Women & Horses Women & Horses (tm)  by Mary D. Midkiff

Send this page to a friend!



Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

The Women & Horses Newsletter - August 2004

News From RFD-TV

read previous newsletters - read latest newsletter

I just returned from a week of shooting Equine Tips from Equestrian World in Kentucky. As you may have read in the press release on my website home page, I have signed a consulting and national spokesperson contract with the Tarter Gate company and its new horse division, Equestrian World.

RFD-TV will be airing 28 of my equine tips starting the first week in September, to run through December. RFD-TV is a rural farm network which features 8 hours of horse programming per day and can be found on any satellite television system. It is not on cable yet.

The tips range from fencing advice, to neutral pelvis alignment for women, how to fit protective headgear, body biomechanics around the horse and in doing stable work, saddle fit and much more. We will be shooting more tips later in the Fall. I hope you and your friends will find the tips fun and informative.

Handling Horses Through Body and Mind Awareness

Handling horses, especially young ones, needs to come from a basis of awareness learning. Most horses are trained in a way that is referred to as "rote" learning. The dictionary says, "A memorizing process using routine or repetition, often without full attention or comprehension; learn by rote; mechanical routine."

In my many years as a trainer and in handling horses in general I have seen horses trained in this way. The horse understands how to go in circles but has no idea of where his feet are, how his body is balanced, how to connect with the rider, how to handle change, how to handle crisis, how to maintain comfort in his body especially with the rider's weight added or how to process new information.

For me and my horses it comes down to comfort and safety. When a horse is operating in a mechanical routine manner we are not safe, we are not together as partners, we are not comfortable and we are both frustrated. When something changes or goes wrong the horse simply checks out mentally and can bolt, spook or decide to leave the premises.

As you may already know, I have a new horse named Regal Red or Redge and our photo is featured on the home page of my website. Redge is a very interesting study in the misunderstood horse and he has learned everything in a rote manner. I feel it is important to share what I have experienced with him so far and believe is a common occurance among many horse and rider partnerships.

I bought Redge a month ago knowing he had behavior issues but was willing to take him on as my intution and experience told me there was a beautiful sensitive horse waiting to bloom under the defensive layers.

Redge is like many young horses who show talent at an early age but are not given the time to develop mentally or learn how to work with a human on the ground and mounted at their own pace as an individual. They show their physical ability early on and so they become marketed to high-end buyers and get stamped with a label of high expectations. These talented horses are pushed and framed up and collected to present the picture of the future to perspective buyers, when in reality the horse is simply performing like a robot and has no concept of body and mind development and awareness that needs to come slowly with maturity.

As a 6 year old, Redge has already had a great deal of expectation and challenge placed on him early in his life. He has the maturity of a 3 year old with lots of defenses already built up in his youth and he has no idea how to handle himself. He has a big ego and acts like a tough street kid and has become defensive and disrespectful because of his lack of awareness and inner peace. He reminds me of the orphans in Dickens' Oliver where these beautiful young innocent kids are fed to the wolves of society and they grow up overnight becoming thieves and scoundrels out of self-preservation. They become incorrigible without nurturance, compassion, support and understanding.

Redge has a long way to go to come to full self-awareness in body, mind and spirit, it may be years, but it is my intention to give him that. He has already given me the joy of owning and riding a talented horse of a lifetime. He has softened incredibly in just the one month I have owned him. We are having a great time together on the trails, in the round pen, out in the fields, in the arenas, in the stall and in just being together. There will be good days, bad days, days when we go back to square one, days when we jump ahead and connect and days when we just "are".

Undoing the "rote" horse is an experience in patience and resourcefulness for me and I look forward to the education that it brings me in my understanding of relationships with horses.

To begin bringing awareness to a horse you must go back to the one-on-one animal level between you and your horse. Take off all the tack and join him in the round pen. I like to use my body and my voice in unison to let the horse know what we can do together. I walk beside my horse and use the word "Walk" with him. Then I begin to trot beside him and ask him to "trot-trot" with me. Then to the canter and the same thing, I canter or jog beside the horse and use the word "canter" and tell him how good he is while we are going around the circle together. I pet and touch him as much as I can to reinforce the body and mind connection. I also repeat all of this body and voice language with him when he is in-hand out in the field on the trail. I will jog with him like he's a dog on a leash and occasionally stop and let him graze and talk with him.

He needs to become completely free with me as a partner, with no demands on him. As the connection builds, I will add in a few challenges like going over a bridge together, stepping slowly through a pile of poles, backing him into a tight spot and then continuing with our walk and hand grazing. I will begin mixing in days of ground work and riding work and continue on a daily basis to mix up my questions for him, helping him sort out the questions, but always staying connected by using my body language to jog with him and have some fun.

After a few weeks of this kind of approach I will check in to see where we are and take him into an arena and ask for a quiet workout with a connection to the bit as I would with a "made" horse. This will give me an idea of what he has learned and how far he has come or not. Will he bend his body with mine or is he just doing the same old "bend my head and neck because she says so" approach? Has he accepted my hand and leg in a comfortable way or is he just performing because he has been taught he'll be beaten up if he doesn't? Is he listening to my aids and respecting them because he's happy about our partnership or is he afraid of me and what might happen?

Once I have answered a lot of these questions for myself I can take note of where we are. I will go back to my ground work and reinforce his awareness of his body and mind and work on calming his nervous system with some acupressure and mouth massage to release endorphines.

In addition to my training work with Redge, I have also supported what his body needs to make him comfortable. I had his mouth examined and floated by a master dentist, acupuncture and chiropractic for his sore lower back, 5 rolfing sessions to release all the tight fascia throughout his body, had a discussion with his farrier about balancing his feet, corrected the saddle fit and massage from me as I groom him. I found he holds most of his tension in his mouth and jaw and I give him a good mouth massage before each ride.

This is our beginning and every horse deserves this approach. Even if you cannot afford a great deal of health care support you can learn many techniques and do them yourself.

If your horse or others you know of have been trained from "rote" learning please consider starting in with a new approach. I took my mare Theo on at the age of 14 and was able to recapture her health and spirit bringing both of us years of comfort and safety in riding pursuits. It is possible to give awareness to an older horse as well as starting them out correctly.

I feel for all the young horses out there that are precocious and show talent early on because many people will take advantage of the outer picture and not consider what may be going on inside. The "inner horse" will become an Oliver and lead a difficult life which is uneccesary.

I will touch base with you occasionally and let you know how Redge is doing in his journey to find his comfort level of existence. In the meantime, go out and have fun with your horse and let him know how much you care.

By the way, my mare Anna has reached that goal of self-awareness and self-confidence and is fit, sound and happy. I have worked with her for 4 years and I am trying to find a new home for her if you know of someone who might be interested.

Thanks for your support, Mary

female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

Mary Midkiff, 1119 Merrick Drive #362a, Lexington KY 40502
Copyright 2023. All rights reserved. Phone: 502-552-1195 - Email - Contact
Order Women & Horses Products