This is Key to Rounding Your Horse's Back #67

#debono moves #equinemovement #humanmovement feldenkrais method move with your horse program rib cage sternum Apr 06, 2024

Click here to check out the details for the Move with Your Horse online program. We'd love to have you join us! 


Did you know that your horse’s sternum plays a key role in helping your horse round the back easily?

The sternum and ribs are often overlooked, yet they play a key role in ensuring horses have freer, healthier and more comfortable movement.


In this episode, Mary Debono discusses the role of the rib cage in reducing stress and wear and tear on the horse’s back, neck and limbs.

When horses are reminded how their rib cage can participate and support their movement, it can lead to freer, healthier backs, necks and legs. And more elegant, harmonious movement.


And the same is true for you too!We take a deep dive into this in our Move with Your Horse online program and I’m excited to announce that enrollment is open for a limited time! 🥳🎉


 CLICK HERE FOR A SNEAK PEEK VIDEO of how I introduce working with the horse's sternum which can lead to more comfortable, balanced, and athletic movement for the horse. 

And if that piques your interest, please check out the details for the Move with Your Horse online program. We'd love to have you join us! 


Learn how to improve your horse's movement and comfort by addressing rib cage restrictions. Gentle, hands-on movements can help by retraining the brain and inviting new movement possibilities for your horse. 


We want you AND your horse to feel better and move with greater ease.  That's why the Move with Your Horse program includes both Feldenkrais Method  for humans and Debono Moves for horses, and includes pre-recorded videos AND live coaching. Our coaching and support is unmatched. Because you and your horse deserve to feel great. Together.  

 Have a question? Email [email protected].

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


As a horse person, I imagine that you want your horse to feel good, that you want your horse to be able to carry you in a comfortable, healthy way. Or even if you don't ride your horse, you want your horse to be able to move easily and not have tension and stiffness in their back. Well, today I'd like to in introduce you to a piece of the horse's anatomy that is often overlooked.

And that part is the sternum, the sternum, and the ribs. And by the way, if we're meeting for the first time, my name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Horse's podcast. I'm so glad you're here. So what I found in the more than 30 years that I've been doing this work is that many, many horses have unnecessary tension and discomfort in their back that's often caused by restrictions in their rib cage.

And this can come from any number of of reasons. So for example, maybe when a horse was started, you know, the girth wasn't done up in the most optimal way. Maybe it was a little bit quick, maybe a little bit rough. I once read a study, and I don't, I can't cite the study, unfortunately, I can't find the,

the, the name of it or anything like that. But what I remember about it was someone had done a number of necropsies on young horses, and they found that there was a, a lot of evidence, nu quite a number of them had had fractures, hairline fractures of the costal cartilage before they were like two or three years old, something like that.

So like, just as they were getting started, and those would be extremely painful to the horse, and a lot of people wouldn't even know that their horse had hairline fractures, right? So the fact is that there's so many things Now that may be maybe an extreme example, although the study kind of indicated that it was more common than we realize. But let's even take that off the table.

Just even the, the fact of being girthed up can lead many horses to tighten their abdominal muscles and just restrict movement of the rib cage to protect against the discomfort of being girthed up. Okay? So that's one way a horse can start to restrict the movement in the rib cage. And there's many other reasons too. There's a lot of compensatory reasons. So for example,

if the horse's hooves aren't balanced correctly, they may have to compensate. There could be dental pain, you know, there could be so many number of things. There could of course be structural abnormalities that are causing the horse to restrict the movement of the rib cage. So a great number of things. And then of course, there's things like ulcers and other medical issues.

So that's why I always encourage people To first get the horse checked out very thoroughly by a veterinarian and a qualified hoof care practitioner, and to make sure that all those, those things are being covered. And then of course, you have to look into saddle fit, bridal fit, you know, all of those things as well. But what I have found is that even after all those things are addressed,

okay, and you think, okay, everything should be good. Now what happens is the horse has developed a habit of restricting the rib cage. The same way we have movement habits. We don't realize that we're hiking up one side of our pelvis more than the other. We don't realize that we are restraining or restricting movement in, in our rib cage.

It's very, very common for people to not have that freedom in their own sternum and ribs, extremely common. So this is one reason why I developed the rib rope, as I call it. And that's a whole nother topic. We can talk about it another day, but that's such an important thing for you and your horse. But so, so we have these same habits,

right? And we're not getting tacked up, right? Or, you know, having bits in our mouth and things like that. So the same way we develop movement habits that end up being maladaptive, they end up harming us over time. They're no longer useful. They often start as a good solution to a problem or an attempt at a solution. And what happens is when you have an attempt at a solution,

the nervous system wants to hold onto it. So even after it becomes inappropriate, it's actually not helping anymore. Or maybe it never really helped the nervous system holds onto it. So bottom line is many horses are restricted in the rib cage. They, they have very little sternal movement. It is not about trying to force it. So I wanna really,

really be clear about that. The way we work, the way that we found effective is to work with, kind of like retraining the brain. You do it in a very gentle way that invites this idea of new possibilities. So the horse's own nervous system says, oh, wow, that feels interesting. So it gets their attention and oh, that actually feels really good.

Well, now it wants to, to replicate that, to do it on its own. So you start to lay down, the horse starts to lay down new neural connections. So this is so, so key. And just to give you like a little brief, kind of simple way of describing why the sternum is so important in rounding the back is if you think about your own back.

So say you're sitting right now and only do this if you're not driving a motor vehicle or doing something else that requires your full attention and, and hands. But we have a lot of lessons in the Feldenkrais method that I teach about learning how to soften the chest and kind of like fold the chest In a way that allows then the back muscles to let go to release.

And for you to be able to flex around your back most, you know, in a full way, in a healthy way. And we often start those lessons by having you actually know what it's like to feel, to experience moving your own sternum and ribs in these very gentle ways. Well, we actually do a same, the same thing with the horses,

but again, we start really small. The chest can be a very vulnerable area for the horse. A lot of horses are sensitive there. And as a matter of fact, in my move with your horse program, which the, the doors are open right now as I'm, as I'm recording this. So as this is, is going live, you can join the program.

And right now it's beginning of April, 2024. But I actually, I have video footage of me working with a horse who was extremely sensitive in the sternum and how she ended up just absolutely loving it and it really brought newfound awareness and better movement to her back really helped soften her back. But okay, back to you. So this idea of folding the chest will allow then that your back can round more fully.

And it's difficult to do this on a podcast episode. So just kind of think about that, right? And you could put your fingers on your chest, you know, on your sternum and press down a little bit as you look down, as you look down and round your back, just think of pressing down gently. And at first you may not really feel anything.

And it's, I wanna emphasize too, it is very subtle, but you will start feeling it more and more. And, and that's the other, the other important thing though about this, this happens at virtually every clinic I teach and I love it so much, is that when we start doing these movement lessons around the sternum and ribs like this, there is invariably a number of people.

Sometimes it's only one, but sometimes it's several who say, I don't feel anything. I don't feel anything. And you can tell they're getting kind of frustrated. They're like, I don't feel anything. I'm just kind of pressing and I don't feel anything. And then what happens is that they feel the improvement at the end, like dramatically, like, I'll,

I'll tell you this, we do this thing where you're lying on your back and I ask people, you know, legs are long, you're lying on your back. And I ask people to lift their head, right? And that's, that can be kind of a strain for some people, right? When you lift your head, it's like your neck has to work really hard if you're doing it a certain way.

And then what I have people do is, you know, bend your knees and now start, you know, I lead them through this whole thing about just bringing some more awareness to the sternum. And what always happens is, again, there'll be somebody or maybe several who say, I don't feel anything. I don't feel anything. And then I say,

okay, don't worry about it. Okay? Now lengthen your legs and lift your head and look at your feet. And their heads just fly up without any effort. Meaning that they took the strain out of their neck and distribute it in their ribcage where it belongs and they could round their back. 'cause to lift your head, you have to right flex the spine,

which is what is what a horse does when they're rounding their back. So it's the same kind of thing. So, and this is so important, it helps relieve the stress on the horse's neck. And I'm gonna say this strain on the horse's neck is such a huge problem, such a huge problem because so many horses compensate by tightening their neck muscles and over time can have wear and tear damage not just to soft tissue,

but actually create bony changes that can end up having neurological consequences down the road. Okay? Lot of horses end up with arthritic necks, lots of problems in the neck, and that will often come from the inability to use the rib cage fully. And this all also. So it's not just the back. I mean, I I'm talking about the back here,

rounding the back, but to round the back, right? You want the neck to be free, right? The neck can only be free if the rib cage is doing its share of the work. If, if there's an awareness of the participation of the ribcage. And we can help remind the horse of this. So another thing it does, and the same thing with humans.

When you have a softer, when your, you know, ribcage, right? When, when your ribcage can, can move in these different ways, right? When you have an awareness, even unconscious awareness, if that makes sense, right? Your nervous system knows it can use your, the movement of the rib cage to do a lot of the work.

Your legs get freer, your arms get freer, so your limbs get freer. The same thing happens with the horse. In, in riding, we talk about a horse is a back mover or a leg mover, right? We don't want them to be leg movers. That's when they're, the back is just really stiff and off and flat and they're just moving along with their legs.

We want the whole horse to be participating in movement. Same thing with you, right? So it's the same kind of, of, of a thing. This, so much of this comes down to awareness and participation of the rib cage. So I have a little video for you that's in the show notes, okay? So wherever you're, if you're watching this on YouTube,

it'll be in the a link in the description. Otherwise, if you're watching on a regular listening on a regular podcast app, go to mary Debono dot com slash blog Slash h like in horse lowercase 67. But don't worry, it'll be wherever you're listening or to the podcast, there should be a description and I put the link in there for you. Okay?

So you can actually go to that little video and it's a little sneak peek about my move with your horse program because in my move with your horse program, which is only open for a very limited time, okay? We close the doors on April 13th, I think 13th or 14th, but we start on the, the 15th, April 15th. So you have to get in before we start is shows me just starting to build the horse's awareness of the sternum.

Okay? So you, you learn a little bit about where, how to touch the sternum, where exactly it's located, the shape of the sternum. This is important for you to know, right? And you get a sneak peek into, okay, what's one of the first things to do to bring a sense of awareness there in a pleasurable way? 'cause that's the other thing,

a lot of people do things with horses that they're bringing awareness to parts, but they do it in a way that is not pleasurable. It's actually uncomfortable for the horse. Well, the horse won't want to repeat that, okay? So, so it'll bring up defensive behaviors or mechanisms in the horse. Okay? So the horse's nervous system will say, that doesn't feel safe,

that doesn't feel good. We don't wanna do that again. Well, we don't want that. We want to associate the movement of the sternum with ease and pleasure with comfort. And many horses find it extremely comfortable, pleasurable, even when you know, when you know what you're doing, okay? And you do it gently and, and intentionally, you start bringing awareness and a little bit of movement to that sternum.

It will often just completely quiet a horse down. They'll be like, oh, that's my happy place. Okay? But again, has to be done in a very particular way. Okay? I just wanted to make this a really short episode today. I just wanted to introduce to you the idea that the rib cage sternum specifically, but the whole rib cage is so important in having healthy movement for you and your horse.

And this is something we go into great detail in the move with your horse program, which is open now for only a limited time. And there's actually only a limited number of spots because I, I keep, you know, I help you out, right? There is both prerecorded content and live coaching. Okay? So you get the best of both worlds.

You get prerecorded videos that you can watch that were professionally filmed. So you can see me doing it, you can learn how to do it before the live classes and then you get to do it with me on Zoom and I get to coach you. And if the, if you can't make live classes, that's fine. You always get all the replays And there's also Feldenkrais classes for you.

Okay? So you improve yourself. So there's two different, well, let's put it this way there. This is a whole horse human system approach in the move with your horse program. We address your movement, your comfort, your flexibility, your balance, okay? And we also address the horses. So you get the best of both worlds. And to be honest,

I don't know of any other program that does it. And we use the power of the Feldenkrais method, which is based on neuroscience and biomechanics. And it's an amazing, amazing method and I've adapted it to do it with animals. And I call that adaptation Debono Moves. So you have Feldenkrais for you, Debono Moves for your horse. And the two of you can feel great together.

So hope you check that, check that out. There'll be a link also in the show notes and wherever you're listening or watching this for details about the program. Okay? And feel free to email me. You know, I don't want you to wait till the last minute because I might, we might run outta space. But email me Mary at mary Debono dot com.

If you have any questions about the program, I would love to talk to you about it and see if we're a good fit. Anyway, think about your sternum, think about your horse's sternum. Go watch that little sneak peek video that I I made for you and let me know if you have any questions. Okay? Thank you so much for being here.

I look forward to talking to you again. Bye for now.