Seeing these two horsemen work together this past month, out in Phoenix, inspired me a great deal. Both from the bodywork perspective and additionally from the aspects of riding and groundwork. I continue to integrate my experiences during bodywork sessions with my passion for encouraging and unlocking horses from the saddle and during in hand work. In a similar way to the instant connection I made with the Masterson Method of bodywork, hearing Mark Rashid talk about connecting with horses from the saddle just clicked.
In particular I feel drawn to the goal of doing as little as possible in order to let them unfold and express themselves as individuals. I have another blog post planned to discuss the Hierarchy of Procedures for Humane and Effective Practice as outlines by the International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants (IAABC). For now, though, I want to talk about some of the clinic highlights.
-The importance of remembering that just like each horse has an individual personality, they also have a unique body, so trying to make them look like the perfect conformational horse is not helpful. Everything needs to be balanced to that individual being, not a gold standard for all horses. Each individual has developed patterns and made small changes over time to accommodate for their own imbalances and confirmation. We as trainers, riders and bodyworkers do well to remember that the layers will be successfully peeled back in the same way – slowly, mindfully and with appreciation for how each part of the body works with the rest of the body. The part that matters most is to show up and to make positive change, even if it is incremental. Those changes do add up over time. This was the overarching theme for the entire clinic – bodywork techniques and riding/handling techniques that allow the body and mind to be encouraged back to balance without shocking the system.
-Softening with the reins before asking for something under saddle being the same principle as staying below the brace during Masterson Method bodywork. Tiny, minute softening that is felt by the horse and encourages softness in them, instead of becoming engaged in a pulling battle that escalates.
-Instead of approaching our relationship with our horse as adversarial and something that be need to be prepared to react to, it is valuable to see our job as not reacting. Instead becoming a secure, calm source that they can trust and depend on.
-Learning to pay attention to when we are giving mixed signals (example legs say “move forward” while hands get anxious and say “stay put”). Making sure that our energy and our physical signals match one another so that we are clear in our own minds and bodies about what we are asking before we communicate to the horse. This could also be summarized by saying mindfulness in our body as we ask our horse to do things. I am so thankful for my eight week course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) completed in 2013 and amazed how so many of my life experiences continue to weave together.
I will be sure to post more in weeks to come. For now, I hear the barn calling my name…