EMHH Episode 30: Why Your Horse Cares How You Dress

Sep 08, 2022

Let me start by putting your mind at ease. This isn’t about the KIND of clothes you wear. It’s literally about HOW you dress. How you put your clothes on. And take them off.

You’ll learn how putting on your shirt or jacket the same way over and over can create an unbalanced seat, a leg that creeps up and even pain in your back, neck and shoulders.

Not to mention discomfort and confusion for your horse!

And that’s because the way you dress is influenced by your movement habits. And your movement habits can determine how balanced–or how unbalanced–you are in the saddle.

And it’s not just restricted to how you put on your shirt. How you put on your pants, shoes and socks also matter. Along with other activities such as how you grip your steering wheel, wear your watch and hold your phone.

And even the habitual way you tack up your horse.

We have very strong habits around those things we do on a regular basis. And that can be a good thing! But many habits are formed because we’ve developed movement restrictions that leave us with little choice in doing activities, such as dressing, in a different way.

After listening to this episode, you’ll be able to use everyday activities to positively influence your horse’s well-being. And your own.

💥Want to get expert coaching on putting this into practice?💥

Go to https://www.marydebono.com/joinhorse to join the waitlist for our online group coaching program, Move with Your Horse.

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FREE resources:

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Hello! Today, I want to talk to you about why your horse cares about how you dress and stick with me, please. Okay. It's not as crazy as you think you all. Let me start with a little story. So some years ago, a friend of mine at the barn wanted to call in this animal communicator and she's a well-known animal communicator. 

And so she came to the ranch to talk to all the horses. And I was there when she was talking to my friend's horse. He's a big, Friesian very good-looking horse. And my friend happens to be someone who's really into fashion. And when the communicator was talking to her horse, she said, it was like the first thing she said. She said, he really likes when you wear it.

I don't know such-and-such and he really wants you to wear these colours and these types of clothes and all that. And I'm standing there listening to this and I'm thinking my horse breeze better not start making fashion demands from me because he's going to be disappointed. I'm not exactly known for my fashion sense, especially when I'm at the ranch.

So by the way, she did talk to the breeze, the communicator, and he never mentioned my clothing. So the point of this episode is not to talk about the clothes you actually wear, but how you put them on like how physical you dress because I'm not going to talk about whether you wear high-end full-seat britches or hand-me-down jeans. That's not the point. The point is how you put your clothes on.

Number one says a lot about how you, how you sit on your horse, believe it or not. And that's what affects your horse. Okay. So let me give you an example at a lot of the workshops that I do, I do this little exercise and it's really fun. And if you're at a place right now, if you're not driving or doing something like that, you can try this right now.

But what I do is I have people just grab, you know, a jacket or something and put it on, but I have them really pay attention to how they put it on. Well, actually, I don't do that at first. I just tell them, to put your jacket on. So, or, you know, or like a flannel shirt or whatever they have.

So they'll put it on and then I'll say, okay, did you notice what arm went into your jacket first? And they're like, oh, never thought about it. And then I say, okay, do it again, pay attention to how you do it. Cause you want to get it, you want to do it at first, if possible, without really micromanaging what you're doing.

You just want to see what you do. Habitually. And many, many people, not everybody, but many people have a very strong habit Of how they put on, you know, how they put their sleep, their arm through their sleeve. I'll put it that way. So whether it's a shirt, a jacket, what have you tends to be very habitual.

And so then I have them try it the other way. Okay. Now put your left arm in first. And it's funny how there's always a lot of laughter. People are just going, I can't do it. Or this feels really weird. So lots of people can do it, but it feels odd. You think? Why does it feel odd? Well, one reason is it feels odd because if you've always if you tend to put your right arm in first, for example, there is a sense of like side bending or shortening the right side of your rib cage.

And I find that many, many, many people do this. So it's not that putting on your jacket created your habit of side bending, but it's often that you have this habit of side bending or shortening the right side, or it could be the left side. I mean, people are different. We're using the right side as an example. And I find that more people do shorten the right side. So you're shortening the right side and therefore it's easier to put the right arm in first.

Okay. And then, so that just becomes your habit. It's what you do without thinking about it. So we tend to do the familiar that the easier way when we're not thinking about it, that makes sense. So now how does this affect your horse? Why does your horse care that you're putting, you're always putting your right arm in your jacket first or your shirt?

Well, again, if we go back to this idea, you're probably doing it because you're aside bending more to that side, you may be hiking up the right side of your pelvis against shortening the right side of your rib cage that can throw your weight off. Some people when they do that, they're more of their weight goes to their left seat bone sometimes dramatically.

So others, it goes more to the right. I mean, it depends. We all embody this habit a little bit differently. So, one seat bone could be a little more advanced than the other. So these habits of movement that we have profoundly affected our horses because when we sit on them when we're riding them, those habits play a role in how balanced our weight is or how effective we can use our legs, for example.

So I'll tell you another story. So once I was teaching a workshop and this workshop happened to be organized by a Western trainer. So there was a number, there were a number of men in the group. It was a two-day workshop, a Saturday and a Sunday. So we had this wonderful day on Saturday and I went back of course on Sunday.

And the first thing I started the workshop with, you know, everybody's seated, you know, in, in chairs. And I said, well, does anyone have any comments or questions From yesterday? So this guy raises his hand. And just to give you the full picture, it's a really good-looking guy and full-on cowboy, okay?

Cowboy hat, cowboy, boots, jeans, and big silver belt buckle. I mean the whole nine yards. And he said, you know, Mary, I was putting on my pants this morning and I couldn't stop thinking about you. Well, hello. I just about fainted. But anyway, fortunately, he went on and he said, I realized I always put my right leg in my pants first.

And let me back up a teeny bit, the day before on Saturday, we had explored this whole idea of, you know, how you do things, habitually, how you put your shirt on how you put your pants on, how you put your boots on all those things. And so it was a big aha for him the next morning when he went to put his jeans on, he realized, wow, I always do everything where I'm starting with my right leg.

And he said it was really eye-opening because he realized you like shortening that leg so much. So it's always the one that put into his pants first or puts his boot on first that way. And he said I realized that that's why in the saddle, you know, I tend to lose that stirrup, that that leg tends to write up, et cetera.

So it was really fun then for the whole group to start to explore this idea if they could do notice number one, what they're doing and then do things non-habitually. And this is not just about putting on your clothes. Okay? So that's very habitual for us, tends to be, but there are also other things we do on a regular basis.

Like when we're standing, we may weigh one leg more than the other. When we're crossing a road, we may always go onto the opposite curb with the same lag. Like we lead with the same leg or going up a flight of stairs or climbing a ladder or whatever you're doing. There's a tendency to do with the same way over and over, which just really grooves those habits deeper and deeper into your nervous system.

And that's a problem for your horse. It's a problem for you too, because over time it can lead to a lot of, a lot of wear and tear damage and other problems. You may be feeling it. Now, a lot of times, people that, for example, side bend one way more than the other, just habitually. They can have a lot of neck and shoulder and back problems not to mention, you know, low back hip, et cetera.

So these things all play a role. So the purpose of today's episode is to really have you think about becoming more mindful of these things that you Do on a regular basis. So like, okay, say you go to take off your shoes. When you come in the house, do you always pull off the right one first? Is there a way you organize yourself?

So again, you're reinforcing a particular habit. You have the way you hold your phone or your tablet or drive your car. I mean, these are habitual things. Another quick story. Some time ago, a woman who attended my workshops in person, brought her colleague in to see me for an in-person session. This is pre-COVID. And he was there.

There were scientists and really nice guy. And he sat at my table and he started telling me what was going on with him. And the reason his colleague insisted that he come to me is that this gentleman was facing his fourth back surgery. And she's like, dude, you have to try something else. Okay. You just have to, and the minute he sat down in my office, I could tell what was going on with him and spoiler.

It had to do with habitual patterns of side-bending. Okay. And he sat there and we started talking and I was asking him about, you know, how he spent his time, you know, at work, was he standing, was he sitting or what did he do in his free time? And he explained that he liked to take his wife to all these casinos.

So he would drive for a few hours each way sometimes to go to different casinos with his wife and I sit down, oh, I bet I can guess that you hold your hand, how you hold your hands on the steering wheel. I said, you hold your left, hand up high and your right hand down low, and you lean your elbow on your console. And he looked at me and he said, that's exactly right. How did you know that? How did you know that? And the reason I knew that was it wasn't any kind of psychic ability.

It was merely observing him sitting. I knew there was no other choice. His brain didn't have any other choice. Those habits he had of how he sat were so grooved in there were so deep that he just sat that way. And you knew that that would be the comfortable way that he could drive.

So to do the opposite, for example, would have been very uncomfortable for him very unfamiliar, or even just to hold his hands at 10 and two or nine and three would have been very uncomfortable for him or certainly unfamiliar. So we explore this and through the Feldon Christ method, I helped him release. And it wasn't just one session, but I helped him over time release that strong habit he had of side bending like that.

And so then he could just naturally, without even thinking about it, sit balanced, you could sit balanced and he never needed that fourth back surgery. Okay. Because it was his habit that kept stressing his spine. And every time the neurosurgeon would fix one spot, you know, do a fusion, whatever it, the other spot would just take the strain. So he, that's why he kept damaging himself.

So that's just an example that may be an extreme example, but I do see it quite a lot. And that brings me to another point. You know, we're talking about this idea of like, I guess how he held his hands on the steering wheel. I often can guess how a person puts their shirt or jacket on based on how they present themselves when they're sitting.

You know, so it's a little parlour trick. You can try it with your friends as well, but now you might have other habits that you do that involve your horse. So maybe you quote unquote, dress your horse a particular way. In other words, you're attacking up is so habituated that you always do it from the same side in exactly the same way.

And maybe it's the way you bring the saddle onto your horse's back gently. I hope, but I mean the particular direction can have a lot to do with your feelings of choice, with how you use your rib cage, all, all of you actually. So these are things to think about and to start to vary how you do things, be mindful, even things that don't involve your horse, you know, be more mindful.

Like maybe you wear a watch or, you know, like a Fitbit or an apple watch or something. Do you always wear it on the same wrist? Many people again are habituated. They will turn and look at the wrist in a very particular way. So it's not just like a mental habit of looking say to the left, but physically what they're doing.

So start to really play with this. Notice how you put your socks on how you put your pants on your shoes, your boots, whatever your jacket, your shirts. Can you change it up? No. Can you, again, hold your phone differently, tack up your horse in slightly different ways and even take it a step further, change up your actual activities?

If you always go out on the trail in a certain way, change it up the left out the driveway, instead of right, you know, start to do things differently. I often encourage people to teach their horses to lead and be mounted and dismounted from both sides. This is good for you, but it's also good for your horse.

Just be safe about it, make sure you get your horse used to it in a safe way. Cause some horses can be startled if your first mount and dismount from the offside, this helps you be more physically, which of course will help your writing and your overall horsemanship, but will also help you be more mentally flexible.

We often don't think about behavioural flexibility or our ability to change our ways of thinking, but this is what Moshay Feldon Christ the originator of the Feldon Christ method, which is the work I do. He was really, really into that. Like that was the crux of his work. He used to say, what I'm not after is flexible bodies, but flexible minds.

Now, of course, we know, and he proved this through his work that exploring non-habitual movements and becoming more flexible in your body leads to those changes in your mind to allow you to have more flexible thinking, okay, so this can serve in all areas of your life and it just starts to happen organically.

It just starts to happen then without having to pay such close attention to it. So really play with this idea, really encourage you to stop and laugh. When you find yourself doing something the same old way over and over again, you know, be playful about it and you know, do it safely and very mindfully.

And I think you'll have a lot of fun results by the way, because this whole idea of side bending is so prevalent in, in humans as a species, I'll put it that way, that we have a habit of bending more to one side and it impacts our horses so much negatively. My free rider masterclass. I'm always going on about it because it's three short Feldon Christ-inspired lessons.

You do them sitting in a chair you're only like 15 minutes or so each they can help you pinpoint what you're doing with your seat bones. You know what you're doing with your side bending and give you that first step to changing that. Now we go much more in-depth with the Feldon Christ work and being more balanced in my move with your horse program.

So you might want to consider joining the waitlist for that, but, and that'll all be in the show notes, but in the meantime, get your hands on the rider masterclass it's totally free. It's married to bono.com forward slash rider. If you've already done it, it again, sign up again because we can always, you know, we always can benefit from a refresher, all of us.

Okay. So I hope you enjoy the short podcast episode and let me know what you've discovered. Do you have a habitual way of putting on your shirt or your jacket, et cetera, or tacking up your horse or doing any number of things? And thank you again for being here for listening to this.

And I can't wait to share more with you again. Bye for now.