Saturday, August 7, 2010

Relaxation Starts With Me

I've been thinking some more about Dawn's and my work this morning (you probably should read the last post from this morning so you can understand what I'm talking about). The more I think about it, the more I think her lack of relaxation and throughness was coming from me, and wasn't just a matter of my moving too quickly through the work. Yes, I needed to take the time to get her relaxed and soft at each step of our work before going to lateral work, but a lot of what I was feeling in her was in fact simply bracing in response to braces I was carrying in my own body. As I mentioned, my back was somewhat stiff and in fact she was tending to carry herself somewhat head high and with back a little hollowed - this was the upness and lack of throughness I was feeling.

I've found that, for a horse to relax their jay, my jaw must be relaxed - I'm a big one for jaw clenching when I'm concentrating. For the horse to relax their poll and neck, my head and neck muscles must be relaxed in all dimensions. For the horse to use their shoulders and front legs properly, my shoulders and arms, down to fingers, must be relaxed. I'm bad about carrying tension in my neck and shoulders. For the horse's back to swing freely - critically important for free movement and relaxation, as well as connecting the front to the back end for that wonderful nose-to-tail engagement and softness - my back must be able to move freely and I must be using my core rather than my back muscles to support myself. The stiffness in my back this morning was certainly keeping this from happening. For the hindquarters to move properly, my hips and legs must be relaxed and draped so nothing I'm doing blocks the horse's motion.

Of course Dawn couldn't be relaxed and carry herself properly, with connection and engagement, and the problem was me. That's one of the reasons Dawn is such an amazing horse for me to be working with right now - she's so sensitive she mirrors right back to you what you're doing with your mind and body. Tomorrow I'm going to start my work session by doing some metal and physical muscle loosening before we even move out of a loose rein walk. We'll see what happens, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it pretty much resolves the issues we had this morning.

12 comments:

  1. I have the same problem with Spider! I've learned to not even bother riding if I'm in a bad mood. He picks up on my tension and it's a disaster. I like to do a few shoulder and head rolls and "bicycle" leg movements after I've mounted, but before beginning work to loosen myself up.

    The wonderful thing about sensitive horses like Dawn is that they are tattle-tales. If you mess up, they're going to tell on you! Everyone should own at least one in their life, it makes you a better rider.

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  2. It is amazing the thought you put into your riding, as well as your clinic-auditing. I wish I could be as focused in my work with all my girls, but, somehow, it always seems like I'm moving through life at a mile a minute. Thanks for reminding me that I need to slow down a bit.

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  3. This is so important! Thanks for writing about it and putting on the top of my mind.

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  4. I found this in me today with a trail ride Lily. Even with her, one of the most tolerant horses ever, my tension echoed in her attitude and the way she moved.

    Looking forward to hearing how Dawn does in your next session.

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  5. Most perceptive, again. I'll be interested to hear how the next ride goes with this new revelation in your "bag of tricks."

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  6. Always good to reinforce the fact that whatever happens in our ride - is the rider's responsibility.

    As well as mirroring our issues, the sensitive horse is so rewarding when we can put it all together. You've been on quite a roll with Dawn!

    Love the new header :)

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  7. Bonnie sounds a lot like Dawn in that she tends to mirror back whatever you the rider are doing, both good and bad. She is also very sensitive and extremely intelligent and quite the powerhouse athlete. I've gotten a lot out of your last few posts about your under saddle work with Dawn b/c there are so many similarities there.

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  8. Bonnie sounds a lot like Dawn in that she tends to mirror back whatever you the rider are doing, both good and bad. She is also very sensitive and extremely intelligent and quite the powerhouse athlete. I've gotten a lot out of your last few posts about your under saddle work with Dawn b/c there are so many similarities there.

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  9. They do pick up on everything , its a feedback loop, you breath , they breath you relax ...

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  10. I love reading your descriptions of looseness and correct form. I can feel the horse from here.
    Excellent post.
    KK

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  11. Yes I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders, I also forget to use my ankles as springs. I do a lot of relaxation exercises whan I first get on for me and it does translate to Sam.

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  12. Your posts are so good for me. They are great reminders! I have been trying to concentrate on me to solve problems I am seeing with my horse. Doc has a really hard time going straight. So now instead of messing with him, the first thing I do is to check my own body - am I straight. Is my weight balanced, etc. I need to think about my jaw now too. Pippin mouths his bit. Maybe if I relax my jaw he'll be more relaxed too.
    Thank you!

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