Horsemanship Articles

EljayThere are Many Beginnings in the cycles to develop horsemanship skills

by Kathy Mann © Copyright 2012

Horsemen/women are observers discovering at every stage the things that you didn't know that you didn't know. The cycle begins every time you realize there is more, every time you find a new question that needs an answer. In seeking answers you progress to a new level where the information you learn becomes a goal to practice and develop new skills. As you concentrate on these goals they become habits and underlying reflexes and soon you are refining your skill until you discover the next question -- and begin the process again.

Within this process is a relationship. The relationship with your horse evolves, as does any relationship between two living beings. The horse, curious, seeks to understand you and is always asking questions. The horse wants to know who you are, and where he fits into the relationship. He wants to be comfortable with you and to trust you to be fair and honest when you communicate. Dishonest communication is when you keep changing the answers. Honest communication is when you take a clear stand on what you say. In horsemanship, communication is how you consistently use pressure to clearly answer his questions.

The horse is always asking the question 'what do I do with pressure?' You answer this question when you release him from it. Consistency is about giving the horse the same answer, every time he asks the question, 'what do I do with the pressure?' His question is usually very brief before he moves on to look for a different answer and so in your own quest to answer his question you must ask yourself about feel and timing.

Feel is sensitivity to your horse's question and timing is how you answer him. For example: if you have asked your horse to give to the bit, and he gives (though it be a subtle give) your sensitivity to his effort allows you to respond by releasing the pressure in time to acknowledge his give before he moves on to look for a different answer. The release answers his question and through consistency he will gain confidence and seek that release.

If, on the other hand, you do not recognize his attempt to find release from the pressure, and in fact if you hold him beyond his moment of question, he will seek a different answer and you will have lost the moment to say "yes" to his correct response. If the horse can't find an answer he will be frustrated and confused.

Sensitivity develops when you accept it as a goal, and allow yourself to feel for it. It is the question, 'when and where is the feel' that is a catalyst to refining your horsemanship skills. It is the question itself that offers you a cycle of new questions and discoveries and leads to a deeper relationship with your horse.

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Carollearning styles

by Kathy Mann

A learning style is the underlying and consistent way in which a person perceives, understands, organizes and recalls information. If the teacher's methods match a preferred style, the student will learn better and faster.

This has a positive effect on the student's self esteem and helps to improve the student/teacher relationship.

Visual: Usually looks intently at the teacher's face ... recall information by remembering how it was set out on a page, uses lists to organize their thoughts, often recognizes words by sight, and likes to look at displays and books.

Auditory: Likes the teacher to provide verbal instructions ... likes discussions and solves problems by talking about them. Uses rhythm and sound as memory aids.

Kinesthetic: Learns best when they are active and involved ... find it difficult to sit still for long periods and use movement as memory aids. Tactile: Like hands on activities ... use writing and drawing as memory aids.

These are just a few examples and we will look at more styles in upcoming issues of the Pony Pointers eNewsletter

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Chexleadership: Rephrase the main points in your lesson

by Kathy Mann © Copyright 2011

Rephrasing (saying the same thing in different ways) will maximize the chances that every student will eventually understand. The repetition helps students to remember the main ideas, and offers a chance for the different learning styles get comfortable with what you present to them. For example: your goal for a lesson may be to explain a lead departure. Different types of rephrasing could include (but are not limited to): A verbal explanation of how the horse balances and strikes off into a lead - A demonstration of a horse departing in a lead. A tactile exercise asking students to stand beside their horses and move their legs and hands as if to cue for a lead departure. Asking 'what if?' questions to help the analyzers in the class think through the process. Time to practice and get feedback. Offering a worksheet with visual content about the lead departure process.

This type of rephrasing keeps the class focused on the main points of the lesson, the repetition helps students to remember, and the variety in the presentation engages the different learning styles.

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FoxyBalance and the Conservation of Energy

by Kathy Mann © Copyright 2012

Without balance, the rider requires force to hold their posture as segments of their body fight against each other and the ever present forces of gravity. This wasted energy and motion creates disharmony with the horse. The horse who also struggles to support poor balance is inefficient and inhibited from his full athletic potential.

In balance, two opposing forces or factors are of equal strength or importance so that they effectively cancel each other out. An item in perfect balance requires almost no energy or force to maintain its position or stability.

Think of a person standing on a balance beam. They start to tip, and some segment of their body on the other side will quickly shift to compensate in an effort to equalize the weight on both sides of the balance (center) line. It can be quite a dance and if things aren't evened on both sides, they will fall. If that same person stands on the ground and starts to tip, they will quickly catch themselves by stepping over to create a base of support to offset the forces of gravity.

When we ride, the horse is our base of support. He must compenstate and deal with our weight within his actions and being the big strong animal that he is, he is usually able to do this without much help or notice from us. However, enter into a flow of movement that requires the un-balanced horse to perform a balanced action, such as a flying lead change, and you get a nifty little cross-fire instead because the horse really can't defy the laws of physics, no matter how many times he gets a spur in his side.

Balance is a harmony in which the various parts form a whole and nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest. In this state of balance there is a conservation of energy and the good news is that balance is a straightforward law of physics with a few simple rules. Rule number one, don't fight gravity. Another good thing about balance is that by nature the body is constantly seeking to work with it to minimize unnecessary movements and conserve energy. It becomes only a matter, then, of recognizing where we fight gravity and then to focus on how we may re-harmonize our posture with it.

Here are a few definitions to define balance. The line of gravity is where the center of mass of a system is at rest. A partnership of sides is when all the mass on both sides of the line of gravity are equal. The base of support is where the movement is stabilized. If the line of gravity falls outside of the base of support, the forces of gravity overtake the object and it falls. Counterbalancing is when the mass on both sides of the line of gravity shift to compensate for inequalities between the sides. Balance works with the forces of gravity to help the body conserve its energy, minimize stress to its components, and maximize a unified flow of movement.

The complete laws of physics go beyond the scope of this article, however, I hope this introduction to balance will help you get started toward balance and the conservation of energy.

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Sable and KathyTips for Reviewing Your Ride.

by Kathy Mann © Copyright 2012

To make the most of your riding time, take advantage of what you've learned from the experience. Here are a few tips to help you measure your ride's success, and work toward continuous improvements.

How to analyze your ride: Shortly after the ride, make a list of ideas and observations while they are still fresh in your mind. Be open and objective to what actually happened, verses what you had hoped or wished would happen. Look at both the positives and negatives, and what led up to them. Determine where your expectations didn't match up with the outcomes. Identify areas for development and commit to further training and coaching that will maximize your positives.

By analyzing your ride you'll identify where things went right as well as where they didn't. If you build on this analysis, the details will give perspective to your next ride and guide you toward your future skills.

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"We don't teach the horse to make lead changes;
he knows how, he does them all the time."

from the horse's point of view

by Kathy (Bennett) Mann
published Western Horseman Magazine; May 1997; pg 189

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"It is your responsibility to establish communication
on the horse's level and to understand his needs.
You must be fair in your expectations..."

does your horse have an attitude?

by Kathy (Bennett) Mann
published Western Horseman Magazine; November
1999; pg 142
Western Horseman

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