Greetings from Alchemy Place,
It definitely feels like an early spring here at “Alchemy Place”. The days are absolutely beautiful for being out with horses. I have had a bit of a break from travelling and teaching so have been enjoying being home and having some time to regroup, catch up on office work and work with my horses. I am also working with a couple of young horses for other people that are here to be started under saddle.
Starting horses under saddle is always an interesting process as they are all very different individuals with very different perspectives on life and different issues mentally, emotionally or physically that need to be worked with and convincing some of them that being ridden is something they might like to do is sometimes a challenge. I totally get this from the horse’s point of view – most horse’s experiences of being ridden are not great. I think most people don’t really appreciate or respect what we are asking horses to do when we ride them – they just take it as a given that horses were put here for humans to ride. These horses keep me thinking and problem solving, especially when you are trying to do it without forcing things. They also keep me on my path of trying to educate people so horses can have a better experience.
Being a good problem solver is key to working with horses (and probably the key to a happy successful life) because problems or challenges are usually going to come up – things very rarely go completely perfectly to plan. I think breaking things down and isolating different elements to get to the source of the issue is the key. We need to fix issues at the root level – this requires knowledge and understanding of the horses in all aspects of them mentally, emotionally and physically and the processes of learning they go through. It is about breaking things down into even more baby steps when we hit a stumbling block, or taking the time to go back and rehabilitate or strengthen the body or work with clearing a mental or emotional issue and often it is a combination of all three.
My ongoing quest of helping horses and teaching people how to help horses use their bodies with better biomechanics also continues to unfold in an exciting way. Some of you may wonder why I keep harping on about biomechanics and what the big deal is. It is SO important. Apart from having a loving, caring and compassionate relationship with your horse and operating in a centred state of being, it is the next important key to good partnerships with your horse and having your horse enjoying working with you on the ground and riding. It will enhance your relationship and connection with your horse and without it ….. it will compromise the relationship with your horse because your horse will never feel good in doing what you ask. They also won’t be able to perform as you would like and ultimately they will end up physically breaking down.
With incorrect or unhealthy biomechanics the more you ask and the more you want to advance things with your horse, the more detrimental it will be to your relationship, happiness and success with your horse. Your horse will become even more uncomfortable and ultimately discomfort can amplify to the level of pain as you continue on or ask them to step up and advance more. Just like poor posture in ourselves at first it seems like it is not that much of a problem but over time things worsen and worsen and then it seems like all of a sudden, out of the blue, we have a big problem. Things never correct themselves until we pay attention to them and address them. The seemingly insignificant things insidiously escalate and become the cause of health, soundness, behavioural and performance issues in ourselves and our horses.
Sadly like most other areas of horsemanship there is so much conflicting information and misunderstanding about biomechanics and correct posture and movement. I rely on the horses to show me the truth. As I explore the subject more through experimenting with horses and staying in contact with my mentors on biomechanics, I am finding better ways to explain it and teach it. It is one thing to know what you are aiming for, another to work out how to get there and yet another to educate other people and help them develop the skills to get there. As my understanding of it gets deeper I am finding better ways to teach it. So that is exciting.
I have always had a big focus on using groundwork to help horses to use their bodies well – but I knew that there was a lot more that could be done and needed to be done. More had to be done on the ground because most people didn’t have the riding skills to help horses who are compromised in their bodies, meaning that they are not using their bodies correctly and or have physical issues – this sums up most horses to one degree or another. In the process of exploring groundwork further what I have discovered is even how much more I could help horses on the ground in preference to riding, even with my level of riding skill. Previously, for me personally I felt I could influence the horse more in riding than in ground work until I discovered more ways to do it on the ground.
A lot of people do a lot of groundwork but unless it is done with great understanding of the body it is not helpful for the body and if it is not helpful, it is actually detrimental. With everything in life we are either moving forward in a positive direction or backwards in a negative direction. If we are “standing still” so to speak we are actually going backwards. When we use the body in a positive way we are also helping the mind and the emotions in a positive way but this also works in reverse. So when the body is used in a negative way, this physiology leads to negative mental and emotional states.
People can’t lead horses into the correct way of using their bodies through riding horses if they do not know the feeling of what they are trying to achieve and are not highly skilled as riders. But if we can bridge the gap and get horses moving correctly in a more engaged state on the ground, they can start to give the rider the right feeling and the horses won’t be so compromised by the rider in the learning process. The groundwork also makes it easier for the horse to learn and develop their body as he or she only has to lift and support the weight of his or her own front end rather than the weight of the rider and saddle as well. During the process of helping the horse on the ground and also has a result of that process, the rider can be developing their own skills.
“It is a Privilege not a Right to ride a horse” – I wish I could claim this statement as my own but a student in one of my courses said it. We are not in the day of needing to ride horses, they are recreation and morally if we are to continue riding them we need to do it in a more ethical way. Are the horses really willingly volunteering and is the experience positive and beneficial for them?
I believe if we wish to continue riding horses then morally and ethically, there needs to be a lot of changes in how people are riding and working with horses. The more I learn, the more I see what horses really have to endure and how hard of a time they have. I realise that not many people will understand this yet because they aren’t looking through the experiences of my eyes and I can’t expect them to, but it feels like that is my role to play for the horses – to help educate people in understanding things from the horse’s point of view.
When our horse is showing us they are not happy and we still continue to ask them or use force in any way we need to start asking questions. There really does need to be an evolution in horsemanship so let’s lead the way.
Here at “Alchemy Place” we are also busy preparing for our September long term modules. I offer these long term learning modules to really help expedite people’s learning. Nothing beats coming to the source and fully immersing yourself in an extended period of learning where there are no distractions and where there is time to go much deeper into the processes of developing yourself and your horse. In these courses we have much more time to fully explore concepts and develop skills. For those that are really serious, have professional goals in the horse industry, or just feel that the time is NOW to accelerate your horsemanship and achieve your dreams and goals, these courses will help you get to where you want to go. “Alchemy Place” provides a safe and supportive environment where you can be present and develop greater mind and body awareness, take time for yourself and just focus on you and your horse. It is the ideal opportunity for growth and development for both horses and humans in mind, body and spirit. We still have a few spots available in this year’s course so get in touch if you would like to come and join us. You can find details with the link below.
Best regards to you all and happy days to you and your horses,