Where is our animal holding tension? How can we spot its origin?
There are endless possibilities and “cures” (some tension can come from pain and not simply habit or stiffness). It might be hard at times to spot by just observing. What if we experience it for ourselves? Maybe then we could feel where the tension is held in our own bodies?
I’ll explain. When I notice an animal is moving stiffly or is holding tension somewhere in their body, a horse for example, I attempt to mimic their movement. Not just for a few seconds, but for a good few minutes. Just like with us, tension comes after we move in a certain tense way for a longer amount of time. If we were tense for only a minute, we might not even feel it because we didn’t give it enough time to build in pain and stiffness.
So if I’m playing with, even riding, a horse I attempt to mimic them to the best of my ability. You could walk with them as they go about their business in their pasture – or in another relaxing environment. I would rather copy their more active movement. I trot, walk or even canter next to them: lifting my left foot with theirs (hind or front… doesn’t matter too much) and letting my right foot fall just as theirs does. After a while you will notice details: are the foot falls heavy or light? Most importantly: is the step of one “foot” shorter or longer than another one or are they all even? Then the rest of their body… how is the neck held? Copy the way they hold their back. Is it relaxed or flexed downwards? How are they breathing? If possible, try to get in sync with their breath!
There are many details! I find it so helpful to just mimic them and feel any tension for myself. I might find my neck aching after a few minutes. After giving my horse a neck massage they move much better! But what caused that neck pain? As I said: there are endless possibilities… hopefully this will help you find the solution to your animal’s tension!