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Posts Tagged ‘“feel”’

Long-reining is an incredible type of groundwork that can advance your connection and communication with a horse in ways you might not believe—until you get in the saddle and experience the unbelievable softness and willingness in your horse that long-reining techniques tap and nurture.

But before you pick up a set of long-reins and try to master “feel”—that invisible sense of understanding between you and a horse—with a horse, Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship recommends practicing with another person. His answer is a simple game that James first learned from fellow horseman and TSB author Jonathan Field (Field wrote THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES). Field and James use the “Bucket  Game” to demonstrate to their students how to become aware of the two-way conversation you have with your horse whenever you work with him, and how to begin to develop “feel”—the ability to read subtle nonverbal communication, innate in us all.

The Bucket Game begins with two people holding the ends of a stretched-out long rein while each standing on upside-down buckets. With this small platform as the base of stability, communication and feel become paramount—any tug of the rope from the other person is magnified. The object of the game, of course, is to either collect all the long-rein or get the other person off her bucket.

bucketgame

At this point, it does not become a simple tug-of-war where you just try to take rein with brute force. Why? On the ground, you can spread your feet, or lean back to brace into an all-out pull. But, on a bucket, you don’t have that luxury and must be more precise with your movements. You have to feel the rein to know when to make contact or when to release a bit of slack before you get yanked off your bucket. Like fishing, you reel in and feed out line, trying to anticipate the other person’s moves. With “feel,” you will be able to pull the other person off her bucket or tug the rein from her hands because you can read her unspoken
communication and time your responses to topple her balance.

How does this relate to your horse? In the book LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP, Dan James and his partner Dan Steers explain one possible scenario:

Imagine a horse that tends to march off too quickly when you ask him to go while leading or driving him. You don’t want him to charge forward with too much speed without you having learned feel or it can turn into an uncomfortable situation with you out of balance and possibly out of control. This is somewhat like one car towing another car, they say: When the car in the lead moves, it can snap the second car forward at the moment the slack goes out of the chain that connects them. This is just like getting jerked off a bucket or getting pulled off your feet when your horse moves off before you are ready. But when you can anticipate a horse’s movements, you can react better to them and eventually, modify them.

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Dan James uses long-reining on the ground to develop softness and communication with his horses, before he gets in the saddle.

Remember, the horse is constantly communicating his intentions to you—and horses are always honest about their plans. With long-reining, you will learn to read a slight shift of weight or the tension your horse puts on the rein as a signal to what he is going to do. Gaining this skill on the ground will help you become a better, more in-tune rider in the saddle. And the Bucket Game gives you a head start—it’s an easy way to practice, and ultimately helps ensure a happier horse.

LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN HORSEMANSHIP and THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES are both available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for LONG-REINING

CLICK HERE for LIBERTY

 

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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ThoughtsonCR

To help TSB celebrate the 30th Anniversary of our first horse book CENTERED RIDING, this month some of our top authors will share their Sally Swift memories and “aha” moments. Here, TSB author Linda Benedik (YOGA FOR EQUESTRIANS; YOGA & RIDING DVDS; LONGEING THE RIDER FOR THE PERFECT SEAT) tells us why CENTERED RIDING was so important to her riding, teaching, and writing:

“Baby birds in the hand. Barbershop pole as rotating spine. Energy directed as water through soft garden hose arms. Dropping a heavy, anchoring chain from the center. Legs so long that riding boots reach the ground. The iconic spruce tree and the growth it inspires.

“Creative images like these from Sally Swift’s CENTERED RIDING are indelibly committed to my memory, as well as the collective conscious of a new generation of riders and teachers. Easy to perceive and precisely descriptive, these visuals give shape to the mounted movements and feelings that riders experience. The concepts and images introduced in CENTERED RIDING illuminate the process of becoming a rider. They also provide effective tools for guiding both students and teachers in mutually positive directions, and demonstrate that ‘feel’ is more achievable and teachable than one may believe. In my (soft) eyes, Sally Swift has been an influential and groundbreaking equestrian educator. By integrating her own personal experiences in bodywork and practices from outside of the riding arena into her methods, she led by example and showed the horse world that, as riders and instructors, we are all bodyworkers.

CENTERED RIDING posed introspective questions, prompting equestrians to develop the mind-body awareness essential to riding. It also provided a direction for that awareness by offering a pathway that led to a powerful grasp of the physical language of equitation. With this deeper self-knowledge, riders could more compassionately communicate with horses. Building foundation skills in any language is necessary before conversing, and through the CENTERED RIDING system, which is clear-cut, well-illustrated, imaginative, and inspiring, Sally gave riders a tangible way to become fluent in this language. Achieving fluency in personal bodywork enabled riders to then more effectively work the body of the horse, prompting horses the world over to join together in communal rejoicing!

“As a career-based teacher of rider body language, CENTERED RIDING taught me that creating an environment conducive to eliciting feel in a rider is accomplishable.  As I reflect back on my long-lasting relationship with this book—an enduring work that continues to benefit horses and riders—I am reminded of how strongly Sally’s principles and images impacted my personal experiences, inspired me as a rider, trainer, and author, and paved the way for my own contributions to the universal equestrian library. To this day, CENTERED RIDING resonates and supports my perception that the rider’s body is a symphony of parts, and not only must a rider master each part—each instrument—but they must also conduct the symphony. While this may sound like a monumental task, CENTERED RIDING offers manageable steps toward developing this dexterity and provides coherent tools for connecting and conversing with horses.

“My gratitude to Sally for these teaching essentials is immeasurable, and I am honored to have the opportunity to express my appreciation during this 30th year anniversary celebration.”

 

Share your own CENTERED RIDING  memories and “aha” moments online and tag them #CenteredRiding30! And remember, all CENTERED RIDING books and DVDs are 30% off, the entire month of November.

 

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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Dr. Beth Glosten is the author of THE RIDING DOCTOR.

Dr. Beth Glosten is the author of THE RIDING DOCTOR.

Dr. Beth Glosten no longer practices medicine but has turned her attention and precise knowledge of anatomy to riding (she’s a USDF bronze, silver, and gold medalist) and teaching riders, both in the saddle and on the ground (she’s also a licensed Pilates instructor).

In her fabulous new book THE RIDING DOCTOR: A PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTHY, BALANCED, BEAUTIFUL RIDING, NOW AND FOR YEARS TO COME, Dr. Glosten provides a remarkably clear look at what our bodies “do” on horseback. Here’s how she boils down the attainability of “feel” (it IS attainable!), beginning with what she describes as “what moves and what shouldn’t move much” when you are riding at each gait.

 

You CAN Develop “Feel”

Consideration of how the horse moves opens the door to riding in harmony. Without considering the character of the horse’s gaits, you have no basis from which to improve the horse’s way of going. The horse’s character of movement is his raw material for you to work with. You must understand how you interact with this material before expecting it to change.

The ability to move in harmonious communication with your horse is the same as riding with “feel.” Some say feel is a skill you either have or you don’t: If you are lucky to be a rider with feel, you are admired. If, however, you are told you lack this skill, it seems you are doomed to a riding career of struggles. I strongly disagree with this sentiment. While some riders do seem to have a knack for moving naturally with their horse, I wholeheartedly believe you can develop feel in your riding if your position and balance are solid as guided by the Rider Fundamentals.

A rider with feel predicts and interacts with the horse’s movements and behaviors as if she can read the horse’s mind and body. A rider with feel always appears with the horse despite challenges or evasions from the horse. This rider seems to always know just the right amount and timing of encouraging or correcting rein or leg aids, and seems to be sitting inside the horse, rather than on top. The resulting picture, to the uneducated eye, looks as if the rider is doing nothing (but we know otherwise!).

 

Dr. Glosten on her mare "DG" at sitting trot: She keeps spine stability with her "abdominal seat belt" while allowing her legs to swing at the hip joint with DG's back.

Dr. Glosten on her mare “DG” at sitting trot: She keeps spine stability with her “abdominal seat belt” while her hip joints allow her legs to swing with the side-to-side movement of DG’s barrel.

 

Young riders have a particular knack for feel. With relatively little guidance, a skilled young rider develops the ability to move with the horse and influence him in a positive way. This is not surprising, as learning new movement skills comes naturally at a young age. As we get older, it becomes harder and harder for the brain and body to learn new tasks and make logical choices for balance and coordination. It is not that we can’t learn something new; it just takes longer and requires a greater commitment. If you are an older rider and think you lack feel, don’t give up. I strongly believe it can be learned and developed.

Learning and understanding your horse’s rhythm and movement at each gait, and how you, the rider, should move with them, puts you and your horse on the same page, and the door is open to ride with feel.

 

Walk: What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much

• Your shoulder and elbow joints move to stay with your horse’s head and neck.

• Your legs alternately swing slightly in and out at the hip joint, staying with your horse’s rib cage as it rocks side to side with each step.

• Your pelvis and spine move somewhat forward and back (but this is often exaggerated). The amount of movement of your pelvis when you ride a walking horse is similar to the amount of movement of your pelvis when you walk.

 

Posting Trot: What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much

• Your hands stay in a stable position.                                                           

• Your legs stay stable underneath your body.                             

• Your torso is in stable alignment, slightly inclined forward, while it moves up and forward over the pommel of the saddle, and then back down. 

 

Sitting Trot: What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much

• Your hands stay in a stable position.

• Your legs stay stable underneath your body.

• Your torso is in stable alignment.

• Your hip joints allow the side-to-side swing of your legs with your horse’s barrel.

• Your ankle joints move to absorb the up-and-down motion.

 

Canter: What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much

• Your arms follow the motion of your horse’s head and neck.

• Your legs are stable.

• Your hip joints allow the rolling back-to-front motion of your horse’s body, especially your inside hip joint.

• Your torso stays in correct alignment, without excess rocking forward and back. The more collected the canter, the less your torso rocks; it adopts a more up-and-down motion with your horse.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

 

Learn more from Dr. Beth Glosten, plus get over 50 step-by-step exercises geared toward developing the riding skills we need to be balanced, effective, healthy riders, now and for years to come in THE RIDING DOCTOR, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

 

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