I used to refer to horses that were misbehaved as fixing ” problem horses ” I absolutely love to help horses and their owners find a safe, trusting relationship. Now that I have furthered my education with a class named Science of Motion, I refer to this retraining as rehabilitation. Horses have the most amazing defense mechanisms which have helped them to evolve. Most horses will turn their emotions off, ” shutting down ” so they can deal with a circumstance that may be causing discomfort. Even something as simple as poor saddle fitting.This starts with one small problem but then the shutting down of emotions leads to wrong muscle movement which leads to compensation, etc etc. As most horse owners find out, purchasing that new saddle, did not fix the problem. Why? because once the horse begins to use muscles incorrectly causing abnormal movement to protect themselves from pain, they have created a muscle memory that they cannot delete by themselves. Massage and chiropractic are helpful to the horse until he walks away or is ridden again. The horses mind and muscle memory need to be re educated. The popular method’s of forcing the horse into a frame that rider’s believe is a shortcut to a ” supple, obedient ” horse is only a shortcut to lameness. More and more horse owner’s are feeling discouraged by the time they spend riding their horse, always seeming to be a job, not an enjoyment. It’s important to educate yourself as a rider, know the physique of the horse and how he needs to be properly prepared for the demands of Dressage movements, jumping, or even heading down the mountain with a western saddle. Empathy, not submission is the foundation for any relationship.
It makes me sad to see how rare it has become to teach a beginner rider or one that needs to overcome bad habits using the longe line. This is a method that can be used in all disciplines of riding. The purpose of teaching with longe line is so the rider can develop correct position in the saddle without having to control the horse or get in the way of correct use of his physique for the demand of the movements. Depending on the rider’s position or tenseness, different exercises are used to establish correct position and develop feel for the horses movement. Keeping our spinal alignment in coordination with our horses, allows them to use proper rotation for turns, lateral bending and longitudinal flexion. For instance, a rider who’s weight is being thrown to the outside, interrupts the correct muscle energy needed for the proper rotation of the spine. When an instructor is able to teach the student correct balance as a foundation, this in turn helps the rider to learn what a balanced horse feels like.
Horses are very sensitive but because of their amazing defense mechanisms, they are able to turn off pain or circumstances that interfere with their comfort. Allowing riders to learn without developing the proper seat, coordination, and balance, it becomes unfair to both horse and rider. It takes knowledge to prepare these horses for correct movement with the weight of a rider, no matter how large or small, it can be harmony or interference.
Horsemanship is a skill as well as an art. Both skill and art become faded when less and less riders are taught the coordination and preparation to correctly maneuver the horses body.
____A horse is a thing of such beauty……none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor.
-Zenophon, on horsemanship
Hi my name is Kristie Cotton. I would like to write a short introduction about myself before posting what I hope to be educational blogs. My mission is to promote knowledge of the horses mind and body, encouraging positive riding and handling experiences.
I was obsessed with horses for as long as I can remember. I was able to take my first riding lessons at the age of 9. I learned from a fabulous teacher that believed in keeping me on a longe line until I had complete balance at all three gaits. There was no paying for lessons, they were in trade for keeping the barn, tack and the Welsh pony I learned on absolutely immaculate. After begging every second of every day for a few years, I was given the gift of my own horse. She was a Morgan Arabian cross that was to become my greatest teacher at that time.
We explored every area of the forest in the Shadow/Black mountain areas of Conifer, Colorado. Back then, it was rare to find too many houses blocking trails and the roads were dirt. Almost everyone had a horse in their yard so it was great to ride with friends galloping and jumping over whatever we could find. Soon enough, my one horse wasn’t enough to fuel my passion. I began knocking on doors of horse owners in the neighborhood to inquire about riding their horses. I had noticed they were not being ridden and I dreamed of riding every horse that I saw. Of course this was a time when people were not in fear of liabilities due to injury. The few people that let me know their horses were too dangerous to ride, I begged to fix them. That was it, by the age of 14, I was enamored by each horses difficulty and how I could help them. In reality, I was learning from the best educators possible, the horses themselves.
At the age of 15, I began working with colts and yearlings. Teaching them to lead, pick up feet and stand tied. Arabian breeding farms were very popular in the 80’s. I was able to participate with very experienced ranch hands. Around this time, I also spent a short time at Aqueduct race track in New York with my Aunt. She was a groom at the time, soon to become a trainer. Time with her, I learned the importance of keeping an athlete healthy and fit. Establishing confidence in the overall care and handling of horses.
I started my own teaching and training business at the age of 24, I enjoyed teaching children from a local daycare using my own personal horse. She was a Thoroughbred Morgan cross. I also began focusing on what I loved to study, Dressage Principles. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from great instructors such as Kathryn Meistrell, Bridget Milnes, Kelly Boyd, and Dolly Hannon. Re- locating back to the Evergreen, Conifer area, I spent most of my career working at a private ranch teaching adults and children horsemanship skills. I was also responsible for keeping up to 14 horses trained and safe on the mountain trails.
I am currently furthering my education with the In hand therapy course offered by Jean Luc Cornille. It is an advanced knowledge of the horses physiology and biomechanics used to correct lameness and behavioral issues. I am now seeking to feed my passion of teaching and training by travelling to those in need of change in the relationship with their horse. I believe that solid foundations in horsemanship skills as well as educated training for the horse needs to be an important part of any horse lover’s journey. I now have two adult children as well as a pre-teen. Horses have been a huge part of their lives and I am thankful that they have experienced relation with such a powerful yet loving creature as the horse.