EMHH Ep 56: An Exercise to Develop Feel and Improve Your Connection with Your Horse

#horsehumanconnection #humanmovement May 09, 2023

Feel begins with being aware of your own body and movements. Here's an effective exercise that can help you become more sensitive to yourself AND your horse.   

Enhancing awareness of your own body is the first step to developing a greater feel of your horse. But it doesn't end there. It's also critical to be aware of your horse's body and movements.  In this episode, I walk you through a simple, effective exercise that can help you become more sensitive to yourself AND your horse.   

You'll also learn how to: 

  • Develop informed intuition to strengthen your relationship with your horse
  • Train your brain to pay attention to important information so you can be more in tune with what the horse is feeling and experiencing.
  • Reduce unnecessary so you can feel more 

1. Developing Your Feel: An Exercise to Elevate Your Horsemanship (00:00 - 07:18)
2. Feeling the Residual Effects of Working With Your Horse's Rib Cage (07:19 - 14:55)
3. Exploring Informed Intuition through Sensing your Horse (14:56 - 23:13)
4. Train Your Brain and Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Horse (23:13 - 26:32)

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


Hello. Do you know that there's one skill that when you develop it, when you improve your ability to do it, it elevates everything. It improves your riding, your overall horsemanship, even your own movement and wellbeing. And that skill is feel, it's feel the ability to sense even small distinctions, even small differences, to really notice, notice using all of your senses and then being able to appropriately respond and adjust to what you're feeling,

what you're sensing. Well, hello there. My name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Horse podcast. And today I'm super excited to share with you a 21 minute lesson, a little exercise that you can just do very, you know, very easily with your horse. That is actually part of my move with your horse program. So I have a new cohort of students,

and this is one of the earlier lessons that I taught them. And the whole lesson is actually about an hour and a half. This is just the first 20 ish minutes of it, but it's really, really valuable and it can start to give you an idea, I was gonna say a feel of feel, but that sounds a little redundant, huh?

But it gives you a sense of how you can start to develop your awareness. And a awareness to me is feel so you can get clearer in your, your communication with your horse. You can kind of hear your horse, you can listen to your horse more, more clearly, as well as communicate back to your horse in a very clear way so you have a deeper relationship.

It can help, again, improve your own way you sit, the way you stand, the way you walk, the way you run. Because again, having feel means you are more aware, you're more aware of what you're doing. And as Moshe Feldenkrais, the man who created the Feldenkrais Method used to say, you have to know what you're doing to be able to do what you want.

So feel gives you that. So make sure you're, you're listening to this podcast episode where you're, you know, have the ability to just be quiet and attentive with yourself. And then with your horse not driving or anything like that, do the lesson. It's 21 minutes and then meet me back here and we'll just wrap up. Okay, thanks. Alrighty.

So first of all, thank you for being here. I'm super excited to share this with you. We're actually going to start off with you just standing next to your horse today. So hopefully your horse is either safely tied or you have a helper or your horse knows to just stand still, which is a very good skill to teach them. By the way,

it's something I've taught my horses since I was a kid, kid. And it's come in handy, by the way, on the trail and stuff many, many times. Okay? So as you're standing there today, if you have to hold the lead rope, that's, you know, okay, but it's better if you don't for the purposes of this.

So just take a moment and notice your own breathing. Notice where your thoughts are and just kind of have an intention that you are, you'll be present for yourself and for your horse today. And now just take one of your hands, it doesn't matter which one, and put it softly on your abdomen. So just softly on your belly and just how your arm can be comfortable.

And just feel your abdomen with your hand. So you're obviously going through some layers of clothing, that's fine. And remember, we always use what we call compassionate curiosity. So there's no judgment about your belly or anything else. You are just feeling your abdomen. What do you pick up through your hand? What do you pick up? What are you sensing through your hand?

And now let's switch this a little bit. And can you feel your hand with your abdomen? And what does it take to flip that to feel Now you know the, the palm of your hand. So you're allowing your abdomen to sense your hand now. And can you go back and forth? Can you kind of toggle back and forth between feeling your abdomen so that's in the forefront of your awareness?

And then have your abdomen feel your hand. So this is actually an important skill to, to develop. And just ask yourself, how do you change the focus of your sensation? How do you know when it's your abdomen feeling your hand or your hand feeling your abdomen? And so just feel now, feel your abdomen move as you breathe. So you're feeling the movement of the abdomen,

right? So there's a rise in falling of your abdomen, perhaps. Now let's change your focus and feel your abdomen move your hand. How is that different? How is that different? These subtle differences are gonna make a huge difference when you're working with your horses. And now put your, the palm of your other hand on top of the back of the original hand.

Okay? So the two hands one are on top of the other just gently and easily. And now feel how your top hand feels the bottom hand, right? It feels, it, it senses it, it feels the contours of the back of your hand, right? It, it can feel the temperature, it can feel all the things right? But now can you switch that again and have now the bottom hand feel the top hand.

And again, how do you change your focus? And now ask yourself if you can keep the sensations from both hands in your awareness. Can you feel both at once? So this work, to do it really effectively requires you to be very aware of your own sensations as well as your horses. And of course there's a certain amount of toggling back and forth that your nervous system is doing.

But really starting to hone this skill that you can be aware of, kind of like two things at once or almost at once, is very, very important. So ask yourself that. Can you keep both the sensations from the bottom hand and the top hand in your awareness at at the same time? The bottom hand is feeling the top hand. The top hand is feeling the bottom hand.

And now use your top hand to gently slide the skin of the bottom hand. So remember the top hand, you have the palm on the back of the other hand and you're using your whole hand. So not like just the fingertips, you're using your whole hand to very gently, it's a tiny movement. Slide the skin and then come back to the neutral.

Do that several times. So feel how lightly you can do that. And what do you notice about sliding the skin? Just the skin. And now pause and switch your hand. So that means that the top hand is now on the bottom, the bottom hand is now the top hand. And take a moment, notice if this position is as comfortable or more comfortable or less comfortable than the other way.

And now start to slide the skin again of the bottom hand. So the top hand is gently sliding the skin of the bottom hand. And notice if that's different. Very often we have one hand that's more sensitive than the other. So do you pick up more information from this hand or less? And don't worry if you're not aware of the answers to these questions.

Just by asking these questions, you're training your brain to filter, to start to pick up more clues. Okay? More information. So just ask the questions, don't worry about the answers, okay, pause. And now slowly remove your hands. Just drop them by your sides and notice if you can feel the resonance of that experience. Does your, does your abdomen remember that your hands were just there?

Is there a sensation that you were just touching your abdomen? How present is that? So just notice if there's a feeling that continues with the horses, we often want that feeling to continue to some degree, especially as you learn to transition from the hands on work to being able to gently influence your horse doing groundwork or under saddle work or whatever you want that level of feeling to at least some degree to continue.

So just notice if you can, you might even wanna put your hands back on your belly for a moment. Play with that. Can you? Okay, I feel what it's like to have my hands on my abdomen just softly there. Now when I take them away, can I imagine I still feel them there. So a lot of this, you're gonna have to in the beginning,

use your imagination. But can you imagine this is very, very good for when you're working with the hands on work with your horse and you're transitioning from one move to another. So you're at one place, say you're working with the horse's ribs right behind the shoulder blade and your horse is loving it, and then you want to move somewhere else. It's very,

very helpful to be able to transition in such a way that it's like your horse still feels your hands there, but now they're over here too. How'd you do that? It's like a magic trick. But actually developing this ability and it's not some woowoo thing, developing this ability to kind of remember or emphasize the resonance of that sensation is very important. It will help your hands on work with the horse be much smoother and much more beneficial for your horse and yourself as well.

Okay? So it's really important. Okay, so now take a moment, take a, and now look at your horse. So we're not touching the horse yet, if possible. And just look at your horse and notice your horse's breathing. Notice your horse's breathing. Now when I say that, you're probably just of course immediately drawn to the ribcage, right to the big part of the ribcage.

But notice some other things as well. Is there a change, a subtle change in your horse's back as they breathe? Do you see something more in the front of you of the chest? Are you looking also at the girth area? Is there, are there subtle things happening in response to the breath? Like a, like a resonance throughout your horse's body that's not only in the ribcage,

notice how fast or slow your horse is breathing. Notice the fullness of the breath. And So just, just basically start to ask what's moving? What parts of my horse are responding to the breath? Same way with us. You know, the, it's, you know, our neck gets involved in breathing, you know, there's there, there's different places that are involved in breathing that respond to the movements of the inhalation and the exhalation.

Just noticed. Also, notice your horse's emotional state, like all the things. And now when you're ready, simply put your hands very lightly on your horse's ribcage. So somewhere where you feel your horse would be comfortable with you just lightly placing your hands there. And you wanna make sure they're not too far back, like towards the flank, you know,

they're very sensitive in that area and that, so it's just somewhere very lightly and that you are comfortable as well. Okay? And now take a moment and just listen to your horse breathe and you can move your hands. So if you find your hands are maybe too high up, you can move the horse too low, whatever you can move them to where you feel the movements of the ribcage more clearly.

And where your horse of course is most comfortable, it's always about the horse being comfortable with this as well and that you're comfortable. So just feel, feel the inhalation, feel the exhalation. And just allow your hands to be moved. So your hands are on there so lightly, not, not so lightly that you're tickling your horse, but there's, you feel the movement,

you feel the inhalation and the exhalation. And just take a moment and kind of sin to yourself too. Notice how you are breathing. How comfortable are you standing here with your hands in this position? Can you release any unnecessary tension cuz that actually interferes with your ability to sense to feel so release any unnecessary tension. So as you do this, remember you are feeling your horse,

you're sensing your horse. But what's very important to remember is your horse is sensing you as well. So just like that little exercise we did with your abdomen, and it's like have your abdomen feel your hand. Your horse is picking up a lot of information about you right now, the quality of your touch, your emotional state, how you are breathing your physical state,

all the things. So imagine for a moment you could read your horse's mind. How is your horse experiencing you in this moment? And what are you learning about your horse, like your horse's physical state in the moment, your horse's emotional state, even the temperature of their skin. And then what are you noticing about yourself? What about like the weight of your arms?

Can you soften your arms? Can you become more comfortable? Can you release unnecessary attention because I know you've got some unnecessary attention going on, right? Maybe it's in your neck or your shoulders or your toes or your knees or your, you know, wherever, maybe in your back. Can you soften your back? Can you soften your thoughts and not have those habitual thoughts going on?

Can you be in that state that I call compassionate curiosity? You're just curious, but there's no judgment. So you're not judging how your horse is breathing or how you are organized. You're just noticing, you're just witnessing, just noticing. And again, think to, if your horse could tell you what, what they were noticing about you, what would they say about your physical state in the moment?

What would they say about your emotional state? And so now really think about your horse touching you rather than your touching your horse. Yes, I, I instructed you to walk over and put your hands on your horse, but now imagine that it's your horse is deciding to touch you. How does that change the experience? And now can you distribute your attention so that you can sense your horse and then you sense yourself sensing your horse.

I know that's a bit of a, a mind twister. I'll say it again. You sense your horse and you're sensing yourself, sensing your horse. And really what's happening is the brain is kind of toggling back and forth between these. But start to invite these experiences in this again, it will help you develop what I call what I, I didn't come up with this term,

Dr. Feldenkrais did, but informed intuition. Informed intuition, where you're picking, you're directing your brain to pick up a lot of information about your horse that you may not be consciously aware of, but you start to tell your brain, I want to pay attention to that. And then it starts to filter for that. And now tune into your horse's inhalation and exhalation and start to very gently just slide your horse's skin a teeny bit on the inhalation,

just like you did with your skin on your back of your hand, right? Just a little movement. So on the inhalation, you slide it and you release on the exhalation. Slide the skin just a tiny amount with the fullness of your hands, very softly. And you release on the exhalation your hands. Stay in contact with the horse if possible And notice if there is an easier direction.

So I'm gonna leave it for you now to start to play with different directions in this work. We talk a lot about finding the direction of ease, finding that direction of ease. And this is one way to start to develop your skill at that, to notice these subtle but very important distinctions. So feel free to, you know, change the angle of your fingers,

move your hands to a different place, whatever it is. But you want to start to look for the subtle differences. This might be a little bit easier to slide this way than this way. And remember it's very possible you won't feel a difference. Don't worry about it. Again, simply asking the questions with your hands starts to tell your brain what to look for and your horse feels the difference.

So this is another important concept. Your horse will feel which direction is easier, the easiest. And that's information for your horse's nervous system. And as we get deeper into this work and your, you know, working with more of the muscles and things like that, that will be very, very important to your horse. So it's so just simply by asking the question and,

and, and honestly trying to feel the difference, Just, just notice. Notice. And if for some reason your horse isn't super comfortable with you having your hands on the ribcage, feel free to put your hands maybe on the shoulder or just maybe use one hand, whatever, whatever part you feel your horse would be more comfortable with your hand there. Or,

and, and if your horse is really not comfortable at all, do it without touching your horse. I know that sounds strange, but a lot of times when we just put our hands in the vicinity, like above the body, the horse starts to get used to us being there and we can get closer and closer until we're actually contacting the horse again and again,

think of toggling back and forth to, to pay attention to yourself as you're doing this. How are you breathing? Can you reduce any unnecessary tension or effort? Are your shoulders relaxed? Your eyes, are they relaxed? And now simply remove your hands slowly and listen to the resonance of that experience. Listen to the resonance. Is there a feeling that continues?

Can you imagine you're still touching your horse in that spot? Can you feel it? Can you conjure up the feeling that you were touching your horse? This is super, super helpful, like I said, for transitioning to, to doing the different moves to making, to helping the work be extremely effective for your horse. And do you think your horse remembers that your hands were just there?

In other words, is your horse experiencing the resonance of that, of that interaction of your touch? Can your horse feel it? So remember, we are directing the part of your brain that they call the r a s, the reticular activating system to pick up information. Okay? So it's all those bits of data that we unconsciously delete, we're saying pay attention to that.

So we're training our brain to include more information about our horse in our experience. Okay? Okay. So just take a moment and just, I'm gonna give you like a little bit of a break cuz that's actually a pretty intense, okay, thanks thing we just did so well, welcome back. I hope you enjoyed that. It's such a valuable exercise to really start to train your brain to feel more,

to take in more information that's really significant, that's really important for you and your horse. And again, it could even be information that you are not conscious of. That's okay. You, you'll start doing what, what we call informed intuition and it can really, really elevate your relationship with your horse and your ability to interact and to shape those experiences so they're beneficial for you and your horse.

So thank you so much for joining me here. If you wanna know more about my programs, move with your horse. And if you want any, you know, free classes cuz I will be offering free classes to people on the wait list. Program is not open when this episode is first airing when it's published, but it'll be opening again soon. Let me know by joining the wait list.

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Okay? So thank you so, so very much for joining me. I appreciate you taking the time to listen to care about yourself and your horse so that you can improve your life and improve your horse's lives as well. So, and I appreciate any sharing of the podcast. I've been hearing that people are sharing it with their friends, even their non horsey friends.

And I love that because this work has transformed my life so much. And over the past 30 years I've helped hundreds and hundreds of horses, dogs, and humans enjoy better lives because of this work. So I love sharing it with you. So thank you again for joining me. I can't wait to talk to you again. Bye for now.