Horse PT, LLC

Horse PT, LLC Classical dressage strategies, both in-hand and under saddle, for promoting soundness in any discipline.

What distinguishes our approach to training is that we teach riders how the horse's body works and how the rider's body influences it. From that basis we teach techniques and strategies for preventing lameness and increasing performance. Rider's who know the aids and know the results they seek will often fill the gap between the two with "I'm not (insert adjective) enough", "My horse is not (insert adjective) enough, or "So-n-so is just gifted." This gap is better filled with knowledge based strategy. That doesn't get you off the hook from practicing, but it does make practice turn into progress. Borrowed from martial arts: a mediocre technique plus great strategy has greater success than superior technique plus mediocre strategy. It not only elevates a student’s riding ability, but also provides students with the tools to analyze and fix problems as they emerge. With horses, there will always be problems to solve and balance to improve. Learning to perceive and correct imbalances that will lead to lameness turns into a great amount of savings over a lifetime.

Mission: Lameness prevention and athletic longevity. It is known that small gait asymmetry can cause cumulative damage and ultimately pathology and lameness. Through knowledge in equine biomechanics and the use of classical dressage gymnastics, we can minimize or eliminate the imbalances causing gait asymmetry. We promote the development of full athletic potential of horses by placing the first priority on creating and maintaining soundness. Riders learn efficient, harmonious and effective riding style as a necessary ingredient to successful soundness maintenance.

My home town. What a privilege it was to be a kid learning the ropes in this atmosphere.  My family moved to Hamilton in...
11/12/2019

My home town. What a privilege it was to be a kid learning the ropes in this atmosphere. My family moved to Hamilton in 1972 and they had no idea what they were about to get into. I pestered for a few years until finally my babysitter, (an angel on earth) Marie, took me for riding lessons at Flying Horse Stables. I was about 8. I wanted to be a cowboy. The saddle didn't have a horn and I pointed that out, but the instructor promised that jumping is way more fun. I wish I remembered her name. I was jumping immediately and I was hooked. My parents didn't have time to drive me to riding lessons at Flying Horse, so they made a deal with me. I could walk across the field and take riding lessons at Round About Farm. That little farm became my home for years to come, and the kids and trainers, whether they knew it or not, were my family and had great positive influence on me.

Some USA eventing history---

Neil Ayer became president of the USCTA (US Combined Training Association) in the early 1970s. Neil's friend, Jack LeGoff, was the coach of the USET 3-day squad, just a couple of miles away on Bridge Street, in So Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Neil and Helen Ayer had a farm in Hamilton, Massachusetts called Ledyard Farm, and while it was not a huge property, I think just under 100 acres, it was laid out like a wedding cake, in that there were three layers, one above another, so that Neil was able to create a big advanced track, where one horse might be galloping in one direction, and another horse and rider, on a higher or lower layer, galloping in the opposite direction, almost next to the other, neither pair aware of the other.

Another neighbor, Col. Frank Appleton, had a farm with a huge meadow, where a steeplechase track was built, and the Myopia fox hunt had a network of trails for roads and tracks between the two properties.

Neil and Jack knew that the USET was handicapped by not having access to the big international 3-day events of that era, Badminton and Burghley, so Neil personally paid to have a group of European riders and horses flown over to compete at three "Ledyard Internationals," in 1973, 1975, and 1977.

This exposure to competing against some of the best riders in the world gave the USET the boost that it needed, and the LeGoff teams won multiple medals during the 1970s, and into the 1980s.

This photo, from the event in 1977, is of a group of riders parading before show jumping on one of the Myopia Hunt Club polo fields. It was a huge joint venture---Few remember when that small area north of Boston was the epicenter of USA eventing.

(Front row, l to r, Denny Emerson on Victor Dakin, Mary Anne Tauskey on Marcus Aurelius, Mike Plumb on Good Mixture, Bruce Davidson on Irish Cap)

11/08/2019

The good ones take time.

Watch quietly from the sidelines as those who try to shortcut with bridles, bits and gadgets become unstuck at the first sign of a challenge.

Get used to sitting with your head in your hands having to take deep breaths or halting in the middle of the arena to stare at the ceiling for fear that frustration will take the reins and undo everything you’ve worked on.

Allow him to question, allow him to protest. You have to be in this together, it has to be a partnership not a dictatorship so he has to know that he has a say and that you are listening. Mutual understanding and respect should be the foundations on which you build.

Be prepared to taste your arena surface.

Don’t allow others to convince you a “more experienced” jumper would suit you better or “he might never come right”. Trust your gut. You saw something in him, so work you ass off to prove it.

Do not be swayed by trainers encouraging you to just “try” the draw reins or the bigger bit. Don’t succumb to the pressure to “teach him whose boss”. When the clock is ticking, and the stride just isn’t there you have to trust each other, that isn’t going to come from force.

Give this horse your heart, I’m not saying he won’t break it because he will, but when the day comes that he accepts you into his, he really will go to the ends of the earth for you. But until then, have tissues and a playlist of sad songs at the ready.

And just when you think you can’t take one more ride, when you feel like you’ve given every part of yourself to this and you can’t physically, mentally or emotionally manage anymore. Keep going. Nobody said this was going to be easy...but it might just be worth it, because the most valuable thing you can give a horse is time...

...and the good ones take time.

11/07/2019
Vicki Mariles at Madison Square Garden (1950)

Vicki Mariles at Madison Square Garden (1950)

Seven-year-old Vicki Mariles displays equestrian skills at the National Horse Show at New York's Madison Square Garden on November 16, 1950, in a story from ...

A little gimpy? Just a small gait asymmetry?  Let's take care of this now before there is enough repetition to cause tis...
10/30/2019

A little gimpy? Just a small gait asymmetry? Let's take care of this now before there is enough repetition to cause tissue damage. Carpal tunnel syndrome in humans is a good comparison. It doesn't hurt until it really hurts, then the solution is surgery. But through correct ergonomics, it is prevented. Correcting the way your horse uses his or her body *now* can prevent problems later. I will analyze the horse's back and limb kinematics on the flat and / or over fences and teach you strategic use of gymnastics to create healthy kinematics and a balanced athlete.

Contact me to schedule a lesson or biomechanics lecture.

09/07/2019

Excerpt from Charles de Kunffy's 1993 book *The Ethics and Passions of Dressage*. "Success can be measured by the rider's ability to promote the horse's painlessness and even his sense of pleasure while the horse carries his rider."

L'Art du Mouvement
09/04/2019

L'Art du Mouvement

🇨🇦Calgary-Clinique en mai COMPLET pour les riders!! Auditors welcome!!

Charlie  Mackesy
08/24/2019

Charlie Mackesy

Marijke de Jong
08/20/2019

Marijke de Jong

The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.
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Because it's not what happens outside of us that determines the quality of our work.
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We often think that things have to change:
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• Our horse
• The weather
• The floor of the riding arena
• The program
• Our instructor
• The support from our family, friends, partners
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But what happens, happens to about everybody:
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We all face bad weather, heavy traffic, challenging people, we all have a rescue horse, we all face challenges, the sun went down on all of us last night.
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Common events.
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The exact same events happen to two different riders:
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⬆️ one progresses

⬇️ while the other stays at the same spot.
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Why is that?
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It's what they do!
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That changes everything.
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The only way it gets better for a rider is when the rider gets better.
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Don't Wish It Was Easier ✔︎ Wish You Were Better ✔︎

08/10/2019

Heard this, liked it a bunch. It applies to culinary art but might as well apply to riding:
"We never look at the past in a nostalgic way, we look at it in a critic way to get the best from the past into the future." ~Massimo Bottura

Tamarack Hill Farm
08/09/2019

Tamarack Hill Farm

Sue Berrill and Darius schooling yesterday. A very big horse with a very big canter---

Some thoughts about "quality of the canter."

Nearly half a century ago, I first heard my former USET 3 day team coach, Jack Le Goff, talk about the fact that there is a fundamental and inherent "internal contradiction" in the rider's attempt to create the ideal jumping canter.

Bear with me here, because this is somewhat tricky, but also brilliantly explained by brilliant Jack---

Jack said that when a horse is approaching a jump, and will jump it best from an ideal take off spot, that spot will either be just right in the canter the horse is already in, or it will be too far away, or it will be too close. Right? There are no other options.

So, if the desired take off is too far away, the horse will ideally be in a canter that has enough impulsion to allow the rider to move forward (lengthen) to make up the difference.

But if the desired take off is too close, the horse will ideally be in a canter that has enough balance to allow the rider to retard forward motion (shorten) to create the right distance.

Jack's point was that the ideal canter will contain both at once, the necessary impulsion to move forward, if needed, and enough balance to shorten, if needed.

And those two qualities are somewhat incompatible, in this way:

If there is more impulsion than balance, the horse will go forward just fine, but it will go forward and down, a bad way to be upon takeoff.

If there is more balance than impulsion, the rider can shorten, but the impulsion will sort of dwindle, or wither away, again, not a good quality of canter from which to leave the ground.

Neither impulsion alone nor balance alone creates the ideal jumping canter, but getting both at the same time, in the same canter, especially when you need to get that quality of canter as many times as there are fences on course requires extremely brilliant riding, which many riders simply find either hard or impossible to do.

When Sue got this giant horse's canter right, Darius jumped so well. But when the canter was "off" even a little, the jump became more of a struggle.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I am fully aware that this explanation of Le Goff's is highly technical stuff. But for those who aspire to improvement beyond basic levels, highly technical abilities will be called for.

07/11/2019

Take advantage of our hot as heck 😅 summer sale. Local lessons are $50 (trip charge may apply). Biomechanics for horse and rider. Early lameness detection and prevention. Create athletic longevity and avoid the cost of expensive therapies. For the rider in need of confidence, learn the balance control that cultivates confidence in the saddle. Mention this ad for sale price. Introductory lessons are generally low impact, slow and focused on muscle control and development - great for maintaining training progress in the summer heat!

Update: We also work with jumping! We teach the horse independent and intelligent thinking while improving their coordination, balance and confidence to judge distances to jumps. Great summer schooling!

Elżbieta Jeżewska Art
06/21/2019

Elżbieta Jeżewska Art

Muscles vs Adrenaline, cartoon no 52, watercolor 2019.

#illustration #equinebiomechanics #equineart #horseart #konwsztuce #elzbietajezewskaart #ilustracja #equinecartoon

I know people will compare horse's body condition with human athletes, but I don't know of a human sport where the athle...
06/09/2019

I know people will compare horse's body condition with human athletes, but I don't know of a human sport where the athlete carries a load at speed over jumps with the spine mostly parallel to the ground. Those are major difference that can't be overlooked.
There is also anecdotal evidence from elite 3 day eventers, who I know, that horses with greater muscle development start and finish with lower than average heart and respiratory rates.
Then there is the problem stated by USEA president that the US has not had a return champion since 2010 because they break down before that. Look around and you see horses injured and breaking down at all levels.

A beautiful painting from Elzbieta. It is courageous to address the issue of poor muscular development. Fitness is quite often poor muscular development. In all disciplines, horses are asked to perform with totally insufficient muscular development. They are unfit for what they are going to do. The athleticism is ignored. The training, as well as the riding, should be about preparing physically and mentally the horse for the athletic demand of the performance. Unfortunately, as wrote Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere in 1736, "It is easier to turn to false practice than to do what is correct." He would be desperate to see that false practice is now the norm. JLC

Back to Balance
06/07/2019

Back to Balance

This post came about a bit by accident. I had forgotten that I had the first picture which was taken when the horse came in for livery whilst her owners were on holiday (17.11.17) but on finding it I felt I had to make use of it. I had helped the owner with a previous horse and they had had this one for about 6 months but were having some problems. When she came I realised that something was wrong and she went off to the vets returning with the devastating KS and stomach ulcer diagnosis. Ulcers were prescribed gastroguard and KS surgery was advised. Luckily for the horse the owners were not interested in surgery so the horse went home whilst the ulcers were treated then was re started in hand (SOM method) in the spring 2018 to address the KS. She came to me full time in May 2018. The second picture is of her now, 1 year later. The muscle development has removed the KS problem and a sensible feeding and stable routine have sorted the ulcers. The muscular development has been done without any use of gadgets or fancy supplements, just good, honest, correct work and feed. Some will say that she is just fat but I promise you she isn’t, she can canter for 10mins quite comfortably and is not far off doing her first BE Novice. This is the sort of muscle development that we need to keep our horses safe from things like KS, SID, PSD, navicular syndrome and any other wear and tear. We have become too used to seeing “sport” horses looking “lean” and “athletic” as in the first picture but, whatever your sport, the horse needs muscle mass in the correct places to support the tendons and fascia as they go about the process of moving the bones around the joints to create movement of the horse. This muscle mass can only be developed correctly when the horse is being trained correctly. Things that supposedly lower the neck, round the back, increase engagement or stride length or create unnatural lifting of the limbs WILL build muscle mass and, to the human eye, the horse will look better but if the muscle has not been built respecting the individual horse’s natural cadence, conformation, movement pattern and adapted to take into consideration any areas of trauma, what the eye sees can easily be misleading and the horse will still be at risk of damage. To build muscles that will actually support the horse’s locomotion, the ride/handler has to have a deep understanding of what goes on beneath the skin, not what it looks like from the outside. This horse would not have developed from broken and weedy to sound and a powerhouse in a year without the knowledge I have gained from Science Of Motion. It isn’t a “fad” or anything “new” it is simply a clearer picture, the explainable science behind the phenomenon of equine locomotion (which is fascinating as there is no obvious way that such a huge body can be moved so fast for so long on such spindly limbs) which allows us to truly develop our horses in such a way that they can cope, both physically and mentally, with the athletic demands we require of them

Elżbieta Jeżewska Art
06/06/2019

Elżbieta Jeżewska Art

"A bit about tensegrity", cartoon no. 49, 2019.

Hands and the bit they hold are only a part of riding equation.

"The integrity of the horse physique demands the integrity of the rider’s body. Not one part acting, as taught by the equitation of the “correct aids,” but instead the entire body playing with nuances within and overall integrity." Jean Luc Cornille, "Harmonic tensegrity". Click the link to read whole article. http://scienceofmotion.com/documents/harmonic_tensegrity.html

#illustration #equinebiomechanics #equineart #horseart #konwsztuce #elzbietajezewskaart #ilustracja #equinecartoon

Muscle Development Tells the Truth. Paige LaBella, BSME, Equine Biomechanics PractitionerJune 1, 2019You do the work. (e...
06/01/2019

Muscle Development Tells the Truth.
Paige LaBella, BSME, Equine Biomechanics Practitioner
June 1, 2019

You do the work. (edit prompted by questions: no long&low, no LDR, no sidereins,drawreins - nothing but balanced ridden work and good feed program) You keep doing the work. Knowing that you need to educate the horse's back and there is no shortcut - no gadget, no trick, no aids that will get you there. You have to do the work. You have to practice even if the horse is not progressing because you have to learn - nobody else is going to do it. You have to have poll flexion and you can't have weight on the bit - none. It's a paradox, until you figure out that you are half of the pulling match and you can stop any time you want, even when she wants you to pull. You think you aren't pulling, but yup, you are. Keep reminding yourself, every 5 seconds. Video of your rides helps you a lot to separate imagination from reality - they are different.

You have to create the conditions where she will figure out the right coordination of her back and not fake it, and she can't do it when she is pushing on your hands because that creates forces that follow the cervical spine right down to the cervical thoracic junction which is exactly what needs to lift. Lateral bending coupled with correct rotation in the thoracic spine, lift of the trunk, is the goal.

You can try to induce bending with properly executed gymnastics or you can try to induce lift with other properly executed gymnastics or both. The key is "properly executed" = locomotion that does not create pathology, either it does or it doesn't. And horses can't do it until they can, so there's another paradox. You learn to love the paradox. Don't worry, they start to dissolve the moment you flush dichotomous thinking down the toilet. But, those are the choices, of course combined with different gaits and transitions from gymnastic to gymnastic and gait to gait, so there are lots of choices, but don't confuse her.

She is going to protect herself and her survival skills are rock solid. You have to be tuned in to the right image of how the horse's body works (and it has nothing to do with inanimate objects) so you can know if it's discomfort from pathological coordination or discomfort from new unfamiliar but healthy coordination. She will fiercly protect that bad coordination that she developed to protect that thing that hurt. There is a difference though. With the wrong image in your mind, you will accept bad coordination and dismiss good coordination. Both of which are sort of punishments to the horse. When the horse's body state is very much the wrong coordination, improvement can mean she goes from absolutely fundamentally disgusting coordination to really really bad coordination, but that is moving in the right direction and you have to learn to recognize the smallest details. She will, faster than you do. Don't miss the clue. Well, if you do there will be another one or twenty. Horses are cool like that. But don't use the clues that go with inaccurate models. Drive cars on or shoot arrows with those models.

Sometimes day to day, there is no progress. Sometimes the horse regresses. You re-check your thinking, refine the communication with her. It's been too noisy, too bossy, too strong, or not encouraging enough. Too much tone somewhere in your body. You've interpreted her inability as stubbornness. Stop That. You know she'd jump the moon for you. She believes she can't do it. It's not "screw you" it's "I really believe my body can't do that". You have to be compassionate at the same time be determined to show her how. She needs to take the forces from the thrust of the hind limb and convert some of that to upward forces to unload the fore and stop the train wreck that overloading the fore causes in the hind. Erherm, hock arthritis. With muscle insertions at angles spanning multiple vertebrae, there is an opportunity for upward force component at each insertion, if you remember your vector math - if not, don't worry, there is. You can't micromanage 186 synovial articulations of the horse's spine - she has to. You need her brain turned on, and yours.

Then one day, for 3 seconds, there is quiet conversation. She is trusting you, trying hard, but not being obedient and trying to please you, she is thinking. Hallelujah! Obedience is your enemy because it shuts off her brain. Remember she'll jump the moon for you. Hell, she ripped half her medial sesamoid bone off for her jockey. When she complains you better listen. Listen but don't quit. Try harder, but not stronger, to get her to learn the efficient body coordination with all the knowledge and experience you've gained so far, and get help when you need to, because she is still willing to work. The clock is ticking though.

Then you feel some good back coordination, for many days in a row. She is in much better control of her balance. Despite the pathology that limits her, she has figured a way to lift the trunk, even though she's not really supposed to be able to. Biological systems are amazing! And even though it's not spectacular, you feel the small difference. Then one day, right after your ride, you look up at her and see the old girl has been synthesizing muscle tissue in the right places. Be still my heart, The work is paying off. Muscle development tells the truth about the training.

The "you" is me and the "she" is Dazzling Jane, a 1999 ottb with a heart of gold. The photo was taken today. The timeline is 2013 to 2019. The pathology is enough that a vet suggested euthanization in 2017 (kissing spines - some fused, cervical arthritis, hock arthritis, old sesamoid avulsion fracture and disorganized tendon tissue), neurological symptoms were there and I opted out of the full neuro exam. But, Jane politely disagreed with the idea of euthanization by playing exuberantly in the pasture, that same week, making a bounce jump out of two little weed bushes that she easily could have galloped through. And that, I could not ignore. I owed it to her to step up my game and apply what I was learning.

She has waited a long time for me to get my brain wired right for an authentic conversation with her. It's a unique conversation with each horse. Not the euphemism "conversation" wink, wink, meaning you smacked some sense into the horse to make her behave. This one has been my most challenging so far. It's not done, really it's just beginning. But in general, rehabilitation is never done. It's ongoing. It's the same work that will develop a young horse for sport. Except the young horse (hopefully!) does not have the layers and layers of protections from past injuries and accrual of pathologies of an old broken down off-track Thoroughbred. It has been said that rehabilitation is harder than winning a grand prix. But by rehabilitation, I means long term, not get-me-through-the-season rehabilitation, or periodic maintenance type of rehabilitation. That's not rehabilitation, it's duct tape and bailing twine and horses deserve better. Let's raise the bar of rehabilitation and equitation.

This work is not at all physically challenging, it is easy on a body - very easy. No need for spurs or strong arms and back, just sophisticated muscle control and fine tuned perception - and all riders have this capability, but it takes time to learn. The horse is the one with the physical strength and power, and she needs to learn mastery of her balance with a rider on board. The rider is the one with the capacity to analyze the inputs from the horse and guide her to more efficient body coordination. The challenge is overriding the body habits, thought patterns, outdated knowledge, and learn to use the most important tool for riding, your brain, equipped with the right information and free from extraneous noises of conventional thinking. To have any success at this, you stay a learner of the practical application of the knowledge, not an expert. Each horse is unique and has to be learned in order to be rehabilitated. You stay humble because the moment you think you have the answers, a horse will humble you. You keep your mind free and open to perceiving the horse because they don't follow typical human thought patterns and they are often 2 or a hundred steps ahead of you. They change body coordinations faster than we think, so intuition has to be consciously and intentionally developed, lest you miss an opportunity to advance progress. You will. Don't worry, try to catch the next wave. You flush perfectionism down the toilet because mistakes are where the learning is, for both you and the horse. May as well flush the expert hat down the toilet too - people impressed by that won't appreciate this work. The horse needs a partner with knowledge, compassion, determination and the flexibility to create hypotheses and flush them down the toilet and make a better one. Keep the toilet handy, a lot goes in there on this journey, probably it's good to have a plunger too.

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215 Colbert Bridge Rd.
Windsor, SC
29856

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Trainer and Mechanical Engineer Paige LaBella teaches the Mechanics of Motion and how to apply it to riding. That means students learn how the horse’s body works and they learn how to use that knowledge in their daily riding. Her education through 3 different programs in equine biomechanics integrates her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with her equestrian work. It is through knowledge of the principles, that it is possible to create or re-create healthy and athletic locomotion in horses, confident effective riders and genuine partnership. Training horses within the mechanical limits of their biological systems enables proper muscular development, balance and coordination which results in enhanced performance, efficient gaits, improved behavior. Most importantly, it decreases exposure to lameness.

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