Equine Somatics is a hands-on procedure for teaching horses to regain voluntary, conscious control of their neuromuscular systeem.
Like humans, horses develop characteristic postures, movements and behaviors. 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 and partners in a dance of movement to relax these chronically contracted muscles. Thus relieves the pain associated with these muscular contractions.
The benefits include a more relaxed and happy horse. They walk, trot, and canter more easily and their muscles move more fluidly. With relaxed and elastic muscles, a horse's posture can also improve dramatically. Also riders find enhanced bonding with their horses.
Equine Somatics aims to cultivate the self-corrective mechanism and the focus becomes one of providing an environment for the horse to harness this innate ability to find ease and health.
Equine Somatics is based on the principle, the body’s natural ability to self-correct, heal and maintain the somas state of health. Unlike massage, chiropractics, acupressure/puncture, or most other bodywork modalities, which are applied TO the horse's body, Equine Somatics is a cooperative guided movement that works with the horse's own brain, enhancing the mind-body connection. The equine somatic educator makes hands-on suggestions, and the horse moves his own body by contracting and relaxing his muscles, very slowly. These purposeful movements originate in the voluntary motor cortex - the only part of the nervous system that can actively relax muscles. Once the horse feels the release that occurs with intentional muscle relaxation, he can do it again on his own because his neurons have been "rewired" and are now able to recall how to communicate with muscles more effectively.
• Assessment of the horse: standing posture and evaluation of its 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.
• Teaching the owner, or horse handler, how to continue working with the horse.
• Horses learn on 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 to improve the mobility of muscles and joints, so that there is more fluidity with movement.
• Teaching the horse slow voluntary, defined movement.
• Going with the horse's contraction patterns, followed by slowly coming out of them. We call this pandiculation, which all healthy vertebrates practice. Pandiculation and assisted pandiculation works with the higher brain functions. Through assisted pandiculation and other 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 co-ordination and precision of movement.
• Improved integration between the left and right side of the body.
• Improved bonding between horse and rider/horse handler.
• Riding; smoother movement, more supple, responds to requests easier.
• 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.
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.
"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