Alexander Technique is increasingly popular among sportsmen and women as a method to heighten awareness and to improve balance, co-ordination, breathing and reaction.

International three-day eventer Nick Burton came to me regarding his performance with The Soup Dragon (stable name, Soupy).

Soupy showed signs of excess tension, which hampered his performance, especially in the dressage phase.

On the initial visit, Soupy was walked around the yard to observe his walk and overall co-ordination, particularly the use of his head, neck and back.

Soupy demonstrated tension around the poll and jaw area, affecting activity in the hindquarters. Horses in general hold a great deal of tension in their faces and mouths.

By placing my hands on Soupy’s neck I can pick up information connected with overall co-ordination. This also encourages softening and widening of the muscles encompassing the shoulder girdle, which indirectly affects muscles leading to the poll.

During the treatment I look to see if there’s a change in his breathing. It’s beginning to get slower and a little deeper, illustrating the softening of the muscles surrounding the ribcage. Finally, I place my hands on the top of Soupy’s back and direct them away from one another, which helps to free the ribs.

Soupy gives another sigh as he lets go of his abdominal muscles. In doing so, his back becomes more rounded.

Nick reports that Soupy’s back felt more supple when he rode him the day after my visit.

Five days later, Soupy feels more connected through his back. I work in a similar way to the last visit but also include some work on the hind quarters, and notice Soupy contains a lot of tension in his tail.

I suggest to Nick’s head girl, Zanie, that she should massage the tail three or four times a week.

A week later I visit Soupy again and watch Nick schooling him. I also have a ride myself. From the saddle I can feel how Soupy’s neck gets tight, especially around the poll and jaw. This obviously affects his mouth and I can imagine the difficulties Nick encounters riding the cross-country phase.

Dealing with nerves

Unfortunately, Soupy can get rather worked up at competitions, so after a discussion with Nick, we decide to ask Terese Angwin – a successful homoeopath and horse healer – to help.Terese prescribed Arnica Im and Conium 30c and carried out some healing work with Soupy.

Two-and-a-half weeks after my third visit, Soupy seems to be more at ease and happier within himself. There is a different quality to his personality and Nick seems to think he is more amenable when being worked.

I use my hands on Soupy’s jaw and poll area.Next I work along his back – to his tail, hindquarters, pelvis, hips and hocks. I feel that there is an improved sense of “throughness” in his back, which will also have a knock-on affect on his mental stability.

Terese had also recommended that the natural stress beater Bach Flower Rescue Remedy (available from chemists and health shops) should be gently rubbed onto his gums three or four times a week and immediately before a dressage test.

Nick says: “Being in tune with your horseis about monitoring his mental and physical responses before they become problems. Sally’s work has helped with this and Soupy has benefited in his action and attitude.”