Are You Addicted to Struggling with Your Horse? #69

#horsehumanconnection #humanmind feldenkrais method Apr 18, 2024

Do you HAVE to try so hard? Or is it a habit? A compulsion? For many of us, we're so used to trying hard, to struggling, that we forget that things could feel easier for us and our horses.


This episode discusses the common "addiction" to struggling with horses and its negative impact on the horse-human relationship


Key Takeaways:


- Importance of movement, breathing, and attention in shaping interactions with horses


- Habitual worrying and struggling can create stress and strain in the brain


- Personal experience of overcoming worry and stress with the help of a Feldenkrais practitioner


- Tips for getting off the struggle train: connect with oneself, notice physical sensations without judgment, train the brain to focus on what is going well


- Changing the brain's focus to what feels good and what the horse does easily promotes a positive and solution-oriented mindset


- Being present, embracing compassionate curiosity, and expanding possibilities


- Developing sensory acuity and intuition for unconscious insights on improving horse interactions



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




Have you ever thought that you might be addicted to struggling with your horse? Well, my name is Mary Debono, and this is the Easier Movement, happier Horse podcast. And yeah, people can get habituated or, or I'm using, I'm using the word addicted in kind of a non-scientific way. But you can get habituated to worrying, to thinking that everything with your horse is a struggle,

whether it's behavioral issues, performance issues, you know, body issues. Maybe the way you ride that you feel like you have to try so hard. And gosh, that's not a good way to live, right? It's not a fun way to live, and it will definitely impact your relationship with your horse. And I know if you're listening to this podcast,

your relationship with your horse means a great deal to you. And you know, there, there's something I say over and over again, I'm gonna say it again. And that's how you m move. How you breathe and how you direct your attention are all felt by your horse, and they all shape the interactions you have with your horse. So your horse will sense your underlying sense of ease or effort,

and that will shape every interaction. So it's really interesting because we don't know what, you know, that we're doing things a lot of times, like we have, we run so much on autopilot. You know, our, our unconscious is like running the show so much of the time, we think about things that we don't realize, we're putting these thoughts out there.

And, you know, it, it boils down to, if I can say it in very simple terms, that we have different neural pathways, neural connections, and some of them, because we do them over and over, they get very strong. Those neural pathways are kind of like deep grooves in our brain. You can think of them, right?

They're like highways that are really grooved in there, right? And so your brain just automatically goes to them. So it could be worrying about your horse. And I wanna say this right from the get go. I am not immune to this, okay? As a matter of fact, this was a big issue for me years ago about my, I was on the worry train with my horse.

So it wasn't about like, struggling with behavior or things like that, or performance. It was more worrying about my horse's wellbeing. And it took a little intervention from my husband who is not only a credible Feldenkrais practitioner, but he also does other things, mindset things that, and he helped me get off that worry train because it's not fun, right?

You, you realize that the, the strain or the stress or the struggle, you know, is taking, you know, over, like, it's, it's, it's playing an oversized role in your life. And again, that can really impact your relationship and your ability to have a good time with your horse. If you're always worried, if you're always like,

we gotta get this right, whatever it happens to be, you know, maybe it's refining your canter pirouette, or maybe it's, you know, teaching your horse to go across water on the trail or whatever it is. Sometimes people take that one issue and really blow it up, okay? Now, I'm not here to say, to ignore your horse's problems.

I would never say that that would be foolhardy and damaging for your horse and potentially you, but what I am saying is, let's look at what you are doing to your own brain and to your own nervous system. If you're, if you've gotten into the habit, which is very easy to get into, okay, I've seen this over and over for my,

you know, more than 30 years of working with horses and riders. I've seen people get really fixated on certain things, whether it's a, a single issue or just globally, they're worried and have more of a, a struggle relationship with their horse, right? And what I'm going to say is, there, there are ways you have tools, right?

And I'm gonna share a couple of little tips with you here that you can get off that struggle train, okay? And start to, to expand what's going well with you and your horse. What's working, okay? So again, we are, we are developing these neural pathways. So what we want to do is, it's just like, I don't know if you have experience with positive reinforcement training,

but if you do, it's, that's where you're looking for what your horse is doing well, and you reward that, you reinforce that and what's not, like, let's just say inappropriate behaviors, you kind of ignore them. And so eventually that they, they go extinct, in other words, they just go away because they're not being reinforced. So you can think of your own neural connections,

your neural pathways like that as well, the ones that you want to develop, right? You want to strengthen those, right? You want to reinforce those. And the other ones, you're just kind of going like, let's not do that anymore. And they eventually kind of disintegrate, if you will. So the first thing I would suggest is that you get in touch with yourself first.

This is always my first step with people is to really connect with yourself, center yourself. Notice your breathing. Notice your physical sensation. So if you're standing up, notice how your feet are touching the floor or the ground, right? Notice how your whole body feels. You know, think about, you know, your neck, your shoulders, your back,

your hips, your, you know, everything. Like, you know, how do your arms hang? Where are you looking? And really connect with yourself. And again, you can do This in any position. So you can be sitting on a chair, notice how your butt feels in the chair. You know, you can be lying down. Notice these things.

And what's really important is that you don't go into a self corrective mode, a critical mode, okay? This is really important, okay? You are just noticing, it's what I call compassionate curiosity. You're noticing without judgment, you're just curious, Hmm, how do I feel? Like, what am I noticing physically? And what that does is that gets your brain to pay attention in the present moment,

right? If you're really focusing on your sensations, you can't be worrying about something. You can't be, you know, fretting about the future or regretting the past or some other iteration of, of stuff we do as humans. And so this takes a little training because after all, you're hardwired to look for what's wrong, right? That was an evolutionary bonus,

if you will, right? The, the, the ones who stayed alive were the ones that were on the lookout for the saber-tooth tigers, or whatever other danger was around. So you wanna think now like, okay, how do I train myself to look for what's good? Well, number one, like I said, you wanna connect with yourself first,

because what you are doing there is you're also developing better sensory acuity. So when you just think about your own sensations, you are getting your brain to notice things more, be in the present moment. And that actually helps you notice more about your horse as well. Okay? When you also, when you focus on your physical sensations, you're breathing differently,

you can start to regulate your nervous system in a d in a new way. And again, it's not a judgment, right? You're just noticing. So it's neutral. It's neutral, right? So you can start to now start to develop the ability to look for what's going well with yourself, with your horse. So like with yourself, instead of thinking like,

oh, my shoulders are tight, or my knee aches, or whatever, you start to ask yourself what feels really good? What part of me feels really good right now? And how can I breathe in a way that just, I could take in all the beauty around me, right? I can just be relaxed and at ease. So you are starting to train your brain to look for what's going well.

And again, this is really important because the, the negative often takes this huge role in our life. That's what we notice. And now we're saying, okay, brain, let's filter. Right? Let's look for what is going well, right? So you start to notice more of what's going well for your horse, right? What does your horse do easily?

And then you Can build on that. So this is really, so foundational in my work, is this idea of you find, like, for example, you can find a part of the body of your horse that the, the muscles are, are soft, like in a, in a positive way, and there's no soreness. And then you start to work with your horse there,

and you help generalize that feeling of ease and pleasure throughout your horse's body. So, you know, and then again, you're, you're changing, you're changing your horse's underlying state. And now think of it this way, when you approach your horse like that, when you have this idea that you're looking for what's going well for what your horse does easily,

you know, you can, you can take this into a lot of different directions that totally changes how your horse experiences you. Okay? Because now it's like, you know, I'm just think of a little kid and a teacher walks in the classroom, right? And there's a little child who's struggling with something, you know, and, and the teacher,

instead of criticizing them, but instead thinks about, okay, what does this child know how to do, right? And build on that and think, you know, how wonderful, like that's, you know, they get praised for it, or, you know, somehow reinforced in a way, and then that child will build confidence, right? And be able to do more.

So that's what I've seen. I've seen that when you start training your brain to look for what's going well, suddenly these new possibilities open up for you. You start to, to have more solutions for problems. In other words, your, your brain starts to look for, okay, how could we make this even better? And again, I've seen this over and over again.

So it's really, really interesting. So you want to expand your sense of what is possible. And a great way to do that is, number one, be present. So connect with yourself, be in the present moment, embrace compassionate curiosity. And then look for start. Start looking for what's going right in yourself, what feels good, and then expand that onto your horse.

What's something, however small it seems that is going well for your horse, that your horse, so if we're talking about like a performance issue, what does your horse do? Well, it could be the simplest thing. Simplest thing. The tiniest movement, tiniest interaction with you. Okay? Hmm. Notice that, notice that. And again, your brain will start to notice more of those occurrences.

And then your horse will feel that difference in you. They'll start to feel that and respond to you differently. Okay? This is really big. So I hope this gives you some ideas of, you know, how you can start to train your brain to look for what's going well, expand on that and start to let go of this compulsion or addiction,

whatever you wanna call it, of worrying, of stressing of that struggle train that a lot of us are going on, right? We live our lives a lot of times in with a sense of struggle. And it's often unnecessary, often unnecessary and not helpful. As a matter of fact, it makes things worse. So start. So again, I'm going to encourage you to start with yourself.

Notice your sensations. Notice how you're breathing. Embrace compassionate curiosity. Just be curious. And then look for what feels really good with yourself. And start to expand on that. And look for what feels good to your horse. Again, whether it's a behavior, whether it's something physical. And of course I teach this in my move with your horse program.

We go into a, a deep dive on all this for both yourself and your horse. But this idea of how to develop sensory acuity, noticing things. And what's really cool about that, because I I love that so much, is that you develop what I call informed intuition. I didn't come up with that phrase. Dr. Feldenkrais. Moshe Feldenkrais,

the who developed the Feldenkrais method used to talk about that. And it's like this idea that you unconsciously start to take in useful information about your horse, but it's unconscious. You don't even realize it. But suddenly you have a hunch. You have a hunch that, oh, I should do this, or I could do this, or, you know,

whatever it happens to be. And that's born out of developing sensory acuity. And you can start that. You can start that sensory acuity by just having greater body awareness, okay? In that idea of just noticing yourself and just letting go of unnecessary tension, physical tension, you know, you know your muscles, but also mental tension, okay? Because all of this is a habit,

it's a compulsion that we have, but you can change it. And I'm living proof of that, okay? That it can be changed, right? So thank you so much for joining me. I would love, by the way, if you wanna tell me what you are dealing with, what you're struggling with, like what issues you might have with your own self,

with your riding. 'cause that's a whole thing too. Like a lot of times we just try way too hard in our riding and we get on this vicious cycle of excess tension, right? Physical tension, emotional tension. 'cause we know they go hand in hand, right? And that is bothersome to your horse. And then there's behavioral issues, et cetera,

et cetera. So let me know, let me know and maybe I'll be able to do a podcast episode for you. So thank you again for being here, for listening, for subscribing, and for reviewing the podcast. If you wanna reach out, you can find me at Mary at mary Debono dot com. So I look forward to talking to you again real soon.

Bye for now.