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RUNAROUND

Sandy Collier has enjoyed great success in her career as an NRCHA, NRHA, and AQHA champion horse trainer. Named one of the “Top 50 Riders of All Time in All Disciplines” by Horse & Rider Magazine, she was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2011, and the NRCHA’s Hall of Fame in 2012. Collier was the first and only female horse trainer to win the prestigious NRCHA (National Reined Cow Horse Association) World Champion Snaffle Bit Futurity. She also won an NRCHA World Champion Snaffle Bit Futurity Reserve Co-Championship in addition to being a regular Finalist there annually. She has been a NRCHA Stallion Stakes Champion, an NRHA Limited Open Champion, and an AQHA World Champion.

In champion trainer and popular clinician Lynn Palm’s book THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION, Palm asked Sandy Collier to share how she works to achieve collection with her performance horses.

“I do a lot of work through speed and gait transitions,” was Collier’s reply, “which makes no sense at all to most reining or Western riders.”

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Sandy Collier competing.

Collier says that even though reiners and Western riders will often get their horses really collected at the trot and lope, “as soon as you start putting a lot of speed to it, it’s like the wheels start falling off the car.” She uses an exercise called The Runaround to maintain collection, improve the quality of a horse’s rundown, and thus ultimately better his stop.

“I’ll build speed while maintaining collection for a long, straight run,” explains Collier. “As I approach the short end of the arena, I’ll take a deep breath, start to exhale, and make my horse follow my seat as I sit down in the saddle, making him come back to me on a straight line without falling out of lead. It’s like downshifting a real expensive car, where it has to come back down real smooth. I keep my horse slow and collected through the short end (don’t let him careen around the corner), and once I get around the corner, I ask him to build speed again and start over. My horses eventually get to where they can run really fast while staying collected, and then as I let my air out, they’ll come all the way back to a slowdown or a stop, depending how long I sit.”

RIGUCO

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The goal is to capture the complete tail-to-nose package of supple muscle and hind-end-generated impulsion that becomes a “frame” where the horse is more athletic—that is, his forehand lightens, enabling him to maneuver his front end more quickly, and his steps become cadenced and his movement free-flowing. For more exercises that help achieve this real collection, check out THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION by Lynn Palm, on sale now at 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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We’re happy to have TSB author, translator, and Masterson Method Practitioner Coralie Hughes discuss the idea of “balance” in the horse, providing insight and ideas from her experiences at a clinic with Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, as well as in her work with Jim Masterson and the Masterson Method of Equine Bodywork. Coralie and Jim’s new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED is due out in June 2015. CLICK HERE to add your name to the wait list to be notified as soon as its available!

Coralie Hughes and Jim Masterson discussing the painted horse from their new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Coralie Hughes and Jim Masterson discussing the painted horse from their new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Having translated his book BALANCING ACT from German to English, I felt I understood Gerd Heuschmann’s equestrian philosophy pretty well. Attending a recent riding clinic of his and listening as he taught dressage riders of all levels to Grand Prix was still an extraordinary experience for me, both from the perspective of being a dressage rider myself and being a Masterson Method practitioner.

If you haven’t yet encountered Dr. Heuschmann of Germany, he is an accomplished dressage rider and trainer, a veterinarian and the individual who led the international charge against Rollkur (a flawed training practice used in all disciplines, English and Western, that brings the horse’s nose to the chest in the mistaken notion that the poll and the back will release, while actually accomplishing the opposite). Dr. Heuschmann is also a fan of the Masterson Method and loves to watch the horses release as Jim works.

To Dr. Heuschmann, what he does in his clinics is balance horses. He teaches the riders to ride with the sensitivity of seat and hand that allows the horse to free his back and poll. If the horse is ridden at the tempo and rhythm that is most comfortable for that horse (“Every horse is a song and we must find the melody”) and the back is free, full utilization of the hind end in his work is possible. If hand, seat, or leg transmits negative tension to the horse, then tension develops in the poll and transfers to the back and to the hindquarters.

During the clinic, Dr. Heuschmann identified common riding errors, especially in the use of the hands, that cause increased poll tension, inhibit the movement of the corresponding hind leg, and negatively impact the back. Such a horse is imbalanced in his movement and the dressage goals of impulsion, straightness, and “throughness” are impossible to achieve. There is a kink or block in the energy transfer through the body of the horse.

But even the best-ridden horse is going to develop negative tension in his body as a result of his efforts to please his rider and just simply as a result of repetitive motion. Over time, the muscles lose the ability to fully contract and fully relax, and the muscle chains of the body become unbalanced. As a Masterson Method practitioner, it is commonplace to feel the tight and locked poll, the stiff back, and the shoulders and haunches that have only limited range of motion. It is also commonplace to be able to restore range of motion and release restriction in the body of the horse through Masterson Method bodywork.

Click the image to join the wait list.

Click the image to join the wait list.

With the Masterson Method, we have recently taken it a huge step further. With the painted horse project that yielded the DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED DVD SET and now the book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED, we studied the biomechanics of the dressage horse so that dressage riders, and we Masterson Method practitioners, would be better able to understand how the horse uses his body in his work. The better we understand how the horse must use his body to perform movements of upper level dressage, the better a rider understands how to be in sync with the horse and not against his motion, and the better a Masterson Method practitioner understands why certain muscle groups are involved when a dressage trainer is having given training issues. Bodywork can often feel like a “hide-and-go-seek” effort. Through the work we did with DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED and THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED, we have gained an understanding that removes a lot of the mystery when horses can’t perform as well as they used to, barring a frank veterinary cause.

Since completing the research and work related to this new book, co-authored with Jim Masterson, I find in my Masterson Method practice that I better understand horses of all equestrian disciplines. The reiner that is having trouble in a spin reminds me of the front end of the dressage horse’s half-pass. The jumper that can’t use his back or flex his lumbosacral joint or use his gluteals in a good push off, is a dressage horse that is too locked up to collect properly or has lost his extended trot.

The musculoskeletal system of the horse allows for a limited set of movements of his body parts. Because the dressage horse is asked to perform the greatest range of different movements, understanding how the dressage horse uses his body can be a springboard for understanding any equestrian discipline as a bodyworker.

Betsy Steiner on Bacchus from THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Betsy Steiner on Bacchus from THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Most equestrians are trying their best to be good riders. But as one of the old dressage masters said, “A lifetime isn’t long enough to learn to ride a horse.” With the Masterson Method we can help the aspiring rider travel the long, often frustrating but also joyous journey of learning to ride by rebalancing the musculoskeletal system of the horse through regular bodywork. In essence, we are giving the rider a new “blank slate” for his or her continued efforts to learn to ride this most noble of creatures.

It’s all about balance… from Dr. Heuschmann’s ground-breaking work about how to ride a horse in balance, to the Masterson Method’s rebalancing of muscle systems through release of tension. For every horse of any discipline, it is a question of balance in how the horse is using his body, or the lack thereof.

The DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED DVD SET and THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED BOOK are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

For information about Masterson Method courses, seminars, and workshops visit www.mastersonmethod.com.

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Stacy Westfall on Roxy. Photo courtesy of Stacy Westfall from HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD.

Stacy Westfall on Roxy. Photo courtesy of Stacy Westfall from HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD by Denny Emerson.

 

Stacy Westfall became the first woman to compete in—and win—the prestigious “Road to the Horse” colt-starting competition in 2006, the same year that she electrified the reining world with a bridleless and bareback championship Freestyle on her black mare “Roxy” (Whizards Baby Doll) at the Tulsa Reining Classic and the All American Quarter Horse Congress. While Stacy continues to compete, she loves to teach and share her knowledge, and tours the country regularly giving clinics and appearing at expos.

In Denny Emerson’s honest, on-target, guaranteed-to-rev-your-engines book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, Stacy shared a little about how she came to horses and why she thinks she “got good.” Here’s her advice as to how all of us can one day have the ride of our life (tack optional).

 

Stacy’s life circumstances:

“I grew up in South China, Maine. My mother had ridden as a girl and as soon as our family could afford an equine (when I was about six), a pony named Misty joined the household. This was the same pony on which my mother had learned to ride sixteen years earlier!”

 

She got hooked on horses when:

“From the very beginning, I was one of those kids who reads the Walter Farley Black Stallion books over and over. I would have given anything to be shipwrecked on a desert island with a horse.”

 

Stacy thinks she got good because:

1  “My parents got me a horse when I was about thirteen and from that time on I lived on my horse. I rode her seven miles to work. I took her to local open shows on the weekends and entered every class. That mare and I developed a deep connection.”

2  “My mom was my first teacher, but she didn’t just tell me what to do. She wanted me to figure it out. If my pony did something wrong, like stopping at one of the tiny jumps we had set up, Mom would say, ‘Why do you think Misty did that?’ Her approach got me thinking like a horse, which has really influenced my life. When you can figure out what the horse is thinking and how to communicate with the horse and mold that, you can do almost anything.”

3  “I attended the University of Findlay in Ohio. In its equestrian studies program, I learned traditional training techniques and fundamentals with top instructors, and got into reining with champion trainers. My famous bareback ride is an extension of taking the technical stuff I learned and wrapping it around what my childhood horses taught me about the relationship horses can have with people.”

 

Stacy’s advice to the rest of us:

“It all comes back to attitude and passion. If you go into this because you dream about getting famous on a horse or having a great marketing plan, you’ll never have that connection with the horse. This is something that, if it’s in you, you would do it even if you didn’t get paid—you do it because it’s you. When it’s really cold, or when it’s really hot, or when it’s really hard, do you still want to do it? A favorite quote of mine is: ‘Verily, the lust for comfort murders the passion in the soul, then walks grinning in the funeral.’ (From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.) If your passion gives way to the appeal of comfort, you will not succeed at a high level because at some point you’ll need to beat someone with passion—and people with passion who’re willing to work for it like that will be unstoppable.”

 

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Find out how 22 more of the best riders in the world “got good” and get their tips for “making it” in the horse industry in HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD by Denny Emerson, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

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FieldFriends

THIS WEEKEND, September 20 and 21, 2014, horse lovers from all over will be lucky enough to participate in a one-of-a-kind event at the Agrium Western Event Centre at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The inaugural Jonathan Field and Friends International Horsemanship Education Conference brings together four remarkable horsemen under one roof: natural horsemanship and liberty trainer Jonathan Field; former Olympic show-jumping coach George Morris; champion reiner Craig Johnson; and cutting and cowhorse specialist Bruce Logan.

“The passion I have for sharing horsemanship is further ignited by getting to do it with some of the top horsemen in the world,” says Jonathan. “It is hard to comprehend the level of expertise that will be assembled, from varying backgrounds, working together at the same event and at the same time.  I will be there as much a keen spectator and student as I am a clinician! These presenters have gold medals and carry respect in the horse industry around the world. I am especially excited knowing that we are all personal friends and share the common objective of putting horses first.  The care towards both the horses and helping people achieve sound knowledge is an approach that will help you build a stronger connection at any level.”

Listen to Jonathan tell you about his friends, the presenters, in his own words:

 

 

For more information about Jonathan Field and Friends International Horsemanship Education Conference or to purchase tickets, CLICK HERE.

 

Jonathan Field’s new book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES will be in stock SOON! CLICK HERE to pre-order now and be the first to get it!

 

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To check out the DVDs DRESSAGE FOR JUMPERS and TEACHING AND TRAINING THE AMERICAN WAY by George Morris, CLICK HERE.

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Top10

Working toward being a show-stopper in the show pen? Ready for the cheers, whistles, and hollers to take over as soon as you and your reining horse step through the in-gate? Here are TSB’s Top 10 Tips for riding better reining patterns.

 

Circles: Bend your horse’s body in a slight arc so you can see just a little bit of his inside eye.

Transitions: To speed up, lean your torso forward and lift your seat slightly out of the saddle (DON’T flap your arms!) To slow down, sit up straight and deeper into your “pockets”—the area of your behind near the back pockets of your jeans.

3  Rundowns and Sliding Stops: Time your “Whoa,” so it is when your horse reaches his peak speed in the rundown, and ask for the stop as the hind leg opposing the leading front leg is just leaving the ground.

Rollbacks: Use only the cueing leg, keeping your other leg completely off the horse to avoid confusing him. Lean forward slightly to avoid getting behind the motion and left in the dust—literally!

Spins: Look out over the tip of your horse’s outside ear—do not focus on it. And don’t look down! This will make you feel like the entire world is moving. Don’t rely on the hollers of the crowd to count your spins—watch the judge and use him as your point of reference as you keep track in your head.

6  Back-Ups: Stay out of your horse’s way. Don’t lean back or pull on your horse, or he’ll just pull right back. Come to a complete stop, lift your rein hand slightly and make contact with the bit, push your feet forward, and cluck. Bump the horse softly with your heels if necessary.

7  Hestitations: When a pattern calls for a hesitation between maneuvers, complete the first maneuver then effectively “pause”: keep your body still and take a deep breath or two before asking for the next. This demonstrates that your horse is waiting for your cue rather than anticipating.

Be Aware of Your Free Hand: Do not tense, curl, or flap your free arm during your pattern. Every movement in that limb can affect movement in the rest of your body. It also detracts from the overall picture you and your horse present.

Memorizing Patterns: Break the pattern into sections, rather than individual maneuvers. Write the summaries on index cards to keep in your pocket, and “ride the sections in your mind,” then double-check your accuracy on your flash cards.

10  Don’t Overpractice! It can be tempting to practice your pattern over and over, but this teaches your horse to anticipate the next maneuver before the one he is doing is complete. Practice one or two maneuvers during a practice session, and trust that when you do link them all together in competition, your hard work will pay off.

For more great reining, riding, and horsemanship tips, visit the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

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Did you get our Thank You Coupon for our blog readers? If not, CLICK HERE to get a special discount on your next book or DVD purchase at www.horseandriderbooks.com.

 

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“In the mid-2000s the German veterinarian Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, working with German Olympic dressage champion Klaus Balkenhol, created headlines when they publicized the findings of Heuschmann’s anatomical and biomechanical studies of hyperflexion,” writes Jennifer Bryant in “Rollkur: Dressage’s Dirty Word,” a recent article on TheHorse.com. “Heuschmann said that hyperflexion not only fails to develop the proper musculature for upper-level dressage, but the exaggerated flexion can also restrict the horse’s airway. Heuschmann published a book, Tug of War: Classical Versus ‘Modern’ Dressage, detailing his findings and arguing against the practice of hyperflexion.”

According to Bryant, “Some dressage enthusiasts remain convinced that rollkur still occurs. During the dressage competition at the 2012 London Olympic Games, some photos circulated on the Internet, appearing to show Swedish competitor Patrik Kittel on Scandic riding in a hyperflexed position. Online forums and the FEI’s Facebook page, among others, were barraged with expressions of outrage and accusations that the FEI was failing to enforce Annex XIII of the Stewards Manual.”

Dr. Heuschmann agrees that, despite the online uproar, there continues to be a troubling acceptance of certain training techniques amongst those who ride, train, and show horses. Heuschmann says this is not only an international issue, but a local one, and not only a dressage issue, but one that is relevant to the show jumping community and those who participate in competitive Western sports, namely reining.

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Heuschmann’s new book BALANCING ACT: THE HORSE IN SPORT–AN IRRECONCILABLE CONFLICT? is his attempt to keep equestrians around the world focused on the problems at hand, while at the same time offering well-researched, fair, and proven techniques for retraining:

-the tense horse,

-the rein-lame horse,

-the horse with gait deviations, and

-the hyperflexed horse, among others.

BALANCING ACT is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE NOW TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF BALANCING ACT TODAY

And check out the complete article about the debate involving the 2012 Olympics by Jennifer Bryant on TheHorse.com.

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TSB author Kayla Starnes' new colt--a Helluva Chex baby.

TSB author Kayla Starnes had a tough week near the end of April–her new book TEAM ROPING 101: THE COMPLETE SPORT FROM HEADER TO HEELER–was in the final stages of proofing prior to going to print, and her mare was due to foal any minute. She spent several late nights on “pregnant mare watch” while scanning the pages of her book-to-be…and we’re happy to say both were safely delivered in the end!

Playin' with Mama!

What a lovely family portrait!

Kayla’s colt is a palomino overo AQHA/APHA son of the stunning reining stallion Helluva Chex. She shared pics from his first evening of “freedom” out in the pasture with his mama—we think he is an absolute doll!

And her book, TEAM ROPING 101—a fantastic beginner’s guide endorsed by the USTRC—is available for pre-order at the TSB bookstore NOW! Check it out HERE.

Congrats on both your new “babies,” Kayla!

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