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Bodywork Programs That Work - The Rider's Success System

Over the years, I have learned that die-hard equestrians will do anything to remain riding, often enduring what would be unbearable pain by the standards of mere non-riding mortals. Horse people push through the pain because there are chores to get done, horses to feed and care for, and there is the pure love of being around these majestic and mythic creatures who transport us beyond our bipedal, earthbound existence.

As a professional bodyworker focusing on equine athletes, I quickly learned some important things from the horses. First, helping the horse release restrictions and improve movement was only a temporary solution if other factors were not addressed. The single biggest external factor effecting a horse’s comfort, mobility, and ability to function is the human. This knowledge sent me back to school to learn how to work on the human body. While in school I was introduced to practical energy work in the form of Reiki, and I was introduced to a very subtle form of bodywork called Craniosacral Therapy. The horses endorsed and encouraged a willingness to explore these unorthodox methods. I listened.

The second lesson from the horses was less is more. That is, use the least amount of pressure or energy needed to encourage the desired result. This will be familiar to those of you who study some of the more popular natural horsemanship techniques. Horses do not need to be ‘forced’ into doing things, they need to be shown that they can. Bodywork for horses and humans is the same. Forcing a spastic muscle into releasing is about as effective as forcing a horse into a frame without teaching the horse self carriage. The body will ALWAYS revert to its most familiar and ‘comfortable’ position.

The parallel between natural horsemanship’s light touch philosophy and Craniosacral Therapy is important. We can get better, more sustained, and more desired results much faster when we coax and create a welcoming environment versus exerting enormous effort and willpower trying to force a preconceived outcome into existence. In this light touch bodywork we encourage the body to work with us, rather like natural horsemanship invites the horse to make better decisions. Whenever we use force, coercion or manipulation we are adding something undersirable into the equation, and this often produce undersirable outcomes!

Releasing restrictions in the intercostal area. Photo Credit: CJ Carpenter Photography

This is what I do every day. I use a light touch therapy that directly connects with the deepest layers of restriction. This light touch enables me to work very deeply and address the root cause of dysfunction. It also allows me to help set the body up for greater balance and success. Light touch therapy helps support and optimize the environment of the Central Nervous System, and when we do this, we help the body rebalance itself naturally for optimal health.

There are synergies to having the same therapist doing bodywork on the horse and the rider. As a team, these athletes' bodies are interdependent and influence each other. Applying therapy to each member of the team by different providers is a missed opportunity for synergy and quantum improvement. Having the same professional observing each athlete and the team as a unit allows me to see how, where, and why restrictions and imbalances are created or maintained. Having this insight enables me to custom craft bodywork sessions and an exercise program to address each athlete individually to help you both progress as part of the team.

That's why I created the Rider's Success Sytem. This program combines thorough assessment of horse and rider, individual bodywork sessions for each athlete, and a customized exercise plan. Having one bodywork professional treating you both as individuals and as an athletic team provides fantastic opportunities for profund improvements and highly successful outcomes.

As part of my evaluation process, I watch the horse and rider together, noticing where range of motion is restricted, where flexibility is diminished, where imbalance exists. This first ride is videotaped for further analysis.

Then I have a conversation with the rider about her body and her horse’s body. We talk about their individual development and their development as a team. I inquire about past injuries, illnesses and training resistance. We discuss changes to the horse’s routine, environment, diet, and social network as all of these can be factors in what is going on for the horse.

I ask about the rider's immediate, short-term and long term goals for herself and her horse. These goals, along with videotape analysis, and my assessment of the horse’s and rider’s bodies will inform our plan of care in how we proceed. This is a collaborative process where we communicate continuously to ensure that we are making progress towards goals while verifying that the horse’s and rider’s bodies are continuing to heal, improve, adapt, and increase capability.

The rider and the horse receive individualized bodywork sessions. This is another data gathering opportunity for me as well as the first step in facilitating soft tissue restrictions that are limiting function and / or comfort.

All of the inputs listed above inform the creation of a customized exercise program. I develop a series of simple and effective exercises for the horse and or rider. The purpose of the exercises is to improve range of motion, balance, flexibility and suppleness. We sometimes also work on strength. Every program is tailor-made to address the specific issues occuring for each partner.

A second ride is video taped at the end of the program to validate the changes and improvements occuring in the rider's and horse's bodies.

Please watch the video below for more details:

I am delighted when I see a horse move with greater comfort and ease, and I am always amazed when I see the quantum improvements when both bodies are supple, flexible, balanced and in harmony.

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