Why You Should Think Twice Before Pulling on Your Horse’s Tail #74

#debono moves #equinemovement feldenkrais tail May 23, 2024
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Key Takeaways

- Pulling on the tail can harm horses with back tightness, triggering a defensive response

- Instead of pulling, support the tail forward to relax the muscles

- Focus on building trust and offering new options to the horse

- Prioritize somatic education and integrated movement over structural manipulation

- Consider the "Move with Your Horse" program for detailed tail support guidance

- Practice safety precautions for you and your horse

- Be mindful, and prioritize the horse's comfort and well-being

- Tail traction exercises, or tail stretches, *may* benefit horses when done with the proper preparation so that the horse cab experience a safe, balanced and coordinated lengthening through the spine  



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Do you do tail traction exercises with your horse, or some people call them tail stretches. Basically what you're doing is you're gently lifting the horse's tail a little bit. So it's straight line and pulling a little bit, not a lot on the horse's tail. And many people do them. Many people teach you to do them, and they purport to have all kinds of benefits,

and that certainly can be true. But I want to give you a little caveat about how you're doing them that actually may be counterproductive. You actually might be causing a bit of harm rather than good to your horse. So in case we're meeting for the first time, my name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Horse podcast. And first I wanna say that,

you know, if you have any doubts about your horse's soundness or comfort, please contact your vet. Please have your horse checked out and make sure that there isn't something that needs to be medically addressed. And I'm going to assume at this point that you've looked at all the, all the usual suspects as far as you had the vet exam. Your saddle fit is perfect.

You're riding in a balanced way. And by the way, if you're not, I can help you with that. Your horse's teeth are in good shape. The hooves are balanced, like all the things are in place. And say you just wanna give your horse that little extra edge. You want to help your horse, right? You love your horse,

you want to do the best by your horse. So you think that pulling on the tail in this gentle way can be helpful, and it, it may be, but it may not be as well. And I'll tell you why. If your horse has a tendency to have any kind of tightness in the back, anywhere from the pole to the tail,

by the way, pulling on the tail, however nicely you do, it may incite the horse to become defensive. And it may not be something that you can see outwardly. In other words, the horse may not appear distressed, but the horse's nervous system maybe taking that as a bit of a threat. Because if the nervous system has decided that those parts of the back,

for example, need to be tight to maintain, you know, safety, if you will, by you trying to manually change that, like you're basically changing it from the outside, the horse's nervous system may actually kind of like boomerang that, if you will, and actually end up tightening those places even more as a defense mechanism. So what should you do instead?

Number one is always, always trust your horse's opinion. Okay? So be mindful of what your horse is telling you. And again, sometimes the horse looks outwardly fine when you do this, but it's still not a good idea. And if, let's look at it this way. If you have, if the horse's nervous system has determined it needs to tighten those places,

those parts of the back by you pulling on the tail, certain receptors in between the horse's, you know, in the horse's joints all along the spine are getting a signal to say, someone's pulling on us. We actually need to tighten up what we're doing here. Okay? And so the brain actually sends a signal to tighten those muscles. Now, if you did something the opposite of that,

what is the opposite of pulling? It's very, very gently putting support forward through the tail, like just supporting the tail as if you are putting just a tiny, tiny amount of pressure towards the horse's head. Now those receptors get a signal that says, ah, someone's doing the work for us. We can let those muscles go. So that's a much better strategy than pulling on the tail.

Now, it doesn't mean that it's never a good idea to put a very gentle, what I call lengthening through the tail, but I only do that after I fully prepared the horse. And by that I mean, I've worked with all the parts of the horse to help the horse integrate or coordinate healthy movement, because simply putting traction through the tail can again,

cause a defensive reaction. And on the level of the nervous system may not be a very obvious to you also, it's just not going to be as helpful. But instead, if I think, Hmm, okay, my horse's back is a little tight, maybe I'm worried about those vertebral bodies coming too close together, which often happens. What can I do?

Well, I know, and this is what I teach in my move with the horse program. I know I can work with the horse's sternum, and I can help the horse round the back more easily, which will allow them the opening in the back, in other words, for the vertebral bodies to get further apart naturally. And so it's something that the horse does themself.

Okay? I might work with the horse's ribs, right? Do what I call ribcage slides, circles, individual rib lifts, use my rib rope, which is pretty awesome if I say so myself actually came from a horse, so I can't take full credit. It was one of those inventions that come from necessity. And you know, I do all kinds of things to help the horse feel more integrated and flexible and balanced throughout their whole body,

okay? And supporting and working with the tail in, in what, doing what I call individuating or differentiating the tail vertebra is part of it. And then maybe, maybe at the very end when the horse is fully integrated, I might, might do a gentle lengthening through the tail, but I know then that all the parts are participating and the horse isn't feeling that they have to defend and protect and contract certain areas.

Okay? I want all the parts to be participating and to feel that they have a choice. Okay? And so that is improvement that comes from the horse themself, not from me. So it's very different. I, I, I have to say that my work, which is based quite a bit on the Feldenkrais method for people, but I've adapted it and added other things for horses and other animals,

and I call it Debono Moves. It is very much based on the idea that we're improving the animals function, okay? Not trying to manipulate structure. It's a key difference. So this is a, a form of what we call somatic education. Working, you know, learning, I should say that happens through the body, okay? Somatic education. And so the horse themselves basically makes the change.

You're not imposing change from the outside. And again, I'm not condemning all tail traction or anything. I guess I've seen it badly done so often. So it really does take a gentle touch. It takes a lot of awareness. And again, in my opinion, it takes to, you know, the, the important thing is you lay the foundation first,

okay? You help the horse be more flexible, balanced, and integrated, coordinated throughout their whole body. So then, then they're prepared to have the tail lengthened if you choose to do that. Okay? And it, it's, it's a big distinction. It really, really is. The other thing, many horses don't like their tails picked up, or,

you know, they have any sensation that you're gonna touch or pick up the tail, they clamp it. And what I've found is when you provide support through the tail forward, that often goes away, right? Because you're not contradicting them. You're not saying, I'm gonna pull this tail however nicely I do it. You're, you know, you're not,

you're not doing that. You're not contradicting the horse's nervous system. You're supporting it. And then introducing other options. So for a horse that's clamping their tail, I'll often just very patiently support the tail forward, just with my hand on top, support it forward, then maybe I can get it a little looser, you know, like, you know,

the horse on their own starts to loosen it. I may work with the, do what I call rhythm circles all around the base of the tail, do other things. The horse starts loosening it. But I start to build up this reservoir of trust that I am not going to contradict what you think is right. I'm not doing that right, I'm supporting you.

And then very gently I can suggest new options, new ideas for you. Okay? So this is super, super important, and it's very important to make this distinction. We don't wanna contradict, we want to support, help the horse relieve effort. And so basically you're taking away the need for that unnecessary, unhelpful tension, okay? You wanna take away the cause and let the horse's nervous system figure out the most efficient,

healthy, and comfortable way to be. So try providing a bit of support rather than pulling, do the opposite of pulling and see how that goes for you. Now, of course, it's very important to know how to hold the tail, and I go into depth in this, in my move with your horse program. And right now we're right in the middle of,

of one, but we'll be opening enrollment later on this year. Right now it is May 23rd, 2024. So in a couple of months, there'll be another one. So join my wait list, just go to mary di bono.com/join horse. That's all lowercase, all one word. Mary di bono.com/join horse. You'll get on the wait list and you'll be the first to know when doors open again.

So have fun with this. Again, be gentle, be safe. Make sure you're not standing directly behind your horse. You can do this from the side, but still keep that straight line to your horse's tail. Okay? So in other words, you wanna have the spine and the tail, like one continuous line. You don't wanna pull the tail to,

to either side. Okay? And you want it, again, eventually you wanna have the tail raised a little bit so it's in line. But I often will do that by first providing that support with my hand forward until the horse invites me to put my hand under, right? And then I use two hands, and I, anyway, it's, it's very different than simply going up to a horse and however kindly you do it and how,

however, well intentioned, but just simply pulling on the tail, you might really be contradicting what their nervous system feels is the right thing to be doing at that time. We don't wanna do that, provide support and then open like a dialogue for suggestions of how the horse can meet, be more comfortable, more efficient, and just have less wear and tear and greater performance.

So I hope this, this opened your mind a little bit into other ways of doing things, maybe having a different preparation for doing the whatever you've been doing with your horse's tail. You Know, try it it a little different way and then add what you're doing and really experiment with it. But be mindful, be safe, and be, of course,

respectful to your horse and yourself. Okay? Thank you so much for joining me. I love sharing this work with you. Let me know if you have any questions. You could always reach me at Mary at mary Debono dot com. Look forward to seeing you again soon. Bye for now.