Z and I are continuing to grope about for some sort of mutual understanding. I’ve reduced her actual work sessions to 30 minutes which are a 100 percent, concentrated focus by her and me on simple, but intense, tasks. We’ll be back to riding next week as I’ve got a saddle in mind to buy… you may notice that we ended our sessions with Rugby Guy – they were become self-defeating.
In an effort to take a step back and see what I can do with Z by relying heavily upon intution I’ve been playing more with the Masterson Method. Right now I am not doing it strictly as a massage therapy but intergrating it into the program as a mutual communication tool to further develop our relationship.
One thing that has kept me from doing Linda Tellington-Jones TTeam work on a regular basis is because it is overwhelming. MM could become the same way because doing a full body massage would take me at least an hour. While I’ll try to set aside one day a week for a complete bodywork session, I’ve been doing shorter bursts, focusing on the neck, head, shoulders and forelegs for the last two weeks. These are the areas where Z shows the most resistance to being touched, handled or having you in her space.
When I begin with an Air Gap to Egg Yolk touch (Masterson’s description of amount of pressure, see other posts), Z immediately gives a blink on the Bladder Meridian anywhere from 4-8 inches down from her poll. I’ll stay in this spot with pressure that does not allow bracing (more pressure = horse pushes back) and after about 60 to 120 seconds into this, Z wants to move.
Originally, I prevented the moving. The moving is a way for her to deflect feeling anything about what I’m doing – a displacement mannerism. By displacing, the horse is able to disperse the negative tension into another behavior — for example, the horse who has a sore back, grinds it’s teeth rather then throw it’s rider.
If you’ve ever had your own massage you may know that feeling when an area of your body is worked that you are hesitant to have touched because of pain or sensitivity. You would also know that if you can let it be worked, that area releases in a huge way. Usually this squirming (according to MM and what I’ve seen and personally experienced) precurses a release.
As I experimented, I decided that I would allow the moving, but I would not remove my hand. Even this light pressure, especially on her right side, would start to cause a rushing walk (“get away from me! make it STOPPPPPPP!”). Eventually, I worked out that I would let her take about 3-5 walk steps before bringing her gently back to stop, all without removing my touch.
My reasoning was movement was needed in order to process some of what was happening. Far more than humans, horses must have movement. I’ve written before about how movement can increase learning and processing. Peggy Cummings in her Connected Groundwork talks about letting the horse walk (usually a figure 8 pattern) after a release in order to aid processing. LTJ uses concentrated movement through grid patterns to aid focus and learning in the horse.
Invariably, after walking and then stopping, the release happens. I’m now getting the releases faster and larger as Z comes to know what to expect. Perhaps it is an increase in trust or that she has less tension to release since we have been consistent on the body work this month?
After a release, I do spool out the leadrope so she can choose the distance she wants from me. This allows her body privacy if she would rather – something that is often very important to reserved horses.
I’ve already seen changes in her scapula area and a lessening of resistance when I enter areas of her neck which previously she should respond with very aggressive reactions (i.e. pinned ears, reaching around to bite) when touched or asked to bend. The flexion rotation on the right side has improved significantly. The forelegs are still a work in progress.
Yesterday, I added a small bit of Connected Groundwork. She was much more flexible and willing to participate.
I’ve been doing mouthwork to encourage her to open for the bit. I got it in on a couple of different occasions but each time she gave a minor panic after it went in by raising her head and starting to back. I went with her and just held it until she was ready to drop it out. Yesterday, though we had a good bitting session as she took it in and instead of being startled, mouthed the bit, dropping her head to feel it all out. She got a big carrot reward for that!
Meanwhile, I’ve been taking my Yoga ball out to the barn and while Z grazes. I roll about trying to open my sternum and gain flexbility in the right shoulder and arm. About 14 years ago, I broke three ribs off my sternum so it is easy for me to fall into a habit of collasping my chest.
The injury to my right bicep (most likely I tore the muscle) is recovered but I have spent the year protecting it and it is also reluctant to fully extend, especially over the head or backwards. Strangely, enough it is my left side, which has been protecting the right all this time that is the most resistant to being stretched! Boy, does it hurt! OUCH!