Archive for the ‘Behaviour and Training’ Category

Keep yourself and your horses happy by remembering the big picture

Saturday, November 21st, 2009
Karen Rohlf: Healthy Biomechanics (Image from Horese for LIFE)

Karen Rohlf: Healthy Biomechanics (Image from Horese for LIFE)

Have you recently hit a brick wall with you training? or maybe that little stumbling block is taking longer than expected to resolve. Everyone can suffer from periods of disillusionment in their riding, where things feel forced and we seem to fall out of ‘flow’. Much like you might experience writer’s block or creative stagnation, our relationships with our horses can often undergo periods when it all feels a bit too hard and we lose the joy of life.

Most of us will remember that early spark that got us hooked on horses, the intoxicating happiness that surrounded our every trip to the barn and constant curiosity at how we could discover ourselves through devotion to our new furry friends. So how do you rediscover that excitement and enthusiasm when you’re just not feeling it?

Karen Rohlf suggests it’s about keeping the big picture in mind – that we often lose sight of the forest for the trees in our quest to progress our hobby, gain the next rung on the competitive ladder or continue coming up with enjoyable and engaging activities for ourselves and our horses.

Often we get the feeling that our development in horsemanship is (or if it’s not it should be) linear – a straight line from knowing nothing to knowing everything – and that can be dangerous because there’s often a lot of detours required along the way. Both we and our horses are individuals, which necessitates some room for variation in the general direction (that much is obvious). It can also be hard to identify at times, whether our latest stumbling block is a problem with the foundation we put down earlier in our training, or an advanced problem (that doesn’t require the same root-cause analysis and ‘back to basics’ approach).

Rohlf suggests a couple of ideas that may appeal to those of us with office jobs, used to implementing little structures to get us through the awkward bits at work (you’re talking to a project manager who implements IT systems in large corporates for a living):

  1. Create yourself a mission statement – our’s is the happiest horses on the planet, but maybe you’re interested in something different. Use your mission statement to clearly articulate your objectives and why it is that you do what you do with your horses, what you are ultimately trying to achieve. Keep it high level and don’t get too bogged down in the detail. Karen’s mission statement of her organisation, Dressage, Naturally is:

    “Creating stronger partnerships and healthy biomechanics through combining the principles of natural horsemanship with the art of dressage.”

    Make sure you know what you mean by words like ‘natural horsemanship’ and ‘dressage’ too.

  2. Get your priorities straight – Rohlf has a number of priorities, like relaxation or correct biomechanical movement and these need to be identified, then ordered in a way that makes some sense: no use working on correct biomechanics if you haven’t spent at least some time on creating a winning partnership and developing mental and emotional harmony

All this will help you to outline in your mind’s eye the bigger picture – kick back and take the 10,000 foot view once in a while, so that you can enjoy returning to daily routine with a renewed sense of security in your purpose.

Images from Horses for LIFE

[Not missing the forest for the trees] Horses for LIFE

Send an email to Danelle Jones, the author of this post, at danelle@gingerbeet.com

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Felicitas von Neumann-Cosel shows you how to create positive tension for a more beautiful horse

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

With all the current talk of negative tension and the debate over hyperflexion / rollkur and other ‘in vogue’ techniques Dressage Today has published an interesting article from an FEI trainer with a slightly different perspective.

Whilst we might have settled on an approach designed to instill relaxed confidence in our horses, how do we create “chutzpah” ? Felicitas von Neumann-Cosel suggests that je ne sais quoi we’re after could (should) be ‘positive tension’.

von Neumann-Cosel is quick to point out that positive tension cannot be created overnight. Putting the icing on the cake is something to introduce slowly, as part of your regular training regime. You’ll still need a relaxed horse (both mentally and physically) upon which to build the performance.

Felicitas von Neumann-Cosell rides Hosanna, an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare. Hosanna shows the difference from a working trot to a more powerful and cadenced trot, with clearly more expression and change of balance toward her hindquarters. Photo by Mary McKenna

Felicitas von Neumann-Cosell rides Hosanna, an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare. Hosanna shows the difference from a working trot to a more powerful and cadenced trot, with clearly more expression and change of balance toward her hindquarters. Photo by Mary McKenna

“Motivation creates a great amount of focus and intensity in the animal without negative tension and the ability to take a correction that will perfect the performance.

But, what could motivate the horse and is accessible for us while we are riding? As you watch the horse playing in a field on a crisp morning and you see his joy in moving, prancing with an arched neck and suspended movement (maybe without a relaxed back) you can observe the spirit and possibility of movement. So, in general, the horse, as a flight animal, enjoys the outlet of his energy through movement.”

- F. von Neumann-Cosel

Images from Equisearch.com – Felicitas von Neumann-Cosell rides Hosanna, an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare. Hosanna shows the difference from a working trot to a more powerful and cadenced trot, with clearly more expression and change of balance toward her hindquarters. Photo by Mary McKenna

Creating Positive Tension for a More Beautiful Horse [Dressage Today]

Send an email to Danelle Jones, the author of this post, at danelle@gingerbeet.com

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