CHASE THE BRACE
The Psychology of Empowerment
Our first task in connecting with a horse is to reach the mind. Training through relaxation allows us to reach our horses emotionally as we help them release their physical braces.
Belinda has been working with a lovely but emotional and anxious Lipizzaner gelding recently.
“Horses are just like humans when it comes to anxiety - it’s hard to take something in when you’re stressed. We reach our horses through acknowledgement, kindness and clarity. This relationship creates the mental space for release which is quickly followed by opportunity for the physical.”
Transformation built on trust and the application of correct postural exercises leads to a proud and able equine companion in a very short time.
THE MIND - perception
The Academy’s approach is to first address the mind to discover what emotional triggers may be the root cause of physical restrictions.
The horse may be bracing to avoid pain, pressure or the anticipation of pain, pressure or general incapacity. It’s our job to discern the causes through connecting and communicating with the animal.
After developing a rapport with the horse and building a picture of his mental state, we now look to the nervous system. This next exploration will address the physical restrictions - not by going straight to developing the musculature but to first accessing proprioception.
THE BODY - proprioception
We look at the horse’s understanding of the relationship of their body parts to each other and where they intersect with the world around them. This is not well understood and often overlooked.
Belinda explains this:
“Horses that develop a certain pattern of movement to avoid pain are training their own nervous system to activate certain muscles while switching off others. This leads to musculature imbalances that ultimately result in a compromised nervous system, bone remodelling and loss of performance. We need to address that but there’s a problem.
The issue is that the horse’s brain has been receiving biofeedback that no longer reflects the true position of the horse in space – they are crooked but do not feel crooked. Our job now is to address that perception by rewiring the nervous system. While this is achieved through exercise, we keep the nervous system at front and centre of our training.”
The nerves, fascia, muscles, tendons, ligaments and skeleton respond and adapt to correct alignment through increased circulation, oxygenation and the all-important conscious awareness and proprioception.
INTEGRATION – where perception and proprioception interlace
Once the horse has had time to develop the muscular strength required to keep itself in horizontal balance it discovers or re-discovers the pleasure of vertical alignment and horizontal balance.
As the horse develops the ability to maintain correct vertical alignment and horizontal balance, the releases naturally follow and allow for progression
along the path to self-carriage.
When the brain and body are synchronising Belinda likes to introduce the piaffe since the piaffe plays a central role in the development of both a sound mind and a sound body.
“In the piaffe the horse learns or re-discovers his nobility. Through opening and raising of the chest, the horse finds himself, even if for a moment.
As his strength grows, the horse enjoys the feeling of lifting up of the thoracic sling and gains self-control and stability of mind and muscle.”