Equifest Presentation Taupo 2022

As the Equifest Taupo event is approaching in only two weeks time, and my thoughts have turned to thinking about what information and demonstrations to present during my 45 minute sessions on Friday and Sunday.

Lately, I’ve been listening to many podcasts and finishing my online course on Somatic Experiencing by Peter Levine. Relating the learnings from human somatic experiencing to the horse has been an incredibly useful resource for developing resilience through the nervous system. It has connected my experience in the field and experimenting with physical exercises with the theory and research about why these techniques have such a profound effect.

Just today I came across a practice called Equine Hanna Somatics after listening to a podcast on ‘The Whole Horse’ podcast (which has many inspiring guests worthy of spending an hour listening in). This particular podcast was with Alissa Mayer. Although I have no research into this method, it was very intriguing and supported similar somatic effects to the practices that I have incorporated into my collection for ‘Nourishing the Nervous System’ coursework.

You can find the website for this podcast here or look up ‘The Whole Horse’ on spotify and other outlets.

See below for one of the techniques of Equine Hanna Somatics:

The premise of this technique is that you are assisting the horse to reset the resting tension in the muscle by guiding them to contract the muscle and then release it back slowly to a neutral position. The slow release is activating (and perhaps interrupting) a subconscious ‘automatic’ muscle response from a deep part of the brain using a conscious movement initiated from another area of the brain. Having the horse do the movement, rather than having the movement done for them is a key part of this exercise. This new neural experience that comes with the horse feeling and thinking through the movement is able to reset the automatic response.

I learnt a new word in the process – pandiculation.

Pandiculation is our nervous system’s natural way of waking up our sensorimotor system and preparing us for movement. 

Sarah Warren – owner of Somatic Movement Center

Our natural reflexes allow us to reset our nervous system through pandiculation. It is a fascinating concept and one that I am going to explore further (although something tells me that is it precisely what I have already been exploring in practice with exercises to reset the nervous system). I will write more on this topic once I get further into reading about pandiculation.

Another interesting podcast that I heard also on ‘The Whole Horse’ was with Sarah Schlote of Equusoma. She has done multiple podcasts so I’ve linked the whole list. Sarah’s writings on her Equusoma website have guided me in the pursuit of understanding the nervous system as it applies to horses. She uses multiple frameworks such as Somatic Experiencing, Polyvagal Theory, and Attachment Theory to guide her practice. This article written by Sarah Schlote has been a springboard for me in exploring ideas about connection. “Connection Before Concepts: A Comparison of 3 Pressure-Release Methods”.

As both a rider and an instructor, I gradually developed an awareness about my anxiety being passed along to the horse. Now, if you say to a person that they are the cause of something it will likely invoke an instant defensive reaction. We, as humans, have a profound ability to not see when it challenges our sense of being good enough. However, if we can move past these feelings that are driven by shame, it will allow us to explore this window of knowlege into the nervous system for ourselves. Learning through the horse has a secondary benefit of developing more awareness of the use of our own energy, body language, and healing capacity of our nervous system.

Join me at Equifest this month (Oct 28th – 30th Taupo) to explore these topics along with a demonstration of some techniques for ‘Nourishing the Nervous System’. To get a head start you can also sign up for the online course that will delve into more explanation and techniques on kahucreeklearning.com.