EMHH Ep 55: Body Awareness and Emotional Well-Being: The Benefits of Touching Your Horse

#equinemind #equinemovement #horsehumanconnection #humanmind Apr 29, 2023

Would you like to take something that you're probably already doing and make it much more beneficial for your horse?

In this short episode, you can learn how to:

  • Develop your ability to tune in to your horse and identify areas of tension or soreness
  • Reduce neuromuscular tension in your horse, promoting relaxation and comfort
  • Stimulate the CLTMs, specialized nerve fibers that facilitate communication and connection between you and your horse
  • Improve your horse's body awareness and proprioception, which can enhance their balance, coordination, and athletic performance
  • Promote a centered and focused mindset for both you and your horse, fostering a calm and meaningful interaction

1. Establish a Better Bond with Your Horse Through Neuro Receptor Stimulation (00:00 - 06:12)
2. Developing Informed Intuition: Slow, Gentle Stroking for Enhancing Horse-Human Contact (06:13 - 11:43)
3. Unlocking the Power of Intuitive Horsemanship (11:43 - 16:52)

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


Hello, would you like to take something that you're probably already doing and make it more beneficial for your horse? Like so much more, like you can use it in a way to help improve your horse's physical wellbeing, emotional wellbeing, you know, help them relax, help identify areas of tension and soreness. Well, if you're interested, listen up in this little short episode.

I'm going to share with you something that you're probably doing a piece of already, but make it much more meaningful to you and your horse. Hello, my name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Horses podcast. So thank you for being here. So just imagine that you're leading your horse and suddenly she throws her head up cuz she's afraid some,

there was a noise or somebody flapped something, a tarp or whatever, and she got a little afraid. It's very likely that you instinctively reached out and stroked her neck or her shoulder. It's like, it's okay, it's okay. And do you ever wonder why we do that? We do that a lot, right? Like you do that, you see it in all kinds of mammals,

that there's a, that there, the mother will lick the baby, or, you know, another primate will stroke the back of, of another one. We do it with our own human children as well, right? There's that stroking or a friend, if they're upset, what do we do? We often reach out and gently stroke their back. So that's something we automatically do.

But researchers have found that there's a really good reason for doing it. And when you do it very intentionally, you can kind of like turbocharge the benefits of it. So let me explain. Whenever you touch another mammal, so we're gonna be talking about horses here. So let's talk about your horse. When you stroke your horse in a light gentle way,

what you're doing is you're stimulating a very particular set of neuro fibers called C low threshold MENA receptors. Now, don't worry about the name, okay? You don't need to remember the name. And they call them c ltms for short. But what they do is they're different than, so we have receptors all over the body to, to basically take in information and relay it to the nervous system,

to relay it, to do different things to, you know, know where you are in space, know how muscles should contract or release, let you know, stimulate the release of certain hormones, all kinds of things, right? The receptors are all over. These particular receptors are pretty abundant in what they call the hairy parts of the body. Now,

it doesn't mean most likely you don't have hair on the back of your hands, but you could, okay? You could. What you don't have hair on is like the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands. So those are the non hairy parts of the body, but all the other parts are considered the hairy parts of the body and those receptors are there.

And for your horse, it's the same thing. So your horse has these receptors all over her, her, her body. So what happens is why they're so different is most of the receptors that that register tactile stimulation, like touch, they go to a different part of the brain that deals with that. But instead, these ctms actually connect with the emotional part of the brain,

which is very significant because what researchers have found is that when they're stimulated, what that the, the individual being stimulated, again, we're gonna say the horse, your horse, when your horse is c ltms are stimulated, your horse releases a number of chemicals, a number of hormones that actually help your horse be more interactive and more connected with you. So if you think about this from an evolutionary standpoint,

when the mother of a, of a, of a baby, a mammal, whatever, whatever type of mammal you wanna imagine is born, or as they're growing, right? They're often licking them and doing things well, they're stimulating those ctms, which then increase the bonding to the mom. And for survival, the baby needs that. So what's beautiful about this is the same thing happens even among adults,

right? Of the same species, or in this case, you and your horse can actually feel more connected, more bonded, more, more willing and enthusiastic about interacting with each other. So I think that's pretty cool, okay? That's one of the things it does. They've also discovered that when those nerve fibers are stimulated, that the individual is more resilient to stress.

And I think we want, we all want our horses to be more resilient to stress. We know how bad stress is for us and also for horses. Think of all the horses that have to take ulcer medication and, you know, have all kinds of problems related to stress. So this is one way, perhaps could, that could help your horse be more resilient to stressful things.

So I think that's pretty cool. So it also improves your horse's ability to, to have efficient, appropriate exception. In other words, to know where they are in space to improve their body awareness. So when you stroke them in this particular way, right? You are paying so much attention to a certain part of the body, wherever your hand is,

that the horse's brain lights that up. So it's like they become more attentive to it on an unconscious level because you are right, it's like a non habitual sensation, right? To be touched in that way. That doesn't mean you're not stroking your horse at other times, but when you're very intentional about it kind of changes it for them. Okay? The other thing that's really great about this is that,

so, so what's important is you have to have like buy-in from your horse. You can't do this in places where your horse doesn't wanna be touched, is either anticipating pain or some reason doesn't wanna be touched. That won't stimulate those feel good hormones, okay? It's just like if you were riding a bus and some stranger came over and started stroking you,

you probably wouldn't like it and you wouldn't get a rush of feel-good hormones. You might scream and call for the police. So it's the same kind of thing with your horse. Your horse has to be receptive to it. And I do teach in my program how to work with horses that are less accepting of touch, either in particular places or just generally.

So there's other the strategies you can use to help them become really, really happy with being touched. Okay? And then they can get all the full benefits of this stroking that you're doing. Now, it's important to note that the, these special neuro fibers, these c ltms are only stimulated with a particular kind of contact. So it has to be slow,

it has to be gentle, and it has to be what they call room temperature. Basically the temperature of your hands. So you can't do it with a big block of ice, it wouldn't work or something very hot. Now they would stimulate other receptors, but not these particular ones that are doing all these wonderful things of connecting with the emotional part of the horse.

So another thing to think about is when you are running your hands down your horse, and this is not just the neck, but your entire horse, again, only where they're receptive to it, you can really pick up a lot of information about any areas that may seem tight or sore. And you don't do it by poking your horse, okay? Please,

please don't poke your horse. A lot of people think that they have to stick their fingers in to feel if an area is sore, they want to see that reaction in their horse. I don't do that and I don't encourage my students to do that. So please don't do it because that means that you haven't educated your hands enough to just by a gentle touch,

know the quality of a muscle. And if you poke your horse, like purposely poke your horse and see does this hurt? And it does, what are you doing? What do you, what kind of association are you creating between you and your horse? You're teaching your horse at, first of all, at any moment you might hurt them. And oh,

when she touches me, you know, wait, that can she, she might start hurting me. We don't wanna do that. So again, in, in my program, I go into more detail with this, but I teach people how to touch in a way that they can feel the quality of the muscle. They know whether that muscle is tight or not,

overdeveloped or underdeveloped, potentially sore for the horse. There's all kinds of gentle ways of doing it that don't elicit pain in your horse, okay? Cuz we want to associate contact and movement with ease and pleasure, not, you know, pain and limitation. Okay? It's very, very important. So, so just take a moment, you know, start to stroke your horse.

You, you don't have to do the whole horse at any one time, but it is really nice to take a few minutes maybe when you're grooming, you know, as part of your routine before you're tacking up. You just do this very intentionally where you're really asking these questions like, what am I feeling? And don't worry if you're not aware of the answers.

Like you might think, oh Mary, I haven't taken your program. I don't know how ti you know, is this muscle tight or not? Or whatever. Don't worry. Just by asking the questions, you are training your brain to pay attention to things, to start to pull in, to use as filters, to pull in information about your horse and you'll start to notice things automatically.

It's pretty cool. You know, it's like, you know, there's so much information in the world, there's constant, it's like we're being bombarded with data and I'm not just talking like social media and all that. I'm not talking about that. I mean, like in the natural world, you're just constantly getting all kinds of information. And so your brain has learned how to filter them right?

To, to just ignore certain ones, right? To take in other ones to, to distort some, to generalize some. And we have this part of the brain called the reticular activating system, or r a s for short. Some people call it the RAs. And that's like you can think of as your filtering system. So what you're doing by,

when you, when you stroke your horse in this very slow inquisitive way, you're training your r a s, you're your reticular activating system to say, okay, we're we are, we want to search for how does my horse feel? What do I notice about my horse? So you're starting to, again, train your brain to take in a lot of con a lot of information.

And again, it's not just through your hands, but you're gonna start to notice it through your other senses as well. This is what I refer to as developing informed intuition. A lot of times we think, hmm, something just doesn't seem right about my horse. We just have like this gut feeling, or somehow we get a, like people say,

an intuitive hit. And a lot of times that comes from cues you're getting from the environment cues you're picking up, but they're at an unconscious level. So you ha you've expressed enough interest and knowledge in that subject that your brain knows to look for things. So you can train your brain to specifically pay more attention to things about your horse. Okay? And again,

I teach a lot of methods on how exactly to do all this inside the program and all, you know, all the hands on moves and exactly how to, you know, what to look for and then what to do when you do find a muscle that seems tight or sore, okay? There's a lot of different ways we can help the your horse.

So, but just remember that when you do something as you know, as instinctive, as stroking your horse, you can do it in a way that provides even more value for you and your horse. And if you wanna add another little thing to this, to, to up it even more, if you do it in a way that you feel really grateful at you doing it,

like you have this opportunity to stroke this horse, to just feel this horse to be with a horse. Like how amazing, how wonderful is that? Right? You know, I think back to when I was a really young kid and before I had a horse, and it's like that, that yearning and that has never gone away. And so I've been lucky that since I was very young,

I've had horses continuously through in my life and very, very blessed that way. But it's like any opportunity, I I still feel that joy that, and I'm so grateful that I have that opportunity. And when you have that sense of gratitude, what happens is it improves your heart rate variability. You've probably heard this term a lot, heart rate variability and how it's an indicator of both physical and mental performance.

So you can improve your heart rate variability by being in a state of gratitude. So here you are, you're with your horse, you're feeling grateful, right? That's starting to improve your heart rate variability. Your horse picks up on that, by the way, just so you know, your horse feels everything. Your horse knows so much more about you than you do just telling you.

And my horse reads my mind, trust me. But your horse notices how you're breathing, how you're moving, how you're directing your attention, all these things. So when you are in this grateful state, your horse feels that, and it shapes your interaction with your horse, right? Changes the experience for both of you. So be grateful, you know,

and, and it's, it's, it's, it's sincere, right? You're happy. You have to remind yourself sometimes how crazy lucky we are to be around horses. Maybe it's only an hour once a week that you're around horses, but you get that opportunity. So you stroke your horse, you're grateful and you remember that as you're stroking, you're, you're,

you're asking questions with your hands. You're never demanding anything. You know, you're asking questions, you're, how Does this feel? What is this? Like? How does this side compare to this side? And when you do that in that very intentional way, in that gentle, slow way, remember you're stimulating those nerve fibers that create those feel good chemicals that your horse then becomes more connected with you and wants to interact with you more in a way that's enjoyable to you both.

So thank you so much for being here. I love sharing this work with you. And I just had to tell you that today, it's like, this wasn't the day I normally do my podcast, but I'm like, I've gotta share this. This is like too good. I don't wanna just keep it only for my students in my program, but I want you to,

to feel it as well and to know and to, for you and your horse to benefit from this. So thank you for joining me. And by the way, speaking of my program, it's not open at the moment. It's called Move with Your Horse cuz I am working with a wonderful group of new students, this lovely cohort I have. And,

but we will be opening up sometime in the early summer. This is 2023, I'm filming this at the end of April. So sometime in early summer we'll be opening up again. So if you want any information about it, go to mary Debono dot com slash join horse and it's one word all lowercase and it'll be in the show notes, but mary Debono dot com slash join horse.

And there's no obligation. So if you, if you join the wait list, you'll be eligible for some free classes that I do, okay? That improve you and your horse. So again, thank you so much for being here and it's my mission to share this work with you. So I really appreciate and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Have a wonderful rest of your day, go have fun with your horses and I can't wait to talk to you again. Bye for now.