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

 

 

Colt Starting

 Just like people, all horses are different. Their personality, conformation, and willingness to accept an understanding or fight it all plays into the approach you will use with the colt. By using the term ” colt ” I am referring to a horse that is at least three and has had the proper handling leading up to ” starting them under saddle.”

     This blog will be about a young horse in particular. She is a 4 year old Bashkir Curly Breed. She has been taught to lead, tie, pick up feet, trailer, etc. By previous owner. The first lessons I give with the horse consists of confidence. I am not only speaking of the horses confidence in what I am doing , but also my confidence. I will not tiptoe around the young horse. I will confidently approach and she will learn not to tense up as she learns this is the start of trust. You can see a horse tense their body as a natural defense in a new situation. This is why petting all over ( allowing them to be unaware of where you are petting ) this is a method traced back to Linda Tellington Jones as a Ttouch approach. I can’t believe how many horses I have helped with her method, now to be able to combine a therapy using motion as well is even more rewarding! You can use a rope and saddle pad as well, known as ” sacking out the horse ” I don’t overdo the sacking out process at the beginning, I am trying to create a relaxed atmosphere, not a traumatized, afraid to move scenario. This step makes sure they process the information mentally as well as physically. Do not forget the defense mechanism of the horse ” shutting down ” they are ignoring , not absorbing if mouth is tense, eyes not soft and of course body tense. I have explained in other blogs, horse shuts down mentally becoming unaware of surroundings. It is the same survival technique humans use in domestic violence situations.

     This Mare had good handling experiences and was well taken care of which means she believes the intentions of human handling is positive and unharmful. I would rather work with an untouched colt than one that has been completely ruined. It is fun to see if you can train your own horse but not if you are uneducated with the methods you are trying to impose. Once the horse feels confused or the need to protect himself from these methods, you have created a monster of a mess and it’s hard to know what to do if you have not taken the time to properly educate yourself or the horse. There is no one recipe for training , they are all different and they decide when and how much they can absorb. Sometimes you can ride a young horse and then the next day you have to start over. This foundation is so important as they will always remember it and come back to it. If I am re educating a problem horse, I can always tell within a week if they had a solid start, then I know I can fix them easy. Keeping their minds sound while starting ensures a good relationship through their life. We want horses to know that their job is to take care of us when riding and We want the horse to know We will care and protect them as well.  Just as in any relationship, this builds trust and confidence. Sadly, some horses won’t let go of certain situations that caused them pain, even if it was unintentional. I will post a story next month of one horse in particular…

      What I have learned about these Bashkir Curly’s ( I had never even touched one! ) is they are easy to work with, friendly, and have a strong work ethic. You cannot wear them out, their endurance makes them fabulous athletes! This mare is a gorgeous mover and will be trained using Dressage Principles. Western, English, trail , Jumping – I believe she will excel at anything I teach her. Thanks to my great friend Kirsten for breeding such a fine horse mentally and physically. This mare will be available July- August 2017 to the right home only. Sorry for the distant photos 🙂

    I will share more info on Decarpentry methods later. I cannot post a colt starting blog without adding this Guy. Absolute love at first sight and again, a sound mind and body. He was also started with the Decarpentry in hand so no kicking and pulling to get him to turn and go. This has created a well balanced light horse who is already practicing the sophisticated excercises of Dressage. Go Tucker! 1/2 Andalusian 1/2 Quarter Horse ( Azteca )14196103_10207125981136055_4061261659132692463_o

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 “

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start of re education, head high back contracted

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poll flexion

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start of shoulder fore at walk

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lightness, balance, start of longitudinal flexion

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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.

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

 

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content and relaxed being pain free

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Evaluation of difficult behavior

I assess the horses overall health, well – being , and their physique. Incorrect muscling is a good start to knowing the horse is moving abnormally. Evaluating a horse for physical and behavioral problems takes not only skill, knowledge, and experience, but also empathy and an owners’s willingness to think outside the ” box ”

Understanding the horses physiology and learning to promote functional anatomy is the first step in re- educating your horse. There are no set ” rules ” that you have to follow to have a successful relationship with your horse. You do need to understand how to properly coordinate your horses mind and body for it to become a happy functional athlete or partner. If your desire is to learn from someone that only has ribbons and awards to prove their knowledge, you are staying in the ” box ”

Horse world has become a place of judgement, a place of overlooking what is actually causing your horses behavior or lameness issues. A place of religiously searching for that one method or trainer that can create the relationship you so desire with your horse, that light and balanced movement that seems absolutely unattainable. Horse owners need to stop and listen to any intuition they may have regarding the work they are doing with their horse. It’s important to include your veterinarian in these concerns if they are interfering with the well being of your horse. There will slowly be behavior signs, warning of pain long before the actual lameness will show up, or horses behavior will escalate to dangerous. Forcing a horse in a position because we are told to or it will win us a ribbon is not a path to a successful relationship. Riders are spending so much of their quality time with their horse doing what they think the finished picture looks like, not understanding the damaging effects it places on the kinematics of the horses movement. It’s a discouraging path to take for horse and rider.

Leadership when resumed to submission is handicapping to horses mind as well as their spirit. The best leadership for the horse is knowledge. ( Jean Luc Cornille ) The same goes for the student of a trainer that is forced to believe they can never attain an understanding of the higher level of movements without an expensive big moving horse. Movement is always a benefactor in judging standards but attaining correct biomechanics for any discipline is the best reward you can get. The next few blogs will journal the before and after success stories of each horse using the knowledge I attained by completing the Science of Motion therapy class.

“The authority pleasing, question suppressing, rule following approach is wasting the athletic abilities of talented horses and gifted riders.”  –Well said, Jean Luc Cornille

 

 

 

Rehabilitation

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.