Moving in the Direction of Ease

By Susan Smith


As “holding” translates to support, so do we hold our horses in bodywork – holding them both physically and energetically so that they find their own healing patterns. It is a language of touch that they understand innately as they use it with each other.

Many talk about “healing from within” when speaking of bodywork. The work I do with horses is Equine Ortho-Bionomy. Ortho-Bionomy is a non-force structurally based modality derived from osteopathy. Ortho-Bionomy accesses the central nervous system’s innate ability to self-correct. It addresses muscles and bones and also fluids, lymph, tissue, organs, emotional well being and learning differences, to name a few. Because the practitioner is listening and moving the body in the direction of ease, the body feels met rather than manipulated.

I began my study of Ortho-Bionomy after studying various equine massage and bodywork methods. I was an endurance rider and during that time, had had different practitioners work on my horses and myself, and I became fascinated with alternative therapies. I began with traditional Ortho-Bionomy, which, like most therapies, was designed for humans. From there I continued into Equine Ortho-Bionomy and Equine Positional Release (EPR).


Photo Credit. Catherine Sobredo Photography

My current practice includes horses and people. This dual practice is a perfect example of the sum being greater than the parts: Not only does working with one kind of client illuminate what can be done with the other; but also – since humans are the caretakers of horses – I have found that at times therapy for the horse can benefit from some form of therapy for the owner. Horses have so much to offer us: they still are wild in nature, and can show us what we may have lost touch with in ourselves.

The non-force “touch” or “holds” employed in Ortho-Bionomy are used for horses, although the work has been adapted for the equine and her body structure – lowering the head to graze, standing to sleep on four legs, etc.  As horses naturally travel in herds, they are accustomed to receiving healing from within the herd, and they know this language of the body – the self-corrective aspect of touch that allows them to help each other, to keep moving, to stay out of danger.

Movement is vital to horse health, and since most horses don’t live in herds today, we struggle with providing the best possible environment we can for our horses. Besides exercises such as riding and groundwork, we can bring movement into the body with Equine Ortho-Bionomy. This work helps them heal themselves. They are better at this than humans – they don’t analyze, they just accept what is true for their bodies. When shown the change horses can make on their own, people are amazed.  Horses know what they need.

The work I do has now expanded to include liberty coaching, based on the principles of Ortho-Bionomy, horse and rider integration, natural herd behavior and communication. Work done at liberty without any tack is a wonderful beginning for any horse, plus it is a relief for horses who have felt their relationships with humans as work-related only.


Photo Credit. Catherine Sobredo Photography

My goal is to bring healing and comfort to the horse by addressing her in her own language as much as possible, and to those who work with them, so there will be greater mutual understanding. Also, to empower horse owners to learn more about their horses, which will help them make better decisions about their equine health care.

Susan Smith is an advanced registered Ortho-Bionomy and Equine Ortho-Bionomy practitioner living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her Horses at Liberty Foundation Training™offers coaching in liberty training for horses and their humans, learning to build and work within the bond. Visit her website at www.orthohorse.infoor contact via email


New on the schedule for 2014:

February 8, OrthoHorse Tutorial — Arrowhead Ranch, Santa Fe, Susan Smith, Advanced Registered Practitioner Ortho-Bionomy 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. If this one fills up we may open an afternoon session.

February 28,  OrthoHorse Tutorial, Sound Horse Systems, DeLand, Florida.

March 1-2 Horses at Liberty Foundation Training Weekend Clinic, DeLand, Florida. Contact Anne Daimler, (386-822-4564) or myself for registration and information. Space is limited. OrthoHorse Tutorial also offered before the clinic: February 28. An afternoon Tutorial may be offered by popular demand.

April 5-6 Spirit Horse Ranch Liberty Foundations Clinic, Jones Oklahoma, Presented by trainers Ruella Yates and Susan Smith. Contact Ruella Yates, (405-771-4274) or myself for registration and information. Space is limited.