Offering full and partial training board options as well as private instruction in Classical Dressage
“Ohhh this horse just has a little arthritis in his left hock, it doesn’t seem to bother him too much.”
Horses are prey animals and therefore great compensators; they will create alternative locomotive patterns to continue movement.
So, say this little bit of osteoarthritis causes a reduced range of motion of the tarsal joint. In an attempt to maintain stride length and hide this dysfunction to potential predators (because you never know when a lion could be waiting around the corner... or a flapping plastic bag!) the tarsal (hock) joint is rotated medially (inwards) during the swing phase of the stride. This results in asymmetrical & medial weight bearing through the digit (hoof). This places additional stress through medial hamstring muscles, resulting in muscle tension and trigger points. And this is all something that is potentially going on in the affected hindlimb.
A hip hike/drop can occur at corresponding phases of the stride, placing the sacroiliac joint under stress, resulting in paraspinal and asymmetrical gluteal tone/pain.
Decreased impulsion from the left hindlimb leads to increased weight bearing through the right forelimb diagonal. This can create tension and hypertrophy to the right pectoral muscles and related fascial planes.
The spiral of compensation could continue on further, affecting cervical muscles that become hypertonic as a result of weight shifting, digit shape and size, TMJ pain, head tiling, hyoid dysfunction, asymmetric tail holding...
Check ligaments may strain on the overloaded limb, saddles may slip, mouths may open, head shaking may happen. And that doesn’t mean we have to put on a flash noseband, non-slip saddle pads and wear spurs to get more impulsion from the left hind that is through and through p a t h o l o g i c a l.
Often it can be the case where I see a horse that is a chronic stage of compensation and it can be difficult to find the true cause especially when the horse may appear just overall “stiff”.
I liken the rehabilitation of chronic cases to peeling the layers off an onion; one layer at a time and piece by piece to unravel and rewind the compensation spiral. 🐴
If this sparks a thought in anyone’s mind that actually, their horse may be suffering with this kind of pain presentation — follow your gut, trust that you know what is best for your horse and have your vet, physio, farrier, nutritionist, saddler, trainer all work with you and your horse to improve their comfort 🥰
Interested in joining the StrideFree Squad?
Work with a family-owned business and be part of a proud tradition of horse lovers.
We are looking for more saddle fitters, so if you're interested, contact us at [email protected] and become part of the squad!
In a fast paced world, always hustling, bustling, doing things, etc.
Our horses are not of that mindset. They are in the “present moment” creatures. They do not understand franticness nor a plethora of distractions. Distractions can be dangerous and very disconnecting.
Horses become what we create!
If we can maintain our “CENTER” and stay in the moment, we bring a sense of groundedness into their world.
We must be the ground rod. Learn to hold our center and be aware of our body language and our energy we are putting off.
If we are a bundle of unchanneled energy, we project that to our horses. If we have an agenda, we may be pushing them away!
What I love about this work I devoted my life to is this:
When we enter the space of our horses being, we take a step back and observe their eyes and their physical stance. We then proceed with the daily duties, such as grooming, picking feet, putting on tack, and the such.
When we do this, it is essential to pay attention to the horses demeanor and how they are standing.
Here is where it all begins.
Grooming, tacking, and leading.
As we enter into the riding arena, our goals of the day, despite our agenda, may be shifted to the needs of the horses for that day.
When you understand balance and behavior, you begin to see the horses needs and listening to them quietly telling you what it is they need help with physically, structurally, emotionally.
They may need some alignment assistance that day and it is our duty to help them find a better physical balance to improve.
Awaiting my first horse in the arena, while I write this; my client walked into the arena, at the Therapeutic Ranch I’ve been rehabbing and rebalancing their therapy horses for over 6 years now. She mentions the mare has been struggling and has not been able to be used because she has been nervous and tight.
Then asks me to fix it with a smile on her face.
I had this Mare in training briefly back in 2017 and she was a complete disaster, upside down, unsound, and literally a basket case.
She had no top line and was definitely handled in a very rough and unforgiving manner.
So fortunately, she’s had some education with me which makes the conversation beteeen us easier because she understands this work an needs me to establish a better place for her to work from. Her CENTER!
We went back into some of the exercises that I had used before to help her open up her front end and connect Through her middle, becoming more aware of her body underneath her, rather than her head in the air and her back hollowed out.
By the end of the session she was stretching down, much, calmer, much more aware of her body. Standing more open and perpendicular in the front end And square all the way around. When I began working her today, she was so resistant in her neck and looking out to the right and pushing excessively her rib cage in to the point where she was lame right hind, left fore diagonal pairs.
I went in and did my rebalancing exercises with her, and she was much more comfortable after.
Today, I had no agenda. It was to look at the horse, take it for face value and to help her find her balance, so she can be more mindful of her body and her surroundings..
Mindful Monday’s Mission accomplished.
A centered horse is a calm horse who is predictable and present in the moment, an uncentered Horse is not.
If you’re in need of assistance, feel free to reach out to me I am here to help you and your horse RECenter !
How will you help your horse RECenter today?
Virtual Evaluations Available
Lots of us worry that we’re not perfect. We believe that the horse world has certain standards and that if we don’t meet them, we’re failing. There seems to be an agreed standard for lots of things, and if you can’t do that, you are in some way lacking. It’s not always clear how the standards arose, but it’s often the case that they don’t always take the horse’s nature and experiences into account. Standards are often part of tradition, and we continue to maintain them even when we’re not sure why they are considered so important. In recent years, social media has contributed another kind of pressure. Add to that the way some horse products are packaged and marketed, and owners can sometimes feel there’s only one way to do something and that if they can’t, they’re somehow failing.
Here at Positive Equine Training Scotland, we believe that the real standard is “are you making life as pleasant and easy for yourself and your horse as possible?”
Based on that, here’s a few messages for you from us at Positive Equine Training Scotland.
🏵It’s OK to sponge fly spray on to your horse if they are worried about sprays.
🏵It's OK to help a horse settle for a hoof trim or shoeing by providing a comfortable and pleasant environment including access to forage.
🏵It's OK to comfort and reassure your horse if they are worried or stressed and it’s OK to call a halt to a non emergency procedure that is causing your horse to be fearful.
🏵It's OK to dismount if your horse is finding coping with a worry more difficult because they have a rider.
🏵It's OK to take your horse for a walk in hand instead of riding if either of you is feeling overwhelmed by the idea of riding.
🏵It's OK to introduce scary things to your horse with you on the ground (and using food both to reinforce the behaviour you want and create a positive association). If it’s new and scary, make it easy, don’t battle through difficulties.
🏵It's OK to allow your stiff horse to rest a hind hoof on the toe for hoof cleaning, rather than lift their leg right up.
🏵It's OK to sponge your horse if they are worried about hoses.
🏵It's OK to put a head collar on in a different way to all your friends, because your horse has worries about things touching their ears or hands near their eyes.
🏵It's OK to give wormer in a tasty feed for horses who have had bad experiences having wormer administered orally.
🏵It's OK to sedate a horse who’s worried to have essential treatment, there’s no need to try to prove you can cope with a stressed horse.
🏵It's OK to train using food, horses eat nearly 18 hours out of 24 so have evolved to learn this way.
🏵It's OK to not use positive reinforcement, and instead find another low stress way to handle a situation, when you haven’t had a chance to prepare.
🏵It's OK to have less than perfectly groomed horses, they actually coat themselves in mud because they enjoy it, so a little mud is not a sign of you failing.
There are things we need to do that are fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our horses, but do they have to be done the same way they’ve always been done?
Let’s start putting our horses’ and our own enjoyment ahead of “the gold standard”. If your horse finds something stressful, you can help change that response through training (and we at PETS would LOVE to help you do that), but in the meantime, if your horse is less stressed, you will enjoy the time you spend with them more.
What things do you do that are OK and you’d like the rest of the world to know?
Susan Friedman, PhD of Behavior Works signing my LLA notebook at ClickerExpo Washington, DC 2023.
I took Susan’s course, Living and Learning with Animals — LLA — this winter.
It is a great privilege to devote time and resources toward such enriching opportunities for learning and growth! I look forward to carrying the knowledge with me in my training.
Anne Kursinski encourages Starman to take this delicious stretch. “If you’ve been connecting him from front to back correctly—and if he’s really accepting your seat and leg and is coming through from behind, seeking the bit—he should stretch his head and neck, following the bit to the ground.” Anne says in her book Anne Kursinski’s Riding & Jumping Clinic. 📷 by Miranda Lorraine
Great to see friends at ClickerExpo Washington, DC 2023!
Are you interested in learning more about POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT (R+) based training with your horse?
We are excited to announce our next clinic with Shawna Corrin Karrasch will be this upcoming April 15-16 2023 in Poolesville, MD!
Venue: Misty Step Stables
About the clinician: "Shawna is a pioneer in the use of Positive Reinforcement Training with horses. Her powerful and humane behavioral training techniques are an eye-opening experience for equine professionals, competitors, and amateurs alike. She has produced books and videos, and traveled worldwide to teach the concepts of bridge conditioning and positive reinforcement for horses. Shawna’s infectious enthusiasm, sense of humor, years of training experience and rapport with animals and humans makes her one of the finest positive-reinforcement trainers in North America." Learn more here https://shawnakarrasch.com/
What happens when you listen to the horse with a gentle and accepting ear?
It can be lonely.
When you forgo the long-standing traditions and norms within the equestrian community for a more compassionate and educated approach to all facets of equine care, you may find yourself walking that path alone. The coaches and trainers you once looked upto and followed now trigger feelings of disgust and even anger. The other equine professionals you've trusted with the care of your horse, who refuse to budge from antiquated ways and methods, putting ego before the well-being of your horse have all been cut out of your life. Even the riding you used to do has come to a screeching halt, along with the casual rides and shows you'd attended with other equestrian friends are now a thing of the past.
It can be lonely when you make the conscious decision to do better for your horse, regardless of the discomfort you might cause yourself in the beginning, but I will tell you now that the discomfort is short lived. When you shift your mindset away from "how it's always been done" and towards why things are done and how can they be done better, you will begin to connect with others who share that mindset. It may be lonely now, but it will pass. Your journey to bettering yourself as a horseperson and helping your horse will guide you to people, groups and places that foster the same.
Not to mention the incredible bond you will develop with your horse, and the joy you will get seeing them blossom into a healthy, balanced, comfortable equine partner and friend.
This is the long road for those who have decided to put their horses, really and truly, before themselves and have abandoned ego, knowing it has no place in true .
The tendency of the horse to trial the correct response is very much determined by genetics and also his early life experience. If you touch a young foal on the rump during his first interactions with humans and he kicks his bottom up in the air and runs off, you have taught him one very bad lesson and that is the first step towards him becoming a rogue.
You really have to arrange your early interactions with horses well. If every horse came with an excel spreadsheet of every interaction with humans and his genetic tendencies, we would easily see the origins of (so-called) bad behaviour.
This is an excerpt from 'Conversations with Dr Andrew McLean' available to purchase via our online store:
Something that we as humans need to keep in mind is this:
It is not our job to dictate when is okay for the learner (horse) to feel certain emotions or whether or not they’re justified in feeling them.
If we feel that their expression of said emotion isn’t safe, then it’s our job to help teach them how to find a safer way to express it or how to self regulate better and avoid getting so over threshold that they behave dangerously.
We cannot dictate how others can feel. This includes horses, this includes all other animals in addition to humans.
If we are supposed to be a support system, partner and teacher; we need to listen. We need to be understanding and patient, even when we may not fully “get” why they’re behaving a certain way.
The learner decides what is and isn’t too much for them, not us.
As humans, it’s easy to get in our heads and ignore the feelings of others, especially with horses being as silent and stoic as they are.
This is why it’s key that we remind ourselves to take a step back and put ourselves in others’ shoes.
How would YOU feel if you were scared and confused and the one person you trusted just yelled and punished you, instead of helping you understand?
How would YOU feel if you expressed your fear, discomfort, pain or anxiety to a loved one and they told you that you’re lying? Or simply ignored your struggle and forced you to keep doing what they wanted?
We lack emotional intelligence as a species but we also massively lack the ability to be compassionate towards animals based off of normalized industry practices removing that compassion.
It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about being kind. It’s about being mindful of the feelings of people and animals around us and not being so self absorbed that we are more worried about being righteous or winning or our own personal desires than we are about the well-being of people and animals we love.
You don’t have to fully understand why your horse, your friend or your pet feels a certain way to be there for them and help them navigate in the way they need to.
You just need to care enough to put yourself in their shoes and figure out the best step forward for BOTH of you.
I think this is one of the hardest parts of working with animals and existing in the world in general: showing up for those around you even when you don’t fully get why they need what they do or why they’re struggling with things that may seem simple or may come easily to others.
It’s not our job to dictate what should and shouldn’t be easy for a learner. It’s our job to be mindful of the fact that EVERYONE learns differently and feels differently. Us having a different understanding or viewing something as unnecessary doesn’t mean we are correct. It just means we see it differently.
Relationships with the animals you train and the humans around will only improve if you pause and practice more empathy before responding with frustration or anger. Frustration or anger, in virtually any situation, is likely to make it worse. Pausing and being there as moral support for your learner will only improve things by lowering anxiety, having you be present and helping the learner feel like they’re being listened to.
We, as humans, need to practice putting our egos aside and just showing up emotionally for the people and animals around us.
Sometimes it is less about fixing a specific issue and more about being there to offer moral support during times of stress and knowing when to ask less.
Check out my other pages:
Subscribe to my Patreon for behind the scenes, tutorials, training help and more: http://Patreon.com/sdequus
Check out my product line to shop products like the pictured western bitless bridle, sleeveless baselayer and hat: http://amoreequestrian.ca/pages/milestone
See my website for more info on me, my horses, training resources and more: http://milestoneequestrian.ca
Subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep up with me and my horses: http://youtube.com/c/shelbydennis
Will you be there to embrace the change?
There is a shift happening in the equine world.
What will this look like in the not-too-distant-future, for a foal born in the next few years?
We know more about horse behavior and brain function. A deeper understanding of the horse informed by science informs training and horse care across the board.
We define ownership as seeing our horses through to the end, no matter what. We think about this before we seriously contemplate buying a horse.
We teach young equestrians to see horses as sentient partners, to understand the responsibilities of becoming a caring horseperson, not just conveyances for winning ribbons.
We use language that reflects our reverence for, not denigration of, our horses.
We advocate and speak up when we see something amiss, willing to question methods that we don’t agree with, no matter who is using them. We hold one another accountable for our horses’ sakes. This is very different from judgement and criticism.
We listen to our horses, seek softness, and ask why, rather than ignore, use power and demand respect.
We vote with our feet by paying the professionals who do it right by putting the horse, not making money at the horse’s expense, first. These individuals are more joyful than jaded, inspiring, not defeating.
We have a healthy tendency to question tradition, the that’s-the-way-it’s-always-been attitude and methods.
We stop revering champions because they are champions and hold up those who win at any level that put their horses first. And we know how to tell the difference.
We choose equine professionals that invite curiosity, conversation and questions and play nicely with one another, not those who refuse to engage with owners or their colleagues due to a my-way-or-the-highway attitude.
This change is happening, I see it – and advocate for it - every day. Be part of it, or risk becoming obsolete.
How adjustable is your saddle to truly accommodate your horses development continually? The StrideFree range of saddles will do this forever, on-site bit by bit, tailored to your horses growth and development. A StrideFree saddle is a one-time investment 🤎
Wise words from my friend Sabine 💓
Many years of practice and meditation and of study have convinced me that only by a way in which the rider does not use a continual force, can one have horses which take pleasure in their work while remaining obedient.
I wish to convey to the riders who are interested in dressage the idea of the pursuit of lightness, which has always been the major preoccupation of all the great Écuyers who have enriched the art of pure riding with their experiences and teachings. Each of them have left written works in which they emphasize the concern for lightness and the delicate use of the aids.
Unfortunately, at this present time, the idea is a little lost. If some riders think about this subject and try to have light horses, I will be greatly rewarded. For I have also wished to give to those who are beginning to ride their horses an idea of progression. Of course, there are special cases where it is necessary to have a great knowledge in order to be able to surmount the problems. Observation of the horse, the reflection and reading, not only of that which is written today but also the works of the Old Masters, and practice, can give you all those understandings.
I have wished in this small work, to help the rider's by conveying to them the fruit of some forty years of practice, observation, thought and reading. Amongst the daily cares and concerns of life, each rider can, while thinking of these moments of beauty he has spent with his horse or horses be sure that riding is an art.
Ocean Grove Australia
12th February, 1983
[Classical Principles of the Art of Training Horses ~ Nuno
Many people approach desensitizing their horse with the idea that they must expose them to every possible thing that they’re going to encounter in their lives.
This is not actually the case and isn’t even a realistic goal.
What should be the goal of desensitization is to create positive associations with new experiences. The the goal should be to build confidence and resilience so that when our equids encounter something new, they are able to cope.
When working through a desensitization program with your equid, instead of looking for an animal that never spooks (again, this would be unrealistic) look for an animal that can contain their spook and recover quickly from it.
Instead of looking for an animal that stands perfectly still and ignores everything around them when in a new situation or when exposed to new things, look for an animal that engages with their environment with curiosity and enthusiasm.
Focus on making your desensitizing plan a positive experience for your equid so that experiencing new things becomes something they look forward to instead of something that sends them running for the hills.
Wise words always worth repeating
"Horses cannot be expected to live in wholly unnatural conditions without suffering. Their extraordinary gifts, from which we can learn and benefit so much, do not flourish in conditions of deprivation. Many become depressed (which suits people who want to operate them like will-less automata), some become hysterical, others bad-tempered and yet others drug themselves through stereotypy. Unfortunately, many people have only seen them in these conditions and think that horses are by nature like that.
Studying horses in natural conditions makes clearer what their fundamental necessities are: contact with others, communication, physical comfort maintained by free movement, rolling and stretching, and always some to nibble at, preferably green." ✍️ Lucy Rees (Horses In Company)
Are you there yet, spring? ￼
But as it is, the art requires…
“If the art were not so difficult we would have plenty of good riders and excellently ridden horses, but as it is the art requires, in addition to everything else, character traits that are not combined in everyone: inexhaustible patience, firm perseverance under stress, courage combined with quiet alertness. If the seed is present only a true, deep love for the horse can develop these character traits to the height that alone will lead to the goal.” Gustav Steinbrecht
(within the boundaries of factual reality) Perceived choice and actual choice are the same thing.
Take a moment to look at more than just the contact here too… !!
"Where do the ventral and dorsal lines connect? At the TMJ/upper cervical and the hind hoof. Two major proprioceptive input centres."
Is the source of pain distracting us from the actual cause!?
The horse is very good at making compensations for physiological issues. Initially these are good, relieving the structures in question. However, when these compensations become long term, secondary issues can ensue. Very often the secondary issues are more painful then the compensated for causation!
When investigating the discomforts that respond to palpation or indeed diagnostic analgesia, they become areas for primary treatment. However are they the actual cause!?
In the recent webinar with Dr Shultz she stated that "often pain is a lie" and agreed with my research and opinion, looking at the picture more holistically using and understanding the myofascial system can elucidate the timeline of causation.
Below is a relationship that has become the focus of my personal research, with the concurrent pathologies I found associated with negative plantar angles. Poor hind hoof conformation has been linked to pathology along the dorsal myofascial line, therefore research has questioned either the hoof balance or the pathologies along that line as primary. However, looking at the bigger picture, the posture associated with the links is a product of a contracted ventral line!!
Where do the ventral and dorsal lines connect? At the TMJ/upper cervical and the hind hoof. Two major proprioceptive input centres.
Beautifully linking to a previous webinar with Dr Gellman on proprioception and posture.
As we further apply the laws of biotensegrity, and study the myofascial connections we will start to really uncover the true causations of physiological issues in the horse. Holistic understanding means holistic treatment.
A couple (of many) articles for further reading here..
These webinars can be seen at these links...
A belated welcome to Yocelyn, a young Friesian mare with us for Art2Ride training this winter. ❄️
Stay warm and safe, all. x
16049 Partnership Road
Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Ahimsa Equine posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Send a message to Ahimsa Equine: