Fellow Horse Enthusiasts:
I have been involved in clinics, training horses and getting
the Women and Horses Essential Oils product line up and running
in the last two months, and I apologize for not getting a newsletter
out to you sooner.
The Sheridan, Wyoming clinic held June 3-5 was the best clinic
I have ever been involved with. What a great group of women
and a beautiful part of the country. All of the participants
were excited and eager to learn and partner with their horses.
Represented were an Icelandic horse, a Friesian, a few Quarter
Horses, and a Morgan over the two days. I used the "Balance"
oil on each of the horses as an experiment and the results were
very positive. Each horse relaxed and released tension and worry
with the aromatherapy that "Balance" offers. To the owner's
and my surprise, we even had one horse easily load in the trailer
that had refused to load away from home in the past.
From this clinic and from my recent work with Peggy Cummings,
I feel I need to further emphasize the importance of partnering
with your horse or horses and, most importantly, riding and
training horses and riders from the inside out. Yes, from your
core muscles and alignment and free joint movement to the corollary,
a natural consequence or effect, in your horse.
The riders body must be able to assist, embrace, lift and motivate
the horse in any movement: the walk, trot, jog, lope, canter,
gallop, jump, lateral, bending or in backing or turning. The
rider must have strong, deep abdominal core development and
accessibility to that core strength, plus have an awareness
of their spinal alignment, their shoulder alignment, connection
from the horse's mouth to the rider's elbow and the independent
use of the legs. All of this is obtainable by every rider. Some
will be able to incorporate this work into their body more quickly
and readily than others. This is what every rider should aspire
to in partnership with a horse under saddle. It is not an elite
level of fitness but rather a high level of body awareness and
core strength that will establish a new level of communication,
effectiveness, safety, comfort and performance all riders at
many levels are trying to achieve.
Age, injury, conformation, body type, fitness level will all
come into play in your riding, but the basics lie in your ability
to effectively use your biomechanics on your horse. You cannot
be effective simply by changing or using external parts of the
body without the inner muscles and alignment supporting the
There are many ways we compensate for lack of inner strength.
We move our waist and hips to drive the horse, we arch the back
to sit up straight, we drop the rib cage to try and relax, we
grip with the legs to try to get "more" from the horse. In biomechanical
terms, these techniques interfere with the horse's ability to
lift and move forward and connect with the rider. There are
hundreds of ways in which we disable the connection between
the horse's body biomechanics and our own.
only way to truly connect and allow the horse to come through
and meet us is by working from the inside out. The horse's middle
up through his back needs to lift and connect with your seat
in order to carry you -- less work for you and more performance
from him -- otherwise you have a hollow-backed horse that is
sending you from front to back or side to side with no support
to carry your weight in lightness and freedom. You can drive
the horse from behind and contain him in the front all you want,
however you will not have a horse in self-carriage moving through
his whole body.
false set-up can cause so many problems it's hard to name them
all. You get behavioral issues, a horse that is "bound up" in
his muscling, stuck in his body, sore in his back, lame in his
front end, etc.
The horse needs to be taught to work from the inside out as
well as the rider. The horse needs to utilize his hocks and
hind end muscles and joints fully to push forward and lift the
rib cage, which will lift the back up and through into the neck
and poll. If the horse is trained without these considerations,
if the saddle does not fit or allow this movement, or if the
rider's body does not allow this movement, then everything begins
to break down from that point on. This is how Peggy and I (and
many others) address "problem" or "project" horses that have
gone to some point of not "behaving" or not "performing". They
have shut down somewhere in their body where movment was inhibited
and injury began. We start the process of "undoing" which can
take years of rehab and re-education work.
All horses need to be started with a tremendous amount of supportive
ground work and continue that work throughout their career as
tune ups, warm ups or maintenance work when they are not being
Ground work does not mean conventional lunging (with or without
side reins). Ground work means connecting with the horse by
starting with a snug fitting halter on his head and a soft lead
line weaved across the nose to one side of the horse. Even weanlings
can benefit from this.
Check out Peggy Cummings' books "Connected Groundwork 1" and
"Keys to Connection: Connected Riding Exercises for Riders"
on her website, www.peggycummings.com.
They explain and illustrate a great deal of this work.
First you need to make sure your back is released and you are
not tight in the back muscles. Your horse will feel your tightness
in every step. Learn to release your back by sitting on the
exercise ball and watch yourself in the mirror. Stay very tall
in your upper body and put your hand on your lower back. Now
begin to feel your lower back sink into the ball as you breath
in and out. You will need to be able to do this while standing
and with your horse.
If you are on the left side of your horse, slide your right
hand all the way up the line to the horse's head and set your
hand. As you are standing there slowly send the head away from
you and then back toward you with a soft, hinging elbow and
repeat this pattern in a slow way until the horse drops his
head. Next try walking with the horse in the same way. Send
his head away from you and take a step with him. When he moves,
keep moving with him and start the "S" movement of sending his
head away and back toward you as you walk together and watch
as he relaxes his neck and lowers his head. You can do less
and less of the movement as he begins understanding about releasing
his head and neck as you walk together. This is illustrated
in my book "Fitness, Performance
and the Female Equestrian."
The S movement is just the beginning of all the ground work
exercises. And all of it will translate into the saddle. You
can always go back to the groundwork to help you establish anything
in the saddle.
The horse will always need to work from the hind end, through
the abdominal core muscles to lift the rib cage and the back
and carry through to the neck, poll and head. This is the only
way you will achieve true self-carriage and correct development
for any horse, any breed in any discipline. They all must develop
in this manner with a rider who is supporting and maintaining
with her inner body development.
Very, very few horses are started this way and have riders riding
them this way. That is why we see a lot of horses used up and
finished early on in their active lives, white trauma spots
on their backs, front end lameness from going on the forehand,
and bad behaviors or inexplicable changes of personality and
It is up to you to seek out books, videos, instruction and clinics
that promote this kind of approach to working with horses. Our
horses are not disposable, dispensable beings; they are worth
the time and investment to be everything they can be with us
as partners. It is up to you to hold up your end of the deal
by staying fit, taking a Pilates or Yoga class once a week,
wearing protective headgear, researching saddles that will give
you and your horse the best possible fit, and providing holistic
health care and body work. It all pays off in a very deep relationship
and fun riding partnership with your horse that will last many
Maggie Parker and I are currently putting a workbook together
which will help you develop the inner riding muscles you will
need as well as the understanding of each body part as it applies
to riding. Our first installment should be ready by the end
We have everything set up to begin offering the Women
& Horses Essential Oils. If everything goes as planned we
should be open for business by the end of this month! So stay
Check out the Q&A section of the website for an interesting
discussion about a difficult racehorse.