I am writing from home where we have almost completed week 4 of our 6 week course here at ”Alchemy Place”, Moonbi and we are having a great time of learning, laughing and stretching ourselves in all aspects. It is a great group and there have definitely been some inroads made in developing confidence, calmness, relaxation, feel and balance. We had some pretty emotional horses come in week one and they like their owners are now more centered and grounded (calmer, smarter, braver) and are starting to use their bodies in more balanced, effortless and better biomechanical ways (becoming more athletic). This is what we are looking to develop in our horses, that they become calmer, smarter and braver and then more athletic. We have to find these qualities in ourselves first and then we can experience them in the horses when we are with them.
This week, week 4 we are really starting to focus more on the physical – developing posture, good biomechanics and increasing HQ engagement. Such great stuff especially when we can start to get it to happen with effortlessness and ease rather than forcing them into a frame. With a deep understanding of how the horse’s body operates combined with the use of horse psychology we can set things up so that the horses start to “offer” this self-carriage and state of balance themselves. I really want to emphasize the word offer because that is what can happen rather than the horse being forced. Effortless and ease will be the sign posts that we are on the right track to finding true biomechanics and that we are developing as true horsemen. Effortless and ease doesn’t mean that we are doing nothing it just means that we are not using muscle tension and force. Force in this case doesn’t have to extend to being aggressive and cruel, I am sure that all reading this will already be beyond that way of thinking and being. I am talking about tightening up in our bodies and getting into a physical state of tension as we use our reins, sticks, legs or seats to cue the horse or trying to fix the horse’s head into a head set and get them in a frame with rigid arms and hands. The way without force is to keep our body free, open and expansive being centered rather than yang and gently organising the horse’s whole body into a state of balance, alignment and softness so that the head and neck naturally want to find the position that is more arched and beautiful because that is their natural place of balance once the rest of the body is organised in balance and alignment.
In the words of the famous Alois Podhajsky, a former director of the Spanish School of Riding in Vienna, “Nothing beautiful can ever be obtained through force”. This was an opening statement to his book. We are taking the meaning of force to deeper and deeper levels. As we eliminate deeper and more subtle levels of force we can create things of greater and greater and more exquisite beauty. The connection with your horse, the physical ability and athleticism that your horse will develop and the person you will become through the process will be extraordinary.
This approach requires huge mental and emotional control and focus, tremendous body awareness, co-ordination, feel and balance. It actually requires a greater amount of skill, commitment and dedication to learning to begin to operate in this way rather than just following our habitual human conditioning using physical force and being in a state of tension. This is why this approach is the path less travelled. The results however will be far greater, above and beyond anything that is done with force. Great credit is due to all who are on this path of learning to attain excellence with yourselves and your horses. What you learn will not be limited to horses but will extend into all aspects of your lives. You will reap great rewards for being disciplined, committed and keeping your focus on this path even when at times it may seem easier to go another way.
Whatever qualities we want to have in the horse we need to have present or develop in ourselves. So in this six week course we spend half an hour minimum each day working with our physical bodies including, movement lessons, stretching, body-awareness, feldenkrais, tai-chi, volley ball, aikido, yoga and specific skill development for techniques we might use with the horses. This physical movement opens up and stills the mind and calms and releases emotions as well as physically stretching and opening up the body. The mind, emotions, body and spirit are so interconnected that we actually cannot really separate them. We can do so intellectually just to try to understand and explain things but in reality we are always influencing or affecting all four. When we move in ways that are expansive and open the body and with the qualities of SOFT AND SMOOTH & RHTYHM AND FLOW then we are having positive effects on the mind, emotions, body and spirit and therefore on our health and well-being, including affecting the functioning of our internal organs. The same is true for our horses which is why the quality of how we get them to use their body matters so much and why I am so passionate about the subject. My apprentice Chris Watson with his experience in yoga, cross-fit, gymnastics, sports, athletics and aikido has been leading many of these sessions and the students have all enjoyed their fun “jumpstart and stretch ” to begin the day.
We have had several of the students who were booked in for just a couple of weeks extend their stay, as they were getting so much out of the whole experience. That is great feedback and it often happens. To those who can’t be here to share this experience with us there are shorter courses coming up around the country. You can see details below. Please also share the details and dates with others you know and with anyone that you think whose horse would appreciate them learning this. Those horses will thank you. Help us to help horses and people by spreading the word.
Until next time,
Namaste and best wishes,