2024 Equinology Equine and Canine bodywork education events at KeepStables in Maryland!

KeepStables proudly offers itself as home base for Equinology Institute, hosting 5-6 events each year for Equine and Canine bodywork courses for owners and professional development!

If you are an owner, competitor, weekend equine or canine warrior, or simply a person who loves their animals and wants to do more for them, we have courses that will suit you too. If you are already working in the animal healthcare field and are looking for continuing education, be this one course of interest, or a new qualification, you have come to the right place! You do not need to be one of our program graduates to attend these continuing education courses!

Check out what they have to offer in the link below!


Lusitano Stallion Zamigo being a very appreciative demo horse for a class.

Shut down horse?

Hi all, this is Amira, your friendly amateur horselady and webmaster.

I wanted to share some thoughts on the topic of “shut down”. When I first heard the words “shut down” regarding a horse, I thought it just meant they were depressed. Maybe sluggish. Like the opposite of forward.

Not quite…

Shutting down is when a horse can’t cope with something scary so it essentially closes its eyes, plugs its ears, and sings “lalalalala”.

OK, so now we can recognize it in humans, but what about horses?

When a horse “shuts down”, it freezes in place. The legs might feel like they lock up or stiffen up. The head and neck don’t move.

A shut down horse just looks like a calm horse that is bracing and not moving

The horse unexpectedly goes from zero (seeming perfectly calm) to 100 (bolting, rearing, lashing out).

Normal horses increase their reactions as the environment gets scarier. For example: looking around > snorting > balking > moving away >running away > panicking.
In a shut-down horse, if the environment is too scary to ignore, your horse goes from seemingly calm to panicking.

An example of this 0 to 100 behavior is riding your horse into a new and scary arena. The horse stops repeatedly, and you kick to make it move forward. After several stops, something moves in the periphery and your horse loses its mind, bolting away uncontrollably.

Shut down doesn’t fix itself. A big problem is the horse is not observing the environment while it is shut down. There is no learning. Desensitization isn’t happening. Something has to be done about the shut down before you can progress.

An example is spending five minutes sacking out a perfectly calm horse, then the horse seems to jolt awake (sometimes with a big spook or twitch) after you stop. The shut down horse was not home during that entire exercise. A clue is that the horse won’t show any signs of relaxation (licking, chewing, lowering the head, etc) throughout the five minutes. Afterward, the horse doesn’t show any benefits from sacking out.

Warwick Schiller videos on groundwork helped me understand what was going on. In a few of his videos he mentions the shut down phenomenon. He recommends doing extremely gentle desensitization while keeping the horse in motion (if they are moving, they can’t go into la-la-land).

Here are several Warwick Schiller videos that I found very helpful to understand the concept of shut down in horses.

This video gives principles for increasing mental resilience of horses
This video talks about detecting shutdown and working through it
Talking about managing anxiety in horses, recognizing shut down indicators

One warning: When a horse starts to come out of “shut down”, they begin reacting to things. So if you were counting on your horse stopping and standing when something happens, and now they are bolting instead, it can be pretty scary.

Remember that new reactions are a good sign. The horse is thinking now. They are able to start processing their environment and get braver.

Equestrian Movement – How to tell if your horse is shut down. https://www.equestrianmovement.com/blog/shut-down-horse

Rider position and upper level success

Everyone should read this article on The Horse Magazine.


Here are some really interesting quotes from the article:

“Where it tips over, that positive tension, is if you let the horse get strong in the bridle. Once you let the horse become heavy on the hand and strong in the bridle, it’s not positive any more, because then there is a block. If you can create what we try to create, without heavy hands, without hanging onto the rein, if you can do it with self-carriage, then it looks beautiful. ” – Carl Hester

“The best thing you can do for self-carriage is the give and re-take of the reins. It is amazing how you forget to do that when you ride on your own. That constant giving the hand, taking, giving, taking, making sure that the outline is stable, the mouth is soft. ” – Carl Hester

“I was told by ‘Rocky’* ‘when you go forward you bring your body forward and when you want to come back, you bring your body back’. And it is amazing how most of us do the opposite to that.” – Carl Hester, referencing Franz Rochowansky (1911 – 2001)

Keep Stables Logo Wear

Rolling out the Spring KeepStables wear!

We have several options now available for Spring wear items with The KeepStables Logos.Selecting items in a Triblend fabric for soft cotton feel, yet with stretch and keeps shape/size.

Items available include a loose fitting, light weight full zip hoodie, a V neck sweater with a very soft fabric for dressier occasions, a simple sweatshirt that sheds hair and hay well, V and scoop neck T shirts, and a nice basic Polo. We can get all of these items in Burgundy, Black, or cream. The barn colors! And drop the standard or Working Eq logo on them, whichever you like. If you would like an item shoot us an email with which item, color, size and Logo you would like and I can let you know prices.Can also provide saddle pads, if you would like. 

 Our new embroiderer will also put our logos on most anything we could want, so if you already have saddle pads or attire you would like the logo put on please email me for details on how! 

Mary Wanless – on dressage

Amira here, your friendly wanna-be dressage rider

I listened to an interview of Mary Wanless on the Dressage Radio Show (dated 7/5/2019) and it blew me away. She has written several books on the biomechanics of riding and is an acknowledged expert in the sport.



I’ve transcribed some of what she said:

“My sense is that we really want to get a hold of kids before they are twelve. I think that about the age of twelve the rot sets in when someone in pony club probably says ‘Right then, now let’s get the ponies on the bit.’ And that is the beginning of the end.

And I would really try and steer trainers and teachers and coaches away from really getting kids neurotic about where their horse’s head is, and really teaching them the baselines of how to organize their body. If we can teach a kid to sit well enough that the ponies natural response is to come up through its back and reach into the rein then the kid never gets paranoid about getting the horse’s head down, never starts fiddling and pulling, and never has to unlearn that later in life.

And I think unlearning that is the hardest thing for a mature rider.”

(In regard to riders being told to get their horse’s on the bit, and the effects)

“Well it gets riders thinking about their heads, thinking about their hands, the arm, the shoulder girdle, worried about the contact, and riding sometimes as though they barely existed from the shoulder girdle down. Whereas I really want to try and keep the rider’s attention on her pelvis, on her contact with the horse’s back, and what is happening in the horse’s back underneath her. How she stabilizes herself on the horse’s movement. And if we can teach a rider to be really thinking about how to shape a horse’s back, and get the back up under her, … to get the head down, we’ve changed everything for that rider.”

“And the shape of the horse’s back, and whether the back is hollow or whether the back is a firmer, higher, surface underneath you, really determines how the horse’s whole body works. … That push of the horse’s hind leg is translated in that chain of muscles over its croup, under the panels of the sidle, and up to each of its ears. So it is fine to show riders how to make that happen, how to feel if it is happening, how to know what to do if it isn’t happening, and how to change the horse’s body underneath them by how they use their own bodies. “

My own (Amira’s) thoughts:

Very very relevant to me.

Confessions of an amateur: I learned about the “jiggle” technique about a year and a half ago during a schooling show (not from my trainer), and while I’ve thoroughly explored it, it doesn’t seem to produce real roundness. At best, it reminds Sonnet (a well trained, athletic horse) that she is most comfortable with her head low. Most of the time, it is an artificial stimulus which reverts back to normal within a second. At worst, it focuses all of my attention on manipulating the reins, rather than riding in a balanced manner.

Listening to this interview makes me realize why Holly always discouraged me from obsessing about the horse’s head, and to keep the rein as stable as possible so that the bit is a safe place to go to.

Dressage through the levels from the Judge’s Perspective

Linked from the Horse Radio Network: Dressage Radio Show #507

This podcast goes into depth on what the judge’s are looking for in Introductory, Training, and First Level. There are lots of great insights here such as…

  • Stretchy Circle in Training 2 and 3: The judges want to see your horse demonstrate “seeking the rein” as you increase the length. Don’t throw the entire length of rein out at once, show a gradual seeking behavior. You should be doing half-halts and have light contact and communication during the stretch. The last quarter of the circle you should be returning to normal length (don’t do it after the circle).
  • Corners: Many riders forget that they should not do corners during a circle. Sometimes riders skip the corners before and after their circle too. If you are doing a circle at A, you will go into the corner before A, start your circle at A, continue circling, finish the circle at A, then go into the corner after A.
  • First Level: For leg yield in F1 and F2, the judges want to see a non-rushed, meandering leg yield. Use the full length available. The important aspects are to maintain the quality of your trot and to keep the horse straight (rather than the shoulder poking to the side). In F3 the leg yield is much more demanding.
  • Lengthenings: The judge wants to see your horse (slightly!) physically lengthen from nose to tail. This means let their head out a bit so that they can make a bigger stride. Change your diagonal either before or after the lengthening so that you don’t throw off your horse’s balance.

Lots more in the show, those were just teasers that stuck out to me.

Anyways, please enjoy this radio show (link below) -Amira

Common rider position fixes

This article by Practice Horseman Magazine is semi-relevant to dressage (it is oriented mostly toward jumpers).

It addresses ..

  • Gripping with your knees.
  • Hunching shoulders and collapsing your torso.
  • Too much hand in turns (causing loss of shoulder).
  • Bouncing during sitting trot.
  • Losing the stirrups.

Link to article:  10 Time-Tested Rider Position Fixes