Category Archives: The Life of Rider & Horse

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.😀

“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’ 😀

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….