How Does Equine Hanna Somatics Work?

September 25, 2021

 &Want to get hands-on and help your horse? Equine Hanna Somatics® (EHS) is a science-based, reliable and safe approach to rapidly help horses gain the performance and well-being benefits all ‘bodywork’ methods promise, but can’t always deliver…

Equine Hanna Somatics quote from Alissa Mayer

Equine Hanna Somatics is an adaptation of Hanna Somatic Education®, the proven, natural and safe method of pain relief and sensory-motor training developed for people. Like humans, horses experience stress and develop chronically contracted muscles that restrict movement and cause discomfort.

Over time, these chronic, low-level muscle contractions, which can also be described as “tension” or “tight muscles,” become incorporated into the horse’s habitual posture. This is known as Motor Sensory Amnesia (or MSA—more on this later).

Once this happens, performance and comfort are reduced, and the new postural patterns are difficult to change, even with gymnastic training, in-hand ‘straightness’ training, or even most bodywork or manual manipulation techniques. Instead, EHS goes straight to the root cause of the tension – the horses brain – to unwind the distorted habitual posture and free up the horses natural conformation.

What happens in a session with an Equine Hanna Somatics Practitioner (EHSE)?

The role of EHS is to help a horse recognize inefficient and unconscious muscle contractions so he can regain conscious control over his own muscles and, therefore, also regain access to his full range of motion, comfort, strength and endurance….

We do this by guiding the horse through a customized series of Somatic Movements to invite the horse to Voluntarily Pandiculate various muscles and muscle groups. When horses pandiculate, the motor-cortex of the horses brain will reset the resting muscle tone of the muscles involved. When this happens, we are both reversing and preventing Motor Sensory Amnesia! Just by doing the Initial Pick-up movement (click here to try it), a horse will reset and relax tension in more than 30 muscles!

What is Motor Sensory Amnesia (MSA)?

As both the body and the brain adapt to stress or repetitive motion as a survival mechanism, these adaptations become integrated into the brain’s autopilot system. Once the adaptations become habituated (aka on autopilot, or in ‘muscle memory’), the horse maintains the new posture, effectively forgetting what it felt and moved like before. This is Motor Sensory Amnesia.

A horse may show adaptations like:

  • Chronic Stiffness or Bracing
  • Crookedness, Asymmetry or apparent ‘Muscle Atrophy’
  • Changes in Posture or Way of Going
  • Having a ‘Good’ Side and a ‘Bad’ Side (or direction)
  • Lumps, Bumps or ‘Weird Conformation’
  • Short-Striding or an Uneven Stride

And have symptoms like:

  • Pain, Soreness or ‘Shifting Leg Lameness’
  • Loss of Range-of-Motion (ROM)
  • Weakness, Fatigue or Low Energy
  • Poor Attitude, Disconnected or Aloof
  • Negative or Stereotypical Behaviors
  • Loss of Peak Performance
  • other Symptoms of ‘Aging’

Although MSA cannot be cured by drugs, treatment or surgery, it CAN be controlled consciously after the relearning process facilitated during an Equine Hanna Somatics session.

Said another way, EHS can both reverse existing MSA, and prevent future Motor Sensory Amnesia too!

Is Equine Hanna Somatics (EHS) Equine Bodywork?

Not exactly… EHS is different from every other method of Equine Bodywork or Alternative Modality. Instead of doing something to the horse’s body with our hands, tools, or even our ‘energy,’ with EHS we are asking the horse to do all the work of moving their own body, following our guidance. In this way, EHS is more ‘brain-work’ than bodywork, because the horse is using his or her own brain to make the changes to the body.

Technically, EHS is closer to training than to bodywork, because it is a learning process that the horse participates in. That’s why we call it Education.

This is why the wonderful changes that we see happen during and after each EHS session last for so long – even months or years after the session! The benefits of EHS do not wear off, because they are not a reaction to outside forces, but are changes made from within the horse’s central nervous system. Neat, right?


The BENEFITS of Equine Hanna Somatics

  • Performance and athletic enhancement
  • Improve soundness, comfort, and overall health and wellness
  • Increased range of motion, elasticity and length of stride
  • More flexibility, suppleness & straightness
  • Career extension and injury prevention
  • Enhanced endurance and recovery
  • Overall relaxation and well-being
  • Increased willingness and improved attitude or work ethic
  • Increased bonding with the handler/rider


EHS is Proven, Natural, Science-based and Safe. Ready for more?

Find a Certified EHS Practitioner

There are Certified Equine Hanna Somatics Educators (C.EHSE’s) and Student Practitioners (called EHS Educators Level 1/2/3) all over the US, in Canada, Germany, Belgium, the UK, Scotland, South Africa, and more…

Find a list of Certified Equine Hanna Somatics Educators and Practitioners in-training here.

Equine Hanna Somatics Practitioner Training at the Novato Institute

Want to become a Certified EHSE? There’s only one way to do it – by joining the Equine Hanna Somatics Professional Training Program run by Eleanor Criswell Hanna and Alissa Mayer. To learn more or apply to the certification program, click here.

If you live in an area too far away to work with an EHS Educator in person, you can still help your horse!

Equine Hanna Somatics – Session 1 (DIY Instructional Video COURSE by Eleanor Criswell Hanna & Alissa Mayer)

LEARN to do a complete basic EHS Session with your own horse from our easy to follow, step-by-step instructional video. This video was designed for YOU, the horse owner, rider, trainer or caretaker.

Get an introduction to the first of the 8 revolutionary EHS protocols! The session in this video course is safe for all ages and levels of training, and even for horses in rehab – after the vet has given permission for light exercise like hand-walking. To get started, purchase access today!

Alissa Mayer with two warmblood dressage horses

hey, i'm Alissa

Welcome to the only neuroscience-based horse & human training program that activates your FEEL, teaches how to use your Energy to communicate, and unlocks both your and your horse's bodies with Hanna Somatics, so you can both finally be free from the pain, crookedness, and tension that are keeping you from being in perfect harmony, without using any gadgets or woo-woo training techniques, and always offering the horse a choice.