All posts by Resilient Rider

www.resilientrider.com

Having True G.R.I.T.

When coaching people I use my method of G.R.I.T. It’s a continuous process to work through and ‘check in’ with, for those wanting to progress at a pace that works for them and their horse.

So what does G.R.I.T. mean?

GOALS   RESILIENCE   INSPIRATION   TRAINING

GOALS – 

  • What are the short/ long term goals?
  • Are they realistic goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in the future? 
  •  What do you want to achieve now/today? 
  •  Where do you need to start?

RESILIENCE –

  • Nothing is easy, you have to be committed.     
  • Learning to cope with the ups and downs emotionally and physically.
  • Accept there will be more downs than ups.  
  • Having the courage to continue.  
  • Keeping a positive mental attitude.    
  • Being able to bounce back.

INSPIRATION –    

  • Keeping motivated throughout the journey.
  •  Seek wisdom from others for inspiration, keep learning.        
  • Who inspires you and what do they do that inspires you?        
  • Visualisation – see yourself doing it in your mind.

TRAINING – 

  • Finding out your strengths and weaknesses.  
  • Be prepared to practice, practice and practice some more.
  • Be open minded with training methods.      
  • If something isn’t working, be prepared to try another way.  
  • There is no failure, only feedback.                                                        
  • Determination.

Working through this process and regularly going back to re-visit, you can check you are still on the right path. Goals may change, and with the influence of the environment we find ourselves in our emotions may change too.

G.R.I.T. is a good ‘check list’ to discover where improvements can be made – marginal gains.

Change one little thing to make a big difference!

For more information on my coaching programme or advice, please get in touch.😀

5 most common evasions horses have when schooling

DSCF8262When horse are being schooled, we aim to encourage them to carry more weight on their hind legs ( the strongest muscles) and lighten their forehand.

This weight transfer is better for the rider as the horse becomes more rideable, but for the the horse it it makes carrying the weight of the rider easier and promotes a longer working life on their joints and muscles.

The gymnasically more useful way of moving takes time to develop and can be difficult for some horses, especially those with conformation issues. The horse will ‘avoid’ bringing the hind leg further under the body and using it to push. These evasions could be due to a lack of straightness, loss of balance, lack of coordination, lack of strength or physical conformation.

Like some humans, when there is hard work to do, they may try to find what they think is an energy saving way of going. This is why we need to school the horse into a more economical, balanced way to move. Think of it as a table with the legs too far apart; the centre weight bearing area of the table becomes weak. But with the legs under the table and supporting, the table becomes stronger.ride-201699_1280

The 5 most common evasions I have found are:

1. Bulgeing the shoulder sideways – this causes crookedness so the horse falls in (or out) to avoid pushing forwards and stepping under with the hing leg.

2. Throwing the haunches in – again causes crookedness because the hindlegs no longer follow the front in a ‘corridor effect’ . They lose the ability to push and carry correctly.

3. Lowering the head and leaning on the riders hands – this loads the weight on the forehand and the rider holds them up. The horse is then pulling itself along as the hindlegs straighten and trail. Some horses depending on their conformation may curl up behind the bit.

4. Speeding up and rushing – this usually follows the above as tbe horse loads the forehand and runs along ‘flat’, unable to re-balance and hold themselves up. The horse can sometimes misinterpret the need of more impulsion for speed and avoids the transfer of weight back onto the hind quarters.

5. Slowing down – the horse doesn’t go forwards from the leg. Again the horse bimbles along dragging itself on the forehand and hindlegs trailing. The horse usually doesn’t track up, particularly in trot and often in walk. When the horse lowers its head and neck (also seen in 3 and 4) the hind leg will straighten and the weight of the head and neck help leverage the weight off the hindlegs and onto the forehand. The horse has to learn to go forwards first before being able to bring them back onto their haunches.

Being able to fine tune our focus onto where exactly the horse is putting its hindlegs and shoulders is the first step to correcting the problem. Riding the horse in a ‘corridor effect’ where the hind legs follow the the forelegs, as well as the riders shoulders, legs, hands and body position all follow accordingly.

I have found some horses may try all of these evasions one after the other, some just one or two. By understanding what is happening underneath the rider and recognising these common evasions, you are already one step ahead of your horse. Happy schooling 😉Emma Sonic Beach01

“Ahh well…nevermind!”

So, a lot has happened since my last blog. Life has changed in so many different directions, it became a roller coaster of emotions I couldn’t get off. There were times I thought to myself “Seriously! Can things get any worse!?” Life felt like one constant blow after another. My favourite words I’d sigh to myself after each new blow was ” Ahh well…nevermind!” Even my 3 year old son started saying it as he’d heard it so often. Secretly, I felt depressed and hopeless inside and tried hard not to show it as my enthusiasm for anything started to spiral. No home. No money. No future. I had lost everything.

Then something happened. I was watching an animated DVD with my little boy early one morning after another sleepless night. In the movie things had gone wrong and the character said something that hit home….

“When you hit rock bottom, the only place left to go…is up!”

Later that day, I saw the same words written in a post on facebook. Again, it hit home, even harder this time. That was enough for me to reframe my beliefs about what was happening to me from a negative to a positive. I still said “Ahh well…nevermind!”, but now it had a new meaning and feeling. It became a positive thing, like dusting yourself off and carrying on with more courage and determination. I changed my focus from what I didn’t have and thought I needed, to what I wanted to happen and also what I already have. Only I have the power to change things for the better, I am the one in control of my thoughts and feelings or the meaning I give things, nobody else. So it was time for a new start for myself…and a new life!

“Out of the ashes, rose the phoenix”

Things started happening for the better. We finally found a home in a new area, money started to come in as more work presented itself. My health got better and I found more energy and positivity. It also became time to say goodbye to ‘The Performance Rider’ as it just wasn’t sitting comfortable with me. After some internal searching and questions of “What am I and my life really about?” Then it came to me… Resilience.

What is resilience? To me, it’s the ability to pick yourself up and carry on when things go wrong. To learn from mistakes in a positive way, having the courage to push on and try again. The determination or commitment to learn and make things better. To grow. When things aren’t working to try another way. Not give up.

My life with horses has been all about being resilient. Blood, sweat and tears were shed on many occasions! There were several knock backs, mistakes I had to learn from. Times I thought I should give up as I didn’t have what it takes anymore, but still kept going. I appreciate now all those things that happened to me, the good and the bad! It has made me who I am today. Stronger, positive, appriciative, intuitive, patient amongst other things.

So, on that note I will introduce you all to the new chapter of my life, and hopefully be in yours….

Welcome to ‘Resilient Rider’ 😀

5 Simple Tips for Mindful Schooling Sessions

1. We must not lose ourselves either in the past or the future; the only moment we can touch life, is in the present moment.

When we ride or school our horses, it is important that we don’t dwell on past experiences or things that went wrong. We also don’t want to be distracted by “What if….?” questions that invariably pass through our minds as we try to predict the future. Our focus needs to be on the here and now, the present moment, feeling the movement of our horse and working with them. By channelling our thoughts and focussing in on the minutest detail, we often enter a state of ‘flow’. In this state we are able to make the quickest adjustments at just the right time and in just the right way, in a relaxed and confident fashion.

2. Control of your own mind,  will allow you to more easily influence your horses mind.

What we think and feel is picked up easily by our horses. Stress, fear, anxiety, frustration, nervousness are all very common in today’s hectic lifestyles. We as riders need to learn to control our emotions and ‘leave them at the gate’. Horses are a mirror of their rider. If the rider is tense or nervous so will the horse be. So we, as the leader need to be in tune with our thoughts. Our brains don’t take in negative commands (i.e. “Don’t do…” ” I mustn’t…!”) therefore, if we keep telling ourselves the things we don’t want, then that is where our focus is…On what we don’t want!

Positive affirmations of what we want i.e.:

  • Calm and confident
  • Relaxed and focussed
  • Rhythm and balance

This gives our minds a positive focus and the more we say it to ourselves, the more we achieve it. As we become more positive, our horses being the ‘mirror’ will follow suit, and as our body already knows how to ride, your mind will be the one doing the controlling of the horse.DSCF8266

3. Constant trying involves mental strain and too many muscles. rather than trying harder, it’s easier to take this feedback and find another way.

We have all been there, trying to do something as it saying ‘in the manual’ or in the ‘instructions’ and we end up getting frustrated and exhausted until eventually we give in and declare failure. I think as a rider, it is our duty to learn many different tools for our toolbox and not be fixed in our thinking, but be adaptable. Read or listen to different methods of training from a variety of coaches, riders, trainers and instructors and find what what suits you and your horse. We are all individuals and learn in different ways. If something isn’t working for you or your horse, find another way, adjust, adapt. Sometimes there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, it is about being able to recognise that something isn’t working and coming up with another method to try.

4. If you drift around the arena without a plan, you will find yourself responding to what the horse does, rather than the horse responding to you.

When schooling it is always good to have a plan. From warming our horses up, to what we want to cover in the session, what the intention is, to finishing with a cool down period. Without a plan we tend to ride aimlessly around the outside track of the arena with our horses not paying attention and spooking at things. By having a plan, we give our brains a focus point and we direct our horses into achieving it.

5. If the trainer is too demanding, the horse will lose confidence. But if he is not strict enough the horse will lose respect and see no reason to perform.

Listen to the feedback the horse is giving you. Not every horse is a dressage or show jumping superstar. We need to find the balance of encouraging the horse to try new things, but have the understanding when they find it difficult. As riders we need to have the confidence in ourselves to be able to lead them through the tough times and the respect for the horse when things don’t go to plan.SonicEmmaapril14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biomechanics – The Balance and Reflex Relationship

Emma Dressage 049The horse’s head is the heaviest part of the body. It’s centre of gravity is not situated halfway between the nose and the tail, but just behind the withers.

In a natural position, the horse carries 60% of its weight on the forehand and 40% on its hind legs. Because the muscles over the hind quarters are big and strong, we need to educate the horse to be able to carry more weight on these muscles. This will result in the horse carrying 40% on the forehand and 60% on the hind quarters.

The nerves through which we communicate with the horse are situated in the skin. These send messages to the brain via the spinal cord and back to the muscles, causing contraction of the relevant muscles. This nervous impulse is called a reflex, which causes a quicker reaction in the muscle. There are two types of reflex – natural reflex (fright, flight and moving away), and conditioned reflex (trained reflex). We use the natural reflexes to bring about reactions that enable us to teach the horse to respond in a certain way, becoming a conditioned reflex.

The elevation of the neck causes a reflex reaction to the positioning of the hind leg, while the flexion at the poll causes a parallel reflex reaction to the flexion of the hock and stifle. The back muscles are also involved in the active role of the hind legs. A tight back leads to a stiff hind leg and high croup so the hind leg doesn’t come as far forward under the horses centre of gravity. The flexor muscles in the hind quarters are weaker than the extensors, which provide the propulsion and control the flexion of the hind limb when the leg is loaded. The hind quarters, assisted by the abdominal muscles, cause the loin to round, allowing the hind leg to come further forward under the body.

There are 4 types of reflex relationships between the head, neck and hind quarters :

  1. Neck down and nose out – hind leg out behind with an extended hock and stifle. Similar to how a race horse stretches out in a race.Race horse blog
  2. Neck down and poll flexed – commonly seen when the horse is ridden ‘long and low’. The hind leg is out behind but with hock and stifle flexing.horses-600212_1280
  3. Neck elevated and nose forward – hind leg drawn forward under the body but with relatively extended or straight hock and stifle joints.ride-201702_1280
  4. Neck elevated and poll flexed – seen in advanced schooling and highly collected work. The hind leg engaged with flexed hock and stifle.ride-201699_1280

The ‘effect of the aids’ is the result of a positive response, brought about through education and training. The ‘engagement of the hind leg’ is the effect of a positive response to the riders leg aid, causing the hind leg to step forward and under the body. This is also the reason why dressage test sheets include marks for the rider on ‘effectiveness of the aids’, ‘position and seat of the rider’ and ‘correct application of the aids’.

Timing is everything!

Expressing Emotions :)

SonicBronking01We as humans are allowed to express our feelings and emotions as and when they arise, yet horses are often discouraged from doing so.  When the horse is in the stable we expect them to be calm and pleasant. If the horse is agitated they are often reprimanded for not standing still. Getting excited or bucking playfully is discouraged. Is it any wonder that some horses become bored or withdrawn from their environment if they are never allowed to show their true feelings and emotions.

I had a horse come to me several years ago to bring on and compete after he had been ‘broken in’ by someone else first. After several weeks had gone by and the date of the horses arrival had been and gone, I decided to contact the owner. She told me they had had some problems with him and his attitude but it was all sorted and the horse would arrive the following week.

The day the lorry carrying the new horse arrived on the yard I was greeted by a tearful owner. She hadn’t seen the horse for several weeks while he was away being broken in, and on collection to bring him to me she was greeted with a skinny, depressed and scarred horse that had been broken in more ways than one. He would stand at the back of his stable, head hung low not really interested in anyone or anything. It took over 12 months for that horse to come out of his shell and enjoy life. He was sensible to ride even though he liked to be extravagant sometimes, but he had a beautiful personality, kind gentle and had forgiven enough to trust people again.

Another horse called Sonic was turned out with his friend Corelli as they were growing up for a couple of years, and when it came time to start his training he was moved to another yard. For the first week or so he was understandably not happy. The last time he had been separated like this was when he was taken from his mother, so not surprising he was upset. We gave him a new friend who was older and they got on well for the 2 years he was there. Then came his next move, to a yard of lots more horses.

The first day was a nightmare! He was rearing in the stable ( to the point where I couldn’t get out the stable door and had to escape over the wall into the next stable). I left him to get on with it for a while and eventually he settled down for the night. The separation anxiety was getting less with each move of yard and proved he was starting to cope.

Sonic was later turned out with a group of horses and to our surprise heSonictempest 02 became best friends with an old mare known for being very grumpy towards other horses!. The older mare was called Tempest and as time went on Sonic was happy to leave her to go out on his own. He would call to her on his return and she would wait for him at the gate before going off together. Tempest being the old mare that she was, was not in the best of health. She had a heart murmur and huge melanomas  on her dock. We knew at some point the time would come when we would have to say goodbye to her.

I worried about Sonic’s reaction to losing another friend so took the decision that, when the time came, I would let him grieve and deal with his emotions as naturally as possible.

That day came this winter. Tempest’s melanomas had ruptured and it had put strain on her heart. Sonic knew the situation and had spent all morning with his head over into her stable with his eyes half closed and a very quiet manner. The decision was made by the vet to put her to sleep.

Tempest was led out of her stable as Sonic called to her, to an open space where she was to be put to sleep. Once she had gone, I led Sonic over to where Tempest lay. You could see the emotions running through him as he tried to understand why his nuzzle didn’t stir her nor the paw to encourage her to get up. He then moved to her head and sniffed her face and mouth. He stood still for a while and then slowly started to graze by her head.

SonicpoppyFor about two weeks he would look for her but carry on with life in a quiet way. It’s as if life is different for him now, he has grown up. Leaving the yard or other horses isn’t such an issue any more, there are always friends to come home to.

Sometimes you just have to let a horse be a horse….

What are we really communicating to our horse?

horse to waterIf we watch horses in the wild, or just in a group turned out in a field together, how do they communicate their feelings to one another? Those who have a close relationship will nuzzle and groom each other. Some might put ears back or shove the other to move them out-of-the-way. Only if there is conflict does the ‘touch’ between two horses get hard or brutal even.

When we first start to train our horses, we give praise by either voice or a gentle pat. Even the great horse whisperer Monty Roberts says to ‘give your horse a gentle rub on the horse’s head as a reward.’ But why is it that in competition, the excitement of a great test or jumping round do we see some horses being slapped quite hard across the neck or even hit on the head?

Seeing the expression of shock on the horses face (even fear in some) makes me ask myself ‘What does that communicate to the horse?’ It must be confusing for a horse to jump to the best of its ability, and although sensing the riders pleasure with the effort, is subsequently hit around the head.

A horse can take firm pressure and quite enjoy it in the form of a massage or physiotherapy. But even when doing a massage we build up the pressure slowly, starting with long gentle strokes to relax the horse and the muscles. We don’t dive straight in with firm pressure, as this just causes tension and discomfort for the horse.

It has certainly made me look at the way I praise my horses. I do still pat them on the base of the neck or shoulder but in a gentle way, sometimes choosing just a long stroke down the neck and a friendly scratch on the withers. When I start off the young horses they are patted all over with a cupped hand (which makes noise but will only send a gentle vibration through the muscle) to help desensitise them. Firm pressure is only used to reprimand unruly behaviour and should be used sparingly but in a sympathetic manner.

Your Thoughts?sonicschool smile 02