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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

OurHorsesOurselves-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Pam White

 

TSB is excited to announce a wonderful upcoming event at the Time Out Foundation—a 35-acre farm in beautiful northwest Connecticut that provides children and teens with the time, space, and experiences they need to create positive change in their lives. On May 20, 2018, from 3-5:00 pm, TSB author Paula Josa-Jones will present a playful, collaborative equine event based on her book OUR HORSES, OURSELVES entitled “3 Horse Tales for the 21st Century.” CLICK HERE to hear Josa-Jones talk about the event and what she hopes it will help achieve in a short interview with Marshall Miles on Robin Hood Radio.

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CLICK TO VISIT ROBIN HOOD RADIO

 

A short time ago, we found some time to chat with Josa-Jones about her book and her work as a choreographer and a dancer. It was wonderful to learn a little more about her hopes for the horse world, as well as her creative process. Here’s what she had to say about OUR HORSES, OURSELVES and the differences between working with human dancers and finding ways to “dance” with horses.

 

TSB: Your book OUR HORSES, OURSELVES: DISCOVERING THE COMMON BODY was published in the fall of 2017. Your perspective as a dancer and choreographer offers a different “way in” to that place of connection with the horse everyone strives for. For those who are unfamiliar with your work, how would you explain the relationship between your life as a dancer and your life as a horsewoman?

PJJ: Movement! Between 60 and 80 percent of our communication is nonverbal, spoken in the bodily languages of movement and touch—including conscious and unconscious movements, gestures, postures, and facial expressions.  The whole encyclopedia of our movement is in fact an intricate web of communication. Horses are in fact masters of the this movement language. They are speaking in it all the time. Every movement is expressive and carries meaning.  Much of their communication has such subtlety that even very experienced horsewomen and men find it difficult to parse. 

My own story is that I rode as a young girl, and then horses left my life and dance became primary.  And then I found myself needing to be around horses and ride again as an adult. Almost immediately I wanted to get out of the saddle and explore moving with them on the ground. I wanted to speak with them in the shared language of movement and see what would happen. As an improviser, I was curious about just being still, listening with my body, and letting movement arise from simply being in their presence rather than from “performing” planned or patterned movements.

I am still doing that.  I would say that I try to dance every aspect of my relationship with my horses, and with the work that I do with students and clients.

 

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Photo by Jeffrey Anderson

TSB: OUR HORSES, OURSELVES provides dozens of gentle exercises and meditations. How can these simple activities, many of them out of the saddle and away from the horse, improve riding, training, and competitive performance?

PJJ: The idea of many of these exercises is to support riders and horse people in having a more holistic, sense of themselves and their bodies, and understanding that this embodied awareness is an essential foundation for all dimensions of horsemanship. Embodiment means experiencing our bodies in a continuous, feeling, conscious way, what I call “body presence,” meaning a moment-to-moment awareness of the flow of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and energies through our bodily selves. 

So instead of fixing the horse—the neck, the jaw, poll, or inside hind—or making small or big adjustments to the position of our legs, or hands, or seat, we start to feel the whole of ourselves in connection with the whole of the horse. This moves our focus from outside (seeing ourselves as an external viewer) to inside (feeling ourselves from within). 

Mindfulness about our bodies and our movement takes practice! We have to notice the details of our movement and bodily sensations in an ongoing way: how you pick up your cup, hold your steering wheel, sit at the computer, get up, shake someone’s hand, pick up your grooming brushes, move around your horse or your house.

Also, the exercises in my book are intended to move us toward a more “awake” expressive, exploratory, curious, and playful experience of our moving selves in relationship to the horse. So much of our movement is functional—about going somewhere and doing something—and we forget to “dance” our lives, or may not even consider that as possible. I want to challenge the unconscious, the habitual, and look for ways to “wake up” and experience each breath, each ride, as unique—as an opportunity to become more awake and engaged.

 

TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

PJJ: That we are not separate. The subtitle of my book is “Discovering the Common Body.” I want to emphasize that your body is not separate from my body or from the body of the horse, the praying mantis, the hummingbird, the manatee or the earth itself.
In his book The Songs of Trees, author David George Haskell, says, “Life is embodied network.”  What that means to me is that all living beings are an interconnected, interspecies, bio-similar, cross-pollinating network in a constant flux of adjustment, response, and transformation. Often, however, we are not feeling that ongoing connectedness; we are not orienting toward the pleasurable dimensions of that relationship with others or ourselves.
 
I believe that the horses can help us with that. There is something so precious and profound about entering the mystery and the silence of connection with them that has little or nothing to do with technique or conventional horsemanship, and everything to do with the deep alignment of relationship.

 

TSB: You have choreographed performances for humans and those for horses with humans. What has been most rewarding in your work with dancers on the stage? With those in the arena and on horseback?

PJJ: Each dance has its own intention and necessity at the time that it is created.  That means that the ideas and the movement materials that were a part of that particular dance took on the quality of an obsession, with a specific, intense urgency. For example, I worked over a period of two years on Ghostdance—with my company and in collaboration with a community of dancers in Mexico, and the composer Pauline Oliveros. That happened to include the year that my father was dying, and so that gave the dance a particular edge, and deepened the work in some unexpected and important ways.

I love each dance that I have made. I would have to say that I love the work into being, into form, and that each one leaves its traces—changes me deeply—and makes way for the next work, and the next. The important thing is to let oneself be drawn to the work, like a surfer waiting for that next perfect, inevitable wave.

With the horse dances, RIDE, the first dance that I created with horses, has a special resonance. I think that is because it grew from a community of riders and horse people (I was living on Martha’s Vineyard at the time) and had a velocity and potency that took us all by surprise. Like that wave, again, we all felt we were being carried. I was also a complete beginner in my adult horsemanship and in making dances with horses, and had all the blessings of beginner’s mind, meaning a strong, eager determination but few preconceptions.

 

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Photo by Pam White

 

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

PJJ: Probably a Friesian, like my strong, steady, beautiful Sanne.  On the other hand, perhaps an Andalusian, like my feisty, enthusiastic, gorgeous stallion Capprichio. Both?
I will need two books: the complete poems of Mary Oliver and any mystery by Ruth Rendell.

 

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

PJJ: Riding an Icelandic pony in Iceland! I have always wanted to know what tolting feels like.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

PJJ: Enthusiasm and kindness.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

PJJ: Curiosity. 

 

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

PJJ: Something happening to someone (animals included) that I love. 

 

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

PJJ: The horses, always the horses!

 

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

PJJ: I am VERY sensitive, like an anemone.  That is a blessing and a curse—a double-edged sword.  I love that my sensitivity allows me to feel everything so deeply, and wish that I were not quite so vulnerable to the cruelties. On the other hand, my outrage fuels my activism.

 

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times? 

PJJ: Avocados, goat milk, and something green.

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

PJJ: I have more than one! Riding out with my horse on a spring morning or a fall afternoon, tasting the air together, feeling each other. Reading a book while listening to the Caribbean ocean. Swimming in the Caribbean ocean. Standing with Sanne’s nose pressed into my shoulder. Sitting on the porch with a cup of tea and my beloved Pam White. 

 

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

PJJ: Please don’t make me pick ONE!!! Eleanor Roosevelt. Rachel Carson. Harriet Tubman.

 

TSB: What is your motto?

PJJ: I believe in deepening creativity and awareness playfully, through the body, and finding ways to expand understanding and feeling with all sixty trillion cells, not just the ones perched on our necks. That means having a 24/7, wide-awake, multi-sensory, empathetic bodily experience of the world and ourselves.

 

Our Horses OurselvesPaula Josa-Jones’ book OUR HORSES, OURSELVES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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LovevLimits-horseandriderbooks

I think it is Buck Brannaman who has often likened working with horses to parenthood. And, as a horse person and a mom, I concur it is strikingly similar. Loving someone and yet setting limits and saying “No” can be an exhausting act of balance. You don’t want to err too soft or too hard…and even when you think you might have it right, you cringe when you see that look of hurt in your child’s eyes after he’s been remonstrated; you feel badly when your horse sulks a bit after you push his nose away from your pocket.

Faced with this challenge, many of us wonder how the “magicians” of the horse world do it–how those who so obviously have close connections with their horses manage to find that balance between love and limits.

In GALLOP TO FREEDOM, the book he wrote with his wife, Magali Delgado, renowned horseman Frédéric Pignon explores this topic at length. And seeing as his spellbinding liberty acts were what made the original rendition of Cavalia an international phenomenon (he and Magali toured with their horses as part of the original lineup from 2003 to 2009), you have to think that maybe he’s got something in the mix about right:

I allow absolutely no biting or jostling: this is a rule that I start establishing with a young horse from the first day I work with him. In fact, with one that I do not know, I impose a strict limit as to how close he approaches me. No two horses are the same but as a guide I would suggest a distance of a forearm. Confidence breeds respect and vice versa. In liberty training, if there is mutual confidence between us, I can allow myself to tap the horse on his legs with my whip without causing him to run away—but only if my action is a justified reaction to something wrong or disobedient that he has done.

A common mistake is to do too much “snuggling up” to a horse from the beginning. You should keep the distance appropriate to the stage of your relationship. I don’t immediately let a horse invade my space. Quite apart from the danger of being bitten, it puts you on the wrong footing. Once there is total confidence and respect in both directions it becomes another matter.

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It is not easy to define rule making. It may seem from what I have said that there are few rules and that the horse is encouraged to take the initiative. However, it is the case that rules are not only essential but that the horse functions the better for accepting certain guidelines. Here is the crux of the situation: you must not impose unreasonable rules that the horse feels he cannot accept with a willing spirit.

Man has deprived the horse of his natural state; the horse has been dragged into the world of humans and therefore it is the foundation stone of our relationship that we earn his respect before anything else. He has lost his freedom but we can give him protection, security, and respect. In return, he will give us respect and affection and recognize the behavioral limits that we set together.

In order to become important to a horse, we cannot remain neutral. I have to impose laws and make it absolutely clear what is not allowed. At the same time, I know that horses often crave reassurance even more than liberty so I must provide this. I have to encourage this craving and convince them that I am the person to satisfy the need.

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It has always amazed me how quickly a good chiropractor or osteopath convinces a horse that he is important to him. The horse understands in no time at all that the osteopath will relieve him of his aches and pains and therefore accepts him as a friend. This is why I think it is so important to spend time reassuring a horse and helping him relax rather than treating him with rewards. I often spend a quarter of an hour in the company of a horse, either in his stall or in the field, without asking anything of him. I just rub him gently and caress him and try to show him that there is all the time in the world; I am not going to rush him and I’m not going to make unreasonable demands.

If one of my liberty horses gives another a nip. I give him a tap with my whip. He knows he shouldn’t bite another horse and as long as I tap him with the right amount of strength, he will accept it; he will even put his head on my shoulder as if to say “I know, I know.” But if he only “looks” as though he is going to bite another horse and I give him a sharp tap instead of a warning word, that is not fair and he knows it. He runs away and this time I have to make it up to him by going to him. Even after an hour’s work I may still see in his eye that he is hurt and depressed.

The secret is to deploy the right amount of warning signals when I see a horse has something naughty in mind. “Don’t even think about it,” is a common enough warning between people and I have to find the equivalent for the horse, but it has to be one that he associates with his intention. He then says in effect, “Fair game.”

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For more on Pignon and Delgado’s ideas about establishing a balance between love and limits, check out their bestselling books GALLOP TO FREEDOM and BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER: YOU AND YOUR HORSE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

And, don’t miss your chance to train with them in person! They are doing a limited number of clinics in the US in March, or you can join them at their farm in Provence in May for a special retreat experience. For more information CLICK HERE.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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JLG-Genius

Before we published HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, I knew of Jack Le Goff. I knew of him the way any once-young-and-aspiring eventer would: through stories shared by the trainers I rode with through the years, as well as those very fine horsemen and women I’ve had the honor of working with during my tenure at TSB. He existed in my mind as a formidable individual, one who hesitated not in turning the screw in order to elicit improved performance. I knew he was a great coach, but his name caused the same quake-in-my-boots fear that George Morris’s always did…and it also raised the question that any rider with even a smidgeon of self-doubt will admit: Had I been born at the right time under the right star and found myself under his tutelage, would I have found the resolve and personal strength to flourish…to become truly accomplished in the saddle?

In HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, we hear of plenty who did flourish with Le Goff as their guide and coach. But what helps is not that they succeeded where I admittedly think I would likely have failed (in that fantasy where I am an elite rider during the heyday of US eventing), but that Le Goff shares his strategies: how and when he chose to be hard or soft, why he’d settle on keeping or losing his temper, and what his reasoning was behind decisions he made concerning coaching and the teams he led. So now we see the path to the medal, but we don’t just hear about the fences cleared, we also know about the tears, the injuries, the heartbreak. The times riders tried, and failed, and tried again. And we come to understand the passion for the horse felt by all involved, perhaps most profoundly Le Goff’s own.

Larger lessons aside, there are also hundreds of fascinating facts and historical notes throughout the book. Here are 10 that stayed with me:

1 In the notoriously hard 9-month course at the Cadre Noir, “students rode eight horses a day for a total of eight hours or more.” Le Goff writes. “For the first three months, six of those eight hours were without stirrups, so the breeches were more often red with blood than any other color…. In the evening, we had to do book work, and we all spent that time sitting in buckets of water with a chemical in it to toughen the skin.”

2 At the Olympics in 1956, the Russian eventing team only had one helmet for three riders, and passed it from one to the other after each performance.

3 Britain’s Sheila Wilcox won Badminton three times and in 1957 at the age of 21 became European Champion, but was never allowed to compete in the Olympics because she was a woman.

4 American rider Kevin Freeman helped save a horse from drowning by holding his head up in a flooded river at the Olympics in Mexico in 1968.

5 Bruce Davidson didn’t know what a diagonal was when he first started riding with Le Goff. Two years later he competed in the Olympic Games.

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Tad Coffin with his copy of Le Goff’s autobiography.

6 You should walk a cross-country course as if that is the ONLY time you’ll be able to walk it. You should have total concentration and envision how you will ride it. A walk simply to get a first impression is a wasted walk.

7 Today, people learn to compete before they learn to ride, and that makes it difficult for them to be truly competitive and to progress to other levels.

8 There is no instant dressage like instant coffee. You can go out and buy a top-level horse if you have enough money, but the true rider should be able to “make” his or her own horse. In eventing, there are often “pilots” who “fly” or ride the horse, and mechanics who prepare him, train and condition him. But the true horseman does both.

9 Although he was a brilliant rider, Tad Coffin did not believe how good he was, so while Le Goff would intentionally infuriate some riders to get them to perform, he would instead look for ways to give Tad confidence.

10 The riding coach who is looking to be popular will not produce the desired results, and the rider who does not accept discipline “may be better suited to another pursuit,” Le Goff writes. “Crochet comes to mind!”

I’m certain you’ll find many other tidbits that motivate you or make you laugh or look at your riding differently in this book. Most importantly, by reading Le Goff’s book, you, too, will be able to share his stories and spread his philosophy. And through us all, the best of Jack Le Goff, the man George Morris called “a genius,” will live on.

 

 

HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST is available from the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

—Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.  

 

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PRINOFRIDING

THE PRINCIPLES OF RIDING by the German Equestrian Federation (FN) was first published more than 50 years ago and now has 28 editions to date. Over 400,000 have been sold, translated into 11 languages.

The ideas expressed in THE PRINCIPLES OF RIDING are based on “classical riding,” which is defined by the FN as:

“A vital and modern training system that builds on the basic principles of the ‘Old Masters,’ supplemented by new insights that serve the welfare of the horse and are purposeful for its training.”

In addition, classical riding:

  • Is oriented toward the nature of the horse–the horse’s needs and each horse’s natural, individual abilities.
  • Considers the physical precondition of the horse and the natural behavior of the horse.
  • Supports the horse’s welfare.
  • Aims toward a balanced gymnasticizing and strengthening of the horse.
  • Is diverse and versatile.
  • Develops and maintains a horse that performs willingly and confidently.
  • Demands from the rider an elastic, balanced seat, a sensitive, fine use of the aids, as well as an understanding of the nature of the horse and its correlation to training, thus leading to inner and outer balance of horse and rider.

So as horse people, why do we need to read the new edition of THE PRINCIPLES OF RIDING? Because it provides a baseline foundation of understanding for ALL areas of equestrian sport and horse management. Because it provides practical guidance to all who want to learn how to ride and train a horse appropriately, as well as comprehend why certain methods have proved correct and indispensable over the years. And because this newest revised edition emphasizes the importance of harmony between horse and rider.

THE PRINCIPLES OF RIDING are an important addition to any aspiring rider or trainer’s equestrian library, and are available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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CDTransitions

In Jessica Black’s book COWBOY DRESSAGE, she explains Eitan Beth-Halachmy’s riding and training philosophy. One point they do an excellent job clarifying involves transitions: what they are, how to prepare for them, and how to make them good.

Anytime the horse changes his gait or frame, he performs a transition. Going from the walk to the jog is a transition, for example; changing the frame, as in working jog to free jog, is also a transition. The goal for any transition is to make a smooth change of gait or frame (without altering the rhythm). This means staying straight or remaining on a bend, and keeping the back supple and the head and neck relaxed with light contact.

The horse should be engaged: all transitions start in the hindquarters, thus keeping the front end light. Transitions are an opportunity for the rider to bring the horse back into frame. It is particularly important not to over-train with transitions; always stop after one or two good executions.

Teaching transitions starts on the ground as part of building the foundation through leading, lunging, long-lining, and ground driving. These will establish a pattern of obedience that carries over to work under saddle. Even at the earliest stages of training, procure that the horse stay relaxed and supple. Don’t set your horse up for failure by asking too much. This is true for work under saddle as well as on the ground. If the horse does not understand, encourage him to move forward before asking for transitions again. Sometimes it can even be a good idea to put the horse up, and continue the next day.

Teaching transitions is not something you suddenly decide to do one day; you teach them all the time. Keep in mind that every communication with your horse is a teaching moment. The Cowboy Dressage emphasis on lightness will help make each transition work toward a better partnership.

Soft Feel, with its four facets, is an ideal approach to transitions:

Preparation, that is, asking the horse clearly what you want him to do.

Execution, that is, the horse’s interpretation of your requests.

Release, that is, the reward for the horse’s compliance.

Relaxation, that is, the result of effective communication with the horse continuing calmly to the next movement.

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Let’s consider transitions between gaits. The most important point to remember about changing gaits is that the change starts in the back of the horse, which moves forward into the transition. This will mean shortening the frame slightly in order to bring the horse together before executing the transition. The horse should make the transition smoothly and calmly. In general, if the horse is on a straight line or a bend when you start the transition, he should be on (the same) straight line or bend when he finishes it.

Sometimes you will want to change the gait at the same time you change direction (straightness/bend). This can be useful for practicing transitions: changing to a bend can make it easier to pick up the lope, for example. Cowboy Dressage tests may ask for changes of gait or frame at the same time that you go from straight to bend, or vice versa.

One of the best things a rider can do to ensure good transitions is become familiar with the gaits, and pay close attention to the pattern of hoof beats. Familiarize yourself with the walk, jog, and lope, by looking at the many diagrams available that demonstrate each step. Videos can also provide clear demonstrations of how the horse moves at each gait. Once you are familiar with how each movement should look, spend time watching horses move. Observing your horses play is not only good for the soul, it is good for the rider’s brain. Watching horses move freely in the pasture can help you become familiar with gaits, and this familiarity will make teaching them under saddle easier.

When you ride, feel the movement of the horse as his hooves strike the ground. Practice identifying where each foot is at the walk, jog, and lope. At the free jog, it can be very useful to post, paying attention to your diagonal (the horse’s  front foot with which the rider rises when posting). As you rise, the opposite hind foot is coming forward. Learn to recognize the diagonal movement of the horse’s feet at the jog. All these details will inform your decisions about where and how to ask your horse to change gaits.

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COWBOY DRESSAGE is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.  

 

 

 

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In her new book TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY, gold-medal Olympian and champion eventer Ingrid Klimke shares intimate profiles of 10 of her horses. We are invited into her barn where she explains their personality quirks, their strengths and their challenges. Klimke outlines each horse’s training plan, highlighting why certain accommodations are made for a particular individual, and illustrating how another has blossomed under different training expectations.

Among others, readers meet Geraldine, a large-framed, elegant chestnut mare who shines in the  dressage arena. This is her story:

Geraldine grew up with the herd at Gut Schwaighof, the facility of her breeders and part owners, Hannelore and Ulrich Zeising. They informed me that she was ranked rather low in the herd as a foal. The Zeisings showed her to me as a three-year-old and we turned her loose to move about in the indoor arena. She had a light, floating trot and I liked her. I could also see that she was going to first need to grow into her large body and definitely needed more time to develop.

We decided to send her to my former apprentice, Lara Heggelmann, who thoroughly and carefully trained her through Second Level. Afterward, Geraldine returned to my barn at the end of her fifth year.

Geraldine is a quiet and reserved horse. She is shy and was often afraid in the beginning, especially when ridden out in front of other horses. She did not trust herself to lead the group when riding out, but she did not feel comfortable in the middle of the group, either. She went at the back of the group and put a big distance between herself and the other horses, which fascinated us. She let the distance get bigger and bigger and gave the impression she would prefer to have nothing to do with the other horses. Over the years, her behavior has changed: today, she will bravely take the lead and stays with the group, as long as the others don’t get too close for her liking.

Geraldine is a sound-sensitive horse and whenever anything is new for her, she finds it daunting at first. We have tried to be very cautious when getting her used to new things and to increase her self-confidence. When she does something well, I always praise her and build in a walk break. In this way, she knows everything is all right. She can relax and I win her trust. She is very sensitive to ride, so I really need to concentrate fully on her and give my aids with feel. Geraldine is very good natured and always very motivated. She wants to do everything right and always tries her best. In the barn, she is also very sociable and well behaved. Just being “left alone” is not her thing. Without her stablemates, she does not feel at ease.

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Photo from Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way

In order for Geraldine to learn to relax when being ridden in a group, we always take her with us on our hacks and adventures. I’m of the opinion it will help her to experience being ridden out in the open. Of course, she is also worked on the longe line once a week and ridden over cavalletti for gymnastic benefits. As Geraldine’s future lies clearly in dressage, it has also become the emphasis of her training. This means I do dressage-oriented work with her four days a week. She learns new exercises step by step, and I’m currently beginning to compete her at Prix St. Georges. In order for her to be able to learn new exercises well, it’s important there is a relaxed atmosphere in the riding arena or the indoor where she’s working. Most significantly for Geraldine, we really need to master that which she’s already learned, so that she can demonstrate it with self-confidence. When — and only when — the fundamentals are good, I can go further with her training, step by step.

At the moment, Geraldine is secure with all exercises at Prix St. Georges and she has successfully begun learning collected steps, working in the direction of piaffe and passage.

Read about Klimke’s other horses, as well as her training philosophy and favorite exercises, in TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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Alois Podhajsky with Norman.

 

Colonel Alois Podhajsky was an Olympian and Director of the the Spanish Riding School in Vienna for 26 years. Podhajsky was known to bring out the best in each horse he rode, and to rely on patience, understanding, and affection in the training process.

Podhajsky detailed his riding, training, and competitive experiences in the renowned book MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS, which was first published in English in 1968. By sharing the stories of each of the horses he worked with over the course of his career, we learn his methods, mistakes, and discoveries. One horse he writes of was an eight-year-old, part-Trakehner gelding named Norman, who helps us learn the lesson that sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward.

Norman had been taught quite a number of things by his breeder in Germany. He knew how to perform lateral work, flying changes, and even some sort of passage…most of it was superficial…. Once again I met in Norman a horse without sufficient urge to go forward unless pushed and often he offered a passage without its being demanded. But his passage was not the artistic solemn movement but a tense sort of hovering trot which had its origin in his reluctance to go forward. It is a great temptation for the rider to accept an exercise that the horse offers but would have a very negative effect on the rest of the training. The idea of dressage is to cultivate and improve the natural movements of the horse so that he executes them upon the slightest aids of the rider. If he anticipates these aids he proves that his obedience is not sufficiently well established. Besides, a horse will anticipate only to make work easier for himself and execute the exercise incorrectly. Consequently the standard of work will decline. If this is the case the rider must interrupt his present work and go back again to the basic training until it is well consolidated. 

We had the greatest trouble making Norman strike off into the canter from the trot. Either he tried to run away or he offered his “passage.” He had been taught to strike off into the canter exclusively from the walk and became nervous and excited upon this unusual demand. However, it is a very important exercise which improves suppleness and helps achieve the correct activity of the hind legs in response to the actions of the reins. It also furthers the will to go forward and establishes obedience and is therefore a necessity in thorough gymnastic training. Besides, it is much more natural and easier for the horse to strike off into the canter from the trot. Nevertheless it took quite a long while until Norman understood this unaccustomed exercise and I had to allow him his lapse of time because I did not want to confuse him or make him nervous.

 

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Walking Norman on a loose rein.

 

Once again I relied on my proven remedy—good for anything and everything, one might say—which is to teach the horse to move correctly and with suppleness and balance, to make him understand his rider and follow him without reserve. I began to take Norman on the same course of training I pursued with my young horses, with the exception that I spent less time on the various phases. That is, I moved on when I saw that he had understood and was able to execute my demands. Of course I observed him closely all the time and found that I could establish his confidence much more quickly after a few rounds at the walk on a loose rein at the beginning of work and that he paid much less attention to his surroundings than if I had had begun our daily session with the reins applied.

In this way, Norman had a chance to look around in the open-air arena and the adjacent paddocks, and when he was satisfied with what he had seen, he would concentrate entirely upon his work. The rider should always give his horse a chance to look around before beginning serious training. His horse will never become “fed up” with dressage if the rider respects his particularities and allows the freedom of mind necessary for concentrated work.

MYHOMY

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You can read more of Alois Podhajsky’s stories in MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

CLICK HERE to order now.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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