Author Archives: Milly Shand

About Milly Shand

Founder of The Concordia Connection www.theconcordiaconnection.com Peace & animal rights campaigner, and an equestrienne who is looking for better ways to work with our equine friends www.millyshand.com

No pressure?

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No pressure?

The latest British Dressage magazine carries a three page article about bridle fitting with the rather misleading title of ‘No pressure’.

Their trials revealed that a flash is the worst choice of noseband and creates extreme pressure on the nasal bone and jawbones. So hopefully this most popular choice will now go out of fashion.

The rather obvious news is that when a cavesson is fastened AT THE SAME TIGHTNESS as a crank, it is the highly padded crank, designed so that it can be tightened without the buckle sticking into the jaw bone, that exerts less pressure. This is apparently an unexpected and controversial finding. But the argument against the crank has always been that it’s been designed to be cranked tight around the nose of the horse, although its supporters like to call it ‘snugly’.

The article failed to mention that horses are anisognathic, that means that the upper and lower jaws are different widths. So no amount of padding will lessen the pressure or pain of the upper molars sticking into the cheeks. This area was not even highlighted as a pressure zone. Of course a drop noseband doesn’t have this problem, however it can restrict the movement of the jaw and breathing, but that wasn’t mentioned either.

To get the scientific findings the author used pressure mats to take readings… pressure mats. This research wasn’t about eliminating pressure, because obviously the best way to eliminate pressure would be to remove the noseband altogether or have a loose noseband. No, it was looking at the best way to apply pressure. But surely it is obvious that any pressure around the face is going to be painful.

However researchers also found that a noseband is essential as with gait analysis horses without nosebands demonstrate a loss and stride control and the rider’s ability to control the horse in turns is reduced. They don’t say how much pressure is exerted on the horse’s face in this study.

Let’s turn their research on its head.

Why do we put nosebands on horses? To stop them from opening their mouths.

Why do they open their mouths? Because they are trying to avoid the bit.

Why are they trying to avoid the bit? Because it’s uncomfortable or it actually hurts.

Why is it uncomfortable? Because the rider has too strong a contact. Because the rider has non-empathetic, insensitive hands. Because the bit doesn’t fit the conformation of the mouth. (actually no bit is going to fit the conformation of a horse’s mouth, horses, just like every other creature on earth weren’t designed to have a piece of metal in their mouth, but some fit better than others).

Therefore if the horse has free rein to open his mouth when the rider pulls on the reins or sits on the back of the saddle it will affect his stride, and the rider’s control.

So what’s the answer? To learn to ride empathetically? Or to stop the horse from opening its mouth?

The FEI code of conduct in the BD handbook states that ‘Tack must be designed and fitted to avoid the risk of pain or injury.’ However BD does not have a rule on how much pressure should be exerted on the face of a horse in order to avoid pain. But then they don’t have a definitive measurement of what correct pressure is.  So what happened to the two fingers rule?  What happened to the rule that the noseband should never be used to keep a horse’s mouth shut?  But most importantly, I ask you, how can the constant pressure of a noseband on the delicate bones, nerves and blood vessels of any creatures face be correct at all? Surely the only way to avoid pain is to enforce a rule of no noseband or a loose noseband but then that would show quite clearly who the really talented riders are.

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50 Shades of Horse Training

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50 Shades of Horse Training

Proving our great leadership by controlling every step with micro managed total domination, and demanding complete subservience.

A blog is doing the FaceBook rounds that explains about pressure and release training in a sensible way, but then goes on:

Every time my horse wants to do something that is his idea…then immediately make him do the opposite…. if he walks off 4 steps after you stopped him then immediately back him up 4 steps…

and

Now if you are trying to back him up and he is braced against you, head in the air, fighting it and you at that moment release the pressure then you just taught him “OH if I put my nose in the air and fight it then I get relief from pressure.

and

Remember WHOA MEANS WHOA not “ok sweetie we are gonna whoa now but if you want to take a couple extra steps after I say whoa then thats ok with me cuz your my baby smooch smooch”

No questions asked, you are the boss, that horsey is a sneaky little critter, one step on his own and he will be the leader!

Really?  Surely leadership isn’t about power and domination, leadership is about listening, it’s fluid, and thoughtful and complex. Any idiot can dominate a horse!

What our blogger doesn’t do is question why the horse is resisting a rein back, or failing to stop on the w of whoa.

Horses are generous by nature. .. if they don’t do something it is generally because they have no clue what you are on about or they physically can’t do it, or it hurts.

To me this dominatrix attitude is where the rot sets in… horsey won’t rein back, he puts his head in the air, he opens his mouth, so the great leader of horses keeps the pressure on until the horse gives in, or rears up and fights more violently, so then what, the great leader of horses mustn’t be beaten at any cost… so they put horsey in draw reins and tighten his noseband and force him to do it.

But what if the horse didn’t do it because he didn’t understand… wouldn’t it have been better to go back to teaching it on the ground, just one baby step at a time, maybe with a little pressure and release, but definitely with a positive reward, a kind word a scratch on the neck… he’s generous, he wants to please, that was a good experience, he wants to do it again.

NO!!! You cannot LOVE them into behaving. You have to be a strong and confident herd leader and you will have an obedient and secure horse!

But just supposing he didn’t do it because he’s in pain, now he’s in even more pain, he can’t tell you about his pain because you have now bound and gagged him, he has two choices fight or give in. So he shuts down, he gives up. He puts up with the pain, because your great leadership has overpowered him, you won’t know about it again until his body starts breaking down… but then you can claim on the insurance to get him mended, or sell him on or put him down… and then you can get a newer model.

The saddest thing of all is all the likes and endorsements of this blog, nice people who love their horses have now realised it’s okay to get some spurs and to make their horses obey them. It’s so much easier to blame the horse for being naughty than to question why the horse isn’t doing as it’s told, and if he isn’t lame, well heck, he can’t be in pain, and heaven forbid that we should question our own riding ability.

Interestingly this blog is on a horse sales site, it bemoans well dominated horses being sold to weak people, you know, the ones who won’t use force, and sure, the horse needs to know his boundaries, you can’t be having a horse kicking and biting you and napping and bolting. But surely the answer is to go back to basics to establish a respectful relationship, and to explore the possibility of misunderstandings and pain related behavior, to listen to what the horse is trying to tell you, to hear the whispers way before he is screaming… surely that’s leadership.

and to those who accuse me of being on my high horse and preaching… this is just my opinion, just like you are entitled to your opinion.  I am not saying I am a great leader, or that I know all the answers. I am learning, and you know what… the more I have learned, the more I realise how little I know.  But I sure as heck know that relationship and leadership isn’t about absolute control. One of the prerequisites of dressage is submission, it’s dictionary definition is ‘the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or the will of authority of (another) person’. I am so grateful that I have found so many fabulous horse people from around the world who are ditching what in my opinion are these outdated and dictatorial ideas, and if the sentiments expressed in this blog resonate with you, then join me and other like minded horse lovers at www.concordiaequestrians.com.   Together we can change perceptions.

“It is through cooperation, rather than conflict that your greatest successes will be derived” Ralph Charell

 

Photo with free to use licence – full details at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gag_bit.JPG 

 

THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF COACHING

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THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF COACHING

Spiritual coaching is about being present, being light, clearing a space inside of you for your client, giving energy, & listening. It is about allowing the force to be with you, or trusting your intuition, or trusting your instincts, or trusting the angels, or giving up control with absolute certainty & trust that your good intent will guide you.

As a ‘client-led’ life-coach, one has to aspire to a certain level of ‘through~me’, leading from a place of love, & believing that the client has the answers for themselves.  As a horse or rider trainer, I don’t believe that it is possible to ‘tune into’ either the horse or the rider, without listening to your heart, & that it is the mechanical & ego based training that has done (& is still doing) so much damage both physically & mentally to our horses.

Through Me

  • In his model of the level’s of consciousness, Shore Slocum describes ‘through~me’ as the point beyond ‘By~Me’. This is when we lighten the ego & give up control; this is when we stop ‘making it happen’, & start to ‘allow it to happen’.
  • Through me, is about getting out of the head and into the heart, acting from instinct, trusting that love will always leads in the right direction, & that, having sought the knowledge, the right questions & answers will come from the sub~conscious, the inner light, or a higher power will be present & working through them.

To~Me

I

By~Me

I

Through~Me

I

As~Me

For interest

  • The person who is a ‘To~Me’ is a victim, things happen ‘to’ them and they have no choice or responsibility. Something or someone made it happen to them, & something or someone made them feel that way. In order to move to ‘By~Me’ a ‘To~Me’ has to give up the blame.
  • Of course, the greatest examples of ‘As~Me’ are Jesus, The Buddha & the Prophet Muhammad . At this level, everything is as one. These great leaders see themselves in others, there is no judgement, there is no separateness.

‘When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.’ William Arthur Ward

  Giving Energy

  • As a coach this may be seen as an important skill to master, as giving someone energy without having to say a word has got to be a great start!
  • If you focus your attention on something you can fix your intention to direct your energy to it. Thoughts are energy. Think loving thoughts, when you look at someone, their energy levels increase, think nasty thoughts then their energy levels drop. This works to such an extent that when muscle tested, the person who is sent love is strong, and the person who is sent bad thoughts is weak.
  • Just by thinking good thoughts about a person they feel good, they feel strong, good intent may be enough to give energy, and therefore to give strength.

The horse can also be our spiritual teacher.

“How do we train for a journey of spiritual transformation alone? The truth is we need a spiritual coach, a sensei to teach us – to show us how to focus our attention & to demonstrate how to live in the present & how to achieve Zen like tranquillity. We need a teacher to show us how to see ourselves – not just with heightened objectivity but also with greater forgiveness. For that job there is a master: a sage who can teach any willing student the way. That sage is the horse.”    Allan J Hamilton MD

Helping others meets our spiritual need to grow & contribute; & it is through love that a spiritual coach/teacher/trainer endeavors to serve.  I find these thoughts beautiful, and something to strive for.

‘I believe you came into the world to accomplish something, & not something small or insignificant. That’s not worthy of you. You came here to make a major contribution to life on this planet.’ Paul Solomon

Enjoying Now!

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Enjoying Now!

Notes on how to live in the moment & be happy :O)

There is only one person who can make me happy… and that is me!  Accept happiness as a state of mind that you can choose to take.  Enjoy the journey towards your dreams.  Mix with happy friends who support you personally and professionally.  Smile!  Laugh!  Watch funny and uplifting films, and read funny and uplifting books. Celebrate – wherever you are in your life

Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Keep a journal, a record of abundance and thankfulness.  Pile gratitude on top of love.  One part love, plus two parts gratefulness = peace

Honor your Highest Values

Give yourself easy rules to live by what is most important to you.

Take Responsibility

“If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear.” 

“See if you can catch yourself complaining in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always non-acceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness”.  

Eckhart Tolle from his book ‘The Power of Now’

Enjoy Now!

Live in the moment.  Slow down and capture the detail.  Enjoy the little things.  Smell the roses.  Be aware.  Be present.  Meditate &  Relax

The Secret Method of Inviting Happiness Through Many Blessings

“Just for today, do not anger, do not worry, be humble.  Be honest in your dealings with people.  Be compassionate towards yourself and others” By the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui

Love

Love yourself.  Hug your inner child.  Be your own best friend.  Mirror talk – compliment yourself, tell yourself that you love yourself. Do what you love doing.

“Self love is the energy required for loving another person, your family, your neighbour, your country, and your fellow human beings” Masaru Emoto

 Love others.  Be compassionate.  Share.  Be generous.  Forgive – yourself and others.  Letting go and forgiving someone doesn’t change the past – but changes the hold that it has over you. 

“What you give in life is what you receive. To give love is to receive love. A mind full of love and good feelings can never go wrong” Sydney Banks

Live by Empowering Beliefs

Cultivate beliefs that make you stronger in mind and spirit.  Dwell on beliefs that create a better world – care about something important

“If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it, even if I did not have the ability in the beginning”

Mahatma Gandhi

Look for the positive in everything!

Read uplifting books.  Think positive thoughts.  Use positive language.  Watch uplifting films.  Go on motivational courses.  Choose your friends carefully.  Have positive thoughts.  Be optimistic.  Focus on the positive.  Plan new experiences.  Be creative.

“Always look for the beauty in life”

Alice Herz-Sommer (110-year-old holocaust survivor 1904 – 2014)          See video clip click: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnoQ8F_CUfE

Love yourself

Have a Great Self-Image.  Be true to yourself.  ‘Cut the… poo’ (remember transformational vocabulary!).  and let your authentic self shine through.

“Man is not what he thinks he is, but what he thinks, he is!” Emerson

Keep Perspective

Count your blessings and Curb envy

 See Nick Vujicic Video ‘No arms, no legs, no worries!’  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo_24_qTNac

Refine Your Energy

Change your energy to attract more of what you want in life. The Law of Attraction works when nothing is resisting it.  The Law of Attraction works when you come from a place of abundance.  The Law of Attraction works when you have positive thoughts and emotions.  The Law of Attraction works when you allow it to happen.  Create positive energy from thoughts, words and beliefs.  De-clutter and re-cycle to allow energy to flow freely.  Thoughts become things.  Like attracts like… be careful what you wish for!

“I attract into my life whatever I give my energy, focus and attention to – whether wanted or unwanted” Michael Losier

Be Confident

Visualize.  Take action.  Use confident language.  See yourself as a confident person.  Practice the posture of a confident person.

“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time” Anna Freud

Listen

To yourself.  Listen to wise words.  Use positive words.   Ask positive questions.  Use affirmations and incantations.  Talk positive words to yourself in the mirror – compliment yourself.  Tame your gremlins… Control your inner voice.

Remember the power of words

“Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power which seems to be beyond natural causes, as if they were some angel’s song which had lost its way and come to earth.” Frederick William Faber

Keep in the Loop

Remember the cybernetic loop – the mind effects the body – the body effects the mind.  Practice a happy confident posture.  Have a healthy diet – you are what you eat.  Learn how to keep your body healthy.  Keep hydrated.  Breathe from your belly.  Take regular exercise. Meditate & remember to relax.

Keep Cycling!

Always have something exciting to look forward to.  Focus on happiness.  Set inspiring goals that motivate you.  Work towards your goals.  State what you want.  Write down what you want.  Write down your goals.  Mind map or list your goals.  Make a treasure map. Focus on what you want. Keep peddling to stay on your bike!

Always remember

“You are never to old to set another goal or dream another dream”  C S Lewis

 

Teaching the Horse Flying Changes

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Teaching the Horse Flying Changes

A good change should be clean, with the front & hind legs changing in the same step.  It must also be straight, with no swinging.  It should give the impression of going uphill, with the hind legs coming well under the body.  The speed & rhythm should remain the same before & after the change.

“The flying change of lead is a fresh canter depart inside the canter”   Nuno Oliveira.

 

 The following notes are from personal training experience & research, with references in italics…

 

The criteria that must be reached before teaching changes

 RHYTHM:

The canter must be established, with a very clear three-beat, & moment of suspension.

RELAXATION:

The horse must be relaxed, loose & supple.

 STRAIGHTNESS:

The hind feet should follow in the same line as the front feet.

BALANCE:

The rider should be able to give & retake the reins with the horse remaining in self-carriage & balance.

ADVANCED IN TRAINING:

The horse must be sensitive & obedient to light & subtle aids.

Whilst remaining relaxed, the horse must be able to strike off on either leg anywhere in the arena.

The simple change of leg exercises must be secure.

How advanced in training the horse must be is a *controversial point – some trainers use the lack of balance of the horse to help teach the change, & use the horses natural inclination to change legs to stay in balance. Other trainers want the horses far more advanced, able to counter canter a 10m circle & work in true collection, & taught the changes purely off the correct aids & timing. The latter is the more classically correct.

Read the rest of this entry

The Greatest Feeling

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The Greatest Feeling

Rubi’s eye whiskers brushed softly against my face, then she rested her muzzle gently on my arm, & there we stood, breathing heart to heart. I bowed my head to rest it against her, we were totally accepting of each other, completely at peace. With the soft rays of the evening sun warming the back of my neck, I swear that I was in heaven. No trophy or rosette, no thrill of a ride, nothing could touch this feeling of being so connected with the spirit of a horse. At last, not only did we trust each other, but also Rubi was choosing to be with me.

That was our experience yesterday, & it was only four days ago that Charlie came to see us. As he stood in her stable I worried that Rubi may hurt him, as she could be so unpredictable & intolerant of people in her space, but in no time at all, she had taken herself to stand only a few feet from him. Charlie called me into the stable, & he quietly instructed me. As Rubi sidled a little closer to me, I felt her letting go, I felt us connecting, & tears streamed down my face, & there we stood, completely absorbed in our own little world, just ‘being’ together, & for three quarters of an hour, time stood still.

Clearly Rubi has suffered, & my strong feeling is that she had her trust betrayed to such an extent that she built a barrier around herself, only allowing glimpses of her loveliness. But Charlie has the gift, not only to connect with the horses himself, but also to open a door in the heart of both the horse & it’s carer, so that they can find a much deeper understanding & bond.

Rubi has taken me on an incredible journey, quite a roller coaster of an emotional ride, but thanks to Charlie, I feel that Rubi & I now have a connection that we can build upon.

Charlies website is www.charlieholleshorsehealing.co.uk

What is Ethical?

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What is Ethical?

To be ethical means that you are doing what is morally right. But the ‘right’ way to interact with our horses is open to personal and fashionable  interpretation.

Within the huge range of what ‘might’ be deemed acceptable my view is still far from ‘super ethical’.   At this point on my journey, I think that in principal, if the horse is comfortable, and the rider is considerate, then it’s probably okay to ride, I even like to think that it might be possible to have a relationship with a horse whereby the horse likes being ridden! But lets consider a couple of examples of views from one end of the scale.

“all sentient beings, have a basic right not to be treated as the property of others”   The Abolitionist approach to animal rights.

“…the horse is not designed to be ridden.  The horse should not be ridden at the cost of their health and well being”.  Academia Liberti

The views of both the Abolitionists and the Liberty trainers may seem extreme to the vast majority of horse enthusiasts,  however if we are to count ourselves as ‘horse lovers and carers’ as opposed to ‘horse users and keepers’, there are elements of their beliefs that must surely be given due consideration. Personally, I have huge respect for these views  (see their websites) and admire these people who live by their super high values.

For millennia we have practiced speciesism,  presuming our superior intelligence to animals and our right to dominate and exploit them because of their inferiority.  But researchers from all over the world are making remarkable discoveries about animal intelligence.  Just one example is  from the University of Adelaide, where researchers argue that humans really aren’t much smarter than other creatures — and that some animals may actually be brighter than we are, in fact Dr. Arthur Saniotis, a visiting research fellow with the university’s School of Medical Sciences, says  “science tells us that animals can have cognitive faculties that are superior to human beingsand Professor Henneberg (also from that faculty) says that “The fact that they may not understand us, while we do not understand them, does not mean our ‘intelligences’ are at different levels, they are just of different kinds. When a foreigner tries to communicate with us using an imperfect, broken, version of our language, our impression is that they are not very intelligent. But the reality is quite different”  

Now… it is also widely recognized that, just like us, animals feel pain.  But horses are stoic creatures, they have to be, if they acted like footballers every time they got a knock, then they would historically have been eaten!  Then there is the concept of animals feeling emotions, however controversial this may be, any empathetic person will tell you that animals most definitely do have feelings, we recognize in our horses emotions such as excitement, depression, contentment, and anger… to name but a few.

Given that horses are intelligent, sentient beings, what right do we have to use them, or to use force to make them perform for our entertainment?  

We should question every part of our training and ‘use’ of horses, and we should allow horses to live as closely to their natural condition as it is possible in this crowded world.  At this point on my journey, I am not suggesting that we all stop riding horses, and  I want to believe that there is a way to interact with horses in a respectful and mutually beneficial way.

But how would you like it?  If we accept that horses can feel, just like we can, then all we have to do is imagine ourselves in their place. How would you like to be kept in your bedroom (no matter how comfortable your bed is, or how smart your wardrobe is) 23 hours a day? and how stiff and unfit would you feel if the other hour you were made to work hard in the gym? What would work better for you, Pilates and Yoga or having straps and draw reins to make you stay in ‘the right shape’?  Would you be happier running towards pleasure, or away from pain?  If  someone insisted you had a piece of metal in your mouth, and you opened your mouth because of some discomfort, would you want someone to listen to you, and look to remove the discomfort for you, or would you want a crank cavesson, or tightened flash to stop you showing your pain? And where does this pain originate?  Generally from ignorance on our part.

As long as horses are part of an ‘industry’ they will be open to abuse.  Industry is all about money, there is no room for sentiment in business.  But horses need time and understanding, and as long as we accept that horses are part of any industry, they will be bred in huge numbers, ridden before they are mature, forced to perform, broken down, and then discarded.   So it is paramount that the governing bodies of ALL equestrian sports have welfare, and the constant improvement and implementation of welfare at the very top of their agenda.  At the present time, it is my belief that most of them just give lip service to welfare, they are still governed by the need to make money, please sponsors, and make the sports more spectacular! But sports are the theatre of horsemanship, what the elite show, the masses will believe is right, and will follow… sports governing bodies have a huge responsibility for equine well-being.

The best horse people listen to their horses, and they feel their pain.  Oh my dear God, I am SO far from getting this right! I am human, but I hope that I am learning from my mistakes, I hope that the horses forgive me and continue to teach me, and I pray that humankind wakes up, and we become kindhumans.

 

 

 

 

The cake is poisoned…

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The cake is poisoned…

The cake is poisoned… and sadly, we are arguing over the icing.

Thousands of horses are ‘culled’ each year because they didn’t run fast enough*. Thousands are broken down, and slaughtered because they are worked so young. In so called civilized countries, horses are still left to starve, they are still not fully protected by the law. The FEI and the governing bodies of our competitive disciplines only give welfare lip service. Horrendously tight nose-bands are the norm, rollkur is ignored, valuable horses never get to run free in a field, double bridles and spurs are sometimes compulsory. Ignorance in horse training and welfare is widespread. Our waste horses are transported over continents to be slaughtered. Pregnant mares urine is used in HRT, tens of thousands of foals (byproducts of the PMU industry) are sent to slaughter. Here in the Uk the Princess Royal suggests publicly that we should eat horses… surely encouraging a new ‘industry’, another animal to factory farm.

Horses are commodities to be used and abused, and I could go on (and on!)… as there are many, many more (accepted or ignored) outrageous abuses of horses. But my point is this…

People who genuinely care about horse welfare are arguing with each other. What one person well meaning person thinks is ‘right’ may well be vastly different from another well meaning person’s views, but we need to look for our similarities.  We may well be at different places on a journey, and maybe we are all looking for a slightly different destination.. but we are all going in the same direction.

The enemy is out there, and they don’t need to divide and conquer.. we are doing the dividing bit all on our own.  There is so much work to be done to truly ‘make a difference to horses’, please… lets look for what binds us together.

Lets find ways to work TOGETHER for the greater good of the horse.

*Also See Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Horse Slaughter by 

 

‘Feel’, above all

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‘Feel’, above all

‘Feel’, above all, comes from our hearts, our breaths, our softness and our tension, we should ‘feel’ with every atom of our body.

‘Direction’ comes from our body language.

Our hands… well, they should just be the very fine tuning in the equine/human duet.  But, sadly, we have learnt to completely ‘control’ our horses with our hands.

No matter how ‘good’ we think our hands are, most of us have no idea of what we are actually saying to our horses, or what our horses are saying to us!  In fact most of us actually ‘block’ our feeling and connection by overriding (with our hands) our horses natural responses to what the heck our bodies are doing up there!  

To explore this thought, nine brave and lovely ladies from Stratford Riding Club, on their very special horses, practiced riding today, without their reins!

The idea was not to ‘direct’ so much as to experiment with voice and body language, and ‘feel’ the response. The ladies rode with absolutely no rein contact, holding the buckle end, but they did have the use of a neck strap if needed, with the aim of making that aid lighter and eventually not needing it at all.

By starting with the riders desire to go from walk to halt, we realized how much we use our hands for this simple request… the horses kept walking round quite happily ignoring their frustrated riders, as the temptation was to keep asking for halt in the same way!

If you always do what you’ve always doneyou’ll always get what you’ve always got”  Henry Ford

So the ladies tried different body language, changing their balance and alignment (I will blog on alignment soon, but also see mary-wanless.com), becoming more aware of, and changing, their breathing.  Some of the ladies practiced ‘heart breathing’ (see HeartMath.com) tapping into their intuitive self, and by creating a feeling of mindfulness, and being ‘in the now’, they felt even more ‘connected’ with their newly responsive equines.

This is truly about finding a better way to communicate with our horses, but to do it we have to create a whole new language (Robinson Crusoe meets Man Friday), listen to what the horses say, allow them to respond to what we say, reward those responses, and endeavor to understanding them.

Once we had an understanding about walk to halt, we went on to see how we could interact with our horses for them to understand that we would like to change direction, turn and circle. The ladies took their focus to where they wanted to go, by doing this they subtly changed their body language, and the horses subtly changed their direction!

By the end of the sessions, all the combinations were easily going between walk and halt, most were going happily from trot through to walk and halt, and 6 of the 9 cantered round in both directions, without reins in the canter or the transition to the trot.  Without exception all the horses looked more relaxed, forward going… and happy :O)

I do this ‘work’ with my gorgeous young horse Remi, but this is the first time that I have asked a group of riders to ride without their reins, and the results were even better than I expected. All the ladies picked up the challenge and ran with it… I am SO pleased.

This is my first blog… I am a blog virgin! So I am not entirely sure how this all works, but I hope that the riders will have somewhere to share their feelings about their experience today.

Photo: My dear friend Loulou riding Gucci bridleless.