Alois Podhajsky

quote-there-is-one-principle-that-should-never-be-abandoned-namely-that-the-rider-must-learn-alois-podhajsky-82-10-13

This weeks blog is inspired by part of a book.  My horses my teachers by Alois Podhajsky. Here is the part I wish to share.

How do we understand our companions? When riding and training my horses I was forever trying to put myself in the place of the animal and to think from his point of view, especially in order not to demand more than he could perform. Retrospectively I realise that the constant endeavour to understand the creatures entrusted to my care became the reason why, though I was their trainer, I feel as their pupil today. Although they had no faculty of speech, they taught me more than many humans did. Therefore I feel that I should relate my experiences with my horses for the benefit of future generations of horses andmaestosomercuriohalfpasstoright riders.

In 1939, Podhajsky became chief of the Academy of Classical Horsemanship, better known as the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria. Founded in 1572, the school’s main focus was the training of Lipizzan horses in the art of Classical dressage. Podhajsky was director of the school throughout World War II and continued in the position until his retirement in 1965.

 

I find it interesting that back in 1967 when this book was written, masters like Podhajsky had a very different regard for their horses than many people have today. I continue to try and share through the Waterhole Rituals and Classical dressage their view that we should remain the student of the horse and our life with him/her should be life enhancing for us both.

” May you live as long as want, and never want as long as you live.”

In last weeks blog we spoke about boundaries and shaping our horses character.

As the Waterhole Rituals have become part of my life and through the time spent with my horses they have not only shaped my horses character but also my own.

One of the biggest dreams I had was to share a deep and mutual trust with my horse. When we started learning from Carolyn Resnick there was no trust between us. I think we liked each other but we didn’t trust each other.

I had expectations and wanted certain things. I have learnt that when we drop our agenda and give up wanting, just be grateful for now and what we have this minute, that’s when we are given the greatest gifts.

Spending time with our horses not wanting is like a magic wand in the development of trust. It goes hand in hand.

Now I have dreams but they are just dreams, I don’t want for anything more than what I am given.

Thanks to my friend and dressage trainer Joyce Mulder who has been open minded in helping me travel the road for us. She was here for this magical moment that I truly could not have imagined when we first met or before starting my journey of discovery with the whr’s and Noo noo.

One day this just felt right and it wasn’t that I had thought about it as a goal, we just worked on our relationship and the trust grew into a deep mutual trust. My wild child of a horse became dependable and trustworthy through our shared experience’s in the Waterhole Rituals.

Boundaries.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Horses set boundaries, they do this with one another.
The boundaries they use can be flexible, we sometimes need to set a boundary with our horse.

As a mother of 3 and grandmother of 4 I am very used to setting boundaries. As young children my kids would often test those boundaries. Our horses sometimes do the same. It’s not personal it’s in their nature.

The boundaries we set are ours, they may be different for all of us. I don’t mind a horse sniffing and exploring me, as we are always touching them. However if I feel an energy I am not comfortable with or a nibble coming I will set a boundary and ask the horse to respect my space and move.

The dance of connection is just that, sometimes we respect our horse’s boundaries, sometimes he respects ours, a partnership in dance requires two parties entering the discussion.

A foals mother is just like us bringing up our offspring she has to shape her foals character to be polite and fit in with the herd. When our horses are domesticated they learn to fit in with humans as well. We become part of their herd, we can shape our horses character to be polite or to be a hooligan. The Waterhole Rituals assist us with not only having an amazing relationship and connection but also in being able to shape a horses character in a way natural to him. We learn to live in harmony and build relationship and part of that is setting flexible boundaries.

Sometimes we have to set flexible boundaries with one another, while also respecting each others boundaries.  This all helps to build a working bond not only with our horses but with each other as well.

IMG_0332 (1)

Warm up for Dressage.

SAM_0683There are as many different ways to warm up your horse for dressage as there are horse and human combinations. Above is how I start. It may seem like a waste of riding time but for us it is time well spent. Sharing territory is the first of the Waterhole Rituals it gives us time to be together wanting nothing, time for me to indulge in being present to the moment and all around me. To connect to myself and nature.

SAM_069414706917_10157699685710374_4944739518767363850_o-1

Next I see how our relationship feels, How does she feel today? At liberty she can give me a very clear answer.

We have a bond and continue to deepen it by sharing territory, she trusts me, I always say hello to her. She respects me and I respect her. She is normally the most willing horse eager to please and be with me. Noonoo also gives me her focus. If at some point one of these 5 things are not present she will not connect with me and companion walk with me.  I can also test at liberty if she is feeling ‘ready to rock!’ as we call it. Do I have the impulsion I need for dressage and is she ready to switch on with the flick of an eye.

When I get on and ride it is with all these things in place, if they were not for some reason I would work on the part that is missing today even if it means not riding.

I always ask permission to get on if ever she didn’t want me to I would know there was something wrong. In the ridden work we are connected and I want her to feel proud and enjoy this part of our relationship, the feedback she gives me says she does, however she will let me know if I make a mistake but she forgives me and knows I will try to get it right.

The fastest way to get where you are going is to take your time. It’s also the route where you can enjoy the ride.

Not allowing our ego to judge.

Over the last two weekends I have been fortunate to meet 16 different horses and theirs Humans. Last weekend the biggest message I took was to remain the student, it was a whirlwind tour of the south east and I did feel it would have been nice to have more time with each partnership. This meant to get the most from each session I had to remain in this open, ‘learning’ way to try to quickly absorb how I could best serve them.

20170401_145000

This weekend was very different, I met new people, old friends and new horses, I had time, as although it was a 3 hour drive, once there, the welcome was so warm and the people so open I  didn’t care how long we took and we had all day for just 4 horses.

It felt indulgent.

Again the horses left me with a strong message to take away, we must never allow our ego into the equation of building relationship and connection with a horse, or human.

Never be tempted to make judgments.

Suwelo

I could have rushed this handsome chap trying to connect in a physical way too soon, this was the moment when he was ready.  I had never met him or Lynda and if I had allowed my ego in we would not have built the 3way working bond we did. Lynda has given this sensitive chap the chance to be who he is and she is so willing to find the best way for him. It makes me feel very humble to share some time with people lead by good intentions, who realize dropping expectations reaps rewards. That is where Lynda was several times she said to me,”I wasn’t expecting that” and I think that is precisely why she was gifted it.

Beans1

Again with no expectations as they had not worked together through the winter. Jacquie was given the performance others seek, just because Beans is connected to her. The relationship they share is one where all the 5 strings of connection were in place, ( at least they were today) the bond, the trust, respect ,willingness and focus. He did everything we suggested and really enjoyed it, no pressure, just a feeling of ok we will give it a go. Lovely energy and done without ego.

Again if you judge this book by its cover you will be missing the enormous personality inside a small cute package and doing these young mares a disservice. Debs was happy to bring both in just to experiment with the best way of working with them. They taught us all a lot about herd dynamics and our role in this. Using the waterhole rituals to shape their behavior within Deb’s herd. They showed us they had very different personalities and also that they noticed every interaction between Debs and their friend.

Debs and minis

Flo and Cocoa are still young only two years old, so again I had no expectations and to come in with ego would not have served any of us. This herd have a bond through sharing territory. We only wanted to learn from them the best way minis comingforward towards a ‘working bond’ .

When we bring an open heart, an open, quiet mind, become 100% present and leave our ego behind. Don’t judge or try to guess what will happen next, our horses know and they are drawn to us like a magnet. They help us to know ourselves better, and the more connected we are to ourselves the more THEY want to know who we are.

Remaining the student.

After an incredible trip and the chance to work with a wonderful group. The thing that I have held to be important with all twelve combinations is that I am the student, I went to help deepen connections, build stronger relationships, create more harmony and simply pass on what I have learnt via the Waterhole Rituals. I was a guide passing on tools and my experiences. I was never NOT the student. Over horsey chats I was eager to to learn about every other experience people were having with their horses.

Marion and I sat up late chatting about trainers she has had and dressage, as well as the working bond with a horse.

I felt honored to have this chance to connect. It felt very special every person wanting a deeper bond, and every horse seeking a deeper connection to their human.

They all taught me many things, I would love to share some of the lessons I took from them.

Our horses are searching for us to bring to them the missing ingredient of the relationship, they will show us the areas where we need to find that way in to the fullest relationship and harmony.

For some it was just be with me, slow down and pause. Find neutral. Or be present and be a proud leader and follower in this dance. Don’t ‘want’ something too much, and forget to build the bond. Others needed to know we would always consider how they feel about any other training we are doing.  For some it was testing leadership, they needed the security that comes with knowing they have a leader they want to choose. For some it was focus. Others were just waiting for the chance to connect and dance. A chance for us to feel with our body and enjoy the connection they give us. This is the first time Briony and Reo have danced at liberty it was the end of a long day, and we were all smiling. We had to address the small matter of his lips here and there but hey! still very touching. They are finding their groove.

 

Our horses are always ready to offer us the lesson we need for the day. It may not be the one we were hoping for, but it will be the one we need. We just have to be present and notice.

These horses all did an amazing job each showing us the area’s where we humans needed to focus. Sometimes even giving us the difficult lesson that we need to focus on us. Unfortunately I didn’t get you all sometimes we were way too involved to take pictures.  Thanks to all though.

Relationship and Connection while Riding and Training

When I started my journey with The Waterhole Rituals, I was looking for a ‘way in’ to what seemed like an untrainable horse.  I had no idea how much she would teach me about relationship and connection.  Relationship with her, other people and also myself.

My relationship with her is the most precious gift, it has been life enhancing.  So how do I reconcile the question of riding her?  Surely the moments of deep connection she offers, the joining of our spirits and energies are enough?  Well yes they are, those moments continue into our physical connection through riding, the many different ways we connect remain. When we are connected in movement at liberty the only physical connection is body language and breath, there is no touch apart from when she greets me with a soft touch of her muzzle and a blow of her breath.  We share a vibration, a magnetic connection.

how-do-you-feel

Mainstream horse training mainly involves riding, while there has to be a physical connection, too often it is not a harmonious one. When you see a ridden partnership where it is truly connected  in every way, emotionally, spiritually, energetically, telepathically, and physically the vibration is alive, you see beauty. It feels beautiful, I have been known to just sit on my horse and feel connection, to shut my eyes even and just be, feeling grateful for the joining of our souls.

I also ask her to make a great effort for me sometimes, my intention is always that we do this together, not that I tell her and she should obey. Horses know the difference!  If you get frustrated either with yourself or even worse with your horse, it will make her fearful, it will confuse her and the connection and harmony is lost.Still 9Our horses are ready to offer us so much.  When riding becomes an art we hold our horse in high esteem.  We cherish the relationship and beauty of riding WITH them not just on them.  We care how it feels for them and when we enter into some aspect of riding which requires effort,  they offer this with trust and willingness.  My horse and I feel good when we know we have done something that required this effort, that together we were trying our very best.  She looks at me and I know she feels proud to be the horse she is, proud of the beauty she has displayed.

The Grand Masters and writers about classical dressage knew a horse enjoyed feeling proud. They also cared about the horse’s opinion of them.

A painting of the Spanish riding school.

bellotto_colonel_piotr_koenigsfels

 

cordeo-g

De La Guérinière gave exercises to increase suppleness and balance of the horse, and a progressive schooling system to reach an overall goal: a light, obedient, calm horse that was a pleasure to ride. His methods were employed by The Spanish Riding School.

In this picture of him he is riding with a cordeo or neck strap. In harmony and with mutual trust. For me there is no dressage without the things the Waterhole Rituals have helped me to embrace. They have been my ‘way in’ with noo noo and now we can enjoy it all. I have seen they are a link to things the old masters understood.

These grand masters dedicated themselves to the development of equestrian art. They knew they had to consider, the horse. They considered building bonds, trust, respect, willingness, focus. Along with the gymnastic training of the horse. They also set high standards for their own conduct.

Before De La Guérinière.  Pluvinel ( born in 1555) embraced a more humane training method than his predecessors . In 1594, Pluvinel founded the “Academie d’Equitation” Here are some of his words.

“Because, as a rule, the horse must take pleasure in his work. Otherwise, he and his rider will not be able to accomplish anything graceful.”

“I concentrate mainly on exercising his mind and his memory, in such a way that I achieve what I want: so that it is the horse’s mind which I work the most: the mind of the rider must work perpetually as well, in order to detect all kinds of opportunities to arrive at his goal, without letting any movement pass unnoticed, nor any opportunity unused.”

Today’s equitation  has lost much of the ideals of the past. Riders are not always horsemen and trainers or masters. However if we consider the relationship and connection with our horse it will enhance the performance and training.

However you live with your horse, don’t miss the chance to create more beauty, grace and harmony together.

Don’t miss one single bit.

in-the-moment-with-noons

My horses have taught me many things, we are forever evolving, when we truly enter into their world we are grateful for every moment in life, every breath, the special times as well as the tough ones, they all come for a reason. The more time I spend in their company the more present to the present moment I become. Recently my horses were host to an introduction to the waterhole rituals day here at my home. These days are fascinating as they are never going to be the same twice, I remain grateful for every moment, for every person who comes and for everything my horses offer. The moments we share will never happen again, they are unique! just like our horses and just like the people I am lucky enough to meet.

Even when the rain got heavy and we couldn’t sit in our chairs, we all lined up along the fence with our backs to the rain and after doing her best Maya let us know it was time for some hot soup and lunch, she carefully lined up, backed up,  and put herself in line with us, she had the whole arena but she chose to come and stand in line with us.

I really appreciate the uniqueness of these moments, when we see this we have to be more in the moment, why wouldn’t we be, we might miss something spectacular. My journey with the waterhole rituals and all that meeting Carolyn Resnick has bought to my life is spectacular and I don’t want to miss a thing.

Sticky Plasters.

 

Oh how my perspectives have changed.  What bought about the shift in me? Growing older maybe, also meeting Noo noo I loved her spirit but there was a point where I would have happily crushed it in exchange for obedience. Thankfully she was sent to help me grow, not to be crushed. I share this dreadful  thing I felt because I see so many riders who just want control they don’t care how the horse feels and they want a quick fix and performance. I also read a quote that helped me know change was needed ” If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”

My desire for control was caused by fear, I didn’t know the skills I needed for this particular horse, other horses might have kept their heads down and allowed me control. I wasn’t cruel or harsh but I didn’t show leadership either. I needed to develop my character,  I had to learn  how to listen to her, see how she felt, she certainly didn’t see me as a leader, or trust me.

IMG_2441

Our horses are communicating with us all the time, the more we tune in to this, the more we can hear and notice.  Developing relationship brings about harmony and that can only come with two way dialog. Its the same when riding as well as in the liberty work we do.

It seems often there is a lot of conflict between horse and rider the human rushing and missing the basics, resorting to tight flash nose bands when the horse opens his mouth instead of finding out WHY? he opens his mouth. Us humans love our sticky plasters, using them to cover over problems instead of addressing the problem. They come in the form of dominance based training, gadgets that we spend huge sums of money on and instructors who get on our horse and ride him like a dressage star without imparting any knowledge to us about how they did it, these are but a few! they are our sticky plasters to give us a quick fix with minimum discomfort for us. Excuses are another sticky plaster,  ” my horse is difficult” “He/she is being naughty” ” Iam too old/ill/poor/ short of time/money” The list goes on….The trouble is they don’t work!!! Sometimes the route that seems alien to us, the one that goes against the ‘norm’ the one you worry onlookers might laugh at, that might take too long, THAT CAUSES YOU DISCOMFORT BECAUSE IT REQUIRES CHANGE is much faster than a sticky plaster. It is also more fun and brings about a result far more beautiful.Throw your plasters away and listen to what your horse has to tell you, then look for the solution. Its usually within us. There are many solutions out there and your intuition can guide you to the one for you.

12674713_1141230815911000_105646429_o

For me throwing away those plasters gave me a wonderful sense of freedom to follow my own intuition which lead me to Carolyn Resnick who showed me  a magical relationship with my horses.

I am always learning and its knowledge and continuing to be a student that also means you don’t need your sticky plasters.