Your horse cannot relax its body if it cannot relax its mind

'Your horse cannot relax its body if it cannot relax its mind'
Today I went to see a horse I treated a couple of months back. I got talking to the owner and she said she must thank me for recommending Warwick Schiller's Attuned Horsemanship to her, she said the horse had completely changed since my last visit and starting some of the Warwick principles.
On my last visit the horse was super tense and anxious which was then reflecting in his posture. I suggested she looked at some of Warwick's videos to help her, help her horse.

Today he looked like a different horse, much calmer, improved posture and really relaxed down and into his treatment with some great releases, it made my heart happy. Yes, I'd like to take all the credit, but i know this was mainly down to the fact she had spent time showing him how to relax over the last 3 months so he was then able to let go a lot easier in my presence. She also said this had hugely influenced his ridden work and no longer lost the plot under saddle when something worried him.

I see so many horses in my line of work that are super anxious, spooky and living permanently in flight mode.

This isn't healthy.

It shuts down certain pathways in the horse, disrupts gut function, mentally exhausts them and most importantly to me as a vet physio, significantly alters posture.
When a horse is in flight mode he will brace through the underside of his neck, lower back & hamstrings (see image) This is a protective mechanism as this is where vital nerves and blood vessels are located and would be targeted in the wild.
However this is not a good thing in a ridden horse as it causes the spine to invert and these structures to potentially be compressed - this will increase the horses risk of injury dramatically.

Poor posture = dysfunctional horse = injury

By showing our horses how to bring themselves back down into a relaxed mindset we can hugely influence their body. Many of you will have seen me using certain techniques in my sessions to encourage this. It's pointless me trying to treat a horse that is tense, they are just completely blocking me out, physically and mentally.

However, this ultimately isnt my responsibility, it is something you should be doing as an owner, something that should be practiced regularly so that when they do become anxious, they know how to handle it.

There are so many resources out there these days to achieve this. I personally like the aforementioned Warwick Schiller, he has a fantastic library of free videos or a program you can sign up to so easily accessible for all. Please dont be put off by the cowboy hat, his work and principles of training are invaluable for anybody from a complete beginner to professionals, grand prix dressage horse to happy hacker.
Many of you will also know I am a huge advocate for the Balance through moment method which also works on developing a calm body and mind in the horse to achieve better posture.
There are also others out there, i just haven't had experience of any to recommend them.

We are also blessed with an array of natural horsemanship/ behaviourists locally who can also help you with this sort of thing.

Other things that can help horses mental state are making sure their species needs are met. This includes allowing them to move around naturally, giving them friends to engage with and forage.

So if your horse regularly looks like the horse in the picture and you really want to help your horse be the best he can be, and maximise the effects of their physio sessions, consider learning how to help him regulate his emotions