EMHH Episode 34: The Final 2 Keys to Unlock Your Horse’s Superpowers

Oct 20, 2022

We’ve reached the FINAL 2 key things you can do to enhance your horse’s body and mind. I call this improvement Unlocking Your Horse’s Superpowers.

You’ll hear why it's common for us to get stuck in routines that dull our senses and keep us trapped in unhealthy patterns. And how introducing novelty into your life can help you and your horse get free from those restrictions.

We’ll talk about how non-habitual sensations and experiences can get the attention of your horse’s brain. And how this newfound attention can create fresh, exciting possibilities for how you and your horse move, think, and feel.

You’ll learn how your limiting beliefs may be holding your horse back. And how you can trade those unhelpful stories you’ve been telling yourself for ones that will delight you. And your horse.

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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Well, hello! Today we're going to talk about the last two keys. So there are seven keys to help unlock your horse's potential, right? To let those superpowers come out if you will. So these are keys number six and number seven. So I'm Mary Debono, and this is Easier Movement, Happier Horses, and thank you for being here.

So let's start with key number six, which is to change things up. You know, we along with our horses kind of get into a rut, we get into routines, and we do the same things the same way over and over again. And the nervous system kind of just gets used to that. It just, whether it's good or bad, it just feels familiar, feels safe, right?

Because it is familiar, but it's really important to start to do things differently for both physical and behavioral flexibility, right? It, it's amazing how the mind and the body just open up when you start to experience things even a little bit differently. So, I've talked about this in, in previous episodes where I've talked about, you know, really pay attention to how do you put your pants on, right?

Do you do it always with the right leg first? You know, how do you put your jacket on? You know, is it always the right arm? I mean, all different things, you know, how do you climb steps? You know, we tend to have such habits around how we do things. Maybe the way you tack up your horse, you always, you know, put the saddle on from the left side, for example.

You know, we, again, over and over again, do the same thing. So our bodies get, get used to moving in a very particular way. And it's like we, we kind of groove those neural pathways into our nervous system, and then it's difficult to do anything different.

So we really get stuck and we get physically and mentally stiffer if you will. So what we want to do is we want to awaken our flexibility, both our flexibility in our body and in our mind. And the same is true with the horses. So if you can think about things you do, whether you do them by yourself or you do them with your horse, just change them up a little bit.

You know, you always take your horse to a certain spot to groom her, Right? Do you always mount and dismount in a particular way? Most people do it from the left, right? Only from the left. And I encourage people if you can do it safely, and you have to teach your horse this to also mount and dismount from the right, and to lead their horse from the offsite as well.

That is so, so important to do things like that. It, again, gets the attention of the nervous system. It allows new experiences to happen and to start to groove new roadways. It's like, you can think of it this way. Just say you always drove to work exactly the same way, right?

It's a certain route you took and you did it, you know, every day going to work and coming home from work and you no longer questioned whether it was the best route to take. It just was what was familiar. You got in your car and it's almost like your car knew where to go and you didn't have a self-driving car, I might add.

But now say suddenly there's road work, there's some kind of detour, there's construction or something, and you're forced to go a different way. And now suddenly things are different. Like you actually like look around, you're more like, you notice things more on your drive because it's different.

And you might even discover that it's a better route to take to work that maybe there's less traffic or it's more relaxing, it's more scenic, whatever. But you find that it's actually better. So you start to broaden your horizons. So we want that for yourself and for your horse. Get yourself and your horse out of the rut you might be in.

Okay? So think of all the different things you can do that will be a little bit, will be novel. We'll be nonhabitual. Again, we can talk, think about, you know, how you lead, how you groom, how you tack up, how you mount and dismount. Maybe even the things you do. You know, maybe there's a particular kind of like a warm-up routine you do with your horse. Maybe you can change that up a little bit. You know, maybe you never go on trails.

And if you can safely do that, that's a really great thing to do. You know, So start to play with this, like in our, in the work I do with humans as well, the Feldenkrais work, we use a lot of different positions, different orientations to do similar movements, just to bring in that novelty and variation just so it's experienced differently in the nervous system.

And that's when the brain really gets it and the improvements really stick. So very, very important to start to change things up for you and your horse. It might be something as simple for you as reaching for a glass of water with your non-dominant hand, right?

We all know about brushing our teeth with our non-dominant hand, you know, whatever it is that can start to get the attention of your nervous system because some of the benefits of that are, you start to become more aware of what you're doing. And this also relates to the previous keys we talked about, about reducing your effort and finding ease.

When you do things a little differently, when you change things up, things feel more novel, more nonhabitual. That is like a little wake-up call to your nervous system to notice differences. And this is how you can improve. So with hands-on work, I teach the horses. So this is a shout-out to my move with your horse students.

By the way, we do similar things with the horse. So in other words, we literally help the horse feel in new ways. So we use a lot of nonhabitual movements that feel good, but they're nonhabitual, they're different. So very, very important key. Okay? So change things up, start to experience things feeling differently, and still feel good, still feel safe, but feeling different.

Okay? So key number seven, which is our last one is to invite new possibilities. Okay? And again, these all relate to each other. So you can see how changing things up starts to broaden your horizons and you start to see things in new ways. And you start to realize that there are new possibilities out there for you and your horse.

Okay? And this is again, how we can unlock your horse's potential, and get those superpowers going there. There's a sentence I say a lot that an open mind and helping hands can do much to change a horse's future. This means that you know, being open to new possibilities and know how to use your hands in ways that can help your horse, you know.

So the hands-on work we do can really change the trajectory of your horse's life, basically, you know, have greater wellbeing, potentially, you know, long-term soundness, all kinds of good things, improved performance, you know, even just a more balanced emotional life as well.

So they're not so anxious. So you want to start to learn how to use your heart and your hands to transmit this sense of new possibilities to your horse. And again, by following the other keys, the first six keys, it's going to give you a good foundation for that. Okay? So, but another way you can think about this is to really release any limiting beliefs you might have about yourself or your horse.

Often we have both. We have stories we tell ourselves that kind of like keep a belief alive about ourselves and our horse. And it's not serving either one of us. I'll give you an example with my own horse. So my horse is a rescue. I've had him now a long time yet a lot of physical and emotional issues, I'll put it that way.

And he came from a very abusive past and all that. And so one day, this is a long time ago, I, you know, he, cuz he would, he would spook at anything like, and I'm talking big, big spooks that he would keep, you know like it was hard for him to like go of it. And I remember talking to my dad one day on the phone and saying.

You know, oh, he's, you know, the breeze is was so reactive. And my dad stopped me and he said, No, no, no, he's not reactive, he's careful. And that simple reframes, that simple reframe change me so much for me. I thought, Oh, he's careful. That's a whole different feeling than you having a horse that's always super reactive to everything and sort of like, out of control.

It's like he's careful, he's been through stuff, okay, I'll put it that way. He's been through stuff. So he's learned he needs to take care of himself, he needs to be careful. And then a funny thing happened after that, once I changed my story, thanks to dad, by the way, about my horse breeze, he stopped being so spooky because I changed. I wasn't expecting him to do that.

And so something I'm sure in my physiology changed, right? That maybe gave him a little more security for all I know. So it's really, really important. Okay? So thinking about how you are holding your horse back and holding yourself back is a very useful endeavor to kind of look into that.

Notice what you're saying to yourself or to other people. Another thing I did a lot, and I, I, you know, my horse has, you know, the breeze has scars on his body from different traumas he's been through. So sometimes people will ask me about them or they'll, you know, ask, you know, different things about his history.

And I used to go into the story about him, about all the abuse and this and that and the other thing, and yada, yada, yada. And one day I thought, Oh my gosh, what am I doing? How, why am I keeping that story alive? That limiting story about what he went through, He's here with me now.

We have a great life. He's super healthy and happy and you know, we do all kinds of fun things and he doesn't live in that fearful place. So I, I started being much more intentional, intentional about what I said to people. So yeah, this is important. Think about the stories you tell your horse is lazy.

Your horse is, you know, spooky. I have a client who doesn't use the term spooky. When her horse is feeling that way, I'll say, she says he's bright. I like that. Oh, oh yes, he's very bright today, which means, you know, maybe it was a chilly fall morning and he was, you know, feeling, feeling it, right?

So he was bright. So I love that reframe. It's like, that's something she, that's she's okay with, right? So it really changes things. And so you can invite new possibilities for, movement, for performance, for all kinds of behavior, for emotional and physical, okay?

As far as if you start to invite new possibilities in, right? So like even, I'll give you another story about myself. So many years ago, my first major career after school was as an IT professional. So I designed computer systems, I did all this kind of stuff and I was good at it and it paid well and I always had my horses and you know, that kind of stuff too.

Of course, I was always an animal person. Had horses my whole life, I mean, since I was a kid and not from birth. And I thought that was my path. Like this is, you know, like a solid responsible career. It makes X amount of money, you know, I could pay for my horse and, you know, all that stuff.

And suddenly, and it was actually thanks to the Feldenkrais method, I believe because I suddenly, when I started to experience things in new ways, you know, going to a Feldenkrais practitioner, literally moving through space differently, feeling my body differently, being more self-aware, suddenly knew possibilities opened up in my mind. And I knew that I wasn't destined to be an IT professional for the rest of my life.

And I started making plans, which happened pretty quickly to leave that field and to follow my passion, my passion to improve the lives of animals and their people. And that's what I've been doing now for the past 30-plus years. So again, I was able to change my self-concept around what was possible for me.

And, you know, my horse was happy to come along by the way, on that journey. And I had a different horse at the time I started, of course. But anyway, cuz remember our, our stories that we tell ourselves whether about our, you know, ourselves or about our horses, it's like they become these self-fulfilling prophecies.

Like I remember working with a woman back in my IT days and she used to kind of, she was self-deprecating about how bad she was a direction. And I'm gonna tell you this is well before, you know, we had GPS or anything like that, you know, you had paper maps, that's what you had. And she was very bad at directions. That's, that was the story.

So she kind of, you know, she, she always talked about that. So whenever she went from point A to point B, she would talk about how she got lost and how she did this. And it became kinda like, the office joke was that, oh, don't send her because, you know, blah, blah, blah. And I thought to myself, even at that time, I thought to myself, I wonder if she really is different than the rest of us.

Or she's just keeping that going. You know, for some reason she had this attachment to that story that she was bad at directions, that she didn't have a sense of direction, but did she really go the wrong way more than the rest of us? Or maybe she did because she believed that.

So your brain is gonna find evidence to fulfill that, to confirm it for you. And it's the same thing, like when people say, Oh, I'm bad at math or whatever, and they get anxious about it, and of course, it makes them bad at math, et cetera, et cetera. But we really wanna be careful and aware, I should say, of what we're telling ourselves.

And are we really, are we focusing on our limitations? Are we, you know, or are we allowing our creative selves to invite more possibilities in? So I'm looking at my notes here too. Oh yeah, here's another one. I wrote down, you know, so much of the time we think about, again, we're gonna go back to these self-limiting beliefs.

People will tell me I've always been uncoordinated or I've always been stiff. I've never been flexible. And you know, that may be true. We all have different, we come kind of equipped with different levels of flexibility and things like that. But again, if you say that over and over again, whether it's about you or it's about your horse.

Your horse isn't flexible, your horse is not coordinated, and your brain is going to find evidence to keep confirming that. Okay? And so then you won't be very graceful. You'll be, you'll be thinking, Oh, I'm, you know, I'm stiff and uncoordinated. Well, then you'll be more self-conscious.

You'll be more likely to be uncoordinated. Okay? So again, these are things that, that is very, very important to recognize yourself to become aware of what you're telling yourself. Because not only does this impact your quality of life and the life, you know, you wanna have in your future life, it definitely holds your horseback as well. Okay?

So if you keep telling yourself you're an anxious rider, you're a bad rider, you don't have good posture, you don't have this, well that's probably, you know, getting truer and truer, I'm gonna say as you go along. Okay? So you might wanna think, so just say you are riding and you, you, something happened that that wasn't your satisfaction.

Instead of beating yourself up over it and kind of like confirming that that's a problem, you know, a problem you have and that's a story you, you believe about yourself. What if you said, Okay, well that time I wasn't a hundred percent, maybe I wasn't a hundred percent confident, but I'm gonna be better next time.

And you put yourself more in that growth mindset, right? That again, you're inviting this new possibility, you're saying, you know, I can improve, I can totally improve, right? And that starts to prime your brain to improve and to look for opportunities to grow, right? And to, again, expand those minds your mindset, and to, you know, diminish those limiting beliefs and come into more powerful beliefs about yourself and your horse.

So again, this helps both you and your horse. So you can even like to think of an activity where you do feel competent, okay? Think of something you do feel competent. It could be the silliest little thing, you know, tying your shoes, you know, maybe grooming your horse or maybe making a meal.

Not that those are simple things by the way, but think of something that you feel good about then embody that feeling, embody that feeling, and start to get used to that feeling. Okay? And notice as you're doing that, so if you think about an activity that you feel competent in, notice how you hold yourself. Notice how you breathe, right?

What do you do? You know, are you laughing? Are you, you know? So start to notice all those components of competency because what you can do is you can start kind of carrying them over into other activities where you don't feel as competent, okay? And when you feel more competent, you're going to help your horse more effectively.

So you can apply those, you know, those physical feelings and those emotional feelings to the areas you want to improve, okay? It's like you carry them over to that and you intentionally hold yourself in that way. You breathe in that way, you smile in that way, whatever it happens to be. Okay? That can be really powerful. Another thing you can do is you kinda like model the behavior of somebody that you do feel is competent in that area.

And you can, you know, imagine you're them for a moment. How does that feel? And you can start to maybe carry over the traits that they embody and do that for yourself. So whether it's maybe a rider that you really admire or someone in another field, you can carry over the traits that they're, that they're displaying, if you will, that that appear to you.

So that, that could be useful. So, you know, it's, you know, I talk a lot about how transformative this work, this whole body of work, and this is like a kind of a framework for it, but I talk about how it's transformed my life and it's transformed the lives of so many other, you know, animals and humans.

And what I love about the word transformation is it doesn't, it doesn't indicate that it's like a starting over. It's changing from where you are. So it's acknowledging where you are right now and then improving that. It's not like you have to be completely reborn or anything like that. You know, get a new horse or anything like that, right? It's being able to improve from where you are.

So think about that and expand those possibilities. Okay? So you're, you're basically, you're taking what's there already and this applies to you and your horse and making it better. Okay? So that's transformation. So, okay, I hope that was helpful. I hope that was helpful. One more thing I wanna add to is this idea of new possibilities.

Okay? Cuz this is a really, really important one. We don't realize where we're holding ourselves and our horses back a lot of times. So if you intentionally think of new possibilities, this is gonna really serve you and your horse. But take advantage of like a fresh start. So like a fresh start would be the first of the year is an obvious one.

People tend to make New Year's resolutions. Birthdays are another one. The first of a quarter, the first of the month, right? Maybe even like you have a relationship breakup or something, or you move to a new barn or something that, or, or the end of an old job or the beginning of a new one. But something where it's like a logical new start.

Like a Monday. A Monday is a common one, right? How many people say, I'm gonna start my diet on Monday, right? So think about that, think to take advantage of a fresh start, whatever that is. And it could be, could be today at noon or whatever, but think of a fresh start.

Because what that does is that helps you tap into this intrinsic motivation, right? It helps you say, Oh, it's what they call the fresh start effect. It's like, oh, okay, this is a clean slight, if you will, and new things can, can arise out of this. I can, I can act differently and I can help my horse act differently and, you know, move more freely and feel better in all these different ways.

Okay? So I would encourage you to do that and just, you know, again, ask yourself how have you been holding yourself and your horse back? And then take a moment and imagine what you would like to have in your horse life or any, any aspect of your life, any aspect of your life.

Kind of like making a wish and allowing that wish to start to draw you to this sense of new possibilities and guide your behavior, to create them, okay? To be able to expand your sense of what is possible. Well, I hope these seven keys were helpful for you and we're going to have like a little online challenge.

So I think it's gonna be super fun. There are going to be giveaways and all kinds of things. We'll be discussing these in more detail, putting them into a kind of like step by step, you know, how you can implement them with your horse. So stay tuned and thank you so much for being here.

I love being on this journey with you and I can't wait to talk to you again. Bye for now.