Connecting with Horses & Riding with Synchronicity is an all encompassing approach to riding, horsemanship and horses. It is my effort to find the ultimate way to interact with, learn from and ride horses. It is about connecting with horses at all levels of the mind, body and spirit.
When I sat down and thought about what it really means to ride a horse, I asked myself, “What right do I have to ride a horse, control them and expect that they should live a life of service, for my pleasure, financial gain, or to serve my own ego?” I questioned whether I should actually even ride them at all.
My conclusion to this question was that if the horses had “smiles on their faces” when they were ridden then it was OK to ride them. So, if I was going to continue to ride horses I had to find a way to ride them where they truly had a smile on their face and where I truly felt good in my heart about everything that I did with them. So that set me on a path, constantly in search of ways to interact with and ride horses so that they were just as willing to participate in the experience as humans were. I discovered that most horses were happy to be ridden and wanted to be ridden, if it was done in the right way. The right way meaning that we were compassionate, understanding and respectful to their needs at all levels of the mind, body and spirit. Being ridden and challenging themselves mentally and physically in their work, performance or competition was important to them, like it was part of their life purpose. I discovered that riding and horse training could be extremely therapeutic for horses (and riders) at all levels of mind, body and spirit.
The fundamental principles of Connecting with Horses and Riding with Synchronicity apply to all types of riding and all Equestrian disciplines both English and Western. No matter what the breed or what the sport the basic anatomy of the horse is the same so the fundamentals of form, function and biomechanics will be the same. The difference in the outline, frame (the overall look) of the horse when he or she is ridden in different sports will occur not because there is a totally new set of riding guidelines governed by the fad or fashion of a particular equestrian sport but because of the degree of athletic ability, power and hindquarter engagement needed for the different activities. The more athletic the horse needs to be, the more the body will be compressed like a spring, with an engaged hindquarter (tucked under pelvis) and elevated forehand and the outline being shorter and more compact. The less athletic they need to be, the more elongated the body can look.
The physical needs of the horse when ridden, has been a huge area of research and development for me because I couldn’t find anyone who could provide all the answers on how to ride in the quality way that I could see that horses needed. So I pieced together information from whatever sources I found that seemed to be in alignment with my understanding of what horses were looking. So it was, as it should be, primarily the feed back from the horses themselves that led to the discovery of this way of riding horses and no doubt this is only the beginning and things will continue to evolve.
I saw that horses needed to be ridden in a way where their back and their entire spine was free and totally unrestricted. So Connecting with Horses & Riding with Synchronicity teaches people how to ride so that they can be relatively “weightless” for the horse. When we are in alignment, have our own self carriage and are totally mobile through all the joints and muscles in our bodies we can sit in a way where we are not exerting a downward restrictive force to the horses back. It is only through a free spine and lifted back that horses can use their core energy for propulsion and engage their hindquarters, the essentials for a happy, sound, athletic ridden horse. When ridden with a rein contact, the contact must be completely unrestrictive so the neck (also a part of the spine) is long and stretching with an open throat area – a quality that needs to be maintained even at the highest levels of engagement and collection.
This free, open and unrestricted spine means that the nervous system is able to function optimally because the central nervous system runs through the spine. The nervous system connects and communicates with every part of the body, the brain, the internal organs, extending through to all the limbs and external structures of the body. The healthy functioning of the nervous system also facilitates horses being emotionally calm and settled in their minds. The connection between the mind, emotions and the body is so close that one directly affects the other. We can access and affect the mind and the emotions through the body and vice versa. Working with the mind, emotions and body all at once is the key.
Saddles have a huge impact on the comfort of horses and their ability to perform athletically and they also determine the alignment and balance of the rider so it is imperative to have a well fitting saddle for the horse and one which also correctly aligns the rider. The BALANCE saddle range of saddles is the best saddling system that I have come across so far for both horses and riders.
After learning to sit in this “weightless” posture, with no restrictions in your body so that you able to synchronize with your horse’s every move, the next component to Riding with Synchronicity is to understand the elements of movement of each gait and the dynamics of any maneuver that you wish to execute. You will then be able to lead or direct the horse into that gait or maneuver with your body rather than the reins. Whether it be a simple turn, a flying lead change, passage, or rollback, simply getting into the required posture in your body and feeling or riding the movement of the gait in your own body is all that will be required to cue your horse and sometimes all you will need to do is to think it. These skills are taught through theory sessions, body awareness and bodywork sessions for horses and humans, simulations and of course time on the horses.
When you are always in harmony with the horse, moving and thinking as one, and only asking for transitions or maneuvers when the horse’s weight, balance and feet are set up ready, there will be no resistance or brace on the reins. There will be no need for spurs and ultimately no need for bits.
Riding with Synchronicity aims to reach the pinnacle of riding with lightness, elegance, ease and freedom for both horse and rider. The process aims at riding without squeezing or tightening any muscles or joints in our bodies because when we tighten and stiffen our bodies we are either shutting our horses down or tightening our horses causing them to be reactive and impulsive. It is about cueing with a release not a squeeze, and riding with your energy, intention and focus rather than muscle tension. Think of a snake slithering along, he has no legs to pull himself along. He just has forward flowing energy, focus and intention flowing through his spine. Of course we don’t want our horse’s spine to be wriggling from side to side like the snake but the forward unrestricted flow of energy that needs to flow through our horse’s spine and also our own is similar. Learning to move with this free unrestricted spine is extremely healthy and therapeutic for both the horse and rider.
On this path of discovery I became aware that horses were deeply emotional and spiritual beings and they had other purposes and gifts to offer far beyond just riding. Being tr eated as a commodity or a number was a huge issue for them and so much of the horse world, especially where money is involved, does exactly this. Horses are just used and abused until they are broken down or deemed no good. The fact of just being bought and sold, viewed as an object, purely for what they can do and be used for, with no concern for “who they are” as a spirit or you could say as a thinking, feeling being with as much right to live freely on this earth as anyone else, causes many horses much emotional distress. Having horses feeling connected to their humans and appreciated for “who there were” not just “what they could do” is an essential element for Riding in Synchronicity. When the mind and body are not at ease the physical body can not be.
Like all of nature and all animals, horses have a very finely tuned energetic awareness and communication system. They are like radio receivers picking up the thoughts, feelings, emotions and intentions of everything around them. Humans have that capability too but most are not as conscious of it and therefore don’t use it. Because of their highly sensitive sensory systems what ever is going on with us is affecting our horses and could be a major cause of any problems we are having with our horses. So looking deeply at ourselves at a mental and emotional level will be necessary if we are wanting horses to enjoy our company. If we are tight, tense, stressed, angry, depressed or carrying any negative emotions they will be affecting our horses not only energetically but physically because these emotions stiffen and tighten our bodies – exactly the opposite of how our bodies need to be to be great horsemen or great riders.
I also realized that horses were here for much more than riding – they were doing a lot of healing work in many and varied ways ranging from things like therapeutic riding in avenues such as the Riding for the Disabled (RDA), to being used in many fields of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and Equine Facilitated Learning, helping people with learning, behavioral and social problems. I can’t count the number of times that people have told me in lessons or courses that their horses were the only thing that has kept them sane or gotten them through a very difficult emotional time in their lives. I have become aware that horses, as well as many other animals, are doing very powerful healing work on an energetic level in helping balance the energy fields of the earth and the energy systems in people.
Whatever your level of experience or desired association with horses whether it be trail riding, English or Western competition, using horses for healing and therapy, or just having them as your friend Connecting with Horses and Riding with Synchronicity will most likely be extremely beneficial for you and very much appreciated by your horse. There are ground skill workshops to teach the basics in horse safety and handling, courses and information on horse care, health and bodywork, as well courses and lessons in riding from beginners to advanced levels.