Equine Somatics

Equine Somatics is a hands-on procedure for teaching horses to regain voluntary conscious control of their neuromuscular system.  Like humans, horses develop characteristic postures, movements and behaviours. These characteristics can arise from stresses such as injury, surgery, being forcefully ridden, poorly fitted saddles and girths, inactivity, ill-fitting shoes, and so on. Often they develop pain, discomfort, and a restricted range of movement as a result.  With Equine Hanna Somatics, practitioners work with the horse's cooperation. Together, they partner in a dance of movement that releases these chronically contracted muscles. This relieves any associated pain or stiffness.
The benefits include a happier and more relaxed horse. They walk, trot, and canter more easily, and their muscles move more fluidly.
With relaxed and elastic muscles, a horse's posture and collection also improve dramatically. In addition, riders find enhanced bonding with their horses.

Foundational Principles

Equine Somatics aims to cultivate the natural self-corrective mechanism within the animal. The focus is to provide an environment for the horse in which to harness this innate ability of finding ease and health. Equine Somatics is based on the principle of the body’s natural ability to self-correct, to heal, and to maintain the somatic state of health. Modalities like massage, chiropractic acupressure/puncture, or most other bodywork modalities, are applied to the horse's body. In contrast, Equine Somatics is a cooperative system of guided movement that works with the horse's own brain, enhancing a healthy mind-body connection.
The equine somatic educator makes hands-on suggestions, and the horse moves their own body by contracting and relaxing their muscles very slowly. These purposeful movements originate in the voluntary motor cortex, which is the only part of the nervous system that can actively relax muscles. Once the horse feels the release that occurs with such intentional muscle relaxation, they can do it again on their own. Their neurons have been “rewired", and are now able to recall how to communicate with muscles more effectively.

 An Equine Somatics Session Includes:

  Assessment of the horse in standing posture, and in evaluation of gait. Evaluation of contracted muscle groups. A hands-on session with the horse, to re-educate the neuromuscular system, tailored to meet the specific needs of the horse. Education of the owner, or horse handler, on how to continue working with the horse.

Principles of Delivery

 Horses learn through the release of pressure. Joints and bones are moved by muscles, and muscles are moved by nerves. Equine Somatics improves the function of the nervous system in order to improve the mobility of muscles and joints. In this way, movements become integrated and fluid. The horse is taught slow, voluntary, defined movements. Going with the horse's contraction patterns, followed by slowly coming out of them is known as pandiculation, which is practiced by all healthy vertebrates. Pandiculation, and assisted pandiculation, work with the higher brain functions. Through these and other complementary techniques, many of the positive benefits described above are delivered.

Benefits for the Horse

 Increased flexibility and ease of movement.

 Longer stride; improved walking, trotting and cantering; legs pick up more easily. Improved performance and endurance. Decreased pain, discomfort and restricted movement in muscles and joints. Improved coordination and precision of movement. Improved integration between the left and right side of the body. Improved bonding between horse and rider/horse handler. Smoother movement, and more suppleness in riding; responds to requests more easily. The horse is happier and more satisfied. Improved condition of the coat.The benefits described above are a result of a more balanced and functional nervous system. Equine Somatics works directly with this system. Improvement in action and movement will appear only after a prior change in the brain and nervous system has occurred. This is true for human beings and also true for horses.

The Field of Equine Somatics

Equine Somatics is an emerging field. Dr. Eleanor Criswell Hanna, director of The Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training, developed Equine Hanna Somatics in 1996. She offered the first professional training in 2006 in California, USA. Both Gayatri Schriefer and Brian Siddhartha Ingle were on the first official training and graduated in 2007.

“The human-horse relationship is by nature somatic: It is the integration of two minds and two bodies, the mind and body of the rider and the mind and body of the horse... The result is a greater harmony between horse and rider, an interspecies relationship.”

Eleanor Criswell Hanna PhD, founder of Equine Hanna Somatics


"We apply this work to our horses and they have never been happier, softer or more relaxed... somatics goes beyond bodywork."

Dennis Reis, founder of Universal Horsemanship

"Equine Somatics is the only technique that improves the function of the nervous system, reconnects the horse's body and mind, resulting in improved performance, avoidance of injury and an overall more integrated horse."

Barbara Chasteen,veteran equine body worker, teacher and author