Greetings form “Alchemy Place” Moonbi. Wow this year is off to a flying start. It is hard to believe we are already into March !!!! Hope you all survived the heat wave that we had, well that is what we have had here on the East coast, not sure what the WA folks have had weather wise but Moonbi was hot, high thirty’s and into the 40’s!!!! I think it’s the hottest Jan/Feb I have experienced here in 17 years. It is a relief that it is much cooler now – just in time for our March 3 week course module.
I have had a good spell at home this year. Spell as in duration of time, but also in terms of a break from travelling. Travelling all the time is tough in that there is no consistency or routine with things so it is very hard to keep my horses progressing and keep up with all the day to day running of things on the property, but also it gets hard to keep up with all the admin and answering student’s questions etc. It has been a great time for me to start catching up on things and also to have space to create, explore and experiment with new ideas and spend more quality time with my horses. Alchemy Place is like a science lab for me where I experiment with new things, test them out and get feedback from the 16 horses that I have and see how things need to be adjusted for different horses. If things pass the test here with my horses then I am ready to teach them out in the field.
The last couple of months has been especially great for me because I haven’t had to be also coaching others (apprentices or working students) in my horse time. I have been able to be totally focussed on my horses with full attention to them and myself – what bliss !!! This has led me to even greater feel, awareness, connection and conversation with the horses and they are appreciating this a lot. This even greater depth of listening to the horses and being in conversation with them is something that I look forward to sharing with you all more. Being in conversation with horses when I am working with them, is something that I have done for a long time but something that we can always continue to develop, as we can always get better at it. It is the listening part that we mostly need to improve on as we are usually pretty good at the “telling” in comparison. It feels really important to emphasize this more now in my teaching. I have also been continuing to explore the physical, athletic and postural development of the horses and am really happy with the results I am seeing.
Because it has been so hot, it caused me to do things differently and doing things differently is good because it stops us from getting stuck in a rut and so allows change and progress to occur. When we have weather or other conditions that are not the usual or what we think as not conducive to horsemanship, rather than abandon the activity all together, sometimes it is good to still play with horses, but modify what we do. This was the same in my Aikido class. Only a few of the higher level and most dedicated students trained through the heat of the summer, but this time of training has been SO much to our benefit. Because it was hot, we slowed everything down, refined all the moves, went back to the most basic techniques and payed attention to all the little tiny details and really focused on developing our KI (energy). In a two hour training session sometimes we would only get two techniques done !!!! This is how we advance by going back and getting the little details right in the most basic techniques, breaking them down and practicing them very slowly so then when we speed them up again we have a whole new level of quality. We fix the big issues, big challenges or get good at the complicated or advanced manoeuvres by going back and improving or trying to perfect the simple things -even though we will never perfect it, we just keep aiming for that level or quality. The few of us that attended those sessions would agree they were some of the best sessions ever and we can all feel how much we have exponentially progressed.
Similarly, this is what I did with my horses over the summer. I went back and did a lot of stuff on the ground and in the walk. Refining lots of things and filling in holes – looking at things like flexion, bend, straightness, alignment and calmness and relaxation in even more detail. Played with new exercises like laterally flexing the neck while walking on a straight line and shoulder fore and refining old ones like sideways, backing over a pole, sideways straddling a pole, shoulder-in, focusing on alignment (correct bend) on circles in walk, trot and then canter for those that were ready – all of this both on line and at liberty. One of the hardest things I find is staying creative and inspirational for the horses to keep them enthused and motivated and at the same time keeping the consistency of practicing and training the fundamentals of development which can be boring for them. These fundamentals are as important to horsemanship as playing scales is to the musician. The liberty work and having a variety of exercises helped this. I was applying all the feldenkrais principles that I know, to help the horses change patterns in their bodies and develop new neural pathways for posture and movement and I am very pleased with the results. The more I do of this the more I enjoy groundwork. It is funny to remember back to the days when groundwork was like a chore – something you did just because you thought you should before you hopped on. It is always so good to go back and explore ground work in more depth and particularly pay attention to the little details in things, then you become even more inspired by it. The best payoff of all was how much better the horses felt when I did ride them. One of the biggest lessons for me and there has been many, has been the reinforcement of “Less is More”, as in short sessions of very good quality. My horses are happy and looking better in their bodies, so that is my feedback that we are on the right track.
I am excited about sharing this new depth and wealth of knowledge and the experience I have gained in this time and will look forward to seeing many of you at clinics this year. You can either go back to your email to read the rest of the newsletter or click on the links below.
Go well, be safe and keep enjoying yourselves and your horses.