Consistently getting your horse to relax from the outside in is better for understanding what their signals are for the tension they are holding from the inside out.
That's a mouthful, we know. Here's what we mean.
Tension starts inside of your horse: they find something that spooks them or they hold their body a certain way, or they get up wrong one day. Working with your horse from the outside in for 5–20 minutes a day a couple of times a week will help you to know when your horse starts to store tension in their body. I'm talking about before they start to show lameness on the outside, or before they can’t shake their body fully. Interacting with your horse in a hands-on manner helps you to feel the difference and notice when your horse is relaxed and at ease. It also helps with better circulation for your horse and better circulation is, well, better!
With good overall circulation, nutrients are absorbed more fully, hair coat is shiny, eyes are bright, senses are open completely, muscles benefit from greater blood flow. What also happens as you work with your horse in this manner is that you become more aware and in tune with your horse and can tell even better when they don’t feel their best and brightest. In the health world, early detection is better. It not only offers more options to respond with but is usually less expensive and supports a quicker recovery time into renewed health.
That said, how should you (there is no one way, really) go about putting your hands on your horse to help them relax and release tension? I encourage people to work lightly with the horse. It feels like we are doing virtually nothing, but what we are really doing is getting the brain to focus on the area that it is sending signals to hold tension for protection from greater injury.
Place your hand on your horse at the poll and wait for a blink. When you get a blink, hold your hand there and keep the same pressure until the horse licks, chomps, chews, or snorts. You can now move to the next area that your horse exhibits a blink at. While there is always more that you can do to help them release tension in their body, this is a wonderful starting point for many caregivers because it is so simplistic and yet it works so well for the horse. Using this on a regular basis will not only increase the trust between you both, but it will also encourage relaxation during vet and farrier visits, while showing, transporting, riding, and on and on.
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