EMHH Ep 50: A Better Way to Improve Shoulder Movement

#equinemovement #humanmovement debono moves debonomoves feldenkrais Feb 16, 2023

This episode will introduce a novel way to improve shoulder movement in you and your horse.  And it's all about working with the rib cage!

Mary will describe the innovative way she helps humans and horses overcome ligament and tendon injuries and restore free, healthy movement to the shoulders.

You'll hear what NOT to do as well. Mary explains why stretching the limb may exacerbate the restriction.
Learn why Mary's "Rib Rope" can help horses and humans unlock freer, healthier shoulder and neck movement. It also enhances body awareness and may reduce the risk of injury.  (A link to vide about the Rib Rope is below.)

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Mentioned in this episode:

Click here for video to improve your shoulder movement πŸ’₯

Rib Rope video: 


Short video about human shoulder and rib cage anatomy


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

All information is for general educations purposes ONLY and doesn't constitute medical or veterinary advice. 



 Hello, would you like to learn how to improve your horse's shoulder movement? End your own. Well, you're in the right place. My name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Horse podcast. So today I'd like to do just a short episode to help you give you some tools, basically so that you can start to look at improving shoulder movement in a new way.

First of all, let's think about the whole idea of what are your shoulders, where are your shoulders? So for this, for our purposes, let's start by thinking about your shoulder blades, right? So those wings, people call them in the back and I'll post some in the show notes. I'll post some, some anatomy, photos and things like that so you can get a good idea of it.

But I'll tell you about a client I had years ago. Really brilliant woman. Really, really smart. She was a president of a big company, very intelligent woman, very athletic, very much into health and fitness. And she had developed a very debilitating problem with her neck and shoulder area. She was in a lot of pain. She had done a lot of medical treatments,

physical therapy, treatments, all kinds of different approaches, and she still was in a lot of pain and a lot of restriction. And so she, she was, I think our doctor actually suggested she come to me. And so I was able to help her, which was awesome. And, but one of the first things I talked to her about was,

you know, I was talking about the structure of the shoulders and I have a skeleton in my office and things like that that I could show her, but she was kind of blown away cuz here she was very intelligent woman and she had been under the impression that her shoulder blades were attached to her spine. That, that everyone, all humans had, that she thought,

she thought that the shoulder blades kind of, you know, came out from the spine, that there was a boney attachment there in the back. And I thought that was so interesting because the way she used her shoulders indicated that, in other words, her self-image was such that there was so much restriction in the shoulders, and that's how she thought they were supposed to be.

And that put tremendous strain on her upper and mid back and her neck, et cetera. So it, it was super interesting. And I realize that a lot of people don't understand how the shoulder blades need the, they need to slide over the ribs, okay? That's how they, they need to function. And so the way I approach helping people and horses with shoulder restriction is I often move the ribcage relative to the shoulder.

So in other words, the sh the shoulder stays still. The shoulder blades, let's just say. And I move, I gently introduce movement in the ribcage. So in the ribs, I work also with the soft tissue in between the ribs, the thoracic spine, which is the part of the spine that the ribs attached to. Definitely with the sternum humans,

I will also work with the clavicles. Horses don't have clavicles, but this is very different than how most people do it. So a lot of times people will come to me with shoulder problems and I don't touch their shoulders. And they're like, wait, what? It's my shoulder that hurts. And they realized though, that suddenly they could move their shoulders so much more freely because I've helped wake up their ribcage.

A a very dramatic example of this was a, another woman who had a fused spine, and it was surgically fused because she had very, very severe collapsing scoliosis. So she was fused from pretty much her upper thoracic down all the way down through her lumbar to her sacrum. Okay? So she was completely fused and I saw the x-rays and completely fused with cement and rods and the whole thing.

So she had no movement, you know, she couldn't round her back or arch her back, right? There was no movement there. So she started developing a lot of shoulder pain and neck pain. She also developed a wrist problem. She had injured one wrist and that wasn't healing that well. And she had, she was just getting more and more restricted.

And she thought, well, it's kind of like, what am I gonna do? I'm completely fused, right? And she needed that surgery. That surgery was, was life-saving. So nothing against the surgery, but you think, okay, Mary, what are you gonna do? That woman can't move her spine. However, what she could move very,

very delicately was the ribs a little bit relative to the spine. Okay? So I was able to help wake up that movement potential within her rib cage. And it was life changing because suddenly she could move her arms easier, all the restriction around her shoulders and neck went away. Her, her wrists healed. You know, she stopped having the, the tension in the forearms that she was getting and the restriction in the wrists.

So that was a, a big change. Another time I had a tennis player come to me and he was having issues with his serve and he was having some problems also with his wrist. And it was the same kind of thing. So he knew his shoulders were restricted and I didn't touch his shoulders. It was like all about teaching him movements To wake up his ribcage.

And at the end, he just couldn't believe it. His served was so much better. He had no pain in his wrist, his shoulders were, both of them were just so much freer. So I'm going to link to a little, it's a short video lesson I have for you that you can do sitting and it will help you start to get an idea of this about how you can work with the ribs to improve your shoulder movement.

Okay? So that'll be in the show notes. So if you go to mary Debono dot com slash blog slash h as in horse five zero, that's, you know, for episode 50. So mary Debono dot com slash blog slash h lowercase 50. You'll see it. Also, if you're listening to this from a podcast app, I will put a link to the show notes in the description of the podcast app.

Okay? This is episode 50 of Easier Movement, happier Horses. So, okay, so just to give you an idea, that is a really important strategy in helping you improve your shoulder movement. And this same thing applies to your horse instead of, you know, picking up the leg and stretching it, which can set off all kinds of alarm bells in your horse's nervous system or your nervous system,

right? Think about it. If you had a shoulder restriction or injury of any kind and someone started pulling on your arm, right? Your nervous system is like, whoa, whoa, whoa. Don't do that, don't do that. That's going to be a problem. So what we do here, and this is what I teach in my move with your horse program,

is how to introduce movement where the horse or the human, you know, already feels safe and the movement feels easy, okay? And then this starts to generalize through the whole body. So again, the, the freer the ribcage can be the freer the shoulder can move relative to it. Now we use the same strategy with helping you improve the movement of your hips as well.

So for example, I think this is probably the hop thing that people tell me is their biggest problem physically is tight hips or painful hips, something like that. Something about the hips that they don't like. And I myself suffered from that. I had a very painful right hip for many years until I discovered this work. So if I start just having you stretch out your hip joints,

you know, stretch the flexor muscles, all those kind of things that can set off major alarm bells in your nervous system and not be a long-term solution for you, you might in the beginning feel a little better, but long term it won't be good. But instead, if we keep your legs stable, and I teach these type of movement lessons in my program,

we keep your legs stable. And when we have you move your, your pelvis relative to the hips, right now you're moving that central part, that proximal part your pelvis relative to the distal parts, which would be the legs, the hip joints. So this is really, really powerful cause your brain will not fight that. Your brain will like that.

Your brain will say, wait, that's different. That's actually pretty cool. That feels good and will want to do more of that. Okay? And that's what will allow the muscles around the hip joints to let go. So we teach all kinds of good stuff like this in the program. So to give you an example, let's talk about horses now.

So if you have a horse that has any kind of movement restriction or, and this is super important, you want to prevent a problem because think about it, when there's any kind of restriction in the shoulders or the neck, what happens is the horse has to change how force goes through that leg and then can leave them much more susceptible to ligament and tendon injuries.

Or if they unfortunately have a ligament or tendon injury, it can impede healing. Okay? So we don't want that. So the freer the shoulders can be the less chance of injury and the greater the chance if there's already an injury that there'll be full healing. Okay? So it's very, very common. If people tell me that they have a horse that has an injury or they wanna make sure to prevent an injury of the front legs,

I do a lot of work. I or I teach them how to do a lot of work with the horse's ribcage so that the shoulder blade can slide easily over it and change how that force goes through the leg. So to give you a little example of this, a number of years ago I was called out to work with a horse that had a chronic suspensory ligament injury wasn't healing and they tried all kinds of different things.

And of course you always do what your, you know, veterinary advice advices as well. But even despite that, the horse wasn't healing. And I knew that if I could help the horse feel f more freedom in the ribcage, it would change how the horse was using the leg and could help improve the possibility of healing. But I discovered that this horse,

his name was Bravo, would not let me touch his ribcage. For whatever reason, he, he must have had a bad experience. Maybe he, you know, had some issues with tack. I mean, who knows? All I know is he didn't want any part of my hands touching him on the ribcage. Other places, yes, but not on his ribcage.

And so whenever that happens at any part of the horse's body where they resist, I never, I never force it. I don't try to make them stand still while I do it. We don't want that. Remember we're inviting a or creating an environment for learning safety, right? It's all about feeling safe. So the horse can learn or the human can learn.

So in a case like that, I often just look around, is there something I could pick up that I could put between my hand and the horse? Cuz often that's enough. I mean, I've even done this with a horse's tail, that was a mayor years ago who had a really, really tight hen done and she didn't let anyone touch her there,

not even her person. And I was able to gently take her tail and put her tail between my hand and her. And then when I did this, what I call muscle lifts and helped her feel how good that was, she's like, oh, that's really cool. And then I could continue working without the tail eventually. But I digress, getting back to bravo.

So when I looked down, there was a, a maroon lunge line, you know, lying on the ground. I asked the horse's person, can I use this? She's like, sure, he'll, he'll be fine. You know, I do things with ropes and whatever, he doesn't care. And I made sure I introduced it to him well,

but I ended up just wrapping it just one time around the horse's barrel, right towards the front of the ribcage. And I started using that. So instead of my hands touching his ribs, it was now this flat lunge line. And he loved it. He absolutely loved it cuz it's such a good feeling. It's such a good feeling to wake up the ribs.

And by the way, I will link to another video for you. It'll be a blog post, but there's a video in it right away you'll see. And it's about how you can do a rib rope for yourself. I saw, and he way I ended up calling this thing a rib rope because I discovered that this was really, really helpful and in some ways better than my hands.

I mean, they do different things right? With my hands. I, I can do other things, but the rib rope or, or the lunge line in this case, there's obviously more surface area to it, right? So it went all around him. And I could be very, very delicate as well, this is important and I teach this in my program,

so I would rather you not try this at home because it's a very delicate way of doing it and there's very specific ways of doing it. But anyway, I did that with him. Great. It was fantastic. And once his ribcage got nice and and supple again, his shoulder, I mean, the difference in his walk was unbelievable. His shoulders were sliding over his ribs and he went on to full healing,

okay? And I've had that with other horses, with other injuries as well, including tendon injuries because again, the free of the shoulders are right, it's going to allow the forces to go through the leg in a, in a more optimal way. But what I ended up discovering was, you know, that lunge line that I did with Bravo, it didn't just help him.

I realized this is a great strategy for lots and lots of horses. Virtually every horse can, can benefit from it. But, and I experimented with different materials, different ropes, different things. And I, I came up on a yacht rope, like a high quality yacht rope, which a lot of people use for lead ropes, but it has to be the good high quality kind.

And I experimented with different diameters, et cetera, but you, that seemed to give the best feel. I mean, in a pinch you can just pick up a lead rope of even if you have one that isn't like that or a lunge line, lunge lines are very long generally. So I, you know, a shorter piece of rope is actually better.

It doesn't get tangled up. But this has been a real game changer for lots and lots of horses. And now I've been teaching this to people all over the world and they're reporting back on how useful it's been for their horses. I even have trainers incorporating it into riding, you know, work under saddle. So it's has a lot of cool, cool benefits.

But again, it goes back to this idea that I'm sharing with you here, that you can improve the movement of the shoulders by improving the movement of the ribcage. Very different than what people normally do. Again, you know, people will pick up the leg and wanna think about stretching it. That is not something I normally will do. I might at the end,

after tons and tons of, of preparation in the ribcage, I might see if the horse feels like lengthening the leg and ask for a little lengthening. But only if I'm really, you know, pretty much guaranteed that the, the ribcage is already free. That I've already done that foundational work. But just to simply pick up the leg and pull on it can really backfire cuz the nervous system will get very nervous about that and want to protect.

So you might have a short term feeling of relief, but that doesn't change the underlying issue. Okay? And that's the other thing here. What we're doing in this work here, and again in my move with your horse program, is helping the horse develop better movement options and coming out of those bad habits that they have. Same when we have habits of movement.

So we have habits of how we use our neck and our shoulders and our low back and our hips. Those are habits, you can't just pull and press on them to change, right? That might change the tissue for a little while. But what we want to do is create a learning environment so that the horse can discover better options and that will allow them to release those bad habits.

Okay? So this is really, really important. So, and, and the other thing it does when you think about this, so if you don't have a clear kind of self-image, right? Ability to sense your shoulder blades, for example, working with the ribs just helps you discover that. It's really pretty cool. So again, we do these movement lessons in,

in our program, and you'll find that, you'll find that, oh wow, I could move the ribs and the shoulder blade in these different ways and suddenly now I can really feel my my shoulder blades in a new way, in a very pleasant way. It's all about feeling easy and pleasant because we want to have the brain associate ease and pleasure with movement.

This is true for us as well as for our horses, okay? So this is a very different way of, of working. And, and you know, you see people doing all kinds of things to help the help get freedom in the limbs. Like for example, they might, someone might pick up a front leg and do these gentle circles with the leg.

That's not bad. Certainly not bad. And it could be a good way to do kind of like an assessment. But again, if you haven't addressed the underlying structure, like the underlying movement habits around that, in my experience, that's going to be of limited value. I, I use those type of movements. But in addition to moving the proximal,

the more central parts, so we're reversing those, that relationship, okay? The the proximal and distal relationship. So, right, you know, you reach with your arm, right? Your shoulder blade moves relative to your ribcage. We're saying no, we're gonna keep the shoulders still and move the ribs under it. Your brain loves that. Your horse's brain loves that too.

So I just wanted to keep this short for you today so you have time to get through it. But I'm going to invite you to do a couple of things. Please go to the show notes. I'm gonna say that again, Mary Debono dot com slash blog slash h lowercase h h as in horse 50. That's for episode 50. And I will link to the rib rope for the horse.

You know that because that'll also give you a video to do the rib rope with yourself, which is so awesome. And explain a little bit more about the, how it helps the horse. And then also in the beginning, I'm going to give you another video with a little lesson that will help improve your shoulder movement by improving the movement of your ribcage.

Just by just very gentle, it's just going to be a little bit of kind of waking up how you use your ribs relative to your shoulder. Okay? It's, it's, it's only a few minutes long. Certainly doable. And you can do it sitting down. So I will link to, yeah, you'll get a few links and it'll be great.

Oh, the other thing I wanna invite you to do, I am super, super excited for this next cohort. I'm starting of my move with your horse program, right? We're going to start in the very beginning of April. Now you might think that's far away, it's not. It's going to be here in a blink of an eye. And if you join my wait list,

now there's no obligation by the way. No, no one's taken a credit card or anything like that. But if you join the wait list, which is mary Debono dot com slash join horse, all lowercase mary Debono dot com slash join horse. And that link will be in the show notes too. If you join that now, know you can get access to free classes.

I'll be offering before we start and other bonuses that I'm, that I'm gonna be giving away. So do that. Nothing to lose. Nothing to lose, right? Lots and lots to gain because the program is all about how you and your horse can both improve your movement and wellbeing cuz you know why you and your horse deserve to feel great together. So thank you so much for joining me here.

I love sharing this work with you. It's totally changed my life and I wanted to, to share it so that your life can be better and better every day and your horse as well. So thank you again. I can't wait to talk to you soon. Bye for now.