Productive pain (bodywork)

I’ve been playing around with Peggy Cummings Connected Groundwork using her book. I’ve posted about this before and want to give you an update.

Generally, I try it out while hubby has the book so he can review my technique and give feedback on how I’m holding the rope etc… I haven’t done a lot of sessions (about 4-5?) but hope to do more this week and next since hubby is home and weather (and holiday) seems adverse to riding.

This method requires a state of tension in the line that goes over the halter and is held by the handler. At first, I found it really hard to manage the line. All the work I favor with horses, requires a loose line (i.e. Hempfling, Dorrance) or no line at all, and it just felt awkward.

After the first and second session, I thought about giving up but some positive, little things happened  that intrigued me enough to keep at it. For example, after one session, Rugby Guy rode her and there was a marked improvement in how she moved under saddle that had no reason other then the Connected Groundwork. Hmmmmm.

Yesterday, was a get-to-know-you-reconnect day. I hadn’t been out to the barn for a week due to bad weather. I groomed Z, found more boo-boos (she and her pasture mate just won’t stop fighting and may be one reason I move), rasped a small bit off her hooves, and did some very light lunge, roundpen work. She was listening well but again, I noticed she had a hard time taking the left lead canter, as well as lifting the right hind for the trimming.

Some of the Body Mechanical exercises we are doing (there are far more then this in the book, but these are the ones we are working with now in order to understand and do the method correctly):

Both Peggy’s book and Linda Tellington-Jones books go into an in-depth “pressure scale” that Linda has detailed in order to translate what is what.

~ Cheek Press (p. 58) This is a very easy exercise to do and what you are looking for is that “release.” It involves opposing hands – one on the nose and the other pressing lightly into the cheek (see book).

Since I’ve gone to a Linda Tellington-Jones one week clinic, a massage clinic (human), have had many massages performed on me, and husband does Reiki, I’m fully aware of the sensation when the muscle “releases” or gives/relaxes. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to get a feel for this – but do get some bodywork done so you can gain that understanding.

~ Cheek Delineation (p. 62) The fingertips of your cupped hand are gently but firmly worked down the crevice of the jaw. The line of movement starts high and goes down (not down and then up).

~ Caterpillar (p.64) Is an opening and closing hand done in a long stroke, aligning with the jugular. It can be done at standstill, walk or from the saddle. Promotes poll release, opens throatloatch, lifting the base of the neck, and shoulders. This is similar to some Linda Tellington-Jones stuff so very familiar to me.

~ Chin Rest (p.69) Cupping your hand under the horses’ chin, they are allowed to rest the weight of their head. Releases tension in the upper part of the head and neck. I’ve found it also builds trust (the horse has to believe you won’t let go abruptly).

~ Shoulder Delineation (p. 67) Like the cheek, the fingertips of a cupped hand are brought through the top groove of the shoulder blade from a high point to a low point. Z has a “tight” shoulder with little line of delineation. I have been told that regular work like this will promote the shoulder crevice to develop, freeing and loosening the shoulder.

I’d like to be doing the Shoulder Press (p. 77) and the Heart-Girth Press (p. 78) soon.

Work that is done with the Line and Halter:

~ Slide up and Slide out (p. 49). This is a sliding movement sequence done by the hand closest to the horse (i.e. leading the horse on the right side, going clockwise, this would be the handlers’ left hand). It creates a slight giving tension on the line which is to encourage the oscillation of the horses head and to promote it to stretch and lower.

~ Drawing the Bow (p. 50) Using the above sequence, there is a moment where hands on either side of the line, give a pulling stretch-hold before releasing.

~ Combing the Line (p.50) Hands alternate in a sliding movement on the line.

~ Step to the Offside (p.52) A movement to start the horse in walk.

~ Rotation to Halt (p. 54) A movement to halt the horse.

I’ve been very surprised at the amount of resistance Z has given me over some of the body mechanic work. Yesterday, during Cheek delineation she tried to bite me! A clear sign she had had enough! When I was in my TTeam clinic, we were shown to keep going – and this was something that I wasn’t sure about and that a horse trainer friend of mine was clearly against when her own horse was used in a TTeam clinic.

It’s not unusual for something to hurt MORE right before the muscle releases. I mention this because it can be hard to understand why you would push through. The natural inclination would be not to do so: the horse doesn’t like it, I’m hurting her, she’s showing me she is uncomfortable and wants me to stop.

Because I’ve had physical therapy, I know pushing through can be very uncomfortable but also necessary. If you’ve participated in sports (the human kind) you also know there is a point where you have to push through to make a gain – AND there’s a point where you can cause injury. It can be easy, if you don’t know what you are doing or are a sadist, to go too far with the pain part and not get enough release OR to cause so much pain it’s counter productive and perhaps even damaging.

Only you can answer for yourself and your horse if you feel comfortable knowing those boundaries. It takes a sensitive and informed person to make these decisions; if you are unsure, always err on the side of less and seek local, professional guidance.

Yesterday, I decided to push through the small bit of resistance she gave (remember that Z has also had full blown temper trantrums during gentle chiropractic work). After that one attempt at biting, she released during the Cheek Press (CP). Next Cheek Delineation (CD) which she has resisted in the pass, did better with.

Caterpillar (CAT) causes Z to present a lot of issues. A lot. She tried to snake her head up, then away, then sideways. This is where Dorrance’s idea of following the horse comes into play – just hold and go with it, but don’t let go! However, soon she was pulling her head down, tilting it sideways and yawning so big that her bottom jaw went about four inches sideways from her top.

In her book, Peggy recommends taking the horse for a figure-8 walk after such a huge release to let them process what has happened. Z got a lot of little walks after her processing and then a hand-walk to graze on the last of some green grass which I’m sure she appreciated far more then the bodywork.

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One Response to Productive pain (bodywork)

  1. Fetlock says:

    Thank you for such a thorough review of the book! I know exactly what you mean about poorly written/laid out horse books. It’s often incredibly difficult to capture “movement” in still photos (even a series of still phones) but I think photos are really important.

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