A number of years ago I came across the story of John Rarey laying horses down. The story I can remember was about laying down troubled horses. Now, Cass may not really be troubled, but, to me he has had troubles and some I have helped with, some I felt could be fixed more, so I thought he may be a candidate for laying down.
I could not really find someone to make this assessment, I had to decide for us. I had been taking clinics with a cowboy with a lot of experience laying horses and cattle down for doctoring, branding, castrating and sometimes for behavior issues.
I was able to have private lessons on laying Cass down. I had the cowboy start the process as I was totally inexperienced.
He taught me how to single leg hobble Cass, which Cass was prepared for and not worried about, due to training I had done with him thus far. Then he used a soft long yacht rope with a metal ring at one end to secure the other front leg. Then he began the process of working Cass towards the laydown. This took a bit of time since Cass was very skeptical of this, being 17 years old (the cowboy stated doing this to a young horse was much easier.)
Cass had to work out that the best deal for him in this situation was to lay down. When he did on his own, that is we did not force the haunches down, we restricted his front leg and controlled the other. Then he got into position to lay down. After he did we rested and rubbed him a long time. Then the process was repeated twice more. On the third time, Cass was pretty willing to go down.
We called it a night. 4 days later the cowboy and I met up to continue what we started. This consisted of him laying Cass down again to see where he was at with the process. First time Cass went right down. Second time he was more hesitant.
Third time was my turn. I layed him down. My heart was pounding out of my chest. But, I did it and tried to seem calm for Cass.
I was instructed to continue this practice twice before riding and twice after. So I did this everyday for about 5 days. This is when the film part 1 and 2. After the film Cass was different about laying down. More trusting of the situation. Now it takes no hobble and about 30 seconds. He is much more relaxed about it.
I learned so much about precise timing of the release when the horse is under a lot of pressure and when I was under a lot of pressure to not fall apart. I needed my horse to trust me more than ever, I had a hold of his legs.
I realize I may be judged for my choice, but, I am glad I tried another way to understand how horses work. I learned so much and can see so much more and am better at waiting... horses need us to do that. So I think Cass has come through okay. He lets out a huge sigh everytime he goes down. He is calmer since the laying down. That was my goal is for him to feel more trusting.
The cowboy did say that in Cass's early days there may have been something that made Cass so worried, I was trying to replace that with getting his nueral pathways having new experiences.
During part 1 of the laying down, Cass reflected fear I have had in my life, I could relate, he helped me see that we can trust again, if we are willing.
Thank you Cass once again for making the world a better place for me.
All my love,
The past month I have been working with my students on feeling where the horse's feet are when they are riding.
It takes a lot of focus from the rider to feel their body and how the horse's feets' movement moves the humans' body. Once the rider can feel one foot of the horse either lifting or setting down they can start practicing feeling where the other feet are.
This is a slow process, but work that bears so much fruit.
1. Teaches footfall patterns in all 3 gaits.
2. Teaches body awareness.
3. Requires super focus, which in turn gets the horse really focused on you.
4. Rider learns timing and feel.
5. When the rider cues the horse when the foot is about to leave the ground the horse understands.
6. Rider becomes more soft in order to feel and has better posture in order to feel.
7. Rider feels success in knowing they really are riding, not sitting up on horse dictating in a way that doesn't make as much sense to the horse and makes the horse appear and feel resentful. A.K.A. not a real partner.
This type of work was presented to me at the Martin Black Clinic's I attended. I have been working on it ever since. My teaching style has expanded and my students get so many ah ha moments and love to learn this stuff.
I also spoke to a very good dressage trainer and asked her about feeling the horses feet when high level dressage riders are riding. She stated that yes it is the way to go, but, most riders cannot feel because they are never taught this and they cannot sit the trot. So, I felt very good to say, most of my students sit beautifully and can pick up their trot diagonal through feel.
Thank you to all my students that works so hard and diligently in lesson to learn this important timing and feel to help the horses have an easier time of carting us around!
Learning to soften or melt
My student Cindy, started lessons about 6 months ago and was pretty nervous. She did not talk directly about it, but, watching her ride showed it. She carried tension. With time it would partially disappear when she had enough time repeating the exercise we were working on, and either fatigue set in and she could release tension unwittingly or she just got a bit more confident.
However, the tension would resurface in new circumstances, like a different horse to ride, or a new exercise or speeding up. Today, we worked on transitioning from halt to walk to trot to walk to halt. In her downward transitions particularily she would grow very rigid and bounce in the saddle due to knee grip, shoulder tension, lower back stiffening, and ankle lock.
I worked with her to create awareness of her visceral response, which caused her to tense in a protective reaction. I suggested visual and physical replacement reactions. Such as toe tapping in the stirrup to loosen her ankle, thinking of presenting her hand to be kissed, this helped loosen her wrists and and therefore her lower arm and triceps. Softening her knee so she could sink deeper in the ankle, softening between her shoulder blades and releasing her lower back. The horse visibly softened as well.
The last thing I suggested was to really breathe deeply and to "blow out 100 birthday candles" as she sat deep and melted into the walk-halt.
Cindy made a very big change and felt like "she could really ride a horse." I know the horse really appreciated the change as she was soft and relaxed and breathing deep as well, all in the effort of release.
Good job Cindy.
In November I spent 4 days with horseman Martin Black at a clinic in Woodstock, Il. The biggest message was about getting in time with the horses feet. If the rider does not ride from this platform, the are likely to be less sucessful in their communications with their horse. In this case they will know that something is missing, but may not be able to put their finger on what is missing if they do not understand the concept of timing.
I say this because for years, I think decades, I rode and was not aware of timing . This lead to a lot of frustration for myself and I am sure the horse. Why wasn't I aware of timing? No one ever told me about it. They may have said "up, down, up, down" when I was in the trot, but that is about as advanced as it got.
In Martin's clinic he kept us working on pivoting on individual feet and going either forward or backward on the said foot. This sounds pretty easy, but I will tell you, Cass (my horse) understood it way before I did. To coordinate the feel, and the timing and THE HORSES COOPERATION is challenging. But, like anything that is hard work comes the reward.
This was my second Black clinic and so my second chance to revisit this concept under Martin's teaching. This time the light bulb really came on for me. It is so cool to be on your horse and feel exactly when his feet are preparing to lift, so you can get to counting and then getting to transmitting to those individual feet to say slower, stop or faster go!
The horse just feels like the machine of grace and athleticism he is meant to be, he is unimcumbered he is FREE. And you will "feel" it.
So, yesterday after one of my students finished their lesson riding Cass in walk and trot working on concepts of straight, forward and bending; I noticed at two specific areas in the arena Cass was very resistant on the left rein due to fear of those two areas.
I hopped on and rode on the left rein and sure enough Cass was bulging his left side and so were his eyes (how I knew it was fear.) I tried forcing the issue of getting him straight by using strong left aids, all this did was exacerbate the issue and caused him to raise his head higher (more fear.)
So I worked him on a 15 meter circle having a portion of the circle intersect with one of the areas in the arena he was really bulging. This I did to get him to release tension in his ribs, by being really strong in my aids so he had to try, it was a lot of pressure, he did comply, but, not with softness. So, to try to alleviate this, I rewarded his effort at the point in the arena and on the circle he was most tense. I did not just stop for a few seconds. I waited as long as he needed. How did I know? He let out the biggest exhale and lowered his head. I still did not move off. I stayed with him and patted him and told him through touch and voice how proud I was of him to let it go. See, Cass was convinced a life threatening entity was on the other side of the wall. I let him see it wasn't and I also rewarded his try on the circle at the point he applied all sorts of pressure to himself. I helped him see that this spooky place is a relaxation place.
The greatest part was when I asked Cass to try again and viola he was soft and engaged with me and his head was low. We tried in the walk trot and canter.
I did the same exercise at the other end of the arena and it took 1/3 the time and we worked in the canter. He asked for his head and lowered and cantered so relaxed.
So waiting to exhale is all it takes, we breathed so much better together:)
I just recently spent 5 days at a Martin Black clinic (if you do not know of him, take the time to Google him.) I learned so much that I needed to improve on. Martin created an awareness that I needed. I had read about and heard about not pulling on my horse, and about what you put in is what you get out.
The concept I understood, but, the application in my personal situation with my horse was something my horse and I really needed. In the clinic we were given a drill, or pattern to work on based on our request to Martin of something we wanted to get better at. In working on a stopping exercise, Martin was somewhat surprised at how fast Cass was going and pulling against me. Well wouldn't you know it came to light that I had built this into Cass by holding onto him and making him anticipate my hands and igniting his flight response.
I really did not have a solution on how to slow Cass down without pulling, which looks and feels horrific. So, I was coached to ride straight across the arena and just let him go as fast as he needed and the only direction I was to give was to make sure Cass went straight across the arena. So I was to block any right or left drift. I was to do this by using my focus and only ONE rein at a time.
I thought I understood one rein at a time having studied this at Parelli clinics and in their literature and d.v.d.s. Well, having an expert open my eyes to my incorrect practices really made me aware of my need to FOCUS, use ONE REIN at a time.
Once I got this really ingrained into myself, Cass really started to understand and say a huge thank you. He is traveling much softer I am riding much softer in my hands and I also understand that if my body stops and I give Cass a soft feel in one rein and he chooses to blow through, that is when I get really firm. This he understands and if I am consistent in my body, focus, and feel, my horse is a dream to ride.
Thank you Mr. Black