Awareness Through Adversity

I’ve much to be thankful for but an ankle tendon injury is trying to get me down. It’s challenging me to find the “good” in it. One rewarding and hopefully long lasting “gift” came last Wednesday when I took my monthly Western Dressage lesson from Cathy Drumm at Mount Holyoke Equestrian Center, host of the Northeast Western Dressage Championships. I might have cancelled this lesson due to my discomfort, not being able to put my foot in a stirrup and feeling low. However, as a fellow instructor I didn’t want to cancel on Cathy. Deep down I also knew that if I sucked it up I would feel better for it. Riley and I needed this last chance to practice with “eyes on” before the Championships which were two weeks away.

I ride bareback as much as I ride in a saddle and actually prefer it. Therefore, riding without stirrups in my lesson was not a big deal. About half way through the lesson Cathy mentioned how much she loved my position without stirrups. We discussed this a bit and continued on with the lesson. Riley came up beneath me beautifully when I focused a little less on forward and more on upward, as Cathy prescribed. At the lope we are still working to improve strength, balance and rhythm in hopes of moving up a level next season. Therefore, we always throw in a few lope transitions to check our progress. The transitions happened easily with Riley getting both leads correctly on the first try.

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Bringing Leadership Qualities in 4 Sessions!

These photos represent where we finished on our fourth session with Vaka. Our goal was to achieve relaxation under saddle. Check!

A few weeks ago Vaka’s owner Tahnit contacted me about helping her develop more meaningful, trusting relationships with her two Icelandic horses. In our first session we focused on creating a safe, peaceful environment within the 4-horse herd and on helping Tahnit become all that her horses needed her to be. Vaka is the lead mare and Galen, her gelding, is at the bottom of the pecking order. In the paddock we practiced being centered, grounded, aware and clear in all that we did. The horses took note of our calm, effective leadership as that is of high value to them. We created meaningful conversations about space and who moves who, keeping the energy as low as possible.

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Developing “Feel” & “Connection”

“Your arms and hands, from the shoulder joints to the tips of the fingers and through the reins, belong to the horse.” Sally Swift

Riding is like tapping your head and rubbing your belly, on steroids! Different body parts must be doing different things all at the same time, and all without disturbing the horse. This is no easy task. Luckily for us, and for the horse, Centered Riding founder Sally Swift developed exercises and techniques that offer us the opportunity to “feel” of each other. I personally take a feel of each rider’s hands when I get to the “developing a soft, clear connection” part of my clinics. This exchange of energy and movement gives me great insight into how they might feel to their horse. After helping things go a little smoother I have participants be each other’s horses. They experience how small changes can drastically impact the message and feel that goes through to the horse. These exercises are challenging and sometimes cause distress because nobody wants to be the rider who pulls or troubles their horses mouth. Riding is not about the mouth, it’s about the feet and body of the horse. First as riders we need to focus on our energy, our balance, our clear intent and carrying ourselves, then we can complete the pretty picture with subtle support through our hands to the horses head. These pictures illustrate some of the exercises we do in a clinic. They always serve as one of the most enlightening and effective teaching tools.  Whenever we can experience something from the horse’s perspective things always improve. Check out the event page for a list of clinics near you and experience it for yourself. I guarantee that you will find them fun, educational and inspirational! Your horse will  you for it!