I’ve always known that bodywork would not be my sole craft. There are other passions or interests I have that weave into the bodywork practices and principles and will continue to do so.
One of the largest areas of work that I’m developing is a practice of flowing in movement along with my horses on the ground and under saddle.
This work is healing for both horse and rider. It’s integrative, somatic (mind-body awareness), and focused around the principles of developing more ease and love between the two of you and for yourselves.
I don’t critique alignment and biomechanics first, even though I do agree these are incredibly important concepts to apply to our own and our horse’s movement. That space of developing deep relaxation and gentle, loving connection for you and your horse is where I try to start everyday with my horses. As we start to move together, I simply become aware of movement and tension in both of us and our bodies, just with a soft noticing. No judgment, no worry. We will get there.
During our session together, I recognize that a lot of our physical tension is paired with mental or emotional tension. Some physical tension can also come from lack of diversity of movement, or just lack of movement throughout the day.
(Note: both humans and horses were meant to move in a lot of different ways, all day long. When we don’t, our bodies often support our practice of not moving by creating more rigidity in our soft tissues to offer support for that.)
So, what does the bulk of our practice look like? Honestly, it is different every day.
Sometimes we practice releasing tension in a body area so that we can move that body area more and be more free and balanced throughout our body. This often looks like very slow, small, rhythmic movements together, whether under saddle on the ground.
Sometimes we practice asking our bodies to explore a new or different way of moving than we’re used to. This can look like a specific exercise, an exploration of using obstacles or terrain or variation in stride and transitions and body postures to create a lot of different movements, or just a small, softly repeated movement.
Sometimes it just looks like going for a hike or a hack out over varied terrain, and simply enjoying each other and relaxing. A lot of us forget what got us into horses in the first place–that we love being with them. Sometimes even I forget to just love being with them. I try to incorporate this into my work intentionally, but sometimes we just need to drop everything and go for a walk.
All of this work–whatever it is and develops into–it has to feel good. It has to be soft and relaxed. It has to be healthy for the horse’s and the rider’s body. It has to be about releasing tension and creating effortlessness together. It has to be about communicating in a way that is gentle, relaxed, not scary, and doesn’t create more body tension in us or in our horses.
No where in my work do I find a place for methods that are defined by dominance, “respect” as the way it is usually understood in the horse world, or desensitization in the usual sense. I want to honor that my horses are very dynamic beings with a lot of sensitivity, a lot of awareness, and a lot of complex feelings. The bodywork has taught me how to listen to horses more deeply, and how to notice signs of emotional of physical tension on very minute levels. Most training practices mean well, but unfortunately, ultimately create more tension in both the horse and rider–which makes healthy alignment almost impossible unless we are creating more rigidity to create an artificial posture that looks “correct”–in other words, create a frame or a rigid position in bodies that should be fluid, dynamic, and adaptable in each moment.
I imagine teaching this will be at least a few years in the making.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of these ideas in little ways in the near future with my bodywork clients and through my blog/journal on the website.
I know it will take a while before I’m ready to fully teach this practice with horses, but I am definitely looking forward to it. It is very close to my heart–I love that it is healing for both the horse and the rider, that we become healing partners and biofeedback for each other, always showing each other how we can relax and move a little better.
If you’re interested in starting to work toward something like this, some good people and resources I’ve been referring to are listed here:
- Jillian Kreinbring (JK Inspired)
- Courses and Lesson Days
- Peggy Cummings (Connected Riding)
- Book: Connect with Your Horse from the Ground Up
- Book: Connect with Your Horse from the Saddle
- Manolo Mendez (Training for Wellness)
- DVD: In-Hand Lessons with Manolo Mendez
- Facebook groups
- Hanna Somatic Movement Education
- Book: Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health
- Other somatic movement techniques such as Feldenkrais or Alexander Technique
- Katy Bowman (Nutritious Movement)
- Book/Audiobook: Move Your DNA
- Book/Audiobook: Movement Matters
- Nutritiousmovement.com (Podcasts, Blog, and Video courses also.)
- Adriene Mishler (Yoga with Adriene/Find What Feels Good)
- See her free Yoga videos on Youtube under her channel, Yoga with Adriene. They’re always positive, focused around finding what feels good in your body and are accessible to pretty much everyone. She even has a Yoga for Equestrians video.
- Ingrid Bacci, PhD (The Art of Effortless Living)
- Book: The Art of Effortless Living (living with somatic principles in your day-to-day life)
- Elaine Aron, PhD (The Highly Sensitive Person concept and researcher)
- Book/audiobook: (Very worth taking a look at if you are sensitive, introspective, or creative–you need not be shy or introverted.)
- hsperson.com (Self-tests for highly sensitive people and high sensation seekers, more information and resources for highly sensitive people)