Entrainment & Rhythm
Biological rhythms are a foundation of life. Whether it is our heart beat, breathing, walking or speaking, cadence in our world is based on rhythms. Our equine partners are no exception. Therapy horse essentials include a consistent gait rhythm, movement symmetry, and suppleness within gait transitions. Maintaining a consistent rhythm means that the horse’s inherent rhythm does not change through the walk, trot, and canter; and that the rhythm is maintained through a variety of movement figures such as circle, figure of eight, and serpentine. Suppleness is the horse’s ability to smoothly transition from one gait to another. Truth is, if properly matched up, equine and human rhythms are closely approximated. Horse and rider breathing and walking rhythms closely resemble those of their human- sized counterpart: the rhythms of ponies are comparable to small children with their intrinsic quicker breathing and gait rhythms.
In contrast, entrainment refers to the period of time for the horse and rider to match up movement and rhythms. These first few minutes are critical, as one assesses the other and become integrated. This period of time is quite disorganizing to the human brain, so it important to allow the rider this time to kinesthetically understand and process the equine’s movement and rhythm.
Trauma, illness, and developmental issues disrupt and negatively impact inherent bodily rhythms. As examples, cardio pulmonary disease can change the rate and efficiency of breathing, and oxygenation directly impacts a person’s talking, walking, and eating rhythms; this also decreases tissue health. As I like to say, “oxygenation is everything.” Equine-based activities or therapies can assist with facilitating some of those biological rhythms by providing gentle and graded cardio pulmonary activity.
The true “science” of equine therapies and activities is having an appreciative understanding of individual human and equine systems and their ability to “join up.” This knowledge includes a keen sense of biomechanical, neurological, and temperamental issues of both the horse and rider. Appropriately “matching” horse and rider maximizes safety and rider outcomes.
Next time, we’ll complete the picture with information on arousal.« Previous Entry | Next Entry »