Injured and Can't Ride? Here's What You Can Do to Improve #73

#horsehumanconnection #humanmind #humanmovement May 14, 2024

Injury keeping you out of the saddle? Learn actionable steps to help you stay connected to your horse, facilitate your healing and improve your horsemanship. Learn about mindful movement, mental training and creative ground exercises.

Use your recovery time to deepen your connection with your horse and come back to riding even stronger than before!

Use your recovery time to improve in these areas: 

Mindful Movement: explore approaches such as the Feldenkrais Method to improve body awareness and movement, even with limitations. Micro-movements and mental visualization can be powerful tools for healing injuries and enhancing riding skills.

Deepen the Connection with Your Horse: creative ground exercises and positive reinforcement training can strengthen your bond with your horse while riding is on hold.

Self-Awareness: How you move, breathe and direct your attention shapes your interactions with your horse. Take the time to deepen your connection with your horse by being mindful of your movement, breathing and thoughts
By exploring these strategies, you can transform your injury layoff into a period of focused learning and deeper connection with your horse. Get ready to return to the saddle a more knowledgeable, centered, and harmonious rider!


Previous episode: Laid Up Horse? Here's How to Make the Most of It

Video of Horse Running to Mounting Block - R+ training 

Free rider masterclass:

Email [email protected]

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


It's not uncommon for us to get sidelined with an injury. Maybe it's a little thing that just keeps us out of the saddle for, you know, a couple of days. Or maybe it's something more serious that requires a longer recovery time. But in any case, there are ways that you can make the most out of this time that you are on the sidelines,

so to speak. And by the way, in case we're meeting for the first time, my name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Horses podcast. So again, you know, it can be challenging if you have an injury, especially as an equestrian because, you know, we're used to being so active and just being out there with our horses and doing all the things.

And it could take a little getting used to, to not being able to do those things. But there are so many things we can do in the meantime that will help speed our healing and also keep our connection with our horses and even improve our riding, believe it or not. So the first one I wanna talk about is moving mindfully. So you may know if you've listened to the podcast before that I'm a Feldenkrais teacher,

a longtime teacher of Feldenkrais method. And it's all about developing your awareness through very intentional, mindful movement. So it improves how you move and also how you think and how you feel. So when you are kind of forced to slow down due to an injury, you know, that's the time when you can really pay attention to how you're moving and realize that you have a choice in how you move,

and that you don't have to stay tethered to our, you know, very deeply entrenched sometimes habits of movement. Okay? So it's an opportunity to change what you do habitually, even how you think habitually. So what I encourage you to, you know, you can visit my website, I have a, a free resource of free Feldenkrais lessons that you can have for free.

You can get that at mary Debono dot com slash ryder. And if your injury allows, you can do those. There are other ones that you can do lying on the floor. And I also have other free resources that I'll, I'll post in the, you know, on the show notes so that you can find those easily. But there, there are so many things we can do.

So of course it, again, it depends on your injury. So make sure you clear everything with your physician, your physical therapist if you have one. But oftentimes you can do what I call micro movements. I remember years ago I injured my left ankle really badly. Like it really, really hurt. It was all swollen. And I mean, I was like in shockey Kind of pain and nothing was broken luckily,

but it was a painful injury. I couldn't put weight on it, but I re, what I remember what I did was I started to do the tiniest movements of my ankle, however, I brought my whole body into it. So for example, any kind of flexion where you're say bringing the toes towards your shin bone. So kind of like heels down that hurt,

but so did extending my foot. So taking the, pointing the toes away. So what I started to do when I, you know, because again, the ankle was painful, it was swollen and make sure you have medical okay to do this. But what I did in that situation was I did the tiniest movements of like a whole body flexion and extension.

So it wasn't just about moving my ankle, I was actually moving, you know, from my head down to my toes. Like literally. So in other words, with the flexion, when I would bend my ankle and I'm talking the tiniest movements, you wouldn't be able to see what I was doing if you were watching me. Okay? That's how it was just past a thought almost in my imagination I was doing it,

but I allowed my whole body to be in concert with that idea of flexing my ankle. And then I did the same with extension, with pointing the toe. So I would alternate between flexing and extending, but bringing my whole self into it. And it was so, so tiny and it was pretty amazing what happened because my brain figured out that the movement didn't have to hurt because I kept it so under threshold.

I kept it. So then it was feeling comfortable and dare I say pleasurable, 'cause bringing the whole body in just felt so easy. That's what we're looking for, that sense of ease. And I remember I woke up the next morning and my ankle was a hundred percent better. Like totally fine, totally fine. It was pretty shocking. And I'm not saying that that's definitely gonna happen with you by any means.

And of course, like I said, make sure you get medical clearance before you do anything, but it really, really works. So micro movements can be super powerful. And if that's not available to you to move at all, doing them in your imagination can really kickstart the healing process. It can start to create those new neural connections. And so doing movements in your imagination is very valuable.

The other thing is it's, you don't have to limit it to just movements of yourself. Like alone. If you wanna think about riding, you can do, you can ride in your imagination, right? Like you can practice riding In your mind. The key is to bring in as many senses as you can. So it's not just like imagining it by like as if you're watching a movie of yourself writing like a video of yourself writing.

It's not that it's actually truly imagining you're riding. Like you smell your horse, you smell, you know, the, the, the green grass around you. You smell the, you know, if you're using leather tack you smell that. You, you know, have all those senses. You notice what you're hearing, right? You bring in as many senses as possible.

So like when you're sitting, when you're imagining that you're sitting on your horse like you are feeling like you're sitting on your horse and maybe you're lying in bed doing this, you don't have to be in that position, but you just imagine it so richly that it's like your, your mind is you, you're there. You try to bring in as many senses as possible.

So your nervous system, it gets kind of like a, like these practice runs of riding. So you can actually improve your riding from your bed or from your couch or your kitchen table or wherever you're doing this. Okay? So that's a really, really important thing to do. And the other thing is, when you're laid up, so to speak,

again, it depends on your injury and what you can do, but if you can do any level of interaction with your horse, like I've known people that they couldn't even drive, but a friend or a family member drove them to see their horse and they just simply hung out with their horse. And that was incredibly healing. I mean, for both the person and the horse,

right? And then it's an opportunity, you can look at it as an opportunity to just have hangout time. 'cause maybe you can't do even groundwork and you can't ride. So now you have more time to just be with your horse, to just experience your horse. Just watch your horse eat, you know, if grooming is possible, you can groom your horse.

Or if you know any of the hands-on work that I teach, Debono, Moves, you can do those with your horse. Again, if your injury allows, you know, of course stay safe because maybe you can't move as quickly and you have to be always safe around horses. So, you know, really take that time and look at it as this is an opportunity to do different things with my horse than I usually do.

Another thing you might wanna do is look into positive reinforcement training and teach your horse some fun things. Like just, and just have it be fun. Just, you know, use that time to be super creative and playful. And for example, I taught my horse, I taught my horse all my horse breeze, who's, who's since passed now. But I taught him a lot of things using positive reinforcement.

And one of the things I taught him was that, like, say we were in a large arena and I had a mounting block in the arena, and I would have him standing on one side of the arena with his back to me, like not facing me. And I'd ask him to stay there, and then I would walk or run or whatever up to this mounting block.

But what I did was I taught him to spin around and come running to the mounting block when he heard my footsteps on it. So it was really fun. That was one of our favorite things to do actually. And I have a couple of videos of me doing it somewhere, which maybe if I find them I'll post them, but it was really fun.

And so it doesn't mean you have to ride the horse when they run up to the mounting block, but you can if, again, if your injury allows, give your horse a pat, you know, give your horse a kiss, give your horse a hug if they enjoy that, you know, just do it for the fun of it, you know?

And do it for the creativity. Do it for the enrichment for both of you. And this is gonna put you in a really better state to heal because you're, you know, you're getting all the juices flowing, right? You're doing something new, your nervous system gets more engaged with these non habitual, you know, novel things you're doing. So it's really fun.

So, so, you know, make sure though, I will say this, I'm a big advocate for positive reinforcement training when it's done really well. So make sure you really get the education so that you can do it well and not create like a cookie monster or something like that. So it's very important that you have some education before you start doing it,

okay? But it is really super fun and you may just find a lot of just fun things that you can do with your horse. Another thing is if regular groundwork is available to you, that's super nice to do with your horse when you can't ride in the last episode, episode 72, where we discussed if your horse was laid up. Again, you can revisit that podcast and look at,

you know, listen to the stuff I talked about that you can do on the ground when your horse is laid up. But even if your horse isn't laid up, but you are, and you can hand walk your horse, you might wanna do some of the strategies I talked about in that episode, okay? Matching movement and, you know, getting into different ways of getting into rapport with your horse,

all kinds of fun things like that. So another thing you can do when you're laid up is to really become super aware of your, of your body. Like how you're holding yourself when you're around your horse. Do you have a degree of tension? Can you let go of unnecessary effort? Whether that's mental effort or physical effort, and of course they go hand in hand,

But can you really start to become more aware of, you know, of how you're moving or when you're around your horse? Because after all, you know how we move, how we breathe, how we think. Those are all experienced by your horse, and they all shape your interactions with your horse. And your horse will, will, will feel your underlying sense of either ease or effort.

And again, that makes a big impact on how you and your horse experience each other. So when you're laid up, when you can't ride, that's a really good time. It's a wonderful opportunity to slow down and really take stock of what you're doing, become more aware so that you can create more joyful, more harmonious experiences with your horse. And remember,

too, to make sure you take the time to rest and recover. Many times people wanna just plow ahead and, you know, not take the, the time to truly recover. And I would say number one, make sure you're getting the right guidance from qualified medical professionals and follow that. And then just really be respectful of yourself and your timeline to recover so you can recover fully,

completely. And in the meantime, you can do all these wonderful things to continue your connection and actually deepen your connection with your horse and maybe open a few more doors to having a more joyful, harmonious, you know, connection with your horse. So thank you so much for, for joining me on this episode. I always love sharing this work with you and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Bye for now.