Tag Archives: horses

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 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.