Pulsing for Equine Relaxation & Watching Body Language

How do we know that horses enjoy their Pulse sessions? It’s all in their body language! Signs of equine relaxation and even signs of stress will help you make the experience enjoyable for them and anticipate any fight-or-flight responses.

Equine Relaxation

Relaxation starts in the horse’s brain. Their autonomic nervous system consists of a sympathetic nervous system, for fight-or-flight, and a parasympathetic nervous system, for rest-and-digest.

Horse’s Nervous System

The sympathetic nervous system increases their heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. It stimulates the sweat glands and also increases breathing rates and circulation to the skeletal muscle. In essence, it prepares the horse to either defend itself or run away from any threats.
The parasympathetic nervous system acts just the opposite. It slows the heart rate, increases salivation, allows urination, and increases circulation. This happens when the horse feels safe and relaxed.
Horses rely on both systems to function. The sympathetic nervous system keeps the horse safe, while the parasympathetic nervous system ensures the body does its crucial internal self-care while the horse is at rest.
If you’ve ever been around a horse that spooked at seemingly nothing, you have seen their sympathetic nervous nervous system in action! Most equestrians have learned to wait until the horse calms down before asking any more of the horse, regardless of the situation. Since horse’s can’t tell us verbally how they feel, body language is the best indicator of equine relaxation.

Stage of Relaxation

Cautious

Horses that are still on-alert will present with their ears forward, eyes wide with the whites slightly showing, and their head elevated. They might even be noticeably antsy in the cross-ties or not want to stand still.

Acceptance

At some point, the horse will move into an acceptance stage. Their ears may remain forward or alternate, one ear back or to the side, as they listen to their surroundings and you. Their head should start to lower, telling you while they aren’t fully relaxed, they are accepting the situation and yielding gracefully.

Relaxation

Finally, the horse will relax and drop their head. At this stage, the horse’s eyes should soften or look sleepy. You may notice the horse drops one of its hips and relaxes one back foot on its toe. Most horses who have reached this stage will eventually begin to fall asleep.
Other signs you will notice in this stage are licking, chewing, yawning, a droopy lower lip, and even salivating. These are all signs that the horse has fully relaxed and their parasympathetic nervous system is driving their responses.

Pulsing for Equine Relaxation

Intensity

Let the horse’s reactions inform the intensity you choose. Adjust your session plan to the size, needs, and overall health of the horse. And, as a general rule, don’t apply Pulse at a high intensity around recent injuries or where the horse may be sore.

Remember that, if you’re using two accessories at once on an Pulse XL Pro, EQ-X1, or X1, the machine splits the power between both accessories. This means you will need to increase the intensity to accommodate the split.

Starting the Session

Start With Your Body Language

First, present yourself with the body language you would like for the horse to mirror. Approach the horse with a soft tone of voice and conservative movements. This invites them to share in the relaxation with us.
Depending on the age, breed, and previous experiences, some horses will show you that they are relaxed more than others. Horses that are more guarded may be subtle in sharing their enjoyment, where other horses might be more expressive. It may take a few sessions for a new horse to get comfortable enough to show you a big, satisfying release.

Getting Started

Turn the dial up until you see a faint pulsing on the horse’s skin. You should start observing some signs of release like deep breaths, licking and chewing, and lowering of the head. If you turn up the dial too high, the horse may raise their head, widen their eyes, or become fidgety. Pay careful attention to these signals!
The horse may relax into the experience, allowing you to continue. However, the horse may stay in a heightened state of caution, letting you know they are not comfortable. If this happens, just turn the dial down until they are back to an acceptance or relaxed stage.

Maintaining Relaxation

As the session continues, the horse will move between the relaxed and acceptance stages. The horse may also revert to a cautious stage while evaluating whether they feel threatened.

One strategy can help you maintain the relaxed stage for longer. Turn the dial down prior to moving the loops to a new position or doubling the loops over an area. This will help you avoid surprising the horse with a higher intensity or a similar intensity on a sensitive area.

For a closer look at how Pulse can help your horse relax, watch the video below!
Scroll to Top