Saturday, January 1, 2022

Looking Back at 2021 Looking Forward to 2022

Looking back at my resolutions for 2021 HERE I did ok.  I was sticking with my theme of making small changes that make a big difference.  Things like snacking less(total failure!), using new prompts for my online riding diary(total success), and watching a horse training video every day to educate myself(90% success I’d guess).

One thing that I did also do that I never blogged about, was set some really ambitious long term goals.  After  listening to this PODCAST Goals and Confidence with Dr. Jenny Susser on the Horse Training in Harmony podcast with Karen Rohlf I was inspired.  There is a lot to this podcast (go listen!) but the big thing I took away is setting a big hairy goal if you want to make big progress.  Something totally outside your comfort zone.  Then break it down into tiny steps to get there.  I decided to make my big hairy goal getting my USDF bronze medal.  I now have a purpose bred dressage horse who moves naturally like a 9.  If, and this is the big if, I don’t F him up too badly, getting a couple of 60%’s at Third is totally possible.  If he doesn’t go lame.  If our training progresses properly.  If I put in all the mileage, money, and the time it will take by building an outdoor arena, buying a new horse trailer(mine is 20+ years old), and hauling  out from my small farm a whole lot.  I’m not at all willing to sacrifice my relationship and harmony goals to get to my big hairy goal, but within that framework, it’s my pie in the sky-if wishes came true but possible goal.  See the framework I set out last year above.  I didn’t tick off everything from 2021 and some of the later years need to be padded out, but I was surprised at how much we did get done.

On my 2022 resolutions I think I will stick with my theme of small changes that make a big difference.  Having a gratitude practice once a day(usually before I fall asleep) is one.  Thinking about connecting with the horses every time I am near them is second(this is a hard one especially, because I keep my horses at home).  Having my husband be my diet buddy is another(he was surprisingly keen on this as he also needs a little moral support to lose a few pounds-we’re only going to eat out together when we’ve hit certain targets-and we like to eat out)

So that is me.  What are your resolutions and goals for 2022?  I’d love to hear them.  Happy 2022!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Look at that Baby Horse

This horse.  He is so green but that trot.

He’s tootling past all the bits pieces and parts that are all around the therapeutic riding center with no problem.

He’s still finding his balance as he is naturally such a big mover with a ton of suspension.  Believe or not, this is his almost breaking to a walk trot.  I’m still really working on staying with him while sitting up more.  As his rhythm gets better I think it will get easier, but I also really have to remember use my core because there is so much bounce and push coming from him in even a casual trot.

Aaaaand my favorite picture of him trying to lick the mirror as he trots by.  I just love his personality.  He’s on his way to being reliable transportation with stop, go, walk, trot, circles, figures, TOFs, mount and dismount.  Now we’re venturing into getting a bit of straightness, rhythm, and a steady contact.  He is just so much fun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Dave Thind Method a Review

After seeing and hearing glowing testimonials about DTM I decided to give it a try.  It sounded a little woo-woo, but I figured that I had nothing to lose but money, so I purchased 60 Days to a Better Dressage Seat and the magic and the weirdness started.

DTM uses Feldenkrais to give riders a better sense of feel and timing using gentle “lessons” that involve prone, sitting, standing, walking movements, and body scans.  Everything is easy, using very subtle patterns that help straightness, coordination, fine motor skills, and most importantly give that elusive feeling of being a natural rider.

Dave, of the DTM, came to Feldenkrais after an accident that stopped his riding career.  Interestingly, Feldenkrais not only got him back in the saddle but improved his sense of feel and timing to such a degree that he got certified in FMAT to be able to use it as part of his teaching and coaching.

There are several different courses at different price points.  Nothing is cheap, but you do have lifetime access to repeat various lessons as needed.  Also, there is a 6 week Zoom class package that is pretty reasonable.  I went with the 60 Days course but if the timing had worked out right I might have done the Zoom classes first for a taster.

Anyway, to get to it.  What do I think after completing the 60 Days to a Better Seat course?  Was it worth it?  Am I miraculously a better rider?  From the first lessons on doing a body scan and noticing asymmetry, I was hooked.  Nothing is physically difficult but after a lesson you scan your body and you are straighter.  You go out and ride your horse and both of you are straighter.  With no effort.  Bizarre stuff.  All based on the idea that Feldenkrais lessons reprogram your sense of yourself in space and change your motor movements.  There are 5 modules, each with their own emphasis.  From asymmetries, to following the motion, to turning and bending, to rider self carriage, it is all covered.  You are never told specifically how to do a riding movement, you are just put through a series of gentle exercises and then told X might feel something like this if done correctly.  The emphasis is on learning to feel and explore movement patterns yourself with your new awareness.

I can’t believe how much this has helped my riding.  It has solved some long standing issues, things like automatically getting a square halt or easy shoulder-in every time.  More importantly though, I can feel the horse so much better and readily change my movement patterns when needed.  The whole basis of Feldenkrais is that if you “effort” you recruit the wrong muscles and cause tension because you are trying to hard.  By working on gentle movement patterns off the horse, my motor control is so much improved, without tension, but also my sense of being able to feel what the horse is doing is so improved. Case in point, I was riding Cruise the other day at the posting trot on  a circle.  I got flexion, bend, and turn and because he was nice and forward that day I could feel the energy go from his hind feet, surge through his lifted back, and go towards his nose wrapped around in a curve.  I’ve never ever felt that on a horse before.  I felt like I truly had access to his hind feet.

Anyway, that is just one small example of how the DTM has improved my sense of feel.  The breakthroughs have been many, with I’m sure many more to come.  Having my hips lead the dance and sitting up will continue to be a work in progress but I feel like I have the tools to gradually improve that piece and many others on my riding journey.  I can’t say enough good things about this program.  I love it and wish I had know about Feldenkrais much earlier in my riding career.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Connection Training and Connection Training Club a Full Review

I first encountered Connection Training when I was looking on YouTube for videos showing how to teach a horse to target objects with their nose.  I had read somewhere about a GP dressage rider using targeting with her spooky horse with success and I thought it might be useful.  And down the rabbit hole I fell.  Yes, you can use targeting to help with spookiness but the clicker training used to teach targeting has so many uses that it’s impossible to go into them all in detail.  Let’s just say I started with the free content available on YouTube and at  Connection Training  and was hooked.

After teaching my horses what I could from the free YouTube channel, the Connection Training website, and the CT blog I decided to join the Connection Training Club.  It is a monthly subscription of $35 or so that has 11 different courses with 80+ hours of video content.  A few things make the CT club different from other online equine learning programs.  First off ALL content is included for your monthly fee, nothing is behind another paywall.  Second, each course is divided into modules that are further divided into units that can be checked off when completed making it very easy to track where you are in the course.  Each unit might have more than one video, but most videos are under 20 minutes so it is very easy to dip in and out when you have time.  Third, the basis of all the training is science and learning theory.  There is a lot of practical, this is how it is done content like a lot of subscription equine stuff, but the video lectures on theory are superb and really explain the why of what you are doing.  Another interesting thing is that HW is an equine body worker, so she can really explain the why and how of correct gymnastic development even for the non-dressage bred horse.

Overall, I have learned so much from the CT Club.  I’m really enjoying the science based equine behavior and learning theory.  The Gymnastic Groundwork and Riding in Connection course are so informative about how the horse develops physically as well as mentally.  The mix of practical step by step videos, troubleshooting videos, and theory is super effective.  It’s interesting because there is a lot of overlap with natural horsemanship, but the explanations being based in the science of behavior and learning make things a lot more concrete for me, if that makes sense.  Some training concepts that have eluded me have become much clearer and I understand positive and negative reinforcement so much more clearly.  And don’t even get me started on the power of withholding the click.  Or even withholding the cue until the right moment.  I don’t have enough good things to say about Connection Training and the CT Club.  I have learned so much, all three of my horses are so much more focused on me, are doing all sorts of groundwork at liberty, and I have so many more tools in my tool box.  Check it out-you won’t regret it!