In every clinic Manolo gives, every lesson, you will see him do some body work and some in-hand work even when the student is signed up for “just” a riding lesson. In Manolo’s Training For Wellness™ philosophy, working in-hand, hands-on and in the saddle are three, equally important facets of interacting with the horse and training him.
Manolo will often dismount and do a little bodywork or in-hand if he feels his horse is having difficulties under saddle that different figures and exercises are not resolving. He believes riders and horses relationships benefit tremendously from riders having more skills at their disposal to assist their horse then just riding when the horse experiences physical or mental discomfort brought on by tension, stress, fear, lack of conditioning, old or new injuries or from feeling over faced with new work.
It is is uncanny how a couple of minutes spent freeing a stiff poll or back with body work, working on alignment, regularity, diagonal pairing and balance can change how a horse feels and moves and transform his/her work under saddle. It is a difference the rider can immediately feel in its own body and balance.
Bodywork, touch has an emotional bonding dimension that horses welcome and find relief and peace in, this tranquil emotional state translates into softer, suppler, straighter more balanced rides.
How to start learning and using this work?
Step One: Find a short course for owners or a book that speaks to you (we recommend www.ttouch.com and www.Equinology.com) or ask your massage practitioner to show you simple moves you can incorporate in your training routine. Look at credentials and claims, and seek what is simple and clear. You want something designed for amateurs looking to enhance their horses wellbeing on a daily basis. Check beforehand that safety and correct biomechanics and stance are highlighted for both horse and rider. There are programs and books at every price point, choose wisely.
Step Two: When you have learned basic skills, USE THEM. Too often riders have body work notions but neglect to use them because they forget about them, do not have time or rely on an outside professional for massage once a week/month. There is a place for both and body work should be part and parcel of training not an isolated experience in the horse’s life.
As importantly, do not hesitate to get off your horse and investigate with your hands what tensions and knots may be holding your horse back from performing his/her best. You will be surprised at how different your horse feels when you take the time to stop your lesson and investigate and try to understand and relieve what issue(s) are causing problems under saddle with gentle bodywork or in-hand. It will change the depth of your horse’s trust and confidence in you and the quality of your rides together.
Happy New Year to you and Your Horses.