Feel, timing, blending,
balance, breath, the postural awareness to see this through. It's always coming
down to one of these things and all of them collectively. I don't think you can
have one without the other. You can't have feel if you don't have timing. You
can't blend if you aren’t breathing. You don't have timing unless you're
balanced. And you're not breathing correctly if you don't have postural
awareness. All of these things make up each one of these individually and
Timing -- We were working
with a gal and her beautiful grey gelding and she wanted to do flying lead
changes. Flying lead changes aren't as complicated as I once thought they
were. In fact, when set up properly, like everything, I guess, it becomes
easier. However, timing is very important in getting these changes. Feel is
very important. Sometimes, I think if we can't time it correctly, how could we
feel it? For me it's like playing my guitar or learning a new song. You feel
when the chord changes are going to happen - or when you're driving a stick
shift, you feel when the truck needs to go to another gear. If you're caught up
looking at the speedometer to tell you, or looking at the piece of music, you
could easily lose the feel. It's a split second but the feel is gone.
Same when we make our lead
changes. It's a split second. You need to change your focus and in the change
of your focus you take your horse with you. Horse and rider support each other
through this change. We support our horse by getting out of his way with our
own body and allowing him to move freely through this change. It all sounds so
easy, and for some of us it is easier than for others.
With this particular horse
and rider, they were good partners and the owner was a good rider. However, her
timing was off. She was also off in her alignment. Her left shoulder was
higher than her right, noticeably higher. We worked on the Feldenkreiss roll
and did some stick work. This is with a three foot dowel that we've designed
exercises for opening up the spine and bringing more abdominal awareness and
breath. We can get rid of some of the braces in the cervical spine and thoracic
spine. With the abdominal awareness we bring support to the lower back.
I admire this gal and all the
riders at this clinic who took a look at what they were or weren't bringing to
their ride. After we got her a little more straight and supported she could
take that to the saddle and she did. She and her horse started to move out with
more balance and confidence. She could get her simple change but was still
having a hard time with the flying lead change. We set up some cones in the
arena. This is really
helpful if you're having a
hard time with feel because you can focus on say, the third cone, and know at a
particular spot in the arena you're focus must change from your center, not just
from your head. By the fourth cone, you've got your change.
There are different ways this
can be accomplished. We've come across riders who've been told to use the fence
to get your change, in other words you're riding into the fence and just before
you're going to hit it you change you're focus. We usually don't use that
method. We prefer to work in the center of the arena. It's safer for one, and
we feel the changes come with less stress on the horse this way. If you miss
the cone, it's no big deal, you just try again. However, when you're riding
into a fence, well, I guess you might get the picture...
Each day this gal and her
horse made progress toward their goal and that's always so wonderful to see.
She took her time and kept working toward getting out of her own way which gave
her and her horse freedom. Horsemanship through life, that's what it's all
about. We're riding for the tomorrows. Timing will come and when it gets into
our muscle memory, the feel will be there. The important thing is that we don't
compare ourselves to each other. We get it when we get it, no pressure.
There were some talented
riders in this clinic with talented horses committed to their own body work as
well as their horses. It's funny, the better the rider is the more they want to
work on getting rid of their braces, even the smallest of braces. Well, let's
face it, a brace is a brace. Knowing that a horse can feel a fly or gnat on his
ear or back, he can certainly tell if we are holding our breath, pushing in our
stirrups, clenching our jaw, gripping with our quads, wrapping our toes around
the stirrups, or fingers around the reins, tightening our backs, tightening our
ankles or knees. The more that we work on getting rid of braces, the more
extension and lift seems to come from our horse. It just makes sense, the more
we lift and extend the more freedom we bring to our ride. We are only limited
by our own thoughts -- keep breathing, keep centered, keep focused, the changes
We want to thank our hosts,
Kyya, Don and Coltor for letting us feel at home in the kitchen, allowing us to
play our guitars and to practice our Aikido in their home Dojo. Special thanks
to Coltor for his wonderful imagination and sharing his stories with Mark and
myself. It's obvious we have a budding author in the family. We had some
wonderful dinners. One night we picked fresh potatoes right out of the ground
and made home made French Fries and baked potatoes that tasted great!! I don't
think people give much thought to where their food comes from. This was
beautiful farm land and a beautiful ranch, to boot. We wish Kyya good luck on
her black belt test. Thanks to Dave and Nancy for making the trip out and to
all of you riders that made this clinic one of our highlights of the year.
Happy trails. We're off to Olympia, Washington near Seattle.
11:35am, we leave Othello,
Washington. Highway I-90. Beautiful farmland- peaches and onions. In fact,
Mark and I stopped to get fuel and a big onion truck had just left. As he
turned the corner, there were onions everywhere, so Mark stopped our truck and I
got out and picked us some fresh onions. It was fun. Also, when we left our
hosts, they gave us fresh red onions, my favorite. What a treat that was.
Cattle are grazing on our way
to Olympia, Washington. The wheat color grass of fall against the forest green
of the pines... once again I feel blessed. The Wenatchee Mountains. We're
looking for a rest stop that will also facilitate dumping our tank. It's a
beautiful day to travel. The Soqualame Pass. I've always heard of this Pass.
It's lovely, pine trees everywhere. The Yakima River. There are rivers
everywhere. I think this was an Indian tribe, the Yakima Indian Tribe, as
well. Now, some of the fall colors are coming into view along the highway, red,
orange, gold and yellow. We listen to "Song of the Prairie". I know I keep
saying it, and here I go again, I love this CD. The CD is like a backdrop for
this magnificent country. Highway 18, southwest to Olympia, 3pm. We see Mt.
Rainier, unbelievably gorgeous, reaching its tall peaks into the heavens. How
blessed we are for this planet Earth and the freedom to travel the way we do.
Our spirits are good, our ponies are in good shape, what else can a cowgirl ask
We arrive at our destination,
a beautiful horse farm and are greeted with open arms. A wonderful turn-out for
Smokey and 'the Girl' and a place for us to rest as well. This was another
great clinic, with good riders, good horses. We had some young riders in this
clinic. That's always inspiring.
A couple of the riders in
this clinic were first-time riders with us. They were highly disciplined,
strictly Dressage and were looking for new ways to work. Everyone at this
clinic was so open to finding a different journey to their horsemanship.
This gal rode into the arena
on her giant thoroughbred gelding. He must have been about 17 or 18 hands high
and, of course, she was very tiny. This horse was, I think, 8 or 9, but he was
atrophied in his development. In fact, when she rode into the arena she was at
her wits end. As each rider comes into the arena, Mark always ask the rider or
owner to tell us about their horse. In this case, she told us that everyone she
talked to about her horse - vets, trainers, acupuncturists, acupressurists,
whoever and whatever, told her that her horse was retarded or possibly inbred.
Time will tell and we reserve
our opinion, or Mark's opinion, as time goes on. Mark asked her specific
questions. Firstly, what made these folks think that about her horse, and what
did she think of her horse? Of course, she loved the horse and her instincts
were to continue on their journey. And that's what we did. We took things very
slow. Each horse is individual, just like each of us is individual, and the way
we learn is
unique unto ourselves. To
just label something or someone "retarded' in a way makes us not have to look
for others ways of teaching. We can just say, they're retarded, we can't help,
they just don't understand. Move on, get a different horse. In this case our
riders moving on brought her to us and what a thrill it was to see the changes
in her animal.
The horse's brain works
different than ours. The two halves of the brain and the corpus collosum that
connect them are not has highly developed as they are in the human brain (not
that you'd ever know that the way human's behave sometimes). With the horse,
you must be very clear and only teach one side at a time. We don't know the
history of this horse before he came to us, i.e. how he was trained. We do know
he was off the race track and I always think that does the horse an injustice,
so he probably didn't have much training, only to run, and maybe the training
that he did have didn't help him feel confident or clear. What I do think is
that he didn't understand what his job was now or how to accomplish it for his
Mark started very slowly.
The first day we just worked on moving forward with some impulsion, going around
in a circle one way, then another. We'd ask for a halt and then asked for
forward again. Mark would reserve any judgment for a later date. In other
words, we'd see if the information we were teaching today stuck for tomorrow, or
would the horse come in not being able to connect yesterday with today. It was
very interesting work. Again, we were slow and clear, and as each day passed
you could see the horse making connections with what he had learned the day
before, which in Mark's mind, and mine, is not the case in a retarded horse.
You could see in the horse's eyes him connecting his response to a cue. He
started to back when asked and move forward when asked. He started to move
softly through transitions when asked. This was exciting! To see this brain
development before our eyes! Before the end of the clinic this horse and rider
were working on lateral movement! He was just a young horse in an older body,
that’s was all! Again, it's remarkable to me how we feel we can just label
something because we don't want, or don't know how to look for other ways. No
one but his owner saw the 'try' in him, and I'm so glad she did. This makes the
goal to their journey even more rewarding.
Mark tells a story, about an
eagle that was hatched to a chicken. An eagle egg was found and put in the
chicken coup and the chicken sat on the egg with her chicken eggs and they all
hatched together. The eagle behaved like a chicken, of course. What did he
know? One day, he was looking up into the sky and saw another beautiful eagle,
beautiful wings spread out over the blue sky and the chicken/eagle said, "Wow,
that's magnificent! What kind of bird is that?" The mother chicken replied,
"That's an eagle, king of the sky, but you don't have to worry about that,
you're just a chicken. Your job is to scratch and peck at the ground, because
you are a chicken." So all this eagle's life, he thought he was a chicken. He
never challenged himself, or had the encouragement to challenge himself, to soar
and fly like the eagle he really was. How sad that he never knew or reached his
potential. How sad that all the chickens around him never encouraged him to be
anything more. I think that's true sometimes with our horses and ourselves. We
are only limited by our lack of vision. To me, as Socrates said, the unexamined
life is not worth living.
This, however, creates
something else in the human, a search - the on-going… for me at least, trying to
do better, to be better, what motivates or does not motivate, always trying to
evolve for a higher self. It's not easy, change is never easy, but that's how
we know we're living. In our chestnut gelding, up until this point he was
always told what he couldn't do, or couldn't be... only his rider was looking
for something else, for some way he could fly, that search brought them to us
and new rewards for ongoing development. We look forward to seeing these two
next year and look for new ways that we can all soar together.
I wanted to touch on our
young equestrians, wonderful riders. These two young gals were riding
Halflingers. It's a small working horse, beautiful dark palomino coloring with
a flaxen mane and tail. These were Dressage riders as well and when asked in
competition to transition to their two-point pushed into their transitions and
pushed their two-point. We worked hard on getting the girls to feel the
impulsion from their horse’s hindquarters into their hindquarters and to go with
the natural three and nine rhythm of their horse. In other words, their hips
would drop in rhythm to their horse's rhythm. This was beautiful to watch,
exciting really. It's always a treat, again, to work with the young riders who
just 'go for it' and get it.
This was the first clinic
where I did a demo on my horse. "The Girl" and I did examples in three and nine
in motion versus the push of the six and the twelve. I answered questions and
was able to implement awareness from my saddle. It was very exciting for me and
'the Girl', who continues to make me look good. It gave Mark and I some new
ideas for the upcoming year that we're looking forward to making.
We want to thank our hostess
Charlie and her husband for making us feel right at home, giving me full range
in the kitchen, you know how I love that. Thank you to the Corgies, who in
themselves are pure entertainment wherever they went. It was a real treat to go
out and gather our own eggs for breakfast and a pure delight the way you
maintain the farm, making everyone feel so special, two legged and four legged.
Thank you for my wonderful bedroom and all of your lovely amenities. Once
again, we want to thank you for allowing us to play our guitars and share
stories together. Special thanks to
Cheryl and Kristie and all
the girls who kept my marketing strategy working. If you can turn down the rain
a little bit next time, it will help. Keep dry and know we're thinking of you.
Breathe, breathe, breathe. See you out on the trail…. The singing cowgirl.
Around the Stockton area.
It's also where a lot of the "Big Valley" was filmed. It's fine country, open
space, cattle and chaparral. It's a beautiful California, sunshiny day, quite a
contrast from our drizzly days in Washington. We arrived in good spirits,
ponies feeling good and a huge turn-out for our four-legged beauties who were
also happy to see the sun. This was another clinic I was looking forward to. I
guess, when it comes right down to it, I look forward to all of them. Once
again, we were greeted with friendly smiles and hugs. We got Mark set-up and
myself as well. This was a wonderful ranch house with a wrap-around porch and a
big swinging seat from the rafters of the overhand. The ranch itself is on
about 75 acres, small by Texas standards, large by mine.
We started with our demo and
this time we brought some of Dr. Dave's horse bones. We're traveling with 'the
bones', so it helps to have some of these props to really get an idea of how the
horse moves. We had the pelvis with us, the skull, occipitals, some of the ribs
and thoracic spine, and how they attach. It was a good demo. It just seems the
more we do them, the better they get. There probably were about fifty
participants and that's always a plus to see folks that weren't able to get to
ride in the clinic still be interested in doing and getting more with their
horsemanship. This was a clinic where we saw some
folks that we had worked with
earlier in the year, as well as first-timers. Again, there were good riders and
good horses and good weather.
What stood out to me in this
clinic was communication. It's so important to be clear, to be flexible, to
make your ideas and awareness easily accessible to our students. This is not
always easy. It requires, in my opinion, always searching inside yourself for
patience and being able to articulate the same thing many different ways. What
one person may understand said one way, doesn't always translate to the next
person. It doesn't make them slow or stupid or 'retarded'… for the teacher, it
makes us slow down and think and discover newness in ourselves, newness in our
approach. It's life, always changing, and I guess that's one of the
challenges of being a teacher.
We had two particular riders
in this clinic, who happened to be husband and wife. They also happened to be
pilots. The husband, in the service, flew fighter jets while his wife, being
equally talented, is a commercial pilot. He is a commercial pilot now as well.
They are a very interesting, smart couple and they are good riders. They both
ride big, gaited horses, geldings. The husband was a bit 'bracey' in the
saddle and pushed a lot from his seat. She was a lovely rider with a little
stiffness in her lower back. None of these things are big problems, they just
require some awareness, some feel, some timing, some blending, some breath, some
balance and a lot of postural awareness to see it through. Both of these folks,
especially the husband, really wanted to work on sitting better in the saddle,
being softer, feeling the rhythm of their horse, feeling the three and the nine,
moving with and directing that energy.
Our gal rider really wanted
to work on flying lead changes, as well as her seat, but she really wanted to
get these lead changes down. Her horse was up for it and could see it coming if
we could see it coming if we could just get out of our way and let it happen.
Timing. Mark started working with her and the horse and things were moving
forward at a wonderful pace with understanding in place, however, she was still
going for the change late. Her timing was off. This is a gal who flies a
commercial jet. You've got to have timing! How do we translate that to the
horse. This was so much fun. All of a sudden, we found ourselves talking in
aeronautic jargon. It was a hoot! Her husband would tell us what we should say
-- in other words, you're coming up for your left turn, get your focus, start to
bank, pick up on your right throttle, let your left wing drop. Bingo!!
Landing!! Change!! That was what it took. Translating the information into a
language she understood. You're turn is coming at 11 o'clock, start to see it at
1 and make your maneuver. It was so much fun! The next day she was all over
that arena. She was doing flying lead changes every third stride. There was an
example of finding a new way to communicate, a way that resonated with our
student. She could make the changes if it resonated with her in a way that she
could feel understanding coming through her and into her horse.
If you can connect new
information with something already understood and in your muscle memory your
chances for success are good. It's building on something that a person already
understands. We are looking to make things easy, to make success attainable.
This is not brain surgery but you must use your head. This is why a lot of
times we ask what it is we do in our life for work so we can relate things
easily. Success is only as difficult as we make it and we don't know how to do
anything hard so we make it as easy as we can.
Her husband made wonderful
discoveries himself. He really hooked into the three and nine, moving in rhythm
with his horse, bringing abdominal awareness to his seat which in turn helped
the bracing that he had in his lower back. He stopped pushing from his stirrups
and going with directing the energy that was already there. Mark said, it was
the best that he had ever seen these two ride. Both exclaimed the same. They
said it was the best they'd felt. It's awareness. Being aware of what we are
and aren't doing. These are things that Mark and I are finding so important.
The exciting part is that you're finding your own awareness and how important
they are to your ride and your horse. That is your success, yours alone.
We want to thank our hosts,
Kim and Steve (that's my brother's name. It's funny being around another Kim and
Steve…) and Mike. You guys outdid yourselves. The chuck-wagon was never
wanting, food was fantastic. Thank you Steve for getting me up in the morning,
early enough so I could practice my Aikido before we started our day. Thank you
Mike for keeping the arenas watered down, helping me load the trailer and for
always being handy if and when we needed that extra hand. Thank you for
allowing us to play our guitars. It was an extra special treat because we had
another guitar player riding in the clinic, and he was a mighty fine picker as
well as singer. It was a fun evening. This cowgirl and cowboy had a rockin'
good time. I want to thank Kim and Waddie Pilates, the wonder-dog and the only
dog I've ever seen hold his neutral spine position prone. What talent! 'Till
we meet again, 'till we eat again, 'till we sing and play again --
Off to Alpine, California to
pick up our new horse, Mouse, then home to
Colorado and one more clinic,
Texas, yee haw!