DESERT HORSE EQUESTRIAN SERVICES


       
Improve your horse's core strength and flexibility. Think of it as yoga for your horse!

Kinetic Bodywork
Ground Exercises FOR Postural Re-education

Kinetic bodywork – bodywork in motion – is a series of gentle-yet-powerful, in-hand techniques that help your horse move freely and comfortably at any gait, choosing elastic self-carriage over soundness-destroying imbalance. Much like yoga, this core-building groundwork yields a soft sort of strength, emphasizing muscle flexibility and tone over bound-up brawn.

For most horses and handlers, these exercises are completely new, requiring both to act and react entirely outside their normal experience. That means both postural and behavior habits don't necessarily get triggered, so there is room for learning to happen at a deep level. The inspiration for this groundwork is Connected Groundwork, developed by clinician Peggy Cummings based on her studies of TTEAM and her experiences with various styles of body re-education, including Feldenkrais Method and Alexander Technique.

 
Ground exercises over poles help lighten the horse's forehand and engage the hindquarters
  You can see kinetic bodywork in real situations in the stories of two rehab horses, Prince Charming and Doc.

"Yoga for Horses" ground exercises have become an essential element in Desert Horse's training and horse rehabilitation programs because they are simple enough for any horse and handler to learn, yet incredibly effective at initiating positive changes in a surprisingly short time. Stacey has been practicing and adapting this work for the past 15 years, devising new exercises and exploring greater levels of subtlety with horses of all breeds and disciplines.

Now, it seems the mainstream is starting to embrace the value of groundwork for balance and self-carriage. The Horse recently ran an article on this very topic by researcher Hilary Clayton, who holds the McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University. While recommending core-strengthening exercises for horses, she stated that "... dynamic, non-weight-bearing mobilization exercises activate, strengthen, and condition the muscles of the back and abdomen that will be used to support a rider."

This therapeutic groundwork can help lame horses achieve soundness and bring old, stiff horses back into comfortable work. (Read the story of Anne for an example.) The structured progression of exercises also helps young, sound horses focus and progress better in their training. Because the very heart of this work involves forming a non-threatening, give-and-take dialogue with your horse, the exercises form a great base for starting green horses of any age.

And anyone can learn to do these exercises in just a few lessons.

Here are just a few reasons to learn kinetic bodywork:

  Eliminate bracing habits that lock horses onto the forehand and prevent energy from coming through from the hindquarters. This moves horses out of the head high/hollow back posture that many display under saddle, on the longe line and even working at liberty.
 
     
  Engage the muscles used for self-carriage and use them in work that includes changes of impulsion and stride length, bend, balance and direction.
     
  Increase strength and range-of-motion in muscle groups that enable the horse to work over his hind end. This has application for every equestrian discipline from trail riding to roping to dressage to jumping.
     
  Target work to your horse's specific problem areas, flexing at the poll, releasing the shoulder and withers, lifting the back, bending at the ribcage and neck, and engaging the hindquarters evenly on both sides.
     
  Develop your feel for subtle changes of balance, freedom, swing and impulsion and learn how to help the horse regain his natural grace and power.

Learn more about "yoga with horses" ground exercises
in the article series
Longeing in Balance

 

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