This time last week we were almost ‘wrapping’ up our last day of Ttouch and Connected Riding clinic. Held in the picturesque scenery of Le Peche, Quebec we enjoyed 6 solid days of learning new techniques. We began the clinic with recognizing behaviours in ourselves and our horses and discussing the link between posture and the mind and body. Often subtle signs of anxiety can go unnoticed or misunderstood in our equine companions and can then develop into unwanted and mislabeled behaviours. As someone who practices being aware of these signs on a daily basis it was great to reinforce their importance and to continue sharpening my observation skills. Did you know a closed eye with no wrinkles means something quite different than a closed eye with wrinkles above and below the lids? I often hear the expression ‘if only horses could talk’ and I can’t help but think back ‘If only humans could listen”.
We also spent time navigating horses through labyrinths, a great tool for practicing awareness, shifting weight, and encouraging attention and concentration. Your body position and lead placement really really affects your horse and is either a clear signal or incredibly confusing request for the horse to interpret. It is not uncommon for a horse to be a bit ‘stuck’ before they are able to take their first step. (I believe this can be attributed to a number of reasons including neuromuscular patterns) Several times a week I see clients asking their horse to walk forward to head towards the arena… they give a little tug on the reins and after a few moments of hesitation the horses head pops up and he manages to move a limb. It is unorganized, unbalanced and overtime becomes the horses ‘normal’ way of going. In fact, he has probably “always been like that”. HOW we ask our horses to move can change the WAY our horses move. Yes, it is that simple!
Susanna Widrig (besides being a fabulous person and trainer) is a connected riding instructor. She is excellent at teaching you how to find the place in the seat of the saddle, which enables one to sit strong and without any active effort (i.e. muscle contraction). When your pelvis is truly in neutral and you are secure in your core, the movement of the horse does not sway you out in and out of balance. You can use your legs independently, with precision and with little effort. Horses were acutely aware of this position and dramatic changes in gait and posture were noted at even the walk. Before being balanced it took little pressure to cause the upper body to tip forward, back and to the side. Once you are connected, heavy pressure fails to shift you out of your position.. it is a remarkable experience.
This past week focused on techniques that teach horses confidence and the results were astounding. I don’t believe horses ‘like’ to be afraid of things.. in fact I don’t know anyone who enjoys fear. If they have never known what it is like to be confident and feel safe around unknown objects, it is hard for us to expect them to just ‘get over it’ when a situation arises. Edie Jane and her amazing team of instructors empowered participants to learn how to offer the horse learning opportunities that enable the horse to overcome fears while learning new ways to move. The past few years has unveiled a multitude of university studies that reveal the extent of the link between posture and the mind. If we are not aware of our horse’s posture we are not aware of what they may be thinking and feeling. Ttouch offers wonderful skills to observe, understand and teach.. and it goes well beyond interactions with your horse! It was a clinic to remember and I highly recommend attending one – you will meet beautiful people and return with a new level of appreciation for how we see our environment and interact with our equine companions.