Being at one with your horse is the most wonderful feeling and when it becomes instinctual you, and everyone else, won’t be able to know if your horse is following you or you are following the horse, whether online, at liberty or riding
The only way to be totally and truly ‘connected’ with your horse is to be with them in the MOMENT, what I call the ‘NOW’, this is how horses are. To be in the NOW we have to focus on what we’re doing and not thinking of the future (goal oriented), the past (history) or what others may be doing (judgemental). Once we are in the ‘now’ we can work on being harmonious in own bodies so that we can be harmonious together with our horse.
A lot of horses have unwanted behaviours around worming time, their heads go up, they backup and the try their best to resist eating the nasty tasting wormer. These behaviours are instinctual but we can change them if we take time to help our horse relax and understand what we want.
Worming had not been a problem with our horses as we’ve been giving them the tablet form and they all took them like treats. Now we are syringe worming I’ve discovered that Solly has some negative behaviour with it all. He throws his head up so high I can’t reach him, he’s turning away and if I didn’t have a halter on him he’d be off. So instead of getting upset, I thought, what a prime opportunity to do a Training Tip Video of me teaching him how to take a syringe wormer with relaxation and positive reinforcement, and here is the first part….
So, I have done three practice sessions of worming on Solly (and the other herd members) and have progressed to not treating now and doing it at liberty. Here are some pics from our 4th practice today.
Pic 1) is of Solly looking at the syringe, I’ve placed it in the area I want his head to be.
Pic 2) is of Solly sniffing the syringe…smell is a huge part of this so it will be interesting to use the real wormer with him!
Pic 3) is of Solly taking the syringe himself .
Pics 4&5) are of him taking the apple sauce…all at liberty.
Pic 6) is Stormy taking the syringe for some sauce.
Pic 7) is Tara smelling the syringe.
Pic 8) is Tara taking the sauce, I held my hand on the outside of her head to encourage and sooth her, she could move her head that way and I wasn’t forcing it all, she just needs more support and love.
For your horse to trust you, you have to trust your horse. It can take time to accomplish this but working on a daily basis you can gain trust with small things like handling, grooming and ground work and build to ridden work. Progress can be made onto more complex tasks whether that is at liberty, online, riding lateral moves or even riding bareback and bridleless, but without you trusting your horse he will not trust you and that will hinder your progress.
We are all asymmetric, and so are our horses. To help us both become straighter we need to be flexible on both sides of our bodies.
We often spend quite a lot of time building straightness in our horses with exercises, through ground work and then ridden, such as circles of all sizes, leg yields, shoulder-in and haunches in, these and other exercises help to progress a horse to where their muscles on left and right are working equally.
With this in mind we also need to WORK ON OURSELVES for straightness. We are either left or right handed. This means that our left or right sides are more dominant than the other, which is normal. What we need to do is become more ambidextrous to match the work we’re doing with our horses. This in time will allow us to be able to ride a straight line in harmony with our horses WITHOUT picking up the reins and I often test this theory to see how harmonious I am becoming with my horse. I also see an osteopath regularly to help straighten out any stiff points on my body that can’t be fixed by regular exercises.
SO…what do I do to help myself become more flexible and equal on my left and right sides? I do ‘OTHER HAND EXERCISES’ (OH X’s). Well I do lots of ‘normal’ things but work with my OH regularly and more so in Winter because I have more time to practice being at home and not out exercising the horses. Here, to help you do the same, are some of the X’s I do, use your hands for tasks alternately so
that you don’t over do your harder side.
Stirring things with your OH. (Tea, porridge, horse feed, soup, when cooking etc)
Picking things up with your OH. (Paper on the floor, your shoes, your saddle etc)
Washing. (Try something like your cup, washing your hair with OH doing main soaping)
Brushing your hair.
Holding your coffee/tea cup in OH.
Using your knife and fork in OH’s.
Folding your arms the ‘other way’.
Crossing your legs the ‘other way’ and change sides if you’re curled up on the sofa.
Getting on your horse from the ‘other side’…this really helps you AND your horse, make sure like all of these tasks you do BOTH sides equally (try this one out first by doing a test ‘mount’ onto a gate and for me using a mounting block or suitable obstacle is the best way to get on a horse)
Writing…can be fun and really uses the ‘other side’ of your brain a LOT.
Brush your teeth.
Using the mouse or touch pad on your computer with your OH.
Vacuuming….this one is great, there are 4 ways of helping your whole body become more symmetrical with this.
(a) right hand on handle, right foot forward with a rocking body motion (right canter lead body dynamics)
(b) right hand on handle, left foot forward (trot body dynamics)
(c) left hand on handle, left foot forward (left canter lead body dynamics)
(d) left hand on handle, right foot forward (trot body dynamics)
Putting on horses rugs and saddle from other side using whole body differently.
Turning pages on a book with OH.
Leading your horse (or walking your dog on lead) from other side.
Putting washing up on line using OH to do the pegs.
Walking down the road doing little canter ‘skip’ gait, changing canter leads and really feeling if your head, shoulders and hips are aligned for canter is a great way of getting this smoother before trying on your horse.
Household chores can be used as OH exercises…dusting and cleaning has a new purpose 😉
Ironing can be done with your OH but be careful with this one!
Putting shopping into basket and also putting them away at home can be done with your OH.
Putting your OH and arm into your jacket first!
Poo picking using different hands for picking and scraping
Sweeping yard or garden patio using hands opposite to normal
Filling hay nets with OH…quite a hard one so go slow
I’m sure you can think of lots of other tasks that can be tried out using your OH, it really does more than just use your OH, it uses your whole body and your brain to think about and do them well.
Make sure you build up your OH strength slowly, do a bit of something then go back to normal, then do more each day as your OH AND YOUR BRAIN get used to doing it. Bring in another OH X when you feel good with the first one and build up more as you go to keep it progressing. Make sure, like with horses, you do not over do it or you could become sore in muscles that aren’t used to being worked, and that will put you off doing more.
Have fun with this and see how well you and your horse are doing by trying to ride a straight line without any reins every now and then
Whether you’re training for a specific task, working on fitness, having agility fun or even just hanging out together you are always learning something from each other. If that learning is based on a great connection, filled with positive energy and sprinkled with achievable goals then learning is not only rewarding but fun too.
Keeping things fun can mean just that, to have FUN in your sessions with your horse, smile, laugh and enjoy each others company. Or it could mean keeping things within you and your horses abilities, that way there will be harmony in your goals. Try to find what your horse enjoys doing and improve on that, try other things too but if your horse (or you) don’t enjoy what you’re doing then there really isn’t much point. Life is too short to not have fun and enjoy what you do together.
Going at the horses pace allows us to give the ‘timeline’ to the horse and when we do this we learn that things can’t be forced. The horse has to be ready for the next step and if we build his education slowly and methodically then each next step will be easy to negotiate because the building blocks of education have been put down and we’ve waited for the horse to say that they are ready for the next one.
Have a PLAN/GOAL to work to, whether it’s walking out, hacking out, agility, competing or starting a young horse.
Make sure you break down your plan into small, bitesized, do-able pieces. Do each piece in order, making sure each piece is made into a relaxed, happy habit before doing more (1-7 times).
Progress slowly but positively, don’t over stretch you or your horse, keep things DO-ABLE.
If your goal is to ride in new places walk in-hand first, build on this until you can ride a bit of it, then more and more. Walking in-hand first helps confidence of the place, your own emotions, your horses issues/thresholds and knowing that it’s safe to ride.
Make sure you know where you comfort zone is ‘now’. To stretch your CZ you need to come out of it and get into the Learning Zone, but return often to your CZ to help keep confidence. Don’t go out of the ‘LZ’ or you’ll end up in the Wildnerness Zone where can get lost or so worried it’s hard to find your way back to your CZ!
Breathe or Sing (to make sure you don’t hold your breathe and cause a brace in your own body).
Visualisation (think through where you are going, see yourself doing your goal).
Walk the route you are wanting to go by yourself first…make sure you know all the steps so that you feel confident before going there with your horse.
Approach/Retreat patterns to use for confidence are circling and figure 8’s and transitions (go towards your goal/back off/repeat until it all feels better to be able to approach/retreat further)
Be very consistent with your plan of action.
If you are riding and think you need to get off then GET OFF….breathe, get confident again and continue. You can always get on again later OR just have a nice walk together and commit to your connection in-hand.
Make sure you can connect and move all 4 feet in all 4 directions (back/forward/left/right).
Find X (the place where you have a comfortable stop/halt). Take this X mentally with you wherever you go and make sure you use it to allow you and your horse time to breathe, relax and stay connected. It can be a gate, mounting block, cone or anywhere you go when you can take X with you once you start knowing you can hold that feeling of safety inside.
Continue stretching your CZ and keep giving yourself goals,
Be happy where you are now and take the pressure off yourself…..just enjoy your horse no matter what you do, each day is a super goal in itself 😉
WOW…the last session of Unit 2, the time has gone quickly and because the weather has been dry and not too cold I’ve been able to get out with Solly regularly. It’s really helping to keep our progress moving along nicely. Here is today’s session 😉
There were some new CZ area’s pushed today…
(1) being on our own
(2) walking whole lower field
(3) ride on own
(4) ride up hill back to main field
…oh golly gosh BUT have visualised this in my head since yesterday and know my strategies and my path SO….off we go. Into the flat lower field okay and walked around the periphery using some circling, cods, half circles on the move and also with Solly just following me or walking along side at a distance.
We even found some ‘rubbish’ that he was brave enough to ‘touch’ and which I put aside to collect later when going home.
Things went very well so at the gateway I asked Solly to sidle to the gate and I got on. We had a moment where we lost communication and he started going backwards but I just breathed out, sat deeper and asked for forward and all was well. We worked on the same things as yesterday, approach/retreat to the gate using fig 8’s and making sure each time out from the gate we made the fig 8 circles wider and this time to make them wider we put in a few nice leg yields. This helped prove to me that we were connected, Solly was listening and that I was calm enough to think too.
I was in two mind as to whether to get off and walk back to the horses field but had visualised riding up the hill back to the field so I stayed determined and went over the bridge (wood/slippery…eek) which went okay and asked Sol to climb the hill. He decided it would be easier to trot (hard ground/slippery…eek) so I said to him out loud, ‘thank you for that but walk is okay here’ and as I breathed out he obliged by going down into walk.
As we got to the top of the hill we saw Stormy and Tara waiting by the gate for our return and both Solly and I breathed out and relaxed more. We got to the gate and I thought about doing a bit more but in the back of my brain was the niggle that I must always stop on a good note and don’t try ‘just one more’ because often that is when something silly or a breakdown in connection happens….just stop where you visualised and said you were going to stop…SO we did and I dismounted.
I didn’t realised how much this was going to affect me because it’s something we just haven’t done for ages and as I stood and hugged Solly I was shaking through relief of doing it. Trauma is a worrying thing and it felt good later on to know I’d done it but I still need to do it consistently so that it doesn’t affect me like this again, so onwards I continue with our consistency CZT.