Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘eventing’

TC-Cav-Chal-FB

Olympian Ingrid Klimke is known for her positive horse training techniques, as well as her remarkable success in international competition. In this exercise from her forthcoming book TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY, she provides a terrific challenge for the horse and rider who have mastered regular cavalletti work.

See if you are up to the challenge:

Position four trot cavalletti on one side of a circle and four canter cavalletti on the opposite side. Use cones to mark the point for two transitions: one upward to canter and one downward to trot.

TROTCANCHALL

 

Canter over the canter cavalletti, transition down to the trot precisely at the cone, and ride over the trot cavalletti. Then transition to canter with precision at the next cone. This must be schooled in both directions. You must always be looking ahead to the next cone or cavalletti.

This exercise speaks to all the valuable elements of cavalletti work and trains the horse’s entire musculature. The transitions reinforce throughness with willing cooperation and precise transitions at a distinct point. Maintaining longitudinal bend and going over the eight cavalletti on the circle are real strength-builders.

See how you do!

Some of the overall advantages of cavalletti work for the horse:

·      Improves rhythm and balance in movement

·      Gymnasticizes

·      Strengthens the musculature

·      Loosens the muscles (especially over the back)

·      Improves long-and-low stretch

·      Increases suppleness

·      Improves surefootedness

·      Conditions

·      Increases expressiveness in the gaits

·      Encourages cadence

·      Builds concentration

·      Improves motivation through independent thought

Cavalletti-SetFor those interested in engaging cavalletti work more intensively, Klimke wrote a book with her father, the renowned Reiner Klimke, called CAVALLETTI: FOR DRESSAGE AND JUMPING, and she has also produced an accompanying DVD. Both are available HERE.

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

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

The dressage warm-up arena can be a crowded place. Photo by Amber Heintzberger from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON.

Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event 2017 starts today with the first horse inspection, and the dressage phase kicks off tomorrow morning. To make sure everyone’s ready to go, here are five tips for warming up prior to your dressage test from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON:

1  Start in walk on a 20-meter circle if the warm-up area is large enough. Introduce “inside leg to outside rein.” I usually start on the left rein, because most horses go better to the left and it starts them off well mentally. Get the horse walking nicely forward, slightly bent around your inside leg, and encourage him to reach softly down and forward.

2  Use some leg-yielding exercises to reaffirm your training and get the horse listening to your leg in both directions, left and right. Once you have his attention at the walk, go to rising trot. Rather than thinking about the the test, focus more on the correctness of the horse: You want him reaching for the bit softly; obedient to inside leg to outside rein; and with flexion to the inside.

3  Do lots of changes of direction and transitions within the trot to keep your horse’s attention and prevent him from getting “stuck.” Once his back is supple and loose, do a little bit of sitting trot, then ask for the canter. 

4  Do canter-trot-canter transitions on each rein. This is a great way of testing how well the horse is on the aids. I don’t want him to run or hollow out, and he should stay obedient through the transition.

5  You can practice specific parts of the test a few times, but when there is one horse to go before you, go back and work on your horse’s correctness–getting him in tune with your aids. Do lots of transitions, keeping the horse listening and thinking. Also, vary the horse’s frame. This last part of the warm-up is really to reinforce his attention on you.

Find more eventing advice in MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

We’re thrilled to have two TSB authors competing at RK3DE this year: Phillip Dutton and Doug Payne. In addition, professional grooms Emma Ford and Cat Hill, and horseman Dan James, are involved in this exciting equestrian event.

Read Full Post »

DPonRunningOrder

Doug Payne on Running Order. Photo by Shannon Brinkman from THE RIDING HORSE REPAIR MANUAL.

Doug Payne is a well-known equestrian on the international scene, perhaps most recognized as the eventer-most-likely-to-wear-a-helmet-cam. His pulse-quickening videos are seemingly everywhere, leaving hundreds of would-be riders dizzy from their virtual Rolex experience.

But Payne is also recognized for his ability to see “what could be” in horses others may have dismissed. Here he gives us the basics for that “first ride,” when you’re testing the waters and analyzing the physical ability, experience, and personality of a horse you don’t know all that well. Whatever you’re riding level or discipline, it makes sense to have a practical plan in place for equine “test drives”–whether it’s a first lesson or a potential purchase, the steps you take once in the saddle need to keep you safe while yielding information.

Here’s Payne’s advice from his book THE RIDING HORSE REPAIR MANUAL:

I like to start at the walk. Gradually, pick up the reins and take a contact. This will tell you right away whether this is a sensitive horse or a “bull.” It also gives you a very good feel for whether he is naturally balanced or not. Within the first 30 seconds, you should be able to tell, with good certainty, whether he’s naturally balanced or on the forehand, and on which side he’s stiffer. You can determine how responsive he is to seat, leg, and hand, and whether he’s a natural-born athlete or just a “couch potato.” Most importantly, in these first few moments, you should be able to tell what type of attitude he has: Is he benevolent, “out to get you,” or somewhere in the middle?

The “bull” of a horse will be quite heavy while the sensitive one will be light to a fault in his contact. Most horses start off a bit lazily—not walking forward with conviction. Make the most of this initial opportunity to assess how responsive he is to your leg aids. I ask him to move on to a more forward, active walk. Right away, there will be one of two possible answers: Either, he’ll be responsive and move on appropriately (wonderful), or you’ll find that when you apply more leg, he’s indifferent or even moves less forward. Although, this latter response is obviously not ideal, at least you find out right away that there is a flaw with the horse’s training—he is not thinking about moving freely forward. This restriction has to be dealt with as soon as possible, because it will propagate throughout his training and make progress impossible.

Now I’m going to check to make sure that I have steering. I’m going to start with just turning left and right—simple circles or other figures very quickly give you an idea of which of his sides is the stiffer one. Just like people, horses are stronger going on one diagonal over another. Your goal is to try and make him as ambidextrous as possible, while understanding he is going to have a naturally stronger side for life.

Note: I do not ask the horse to back up in the first few minutes unless I know I have competent people on the ground. Basically, when you have a person on the ground, she can quickly come to the rescue and place her hands on the horse’s chest to help explain what you’re looking for. Without one, I wait to make sure I have all of the other components in place. Before you begin, you must have all the tools in case you open Pandora’s Box!

From the walk, move on to the trot. The same expectation of a prompt response is true for the transition to the trot. When you ask for the trot, the horse had better trot off with conviction. Once trotting with confidence in a forward active gait, move on to see what
other “buttons” have been installed. If this is a horse with lateral tools in place, see how good they are. Start with a leg-yield, then on to shoulder-in, haunches-in, then half-pass, and lengthening and shortening.

Then on to the canter. Much of the same strategies should be in place as found in the trot. You’re looking for the canter to be well-balanced, active, and forward. When it is lacking, you can identify what you need to work to refine the horse’s skill set.

Whether you are considering a purchase or just determining a new training project’s schooling plan, a calm and progressive exploration of who the horse is and what he knows (or doesn’t know) should help you come away with the information you need.

For more training advice from Doug Payne, check out THE RIDING HORSE REPAIR MANUAL, available from the TSB 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 located on a farm in rural Vermont.

Read Full Post »

ghm-perfection

In November, things changed for Kelsey Horn of Corvallis, Oregon. That’s when THE George Morris called The Chronicle of the Horse to wax ecstatic over a photo of Kelsey that appeared in the October 24 & 31 issue of the magazine. “It’s a picture of perfect form,” he said. (You can read everything George Morris said about the image and Kelsey’s position in the original article HERE.)

Now, we all know George’s reputation for caustic remarks and criticism—there are reams of memes that feature his more memorable quotations—and many of us grew up reading his often scathing commentary in Practical Horseman’s “Jumping Clinic” column. But rare do we see him heap praise upon a rider (although there are a few he elevates to the realm of “great” in his 2016 autobiography UNRELENTING).

So what does it feel like to be the rarest of birds? The momentous event? To have, in a sense, won the riding lottery by perfecting a position that stopped George Morris in his tracks, miles away, via a photograph in a magazine?

As the publisher of George’s book UNRELENTING, we at TSB were dying to know what’s been going through Kelsey’s head since The Chronicle piece came out. We caught up with her through Inavale Farm in Philomath, Oregon, where she teaches, and learned a little more about her life, her horses, and her riding goals.

 

TSB: How does it feel to be singled out and praised by one of the leading judges of horsemanship and equitation in the world? I mean, it’s not every day George Morris tells someone she is doing something right!

KH: It feels amazing!!!!!!! I still can’t really believe it… I feel like a lucky winner. I am honored that George Morris even looked at my picture, let alone called COTH to compliment it.

 

Kelsey, four years old, on the Morgan Lady at Inavale Farm.

The roots of perfection! Kelsey, four years old, on the Morgan Lady at Inavale Farm. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Horn.

 

TSB: So how did you get here? When did you start riding and what are a few significant moments that brought you to the level of riding you currently pursue today?

KH: I started riding when I was two years old out at Inavale Farm in Philomath, Oregon. I basically grew up out there with my older sister, Kailin, and a group of other horse-crazy girls. Inavale was a Morgan show barn and with our trainer, Caroline, we traveled all over to shows. Caroline and her family also took us camping and to the beach with our horses, so we did a lot of outside riding. I showed some, but as a young girl I enjoyed exploring outside with my horse more than riding in the arena.

I have an amazing Morgan mare, Inavale Fairy Tale, who took me up to Preliminary in eventing and is now used in the lesson program at Inavale. Being able to ride to that level as a teenager on a horse I felt would do anything for me gave me a lot of confidence as a young rider that I have been able to carry over to other horses I’ve owned and competed.

My two-star horse, Smoke Alarm, was a high school graduation present from my parents that they bought for $950. Smokey was an incredible jumper with no eventing experience when I got him but a whole lot of presence. He loved to buck and could get very strong and excitable, but we worked it out. My first show on him was a one-day at Inavale. On my way to the dressage warm-up he spooked and bucked me off with an amazing buck-turn-spin move that I later succumbed to numerous times. I hit the ground before I knew what happened! Smokey took off bucking and ran through a row of Christmas trees, all the way to the top hill of the property. My mom and sister were walking behind me, and when they caught up with me I was fuming mad and shouting in Smokey’s direction, “MY SADDLE!!!” After he was caught I got back on and rode the test out of sheer determination. We jumped clear and against all odds finished on our dressage score of 29 percent, winning the Novice division. Later this horse took me to two, CCI * with roads and track and steeplechase plus a CCI**. We would have kept going if it weren’t for a career-ending tendon injury in 2008. Smokey gave me the taste of the upper levels that inspired me to make it my goal to become a four-star rider. 

Since then I’ve been blessed to be the head trainer at Inavale, as well as develop some brilliant young horses. I have extremely supportive clients, and I’ve been lucky to get the ride on Pinnacle Syndicate’s six-year-old Thoroughbred, Tomlong Ratatouille. I also have a partnership with Caroline Ajootian and Gayle Atkins, and together we own four-year-old, Swingtown (the horse from the picture George spotted). Thanks to my owners, both of those horses have given me multiple wins, particularly in the Young Event Horse series. Most recently Swingtown and I won the West Coast Four-Year-Old YEH Championships in Woodside, California. I also have a three other young horses that I own, all of which, plus Swingtown, were bred by Gayle Atkins. 

I am so fortunate to have such amazing people surrounding me, as well as lovely horses to ride. They are all a huge part of how I got to where I am now. 

 

Kelsey at 18 going Prelim on her Morgan mare Inavale Fairy Tale in 2005.

Kelsey at 18 going Prelim on her Morgan mare Inavale Fairy Tale in 2005. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Horn.

 

TSB: Well, George had kind words for your horse Swingtown, too. He said she jumps “like a good hunter.” Can you tell us a little more about this horse, how you brought her along to win the Young Event Horse Championship, and what kind of goals you have in mind for both of you?

KH: Swingtown almost was a hunter…she was owned by Gayle who hired me to get her under saddle and put 90 days on her. At the end of that time period I rode her in a schooling show and she won. She was scheduled to go up to Portland and be sold as a hunter, but Gayle and Caroline put their heads together and poof! That’s how the Swingtown Partners were formed. 

Swingtown is a very special mare with a lot of natural talent. She believes she is a rock star…no question in her mind. I make sure not to drill her too much, so we hack out in the fields a lot, gallop on the beach, and on sunny afternoons, she is out in the pasture. She lives a good life. 

My goal for her is to compete in the YEH Five-Year-Old series and aim for the FEI World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion D’Angers in France for the seven-year-old two-star championships in 2019. It’s a big goal, but how cool would it be if it happened! After that Rolex, and then we’ll see….

 

Kelsey on Swingtown at the Inavale Derby in 2015. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Horn.

Kelsey on Swingtown at the Inavale Derby in 2015. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Horn.

 

TSB: Were you ever a student of the “George Morris style”?

KH: Yes, I am a big fan of his style. When I got the chance to audit George’s clinic last year, I  thought it was very entertaining and educational. I learned a lot and hung on to his every word. I took notes on my phone to make sure I could remember! I was impressed by the detail and amount of time he spent teaching the flatwork. As an eventer, I feel that flatwork is extremely important to success in jumping. I also love that George is a stickler for classical riding. I’m a fan of traditional riding and want to learn more from George Morris. 

 

TSB: What do you like most  about eventing?

KH: Like most eventers, my favorite phase is cross-country, but I love eventing for more then just that. It’s an incredible sport that requires a horse with many talents. The variety keeps it interesting. But I do have to say that the thrill of cross-country jumping never ever gets old. 

 

TSB: What do you like most about having horses in your life?

KH: I love that horses teach us so many life lessons. Some so simple as how to fall and get back up. I love the challenges they bring and their routine-oriented minds. I like routine as well, and they keep me grounded to that. Plus they smell good, they’re beautiful, and they have cute fuzzy noses!

 

Kelsey coaching student Kaylee Leonard. Photo by Travis Leonard.

Kelsey coaching student Kaylee Leonard. Photo by Travis Leonard.

 

TSB: You’re an instructor, as well as a rider, competitor, and trainer. What is it you like best about teaching? What challenges you the most? What’s one thing you tell all your students?

KH: Teaching is a wonderful way to learn and I love being able to share what I love with others. What a wonderful feeling it is to help a student struggle through a challenge and earn success. The biggest challenge I have is caring too much! I want all of my students to be happy. Teaching suits me because I am passionate about riding and training horses, plus I’m a rather bossy person. So shouting orders suits me 😉

When my students are heading into the ring or out of the start box I always tell them one last thing, “Leg on and stretch up!” It is basic, but when it really comes down to it, you can’t  go wrong if you put your legs on and stretch up for balance. If they can remember it, they’ll get to the finish. 

 

Future perfect positions to the left and to the right! Kelsey with her students in 2015.

Future perfect positions to the left and to the right! Kelsey with her students in 2015.

 

TSB: Now that you’ve had him publicly name your “perfect” position, would you ride in a George Morris clinic?

KH: Yes! I plan to ride in a clinic with him as soon as I have a horse that is ready. I wanted to this year, but it didn’t work out, so I’ll shoot for next year. I will try really hard to keep the perfect position over every fence, but just in case I slip up, I plan to wear waterproof mascara…

 

TSB: Before you go, what is your favorite “Georgism”?

KH: I found a lot that made me laugh out loud, but this one is my favorite, “Good attitude is most important, good talent is second.”

I like this quote because it keeps you humble. Plus, a huge part of one individual’s success comes from a positive attitude. 

 

We wish Kelsey at Pinnacle Equine Training @PinnacleEquineTraining and her team at Inavale Farm @inavalefarm a wonderful, rewarding 2017 and beyond.

George Morris’s bestselling autobiography UNRELENTING is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to buy it on sale for the holidays!

 

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

Read Full Post »

thankfulfb

Photo by Keron Psillas from The Alchemy of Dressage by Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis

In almost every book we publish, we invite our authors to include a page of acknowledgments; this is their chance to thank those who may have had a hand in their careers or the making of their books. While it isn’t every day that we look back through to see who they’ve thanked over the years, it seems appropriate on this blustery, cold, Vermont afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving 2016. As might be imagined, there is one resounding theme that emerges…have a look at some of the words of gratitude TSB authors have put in print. If your book was about to be published, who would YOU thank?

 

“They say success has a thousand fathers—I thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have taken an extra minute out of their day to help me down my path.” Jonathan Field in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES

“Thanks go out to every horse I’ve ever had the pleasure and privilege of riding…they’ve taught me the importance of caring, patience, understanding, selflessness, and hard work.” Daniel Stewart in PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING

 

TSB author Jonathan Field with his family and "Hal."

TSB author Jonathan Field with his family and “Hal.”

 

“Most of all my greatest thanks go to Secret, the horse who has taught me so much—she is a horse in a million.” Vanessa Bee in 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP

“We owe the greatest depths of gratitude to the horses.” Phillip Dutton in MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON

“Thank you, Santa, for bringing the pony when I was little.” Jean Abernethy in THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE

“Thank you to my partner and wife Conley, without whose moral support and inspiration I would be sitting on a tailgate by the side of the road holding a cardboard sign that reads, ‘Will work on horses for food.'” Jim Masterson in BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE

 

TSB author Linda Tellington-Jones.

TSB author Linda Tellington-Jones.

 

“Thank you to my beloved parents. You were so wonderful to let me chart a path with horses, which you knew nothing about.” Lynn Palm in THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION

“I thank my beloved equine partners—my most important teachers.” Dr. Beth Glosten in THE RIDING DOCTOR

“Thank you to all my wonderful students and friends for always being there.” Jane Savoie in IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS

“I really need to honor the people who have invited me to work with them and the horses that have allowed me to be with, ride, and train them over the decades. I have learned some things from books, but most from the people and horses I train.” Heather Sansom in FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS!

“I give thanks for all the horses over the years who have taught me so much.” Linda Tellington-Jones in THE ULTIMATE HORSE BEHAVIOR AND TRAINING BOOK

“I am grateful for all my teachers, two-legged, four-legged, and winged, for all they have taught me through their own journeys.” Dr. Allen Schoen in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN

“Thank you to every horse that came my way over the past 45 years. Each one had lessons to teach me.” Susan Gordon in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN

“I want to thank my parents who finally gave in to the passionate desire of a small child who wanted a horse.” Heather Smith Thomas in GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS

“Most of all, thank you to all the horses.” Sharon Wilsie in HORSE SPEAK

 

TSB author Dr. Allen Schoen.

TSB author Dr. Allen Schoen.

 

“I am extremely thankful to all of the horses in my life. I would not have accomplished so much without them. The horses have been my greatest teachers!” Anne Kursinski in ANNE KURSINSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC

“I need to thank all the horses.” Sgt. Rick Pelicano in BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF

“Thank you to students and riders who share my passion in looking deeper into the horse and into themselves.” Dominique Barbier in THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS

“Thanks go to the many horses that have come into my life. You give me great happiness, humility, and sometimes peace; you always challenge me to become more than I am, and you make my life whole.” Andrea Monsarrat Waldo in BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS

 

And thank YOU, our readers and fellow horsemen, who are always striving to learn and grow in and out of the saddle, for the good of the horse.

Wishing a very happy and safe Thanksgiving to all!

The Trafalgar Square Books Staff

 

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

Read Full Post »

Photo by Erika N. Walsh

Photo by Erika N. Walsh

We’re counting down the days to the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, organized by the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP), a nonprofit dedicated to the placement of ex-racehorses in second careers, and sponsored by Thoroughbred Charities of America.

You can join thousands of others who believe that every Thoroughbred deserves a chance to win at life at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, October 27-30, as top trainers engage in the process of transitioning ex-racehorses to second careers. The Thoroughbred Makeover serves as the only national gathering of the organizations, trainers, and farms dedicated to serving OTTBs and features educational clinics and demonstrations, as well as the Makeover Horse Sale and the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover competition.

The 2016 Makeover features over 300 Thoroughbreds that began working with trainers from across the country after the first of the year and who will compete in up to two of ten equestrian disciplines to showcase their talents and trainability.

“The Thoroughbred Makeover is a unique opportunity on so many levels,” says one of the event’s judges, TSB author and president of EquestrianCoach.com Bernie Traurig. “First, it’s a wonderful way to see firsthand the great qualities the Thoroughbred has to offer for so many disciplines. There are over 300 OTTBs competing and demonstrating their versatility in a wide array of sports. Second, for those interested in purchasing an OTTB, many, perhaps half, are available to be tried and purchased. David Hopper and I are judging the jumpers, and we are both really excited to see some of these great Thoroughbreds.”

As supporters of the Retired Racehorse Project, TSB is proud to have a number of authors joining Bernie Traurig (creator of DEVELOPING PERFECT POSITION and other DVDs) in this year’s Makeover. BEYOND THE TRACK author Anna Morgan Ford’s OTTB adoption organization New Vocations always has a significant presence at the event, and both Denny Emerson (HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD) and Yvonne Barteau (THE DRESSAGE HORSE MANIFESTO) worked with OTTBs with the competition in mind.

 

img_5063

 

“I did not know of the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover challenge until my friend Lisa Diersen of the Equus Film Festival mentioned it to me,” recounts Barteau. “Since I spent seven years on racetracks, working with Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses, and also a few years training ex-racehorses, it seemed like a good thing for me to do.

“I started working with SeventyTwo (‘Indy’) in February,” she says. “I found him a bit aloof at first and also somewhat challenging. He likes a good argument and will try to drag you into one if you are not careful. He is also funny, charming, and extremely clever. He learns things, (good or bad), super fast, so I have had to stay ahead of him in the training game.

“I am having such fun with Indy, I plan on keeping him and continuing to train him up the levels in dressage as well as making an exhibition horse out of him. I don’t know how he will be when I take him to a new environment (the Makeover), so however he acts there will be just part of our journey together. I’m looking forward to it either way!”

Don’t missing seeing Indy and all the other winning ex-racehorses as they show off what they’ve learned over the last few months and compete to be named America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred! Tickets for the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover are on sale now (CLICK HERE).

Watch Yvonne and Indy working together in this short video:

 

 

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

Read Full Post »

bt-tip-5

Don’t we all like to feel like we’re in control of our actions and reactions? Especially when it comes to working with and riding horses—it is in our best interests (in terms of living to see another day, that is) to maintain some semblance of calm, cool, rational control in stance and movement, and to generally avoid screaming, flailing, lurching, vomiting, fainting, or in other ways baffling or scaring the 1200-pound creature beside or beneath us.

The thing is, any number of years can go by, any number of instructors can point us in the a positive direction, and any number of experiences can go right…but we’ll still be thrown out of whack psychologically at the very thought of them potentially going wrong. And it is this that inspires the sudden and ill-advised lack of control that can end with us bottoms up in a puddle.

“The amygdala, which sits very near the brain stem, is the part of the brain responsible for these basic emotions: happy, sad, mad, and scared,” explains formerly practicing psychotherapist and certified riding instructor Andrea Waldo in her new book BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS. “The area that includes the brain stem and the amygdala is often referred to as the ‘Lizard Brain’ or the ‘Reptile Brain,’ because reptiles seem to have been the first animals to possess this area.

“Much, much later, we evolved our prefrontal cortex,” she goes on, “a very large section located just behind the forehead. This is your ‘Rational Brain,’ the part of the brain that controls logical thought: it allows you to plan
that after you read this chapter, you need to pick up your son from soccer, buy grain, and remind your spouse that tomorrow is recycling day. It also allows you to do cool things like think in the abstract and come up with great inventions like saddles and Velcro and duct tape. We tend to rely on the prefrontal cortex to get us through the day.”

But guess what? Despite all that evolving that has occurred, the Lizard Brain likes to take the reins in our brains, determining how we act and react—and the reptile is neither reasoned nor logical.

“As much as we know that an apple is better than a cookie and that paying the electric bill is more important than the tack shop’s clearance sale, our Lizard Brain couldn’t care less about ‘long term health’ or ‘financial stability,’” says Waldo. “It thinks only about the immediate moment, and it cares about only one thing in this moment: survival. This is why you can’t think straight when you’re extremely nervous: your amygdala has hijacked your Rational Brain. You’re not stupid or inept; you’ve just allowed your Lizard Brain to run the show. It thinks you’re being attacked by a tiger, so it tries to get you to safety.

“The Lizard Brain can’t distinguish between a psychological threat and a physical one; it uses the same response for both. This is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you knew five minutes ago…. To the Lizard Brain, a threat is a threat, and you either need to kill it or run away from it as fast as possible.”

Your Lizard Brain is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you know!

Your Lizard Brain is why a dressage judge can send your heart pounding and wipe your brain clean of everything you know!

The good news is we don’t have to be brought down by a mental Godzilla! Waldo has lots of ways to tame the Lizard Brain, keeping us the cool, rational, controlled riders who are not only safer in the saddle, but happier and more successful in all our dealings with horses.

Here’s an easy exercise to get you started as you head out for a weekend of riding: List 10 of your riding skills.

Can you do it? Every single one, even the most basic, counts. If you can’t recognize your abilities, you can’t have confidence in them. But when you can look at yourself and identify all the ways you are a knowledgeable and capable horse person, then you can take one step in keeping that Lizard Brain out of the driver’s seat.

For more about our reptilian side and the ways we can learn to unlock our riding potential, check out BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS by Andrea Waldo, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: