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Last week, The Guardian released the findings of a new study that finds horses are stressed by tight nosebands.

Last week, The Guardian released the findings of a new study that finds horses are stressed by tight nosebands.

“Researchers studying the physiological impact of nosebands on horses competing in international equestrian competitions including the Olympics are calling for new regulations to reduce potential pain and distress from the equipment,” Nicola Davis reported in The Guardian on May 3, 2016. “The scientists found that horses’ heart rates were raised and they struggled to chew when nosebands were fitted too tightly around the animals’ heads.”

This was just last week.

“Serious concerns have been raised about riding equipment to be used at this year’s Rio Olympics,” wrote James Thomas for ABC Australia on May 10, “with scientists claiming nosebands and double bridles could cause unnecessary pain and suffering to horses during equestrian events.”

The ABC report prompted an immediate response and official statement from Equestrian Australia, released via EquestrianLife.com:

At Equestrian Australia (EA) events full consideration is given to the welfare of the horse. Trained stewards ensure that equipment rules are followed and are responsible for conducting saddlery checks, including checking nosebands and bits of competing horses.

The noseband check includes a physical check by the steward to guarantee that the noseband is fitted properly and is not having an adverse effect on the horse.

The story and its response, with the upcoming Olympic Games in full view, is only now finding headlines.

But it was a full 4 years ago that renowned horse behavior expert and founder of the Tellington Method Linda Tellington-Jones devoted an entire section of her groundbreaking book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL to the subject of tight nosebands and their detrimental effects. Ahead of her time, as is often the case with her innovative ideas and techniques for bodywork and training, Tellington-Jones brought in expert analysis from two top veterinarians to support her claims that too-tight nosebands are ultimately detrimental to equine performance. Here is an excerpt from her book and key points from Tellington-Jones and two equine veterinarians.

Maybe, finally, things will start to change for the good of the horse?

***

It has become commonplace to ride dressage horses with a very tight noseband (cavesson) and girth. Sometimes riders even use mechanical levers to crank the noseband or girth tighter when their own strength fails. This creates a major conundrum. A dressage horse is expected to be flexible and move fluidly, but the tight noseband and girth prevent free movement of the jaw and restrict the ribs. When any joint in the body is restricted, the movement of all joints is affected so that the horse cannot bend, flex, and achieve free-flowing gaits as expected.

In her seminal book CENTERED RIDING, Sally Swift described a simple exercise that illustrates this phenomenon: Take one hand and shake it. Now, continue to shake the hand and tighten one finger. Notice what happens to your hand…and what happens to your breathing. When you tighten one finger, you tighten the other fingers of the hand, as well as your wrist, on up into your arm, eventually limiting your breathing. One tight finger results in the larger part of your body becoming stiff.

For decades I’ve hoped that prominent veterinarians and trainers in the international dressage world would speak out against the practice of cranking nosebands and girths so tight that sometimes I have found my hands are not strong enough to release them. In 2007, 12 years after I had first visited his
farm and worked with him and Goldstern, Klaus Balkenhol taught a clinic during Equitana in Germany in which he recommended that riders loosen the traditionally tight nosebands and girths, mentioning that I had brought the matter of such restrictive tack inhibiting a horse’s freedom of movement to his attention. At the time I was both surprised and elated, hoping that the riding community would prick up their ears and pay attention. Unfortunately, I do not feel that enough change has come to pass in this area, even with the support of such prominent and successful individuals.

It was a number of years ago that veterinarian Dr. Joyce Harman first stated in one of my newsletters that “a comfortable mouth is as important to a horse’s happiness and performance as saddle fit, good shoeing, and tooth care.”

“For years,” she wrote, “in my quest to help riders improve their horses’ comfort and performance, I have asked them to loosen tight nosebands. When one part of the horse is tight, the rest of the horse cannot move freely—just clench your own jaw and feel how far down your back and shoulders the
tension travels.

“The key to understanding the effect of tight nosebands (and bitting, too) extends far beyond the mouth. It begins with the anatomy of the horse’s tongue, head, and neck, and expands to include how the front part of the body affects movement of the whole horse. The tongue lies partly between the
bones of the jaw (bars of the mouth) and above the jaw. Some of the tongue muscles connect to a small set of bones in the throat called the hyoid bones.

LTJnoseband

“Originating from the hyoid bones are two major neck muscles. One attaches to the sternum (sternohyoideus); the other to the inside of the shoulder (omohyoideus). Thus, there is a direct connection from the tongue to the sternum and shoulder along the bottom of the horse’s neck. Consequently, if you have tension in the tongue, you have tension all the way down to the sternum and shoulder along the bottom of the neck, where you actually want suppleness. Once you have tension to the sternum, the horse cannot raise his back and use the commonly cited ‘circle of muscles’ that allow for collection and the self-carriage desired in dressage.

“Small muscles also connect the hyoid bones to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the poll. The TMJ is an important center for nerves that control the horse’s balance and proprioception. And the poll—its ability to bend and flex—is of central concern to the dressage rider. Because of the small muscles connecting them, there is a very close relationship (which few riders know about) between the horse’s tongue, hyoid bones, TMJ, poll, head, and neck.

“When the horse’s tongue is free and soft, all of this translates into a horse who is better able to move well, with coordination, improved balance, and a significantly lengthened stride.”

Dr. Renee Tucker, a veterinarian certified in equine acupuncture and chiropractic, concurs with Dr. Harman.

“The super-tight noseband,” she says, “what I not-so-fondly refer to as ‘STN,’ not only keeps the horse’s jaw from opening, but in a lot of cases prevents the lower jaw from moving forward and backward. When a horse is flexed at the poll, the lower jaw needs to move forward—just bend your own neck to bring your head toward your chest, and notice how your lower jaw moves forward to accommodate the movement.

“When the lower jaw is prevented from moving forward, the horse’s tongue gets ‘bunched up’ in his mouth. The amount of ‘bunching’ depends on tongue size and the arch above the roof of the mouth (both of which vary from horse to horse). I believe this is why we see many horses with STN trying to stick their tongue out the side of their mouth—there is no room in there! Especially for breathing!

“The joint with the most proprioceptive nerves in the horse’s entire body is the TMJ. When the horse’s lower jaw cannot move, it cannot, therefore, ‘transmit’ accurate positioning data to the horse’s body, which results in poor movement and performance.

“A tight noseband means the horse cannot breathe, cannot flex at the poll comfortably, and doesn’t know where he is in space. I feel justified in saying that this is not desirable when trying to attain optimal performance from any horse, and is especially problematic in the case of the dressage horse.”

***

“Finally, this important issue of tight nosebands is being more publicly and scientifically addressed,” says Tellington-Jones in response to the recent veterinary study and articles in both mainstream and equestrian media. “Tight nosebands cause unimaginable pain, and as I explained in my book, it is a fact that restricting the movement of any joint in the body inhibits and effects ALL joints. Therefore tight nosebands actually inhibit movement.”

It seems that now, with the whole world about to watch the 2016 Olympic Games, we should be able to finally demand more conscientious, fair, compassionate treatment of the elite equine athletes who will accompany their riders to Rio. Are we not outraged to discover human athletes suffering psychologically and physically at their hands of their trainers in pursuit of a medal?

 

Dressage-w-MBS-300DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click HERE for to download a free chapter 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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AlchemyFB

There’s been something missing from the news in general of late (and if your life is anything like mine, you can’t seem to escape that constant flow of “what’s happening”…all day, every day, yesterday, today, tomorrow). The problem is, it seems the “what’s happening” is all pretty dark, pretty frightening, pretty fractious, pretty upsetting. If you dig deep below the fold, you might find a story that dares flirt with sunshine, but that takes effort your weary self might just not have on tap.

Of course, there is a ripple effect to take into account here, too. Our glowering brow impacts everyone we come into contact with in the course of a day. Our frustration spreads faster than this year’s norovirus. Our anxiety transfers with a worried look or concerned cough. And not just to people—our mood wreaks havoc on our horses.

Over the past few years, TSB has published several books that highlight the importance of manning our mental ship and preparing ourselves emotionally in order to interact with our horses in a fair, calm, and positive way: Linda Tellington-Jones’ DRESSAGE FOR MIND, BODY & SOUL; Dr. Allen Schoen and Susan Gordon’s THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN; and Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis’ THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS.

“I think joy is the most important ingredient in everything we do, say, share, and experience in this world,” writes classical dressage master Dominique Barbier in THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS. “We see so many people who are so serious about things all the time. And it’s like the seriousness, the worry, the guilt—all that ‘fear stuff’—is killing the very essence of what they want to accomplish.

“Joy is a product of love, which is one of the two emotions I’ve described as having a direct impact on our riding. Joy and love are thus, in effect, the same. When we are happy and able to give happiness to others, transmitting our joy and love to our horses and to other people, we experience what has to be one of the most powerful feelings known to man.

“Constant perseverance means that we need to be dedicated to joy and the ‘giving’ of happiness to others. We need to make an effort, a constant effort. It is so easy to get up in the morning and find 500 good reasons not to be happy. We have only one real reason to be happy, and that is that we want to be happy. Therefore, we need to ‘practice happiness.’ We need to ‘practice joy.’ And we need to constantly remind ourselves to constantly be in that state of joy.

Click image to order.

Click image to order.

“There is always, in life, some kind of serious situation going on. There are some moments when we must see the ‘true face of life,’ and sometimes it is not very enjoyable. But I think that at the end of the day we have to count our happy moments and be satisfied. (Our horses will love us for it!)

“We have to make a decision about the ‘Happiness Factor’ before our day starts: Are we going to the ‘Depressing World’ or the ‘Happy World’? There are a lot of happy things, joyful things, happening all around us. Just the simple act of putting smiles on our faces can produce many smiles in the people we meet each day. A smile goes a long way.

“Remember, our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. We need to free ourselves from confirmed ego and from destructive emotions. This is the best thing we can do for ourselves and others. This is the best thing we can do for our horses.”

 

If you, too, hunger for the “Happy World,” you can make the Happiness Factor work for you. It is easy enough to take the first steps recommended by all the authors mentioned in this post: smile and breathe…and go spend time with your horse.

 

THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter.

 

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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Linda Tellington-Jones in 1995 riding Gershwin, at the time one of British Olympian Carl Hester's mounts, bridleless.

Linda Tellington-Jones in 1995 riding Gershwin, at the time one of British Olympian Carl Hester’s mounts, bridleless.

There is a common analogy that compares a horse wearing a tight noseband or girth, or a poorly fitting saddle, to a person wearing a pair of shoes that are too small—perhaps trying to walk all day or dance all night in them.

“But this analogy has been around a long time,” says Linda Tellington-Jones in her thoughtful and provocative book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, “and has inspired little change that I can see.”

(Perhaps because many of us sacrifice comfort for fashion—at least when it comes to footwear!)

So with the particularly prevalent issue of too-tight nosebands and ill-fitting tack of any sort in mind (and this applies to all equestrian disciplines), take a moment to think about your own athletic body and how you ensure its ability to perform as you need it.

How you dress for a training session, riding lesson, or show?

Do you show up to ride your best in the brand new pair of riding boots you just purchased and have worn only once before?

Not likely, as you know the top edge of the stiff new boots might bite into the back of your legs behind your knees when your feet are in the stirrups. This will be annoying and potentially painful after warming up, proving a distraction during your test and maybe causing you to hold your legs tensely in a way that eases your discomfort, sacrificing your position and ability to aid.

Do you wear the breeches from three years ago that perhaps are too tight in the waist, digging into the flesh there, possibly leaving a mark on the skin when you unbutton them?

Again, the discomfort caused would certainly prove problematic, inhibiting your ability to focus and to aid your horse correctly.

Do you wear the too-small sports bra that makes it difficult for you to breathe? Do you wear the helmet that is too tight and causes a headache?

“I feel confident saying that given the above, all of you would choose clothing and equipment for yourself that is the most comfortable and least distracting during your time in the saddle,” says Linda.

 

Linda presenting at the 2011 Xenophon Society Seminar at Klaus Balkenhol's stable in Rosendahl, Germany.

Linda presenting at the 2011 Xenophon Society Seminar at Klaus Balkenhol’s stable in Rosendahl, Germany.

 

In fact, millions of dollars are spent each year by manufacturers to develop such apparel—boots and breeches and undergarments that promise comfort and freedom of movement as you ask your body to perform its athletic best, both in obvious and subtle manners.

It is then most egregious that we expect differently of our horses. We wrap them tightly, constrict their tender flesh, bind their middle…then warm them up and tighten it all some more, sometimes with the help of mechanical cranks.

After all this, we ask them to extend and collect smoothly, bound lightly over the ground, focus on our most subtle of aids, and perform difficult collected movements for extended periods of time.

This is the equivalent of dressing you in stiff new boots, breeches that are too tight, a too-small sports bra, and a helmet that doesn’t fit, and then asking you to sit the trot for 45 minutes (without sacrificing proper position) while reciting the alphabet backward. To add to the stress of the scenario, someone will poke you in the ribs with a piece of metal every time you start to slouch or lose track of which letter you last stated aloud.

Sounds a little like a refined form of torture, doesn’t it?

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

“I have said it many times, in many places before, and I will say it again here,” emphasizes Linda, “The trend that insists that horses must be trained and competed in tight nosebands and saddles ‘clamped’ in place with extremely tightened girths is unnecessary and cruel. [In DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL] I demonstrate that these practices go against the recommendation of veterinary science and your own common sense as an athlete. It is your responsibility as a rider to develop your horse from the ground, and develop your seat through proper training, in order to control your horse from the saddle. When properly done…there is absolutely no need for constrictive devices in an attempt to achieve submission.”

DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL has been called “wonderful” and “a very, very good read” by reviewers. It is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Linda Tellington-Jones with Dablino at the 2011 Xenophon Symposium.

Linda Tellington-Jones with Dablino at the 2011 Xenophon Symposium.

 

From DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL by Linda Tellington-Jones with Rebecca M. Didier

Miracles surround us, on a large and small scale. It is on a personal level that we ascertain whether an occurrence qualifies as miraculous. My life has been full of what I consider miracles—from the simple unexpected to the extraordinary. Many of these have had to do with the animals, in yards, pastures, and lakes, on mesas, steppes, and mountaintops, both those in the wild and at home, who have graced my life with their essence.

While the extraordinary is easy to recognize, it is the more commonplace miracles that you must be sure not to take for granted. On many occasions, the most seemingly insignificant of moments can either indicate a tidechange (one small step in a succession of small steps that eventually equal an evolution) or it is, in itself, so integral to progress that your horse learns and performs in an entirely different manner from that moment forward.

Riding a horse is a series of small miracles. It is a miracle that this powerful animal allows you to sit upon his back. It is a miracle he chooses to follow your direction (in most cases), to earn your friendship, your praise, and your loyalty in an intense form of reciprocity seen in few other human-animal relationships. But the miracles don’t end there—each time you ask for the most specific of movements, each time you focus on the most subtle of cues, each time you brush your leg against the horse’s side and receive a gentle, controlled response, you have experienced a small miracle for which you should be thankful. Remembering to give thanks and express your gratitude for these things should be something you work at daily. I remind myself of this each morning when I rise and each night before I journey into the dream world.

Although whether or not miracles are brought about by divine power may be a point of debate, it is not one that concerns me in this book. Instead, I prefer to acknowledge that events do happen in life that are surprising, inspiring, and in every estimation “good,” and in these instances I choose to recognize them as “miraculous.” With this attitude as part of your day-to-day existence, an unparalleled relationship with your horse can be the result.

 

DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

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“How the horse responds during training can be influenced not only by its affective state (mood) and arousal (alertness) level, but also by how attached it feels to the trainer,” says the August 2013 article from the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) Arousal, Attachment, and Affective State. Is the Horse in a Learning Frame of Mind?

Andrew McLean, PhD, Director of the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre (AEBC), and Professor Paul McGreevy of the University of Sydney, Australia, examined the complex combined impact that mood, alertness, and bond with a human can have on a horse’s training. McLean says that because horses possess the largest amygdala of all domestic animals, “… they have a very significant flight response…they are very fearful animals.”

As many of us have now learned from numerous clinicians and trainers, understanding how to temper the horse’s fear is of primary importance to those who wish to form an attachment or “bond” with their horses.

“One way to modify this fear may be in how we touch the horse,” the article says. “Historically, horse training hasn’t involved much touching of the animal, yet horses find security with one another through touch. Recent studies have shown the positive effects of grooming on lowering heart rate. Dr. McLean proposed that such primary positive reinforcement may be another tool in the training toolbox that can be used to overcome fearful insecurity in the horse. Touch may be an important way to develop attachment between human and horse.”

 

Click image for more information about the Tellington Method for Dressage Horses clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Click image for more information about the Tellington Method for Dressage Horses clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Renowned animal behaviorist and horse trainer Linda Tellington-Jones made her name as the founder of the Tellington Method, a three-part training system that centers around her now famous Tellington TTouch. Tellington TTouches are a collection of circles, lifts, and slides done with the rider’s or trainer’s hands and fingertips over various parts of the horse’s body. These TTouches have, over the last 40 years, been proven to enhance trust, release tension, increase flexibility, overcome habitual “holding” patterns that lead to resistance, and aid a horse in recovery from illness or injury. Linda has long maintained what Dr. McLean and Dr. McGreevy have asserted in their recent findings: that how we touch the horse matters in training. And, the right kind of touch can lead to enhanced learning and improved performance.

 

Try this Tellington TTouch:

Llama TTouch: Use the back of your hand, from where the knuckles meet the back of the hand to the fingertips, with the hand softly open (a less threatening way of making contact) to push the horse’s skin in a full circle-and-a-quarter clockwise, or in some cases, to stroke. Apply a very light pressure on the horse’s face, ears, or neck. This TTouch builds confidence in timid horses, soothes, nervous ones, and helps when you are approaching a horse you don’t know for the first time.

 

Linda is the author of numerous books. Her most recent is DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, which provides innovative ways to improve performance and longevity in dressage horses. Linda is giving a Tellington Method for Dressage clinic at Ashwin Stables in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 17-19, 2014. For information on how to attend or audit, CLICK HERE.

Linda tells you about her upcoming clinic in the short video below:

 

For more information about Linda’s book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, CLICK HERE.

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Basic left-brain and right-brain tendencies--a quick reference.

Basic left-brain and right-brain tendencies–a quick reference.

 

In her newest book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, renowned horse trainer and animal behaviorist Linda Tellington-Jones explains that although in reality there is much crossover and shared responsibility when it comes to the two brain hemispheres, each of us naturally operates in a manner that can probably be classified as either “left-brained” or “right-brained.”

For example, does math come easily to you? You are probably “left-brained.”

More comfortable with a paintbrush than a calculator? You qualify as a “right-brainer.”

Knowing which way you lean can help you spend some time balancing your overly logical or overly creative tendencies. When it comes to riding and working with your horse, your goal is to actively use both sides of your brain! The learning and thinking process is enhanced when both sides participate in a balanced manner.

Take this quick “hemispheric dominance” quiz to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses.

 

QUIZ:  DO I RIDE WITH MY LEFT BRAIN OR MY RIGHT BRAIN?

 

1  Is your grooming box/tack trunk:

a) neat and organized, with everything labeled and in its place, or

b) overflowing with all the stuff you might need.

 

2  When you are learning a new movement, is it easier for you to:

a) memorize the sequence of aids and talk your way through it, or

b) watch your trainer ride and imitate her actions?

 

3  When your trainer is speaking to you, do you respond more to:

a) her words (what is said), or

b) the word’s pitch and feeling (how it is said)?

 

4  When you audit a clinic, do you:

a) take copious and well-organized notes on your laptop, or

b) never take your eyes off the riders and trainers so you don’t miss a single

action or movement?

 

5  Is it easier to remember people’s:

a) names, or

b) faces?

 

If you answered with all or mostly “a’s,” you are likely left-brain dominant, and you need to really focus on trying to bring more imagination, empathy, vision, and “heart” to your riding.

If you answered with all or mostly “b’s,” you have a tendency to be emotive, perhaps so much so that the immense amount of feeling you ride with clouds your ability to perform, as well as that of your horse. You need to weave a little more clarity into your riding and training.

Remember, riding with hemispheric balance is your aim!

 

Linda Tellington-Jones developed her world-renowned Tellington Method in ways that engage both sides of the horse's brain in order to improve learning ability and performance. Find out how the Tellington Method can do the same thing for your own learning ability and performance in DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL.

Linda Tellington-Jones developed her world-renowned Tellington Method in ways that engage both sides of the horse’s brain in order to improve learning ability and performance. Find out how the Tellington Method can do the same thing for your own learning ability and performance in DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL.

 

You can find out more about how your left brain, right brain, and hemispheric balance affects your work with your horse in DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL by Linda Tellington-Jones.

This unique and highly illustrated book, called “wonderful” by Horse Nation, is out now and available from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE TO READ A FREE EXCERPT OR ORDER NOW

 

“Frankly, our riding improved after absorbing DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL. We rode with greater mindfulness and clearer intent…a keeper.” —Horse Journal

 

 

ASK JUDGE JANET CONTEST!

Do you have a question about riding, training, or competing in the dressage ring? Perhaps it’s one that you’ve asked a million times but still haven’t gotten a good answer? Or maybe it’s one you’ve always been afraid to ask? Here’s your chance to ask USEF/FEI dressage judge Janet Foy your most burning dressage question and be part of her new book! Plus, everyone who submits a question is automatically entered to win an autographed copy of the book upon publication.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE CONTEST OR SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION

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Big Horse little person

My last horse was a 17.2-hand Hanoverian-Thoroughbred cross. He was HUGE and a bit goofy, with a full-blown case of “Overgrown Puppy” Syndrome (something I’ve witnessed in other big, sweet horses more than once). Having been “horseless” for several years before “G” came into my life, I was rather indulgent with myself, and with him, lolling in the romance of having a horse of my own again. That admission of foolishness aside, I found it truly difficult to reconcile my own desire to work with him in a positive manner, to show him how much I adored him, and yet keep him from—innocently or not—literally stepping all over me.

“Just because you love your horse, and just because you are nice to him…it doesn’t mean you can’t establish safe and fair boundaries,” writes renowned horsewoman and animal behaviorist Linda Tellington-Jones in her new book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL. “This, I feel, is key to horse training of any sort….So often riders make the mistake of assuming that in order to be kind, they must allow the horse to do whatever he wants, or make the horse utterly dependent upon them. I feel this is a trap…The point I must make here is that it doesn’t have to be one way or the other—that is, cold and forceful or kind and soft. There are many ways you can set firm and fair boundaries…you can be just and even-handed with your horse while remaining safe and always respectful.”

This distinction of Linda’s is a bit of a wake-up call for me. I admit I am a pacifist, and on top of that, I abhor confrontation. Stir in my passion for animals and my desire to somehow help right the many wrongs we humans inflict on other creatures the world over, and you have the perfect combination of Little-Miss-Wuss-Meets-Animal-Advocate. The only thing that kept me from getting smushed, crunched, stomped, banged, and rubbed to bits by my new horse was a lifetime of horse experience and a pretty decent riding-and-training education. But Linda’s words reminded me of my earlier years with horses, working with tough cases, problem horses, and green-broke Mustangs. Establishing boundaries with a smack on an encroaching shoulder or a timely tug on the chain lead had never given me pause before. What was it about establishing boundaries that I now found so difficult?

“As a trainer, you need your horse’s respect and attention in order to teach him and gain his trust,” says world famous horseman and clinician Clinton Anderson in his new book PHILOSOPHY. “Establishing your personal space will help you stay safe while doing just that. The first thing your horse has to understand is that you are fragile and he needs to be careful around you…By establishing your personal ‘Hula Hoop’ space (a four-foot circle that surrounds you), you’ll keep yourself safe while working with your horse and earning his respect. Your horse should only enter your personal space if you specifically invite him into it. Otherwise, he should keep a respectful, safe distance.”

Bingo! I need to remember that I am FRAGILE. Yes, I’m the caregiver in the horse/human relationship, but as Clinton says, we need to tell our horses to take care of US. That is an honestly come by reason for establishing respect when working with an animal ten times our weight.

FRAGILE HUMAN

Here’s how Clinton Anderson tells us to establish a personal Hula Hoop space to help keep us safe when working with horses:

1 While holding your horse, draw a circle all around you in the dirt with a four-foot-long training stick or dressage whip. Your horse must stay beyond the tip of your stick when you bend forward and reach with your arm toward him—about seven feet away from you.

2  Teach your horse to maintain this distance by backing him away whenever he moves in closer to you (note: on his own vs. when you invite him in). Back him away by wiggling the lead rope and swinging your stick from side to side in front of you as you walk toward him. Your goal is for him to move back the instant your body language tells him to, so move toward him with as much energy as necessary to get his attention. Alternate the “wiggle-and-wave” method with a second body position: Carry your stick as if it were a ski pole and literally “march” in an exaggerated motion toward your horse until he moves back. When he takes a step back, stop and praise him.

Both Clinton Anderson’s newest book PHILOSOPHY and DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL are available now from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE TO READ A FREE EXCERPT FROM PHILOSOPHY (click on Look Inside on the right side of the page)

CLICK HERE TO READ A FREE EXCERPT FROM DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL (click on Look Inside on the right side of the page)

–Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor

Rebecca is the coauthor of Linda Tellington-Jones’ new book Dressage with Mind, Body & Soul and believes that often an “aha” moment comes when we see that two horsepeople who may come from very different backgrounds and who approach challenges in very different ways offer the same advice. Rebecca does not subscribe to any one training method, but in her own work with horses, strives to find the best ideas and methods from the many different riders, trainers, and horse experts to whom she feels lucky to be exposed on a regular basis.

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