Part of my ongoing “work” as a horseperson involves increasing my knowledge base on really understanding more about my horse’s body and how it is that the work that we do together can assist them in feeling a greater sense of wellness inside the edges of their skin.
Both Dee and Merc have asymmetry patterns that present, even if the specifics of their manifestations are slightly different.
For Dee, the imbalance is most obvious behind. He’s weaker on his right hind, and so much of our work is looking at stabilizing the pelvis before we move onto doing any work that requires more strength and precision.
For Merc, he has more of an oppositional asymmetry; the left shoulder, right hind rest and work differently to right shoulder, left hind.
I’m loving understanding and learning more about the exercises I can do to assist them in bringing their body into balance so when I add the complication of me on their back, I am not a burden. What becomes important from this point forward is marrying together what is presenting on the outer tube of the body (the outer tube being everything that we can touch with our hands) with the understandings I have of the nervous system and how that governs where and how the body is sitting at any one moment in time.
From the perspective of the nervous system, asymmetry in the body is a flight pattern, or a pattern of dissociation. In both horses and humans who are adaptable (whose nervous system is changing to meet the moment) you can notice the flight pattern changing. One person I worked with (they were 16 years old) I noticed their structure change to orient at one point towards the exit, and at another away from their mother; both were in different directions.
As soon as we restrict a horse’s natural movement with a halter or something similar, we naturally limit their ability to respond. If flight is there reflex of choice but this is physically unavailable to them, this is when you start to see the mental dissociation; I can’t flee physically so I will flee mentally, they say to themselves.
We may not apply a halter to a human but many of us feel similar restrictions, depending on our circumstances, and employ the same methods. We check out, distract, lose focus and concentrations. Being anywhere other than where you are now mentally is a flight pattern.
From a structural perspective, the organs shift to one side to support the external body moving in a similar direction. You’ll notice one shoulder blade sits closer in towards the spine, and one closer towards the outside of the body.
One foot will also be the loading foot (matching the side where the shoulder blade is closest to the spine) and the other will be oriented towards the path of “escape” (matching the orientation of the other shoulder blade).
My “job” then as a trainer of both humans and horses is to recognize how the outer structure of the body is presenting but to understanding the neurological template that’s motivating this. Yes, I have physically asymmetry but if I dig deeper, what is happening at a nervous system level that is causing the brain to choose that position for the body in the first place?
And how can I assist it in making a different choice, in creating a different set of circumstances for it to respond to?
All ongoing and ever-present questions.