EMHH Episode 32: The 2nd and 3rd Keys to Unlock Your Horse’s Superpowers

Oct 06, 2022

There are 7 key things to enhance your horse’s body and mind. I call this improvement Unlocking Your Horse’s Superpowers. This episode will explore the 2nd and 3rd keys.

The way you breathe, move and direct your attention are felt by your horse, and they all play a role in shaping your interactions with your equine.

This episode will explain how you can become more aware of you're moving, breathing, and thinking (directing your attention).

You’ll get resources to calm your nervous system so that you can improve your communication with your horse. You’ll learn the importance of quieting your horse’s nervous system too, so she can hear what YOU have to say!

These 7 keys can truly transform you and your horse, so I’m excited to share them with you. I’ll discuss the remaining keys in future episodes.

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FREE resources:

For our 3-part series on calming your horse’s nervous system, visit:




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Today I'm going to give you two more keys to help you unlock your horse's superpowers, okay? And you'll find that by unlocking your horse's superpowers, you'll unlock your own as well. I'm Mary Debono, and I'm so glad you're here. So the first key we talked about in the last episode, the last podcast episode, was about really embracing gratitude.

Having gratitude. Now before you just say, Oh, I've heard that a million times. Go, go back and listen to that episode. If you haven't already, I would suggest you do that because there are a lot of really interesting studies they've done around this, how it changes your physiology. And there are particular ways that I teach, kind of like a gratitude practice if you will.

And there are ways of getting into that state with your horse, okay? So that was the first key to unlocking your horse's superpowers. So today we're going to go through two more keys, and the second one is to be self-aware. Now, if you're thinking, well, what does that mean? It means paying attention to your movement.

And by movement, we're gonna use that as kind of an umbrella term movement. Could be even like how you sit, how you stand, and certainly how you walk and how you ride, and how you do all the things, how you drive your car, your truck, whatever it is you're doing. And you know, some people also, you know, they think about their posture.

In the work that I do, I don't put a huge emphasis on posture. I put it more on to use a word that most she Feldenkrais came up with is action. Like how you stand in relation to what you're doing. Okay? So similar to posture, but more of an active sensation to it. Kind of like an active feel rather than a posture that feels so static, like a statue, right?

We don't want that. But it's, it's to be aware of things like that. You know, how, how you feel supported through your skeleton, you know, all of those things. And so self-awareness though encompasses much more than just your movement. It also encompasses your breathing, which is actually part of the movement.

But just to, to kind of put a little more focus on that, is to be aware of that because how we breathe definitely affects our horses, okay? And so you might be breathing in a way that's just very normal and habitual for you. It may not be optimal and it may actually signal to your horse that something is wrong, okay?

You might be in a habit like many people are, that they're breathing in a very shallow way and your horse might be thinking like, Why is she breathing like that? Even if you do it all the time? Okay? So there, there's a level of anxiety. It's just like if you are around somebody who is feeling a bit tense, whether or not they express that verbally, you start to pick up on that.

And it usually is not a comfortable place to be, right? It's usually not that relaxing or comfortable to be around someone who's kind of stress, right? And you know, if it happens once in a while, okay, you help that person, whatever. But if it's like a chronic thing and they're not doing anything to address it, that really will affect you. Okay?

And so the same thing works with your horse when you are in a state of kind of like constant stress, constant, maybe low leveling of anxiety, your horse is definitely feeling that and responding to it. So your interactions are strong, you know, with your horse are strongly influenced by how you move, how you breathe, and how you think.

So that we're gonna get to that in a second about thinking, but, so you can think of self-awareness about your, you know, think about your movement, you know, how you move, how you sit, how you stand, how you walk, how you ride, how you do all the things. You could think about your posture too if you wanna call it that.

Certainly think about your breathing as well. And then now let's talk about how you think or, or what you think about, cuz many of us, we have this kind of, I'm gonna call them crazy thoughts. There are a lot of people that call them ants, automatic negative thoughts. And so it's like we're constantly saying negative things to ourselves.

Usually self-directed, sometimes directed at other people, you know, maybe not out loud, but we're thinking it, you know, we're judging, we're comparing, we're, you know, all, all the things. And you know, a lot of that happens kind of like below your level of awareness. Like unconsciously, it's just a habit.

So your brain is like running this in the background. Supposedly we have about 60 to 70,000 thoughts a day. Think about that. 60 to 70,000 thoughts in a day. And most of them, and, and remember part of the day you're sleeping, hopefully, part of that is a good part of that are ones that you're not even aware of, you're not conscious of, but they're still running in the background and they're driving then how you feel and then how you act.

Okay? So what happens is, you know, your horse is picking up on that. So, because those thoughts will affect your physiology, okay? So if you're thinking that even if you're not aware, you're thinking of it, it's affecting you to some degree.

And horses are so amazing at this. Like, I always call my horse a mind reader because he is like, I can have a thought and he responds. And you know, what you realize is my physiology must be changing. Like it's something that another human wouldn't notice. Now, my horse happens to, his name is a breeze.

He happens to be ultrasensitive, like ultra ultrasensitive. But my experience has shown that most horses are more sensitive to picking up our cues than other humans are. Okay? So, you know, and the same is true. Your dog will notice things, your cat, et cetera. But with my horse, it's, you know, I will have a thought that, oh, wouldn't it be fun if we did this or this?

It's like I literally did not have to make it physical and he just responds. But, you know, I think what's happening is that we are, we're sending some physiological signal, okay? Some change is happening in us that the horse then responds to. So the more you can become aware of what you're doing, and you know, and I've become more and more aware of what I'm doing.

So I'm more conscious of that. Cuz at one point I was actually confusing breeze, I think cuz I would, I would like to think something and not be aware of what, what I was basically transmitting to him. Okay? Now I'm more aware of that. So this is really important.

So start to become aware if you are, you know, and so how, okay, so you might be thinking, well, how do you become aware of these if a lot of these thoughts are unconscious like if you have these a ts these ants, these automatic negative thoughts, for example, is occasionally they will be conscious, maybe more than occasionally.

I mean, you will, they will crop up that you'll go, oh, wait a minute. So what I suggest that people do, I've helped a lot of people with this, is just, I, I suggest that they set an intention. Like, okay, okay, mind let me know when I'm like trash talking myself. Just to just use that as an example. You can apply it to any kind of the like theme of thoughts if you will.

Okay? Let me know when I'm trash-talking myself. And then you're more likely to notice that, in other words, your RAs, we've talked about this in other podcast episodes. Your particular activating system, it's a part of the brain, the RAs or ra, when you, when you like to make a decision to focus on something, it'll bring that in through its filter, Okay?

It won't discard though that it'll, it'll like let you know about it, Okay? So you'll start to become more aware of them. So set an intention, like to be more aware of, and you can make maybe even a general category. Like, oh, let me know when, you know, I'm, you know, I'm just like habitually without even realizing it, you know, getting into the judge judgment mode or something like that, you know, comparing mode or whatever it happens to be that maybe you have a habit of doing and start to become aware of this kind of stuff.

It's very, very important, very, very important. And it's, and a little hint here, it's not gonna only help your horse, although it will greatly help unlock your horse's superpowers because it won't hold your horse back anymore is what the idea is. But it will also stop holding you back. Okay? So when you become more aware, and therefore, once you're aware of it, then you can start being in control of how you're thinking.

You know, let's use our brains for good, for positive intentions, not for constantly repeating some negative stuff we're telling ourselves, Okay? And maybe the negative thoughts are about your horse. Like, oh, my horse is so this and so that and whatever. So I like to, to really flip that. So become more self-aware.

Notice your movement, your posture, your breathing, and your thinking. Okay? Super, super important. The more you become aware of these things, the more you can control them and, you know, stop blocking your horse. And actually, I'm kind of all over the place, but let me go back to movement for a second. This is why I have that free three-video series, which you can get at marydebono.com/rider.

Okay? It's three-sitting videos. They're easy, like 15 minutes or so each, and they really, really help improve your seat on your horse because your movement directly impacts your horse so much of the time, you know, I've been, I've been working with horses and rider for over 30 years, and a lot of the times when I'm called out to work with a horse that has some kind of issue.

Oh, stiff to one side resistant to this or whatever it is, very often it's the rider who's either creating or contributing to that horse's problem. And a lot of times it would be impossible to "fix the horse," which is what people want you to do, right? Without addressing the human, the rider.

And this applies, by the way, I'm gonna tell you this, this applies even on the ground. So even if you don't ride your horse and you're just leading your horse or working with your horse at liberty or whatever you're doing, your movement serves as a signal to that horse, intentionally or not, okay?

There was a woman who not long ago was she got a new horse and she was telling me how the horse was trained differently than the horse she was used to. You know, she had a horse for many years. This horse was trained differently and she noticed that she was confusing the horse in the, she was doing some like round pen stuff.

Now, now just, just let me put this out there. I'm not a big fan of running horses and circles, but nonetheless, so she, so I said to her, Well, how, how, what are you doing with your feet when you're doing this? And she said, My feet, like, it didn't even occur to her. I said, well, which way are, are your feet pointed?

And so we talked about that and how having your toes pointed like at the horse can stop some horses. Having them more to the side can encourage them to go. She was, she couldn't believe it. She came to me the next time I saw her, and she said like, that was crazy. As she said, That was it, it was amazing how changing my feet.

Now, of course, when you're changing your feet, you're changing, you know, usually, it means you're changing all of you, right? But even just simply focusing on that, like how are you directing your body? Are you inadvertently stopping your horse? I notice and I can change how my horse carries himself on the ground.

Now we're talking just be like if I just like think of lifting my sternum a little bit, or conversely lowering my sternum and kind of bringing my belly in a little bit and like flattening my back, that changes what he does. And this is just, he's, he's trotting or caning at liberty in a big arena, and I'm like in the middle-ish of the arena.

And even though it doesn't look like he's checking me out, oh, you better believe your horse is checking you out, like all the time, okay? There's usually one ear or, or certainly a part of their senses directed to you, okay? They, they, they know how to be aware of so many things in their environment, right? For survival.

So these are, these are important things to get a handle on. That's why in my program, move with your horse. We do spend a lot of time helping you refine your ability to move well. Plus you'll feel so much better, right? You'll be able to do all the things you wanna do without aches and pains. You'll be flexible, balanced, and all that good stuff.

So start to develop this skill right now. You know, increase your awareness of what you're doing, how you're moving, how you're standing and sitting. You know, how you're breathing and how you're thinking. Okay? Now I'll move on to the next key. So the next key to unlocking your horse's superpowers is to listen more.

Okay? Listen more. So what do I mean by that? So much of the time when we're with our horses, we're just talking at them. We're, we're just talking at them. It's a monologue, right? It's like we're, we're talking, we're telling them, do this, do that, or I don't know, maybe telling them about our day or whatever.

But we're just talking at them a lot of the time we're not stopping and listening for a response. Okay? Now, I don't mean to say that you're listening for your horse to start to become Mr. Ed, remember that TV show, Mr. Ed, you know, where the horse actually starts talking back, like verbally speaking out loud?

I'm talking about listening and paying attention. So it's not just, you know, with your hearing, but paying attention to those little, little, often anyway, sometimes not so subtle, but often subtle cues that will give you a lot of information about how you should then proceed. So my suggestion to you is to unlock your horse's superpower, this is the third key.

Listen more and think about creating a conversation with your horse, not a monologue, but that you actually have, you know, your, whether it's, it's whether you're verbally speaking to your horse or through your body language, through all the things we just talked about. You're influencing your horse and then you are taking a breath and you're intentionally listening for that response.

This is how you develop feelings, Okay? This is a crucial component to develop feel, and this is how you can stop getting in your horse's way and allow your horse to live the fullness of his or her experience. Okay? So you, you want to listen, listen, listen, listen. Now how do you do that? You really have to take the time to tune into your horse. And, and I'll, and I'll tell you what can get in your way.

A lot of times we have so much noise in our nervous system, okay? If you have aches and pains, if you have a lot of even emotional tension, so physical or emotional tension, that's creating what we call noise in the nervous system so that it actually dulls your ability to listen to other things, right? There's like this constant background noise.

So this is important. That's why I had the self-awareness key, which we just talked about before this one because the more self-aware you are, the quieter your nervous system will be. Okay? But this is really important. So the first order of business is to, to be able to listen, you have to quiet your environment and you're in.

By that, I don't just mean like your outside world, like don't be around loud noises, I'm talking about your internal environment to quiet, your nervous system, to quiet your mind. So as well as like the physical part of it, as I mentioned about, you know, constant level of physical stress, you know, aches and pains, stiffness, all those things create background noise and also emotional stress, right?

The tension we might be feeling, we might be feeling really stressed emotionally, press for time or whatever. That's creating background noise and distracting us from listening to our horse. Okay? So I actually did a three-part series earlier on in the podcast. So I'll put the links to those episodes in the show notes.

But for those of you that are like anxious to get there, I'll tell you is episodes 14 through 16. And in those episodes, I actually walk you through a process to help quiet your nervous system and your horse's nervous system through this very, very gentle hands-on work. It's very simple, but very, very powerful stuff because that brings me to my next point to have a conversation.

Both of you have to be listening, right? You have to listen to your horse, but your horse has to be able to listen to you. So we do that by then first, helping the horse's nervous system become quieter as well. So quieting the horse's nervous system really sets the stage for improvement to happen.

And this is how you can really, truly make a meaningful change for your horse. And again, it's, it's a major key to unlocking your horse superpowers because, you know, some of it is we are blocking our horses, but they're blocking themselves just like we are doing it to ourselves too. They're also doing it.

Maybe they have had a history of, you know, of something traumatic, either physical or emotional or, you know, an injury, an, an illness, what have you, just maybe overwork or ba you know, inefficient habits of moving, which is extremely common by the way. So all of this can help to quiet the nervous, you know, by addressing that will help quiet the nervous system.

Okay? So it'll reduce their physical and emotional tension as well. So anything that stresses your horse out, like, like for many horses, and I just got a message again this morning about a woman who wants to overcome guiness in her horse. Very, very common. And it's actually one of my major missions in life is to help horses not only tolerate being saddled like but to actually enjoy it.

And I have a whole process about that and it really, really works. I've been doing this for, for decades and it's amazing how they can go from pinning ears, you know, naing their teeth to actually enjoying it. But like, just say your horse has even a low level of anxiety about being saddled. You might not even notice it.

You might not notice that they're tensing their abdominal muscles, maybe the breath got a little shallower, things like that. And then you go and you ride and your horse isn't quite tuned into you, not to the level that you would like, right? To that level of real just communion, if you will.

That real connection, well, that has to do a lot with that idea that the horse's nervous system is loud. You know, there's all this background noise, there's all this carryover stress. So even if the girling, okay, it happened, done, now we're riding, unless that was addressed, they tend to carry that to some level. There's some residual of that carried over into the ride. So physically and emotionally, the horse, it's gonna be difficult for the horse to be with you.

Okay? When I say, you know, really tuned into you. So super important to address that. And again, I have a whole process that we go through with that. And I have an article too, and I'll link to that in the show notes that kind of steps you through a case study I did with a particular horse.

Okay? And help the horse overcome the guiness. So this is really, really important. And so when you, when you listen more, again, you need to be self-aware to get to that stage, right? You need to quiet your own nervous system and you also need to be able to quiet your horse's nervous system so you both can listen to each other.

And then you could enter that space that I called shared awareness, okay? Where you're really tuned into each other. It is such a beautiful state. I get there a lot with horses and, and other animals through my hands-on work. You can and certainly have gotten there through, through working, you know, playing with my horse on the ground, my liberty play through riding.

So you can get there from a variety of ways, but it's having that true dialogue with your horse, that true connection, okay? And so listening more will help set you up for that. Okay? So, hmm. So, okay, let me, let me say a little more. I know I wanted to keep this a short episode for you so you could get through it and get to go play with your horse.

But I, I wanna point out something else I said at the beginning of this particular key about listening more is that we're often talking to our horses, right? We're telling them to do this, do that, or whatever. So what I'd invite you to think about is to step back from that what I call a correcting mindset.

And instead, really embrace this idea of a connecting mindset. So that like the, like the hands-on work that I teach, you know, I talk about we're never correcting with our hands. We're not saying this muscle's too tight, we're gonna like rub it out or, you know, this should move like this.

We're gonna like, make it happen. It's about how can I use my hands to create a sense of movement that's like sharing that we're doing together and that creates this, this sense of con of connection with us, right? And gives the horse new opportunities to move in a better way so that then the muscle doesn't need to get tight. The movement can be more flexible and balanced and all that good stuff.

So really think about when you're riding or anything else, are you correcting? Are you like thinking, Oh, you're too slow, I need you to go faster? So you're using leg aids in a way that it's like a correction rather than a connection. Okay? How can you move in a way that it'll feel good to increase your speed?

And again, this is the stuff we dive into in my programs, and but start to get that mindset, start to get that shift from correction to connection. It's very, very different and very, very powerful. And you'll find that your horses will, yeah, their superpowers will be unlocked. They'll be, they'll be moving in new ways that maybe will surprise and delight you.

Okay? You know, a lot of times when I would meet new, new clients, so, so somebody has me come out and work with their horses or whatever, and right away they wanna tell me all the things that are wrong, all the things that the horse can't do well, well, I flip that and I ask them, Tell me the thing your horse loves to do the most.

Tell me the thing that your horse does the best. And then we build on from there. You know, we don't go in, again, i, I don't go in with this idea of, oh, the horse doesn't know how to do an extended trot. Well, or, you know, doesn't pick up the right can or lead and we have to like fix that.

It's like, hmm, okay, horse easily picks up the left lead. I'm just making up an example here, but these things have happened, okay, how could we build on that organization and help the horse then translate that to picking up the right lead? And by the way, often involves something the writer is doing. That's a whole nother story.

That's why again, you have to improve as well as your horse. If you wanna unlock your horse's superpowers, it's really, really important. You dress your, your own restrictions and things like that as well, which is what we do in our, in our programs. So, just a little recap, okay? The first three keys, cuz now we've done three counting the last episode, which was episode 31.

I believe the first key is to, you know, have gratitude, to really feel gratitude, to feel it, to feel it. It's amazing how that can really be the foundation for connection, okay? Really, really strong. And again, it changes your physiology. So you interact with your horse differently and your horse, you know, the shape of your interactions can change dramatically when you have this sense of gratitude.

Okay? So really sense gratitude. Number two, the second key is to be self-aware. Think about how you're, you're standing, how you're sitting, how you're driving, how you're riding, how you're moving through the world, and how you're holding your phone. Like all things.

So start to bring more awareness there. Think about your breathing, you know, just every once in a while maybe set an alarm on your phone or put a post-it note somewhere, maybe in the bathroom mirror or something, you know, how am I breathing, right? So you wanna think about that. Then you also want to pay attention to your thoughts.

So maybe set attention about, you know, hey, hey brain, let me know when I start doing X, Y, and Z. Whatever habitual thought patterns are not serving you. Okay? So start to get a handle on this. We have other, by the way, there are lots of other techniques, if you will, different, different processes that can help you change, like limiting beliefs and other things like that that might be holding you back.

But just start to make an intention. And then when you notice, so just say you notice that negative thought, that a and t that automatic negative thought, just say that was so ridiculous that I thought that, right? You know that isn't true, and be grateful. That was something that made a huge difference for me when I tied that in many years ago. I have really embraced the whole gratitude thing. It's, it's, it's, it's really life-changing.

And I think in the last episode I go into detail about how I really recognized the power of it. But when I would find myself with those negative thoughts, which certainly still come up, okay, just full disclosure, I'm actually grateful because I think, oh wow, I recognize that one, I became aware of that one and it's an opportunity for me now to change it.

So I literally, I, I like literally become grateful that I had that. So again, this is the big difference between being corrective and then judging yourself. Oh, my gosh! I thought it again, man, what is wrong with me? Right? To be more connected with yourself and to embrace the sensation of gratitude. Like, oh, isn't that great that I, I recognized that I thought that way and now I have that opportunity to let it go and choose a different thought. I choose a different thought.

Okay, who knew thought is just a sentence or, or whatever that you're thinking, right? It doesn't have any real impact, however, I mean it does, because if you let it go on, it will impact you, as we've just discussed. But by itself, if you wrote it down, you could throw that piece of paper in the recycle bin, right?

That's not gonna change anything. So just get a sense of, oh, okay, I had that thought. Oh, I'm so glad I, I'm so glad, right? And you could even like kind of exaggerate, like, I am so glad I became aware that I had that thought. How cool now I can change it. What would be something that would serve me and serve my horse?

And maybe it's an automatic negative thought you have about your horse or about your ability to ride or something like that. Oh, I'm such an anxious rider, or whatever it is, right? Then you might think, Oh wow, that was cool. I'm so glad I had that recognition. I'm so glad I was aware of that. Now I can change it.

What can I do that will, that I know I can do well and that can help, you know, increase my confidence? Something like that, right? You can totally flip it. Okay? It's all under your power. So that's, and then the third key, listen more, listen more to your horse. Create a conversation that requires you to, number one, quiet your own nervous system, okay?

So it's like you're reducing the internal distractions and then helping your horse quiet his or her nervous system as well. And you can find out more about how to do that in episodes 14 through 16 of this podcast. So anyway, hope that was helpful for you. We have four more keys to go and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you.

So thank you so much for being here and I can't wait to talk to you again. Bye for now.