Knee & Hock Rub –This stimulates many important acupoints, helps blood and body fluid circulation.


5 Quality Minutes with Your Horse
Van Harding,

Building trust and deepening your connection is achieved through all body work, yet the head and face contact between the human and the horse challenges the relationship because all animals (even humans) feel vulnerable with head contact. This vulnerability is from our innate need to protect our sensory organs – eyes, ears, smell, taste and touch. Therefore, if you do everything in SUPER slow motion with VERY gentle touch you can overcome the defense mechanisms of the horse. The more they surrender to your kind touch, the more you deepen trust, and the more you can expand the relationship, the more you can increase their willingness to try more new things in training.

Trust is everything. Equally, you can increase their defenses if you are not mindful of your handling of the head and face and subsequently activate their defenses. Each time you can recognize an expression of pain, discomfort or distrust from facial expressions, the eyes or their body movements and are able to quickly move out/stop contact that is evoking pain or discomfort, the more quickly they can trust that you. They will see that you understand and can recognize their discomfort and are respectful towards it…that you stop doing things causative.  Moreso, if you can apply some relief to discomfort, then they will really want to be in conversation with you – listen to you in training.

The key to success with any of these body work techniques is to:

  1. Take 3 deep breaths and relax yourself.
  2. Let go of any concerns you have and let go of feeling rushed.
  3. No talking with anyone and be where it’s quiet without distractions.
  4. Turn off the cell phones, radios, iPods, Walkman, etc. Some horse like to listen to your singing or whistling, not the radio.
  5. Move very slowly, touch as though you are working with an infant.
  6. You know you are having a positive effect when they have soft eye, closed eyes, head lowering, sighs and/or licking & chewing.

Tail Pull – This helps the back, shoulder and neck muscles relax, and fascia tissue headache relief.  Allow them plenty of slack in the lead line to be able to lower their head.

Withers Rock – This helps relax the shoulder, neck and back muscles (in the withers area). Sometimes you can achieve a ‘chiropractic adjustment’ in these vertebrae if your horse is well relaxed.

5 Quality Minutes with Your Horse
Van Harding,

Head Massage “FREE TLC” - Face Rub: Eye Ear Tongue Lips Cheek

I could write 2 books about the benefits to head massage – one on the human and horse relationship/communication and the other book on the physiological benefits to tissues from athletic training and work. Here’s a mini-massage session –

  1. The horse’s head has many bony bumps and therefore you need to be very gentle with contact, so use bare hands or a folded wash cloth. The wash cloth provides extra padding and glides easily across their hair. If you wear gloves (in cold weather), use the wash cloth.
  2. The cheek (jaw area) has the thick chewing muscles that hold the jaw position to work with the bit, so stroke starting below the eye and follow the hair pattern.
  3. The tongue holds the bit and gets a big workout responding to the bit. The tongue can be accessed by placing your hand on the underside of the head between the jawbones. Start where the head and neck connect, stroke following the hair pattern to the lower lip.
  4. Lips (muzzle – nostrils) are highly sensitive touch sensors buried in muscles that help hold the bit in position. Again, follow the hair patterns and squeeze the thick, knobby muscle area on the underside of the lower lips. As well, many like having the nostrils lightly massage at the edges of the cartilage that hold the nostril in the open position…just gently squeeze and search for ‘solid feeling’ structure buried in outer segments of the soft nostril tissue and where the nostril meets the midline.
  5. The forehead (temporal muscles) starts between the eyes and connects to the poll and base of the ears. Stroke following the hair pattern.
  6. The ears have 100 or more acupoints. Cup the ear in your hands and fold the ear closed then slide your hand up-ward. At the tip of the ear is a great Acupoint of calming and colic relief. TRUST is your big issue because the ears are highly sensitive and many horses have ‘eared-down’ causing severe pain. “Eared-down” is a restraint technique used to control horses – grab the sensitive ear and the horse will stand still. It does work as a restraint, but it does cause mistrust. Many head-shy horses have been eared-down.
  7. Above the eye there is a deep depression. Most people don’t touch this area because it seems so vulnerable as though you might touch the backside of the eyeball. It is vulnerable, but there are many acupoints and eye muscles that provide relief of discomfort when gently touched. Some horses prefer the thick padding of the wash cloth in this area and others prefer the pads of your fingertips.

The FREE TLC massage can easily become a 1-hour session as you explore the horse’s head. They love and crave physical contact. Modern horses that are kept in separate stalls and that do not have the ability to be stroked by another horse and subsequently are unable to stroke another horse, have lost their normal behavior activity of group social contact. Herd animals thrive when living in the group because they feel more secure from predators. So, buddy up with your horse and provide the tactile contact with the body that they would normally get when living in the group and reap the benefit of improved communication with your horse through the provision of loving touch.