EMHH Episode 28: Change Yourself, Change Your Horse

Aug 25, 2022

What do you do when your horse feels stiff, resistant, or “lazy?” Do you use stronger leg or rein aids? Maybe add a touch of spur or a tap with the whip? In other words, do you simply make your request LOUDER?

If you do, I’d like to offer you another option. One that will work a whole lot better. And FEEL a lot better to you and your horse too.

In this new approach, you'll turn the focus off your horse and onto YOU. Many excellent riders do this intuitively. Instead of pushing and pulling your horse, you'll create the movement in yourself and invite your horse into the experience.

In this episode, I’ll share how you can get started with this approach. Don’t miss it. It can be a game-changer for you and your horse!

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FREE resources:

Easily improve your movement and position in our FREE rider masterclass. Feldenkrais® for Riders videos: https://www.marydebono.com/rider

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Hello, and welcome to Easier Movement, Happier Horses. Today, I want to share something that I think is super key, but I find that a lot of riders don't know about. And it's so, so important to have a, just a harmonious relationship with your horse, to be able to ride your horse easily and to help riding be both enjoyable and healthy for you and your horse.

This is necessary. Okay. so what is this? What is the key, the missing ingredient from a lot of people? Well, I will give you an example. Okay? I think that's the best way to illustrate this. Just say, you're riding your horse in the arena and you're doing a 20-meter circle.

And it doesn't matter if you don't ride 20-meter circles or whatever, you can fill in the blank with whatever it is, whether it's trotting down the trail, jumping a course of jumps, doing a reigning pattern, whatever it is. But we're going to use the example of a 20-meter circle. You're riding the circle, you're riding your horse and you notice your horse feels a little stiff.

Maybe she feels a little resistant or she's, you know, kind of pushing against your leg or falling in on a shoulder or something like that. Something is not the way you want it. Well, what do we do? What do we do? Often, we use stronger aides. We think about what I want her to do, and what I want my horse to do.

And I ask a little louder if you will. And we just kind of focus on what our horses doing. And oftentimes, we forget about what we're doing, right? We don't think about that. What are we doing? Are we clear on how we're asking our horse? So let's get back to that circle when you ride a circle.

Again, fill in the blank with whatever activity you want to do with your horse. Okay? You have to think about how are you creating that within yourself. How are you creating the circle in yourself? This is key because by creating that circle in yourself, riding yourself as how one of my students puts it. That gives your horse the framework and that clarity to move harmoniously with you.

Okay? So that you can move together, right? If you're just asking your horse in these different ways, and maybe your aides are very refined and all of that, but if the focus is just on what your horse is doing, that isn't going to work so well. That's pushing and pulling your horse. No, no, no! What you want to do is be very clear that you're creating the movement in yourself.

Right? That creates clarity for your horse, a framework if you will, and you invite your horse to move along with you, to come into that. And that's how you can move with your horse. Okay? This is something that I teach in my move with your horse program. We get very much into this.

As a matter of fact, one of my students just recently, she's been riding her whole life for several decades. And she said that this was such a big discovery for her because she was always focused on what her horse was doing and how she could, you know, ask her horse differently, maybe correct the horse, try to help the horse, do the movement better.

But she wasn't thinking so much on, but she calls it riding herself. And now she is. And her horse suddenly is so much more supple, more enthusiastic, more responsive, all the good stuff that we want. Okay? So this is key. So for example, whenever I teach, cause I've been teaching this work for about 30 years.

I teach a Feldenkrais lesson called pelvic clock. Now that involves a lot of pelvic circular movements. And by the way, you may have seen pelvic clock and other approaches that are not Feldenkrais. Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais originated the whole idea of the pelvic clock. Other approaches have borrowed it, but they don't have the nuances of it.

They have like the rough outline of it if you will, but it doesn't have the richness. I'm going to say that right now. So this is a very different experience when you do it with the Feldenkrais method. Okay? So once I teach this lesson and then my students get on their horse, maybe that day, maybe the next day, maybe three days from then.

Their nervous system suddenly knows how to create a circle. Okay? Knows it on a very deep level. Not just intellectually, but feels it has experienced it and suddenly their horses, just what seems magically, are better balanced on the circle are bending more easily, all this amazing stuff. And what's so fascinating about this is that it's not only true for riding your horse in a circle.

Just say your hand, walking your horse in a circle after doing a lesson like that. And by the way, it doesn't just have to be the pelvic clock. I've done this with many different things that help improve the movement of the pelvis in these different ways. So once you get that and you're hand walking horizontal circle, suddenly that is easier for your horses.

Well, again, because you are better balanced. So you say you're walking in a circle, right? You yourself, you're walking on the circle, your horses here, whether attached to you with a lead line or at Liberty, your horse then starts to come along with you. You know, there are mirror neurons at work too.

And all kinds of things, but you have this sense of clarity about the circle. And your horse can come along. You're inviting your horse along with that level of awareness of how to create the circle. And again, I want to emphasize this approach applies to any movement you're doing with the horse. So for example, I can give you one from my own history many years ago.

Okay! We're talking over 30 years ago. My horse was having difficulty with children at least that's how I thought of it. My horse was having difficulty doing children. Until I did a particular Feldon Christ lesson. Again, it's one that I often teach because it was so game-changing for me. And it was just amazing. Cause I got on my horse and I just said, oh, I'm going to do a little shoulder in.

Boom! My horse was brilliant. Just amazing, how supple and responsive he got and how his ability, you know, to engage that inside Heinz to bend, to do all the things was suddenly right there. Why? Because I improved, I changed myself and my horse changed. Okay? Cause it was always nice stopping him in the first place.

I wasn't clear. I was creating some level of resistance in him, not just from lack of clarity, but downright resistance. That lesson was one of the ones that helped me be more balanced in the saddle and helped me get rid of my long-standing hip pain. I had trouble with my hips since I was 18 years old. And it was, I went from doctor to doctor and different therapies.

Nothing helped until I discovered the phone, the Christ method. Okay. And it allowed me to be a much more effective, more balanced rider as well. Okay. So super important. So I don't care what activity you're doing with your horse. Maybe you just like to saunter down the trail. Maybe you're a Venter. Maybe you're a Rainer, no matter what you do.

It's important to have the body awareness, the control, the coordination, the ability to organize your movement, to create it for the horse to step into. Okay? this is what we do and move with your horse program because it's a super, super important, a complete game changer. And you know, you might be wondering, well, I don't know how to do that.

Well, I would say start by noticing differences, start by noticing differences in yourself. So just say, you're sitting right now. Don't do this for driving, please. Okay. And I wouldn't even do this first on the horse, but maybe you're just sitting in a chair quietly, not operating any heavy machinery or riding a horse. And you just start to notice how your feet are making contact with the floor.

How does the left foot, compared to the right foot? Maybe one is a little heavier and oh, I never noticed that before. Do I always do that? You know, and you start to, to be curious about it, not judgmental practice, what I call compassionate curiosity. That's curiosity without the judgment. Okay? Just noticing differences by the way is to be celebrated.

That's what informs your nervous system and that's how you improve. Okay. So differences are fantastic. So your feet, you're noticing what each, you know, your toes are doing. Again, you compare one side to the other and really tune in, really take your time with this. Notice how each ankle feels. Maybe one feels a little tighter than the other.

Really like take the time to notice yourself. You will start to what'll happen over time is that your, your nervous system will develop this ability to become really aware to have that self-awareness and then bring your attention on up. Notice how your left lower leg feels. Is there a sense of tightness there? Now, what about the right one?

Now, if you're on your horse, cause maybe later on, if it's safe for you to do you do this on your horse and you think, well, how does each leg make contact with my horse? Are they different? For many people, they will be. Maybe one leg will feel shorter than the other and you'll think, well, that's why I lose my stirrup on that side.

Right? So it's really paying attention to this. Notice the thighs. And again, you want to compare one side to the other. Notice how your pelvis is sitting on the surface, whether that's the chair or the saddle theory, very common for people to be asymmetrical in with their seat bones, be heavier on one side and you really have to check this because a lot of us have been asymmetrical for so long that our brain has decided that it's even.

That we're even. They're even. But they're not. And merely sitting on your hands may not give you an accurate representation. It may help a little to give you a sense, but a lot of times when you sit on your hands, either Palm up or Palm down, you change the way you're organizing your trunk and you automatically balance your seat bones a little bit more.

So keep that in mind. If you put your hands on your seat bones if you have a very close friend and she doesn't mind you sitting on her hands, not when you're on your, but in a chair, hopefully with a little padding underneath. So she doesn't get squished. That may give you some information. Cause she can tell you, oh, one hand, you know, my right hand is really getting squished in my left hand and the other one isn't so a few things you can do like that.

Okay? But then start to bring your attention on up. Notice how your lower back feels. Right? Notice. Notice it without touching, but you can also, if it's safe, put your hands back there. Does one side feel tighter than the other? Is your back very arched or is it rounded in different parts of the back that can be rounded or overly arched? Okay. Or extended.

So start to pay attention to that. Notice how your spine feels. Notice how your shoulder blades are hanging. Are they up by your ears or are they just hanging naturally? And I would discourage you from trying to force them down and back. Cause that will backfire. Okay. Don't do that. Just notice and just think of releasing any unnecessary effort.

It can be helpful to purposely contract places that you're, you're less aware of. Like maybe hold one shoulder up really high or both and then let them go. Let them go. And maybe put them down slower than that. Like, hold them, hold them, hold them and let them go and see if they go lower.

When you do that again, compare one side to the other. You can play with bringing one shoulder up and forward and back maybe doing circles with each shoulder and letting them go back down. Okay. So start to do little movements. You can move your ankles. You can do little things comparing one side to the other.

Notice how your arms feel, your hands, again, noticing one side, and comparing it to the other. Notice the carriage of your head. Where are your eyes looking? What's your horizon? Do you tend to look down on many of us because of our devices, our phones, et cetera? We have this rounded posture and we look down a lot, right?

Notice where you're looking, this will all affect your health by the way. And also your horse will definitely impact your riding and your horse's ability to move with you and you move with your horse. Okay? So you just do like a complete body scan, again, feeling differences, celebrating differences, because that means you're paying attention.

You're developing your ability to sense yourself. This is key. Okay. This is really, really important. And over time you'll get better and better at this. Okay. It could be like something you just do before you ride or, you know, first when you first get in the saddle, kinda go through like a pre-flight test, if you will, and notice how you feel or midway through your ride, check in again. Right. Very, very important.

So that can give you a little foundation for this idea of really being storing seat, develop body awareness. There's a lot more to it than that. And that's what we go in depth of this in my move with your horse program. Okay. But another thing to think about too is even like notice how your throat feels, notice how your chest feels, your solar plexus, your belly, notice how you're breathing.

So many of us hold our breath and we breathe in this kind of irregular way. Or we think we have to breathe a certain way. Just notice how free is your belly to move with your breath. Very common for people, men, and women. But I see it more on women to hold the belly all the time. And it creates a very strong habit that you're not even aware of. And it will restrict your horse and limit your movement. Okay.

Not recommended at all. Let the belly be free. Now there are times when you will be engaging your core, but in a healthy, intentional way, not in a compulsive way of pulling the belly in. Sometimes you see it or you hear people giving suggestions, whether they're personal trainers or whatnot, and they say, suck your belly into your spine and like, hold it there all the time. No, no, no!

That will be very difficult for you to be able to move your pelvis and back, no, your spine will be restricted your pelvis, and it'll affect your legs. It'll affect everything often in a very negative way. So I wouldn't encourage you to do that, but be aware of it. If you're, you know, doing that unconsciously for holding the belly in. Many of us started in childhood to learn how to hold the belly in we thought, we looked better maybe.

And that develops into an unconscious habit that will restrict your horse's movement. So again, there are times when you strongly use your core strong, strongly use flexor muscles, et cetera, but it's done intentionally. Okay. And in a way that is healthy for you and healthy for your horse's movement as well. Okay. Super important. So getting back to your breathing will also give you kind of a window into your emotions and to your emotional state and be into what you're thinking about.

Because just like it's important to be aware of how your body is setting the stage for your horse, right? Creating the conditions for your horse. So do your thoughts. Your mind is very powerful. Okay. And so you might have these unconscious habitual loops that you're running through, you know, different thoughts that are not serving you.

And just like with our movement habits, they can become so habitual that we're not aware of them. So check in, and start to notice them have that full self-awareness. It's not just like body awareness. Its emotional awareness is your, you know, being aware of what your mind is doing, what your mind is creating.

And you want your body and your mind to be aligned with your intention of what experience you want to create with your horse and came by doing that, then you and your horse can really enter into this beautiful partnership where you can be partners in this dance. Okay? And it could be very harmonious, very important. So another resource I'm going to give you this super valuable and it's completely free is my three-video rider masterclass.

It will help you feel, if you're balanced in the saddle, help improve your position. They're very gentle. Feldon Christ based awareness exercises that done in a chair they're like 15 minutes or so each they're super easy to do and very actionable. And you can no matter your age or level of condition, you can always do them. You can modify them.

It's very important. You only do what's easy and comfortable and safe for you, but you can always modify my instructions. But if you go to marydebono.com/rider, you can sign up and get them. So marydebono.com/rider and they're completely free. Okay.

So that'll really get you started on this idea of having the coordination, the awareness, and the control to create the movement that you want to experience with your horse. Okay. So I hope you enjoy this episode. I love sharing this work, so I appreciate you listening, and being here with me and I can't wait to talk to you again. Bye for now.