Tag Archives: movement

Alexander Technique for Horses part 4

The following day both Martha and Laura were due to have a lesson at their local riding school. I met them both afterwards. I do not know who looked more excited. Martha’s eyes and whole demeanour looked super awake and alert. She was holding her head and easily on top of her clearly lengthening spine. She appeared impressively open and broad cross her shoulders and upper chest. Her lower back had raised and filled out and her legs looked confidently planted underneath her.

“My teacher was really impressed with the way we both responded during the lesson today.” Laura told me. “She was particularly excited by the tight circles that such a big horse as Martha was managing, for the first time, to turn. Do you think the Alexander Technique could have helped that?”

“For a horse to be able to turn one side of its spine has to flex as the other side simultaneously extends. If even as few as two or three vertebrae are restricted by excess muscle tension then the mobility of the spine as a whole is reduced. Freeing those muscles and vertebrae should allow the horse to turn more easily. So, yes” I replied “the Alexander Technique could well have helped – particularly in that area at the base of Martha’s neck.”

Without suggesting that anyone can become an overnight Alexander teacher – in fact it takes three years of full time training- taking a little more time to consciously touch in the manner described above can, at the very least, do a lot to deepen the rapport between horse and rider. In human relationships the cool hand on the brow during emotional upsets and illness; the back rub after a physically demanding day can relieve stress and be of positive physical and emotional therapeutic value, The language of touch is perhaps an even more significant factor in the relationship between horse and rider.

NB It does have to be underlined that Martha is basically a hale, hearty and robust horse with no significant problems. The care mentioned above should not be thought of as a substitute for properly qualified professional advice.

Alexander Technique and Horses part 3

“Muscles are designed to tense and contract a lot more quickly than they are designed to release. This is a very useful mechanism for helping us to get out of trouble in a hurry. Scientists call it the fight/flight response. However both horses and humans often find that these fight/flight responses can get out of hand.”

“The openness of your hands Martha’s neck and shoulder muscles a standard of ease towards which they can move. In order to do this her muscles need a sense of time and space … a moment of stillness and pause. Think of your hands simply melting like warm butter onto Martha’s neck'”

Laura stuck with the process. Martha started to move her heed gently from side to side and up and down a few times and then took several deep, sighing breaths. I noted this with some interest – humans often take a few deep breaths when they are starting to release the constrictions of the day during the course of an Alexander lesson. “I think I feel some release in Martha’s neck” Laura said with a mixture surprise and disbelief in

her voice.

“Yes I think you probably do” I confirmed “Now gently take your hands off Martha ‘s neck” Laura, hooked as she was into the process, looked disappointed but followed my suggestions.

“Pause for a moment. Give yourself the time and space to project your Alexander directions… allowing your neck to be free … your head to balance freely on top of your spine… and your back to lengthen and widen,”

Like many horses Martha had tendency to slightly drop and hollow her back and to trail her back legs.

“How would we deal with this using the Alexander Technique?” Laura was now wondering.

“In much the same way as we would deal with the corresponding tendency in humans. I usually begin by helping a pupil to balance their head and neck more effectively and then start working on their lower back, buttocks and knees.”

By the time Laura had work her way down to Martha’s buttocks and legs Martha’s head and neck had dropped down, her lower lip was trembling and she looked very peaceful and somewhat drowsy.

We realised that it was darker outside and had, without us noticing, become quite dim in the stable. We took Martha for a short walk in the field outside. She was a little bit disorientated for the first few minutes and then seemed to find her feet again.