Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Body Mirroring and Miranda Photos

I've been noticing over the past week or so that my shoulders, upper arms and back, neck and jaw seem stiff and a little sore, and my posture has worsened due to the muscular tension. I had an interesting insight about that this morning as I was turning horses out - or rather I remembered something I already knew - but then that happens a lot as I get older!

I've had the good fortune to attend several week-long clinics with Mark Rashid in Colorado. On the first day of each clinic, there are several things that happen without the horses - some educational sessions on horse anatomy, on saddle fit, and also some body work/body awareness/communications exercises. During the horse anatomy session, which is usually given by Dr. Dave Siemenns, who is a vet and a chiropractor, we are shown how each part of our bodies has an analogous part in the horse. Of course we all know that, but seeing the exact correspondences is interesting. And one of the things I learned is that, due to the way we mainly interact with the front part of the horse using our upper body, and the back half of the horse using our lower body, with our back providing the connection, the horse and we often develop, or transmit to one another, bracing, stiffness and muscular tension in corresponding body parts. So if I have a tense neck, my horse may develop one too, and vice versa. This sounds sort of mysterious when you first think about it, but it isn't psychic or mental - it's just a result of how we and the horse use our bodies together.

Now here's the insight I had - I've been working with Dawn a lot. Dawn is particularly stiff and bracey in her front half - particularly the area just in front of her withers that is where the neck joins the body at the shoulder. She also is stiff and braced in the jaw. Those are exactly the areas where I've developed soreness! It's clear that I need to be thinking more about this mirroring from the horse to me and back again in order to resolve Dawn's issues. As I work on her relaxation and softening exercises, I need to work on myself, so that she can relax and soften "into me" and I into her. I'll be adding some stretching and relaxation for my own body before I work with Dawn, and we'll try to do some things together as well.

* * * * * *

The 10 year old Oldenburg mare my daughter got for free and has been working with - a very interesting story - check out Miranda in the label cloud if you're interested in the back story - has come along nicely. She's seeing the dentist on Thursday - she definitely needs dental work - and will have a follow-up chiropractic visit to work on some remaining issues. My daughter is getting ready to list her for sale, and asked me to come take some pictures. We got some good ones, although I'm not quite ready for a career as a show photographer - my timing with the photos over fences needs a lot more work. Poor Miranda had to work pretty hard for me to get a few good photos!

Here she is at the walk:

And the trot:

And the canter - here she's starting to brace a bit but it shows her athleticism:

A shot where she has a lovely expression over this smaller fence:

And here she's moving out over a somewhat bigger fence:

Those of you who are interested in such things may notice that she's tending to want to take longish spots to the fences and to jump fairly flatly - she's not fully using her back and this is in fact one of the chiropractic issues that needs some more work. But she was very willing over the fences, and will make a very nice horse for someone when she's sold.


  1. This is a really interesting post--I woke up in the middle of the night last night in an incredible amount of pain, and while I feel better this morning, I'm still pretty stiff. Correspondingly, Izzy was very stiff this morning on her left side and quite reluctant to go.

    Makes me wonder.

  2. That's interesting! I just noticed the other day that Mosco has these big knots on his neck about 4 inches behind his ears on each side. I have a chronically stiff/sore neck for several reasons. I wonder if that's part of how he developed those?

  3. Miranda is really cute, your daughter has done a really great job with her. Some bounce exercises might help her get more comfortable rocking back more and rounding if she hasn't already done those with her (and if she's ready confidence wise for that type of exercise). They make a really nice pair.

  4. I like Miranda, she's a very pretty little mare. She seems like a sweet mare based on the look on her face in those photos and I know your daughter has really done a lot to get her there. I actually don't mind that she isn't using herself over a smaller fence. It hopefully means that when the jumps get bigger she'll start rounding her back and get tighter with her front end -- it at least means there's room for improvement since she's not trying that hard yet. I always think that smarter horses are aware of just how hard they have to try depending on the height of the fence. If I could make one suggestion (hope this doesn't come off as smarty-pants, you know from my blog that my position has gone through a major overhaul) your daughter might want to try shortening her stirrups a little over fences so that her leg stays at the girth, which will help her hold her shoulders back. If she can keep her hip angle a little more open and let Miranda jump up to her, it might improve her form. It looks like Miranda may be flattening out a little because the rider's center of gravity has come a little forward. Just food for thought and my unexpert opinion based on what I've learned from my own mistakes/corrections -- I hope she won't take offense! I'll be interested to hear if the chiro helps her jumping form. Thanks for sharing the pics!

  5. Miranda is a very cute little mare, I'm sure she'll make someone a happy owner one day.

    As for mirroring our stiffness with the horses. I agree with all you said and have felt this mirroring effect on myself. Good post.

  6. Interesting concept. I will have to see if loosening my own neck will help Tucker. But what do I do about my bad knees? I wonder if I communicate anything to him with those problems?

    Miranda looks lovely. Your daughter has done a super job with her.

  7. Marissa - thanks for your helpful comment - I'll pass it along!

  8. What a cutie! Great advise from Marissa as well.

  9. Cracking looking mare, your daughter is doing a super job with her.

    Hope you can get your aches and pains sorted soon. I am always being told my horse is my mirror!

  10. Colorado! You were at the Mark Rashid clinics in Colorado this summer? Darn it, I live in Colorado -- wish I would've known you'd be here! In fact, I thought about seeing if I could audit the clinics, like you do, but I was broke. :o(

    Let me know next time you'll be at one of his clinics here -- maybe I'll be able to attend it too, and I can meet one of my favorite bloggy mentors in person!

  11. Katharine - it's been a couple of years since we've been to CO - it's 1,000 miles from here and quite a haul with horses. Since then, we've been catching clinics as we can around this area. The weeklongs are generally not open to auditors - the format doesn't work too well for that as a bunch of people (usually 8) are working on different things on and off all day at different places on the property, and Mark isn't wearing a mike. But Mark's non-weeklongs, including the other ones in CO, generally are open to auditors at a reasonable cost. I'll surely let people know if we're going to be out there - it'd be fun to meet some real people from blogland!

  12. OOOHHHHH She is beautiful!!!!!

  13. I think your shots over the fences are just fine, Kate.

    I go to a chiropractor about once a month, which is probably not often enough. I twist my pelvis up from the left to the right, and know I need an adjustment when Lena's left ear flicks back and she turns her head to look at me out her left eye. She still goes straight (ish), but settles down once I rotate that left hip down where it needs to be.

    Bar is not quite as sensitive, but I know he feels it too, and is starting to communicate it better with me. On the plus side, his active walk always makes my back feel better.

    If they can feel that in my body, I'm sure it can affect them in their balance and way of movement.

  14. Nice post - pictures of fences ..Keep Posting

    pictures of fences

  15. Nice post - stretching exercises with pictures ..Keep Posting

    stretching exercises with pictures


Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.