Women attending the Missouri Equine Ladies Retreat are spending two days of the Mother’s Day weekend at the Coliseum on the Missouri State Fairgrounds learning horsemanship skills, gaiting and how to help their horse through massage techniques and muscle relaxation.
Caroline Hoffman, president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Association of Missouri and organizer of the event, said women from Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri were attending the retreat, which is in its 10th year.
“This is our second year here,” Hoffman said. “Normally we move it around, but we loved this location so much last year that I think we’re going to keep it here for a couple years.”
The event is the part of TWHAM and each woman brought her own Tennessee Walking horse to the retreat.
“It’s Mother’s Day weekend every year,” she added. “This year we’re focusing on showmanship, gaiting, horsemanship and we’re doing equine massage.”
In the 10:30 a.m. session Friday, Rhonda Martin, of Harrisonville, a certified equine sports massage therapist for 23 years, showed the women how to use grooming along with massage and other techniques to help their horses be their best and feel their best.
“What most people don’t understand is that any repetitive motion throughout our lifetime creates tissue shortening,” Martin said. “It creates restrictions and pain. So what I do is a number of techniques to release muscle shortening and spasms and adhesions from injury. To lengthen tissue, to restore length of motion, because they are athletes. We’re all subject to the rigors of our environment.
“One of my favorite analogies is if tissue gets shortened or overused enough we get a knot. Does it bother us all the time, no. And no matter how much time we take off, no matter how much time we give a horse off when we go back the knot is still there,” she added. “My analogy is this if you have a knot in a rope and you hang it on the wall for three months and you go back to get it, do you still have a knot?”
Martin said the knot has to be physically removed with the fingers and because it’s been there so long the muscle memory isn’t one that is pleasant.
“So you’re either training for great muscle memory or you’re training for a shortened muscle memory, which is not what we want,” she said. “So I help people understand that and I also do a lot of bio-mechanics. I help people ride and show them where they can help their horse in their riding instead of taking away.”
Martin likened a horse’s bone and muscle structure to that of a human’s except for having a collar bone and a gall bladder, telling the women that anywhere they hurt, their horse could hurt also.
“I’m going to be showing these ladies how to recognize issues in their horse and then a very simple myofascial release type technique, that can be done as a grooming routine,” Martin said. “Simply explaining how the muscles run on the body and how to change the connective tissue, a very simple approach but very effective.”
Martin, who also visits Fischer Stables in Sedalia from time to time, explained to the women how to recognized bowed tendons and tight muscles in their horses and how a horse can sense when they are stressed and upset. She taught them calm breathing techniques that would also benefit their horses as they ride
Also presenting at the event was Nicole Tolle, of Colorado Springs, Colo., a professional trainer and instructor and an international horse clinician.
“I do clinics everywhere, and in foreign countries,” she said. “I go to Germany, and I’ve done Australia and Canada.”
Tolle echoed Hoffman in stating that they will be back next year.
“We had this here last year and I said this is the most fabulous facility in Missouri that we’ve ever been in,” she said. “So lets keep it here and lets try and get the community around it. And so we came back this year and I love this place. We’ll be back next year. We like to put it on Mothers’s Day weekend because it’s for ladies in general, but it’s for mothers and daughters who like to come and ride together, sisters, family members or just friends. We congregate here and we enjoy horses and just interacting together.”
The event continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m and visitors are welcome Hoffman said; there is a $25 fee.