Posts Tagged ‘fascia’


Ah, Valentine’s Day! That Hallmark Holiday we all love to hate and hate to love. But we don’t have to sit around longing for some demonstration of adoration to appear in our mailbox or on our doorstep. Instead, why not treat that best of all faithful and true companions, your horse, to a DIY Spa Day.

Give His Fascia Some Love

Ear Release Photo by Patti Bose-horseandriderbooksUmm…what was that? Don’t worry, as equine bodyworker Margret Henkels explains in her book IS YOUR HORSE 100%? the fascia (or myofascia) is tissue in the body that connects all the horse’s body’s parts, including bones, muscles, and all the different body systems. As the “internet” of the body, fascia communicates with all parts instantly, while also giving the horse structure and organization. But this remarkable tissue changes under strain and accidental injury. It immediately builds many cross-hatching fibers in all directions around the area of strain, as well as faraway areas that help hide the strain for the horse. At first, these areas are warmer and larger as the fascia adds support. Eventually, they return to a more normal size and temperature, but the composition of the fascia changes. Over time, instead of flowing easily, it hardens into stiff fibers and lumps called “adhesions.” Strategic placement of your hands brings precisely the correct heat for fascia changes—that is, “melting” of adhesions and release of related emotional baggage. Henkels’ Conformation Balancing method, explained in her book and DVD, give us this easy technique to make our horses happy:

The ears are a “miracle area” for helping horses. Many have experienced trauma around the base of the ear as well as the entire ear, up to the tip. This can be caused by tight-fitting tack, or head strain. A gentle and effective technique is to hold the ear very softly. Once the horse understands you aren’t squeezing or grabbing at his ear, he relaxes and enjoys the changes. As your thumb sinks into the base of the ear, head changes occur. These releases often last many minutes and bring great relief from anxiety. One ear usually needs much more attention than the other. When you offer these often, the emotional progress for the horse is rapid.


Get Down…and Back

Hind End Release Photo by Deb Kalas-horseandriderbooksPositioning and movement of the hind limbs down and back can release tension in the muscles and structure of the hind end, including the hamstrings, the lower back, the gluteal muscles and the psoas. This can improve movements that require adduction and abduction of the hind limbs (think half-pass). Jim Masterson’s Masterson Method® Hind Leg Releases in THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED include this easy exercise:

Pick up the hind foot as if you are going to clean it. While supporting the fetlock with your hands, guide the hoof down and back so it rests on the toe. A couple inches farther back than the opposite planted hind foot is plenty. Keep your hand gently on the hoof, or slightly wiggling the hock, to help the horse relax. With the toe resting back, the hamstrings are fully relaxed. Gently stroke or lightly massage the area to further break up any tension.


The Eyes Have It

Acupressure for Horses-horseandriderbooksThere are many points around the horse’s eyes that can be accessed with acupressure. And, as Dr. Ina Gösmeier explains in her bestselling ACUPRESSURE FOR HORSES, acupressure is simple and safe for any of us to apply. All the meridians and organs meet in connection in and around the eye, so through acupressure there, disturbances in other parts of the body can be influenced and rebalanced. This technique also relaxes the horse greatly.

First, touch the Jingming acupressure point (at the corner of the eye) lightly, then slowly increase the pressure, using a clockwise, circular motion. Watch the horse’s reaction. When you see the corners of the mouth relax, the ears go sideways, the eyes begin to close, you know you are applying an optimal amount of pressure. Maintain pressure for one minute. Work you way all the way around the eye, working back to your starting point.


Tail Envy

WCG Grooming for Horses Photo by Jessica Dailey-horseandriderbooksGive your horse’s tail a proper wash and conditioning so he can parade his silky swisher around the barn. Professional grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford give us their tips for primping your horse’s hind end in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES.

Wet the tail, then use a gentle conditioning shampoo like Motions® Lavish Conditioning Shampoo to ensure the tail gets clean without becoming dry. Use a sponge to get the entire dock wet, paying special attention to the bottom of the dock where the hair gets really thick and oil can collect. Scrub the dock really well, getting your fingernails into it, to help remove the dead skin and gunk that can build up close to the roots. Run your sponge down the entire tail, then scrub the hair between your hands. Rinse the tail until the water runs clear. NEVER comb a wet tail! Use a non-silicone-based detangler such as eZall® Shine & Detangler and comb when dry.


Have a wonderful, relaxing, DIY Spa Day with your horse…and don’t forget his favorite treats for afterward! Here’s a recipe if you want to make your own: TSB’s Fun, Easy Valentine’s Day Horse Treats.

For more information about any of the books or experts mentioned, visit www.horseandriderbooks.com.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 





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Trafalgar Square Farm

When you are caught up in the never-ending must-dos of book publishing, you can find yourself tired, your creative and entrepreneurial energy tapped, your head spinning and your hands ready to unfurl themselves from the keyboard and (instead) curl themselves around the comforting curves of a glass of wine, fireside. But while the pressure is undeniable, there is always a steadying constant: how thankful we are to get to do what we do and learn more every day about horses, riding, and how to be better at both.

In recognition of tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday, here are five lessons we’re thankful to have learned this year from TSB’s amazing authors:

Lesson 1   As horse owners, we don’t have to turn control of our horses’ hoof health to our vets and farriers, and just write the checks whenever they tell us we need to do something. It is possible to gain a much more thorough understanding of the function of the hoof, which will not only help us better comprehend what is required in regular maintenance, it will also help us advocate intelligently on our horses’ behalf when they are injured or unsound. It likely never occurs to most that we can and should learn the ins and outs of the equine hoof beyond the general knowledge absorbed in early barn jobs and from 4-H and Pony Club. But Susan Kauffmann and Christina Cline’s THE ESSENTIAL HOOF BOOK is like a bright light going on in a room that has only been candlelit. It introduces a whole new world of responsible horse care.

Lesson 2  It is time to pay attention to fascia—ours and our horses. Fascia is the gossamer white tissue in the body that connects all the parts, including bones, muscles, and all the different body systems. In IS YOUR HORSE 100%?, equine bodywork practitioner Margret Henkels teaches how the warmth of your hands can release accumulated tension and strain in the horse’s body, and in THE NEW ANATOMY OF RIDER CONNECTION, biomechanics pioneer Mary Wanless explains how working with the fascial lines of the body can drastically improve your riding.

Lesson 3  Even when you reach the very top, the truly great continue to question their techniques, educate themselves, and strive to find new ways to do better by the horse. In TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY, gold-medal Olympian Ingrid Klimke writes: “I train further, question myself, consider the views of others, and remain open to all riding styles. Anyone who cares to be a good rider must first of all work on herself: on her inner bearing, her general attitude toward horses, her physical readiness (of course), and on giving aids clearly and ‘with feel’ for the horse.”

Lesson 4  Many factors contribute to successful performance, but the most vital is discipline. In his long-awaited autobiography HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, revered US eventing team coach Jack Le Goff discusses the discipline factor in its many renditions, from the self-discipline necessary to train your horse even when it’s cold or raining outside, to the discipline of organization and making sure you know the rules, to the discipline required to be part of a team, putting personal glory aside with the good of the group in mind. This lesson translates particularly well to every part of life.

Lesson 5  Becoming comfortable in our own skin helps us become more trustworthy and better able to soften physical and mental resistance in others—including our horses. In the singularly fascinating book OUR HORSES, OURSELVES, renowned dancer and choreographer Paula Josa-Jones shares new and unique ways of incorporating meditation and gentle exercises in our self-development as horse people, noting that conscious work to quiet our busy minds and familiarize ourselves with our bodies’ shape and movement can help us find true connection with our horses, on the ground and in the saddle.

Wishing all a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of time for family, friends, and of course, your horses.

—The TSB Staff


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To the uneducated eye, posting the trot is just a series of silly looking, seemingly purposeless, up-down movements. But riders understand what it takes to make rising and sitting to the two-beat rhythm of the horse’s diagonal gait complement rather than hinder his movement.

“The skilled rider uses rising trot to get the tension in the horse’s fascial net in sync with her own,” writes biomechanics pioneer Mary Wanless in her newest book THE NEW ANATOMY OF HORSE AND RIDER CONNECTION, “so together they get in rhythm and ‘play the right note.’”

Here’s how Wanless helps us understand how this dynamic works:

“Imagine two people sitting opposite each other and playing a game of catch with a tennis ball. Each throw involves bouncing the ball once. This is a cooperative game, with its own distinct rhythm, in which neither person is trying to catch the other one out. ‘Bounce, catch’ mirrors ‘sit, rise’, and our analogy is essentially describing the exchange of force and energy between horse and rider.

“Imagine the human game in full swing – until one person cleverly substitutes a bean-bag for the tennis ball. When this barely bounces, it marks the end of the game! Or perhaps one person suddenly substitutes a ‘boingy’ ball, and the game immediately speeds up as the ball travels faster.

“The skilled rider maintains the equivalent of a tennis ball game, even when the horse would rather throw bean-bags or ‘boingy’ balls. It is as if the rider says, ‘Sorry horse, but whatever you attempt to throw me, I am throwing back a tennis ball,’ maintaining this resolve and technique until such time as the horse takes a deep sigh and agrees to throw tennis balls!

“Whilst some heavy horses have wonderful ‘boing,’ most ‘bean-bag’ horses are from the heavier breeds. They trot as if their legs were stuck in porridge, since the recoil energy in their tendons and ligaments – and the force transmission along their respective lines of pull – is not enough to enable them to ‘ping’ off the ground. Iberian horses can be like this too, and any horse with a ‘soggy’ fascial net will be heavy on the ground and lack the spring of elastic recoil.

“Most riders fall into the trap of throwing a bean-bag back to this kind of horse: they land heavily in the saddle and press down into it. This is incredibly instinctive, and is encouraged by phrases like ‘sit deep and drive the horse forward,’ but a heavy landing will inevitably deaden your horse. The game then becomes a vicious circle as the ‘bean-bag’ tendencies of each partner amplify those of the other. Understandably, most riders soon start to feel like a desperate, disgruntled, and thoroughly jangled bean-bag! The only answer lies in landing lightly and quickly – in a trampoline-like way – thus encouraging the horse to be lighter and quicker on the ground. The rider may also need to kick, and to tap with a whip, but she must not throw bean-bags or she will get bean-bags back.


Pausing at the top of the rise can help you counter the “boingy” horse.

“In contrast, ‘uptight’ Thoroughbreds throw ‘boingy’ balls. The rider who gets ‘boinged’ out of the saddle by the horse’s ‘boinginess’, loses control of the tempo, and the game speeds up unless she can make a momentary pause on each landing (without becoming soggy like a bean-bag). This keeps the horse’s feet on the ground for a fraction of a second longer. If the rider can also make a pause at the top of the rise (when the other diagonal pair of legs are in mid-stance) this again will act to keep the horse’s feet on the ground for longer. This slows the horse’s tempo, and changes how his fascial net rebounds from the ground. He has no choice but to throw tennis balls back to the rider.”

For more insight into how the rider’s fascia works, how the horse’s fascia works, and ways we can influence how they work together, check out THE NEW ANATOMY OF HORSE AND RIDER CONNECTION, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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Photo by Patti Bose from IS YOUR HORSE 100%? by Margret Henkels.

It’s a question we are all faced with, more often than not. Is my horse feeling his best? Is he free from aches, pains, tension, anxiety? It can be difficult for well-meaning owners, riders, and caretakers to pinpoint the real issue when a horse is “off,” “not himself,” or just unable to tap into his performance potential. Whether we are just pleasure riders or aiming for gold, a horse that is not 100% fit and able leaves us worried, frustrated, and searching for answers.

Enter equine bodywork practitioner Margret Henkels, who in her new book IS YOUR HORSE 100%? reveals a whole new world of possibility with her Conformation Balancing method, which works with the horse’s myofascia, or fascia, to release sources of physical and emotional strain and trauma, opening the doors wide open to long-term health and unparalleled fitness.

“Myofascia is the gossamer white tissue in the body that connects all the horse’s body’s parts, including bones, muscles, and all the different body systems,” Henkels explains in her book. “Its unique properties are almost unknown to us, despite its central role in the healthy functioning of all bodies, including humans. As the ‘internet’ of the body, myofascia communicates with all parts instantly, while also giving the horse structure and organization.

“The elusive properties of fascia allow it to slip through the cracks of science, but it is now a health and fitness frontier. Myofascial work is one of the myriad holistic ways to progress body health and fitness, along with massage, chiropractic, meridian work, acupuncture, and acupressure. The unique internet-like structure of fascia means that your work with fascia is actually much easier, since you are not searching for tiny points or meridians, or other small areas on the horse. It is an ever-present, organizing tissue that connects all the parts.”

In IS YOUR HORSE 100%? Henkels provides basic steps to not only analyzing and tracking the horse’s conformation, but also to using your hands in a series of simple, noninvasive placements and movements, to “melt” adhesions in the fascia, correct compensations, and direct the horse’s body in positive releases that allow healing from the inside out.

This is a whole new way of looking at our horses’ fitness and health, and our own ability to play an integral role in enhancing it.


Is Your Horse 100


IS YOUR HORSE 100%? is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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