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.
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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.