Adapted from an article ("Better than Bodywork - An Introduction to Equine Hanna Somatics" Jan. 2018 Dressage Today Magazine) written by Alissa Mayer EHSE.
Equine Hanna Somatics® (EHS) is a natural method of mind–body integration for performance enhancement, pain relief, longevity and an increased sense of well-being for both horse and handler.
Based on your horse’s natural movements and thought patterns, EHS is a hands-on procedure for teaching horses, along with their riders and handlers, about voluntary and conscious control of their neuromuscular system. It’s gentle enough for every horse at any age or stage of athletic development and can be very complementary to the healing and rehabilitation process once your vet has decided that the horse is ready to begin gentle work post-injury or illness.
EHS is an adaptation of Hanna Somatics®, a proven, natural and safe method of pain relief and sensory-motor training for humans. Like humans, horses experience stress and develop chronically contracted muscles that restrict movement and cause discomfort. Over time, these chronic, low-level muscle contractions, which can also be described as “tension” or “tight muscles,” become incorporated into the horse’s habitual posture. This is known as Sensory Motor Amnesia (or SMA—more on this later). Once this happens, performance and comfort are reduced, and the new postural patterns are difficult to change with physical training or manipulation.
Eleanor Criswell Hanna, co-founder of the Novato Institute, co-creator of Hanna Somatics and creator of Equine Hanna Somatics, has applied the proven method of Hanna Somatics to the horse and discovered that it works just as well, if not better, on the equine body and mind.
Both the body and the brain adapt to stress as a survival mechanism and these adaptations can become integrated into the brain’s autopilot system. A horse may show adaptations like chronic stiffness, crookedness, weakness or fatigue, a short or uneven stride, a poor attitude, negative behaviors or loss of peak performance. Although SMA cannot be cured by drugs, treatment or surgery, it can be controlled consciously after the relearning process facilitated during an EHS session. The role of EHS is to help a horse recognize inefficient and unconscious muscle contractions so he can regain conscious control over his own muscles and, therefore, also regain access to his full range of motion, strength and endurance.
Horses find EHS very relaxing - making major changes in posture, attitude, performance that are both remarkable and long lasting!
After an EHS session, horses walk, trot, and canter more easily and their muscles move more fluidly. During subsequent riding sessions, they seem to respond more readily to rider requests. Riders report enhanced bonding with their horses.
"I love EHS because I’ve been able to get dramatic results with horses and humans using EHS. What a miracle to have a simple, drug-free method to relieve aches and pains and improve quality of life."
- Christi Rains, Parelli Natural Horsemanship, 4-Star Star Senior Instructor
"Can not believe the amazing results of the Equine Hanna Somatics!!!"
- Anne, Professional Dressage Trainer/Rider
“I found this method surprisingly effective and long lasting…remarkable results.”
- Susan Molton, university professor and horse owner