Pilates has been a mainstream exercise routine for decades and has some serious celeb devotees like Gwenyth Paltrow. Developed in the 20th century by Joseph Pilates, it is known to develop muscles and improve balance in humans. Now, there is equine Pilates, where practitioners work on horses using the same theories and technique.
Horse-Canada.com spoke with Tiffany Page of Pilates Mastery (pilatesmastery.org), who is based in Aiken, South Carolina. For over a decade Page was president of Serendipity Casting Inc., where she worked as a beauty and fashion casting director in New York City. Page returned to riding in her 30s when she bought Hefner Toscano, which she describes as “a magical 16.2h Dutch Warmblood who epitomizes pure love, beauty and joy.” The pair trained in dressage while in New York, but since moving to Aiken she says the two prefer to work at liberty.
Exactly how does a high-powered casting director end up working in South Carolina as an equine Pilates practitioner? “I always enjoyed Pilates until I got injured in a Pilates group-fitness class when I realized the Pilates Instructor was not properly certified,” Page explains. “So I earned my PMA (Pilates Instructor) Certification in 2017 and launched Pilates Mastery.”
Page says her work has serendipitously married casting, her love of horses, and Pilates. “From casting I understand what ‘real’ beauty is; from Pilates I appreciate how amazing the human body is, and from horses I can fully appreciate love, beauty and harmony. For me, the three are woven together perfectly.”
We asked Page to tell us more about Equine Pilates:
Horse Canada: What is Equine Pilates?
Tiffany Page: Much like Pilates for humans, Equine Pilates focuses on stretching and strengthening the body in a balanced manner focusing on correct skeletal alignment.
HC: How long have you been doing Equine Pilates and how did you train to do it?
TP: I earned my (human) Pilates certification from the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) in 2017. Equine Pilates was born in 2020 when I moved to Aiken, SC, and did my equine study with Dr. Regan Golob (Bio Energy Analysis Technique), Linda J. Harris (T.A.C.T.) and an exclusive apprenticeship with Sharon Wilsie (Horse Speak) where I also earned the title of Horse Speak Specialist, which created this perfect medley now known as Equine Pilates.
HC: What are the benefits of equine Pilates?
TP: Balance, balance, balance! Physical balance. Emotional balance. Chemical balance. Because structure controls function and imbalances create compensation(s), the alignment of the body and the physiology of the horse must be in harmony to work properly. A horse’s body will develop a compensation to handle any imbalance. Once the compensation is corrected, the underlying issue can be seen more clearly. Lameness can occur from a long list of imbalances.
My work is about a relationship, it’s not about training. It’s about getting the human to learn how to pay attention to the horse.
HC: How does Equine Pilates differ from other horse therapy (massage or carrot stretches) or exercises?
TP: Equine Pilates takes traditional equine bodywork and takes it to the next level, which is movement. While we start the first session(s) in the stall, equine Pilates progresses into movement outside the stall and eventually under saddle. But I want to be really clear: equine Pilates is not a training technique, it’s a traditional equine bodywork technique integrated with a high-level non-verbal communication practice to elevate the relationship between horse and rider via self-agency and clear communication.
My work is about a relationship, it’s not about training. It’s about getting the human to learn how to pay attention to the horse (not to dominate the horse with whips or spurs into paying attention to the human). When the human has earned the horse’s genuine attention that is when an authentic relationship forms. The dynamic shifts into something undeniable and totally enviable.
My ultimate goal is to have the owner as an active participant in our sessions. I hope to validate his or her instincts and help shift the owner from relying on the experts to trusting his or her own intuition. By teaching the owner how to start to pick up on the subtle cues the horse offers and also how to do equine Pilates exercise for homework a deeper relationship will develop between horse and owner. I promise.
HC: Can you give us an example of a horse you worked on and helped?
TP: Horses may experience more colic and lameness due to unending stresses. Through equine Pilates, I’m able to get horses out of the sympathetic nervous system [response] and into allostasis, the process by which the body responds to stressors in order to regain homeostasis. In this allostasis state, horses are able to rest, digest and repair.
Remember, horses are prey animals, and to paraphrase from Sharon Wilsie’s work, when their sympathetic nervous system kicks in, it pumps adrenaline into the system and diverts blood away from extremities or functions like digestion to prevent blood loss in the event of injury and to divert all resources to the primary muscles for escape or engagement, that is fight or flight. By holding space for the horse to safely rest, relax, release, and ideally repair I’ve accomplished my biggest breakthroughs.
HC: How much does a session cost, and how many sessions do you recommend – or is it ongoing?
TP: Equine Pilates is beneficial for all horses. Because getting out of pain and staying out of pain is a process not an event, Equine Pilates sessions are ongoing. Each session is about 45-minutes and costs $100 (USD).