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Groundwork for horses. Less is More

⭐️Less is more⭐️

Sometimes, actually in most cases less is more.

Today I had one of those moments with a horse doing inhand work.

It was 0 degrees, the ground was too hard to trot on and the roads were slippery. Despite the cold, the sun was out which meant that the ground in the arena was safe for me to do walking inhand work.

My intention was to work on softening his back, when ridden, he tends to brace instead of rounding and engaging his core. In the arena I set up two walking pole exercises.

My expectation and intention had to quickly change as the reality of the session was a tense horse that wanted to be with his field friends. He was distracted, rushing and taking shorter breaths, because of this, I changed my game plan and worked on what felt right, which was to ask less.

I started by asking him to halt in the middle of the arena and focused on ONE thing, RELAXATION. Because I know him well, he is a sensitive chap that needs very little pressure. I focused on slowing my breath down and consciously started inhaling for 3 and exhaling for 4, which I kept repeating. At the same time, I placed both my hands very lightly infront of his forelock (between his ears) and waited.

It probably took around 20 seconds, until he completely lowered his head, slowed down his blinking and I noticed that he took one big exhale before he started licking and chewing. Intuitively I removed my hands and took a step back.

What I felt from the start of the session to now was relaxation and a shift in both of us. For the next 20 minutes we stayed in walk and I did a combination of activation exercises, walking over fan poles and the playing with patterns over a square. I noticed that initially every time I asked a question like “walk forward, or rein back”, he would lift his head slightly and brace through his neck.

This made me step back and ask why?

I also realised that the tension through his head and neck might be causing the resistance through his back (which is what was felt under saddle).

I decided to focus on asking him to lower his head and neck (in a neutral position) before every question. If he went to resist, I would wait, slow my breathing and ask him to lower his head again. This process took around 5mins and then suddenly all the movements became easy and fluent with no resistance.

Doing less and focusing on one thing actually meant we achieved more. Most importantly for me, was that we both left the arena feeling relaxed, happy and more connected.

This is the beauty of inhand work. It allows you to see your horse from a different perspective, develops your relationship and you can see your horse transform in front of your eyes.

If you have any questions, please email me.

With love

Nika x

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