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When Breath Becomes the Bridge: The Unspoken Connection

On a rain-soaked Wednesday in Liverpool, the grey skies loomed as a reminder of the day's dreariness, yet the indoor school offered a sanctuary from the storm. The atmosphere buzzed with excitement over a recent breakthrough with another horse and rider, setting a high bar for the day. However, as Pearl, a beautiful chestnut mare, and her owner Emma entered, the room's energy shifted palpably. All eyes were drawn to them, and a sense of something amiss filled the air. Pearl's behaviour, marked by discomfort and resistance, couldn't be dismissed as "normal" despite attempts to normalise her distress. It was a scene of learned helplessness that I couldn't ignore.

As the saddle fitter began her assessment, moving carefully around Pearl, the mare's discomfort became painfully evident. Each approach towards her back, abdominals, or hindquarters was met with a clear display of distress. Pearl would pull faces, flatten her ears back, raise her head, swish her tail, and show the whites of her eyes—a textbook manifestation of pain and unease. This reaction was not just a momentary display; it was a window into her ongoing struggle, a vivid illustration of her discomfort that resonated deeply with me. The owners, accustomed to this behavior, seemed to anticipate Pearl's reactions, yet their habituation did nothing to alleviate the underlying issue. It was a cycle of acceptance and frustration, a dance of discomfort that had become their norm.

Observing Pearl under the saddle fitter's watchful eye, a critical detail caught my attention: the mare's movement—or rather, the lack thereof—spoke volumes. Both Pearl and Emma were breathing in shallow, hurried breaths, a mirror of their inner turmoil. This restricted breathing pattern was reflected in Pearl's movement, particularly through her ribcage, which showed very limited expansion and contraction. It was as if her body was locked in a state of tension, her coat dull and lacklustre, eyes reflecting a deep-seated sadness.

Under veterinary guidance, their exercise regimen had been limited to 15 minutes of walking under saddle, followed by a five-minute trot in a straight line. Yet, as I watched them move together, it became evident that Pearl was trapped in what I could only describe as being stuck in third gear. Her stride was constrained, unable to extend or flow naturally. It was akin to watching a being confined within an invisible box, her movements restricted, unable to break free from an unseen barrier. This lack of mobility was not just abnormal; it was a clear sign of discomfort and maladaptation. Pearl had adopted a way of moving that shielded her from pain but at the cost of her natural grace and fluidity.

The connection between Pearl and Emma was evident, yet so was their shared pain and frustration. Emma's love for Pearl was undeniable, placing her mare above all else, a sentiment echoed with a hint of jest that belied a deeper truth. Pearl, in turn, seemed to mirror her owner's emotions, a reflection of chronic sadness and habituated behaviour. Compelled by an instinctive pull, I stepped into the arena, drawn not just to assist the horse but to initiate healing through the owner.

The transformation that unfolded was nothing short of miraculous.

Pearl's once rigid back began to sway with a fluidity that left everyone, especially Emma, in awe. For seven years, this sensation had been foreign to them both; now, it was a vivid, palpable reality. The breakthrough was a testament to the power of connection and understanding, a moment of profound change witnessed by all present. Emma's emotional release was a poignant climax to our session. Guided to trust Pearl's direction within the arena, they moved with a newfound harmony, eventually halting in the very spot they had started. Overcome with emotion, Emma wept, a physical manifestation of years of frustration and hope. Pearl's response, turning to touch Emma's leg and then releasing a deep, soulful breath, was a moment of mutual recognition and release. It was a silent acknowledgment of their journey and the healing that had just begun.

The aftercare I prescribed was simple yet profound: have fun.

This concept seemed foreign to Emma, accustomed as she was to structure and goals. I encouraged her to let go, to enter the arena without expectations and simply be with Pearl. Together, they were to explore the space, breathe deeply, and ask nothing of each other. Additionally, I introduced Emma and her partner to a fascial release technique aimed at supporting Pearl's ribcage, gut, and back health. This approach wasn't just about physical healing but about nurturing their bond, allowing space for play, exploration, and mutual recovery. This experience was a powerful reminder of the healing potential of empathy, connection, and the willingness to listen deeply, not only to the animals we care for but to the people who love them. It underscored the magic that can happen when we trust our instincts, respond to the needs before us, and remember that sometimes, the best medicine is simply to breathe and be present with each other.

If you're interested in exploring the breathing technique that played a pivotal role in Emma and Pearl's journey towards healing and connection, please email me with the subject "Breathing Guide" to This guide is designed to help you and your horse find a deeper sense of calm, connection, and mutual understanding through the power of focused, intentional breathing.

For those curious about integrating this philosophy of fun into your time with your horse, enhancing the bond and well-being of both, reach out with the subject "Fun Guide" to This aftercare guide is filled with ideas and activities designed to inject joy, playfulness, and relaxation into your interactions, fostering a deeper, more joyful connection.

This story of transformation, healing, and the power of presence is just the beginning. By embracing these practices, we open the door to a world of deeper connection, understanding, and healing, not just for our equine partners, but for ourselves as well.

Thanks for reading.

Nika x

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