I lie on a leather couch, in the office of a relaxation therapist with an enormous black mustache. He teaches me to release unnecessary tension in my muscles on “command”.
I had read a book about relaxation therapy and thought: “Maybe I should try that to get rid of that problem with my jaw.” I sometimes clenched my jaw, unconsciously. I often only noticed that in the evening, because my teeth hurt then.
So I lie there and I think: “Pfff, what am I doing here..? As if I can ‘program’ myself to relax my muscles on cue. What a bad idea this is…”
After the session I get homework and I have to promise Mister Mustache that I will practice every day. “Because”, he says, “the more you practice this, the better it will work.”
I don’t feel like it, but still, do what I promised. Usually, when I’m already in bed at night, I suddenly realize: “Oops, I forgot to practice today… I’ll do it quickly now, before I fall asleep.”
Fast forward to today: I still use the technique and I now teach it to my students. I apply the technique when I need it in my daily life, but also when I work with my horses, on the ground, and in the saddle.
Because after a week or 2-3 practicing in my bed, I started experimenting with the technique. I had learned to sit or lie down when practicing, but then I taught myself this technique while walking in hand with my horse, during liberty training, groundwork, and riding.
And it turned out many horses react super sensitive to it!
Horses sense physical tensions, they also see how you move. They read your body like we read a book. Nothing escapes them. The more tension they notice in you, the more difficult it is for them to relax.
So the faster and the better you can release unnecessary and excess muscle tension, the faster and better your horse will also be able to do that. And the more muscle tension your horse can release, the better he will feel and the more beautiful he will move.
I have called this technique The Softness Response. Because in the way I practice and teach it, it’s no longer about “relaxation”, but about “softening”.
When you know how to use the Softness Response while working with your horse , you will communicate and ride more freely, loosely, and without unnecessary muscle tension.