It’s all about what’s in your heart and how you use it

Horses…I have loved them since I sat on one when I was four years old at the pony rides. Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love them. Not only because I always smell like one but also because of my desire and love for educating horses and riders. As long as I can remember, I have only wanted to read and study everything possible about horses. I also wanted to learn all I could and will always have a thirst for knowledge regarding horses. Teaching a horse to be balanced, supple, and straight is so rewarding.  It’s about creating an athlete and also a happier, healthier and safer partnership. A well balanced, supple horse is a comfortable horse. Horses will seek comfort in everything they do, or they will seek to protect themselves from pain. Most behavior problems are created from a source of pain. I love using principles of Dressage as well as Ttouch combined with Science of motion methods. Applying these methods to any discipline is a sure path to re educating horses that have been deemed dangerous, lame, unrideable. Some horses do have deep rooted emotional issues they sometimes just can’t let go of and will never feel completely trusting of their surroundings. I compare it to abusive relationships humans endure and can never truly let go and trust completely, always hanging on to that defense mechanism in one way or another.

It is important to have a mentor or role model that you can look up to or desire to follow in their footsteps. My daughter and I had the privilege of auditing a RMDS symposium with Steffen Peters. Watching him teach and then getting to see him ride so many horses so brilliantly really brought my passion for the art of Dressage back. Although I was still using Dressage methods in all my training, I had honestly lost my passion when I attended clinics and shows where the riders only cared about forcing the horses head  in a position. It was such a turn off to the sport I had admired my entire life. Steffen is so quiet and humble but can instruct as well as ride.  ” see everything as a training opportunity ” is what he suggests when the horse misbehaves or makes a mistake. That one really stuck for me as I sometimes tend to view faults as a huge disaster. Hearing him say that in my mind really helps to develop patience if horses are acting out. Schooling horses in gymnastic movements is one of my favorite things to do. Each training session is rewarding as the horse becomes lighter, balanced, stronger and therefore when done correctly, happier.

Of course then there is my idol, my wish I was as gifted as you…Carl Hester. I am beyond obsessed with studying everything I can get my hands on about Carl. Charlotte too as I read Valegros story ( written by Carl ) 🙂 in one day. I sometimes feel like a kid again as I pretend to be Charlotte when I am riding. It really makes me want to try harder when I think of any of my role models when I am schooling my horses. It is so important as it keeps us sharp to what we are trying to attain.

Dressage is all about preparing and creating an athlete. Whether it is for competition, trail riding, or just backyard fun it is a complex form of creating a quiet but special bond between horse and rider. When you have to school a horse with such focus from horse and rider, it can’t become anything but a beautiful relationship. The horse is such a magnificent creature and I thank God for the profound love I have for them.

” Life’s most urgent question is : what are you doing for others?

—-Martin Luther King

Title quote from Jeannette Baldwin—

20171028_152611

Tucker daydreaming he is a champion

20170523_135329

The incredible focus between Steffen and a students  horse

Great day learning from and meeting Steffen Peters!!

Great day learning from and meeting Steffen Peters!!

 

 

Advertisements

The horses mind

The horses mind is a place of very protective instincts. They learn at a young age what is good and relaxing and what creates pain. This is why many trainers believe in a gabe pic “response ” type stimulation. This is where the horse responds and the trainer relaxes all aids as a reward. This is an awesome portion of training a horse. I say portion because it only trains the mind to respond. To truly bring out a horses full potential, we must also train them the proper coordination of the muscles. This means balance, lightness, self carriage, etc. all come from proper muscle coordination. When riders accept their horse without proper flexion, bending, cadence, etc. because they are too focused on a ” response ” they miss out on creating an ideal partnership as well as creating a functional athlete.

Response is what we need at the beginning but we eventually have to paint a bigger picture. Horses, like humans, have very strong central pattern generators. This means that they can become very set in their ways of movement, believing they are protecting themselves from pain. Their minds become very set in believing they need to protect themselves from danger. A well educated trainer will work with the horses mind and body to create an ideal trusting partnership. I love re- educating horses. The only way to successfully “fix” lameness or behavioral problems is to focus on changing the horses muscle memory which creates a more relaxed mind. The horses use muscle compensation to protect an area causing pain. Some horses are tolerant of pain created by saddle fitting issues, forced positions, unbalanced riders…other horses are not. The tolerant ones are the ones that will ignore and obey until their physical pain begins to corrupt the sanity of their mind.

I had never quite understood or maybe had never quite studied central pattern generators until I came across one horse in particular. The owners of this Quarter horse had tried everything to fix their bucking horse.  He bucked when saddled ,longed or ridden. They sought help from several vets, trainers, as well as farriers. One vet said his wither was broken, another opinion revealed navicular and ulcers from tight fitting shoes. A final opinion was done at the University where they performed a full body nuclear scan. They determined none of the previous diagnosis were correct. They found three areas of concern in his sacroiliac joint and neck areas. These areas were injected with silicon. As time passed, the horse was losing hair, developing rashes, and showing worse signs of stressful and violent behavior.  I came to see the gelding, it was perfect timing to use my science of motion therapy I had begun studying. He was thin but had tons of free choice hay. He pinned his ears at me when I tried to approached him, he would not let me touch him and then started to bite at his hind legs in anger. It was very odd behavior from the start. His owner loved him and wanted to do whatever possible. No one could explain why the horse behaved so aggressively.  His spine was inverted so badly from muscle compensation ( one side built up higher ) that you felt as though the saddle was slipping left. The owners agreed to let me take him to a facility where I could put him on a strict exercise program of six days per week.  I addressed the muscle memory by using sophisticated movements of Dressage at the walk, then trot, followed by canter work. Focusing on straightness, balance, cadence, correct bending of the spine, and eventually a slight flexion of the poll. The neck cannot be forced in a position, this is how the SI joint became dysfunctional.

The owner would come to ride and no one could believe it was the same horse. He had been in consistent training for two months and the owner was ready to get him home. I was to come once or twice per week to check in, the owner was able to continue the exercises on a consistent schedule. This was when the old behavior quickly returned. Emotionally the horse could not change what he thought was a place that created pain. The owners could not take any more time, money or risk to help this horse overcome and change his mind. They did not realize the training methods they were using on this particular horse was creating physical abnormality.  He ended up at a great home where he does not have the pain association with his surroundings. Horses become very set in their minds. We need to carefully train them both mentally and physically. Understand that whatever we may put on their mind, they may not be willing to let go. ” Only a partnership offering ease and comfort to the horse can encourage their brain to further coordinate their body” – Jean Luc Cornilles words. Please pay careful attention to what is being taught to your horse. Training horses without a sound understanding of how their bodies function is ignorant.

” You don’t make him learn. You set it up to allow him to learn. You have to give him that with dignity.  Once you start giving, you won’t believe how much you get back ” -Ray Hunt

 

 

Proof of therapy using motion 2

This is a half Andalusian half Pinto 14 year gelding. He is used as a trail horse but has a hard time relaxing and just walking. Obviously this becomes obnoxious when trying to ride out with others and can get them all worked up. I have graduated from the Science of Motion course and apply this miracle method to the re education of all horses I train. Some may watch him being schooled and say it is because he is ” locked in the shoulders”  This is a good theory as it is what is seen by the naked eye. ” He needs to be ridden very forward pushed up to the bit” This is a theory that fit’s the language of modern Dressage training. Unfortunately, this is the type of simplistic methods that have created damaging effects on this horses behavior, physique, and eventually soundness. You must look at the biomechanics of this horses movement. It is much much more complex than the simplicity approach of modern training methods. This gelding in particular has learned to contract his back muscles making it impossible for longitudinal flexion of the thoracolumbar spine. His physique is that of a rectangle. He holds his neck in a very high position. The contraction of the back muscles has led to a lateral movement in his gaits. This in turn makes it impossible for him to walk for any long amount of time.                        “Prancing” is a much more comfortable gait for him since his mind cannot retrain the muscles to stop contracting as a defense mechanism for pain or even imbalance. The back needs to be addressed first and foremost. He is a bit like steering an airplane, there is no bend through the body, left or right. Transversal rotation of the spine needs to be educated beginning with a simple shoulder fore. The crossing of the hind leg under and in front of other hind leg at a slow concentrated walk tilts the spine to the inside recreating the muscle memory in the back. This begins to re generate correct muscle movement under the weight of a rider. It is important to also begin teaching straightness as well as flexion of the poll. Introducing and continuing sophisticated gymnastic movements will create the lift and bend needed to ” let go ” of this muscle memory he has created in order to protect himself from training techniques that had damaging effects on his mind and body.

Attempting half halts on a horse with these kinds of problems is difficult. I place pressure on the bit and instead of slowing and re balancing, he pushes on the bit, contracting his back, rushing himself forward. It is important to begin to communicate a dialogue with him. Instead of believing he is ” dead to the aids ” I will teach him the significance of my body nuances ( a subtle difference in feeling, position or muscle ) to ask him to change his as well. It is so rewarding to teach a horse communication through nuances instead of strong aids. The horse becomes so free from the mental shutdown of submission. This creates a communication between horse and rider of balance, lightness, unity and just plain truth. ” Gesture versus Energy ”

” There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse “

Screenshot_2017-03-31-17-56-16-1

start of re education, head high back contracted

Screenshot_2017-03-31-17-54-13-1

poll flexion

Screenshot_2017-03-31-17-48-03-1

start of shoulder fore at walk

Screenshot_2017-03-31-17-50-40-1

lightness, balance, start of longitudinal flexion

Screenshot_2017-03-31-17-57-39

relaxed walk on long rein. looking more like a comfortable trail horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proof of therapy using motion 1

This is an eighteen year old mare who was receiving injections in the hock and stifle. She has had many different training methods in her past including jumping, barrel racing, natural horsemanship, dressage, and trail riding. She had developed a huge muscle under her neck, and became absolutely lame in the right hind. Her behavior was becoming dangerous as she was unwilling to go forward, and would bolt sideways even if there was an embankment to slide down. The theory of getting her nose down to build her topline was not working. In fact, it seemed to be making not only the muscle worse but her behavior as well. If I had not had the opportunity to become educated with biomechanics of the horse, I would have continued this mare on heavy pharmaceuticals while believing she was misbehaving and perhaps should be retired.  The mare had been rushed forward with nose forced down. This created abnormal limb kinematics, to the point of not knowing how her own leg movement functioned. It also created an inverted rotation of her spine. It was impossible for her to bend right, this caused her to contract and stiffen her back to protect her vertebral column. Her mind and body had to become ” shut down ” as a defense mechanism protecting her from the pain any movement under a rider might cause. This constant abnormal movement is going to have an effect on the hocks and stifles. Re education of the vertebral column using therapy with motion has corrected her both physically and mentally. This means slowing and collecting the mare during very sophisticated movements, helping to develop correct muscles and physique by preparing horses mind and body for the demand of the work. This is not an easy fix for horse or trainer. These are muscles that need to be re programmed to help the horse achieve correct balance as well as lightness under the weight of a rider.  When horse and rider are in perfect balance spine to spine..this is where the dance of unity begins

” Why has elegance found so little following “-Edsger Dijkstra

 

Here are some before and after pictures of recreating her physique. She no longer receives injections or any pain medicine. She has a great time on trail rides, but still needs the reminders of balanced movement with schooling sessions.

20161003_141148

before correct therapy, notice large under neck muscle and tense muscles due to anxiety of being ridden

 

20170215_124555

content and relaxed being pain free

 

20170213_134109

after a great workout, notice the top line is stronger from poll to tail

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding the horse’s mind and body

When I am called to evaluate a horse’s behavior issues, I begin each call with questions of feed, health, and environment. Evaluating a horses diet is a huge part of a trainer’s job. If a horse is poorly fed and in poor condition, then a good quality hay along with added grain or supplements will be necessary. On the other hand, if a horse is acting out with high energy, neurotic behavior, just completely out of control, chances are, it is receiving way too much high protein feed. Horses store energy in their tendons, mind and muscle. This is a protective ability allowing them to run from predators long distance, without tiring. When a domesticated horse is given large amounts of grain or high protein supplements, then contained in small areas without much exercise, this is a recipe for disaster. It can create neurotic behavior that leads to vices such as cribbing, aggressiveness, just plain stress. Health is most important factor, questioning, is the horses teeth correctly floated? Sharp edges make it difficult for the horse to comfortably chew. Is the horse current on vaccinations and deworming? This is just a short overview of a four part series I will be writing. It is to include tack fitting, feet, and how the horses spine along with muscle compensation can create ” hidden ” pain that leads to behavior issues and then finally lameness issues. Listen to what your horse may be trying to show you. Stubborn and lazy is not in his vocabulary, there is always a reason he is misbehaving.