EMHH Episode 33: The 4th and 5th Keys to Unlock Your Horse’s Superpowers

Oct 13, 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 4th and 5th keys.

In this episode, you’ll learn how common it is to habitually tense your muscles more than necessary. And how this chronic sense of contraction and strain interfere with your freedom of movement and restricts your horse’s movement too.

I’ll share a simple way to break out of this downward spiral and help you develop FEEL, which is one of the most important skills to have as a horse person.

In short, you’ll learn how to lay the foundation for easier, healthier ways for you and your horse to move together.

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. We’re also going to have an online challenge around these 7 keys. Please, stay tuned!

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FREE resources:

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Hello and welcome. In this episode, I'd like to give you two more keys, two more steps, if you will, that you can take. They're super simple but really powerful to help unlock your horse's potential, Okay? What I call your horse superpowers. I'm Mary Debono, and this is Easier Movement, Happier Horses. 

And in the last two episodes, we got the first three keys, okay? There's a total of seven of them. So we're gonna do two more in this episode. And the first one is, to reduce your effort. Now, what does that mean? Well, the thing is, we are often using way more effort, okay? Then we have to.

And it's not only that, it's kind of like a waste of effort. It detracts from our feelings. And so what happens is we end up sending conflicting signals to our horse. So this is a way that a lot of people are inadvertently interfering with their horses. So when you learn how to reduce your effort, you can stop getting in your horse's way, okay? And this is how you help unlock your horse's potential.

Okay? And allow them to kind of come into their superpowers. So think about it like this. Just say you picked up a really heavy box of books, okay? And you're carrying it, maybe you're even carrying it up a flight of stairs, okay? For good measure. And now a butterfly lands on that box, and then the butterfly takes off without looking at the butterfly.

It's gonna be pretty near impossible to detect that weight difference, right? Because you won't be able to feel it. You're, you're exerting so much pressure, you know, so much effort to carry the box that you don't notice the difference in the, in the little bit of weight change.

So the proportion is, is great, but just say you're carrying a feather, a bird's feather lightly between your fingers here, between maybe your thumb and index finger, and a butterfly lands on that, and you're just holding it ever so lightly and gently. Well, you can feel the difference, you can feel the weight shift.

You can feel, So if you, even if you had your eyes closed, you can feel that something landed, lighted on your feather, and then took off again. Okay? And that's really, really important because so much of the time, again, we're using way too much effort and it's misdirected effort. So in other words, we are habitually contracting and using muscles that actually are working against us.

Okay? So we have all this internal resistance and that first of all, for yourself, can create a lot of long-term damage. So, you know, over time, that leads to a lot of wear and tear on joints and muscles causes fatigue, lots of aches and pains can create stiffness.

So just for yourself, it's really, really important to learn how you can reduce your effort, and then you can allow that effort to be directed in a healthier way, okay? But also just being able to interact with your horse with more feel right is going to help your horse immensely. You'll improve so much as a horse person if you do this. Okay?

So for me, when I first learned about this, which is, well over 30 years ago, probably closer to 40, what I discovered was I discovered that I gripped my steering wheel really tightly when I drove. And there was no reason. It's not like my steering wheel was gonna suddenly fly off if I loosen my grip. I mean, I'm always careful, you know, I'm always attentive and, and hold it properly.

But what I was doing was I was just habitually clenching the steering wheel. And I find I found I was doing that in a lot of areas of my life, different things. I was just using way more effort. And I see this all the time with horse people, people across the board, I should say, but very specifically with horse people, I think we almost like pride ourselves on being strong, but you're actually creating a lot of weakness in yourself if your effort is not going in the direction you want it to go.

So in other words, if it's just habitual, you're literally fighting yourself. Okay? So it's really important to, So how, how do you feel more? Well, you slow down. Number one, it's really important to take a breath, go slowly, and then do movements or things that are smaller and really ask yourself.

So this is a question that I share with a lot of people, and it's really been transformative for many people. The question is very simple. It's five words. How can this feel easier? So whether it's driving your truck, tacking up your horse, you know, sweeping the barn aisle, whatever it is, you know, washing the dishes, whatever it is, sitting at your desk, how can it feel easier?

Where can you let go of excess tension that's not helping you? Maybe it's around your jaw, maybe your eyes, or around your mouth, right? Maybe there's a lot of tension in your chest and you know, around your hip joints, even just, you know, standing or, or doing anything, you might have this habitual way of holding tension, muscular attention around your hips.

Very, very common. People clench their toes without realizing it or have a lot of tightness in their hands. I, for years, had a tremendous amount of tension in my, in my forearms and hands. You know, again, it was just a habit. So we often get into these habits that, so they, they act, you know, under the radar, so to speak, and they really interfere with our feelings.

Okay? But by reducing your effort, you start to uncover those habits that aren't serving you. So very, very important. Okay? So ask yourself, how can this feel easier? Where can, can you let go of tension? How are you breathing? Are you breathing? A lot of times when we do things, if they're something either challenging or new, we hold our breath, right?

Which just creates more of this tension in us. And that doesn't help your horse if you're holding your breath, okay? So by reducing your effort, you will help unlock your horse's potential. Okay? Now, so you, you wanna think about just making the movements, whatever the movement is, you know, just like breaking it down into small steps so that each piece of it can feel easy, Okay?

We're gonna get to more of that in, in just a moment. But getting back to this idea of habits, we, we have this habit, a lot of us, of stressing and straining and we don't even know it. So that's like emotional stress, but also physical stress. And what I'd like to tell you is that there is a real difference between effort and strain.

Okay? Like healthy effort that's completely directed to what you intend to do is fine, right? That's good. But so many of us, don't know how to differentiate between effort and then the feeling of strain, which is the unhealthy kind of working against the self-habits that so many virtually all of us have, our horses have them too.

And my hands-on work addresses that with your horses. But you have to reduce your effort to be able to tell the difference. Okay? So that is a very important key. So that's key number four is to reduce your effort. Okay? So let me give you an example of this, of how it can relate to your horse.

So I work with a lot of people that tell me that their horses are not forward enough, you know, and sometimes they use the term lazy or they'll say, you know, my horse is stubborn, or something like that. And I remember working with this woman and she had large warm blood and she always, you know, used her dressage whip and she was constantly getting after her horse.

And she said, It's so exhausting that I just have to use so much leg and, and back it up with the whip constantly just to get, just to get him forward. And so, so I, I worked with her and her horse, which is how this works, okay? You have to work with both ends of the equation. And what I taught her was some really simple hands-on movements she could do with her horse on the ground.

And the purpose behind that was actually I taught her, the first thing I taught her was this idea of rocking her horse from the ground. And I taught her how to do it with less and less and less effort until she was rocking her horse in this beautiful way from her breath.

She couldn't believe it. She was just shocked, okay? She never thought of her being sensitive. So then we took it into a mounted session. So then she got on her, you know, we tacked up her horse, she got on her horse, and we played with that idea of having him go forward from a change in her breath.

And he responded because one of the things we did was we, we helped prepare him by doing that work on the ground first, by the kind of teaching him that she's going to be using like much softer, clearer, you know, aids if you will, you know, communication. And then having her do that from the saddle.

And again, this just showed her, that she had to really reduce her effort. You know she had to really slow down and then she could start to feel how her horse was responding to her and build on that. Okay? So very, very important. You wanna reduce your effort.

So anything you're doing, you know, again, if you're, you know, raking leaves or cleaning your house or you know, or grooming your horse or tacking up your horse or, or riding, ask yourself, how can this feel easier? Where can I reduce my effort? Where can I let go of tension? And sometimes what we have to do, I know I had to do this in the very beginning when I started this work.

I had to sometimes consciously tense certain areas on purpose and then really allow them to let go. Cuz I was so unaware. I mean, I was completely unaware. So I had to like, go through myself, you know, And think about, for example, you know, each shoulder, you know, can I get them really tight? So, okay, now that's what it feels like when they're more relaxed.

And so if you need to do that could be very helpful to do, right? To, to get some awareness of where you are habitually holding this level of tension. Okay? And another thing that's important to remember is when you reduce your effort, right? And you just go really small with your movements, we will build back up to bigger movements, Don't worry.

And they'll be very powerful and they'll be, you know, directed towards what you want and they'll be healthy and clear for your horse. But when you slow down and just think about how do I start that movement? That's just the first thing I do? What's the initiation? The initiation point is where you can influence the movement, where you can make it better.

Once you've committed to, for example, flinging your arm out to the side, just to use a random example, there isn't much you can do, right? To change it. But if I think about, okay, what is the first thing I do to bring my arm out and I play within that range, Okay?

Now I suddenly can realize, oh, if I let my shoulder go, if I, you know, relax my neck, right? If I maybe exhale when I do it, now I have someplace to improve from, otherwise, I'm just into my old habits. Okay? So really, really important, reduce your effort. So, you know, again, it's maybe it's how you hold your grooming brush.

You know, it's amazing where we are putting unnecessary effort, unnecessary tension that's interfering with us creating damage to ourselves, but also not being able to give clear signals to your horse. So you're actually, and, and I'm gonna just do another riding example. Th this is so often when people use a lot of unnecessary effort in the saddle, it's like they're moving against their horse instead of with their horse. Okay?

So when you learn how to reduce your effort, again, it's a big key to unlocking your horse's potential, to allow you, to get out of the way of your horse, basically. Okay? So have fun with that, you know, and maybe even challenge yourself to like, you know, where, you know, throughout the day ask yourself, like a lot of my, my students put up a post-it note.

How can this feel easier? And they put it in different places. So just as a little reminder, you know, where can you let go of tension? How are you breathing? All that good stuff. Okay? So, and, and by the way, again, this will help you as well as your horse and you'll have a much higher level of self-awareness, okay?

Which will improve so many aspects of your life. Okay? So that was key number four. Key number five is to find what's easy. Now this, this is, you know, builds on what we just talked about, reducing your effort because you have to reduce your effort to be able to feel differences, to feel what's easy.

And a lot of people think, well, why would I wanna know what's easy? But in this work, and this is the power of it is that what we do is we build on what's easy, what's easy for you, what's easy for your horse, and then you can expand on it. Otherwise, you're just entering into a battle.

You're constantly trying to get something to happen either with your own movement, your own self or with your horse. Okay? But you find the path of ease. And something I say over and over again cuz it's so important, is you want to associate movement with ease and pleasure, okay? You wanna find that path of what's easy and feels good and then expand on that.

And then when you find that in yourself, you can transmit that to your horse. Okay? Very, very important. So let's, I'm gonna give you an example too of how we use this in our hands-on work in that, in the move with your horse program that I teach. So when we do the hands-on work, right?

The first thing I'm teaching my students, or one of the first things I should say is how to feel what movements are easy for their horse. So for example, we do something that we call a ribcage slide. It's very gentle but extremely helpful to the horse's movement overall. It can impact positively so many parts of the horse. And, and it feels really, really good, especially when you find that path of what's easy.

And the reason that one of the reasons that we want to find what's easy is because if there's a path where the movement is easy, that means that that horse has been pulling it in that direction. So we're able to find what that horse's habits happen to be as it, you know, in relation to the ribcage. Okay? That's just one little example.

But we do this with virtually everything. We look for that path of ease and then we build on that. So the nervous system is like, oh, okay, this is familiar, this is comfortable, I can cope with this. It doesn't set up defenses. And then you can expand on it and that's how you give your horse more options and how to move and how to feel and how to act.

Okay? And the same is true for you, okay? We look for what movements. So when we do this work with you as well, we look for how you can do a movement easily, right? And then that helps rewire your nervous system and start your, your nervous system starts to go, Oh, this feels good, let's do more of this.

And what feels easy is what's healthy for you, Okay? So you want to in, in respect to movement. So you want to keep building on that, but it's important that you slow down to be able to feel what's easy. So again, this goes hand in hand with reducing your effort, right? You have to do small movements.

Now sometimes for certain things I work with people that have lots of challenges, lots of challenges physically, and maybe there's a particular movement that they can only do in their imagination. Because to do it, in reality, would not feel easy no matter how small they did it.

And you know what? It still works because when you do it in your imagination, right? If you think of it feeling easy as you imagine doing it and like that's truly imagining it, not just kind of looking at yourself in your mind's eye doing it, but, but feeling as if you're doing it right. What happens is then again, we start to rewire the brain cuz you, you stimulate parts of the mode of cortex that you would use if you were actually moving.

So when you can very clearly imagine doing the movement and imagining it in a way that feels easy, well then before you know it, you can actually do the movement to at least a small degree and have it feel easy. And then we can build on that. It's amazing. I have a client that she injured herself in a car accident when she was in her teens, she was a teenager and she always had a major problem here should with one of her shoulders.

And so she went through life with this major problem with her shoulders. So as an adult, like decades and decades later, she found me and discovered this the Feldenkrais method, which is what I, you know, my teaching is based on. And she could not believe cuz there were so many things that were just unavailable to her with that arm, okay?

Because of this shoulder injury. And it's amazing to me that she can do so many things now that she couldn't do even as a much younger person because what we did was we broke things down and she only went with that path of ease. And I guided her through that and it's, it's so amazing.

As a matter of fact, I met with her on Zoom yesterday and we were kind of laughing about it, like, can you remember what you, how you used to be? And it's really fun because she can do things that people much, much younger than her that didn't have accidents can't do from a movement standpoint. So it's really pretty cool.

So, again, it took us, you know, this idea for her to find easy ways of doing things, okay? Finding that ease because before that she had been through lots and lots of different therapies that were just getting her to try to do the movements and she was recreating patterns of pain and restriction. But we take it in a different approach. So this is really, really powerful.

Find ease, find pleasure in the movements, okay? That is going to help you and it's going to help your horse. So we apply these keys, so we're talking about you, but for example, people that study with my hands on, you know, learn how to do this with their horses. They learn how to find what's easy for their horse, okay?

And that is how we can help the horse reprogram their nervous system, so to speak, kind of rewire get them out of those inefficient or harmful habits, and help introduce them to new options, Okay? So you wanna find what's easy and build on it. So, you know, think about this throughout your day, like, you know how, again, it goes back to that question, how can this feel easier?

You know, where is the path of ease? You go to pick up your, you know, mug of tea, right? Is there an easier way to do it? Even just bringing your arm up overhead. A lot of people do it in a way that's not easy.

But you'll find if you kind of, for those of you watching the video, you'll see what I'm doing. I'm, I'm bringing my, in this case, I'm using my right-hand way up to, you know, towards my, my sternum, my breastbone, and then putting it up my midline and overhead versus just kind of flinging my arm up to the side.

Okay? So even something like that, find what's easy and build on that. Okay? So just to summarize, these two keys are, you know, reducing your effort. And key number five is to find what's easy. Okay? So we have two more to go. We have six and seven and they'll be in the next episode.

So thank you so much for joining me and you know, we're gonna do a challenge around this too, So, so stay tuned because we're gonna have a fun challenge with giveaways and all kinds of good stuff. So stay tuned for next week's episode as well. And I can't wait to share those last two keys with you. Thank you so much for being here.

I so appreciate you and I love, love, love being on this journey with you. Bye for now!