The Body Knows
Horses are remarkable self healers. They have been healing themselves long before anyone could say, "Call the vet!”.
If you provide the pathway for the body to engage in passive physio, this can help our horses maintain physical fitness, and overcome injury.
Make no mistake, I use the vet when needed too. What I am saying is though, our horses possess remarkable ability to heal themselves, but we need to facilitate it.
You might ask why.
Firstly, by nature our horses naturally hide discomfort or pain -- The weak one gets eaten by the lion so they hide it. It’s only later on in the safety of the resting herd that the horses can then practice passive physio.
In nature, passive physio and preventative muscle building is achieved through varying terrain, water crossings, and up hill, downhill movement, variable feeding, fighting, procreation and foraging.
Our domestic horses are often denied these basic, natural and everyday habits and in addition required to work in ill fitting gear, poor posture and pain.
Before long our domestic horses reach a stage of shut down, which is a protective mechanism.
We had a passive physio day at our 21 day clinic, and you can see how the horses chose to move, or rest in seemingly ‘uncomfortable’ positions.
The horses were not made to stay in these positions, they were offered to them, and allowed to move when they desired, often staying for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
The water is always a favourite, all that splashing is a wonderful range of motion for the thoracic sling, front legs, shoulders and stabilisers.
This is another form of consent, listening and observation.
For the Horse!
GingerCoops has come back into work.11 days in to the 21 day Course and every day for the week we come into the Roundpen -- initially to keep us both safe, and then because his newly trimmed feet appreciate the sand.
So every day we come in and firstly, I let him go and roll, he then comes over to me, and we start our session at liberty.
Yesterday he stayed down, and wanted to rest, so we rested, and then he lay flat for REM sleep.
What a gift to help him feel safe and supported to trust while 3 people watched over him sleep.
So I didn’t get to ride him that day, but I believe the investment in our relationship was far more beneficial than any ride could have been.
The young horse
Working with young (and when I say young I just mean uneducated) horses is a journey of self discovery in itself.
Our young horses due to their lack of experience are unable to ‘bridge the gap’ for us and therefore cause us to take ownership of everything that happens - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When our young horse gives us feedback like;
‘You’re not making it clear’
‘You’re too loud’
‘You’re scaring me’
‘I want to be somewhere else’
It can be confrontational to us, as it causes us to consider our conduct and our self.
Older horses learn to ‘figure out’ what it is that we are asking of them, and will show up to bridge the gap, even if we are loud, unclear or clumsy.
Young horses cause us to self reflect and adjust or change.
Young horses cause that moment of “it’s not you, it’s me”.
When we have this thought we generally react one of two ways;
Guilt--- ‘I knew it was my fault’ and subsequent negative thoughts ‘I’ll never be good enough’.
Rejection ‘it’s not my fault this stupid horse just doesn’t get it’ and subsequent affirmation of skill ‘I know what I’m doing’.
Humans tend to have this blanket exclusivity in the moment -- an issue presents and all of a sudden we are useless (or the horse is), instead of changing the dialogue to ‘usually I do this in this situation, but it’s not working for this horse -- what can I adjust’
Opportunities like these are how great horsemen are made.
Shine by @cen_horse
We picked GC up just before Christmas, took him home, Phil trimmed his feet, and we started him on @cen_horse
Day after New Years we took him to the location of the 21 day clinic we are currently teaching, and began.
I have done 1 short session per day, starting at the very start, rebuilding relationship and listening when he communicates.
He’s thin and sensitive skinned, which means he doesn’t like to be brushed, so we worked on that.
He has major association with the snaffle, so we are working on that.
Yesterday I introduced the saddle, and while he had some anxiety to begin with, he overcame it quite quickly, allowing me to proceed with the process.
The theme with Ginger Coops this time around is ‘Manyana’ meaning ‘tomorrow’ - a reminder that we don’t have to get it all done today, that we will have tomorrow.
Do I have to go through this all again for my safety? Probably not. I could probably just get on and go, but that would be all about me and not much about him.
He’s enjoying the space I offer for his communication, and that I am listening to his concerns, along with his comforts.
For the Horse
Chasing our dreams is something we can all probably relate to. We have all at some point in our lives wanted something, many things more likely, and depending on who we were at the time (child, teenager, young adult, adult etc) we may have set goals to achieve the dream, or simply had a ‘pie in the sky’ type of approach.
I was recently talking to someone about business, and when I asked them why they wanted to make a particular business move, they answered “I have always wanted”. My advice was to consider who the person was who “always wanted” and If that really, truly still was a dream of who you are now, or of the person you once were.
We see this so often with horses. As we get older and more able to have our ‘hearts desire’ when it comes to a horse, maybe our kids have grown up, maybe we are semi retired so have more time, or it may just be a simple case of now we are financially able to afford to buy the horse. Ill often ask someone why they have purchased a horse, and they will answer “he’s my dream horse”.
The problem is the dream was dreamt by a 20 year old, riding every day, uninjured, fit and healthy person who laughed when they occasionally fell off the horse. The person who ended up achieving the dream is a 50 plus, riding on the weekends, several injuries, not as fit as I could be person who, when they fall off (and they fall off a lot more easily these days!) At best has to take time off work and spend some days on the couch to recover, at worst has a significant and life changing injury.
It is vital that our dreams grow with us, and suit who we are today. You see the 20 year old and the 50+ are still the same person, and the real dream is to have fun with their horse, its just the 20 year olds idea of fun and the 50+ are two very different things!
This time of year is often a time of reflection, perhaps we need to reflect on our goals and dreams, and catch them up.
Food for thought,
Image by @equinox__images
Shine by @cen_horse
Lightness comes from the horses mind.
Lightness can’t be demanded, it can’t be coerced, it can’t be manipulated.
Lightness comes from the horses desire to be in partnership with you.
It comes from the horse not only understanding what you are asking, but having a great willingness to do what you are asking.
Lightness is the horse meeting you half way.
Lightness is the horse putting his body in a position of balance to do what you are asking - without you asking him to do it.
Much like a person always needing to be ‘asked’ to do things, A horse that needs to be asked or told where to be or how to be there, will only ever perform with the dullness of resentment, where a horse with desire shines in their movement.
A horse that becomes a true partner is light, willing, balanced.
Create an unstoppable desire and motivation in your horse
Image by @equinox__images
Shine by @cen_horse
Partnership by Boogie and Tk
Setting the bar
One of the lessons that Phil and I talk about in our clinics is setting the bar. And quite often we are referring to raising the bar. We often meet people who have been stuck or stagnant in their training with their horses, and need some motivation or inspiration to ‘level up’.
There can be many reasons for people being ‘stuck’
Lack of motivation -- With the recent ‘unprecedented’ *everything* (weather, pandemic, flooding,) many people have not been able to work with their horses, and when they finally can, they feel like ‘what’s the point?’ -- They feel they have fallen behind in their training, and they also feel that they could put the effort in, only to be stuck inside once again. This is a genuine concern, and all we can say is -- your horse will thank you for it. At the end of the day he needs mental and physical stimulation, so at the very least he needs interaction from you to live his best life.
Being Held back. Traveling around teaching we see many people with many different coaches. Unfortunately we often meet people who have told us ‘my coach told me I wasn’t ready’ . Whether that is 'ready' for a competition ( I was talking to a lady who was competing in a major competition and came second, who’s coach had told her she wasn’t ready! ), or waiting for permission to try a particular maneuver or skill with their horse. As coaches it is our job to guide and help you be successful, and remain safe, but we also need to encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone and stretch yourself and your horse.
Lack of imagination. Sometimes we get stuck on ‘how’ we can level up. Of course we may have specific things we are trying to work towards, like cantering on our horse, or heading out on the trail or to a show. We often forget that we can ‘level up’ within our current skill level. I recently tried to do some of the Cowboy Dressage Partnership on the Ground tests with Boogie. Of course I know she leads well, but to put that good leading to the test and complete a walk, jog test requiring her to be led from both sides, do turn on the haunches, complete transitions on the markers, and be accurate in 10 and 20 meter circles -- it really did put in perspective how ‘well’ our horses lead.
Fear. This is a biggie. Often our fear holds us back -- whether we are afraid of physical consequences, like injury or a fall, or we are afraid of ‘what people will think’ its important to work through our fear safely, and with good support. You can do it!
As we head into the end of what has been an eventful year for almost everyone we start to think of how we are going to set ourselves up for a strong finish to 2022, and a fantastic start to 2023.
So take this as your sign -- Take that leap, book that clinic, enter that show, book an outing with friends,
For the horse
Train with us :
30th Nov ,1st and 2nd December - Cowboy Essentials Dressage Clinic and Partnership Day on Friday - Glenreagh Rec grounds - Glenreagh
3rd & 4th Cowboy Dressage Show - Glenreagh Rec grounds, NSW
15th & 16th - SE QLD Boutique Clinic - Que Sera farm
21 & 22 Taree Boutique
The Magic Ratio
According to studies conducted by Dr Gottman & Robert Levenson in the 70’s and beyond, for human relationships there is a ‘magic ratio’ that can be applied to positive and negative interactions to predict success in the relationship.
That ratio is 5 : 1 - for every negative interaction, you need 5 positives to make up for it. (Remembering that not everything will be forgiven or forgotten)
I believe the same to be true of our horses, and, depending on the severity of the negative interaction - maybe more.
Despite many of us being interested and invested in reading our horses emotions, we may still struggle with what to do with that information once we have it.
Another factor is us understanding that it is the horses interpretation of the experience that counts - not ours!
We may wash a horse for example and not consider it to be a ‘negative experience’ but the horse does - so we then need to have 5 positives to make up for that negative - but those 5 positives need to be considered positive to the horse - not our idea of what is positive. For example we may think taking and putting the horse in beautiful grass pasture, or in a yard and giving him his favourite food a positive experience, but he may consider it negative because he is away from his friends (security).
Food for thought
Train with Us!
November - we are in Victoria, Australia
17 & 18 - Balance, Self Carriage and Transitions
19 & 20 - Obstacles for confidence and partnership
Merton Park Equine Mountain Trail Obstacle Course
Then we head to Black Horse Lodge to compete at the Cowboy Dressage - Come and say Hello!
Then we head back to Glenreagh, NSW for our Cowboy Dressage
clinic and gathering - November 30 - December 4th.
January - 21 day immersion clinic followed by 5 day kickstart!
I was lucky. When I learned about 'desensitisation' in horses, my mentor used to say, "Lets look at desensitisation. I don't really like to use that word, but I can't think of a better one. I don't like to call it desensitisation as we aren't desensitising them, I guess we are 'sensitising' the horses to realise they don't need to be afraid of things".
To me this is the greatest difference in the training ideas -- no matter what you call it -- flagging, bagging, desensitisation, exposure training - none of it matters. What matters is your approach to the training.
What really matters is your focus, and your idea of what is 'success'.
If your idea of success is that 'the horse stands still and lets you do it' then that is what you will be focussed on, and that is what your training session will centre around -- the horse standing still.
IF your focus is the horse understanding and building confidence, then you won't be so focussed on the standing still part. Although this could be used as an indicator that the horse isn't worried, you will be focussed on watching the horses body language -- his eyes, ears, his breathing, the softness or tension in his muscles, the way he carries himself. When you are focussed on the horse being confident and having courage, the rest of the 'stuff' will take care of itself.
This applies to all of our work on the ground, and with riding our horses. Our focus will dictate our approach, and our approach will dictate if the horse simply learns to shut down and cope, or if the horse actually develops courage and confidence.
You can clearly see in this photo that Boogie is watching, aware and engaged in what I am doing, but she is not frightened nor 'frozen' or just obediently standing because that's what she *has* to do . Instead, she is confident.
What are you focussed on?
Train with us
November 17 & 18 Balance, Self Carriage and Transitions
November 19 & 20 Obstacles for partnership and confidence
Merton Park Equine Mountain Trail Obstacle Course
Nov 30 - Dec 2 - Cowboy Dressage essentials Clinic
3 & 4 Cowboy Dressage Gathering and Show
Glenreagh Recreation Ground
Boutique Midweek Clinics Begin
Dec 7 & 8 - Bangalow
Dec 12 & 13 Coutts Crossing
Dec 14 & 15 Gold Coast
Dec 21 & 22 Taree
Photo Equinox Images
Health - CEN Horse Nutrition
Vest TukTuk Clothing
WildRag Buckaroo Bunkhouse
Rope Mountain Horse Trading
Saddle Peter Brophy Saddles
Cinch Cinches Down Under