Mark Rashid, May 22-24 2008
Sofia and I:
In the round pen.
Speed, direction, destination. I need to provide all three or else she will. My presence is important. My posture shows my presence.
Feeling my walk and trot during ground work. It is not a change in stride length. It is a change in speed.
Mind set: "we are doing this" and then help Sofia meet that.
Mark demonstrated how he disconnects when Sofia was not making an effort to connect with him, by turning away (off behind her) while still walking with same rhythm and tempo, then when Sofia starts making an effort to connect, turning again to be moving in the same direction, together with her.
With Crissi, I worked on my walk and my trot, keeping my arms and hands quiet just like I would if I were walking down the street. Too much activity in my body becomes meaningless to the horse, like kicking every step while riding.
Finding the walk with the amount of life I want. Helping Sofia stay with it before she loses it. Encourage her to stay with the speed I've asked for just when she starts to lose it.
We are always asking the horse to be here now, present with us.
Instead of dealing with the horse's shoulder falling in on the circle, ask the outside front foot to step out. This works because of the balance of the horse.
Our balance on the horse: side to side is stable. Front/back is not stable but horse underneath us provides it.
When standing, our feet are more or less under our shoulders. Good lateral/medial stability, and feet (toes to heels) are designed to provide anterior/posterior stability. When we walk, that changes as our feet come toward our midline at the walk. (Try walking while keeping feet at shoulder width!) Horse does the same -- standing balance is different from moving balance.
If horse 'falls in' on a circle, he is doing it to maintain balance after the inside front foot steps toward the inside of the circle. So think about that outside front foot stepping out on the circle which will influence horse to keep balance by moving the inside foot toward the outside where he just stepped. Use the reins to bring that foot out if the thought alone isn't effective to get the change. Think about that foot landing to the outside. Replace those thoughts about the foot or shoulder falling in. Focus on the solution, not the problem.
Get a response to the rein when asking the horse to soften. Put hand with rein on thigh and let horse do what he needs to do. He'll find his way off that rein pressure. Put your hand so it doesn't move then he has to think about what to do to soften to that pressure.
Instead of giving when he softens, say: my hand is right here, you put your head wherever it's comfortable. If you want to struggle, go ahead and struggle with yourself.
Pulling between horse and rider with stiffness and tension on the reins: change intent. I don't want to be fighting with you even if we have contact. Nothing actually changes with the hands or the tension/amount of pressure on the reins. The intent does change!
Like talking on the phone, you can talk really loud or talk softly, but the phone doesn't change.
Another analogy: take contact. The outside of the rein stays the same but the inside of the rein softens. Visual might be outside of rein is a pipe and inside of the rein is fluid.
When riding, when we feel the effect, it's out of balance. If horse spikes and we spike, too, it doesn't feel right. (Mark talks at other times about this balance point.)
Demo with rider: difference between a cue or aid with or without energy. The difference between pressure with no energy and pressure with energy.
Looking for a consistent line of communication so the horse never has to go: where are you?
Looking for the feel of both of you doing the same thing at the same time. Effortless, like skating.
If we feel friction, we are out of balance with ourselves. If we are out of balance with ourselves, we cannot be in balance with our horse.
Visualization for riding from core: think about having two arms that come down around the horse then visualize opening your hands. To slow down, turn hands over toward midline and down. To bring more speed, open hands palm upwards.
The higher the horse's head goes, the higher the horse's heart rate goes. Get them to drop their head and we can get them to drop their heart rate.
Using the hands opening for increased speed tends to lift and bring the back up. This takes us away from using our legs for increased speed. The slow down movement: also brings horse back and up, onto hinds, and closes down the energy.
Use this for transitions up and down - gets us away from using hands/reins and legs/seat -- gets us using our core.
Use stable hands but with different intent to help horses soften to reins.
Intangibles of energy - much of Mark's thinking and experience comes from Aikido.
Control of the body to calm down: my body, horse's body.
Focus on what we do have, not on what we don't have. Maybe we don't have softness right now. But we have straight lines and we have impulsion.
It is different to give to pressure versus to soften.
We have way more 'middle' than 'edge'. Using the balance point scale of 0-10 -- the edges are 0 and 10 while the middle is 1-9. We want to use all of it, the whole spectrum.
We have to use whatever the horse says we need to use, then we can back off from there. But always offer softness.
Focus on what we want then make sure horse finds a way to get there.
Foundational stuff: speed, direction, destination.
Before we get to the destination, we pick another one, then another one.
Working from your core, define speed, direction, and destination.
Generally a spook will only last about two seconds. Horses are designed to get ready to run more than they are designed to run. Horse may jump but probably won't run away.
One thing that gets us in trouble is when a horse is worried about something and we drag them right up to it. A horse will check something out then turn and run off a bit. Later they will come back a bit closer, then leave again, then return again.
We create a problem forcing a horse close to a scary thing.
Instead take him away from it. He can start gaining confidence in the person, plus person is taking him away, not him taking the person away. Good leadership.
Horse may go past something in one direction but not in the other direction. This is because of his brain. Corpus callosum in the horse is less highly developed than in humans. Horses cannot translate information very well from one side of the brain to the other.
It is better to get something solid on one side, like mounting, then start on other side.
Back up with a horse who was very braced -- keep hands in one spot and let the horse work on it. Right now we're asking him to soften and we're using backing to do that. First get him backing, then work on backing straight.
We have to be able to offer softness if we want softness in return.
Nodding and lateral flexion happen in the first joint at the top of the neck. Rotation happens in the next joint down.
Horses don't hold grudges.
Starting a horse: lunging, ground driving (stopping, backing, turning), then saddled ground driving, then bitted ground driving, then mount.
If we release on something less than what we want, we'll keep getting what we don't want.
If the horse doesn't understand her job, it's difficult for her to do it.
Going backwards but not knowing how = backing a horse with a huge brace.
Get the horse calmed down. Introduce horse to what is expected. Show rider what to do with her hands. Then maybe the rider can follow through. Trying to set it up so the rider can do this with this horse or another horse without doing this from the ground.
Lightness = when the outside of the horse is doing it. Rushing, stiff, choppy. Softness is coming from the inside of the hrose and feels smooth.
Me and Mark again:
I warmed up first, remembering to set up some disconnect when Sofia wasn't connecting with me. It was effective. Mark helped with bridling. Sofia thought she could put her head up or her head to the right to avoid dealing with the situation. It's not about the bridle or the bit -- it's about the situation, my presentation. Sofia would say "no" and I would say "no". Mark was going with her "no" until she said "well, what now?" That is when there is an opening to offer her something new. I have missed these openings. Sofia and I have both felt frustrated. Mark said he allowed her to move as she chose, then augmented it. I asked him later about what he did to 'augment' and he did a hands on with me which I will work on until my timing and feel improves. Sofia will let me know -- by her response to what I offer -- how I'm doing.
With Crissi: Hands steady so Sofia can find how to release herself. Using my core sphere of energy for forward, reverse direction for backup. Softness. Sofia is feeling better about the rein contact. I'm finding clarity about the differences between pull, rigid, soft, firm, pressure.
Use back up after a halt only when horse pushes into the bit and contact when halting. Otherwise halt, soften, walk on. If she's soft at the halt, great!
More about bridling. I get frustrated, Sofia gets frustrated. Equine dentist has gotten extremely frustrated with Sofia, and vet got frustrated. I get frustrated. It's my job to avoid getting frustrated and/or quite my emotions as quickly as possible. If Sofia's emotional energy goes up, mine goes down so we maintain a balance between us.
All Mark's effort and intention with the horse is about: show me just how you feel. Once she shows it all, then she can come back with a question, 'what? what do you want if you don't want that?'
Sofia has a lot to offer! As I get the communication clearer, connection more consistent, then her bigness will be in her stride and speed, not her worry and surprise.
Mark demonstrated with the reins: pull versus pressure. Feeling the softness within the pressure.
Image of outside of rein and inside of rein. Inside is hollow, fluid, whatever. Intention comes through the inside of the reins from my core to the horse: soften. It works!
Jumping. Inhale locks things up. Exhale frees things up. Exhale allows the horse to go up and over, not hit the fence or flatten out over it.
Jumping is just a transition.
People say, "My horse bucked me off." Mark says, "No. Your horse did something horses do and you fell off."
Men and women: chemicals are different. After an argument, the chemicals in men will dissipate in about 15 minutes. In women it takes up to 1 1/2 hours or even longer. Chemicals are much slower to dissipate in women than in men. If we don't tap into them to begin with, that isn't a problem. Breathing helps!
Can you feel the movement in your hips as a figure 8? This will help with rhythm. Elliptical figure 8.
Sitting trot requires us to let our hips move longer than is usual like for a walk.
Creating openings for movement to either slow down or speed up -- not simply creating movement.
Maybe can influence a transition by opening up your right hip -- as it comes up, think about the hip disappearing -- nothing there to block horse's energy and movement.
Allowing the horse to move into an opening then augmenting. Open both hips to go to the canter.
Opening the hip is less about opening and more about disappearing. So there is nothing in the way of the leg to reach out, swing out -- so everything can flow forward.
For steering, engage core first. Stay in balance and more from core.
Ride from the core.
Turning the head to initiate a change in direction, changes our balance and disturbs structure of the body.
If horse can't respond to our core info, we need to follow up with the mechanics so horse can get with us in speed, direction, and destination.
It is much easier to keep the horse moving if we catch the first step of slower. Principle of inertia.
The more you do with your hands, the less the horse can move.
When we talk about being soft, we talk about using the least amount of pressure that we can. The soft-as-we-can-be may not be the soft-as-we-want-to-be. They are two different things.
How little can you use and still feel the movement? As soon as you feel the momentum change, take up a little pressure until you get softness and movement.
As she slows down, maintain that rhythm and speed, then the horse finds it with me again.
We want to be as soft as we can be. It may not be as soft as we want to be.
Sometimes it's more important to get what you're looking for than to get softness, then softness will come through.
The power for everything the horse does does not come from the hindquarters, it comes from the horse's core and comes through the hindquarters.
If the horse wants to run away from something, we want to keep head facing in the direction of the scary thing. OK if he moves his body away but keep him mentally there. When the horse settles, than take him away, then bring him back again. Then, before horse feels like he has to flee the scene, turn him and bring him back to what we were doing. We're not going to fight about it but we do need to accomplish what we set out to do.
If he shows us where the trouble is, we can help him with it.
It's OK if horse is scared but we really don't want him to run away. We want the horse to be able to think, not flee.
Most people live in a low level state of panic because we don't breathe well. Same with horses. If they are not breathing well, they are in a low level state of panic.
More important than horse staying in a frame is that horse will go there when we ask.
There are two emotions that control a horse from the day they are born to the day they die: fear and curiosity. A fearful horse cannot be curious. A curious horse cannot be fearful.
When leading, Mark is very clear that the horse doesn't pass him, doesn't even think about passing him. Always offering something soft through the rope even if it has lots of energy. Don't go very far when first starting on leading and respecting our boundaries.
A good stop when leading: look at what horse does when leader turns to face her. If one of her feet lands on the ground, what she does with the next front foot constitutes a good stop: a foot lands then the next foot lands at or behind the first foot. When showing a horse what we want, back the horse up if they step more than that. If they stop as we want them to, do not back them up. They learn the specifics of this pretty fast.
Horse is looking for someone to be leading. If we don't lead, horse does it. Horses want somebody who knows what's going on so they don't have to worry about it.
My third ride time:
Use core first then follow up with mechanical. Connect with my core, and Sofia's core.
Thoughts -- mostly I have stories to tell, they are just stories and take me away from the present. Even though my stories are about what is happening, the act of telling them takes me away from this very moment. In the moment it takes for me to say 'she's doing this' I have missed the next thing or two she is offering.
Whether I say I can or I say I can't, it's true. I was approaching bridling Sofia without Mark doing it first, and had doubts about our success. Mark coached me about my thoughts, I changed my thoughts, and I bridled Sofia.
I may be active but I can be still inside. Practice 'mind like still water'.
Crissi: walk, turns, breathing. Started work with turn on forehand. We got a good walk through a right circle and will work together to find it that good going to the left more consistently.
Jumping. Making adjustments. Speed, direction and destination. Don't just wait for the magic to happen.
It's not "my horse is jumping" -- it's "we are jumping."
Staying connected the whole time. Staying connected with ourselves, staying connected with our horse.
Maintain softness and use your core -- powerful.
With presence say "this is what we're doing today." We all have that presence but often turn it off when we get on the horse.
Engaging core -- not rigidly but engage muscles of the body's core.
Engage core for turns, and back it up with mechanics if you need (rein, leg, etc.).
Raising your core coming into the jump will pull the horse right up over the jump.
Thinking down/bottom weighting results in using the least amount of muscles to balance with gravity. Any muscles we engage while riding, our horse engages the same muscles.
Instead of floating up over the top of the horse, bottom weight.
Bracing is more of a fight than just tightness. Tightness has some anxiety with it.
This is not about fixing things but about finding an opening so we can get in and help the horse feel better.
When you ask the horse to turn and the horse turns stiffly, we feel it in our upper back above the shoulders and mid-back between the rib cage and pelvis.
The horse's two circles of energy (one with hind legs, one with front legs) become one tank track type circle. The key is for the energy to move and pass through the rider.
A buck at the canter = energy comes up and hits the rider's brace and goes up along with the back end of the horse. It is not actually a buck. More like the back end goes up while the front end continues to canter.
Referred to a book, The Holy Man.
Focusing on the problem will get us nowhere. Focusing on the solution will.
We're not going to get pulled into the horse's drama, that creates disconnect.
Breathing properly elongates the spine and puts pelvis in balance.
Whenever presented with anything, ask ourselves three questions:
1) What? (What is it?)
2) So what? (How is it affecting me?)
3) Now what? (What am I going to do now?)
What happens in training it we teach horses how to turn their decision-making over to us.