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Picture Quote 3 – ‘Always end on a good note’

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Not only end on a good note but start on a good note and take that all the way through each training session.

Always work towards having relaxation in mind, body and emotions for you and your horse and if something gets a bit too much or worrying for either of you then find that relaxation spot again, do something you are both good at doing  to relax together, even if that thing is just hanging out or grooming, and  that might be a good place to stop.

Relaxation is the KEY to calm, happy training as an unrelaxed, inattentive horse  can not learn what you’re trying to teach, they will only learn that learning is worrying and they’ll be less inclined to try the next time. SO…for teaching new things take it all really SLOWLY to allow the good stuff to sink in.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Picture Quote 2 – ‘Horsemanship is a dance…’

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The start of horsemanship can be hard, you are learning the ABC’s of the dance and it takes time, patience, consistency and persistence to get better. It’s easy to just give up but if you keep going it is SO worth it as after the ABC’s of learning you then start to get a CONNECTION which is where all the FUN starts.

Once you have a connection you can start COMMUNICATION and once you get that then long CONVERSATIONS can be had between you and your horse. These conversations are ‘THE DANCE’ and it feels soft, light, together and fabulous.

SO…..keep learning the steps so that you and your horse have wonderful dances together 🙂

Picture Quote 1 – ‘To have a true connection…’

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Are you and your horse friends? Do you do friend things together?

One of the nicest and easiest way to become friends with your horse is to treat him to things you can do together that don’t demand anything from him and where you have no intent.

Some things you can try are:

  1. Going for in-hand walks together, grazing the hedgerows or grass along the tracks.
  2. Hanging out together in his field. Set up a chair and just ‘be’ together.
  3. Slow, peaceful grooming is very nice. Take as much time as you want and find your horses itchy spots.
  4. Sit down while your horse is laying down dozing and relax together.
  5. Stand with your horse, your hand on his/her shoulder and take each step they do, take the step the way they do and move the way they do, even listen to their breathing and try to breath with them.
  6. If you horse enjoys playing with ‘things’ then maybe even bring in a new ‘toy’ like a large ball and allow him just to play with it himself. You can push it back to him/her but don’t have any intent on making the play structured.

By doing things with no intent with your horse you can really strengthen the bond you have with him/her. SO try to ‘just be a horse with your horse’ for a while and get connected.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Training Tips: What are you looking for when training?

This is often the hardest thing to know or be aware of when you’re learning horsemanship…..what are you looking for when playing/training/riding? To have an end result or goal is one way of looking at it, but another way is to use the training techniques to achieve something far more important….a well balanced horse….physically, mentally AND emotionally.

My main aim when working with a horse is first and foremost for the horse to be RELAXED. Calmness helps find curiosity and with those two things the horse is very teachable because he/she can take things in well and remember good experiences. If the horse is worried or fearful he/she will also be bracey in it’s body and mind and won’t remember anything good apart from how it felt when something was being done to it so relaxation is my first and last criteria of any session. To see relaxation in the horse we also see confidence and rhythm in it’s paces, these two are missing with a fearful horse.

 

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The next criteria on my list is COOPERATION, which is shown through the horse being willing to accept my requests and to enjoy interacting with me.

My third criteria when working with a horse is IMPULSION. This isn’t impulsiveness and doesn’t mean the horse runs around without stopping, it means the horse has the same amount of whoa and go, that it can stop lightly and nicely just as easily as it goes forward in any gait and is all about balance. When the balance of whoa and go are good then you’ll see the horse be more balanced in it’s own body, it’s core will be more engaged and so will his hindquarters. This is pure athletic energy that allows the horse to go or stop with a whisper.

And my last criteria is FLEXIBILITY and this means that the horse is equal on it’s left and right sides and is as  symmetrical as possible. This way the horse can go in a straight line without the reins holding it in place. All horses (and humans) are born A-symmetrical and we all need working on to help become more symmetrical. Once we’re more symmetrical  we’re straighter and our aids become lighter, our reins can be lighter and not have to be used for keeping the horse straight and we can start to ride the dance of horsemanship.

While working through the HS Criteria list I often go back to RELAXATION when a horse needs me to help find that, this is the most important of all the criteria as without this one ingredient good learning doesn’t occur SO make sure it’s there at the beginning of the session and at the end. I also move around working on one or more of the criteria using my Horsemanship Techniques and work out what each horse needs on each particular day.

A horse that is fearful may just need calming to find that relaxation with me from the start. A horse that is more of an alpha may need me to help it find relaxation and willingness when playing with some techniques. Some horses may need to be working more on willingness and impulsion and others may need lots of flexibility play whilst still trying to find relaxation.

So, each time I handle a horse I am thinking of what the horse needs at that moment, what it needs to progress and what the owner wants to learn or where it’s training is leading to. Having the criteria to make sure whatever I do helps keeps the horse RELAXED, WILLING, FLEXIBLE with balanced IMPULSION is the key to progressing without any brace…brace in it’s body, brace in it’s mind or brace emotionally.

Learning should always be done through relaxation, confidence, curiosity and FUN.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Training Tips: Stepping out of your Comfort Zone to progress

You may have heard about ‘Comfort Zones’ and to get out of your own to progress, this is true but there is also more to it. To progress you need to step out of your comfort zone but if you step too far you may get worried, out of your depth or plain put off going there again SO here is a quick outline of how to progress without going too far.

 

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Here is a good image of your comfort zone, it has the learning zone just outside and the wilderness on the outer edge.

 

 

 

 

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To learn anything you need to step out of and back into your comfort zone to the learning zone. Doing  this often  can help build your knowledge through consistency but you don’t want to go too far through that section or you could find yourself in the wilderness zone where you could end up lost and too scared to go out of your comfort zone again, sometimes for a while and sometimes forever, so just keep dipping in and out of the learning section.

 

 

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By stepping in and out of your comfort zone you will increase your confidence  and build a solid foundation of knowledge which will increase the size of your comfort zone. This then takes the learning zone further out so you have to go further for that but it also takes the wilderness zone miles away too.

 

 

 

I call this approach and retreat with learning, keeping your CZ safe. It’s accumulative learning and works not just for us but for our horses too. Approach and retreat with scary objects, new learning and building confidence and knowledge at our and our horses own rate keeps things safe and calm and good learning can only happen when those are in place.

SO…keep your Comfort Zone safe but don’t forget to dip into the Learning Zone to PROGRESS 🙂

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Intent

connection

Intent, to me, is the thought and feel behind a request. We need to think about whether we’re asking in a dominant way (move NOW…), or a request (let’s move together…), or is it a plead (please, please move but please don’t leave me…) Trying to be an Alpha to our horses means that we need to request.

There are many types of intentions behind our requests too, such as love, fear, nerves.

Horses are very good at reading our intentions whether they are good or bad but also if we are calm and confident or nervous and fearful.

So, how should we use our intent around horses?

If we hold thoughts of dominating the horse then we have already mentally lost the horses trust and respect and can often be the reason why the horse starts being dominant with us as they feel our intent and defend themselves. (Of course this isn’t the only reason horses behave like this!)

Also if we plead then we are not being an alpha and the horse will be required to step up to do that job herself/himself.

If we hold onto thoughts of love, calmness and confidence then the horse will show calmness and confidence with us. What often happens though is that our mental intent or thoughts try to be calm, confident and full of love but are incongruent or conflicted with our energy and body language which may show fear and uncertainty. The horse can read this immediately and feels unsafe around us.

We must work on having our inside and outside intent the same so that the horse sees, feels and reads us and we don’t confuse them. Horses don’t have this incongruent behaviour, it’s a very human, predatory thing to do.

If we learn to think more of our herd requests as a ‘we’ connection, ‘we are backing up’, ‘ we are moving into canter’ then put some energy out and take the space under the horses feet either with a tool such as a training arm and string, swinging a rope or actually going to the spot and taking the space the horse is standing on then the requests start talking about ‘space’ and how to shape it the way we want our horses to be.

SO, if we start to ‘mirror our horses’, use ‘awareness and focus’, play with the game of ‘stick 2 me’, remember to request things using ‘alpha phases’ from ‘herd dynamics’ we can ‘shape the space’ between us and our horses with confident and positive ‘intent’ to create harmonious connections and ‘invisible horsemanship’ that is so refined, light, soft and balanced that we have the dance partner we always wanted.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Positive Thoughts

IMG_0320One of the hardest things I’ve found is to be able to train or teach a horse whilst still having fun.

Horses that are innately internal and sensitive, introverted and wise (what normal folk call stubborn, lazy and stupid) are often the horses we can offend the most. They don’t show their feelings like extroverts do, they don’t run around taking offence at our high energy or kick out in a strop. They are much more subtle than that! Introverted horses need to feel they are loved just for themselves and training can’t seem like normal training to them or they become mentally, emotionally and physically braced and a brace in the mind is a brace in the body! Sometimes this brace looks like stubbornness, sometimes an extreme brace can make a horse look lame!

So, how can we find a way to help train our shy horses? I think we need to look back at our childhoods and remember why we love horses in the first place. We often have no idea why these beautiful animals tug at our hearts so much but we do know that as children we just want to run with them, play with them, brush them and love them unconditionally.

How can we train with fun you ask?

I feel we need to ‘Find the Child Within Us’ again to train with fun. Once any safety issues are smoothed out then we can still train with fun, this way we stop making it ‘personal’ to our horses and they will enjoy training and being around us.

Firstly what we we need to do is change the mental attitude we may bring to our horses when training. Our mental attitudes often are of doing things TO the horse, doing things to bring about CHANGES to the horse, doing things to the horse that changes his attitude or physicality! This is just too personal for a horse to take, it’s like ‘Bullying your Best Friend’!! If we think of our horses with us as a herd, of being partners, of being best friends and then ask for things in a way that isn’t personal then the horse won’t be offended.

Here are some idea’s:

1) When asking your horse to back up try saying something like ‘ooh, dropped something, better pick that up quickly’ and smile whilst stepping forward towards your horse. I did this the other day with my very introverted mare and she went back very willingly as there wasn’t anything about moving her backwards in my thoughts or voice, no demands, just needing to do something and she moved out of the way for me.

2) When moving hq’s maybe try saying something like… ‘ooh, forgot my gloves at the gateway’ and walk towards the horses hindquarters whilst bringing the rope slightly upwards. Horse will move their hq’s over quickly without us being specific about a particular move. We could also do same thing but move towards horses forehand for a forehand move over whilst walking.

3) Even when doing something like circling or other circular/half circular patterns we can have a totally different attitude to doing these by adding lots of ‘YES’s’ when every little thing goes right….lightness onto circle, YES, bending to the inside, YES, how beautiful horsey is, YES. Works very well when riding too, lightness off leg, YES, turning without brace, YES, leg yielding like floating dance together, YES.

4) Extreme familiarisation  with stick and string can be more of a feeling of helping horses swish flies away, very good fun and they really appreciate it, with this ‘helping horse’ in our minds we have no anxiety, no agenda too.

5) With impulsion try claiming the space ‘ behind the horse in a game of ‘tag’ which gives it more of a game attitude.

6) Finding impulsion when riding can be challenging for an introverted horse too. BUT if you start with small point 2 points (going from one thing to another like corners, cones, barrels) and putting things in your mind like ‘quick, we need to get to the corner before the bear eats us’ (moving away from something) OR ‘wow, there’s a chocolate biscuit on the barrel how quickly can we get to it before someone else gets it’ (moving towards something). People are usually motivated positively by either  ‘moving away’ or ‘moving towards’ things, find out which you are motivated by and use this technique for positive results.

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Extroverted horses enjoy this method too as they are often very playful. If they are a worried type of horse this can work too as by making things a ‘game’ and with a playful attitude it takes fear pressure off and they can relax and learn more easily.

Our attitude and thoughts can really make a big difference between making training fun or making training work!

I hope you manage to find the child inside you and remember to have FUN 😉

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Shaping Space

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Moving to more refined requests with our horses is where we all want to be, using strategies such as ‘Undemanding Time’, ‘Mirroring Your Horse’, ‘Stick 2 Me’ and having ‘Awareness & Focus’ with ‘The Connection’ we should find that we are becoming more harmonious with our horses, the ‘dance’ is starting.

(Check all ‘titles’ above in previous ‘ARTICLES’)

How do we refine the moves we already know? How do we make non-personal, non-threatening requests to a horse?

I do it using a mental image of moving ‘Space’ rather than moving a horse’s body.  Here’s how I try to think of space between me and a horse:

1) SHARING SPACE: This is where I ask a horse to be close with me on a shared mutual path. Sometimes this may mean the horse is following me, sometimes I am following the horse but eventually I have found that we start being together in a mutual dance of understanding.  I use this sharing space method of connecting in my  ‘STICK 2 ME’ training which  is talked about in another article.

2) PROTECTING SPACE: This is where I set up and keep the space distance between me and my horse(s) as we walk or keeping the space that is around us within a herd situation.

If another horse comes up that I am not working with I will protect the space me and my horse are in from others and often when working with two horses at once I protect my space, the space of the horse to my left and also the one to my right individually so that there are no other herd dynamics going on between them and whilst they are with me they both know that I will protect their space so that we can all relax in a peaceful environment.

If horses of different levels in the herd hierarchy are working with me at one time I let them know I am alpha by protecting my own space well and they are all then on the next level down but none of them higher or lower than each other, just me above only, that way they can relax and listen to my requests without worrying about being moved by the other horse.

3) CLAIMING SPACE: If  the space I create with a horse is changed by that horse moving in to me, thereby taking my space, I reclaim the part I have lost. I also use this claim of space to ask for transitions, I claim the space behind them so that I am not telling the horse to move faster ‘or else’, I am just claiming the grazing under their back feet, this is less bossy and a way herd members move others without being dominant. Being aware of the space I set up at all  times helps make me mentally strong in the herd.

4) SHAPING SPACE: I try to get my own body to create a shape that I ask the horse to copy, once the space between us is understood a horse will very usually bend or move the way we ask and copy our own energy levels to remain synchronised in the herd ‘dance’. Working with this on the ground first helps both parties to create that shape and then recreate it when riding. Shaping space can get very refined, sometimes I ask the horse to just move one part slightly differently to create the shape needed for a move, such as moving the barrel just a small bit away from me to create a better arc in the whole of his body to help with turns and circles. This sort of shaping involves mentally and physically claiming the small area back from the horses space or bubble.

5) OPENING & CLOSING SPACE: I mentally open area’s that I would like the horse to go into and as those spaces open I close others mentally to shut off where I don’t want us to go. This can be refined and very specific in such things as gait, speed of gait, lateral moves but starts with just the basics of left, right, forward, stop and backup.

6) BLOCKING SPACE: I use a ‘block’ if a horse comes into my space without  asking or tries to take my space by walking into it. This does not mean I don’t allow horses to play or have their own ideas but sometimes with some horses we need to re-direct their thoughts to something we’re trying to teach them or to block and protect our space if they get high energy at an inappropriate time.

When using space shaping techniques I make sure that I check myself regularly to see if I am asking something of the horse that I am truly showing in my own body because if we don’t ask the right question or ask the question right in our thoughts and body then the result won’t be what we thought it would be. With new requests I tend to exaggerated my body movements to help my horse see the shape I’m making but once the horse understands that can quickly be refined into more elegant movements.

Also I use a mental image of me in a personal space ‘bubble’, the horse in its own personal space ‘bubble’ but those bubbles are touching when we’re connected and I can change that bubble diameter for draw/drive or to have the horse closer or further away. I know it may sound farfetched but if you work visually then having these kinds of pictures in your mind helps the connection as it defines the space you’re in better so that the horse can pick up on that intuitively. Once I’ve sorted this all in my brain it comes instinctually and I don’t have to mentally ‘think’ about it in such detail. My main thoughts would be on where we’re going, what gait and if we’re shaping correctly for the movement we’re doing also I’m constantly reminding myself of ‘what I am trying to achieve’ with each movement/shape.

Thinking on this ‘bubble’ connection we must not think of our horses running off when at liberty if they have a yeehaa moment, they are always connected to us, our bubbles just have to extend to accommodate the space between us, they forget we can’t ‘play’ like they can. If we think or feel disconnected it is US that has disconnected not them. They don’t think about us not keeping up with them, they’re just playing, so keep ‘mentally’ connected, recall them or keep the connection until you are closer. On that note you must remember to ‘disconnect’ when leaving them to go home.

It really is all about ‘Space’, how much is between us, is it mutually shared, is personal space understood, are there still claiming space issues from your horse or are you in control of your space? Horses really do learn to read our thoughts as our thoughts shape our bodies without us realising it SO make sure you are fully aware of what your body shapes are conveying to your horse and once you find that harmony within space then just ‘dance’ together.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Starting up after Winter Break

STARTING UP AFTER WINTER BREAK

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THINGS TO DO ONLINE (and/or at Liberty)

1) FAMILIARISATION:  

Halter with savvy / touch horse with hands / stick and string rhythmically / with rope / plastic bag / flag / ball / saddle pad / saddle. In front of horse, beside horse, next to horse, further away and around horse.

From gentle up to extreme familiarisation.

 

2) MOVE FROM A FEEL / TOUCH – steady pressure:

Back up from chest and nose, up to 20 steps using pulsing pressure and always looking for lightness and NO BRACE in horse.

Move forehand over (keeping hq’s still and also with hq’s moving slightly in a circle), using pulsing pressure – up to a full circle.

Move hindquarters over (criteria as above but keeping fh still).

Head down, using lightness and as much time as needed for understanding. Hand on poll and using light pressure on rope.

Pick up feet using touch/squeeze of chestnut method…working towards being able to pick up all four feet individually from one side.

 

3) MOVE FROM YOUR FOCUS / INTENT – rhythmic pressure:

Use alpha phases at all times (thought/energy/body cue/tap air in 4 phases up to to tapping horse in a non aggressive way…pulsing pressure).

Slowly and gently disengage hindquarters (up to full circle, criteria as with porcupine)

Move forehand (up to full circle)

Walk backwards with pulsing pressure infront of the horse.

Drive horse to obstacles/touch it – point 2 point, using driving game with you next to horse by neck/shoulder.

 

4) DRAW & DRIVE – transitions: 

With gently pulsing alpha phases and NO WIGGLING of rope unless blocking unwanted moves.

Backup horse to end of 12′ and then 22′ lines and draw with line still on the ground.

Yo-yo you and horse together in sychronised moves, keeping at least 6 paces between you both at all times.

Back and draw between cones, over and back with poles, stable doors, gateways and lower head and back up (making sure no brace or resistence in head down, teach slowly again)

 

5) CIRCLES: 

12′ line – walk / up to 6 continuous laps (in a calm, relaxed manner, no stops until you say so with a DHQ)

12′ line – trot / up to 4 continuous calm laps

22′ line – walk / 8 laps (as above)

22′ line – trot / 6 laps (as above)

22′ line – walk 1 lap to left, change of direction, 1 lap to right then dhq. (or right first then left!)

22′ line – trot 2 laps left, change of direction (keeping gait), 2 laps to right then dhq. (or right first then left).

22′ line – moving circles to left, right and with changes of direction up and down field.

*NB. remember COD’s are an engaged move which stay in gait NOT a disengaged move where gait changes..key to this is to be light on the rope when drawing and to walk backwards to draw..no pulls.

 

6) 1/2 CIRCLE THROUGH/OVER/UNDER: 

12′ line – by fence / through gateways large and small / into and out of stable.

22′ line –  over jump / over pole by fence / over tarp in walk and trot / onto tarp, halt, walk off / onto tarp, backup, walk over (keeping horse further away from you at all times…use as much 22′ line as you can)

Horse should not go behind you at all, this game is a half circle in front of you each ending must be a GOOD DHQ, HALT & RELAX.

 

7) SIDEPASS: 

Calmly at fence to start with.

12′ line – 6-10 steps left and right.

22′ line – 10-20- steps left and right (with you at least 10′ away from horse)

Without fence: at least 10′ with very little forward motion from horse and very very little wiggling. pulse that energy.

 

GAME COMBINATIONS

Back/sidepass left and right: (rolling rock),  Back up, turn forehand, sideways, turn hq’s, back up, turn forehand other way, sideways, turn hq’s, back up…relax)

1/2 Circle game on the move:  with you walking forwards and DHQ’s at sides each time…disengaged move (in walk and trot)

Fig8’s on the move: with you walking backwards…engaged move (in walk and trot)

Leading game: walk forward to destination, dhq half circle then straight into moving fh half circle, you on other side of horse travelling original direction (in walk and trot)

Fig 8’s: 12′ line / walk 4 laps (very little walking from you)

Fig 8’s: 22′ line / trot 4 laps (as above)

Weave: 12′ line / 4 cones, 4 laps

Weave: 22′ line / 4 cones, 4 laps (you at least 6′ away from horse)

Touch it: Nose / 12′ line between 4 obstacles (in walk)

Touch it: Nose / 22′ line between 4 obstacles (you at least 10′ away from obstacle in walk and trot)

Toss Rope: Over head / 12′ line (from in front and beside neck area horse with relaxation)

Toss Rope: Over head / 22′ line (from saddle area, you facing forwards, remember to toss rope with outside hand)

Rope around Spin: 22′ line (toss rope over head, hold snap by halter, standing at shoulder, toss rope over butt and play friendly game with rope between your hands, let go of snap, push head away from you then face his shoulder and gently pull rope for him to spin..make sure you walk away from the shoulder keeping out of the kick zone)

Leg yield on circle: to help stiffness and brace out of horse. Walk circle, drive horse from Z3, porcupine at shoulder or behind shoulder as walking to create an arc in his body and leg yield away from you (in walk and trot)

Sidle for mounting: Sit on fence or stand on block. Hold halter at snap to stop forward motion, ask for hq’s to move TOWARDS you, reward often and rest and stop when horse in mounting position. Then dhq’s away from you and do again. When good at doing on ‘normal’ side of horse, practice on off side too 😉

Stick 2 Me: Horse to follow your thought/energy/body cue (tap only if necessary), you in neck/wither area, lead with outside hand. Walk on / halt. Walk on / halt / walk on. Walk on / trot / walk / halt. Walk on / trot / walk / halt / back up. And all combinations of these 4 things. Work on Left and Right sides too.

 

BITLESS BRIDLE RIDDEN BASICS:

Make up reins with 12′ or 22′ line or use clip on reins.

Sidle horse to mounting block.

If relaxed mount.

Lateral Flexion calmly at standstill, left and right.

Disengage Hindquarters calmly, left and right. (Indirect Rein)

Move forehand calmly, left and right. (Direct Rein)

Using lightness and one rein at a time,

Then: LF and DHQ from a walk in small, safe area, building up to bk/h/w/t transitions looking for lightness and connection to breathing/energy/thoughts.

 

ALSO something to not forget nor neglect is Undemanding Time and Mirror Your Horse.

a) Undemanding Time: go sit with you horse in his environment (or walk companionably with in-hand grazing), make no demands, don’t ask him/her over, don’t interact unless he comes to you. This is time that can be spent reading or doing homework, watching dvd’s or YouTube and allows your horse to know that you can just ‘be with them’ without any agenda.

b) Mirror Your Horse: this one you can do at liberty in your field or on a loose line in the field or with in-hand grazing outside your field. You need to totally give yourself up to mirroring your horse. Find out how he/she puts her front feet down, where is the weight distribution, how does he/she move the foot parts? What about his/her energy and breathing. Can you breathe with your horse. Can you stand totally still and relax or sleep with your horse and totally be with them in their world. This is a great exercise in connection and again allows you to be in their world without an agenda.

See Blog ‘ARTICLES’ for more info on some of the above. It might be an idea to print this off and tick things when you’ve done them. Remember, this is just starting up so we’re just checking things are still there from last year and progress on all of the above and more can be done after these are in place with lightness, politeness, relaxation, willingness, impulsion and flexibility to the smallest degree, they’re just checks.

 

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

 

For more info and to buy instructional DVDs go to my website at www.horsesavvy.co.uk

Breathing

I’ve found, through my own journey as a student and now as an instructor, that breathing is one of the main things I think and talk about. Why, I hear you say? we all breathe so why do I need to talk about breathing? Well, funnily enough, quite often we forget to breathe, especially in a calm, soft, rhythmic way, in all sorts of situations such as:

Concentrating on learning something

Fear of something known coming up

Fear of something unknown coming up

Excitement

Intent focus on one thing

We go introverted and many other reasons.

Horses are very aware of breathing and if we hold our breath for any reason the horse feels this, our body changes from soft to slightly stiff. Holding our breath could be interpreted by a horse as us going introverted, thereby they need to start leading, it could be interpreted also as us in a freeze moment before flight and the horse goes on edge ready to flee with us, whatever the reason holding our breath isn’t good. Irregular breathing isn’t good either as it doesn’t ‘flow’ well or give harmony to our movements.

What we need to do when around our horses is to remember to breathe, it helps to relax us and our horses and we can start using our breathing as a cue to what we want. To help us do this there is an exercise we can start doing on the ground that will help us to remember to breathe, start doing this as soon as you are confident and comfortable leading your horse around with the Stick 2 Me principle (see S2M article).

1) You at horses neck (or further back as your progress your Stick 2 Me exercise), horse working in a nice confident, rhythmic walk with you.

2) Get in time with your horses front feet, left to left, right to right.

3) Start counting footfalls, 1,2,3,4….1,2,3,4…..1,2,3,4.

4) Breathe in for the count of 4. Breathe out for the count of 4.

Once you start getting a good breath routine of 4 in, 4 out then start trying to relax your lungs and stomach and getting more breaths in/out without changing the rhythm of your footfalls. You will hopefully find that you can count to 5 in, 5 out very quickly, then 6 in, 6 out and onwards. See how far you can count BUT don’t forget to play Stick 2 Me with your horse and walk lots of patterns to keep him/her interested. Don’t become TOO focused on your breathing and forget other things. It may be good to start practising counting breaths whilst just walking without your horse, maybe while walking your dog or walking down the road. If you find you are forgetting to breathe a lot then maybe sing or whistle as you have to breath regularly to do these.

Start teaching stop/start cues with breathing. From halt to walk breathe in and bring your lungs/chest upwards and forwards for a walk on cue. Big Breathe out (make a noise like blowing out birthday candles) and bring your lungs/chest down for a halt.

breathingBig breath out to halt, using obstacles to refine this to perfection

Once you have the stop/start cues then you can start refining this to where you can breathe out slightly and continue breathing at that level for a transition down without a stop. Each horse/human finds their own levels of breathing in/out that they respond to so you must practice and find what works for your horse and you to become more in harmony. Just remember breathe out for slower/stopa nd breathe in for walk/trot/canter on.

Also remember to breathe and count steps when riding, this can really help you and your horse to relax, especially when doing  lateral moves or a dressage test and if you are doing a jumping course you will find you and your horse relax if you can teach yourself to remember to breathe OUT when going over the jump.

Again, as with all the exercises and principles I’ve written about, once you have thought about them, practised them and incorporated them into your way with your horse it becomes instinctive and only when you go somewhere new, or something unexpected happens, do you have to remember to breathe, and you can go straight to counting breaths to bring about relaxation again. All the principles can be refined and refined and refined again…remember, we’re aiming for ‘Invisible Horsemanship’

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy