Category Archives: horses

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.

Alexander Technique for Horses part 2

“Ok, then what happens? What do you do next?” Laura asked with growing curiosity.

“Well you don’t actually do anything as such. You continue to attend to your own all over balance as you place your hands on the horse. The hands are quietly attentive and enquiring. The more open and lengthened and widened your hands are the more sensitive they will be.”

“When you put hands on someone you can’t help affecting the recipient’s muscles. Muscles are attuned to the language of touch. The question is to get the touch happening in the right way so that the effect is positive rather than negative.”

Laura went on to place her hands on several different locations along the column of Martha ‘s neck. She took her time about doing this. Apart from being a mildly pleasant experience for all three of us there was nothing remarkable in what Laura felt with her hands or in Martha ‘s response.

Eventually Laura worked her way down to the base of Martha’s neck just above the shoulder blades. This is an area of profound constriction in many humans and Martha was proving to be no exception to this rule. Laura immediately picked this up.

“What do I do now?” she said excitedly.

“Exactly the same as before… Keep coming back to your own all over balance and to opening out your hands. It helped you to pick up the problem area perhaps it will also help you to release the tension this area.”

“Maybe you should take over now Alan” Laura said with a little concern.

“I don’t think so” I replied. A particularly peaceful atmosphere had descended over Laura, Martha and me. I didn’t think that Martha would appreciate me breaking the spell on account of my superior qualifications!

Alexander Technique for Horses part 1

WORKING WITH MARTHA

“You know that Alexander Technique teachers now work with horses?” I said to my friend Laura.

Laura was standing underneath the neck of her horse Martha and making long strokes down in the direction of her shoulder blades.

“No I didn’t know that Alan.”

I knew that Laura would not know this rather esoteric chunk of Alexander/equestrian information. I just wanted to be the centre of attention by sounding, I hoped, rather clever and well informed.

I went on to tell Laura about an article in ‘Direction’ an Alexander Technique journal, which had recently devoted an entire issue to equitation. Most of the articles were about Alexander Technique for the rider but one fascinating article was about Alexander Technique for the horse.

The editor of the magazine, Jeremy Chance, was visiting Alexander teacher and rider Sally Tottle. Sally told Jeremy about one of her horses who, after having sustained an injury some time ago now needed much longer to warm up. Jeremy, a non-rider, suggested putting Alexander hands on the horse… The results were impressive. The horse in question had several twenty minutes Alexander sessions. Following each session the horse would seem slightly disorientated for several minutes and then slowly start to move in a freer and more efficient way. The same process was repeated with several other horses who also improved their performance in a steady cumulative way.

Laura listened tolerantly to my ‘learned’ discourse as she continued stroking Martha. “How do Alexander teachers go about putting there hands on anyway she asked?”

Laura had already had several Alexander lessons and knew what it was like from the recipient’s point of view.

“The first thing an Alexander teacher does is to take care of the way that they are using their own self… By freeing their neck … so that their head can balance more freely and efficiently on top of their spine … and thus allowing their whole spine to lengthen and back to widen. By freeing the core of their body in this way the Alexander teacher can use their legs, arms and hands more efficiently. When the teacher is well balanced the quality of the way they touch a human being or horse is automatically more gentle, skilful and effective.”

Although I was talking theoretically Laura was utilising my instructions practically. As she adjusted the way she was standing the quality of her manual and emotional contact with Martha automatically changed. The quality of her touch became somewhat stiller and more sensitive. Martha also became stiller and an attentive look came over her face and eyes.

“Ok, then what happens? What do you do next?” Laura asked with growing curiosity.