explain to the onlookers that I’m not an equine massage, but a practitioner of the Feldenkrais MethodⓇ, I’m often met with a blank stare. Then they ask, “What’s the difference between massage and the Feldenkrais Method?” 


Here’s my explanation in a nutshell. With equine massage and many other bodywork approaches, the therapist generally focuses on releasing tension in the horse’s muscles. This can be a pleasurable, helpful approach. However, as a former equine massage therapist, I found that most horses would return to their chronic muscular tension and poor movement habits.


And if you think about how the brain organizes the body, this makes sense. If you focus on changing muscles, you’re dealing with lower-level organization. After all, muscles don’t give orders, they only take them. It’s the horse’s nervous system that tells the muscles when to contract and relax.


Let’s imagine that a horse is having difficulty rounding his back. The veterinarian rules out a serious medical condition, but notes that the horse’s back is sore and tight. It’s tempting to focus on relaxing the horse’s back muscles. And doing so would probably help the horse feel better and be about to round his back more easily too. For a little while.


But rounding the back actually requires an exquisite coordination of various parts of your horse’s body. It’s not just about the back muscles. For example, did you know that your horse’s rib cage plays an important role in rounding the back? Unfortunately, many horses have restricted movement in their rib cage, which can create chronic tension in the extensor muscles of the back. This makes rounding the back difficult and leads to a tight, sore back.


So we need to remind the horse that moving his sternum and ribs in specific ways can release tension in his back and make his life a whole lot easier. We’re communicating with the horse’s nervous system when we do this. And we’re getting to the root cause of the horse’s problem.


As a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, I use gentle, precise touch and movements to help the horse feel how all his parts can work together harmoniously, improving body awareness, athletic performance and confidence.


In a career spanning more than 30 years, I have helped horses with a multitude of problems. To list a few issues that I’ve helped: stiff horses become more flexible; tense, resistant horses relax and enjoy their work; “girthy” horses find pleasure in being saddled (yes!); and dressage horses have more swing and impulsion. In short, I help horses maximize their movement potential.


Equine Feldenkrais sessions have benefited horses of all ages and levels of fitness, from improving the performance of an Olympic-level equine athlete to helping an arthritic, geriatric gelding move more comfortably.      


To make this innovative approach more accessible, I developed a hands-on approach called Debono Moves that’s based on the Feldenkrais Method. Students of Debono Moves can help improve the movement and well-being of their horses. They’ll also enhance their own body awareness, flexibility and coordination.


Debono Moves has helped:  

  • Stiff horses become more flexible and balanced
  • Tense, resistant horses relax and enjoy their work
  • “Girthy” or “cinchy” horses enjoy being tacked up 
  • Horses round their backs and engage their hind legs  


You’ll benefit too. It can help: 

  • Refine your communication with your horse
  • “Give back” to your horse and deepen your bond 
  • Enhance confidence in body and mind
  • Improve your body awareness, flexibility and coordination


💥Want to learn Debono Moves so you can improve yourself and your horse? Go to https://www.marydebono.com/joinhorse to join the waitlist for our online group coaching program, Move with Your Horse.

Be among the first to know when we open our doors again. And qualify for valuable bonuses!

💥Experience how Feldenkrais® can help you be a more balanced, elegant rider with our FREE rider masterclass. Feldenkrais® for Riders videos: https://www.marydebono.com/rider

All information is for general educations purposes ONLY and doesn't constitute medical or veterinary advice.