In early August the Equilearn Institute will be hosting a myofascial release technique workshop for clinical certification on our farm. The event will take on August 3rd through the 7th, then take a short break, and resume the 9th through the 11th.
They will hold classroom sessions for participants in the Carriage House part of the week, then hands on sessions with horses in the barn.
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.
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.
The horse unexpectedly goes from zero (seeming perfectly calm) to 100 (bolting, rearing, lashing out).
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.
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.
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)
wehorse.com has asked to partner with us to promote Working Equitation in the United States.
They are an online training website focused on Working Equitation, with great content from expert trainers like Uta Gräf and Pedro Torres. They also have videos on dressage, show jumping, eventing, ground work, rider’s position, and other topics for all-around horsemanship.
Dropping in with an update regarding our farms position on operating within new security measures being taken with the Covid 19 situation. Being considered essential business due to the nature of our agricultural element, we will remain operational. We have plenty of staff living on farm to keep operations well under control. We have been in touch with all our suppliers and have confirmed they are also deemed essential ag businesses and will remain in operation, so no immediate fear for vital supplies or services that impact our operations.
As of March 30, the state of MD issued an updated stay at home order on all non essential activities in the state of MD. In attempt to stay current with the situation, we plan to limit all non essential activates on the farm for the duration of the states executive order. While our care of your horses is still listed technically and deemed an essential activity, we should limit travel to and from and activities within the farm as much as we can, for essential needs only. This is a very challenging time, and we know how important it may be for you to see your horse for certain things. We also must also ask everyone to act within current state orders and necessary protocols, for everyones sake.
We expect all boarders to adhere to the following protocol outlined in the recent state executive orders, if you must come out for essential activity necessary for your horses well being. If you have any questions about visiting or have a need you wish us to help you with we are as always, more than willing to! Please email or call me and we will get it sorted out and taken care of.
We are now officially asking everyone to restrict riding to essential exercise only and within the property only, and no group rides of more than 2 horse and riders.
If you or anyone you have been in direct contact with have been ill in the past 6 days please do not come to the barn for another 14 days. The virus may not come with the same symptoms to all and we are all potential carriers even without common symptoms.
Use approved sanitizer, or wash your hands in the feedroom upon arrival at the barn. We will keep soap stocked at the sink. Please wear your riding gloves (to help keep from touching your face) for the entirety of your visit. Take them off just before leaving, then wash your hands in the feedroom immediately before leaving or use sanitizer. Do not touch anything on your way out to your vehicle. Feedroom mandoors will remain open so no need to touch them.
Do not touch anyone else’s horses, tack or equipment. Including items in the feedroom. If you need something please reach out and let me know!
Limit to 4 people in the main or lower barns at any given time. Plenty of outdoor spaces to groom and tack. Please maintain a 6 foot physical distance from others while on the property.
If you wish to avoid the common areas you are welcome to keep equipment in your vehicle and use the outside tie spaces for grooming and tacking. There are several in the upper and lower barn available, just ask if you are not sure where to be!
Essential doors to remain open to allow airflow and no need for physical contact with them.
Disinfectant sprays bottles will be stationed near the washrack and in feedroom to spray anything communal you may need to touch, such as crossties, aisle cleaning equipment near shavings room, and the feedroom wash basin. Barn staff will spray these areas regularly, but you may also use them to sanitize anything you wish. It is safe for skin and fabric, but it may slightly discolor fabrics.
Please be extra vigilant about your personal safety and of others around you regarding your activities with your horse. While we always strive to stay safe, in this time of crisis be particularly mindful about the additional risk involved in needing to visit an ER or doctors office, and the additional strain that would put on facilities and resources right now struggling to handle the virus.
These are the measures we rely on as of this moment to act as safely as possible. and in accordance with current law. Of course, the situation is ever evolving, and as we learn more about the virus we may update our protocols to remain fluid with requirements and new methods of controlling it.
We cannot thank you all enough for the care, diligence, and understanding you have demonstrated so far, and for committing to help us continue to operate within required, necessary protocol. Our farm has an amazing community within, and we will get through this in due time.
Thinking of you all in this time of stress. Be safe, be kind, be careful!
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
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!
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.
“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.
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