Enjoy your horse in balance

 

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Liberty clinic adds amazing layer of learning for Fliss and Ari.

Fliss and her horse Ari trained with Student of the Horse last week, and you can see how they got on below:

“Ari and I had an awesome time training with Arran Parker at ‘Student of the Horse’ last week, returning home Friday night with the biggest smile on my face. We worked on counter canter to flying lead changes on the straight and his passage at liberty. It was amazing to feel how ready Ari’s body is now due to our academic training over the last couple of years with Arran. Having more balance and bend in his hind legs Ari is able to find more power and jump in his movement without losing relaxation and suppleness. We later applied our academic work to liberty, focusing on Ari’s collected and connected trot and passage.

“I love liberty and I love how it shows you the truth in your connection and in your horse’s physical ability. I also see how important it is to set your horse up physically so he can feel even freer in his body when you play at liberty. I was very honoured to be taught by Arran’s high level horse Oakley, who let me experience and feel a true passage and piaffe. With a better understanding of what I was looking for Ari started to offer a more authentic passage, more aligned with his true balance and mine! Amazing layer of learning, can’t wait to see where this takes us. Thank you Arran.”

To see the fantastic results of our liberty clinics for yourself, book your place now through our website.

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Have more fun with your horse and make the summer of 2016 the best summer yet

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Thanks to the ever popular and increasing demand for our Foundation Clinics, we are now offering additional clinics which will be taking place on 1st, 2nd and 3rd July 2016. Make the most of this fantastic opportunity for both you and your horse and book your place now.

Helen and her horse Fi attended our clinic last year and you can see how they got on below:

“Fi & I met Arran about 18 months ago. At that stage I’d owned her for about a year. I’d already taken her through a restarting process, but she was still gawky with muscles in all the wrong places, tense under saddle and she found the process of schooling very worrying. I remember clearly that at that time, I couldn’t ask for simple changes of flexion at walk without her rushing and overreacting to the aids. She had no bend at all in her body and would get very cross if I asked for some!

“I’m so glad that Arran was able to take us on; his programme works well for both of us. He has taught me how to train Fi to become more supple and gymnastic in her body. At the time he told me that as she improves physically, she’d also improve mentally. I must admit that back then, I wasn’t sure it would be as simple as that… but I was wrong!

“As our awareness has improved, so too has our ability to work together. We are now able to be aware of each other’s ideas without rushing or worrying. It’s this increased mutual trust that has delivered the most profound change in my relationship with her. The tense, defensive horse that struggled with learning is now a confident partner who I’m able to take out and about and enjoy. If she gets worried, I now have options to help regain her confidence.

“In the last six months we’ve been to the sea (Student of the Horse Beach Experience), Welsh castles (Genuine Horse Development Liberty Clinic), show jumping, taken part in ground work, in-hand training clinics and group rides – she has been a total star throughout. In all honesty, before I started training with Arran I simply couldn’t imagine that we would have been able to do those things, let alone enjoy them too!

“Don’t get me wrong there are still masses for Fi and I to learn and master, but we are so much further ahead than I dared dream of before I became a student of the horse.”

Thank you so much Helen Stowell and Fi for your inspiring story, it has been a great pleasure to watch you both learn to grow in awareness together and become such a wonderful team. I have learnt so much from watching you learn together. I can’t wait to support you in your continual progress and welcome the six new students of the horse who will be starting their journeys of discovery and “Genuine” awareness of the horse, at this year’s Foundation Clinic.

Foundations: Securing the foundations for the future with the Genuine Horse Development Company

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What if we could just be ourselves, secure in our foundations for our horses, right from the beginning?

Whether we are starting out with our first horse or are taking a fresh start with a horse we’ve had for some time, we need to feel confident enough in our foundations of understanding horses in order to really be the mental, emotional, as well as academic protector for our horses when we take them out of their herd.

One thing you can always be sure of when keeping horses in a comfortable environment, is that they always bring their A game when it comes to being themselves. They see, they hear, they feel, they become all in an instant. And then it’s a new moment- beautiful, simple and authentic.

However, this powerful natural occurrence can be intimidating and this fear causes us to entertain the sometimes misplaced opinion of other people, where we try to mimic or copy the success of other horses, credit all success to a curtain management system or a training program. But the truth is that the success with your horse already belongs to you.

With a foundational understanding of anatomy, biomechanics and learning theory, you and your horse will become better together than you could have ever become apart.

Here at Dudmaston Stud, the home of Student of the Horse, we pride ourselves on being The Genuine Horse Development Company and suggest that in order for you to develop as a genuine coach and mentor for your horse for the rest of his/her life, you need to first become the student.

We are so grateful for all of your emails and to many of you who have traveled long distances to be here over the last 15 years. We would therefore like to open our doors once more to another six enthusiastic people and horses to join us on our Foundation Clinic (an introduction to education).

Each clinic participant will often attend for different reasons. Maybe you want us to coach you and your horse through the start of his/her ridden education. Or perhaps you yourself are looking for a career with horses, potentially here with us.

You could be looking to expand your knowledge of groundwork, in-hand work or liberty or gain confidence in your ridden skills.

Or you might require a supportive environment to use as a base for you and your horse’s ongoing development. Each foundation clinic participant, where necessary, will be offered the chance to stay on at livery here and complete their horse’s education.

Clinic participants will also receive an invitation to join our regular private coaching students on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

We’ll also invite you to watch Mark developing his horses on a Wednesday afternoon and Arran on a Thursday.

To keep your work moving forward, we will provide you with a Genuine Horse Development notepad for you to record your own training notes.

Dudmaston Stud provides an amazing environment for you to unleash your inner horse developer this 2016, and we can’t wait to open our doors once more and support you in getting started as your horse’s trainer.

Here’s what Dane Boltern had to say after attending last years’ introduction clinic:

“By participating in the clinic it laid the first vital building blocks of mine and my horse’s development together. I learned how imperative it is for the horse to have a healthy mental approach, as this is connected to how successful the horse can become physically. For him to achieve this, it was important that as his trainer I took the time to learn this alongside him.

“Two years on and he has advanced both mentally and physically – he will happily offer Piaffe! In two years he has progressed from being a truculent, threatening youngster to being a real trier who is happy to work and we have achieved this by training together.

“Those invaluable nuggets of education I learned in my first Foundation Clinic continue to be a solid part of my on-going training with my lovely horse.”

Other testimonials can be found on our success stories page on our website.

This clinic is now full for rider spaces, but standby rider and spectator spaces are still available.

New clinic dates will be released on Friday 1 April 2016, so be sure to check back then as this clinic will fill up fast.

Have fun, be yourself and enjoy your horses.

There’s no present like the time.

Oakley in the Picadero

Oakley in the Picadero

A new beginning

Another day in the horse herd for me, sharing some ideas with the horses and looking forward to the light bulb moments, that meeting of minds.

Last year I achieved a life long goal to build a Picadero (square pen) outside our cabin. I had enjoyed the intimacy of working with horses in a square pen in Spain and always wanted to create a space near to my home, where humans and horses could be at home together.

There are many benefits to the Picadero compared to the round pen. I will always love that round pen; my Uncle Brett built it for me, all by hand one railway sleeper at a time. Like many of the horses that have been in that round pen he confronted a lot of demons there one sleeper at a time. He was an inspiration and we all miss him greatly.

The round pen provides a smaller area than the main arena but can cause a narrow focus, with a horse looking for release helplessly following the wall. Now in an ideal world we would all read all of our relationships perfectly and not apply too much pressure in the first place, however I think we can all hold our hands up and say that our observation of others perception of our intentions is not always on point.

However in the spirit of never ending self improvement I think we need to give ourselves and our horses a break, to allow for on going learning and working together. The square pen with its corners highlights for the trainer when the horse may be looking for a release due to a build up of pressure from a trainer, a movement, another horse or just an overall lack of understanding of their environment; all valuable feedback to deepen and strengthen any kind of relationship – how to recognise when someone is in their ‘stretch zone’.

The main arena is also a great space; you have a whole 60metres and 25metres of mirrors to experiment with your horses feeling and understanding of his mechanics in search of your desired balance. But sometimes if you are working at liberty, as your horse moves down the long side because of how their eyes perceive the space, it can feel narrow for them and they can think we are applying pressure when we are not; just because the space is causing them to come closer and closer to us at a point when maybe they are not ready to.

It’s like they are moving down a tunnel towards the human predator, which in some cases may cause increased anxiety. It’s a good idea when learning to work with a loose horse to try (when possible) to work in a space that’s not more than two thirds longer than it is wide.

And so for me the Picadero provides a balance. Sometimes in a round pen the horse anticipates the constant turning, causing an excessive loading of the inside front leg and so to collect your horse at liberty can be a challenge. In the Picadero having a straight side enables you to straighten your horse as you can in the main arena, but with the closeness of a round pen.

In my office (the herd) I feel like the luckiest person in the world, I work with a herd of horses that innately know when its time to give themselves a break and have a fresh start; something as humans we can learn a lot from! They know when it’s time to take the pressure off – wherever they are.

As we all know horses have a right to flight, they need to move their feet to enable themselves to release adrenaline by nature. So they may run as hard as they can, buck, rear or lash out. Then over varying lengths of time, dependent on that individuals ability to come down off adrenaline (often effected by who they are surrounded by – an excitable herd member or dare I say an excitable human), become completely calm, content, relaxed in a new moment, living in the now.

They start taking deep breaths, yawning, chewing, becoming curious and engaged with their environment, grooming each other, food, play, with an amazing ability to disconnect with what went before; they have moved on.

I know we can learn a lot from this, not going over and over the past and seeking other humans in the same boat with similar views to us (who we know will share our opinion) allowing ourselves to keep re hashing potential disappointing or negative events that may have happened days, weeks, months or even years ago. Or maybe surrounding ourselves with a heightened positive vision for the future and spending every waking hour living there, in our head.

Thanks to the horses I think we can all take a leaf out of their book and know it’s “now time”, time to give ourselves a break and a chance to really enjoy.

I am quietly passionate about what we can learn from horses about ourselves and how this understanding of self enables us to genuinely educate them to a level of understanding of the human world were we can calmly and comfortable enjoy each others ideas.

This passion and understanding has led me to some really exciting new ideas for 2016 which I’m keen to tell you all about soon. It’s so hard not to share, but we’re still finalising details & getting everything perfect. Our goal is to help support even more owners to start their horses’ education, whilst dedicating plenty of time to supporting our existing ‘Human Herd’ build on the incredible success they’ve achieved this year.

We are continually inspired by your support, progress, focus and creativity and enjoyment of horses. We don’t even have to be with them to benefit from having them in our lives. So if your day isn’t quite going to plan remember the horses, give yourself a break, have a fresh start. The beauty of living in the moment is there is always another one.

Another new beginning.

Confidence is like pizza dough; you can’t stretch it all at once!

As a school kid, many of the subjects I was struggling with came down to being insecure in my base; a lack of basic understanding of how my brain would ever be able to just ‘put one foot in front of the other!’ How could I ever ‘happy hack’, so to speak with this dyslexia life, seemed like one insurmountable challenge after another.

My base confidence was often low, because I didn’t understand why my brain didn’t work in the same way as 99% of the small pool of people I was surrounded by on a daily basis, bar one or two other ‘doughy eyed rabbits in the headlights’ I had met in the playground (as adults we like to call ourselves creative’s!)

Then starts the cycle, we (or our horse) have the expectation that it will be scary because our brain says “I cant, I won’t be able to, I’m rubbish at this”.  Sure enough your fear paralyzes you from accessing your knowledge. So it looks like you were right, it is scary because you ‘cant, you’re not able to, no matter how hard you tried, you are rubbish at this’; and so the self fulfilling prophesy goes on.

How to get out? We are forever being told to get out of our comfort zones, just do it, and step outside the box. But to what gain if we are already insecure and stretched to the max?  It’s so important to put yourself in a safe supportive environment with good knowledge and people/horses, which can first and foremost coach you on how to keep your confidence in tact.

Without the fear you will be amazed at how many talents you already have, and how easily you can pick up new techniques.

As I travel around the country coaching I’m lucky to get to observe the habits of many people. Often if we are fearful about our ability, within our chosen path (ie. leisure time, career, relationship etc) it can cause us to make rash decisions, based on the opinion or information of others. In the horse world this many times leads to nervous or unprepared horses being jumped on, taken riding on the roads and often to compete at a show; all because someone’s friend told them they should.

If you are trying to expand your life and step out of your comfort zone, don’t just impulsively leap and scare yourself or your horse, as this can lead to even greater fear. For many horses (and people) they may never want to leave their herd or comfort zone again!

Make sure you have a good systematic approach to stretching yourself and your horse. Stay present with your horse, plan first at home but be prepared to stay in the moment with your horse. There is no shame in taking your time, in fact by honouring the process, staying in the moment with your horse and recognising the maybe subtle, yet important ‘mini milestones’ of development you will build a more stable and lasting confidence and relationship together.

Observe advice but don’t feel you have to take it. Avoid ‘should, could, would, black & white’ thinking. Don’t beat yourself up, take a step back, give yourself a break, step away from the horse and have a rethink.

‘Should, could, would’ing’ yourself may cause you to fall out of the moment and if you and your horse are about to step out of your comfort zone you need to both be there, in the present –  not thinking what you could do next (in the future) or what you should have done before (in the past.)

Take time later, by yourself over a coffee to deliberate. But for now, you and your horse need you calmly secured in this moment, in the now.

On our foundation clinics we are building the base of the relationship with our horse. For many horses, they already feel insecure about leaving their horse herd with a human mind that maybe unavailable to connect with, because their human is thinking about what they are learning, rather than necessarily what their body language is saying. Learning the French language and counselling someone in French are two separate things, best not done at the same time!

Learning with confidence as an individual or within a team must grow like a pizza base, if you over stretch in one go your pizza will have holes in it. Every human/horse/pizza dough will be different in each moment, due to ones experience and perception of our environment.

“ Our observation rests on our perception and our perception rests on our personal truth”

I went to Italy recently and watched the pizza makers spinning huge discs of dough over their heads. The fascinating part is how we determine when we can stretch ourselves\horse\dough without pushing ourselves over the edge.

We can either be open minded, in the moment and NURTURE an expectation of growth in understanding and confidence. Or we can live in our future goals or past experiences and push ourselves to breaking point without even knowing it.

We need to establish a daily plan to work with our personal dough, our base, our foundation. The bigger the base the more fun toppings we can fit on it. For me the mozzarella, pesto and olives of life are bought from focused and dedicated connectedness; with our families, our horses and ourselves. This connectedness brings travel, art, personal richness, contentment; atonement (all the good stuff) but it can only exist with a good layer of confident understanding, stretchable dough; the base, the foundation.

This stretchable, spongy, elastic, soft, open, big hearted creative, adjustable, confident horse does exist and can be grown I promise.

Over the last 15 years I have met a lot of people and horses. By speaking to trainers on the phone I get a good idea of what their horses will be (feel like) based on them; personality, tone, environment. On a few occasions when working with horses before meeting their humans, I can also feel how their humans feel inside when they are working with them and the impact this has on the horse. In the same way foodies learn about other foodies through food, artists learn about artists through art and so on, in many ways we are not so different from our horses we just want to connect.

It’s always difficult to teach ‘feel’ in any discipline but I do know that fear is one of its biggest blockers. So stay in this moment, take a deep breath and understand your fear and that of your horses, so you build a solid base together from knowledge and understanding.

Then cover with whatever toppings you like.

Being in the moment with my Horses

Being in the moment with my Horses

Dates for your diary…

Fair’s fair and due to our newly introduced countdown system, here are the cut off dates for booking your space on our clinics, and available spaces remaining:

Clinics:

Foundation Clinic 17/18/19 July SOLD OUT What has become our ‘Youngsters Clinic’ – Most of the participants of this special clinic have young horses they are developing. This clinic offers them the opportunity to learn and refresh their communication skills on their older horses before applying those methods, when coaching their youngsters.
You also get to share the journey with other people whose horses are at the same developmental stage.

Last chance to book – 19th June

Foundation to Rebalance 14/15/16 August – This clinic still has a few spaces remaining but it is filling up fast. Our F-R clinics focus on a specific training area (for example our very popular ‘canter clinic’) – This clinic is still open to suggestion, so if you have a specific training area you would like to focus on, you still have the opportunity to ‘tailor make’ your clinic.

Last chance to book – 16th July

Foundation Clinic 25/26/27 September – Our final Foundation clinic of 2015 will be one you don’t want to miss. a few spaces remaining but many horses who are in training with us over the summer months will be handed back to their humans during a clinic; further cementing their learning and relationship. Also perfect for those who are in regular private coaching with us but haven’t yet attended a clinic; we can fit a lot more into 3 days than a 1 hour session, you could really see the difference in your understanding.

Last chance to book – 27th Aug

Foundation to Rebalance 16/17/18 Oct – This clinic still has a few spaces remaining but it is filling up fast. Our F-R clinics focus on a specific training area (for example our very popular ‘canter clinic’) – This clinic is still open to suggestion, so if you have a specific training area you would like to focus on you still have the opportunity to ‘tailor make’ your clinic.

Last chance to book – 18th Sept

Liberty Clinic – At Stanage Park 19/20 Sept – SOLD OUT – this very popular clinic is now full – if you would like to be added to the cancellation list please contact Jess (details below) and you can still book a spectator spot via the website

Spectator spaces for all our clinics are £40 per day and will be available at any time up to the day of the clinic.

Beach Trip 9/10/11 Sept – only 3 spaces currently remaining for our very popular beach trip. This is the last one for this year and is always a fantastic opportunity to bond with your horse, experiencing something really special as a herd together. Due to the transport & accommodation logistics, confirmed bookings by deposit are required a little earlier to give us chance to organise everything.

Last chance to book – 29th July

Experience Weekends & Forest Rides – 1/2 Aug & 29/30 Aug & 31 Oct/1st Nov

Our forest rides are (understandably) very popular. However the training and coaching elements of Saturday’s experience day should not be underestimated. These two days really do work as a package, setting you and your horse up for the best chance of success on Sunday’s forest ride.

It can be a big scary world out there for your horse, away from their herd, the skills developed during our experience day can help you to ‘be your horses herd’ anywhere; culminating in a calm, enjoyable and most importantly safe happy hack.

Last chance to book – 1st July/29th July/30th Sept

If you have any questions or want to speak to someone about any of our clinics or events please email our marketing & communications bod jessica@studentofthehorse.co.uk

All deposits can be paid securely via PayPal on our website – www.studentofthehorse.co.uk

We are all looking forward to seeing you soon!

Student of the Horse

Still doing a ‘bit of natural’? Are we not all at Liberty?

People are always keen to tell me that they still ‘do a bit of natural’. What does that even mean? Is ‘natural’ something to be worked on, to be practiced like a half pass? Is the relationship you have with your horse anything but natural? Is achievement or domination the goal rather than development and communication? Is ‘winning’ measured by what you can ‘make them do’ rather than what you can share together?

I am regularly approached by people who fall on ‘natural’ as a last ditch attempt to rebuild their relationship with their horse. Their horse does not want to know them, let alone work with them. As humans we find this situation emotionally challenging. How dare they!? Don’t they know how much time and money we have invested in this animal? The sacrifices we have made, the screensaver images we have on our computers? The 1000 ‘likes’ of their picture on Facebook is of little comfort, when your horse won’t even let you ‘catch’ them in the field or unceremoniously dumps you to the ground during a riding lesson.

Your horse doesn’t care about Facebook. Your horse doesn’t understand that you are ‘working on natural’. The good news is, that your horse is (and has always been) ready to start ‘being natural’ with you. If you are really connecting with another living thing it is symbiotic, visceral, alive and in the moment. You don’t have to ‘try’ you have to ‘be’.

You don’t have to wait until your horse can’t stand to be near you (or offers other unwanted behaviours) you can ‘be, with them’ any time you like. You don’t have to be motivated by ‘fixing’ a problem to enjoy the simplicity of ‘natural’ relationship building. So many of our ‘problems’ come from fear or force (or a combination of the two) there is nothing ‘natural’ about ‘contrived natural’, it is, in itself another mutated form of control.

Being natural, well that is freedom.

As a horse owner I witness many people who swap horses and trainers on a regular basis and come up (eventually) against the same set of problems. It’s my job (and my passion) to inspire people to find a deeper connectedness with their horse; to achieve that requires a deeper understanding of yourself. This, I believe is the key to more fulfilling and genuine relationships with any living being in your life.

This brings to mind my thoughts on the ‘5th Component’ of training – Liberty.

Every time our horse can smell, hear or see us we are at liberty with them, whether we think we are or not. Does your horse understand you well enough to work with you (without being tied to you?)

Is the truth scary? Why?

My Mum must have run a lot of miles when we were kids because she refused to put those kid reins on us, as an expectant dad I feel exactly the same. I’m not judging anyone that struggles to ask WHY (and in a few months, I too may be roaming the field with kids in halters!) But I have walked in many, many horses shoes for many, many, many miles to find out ‘how and why’. So I know I will have to do the same with our kids, I can’t help it.

Freedom is the greatest gift we can give the horses and people in our lives; freedom to choose. With the confidence to make that choice, we gain the opportunity to forge real, organic and most importantly honest relationships. In fact, confidence is really the greatest gift, because it is that confidence which enables and allows freedom. We can (eventually) make anyone do anything by force or by control, but what is the true value in that? And what is the cost?

I’m not saying that there isn’t technique that can be learned or that it’s always easy. I’m not advocating a lack of boundaries or a complete disregard for safety. I’m saying that when we have the confidence to enough to hand over some control, when we give people and our horses the chance to choose to ‘come into our classroom or life’ or we to choose to listen instead of speak, to observe sometimes instead of coach, seemingly magical things can happen.

But it’s not magic; it is the result of nurturing that connectedness, that true understanding; all the time (not only when ‘doing a bit of Liberty’). Horses track us with their eyes and ears, they are body language observers, and so it’s a complete privilege to live in a herd where they can ‘hear’ my thoughts.

In a herd of humans do you ever get the feeling that our excess of words, limits our ability to truly hear? When we ‘hear’ (and I mean truly listen and understand) we have the opportunity to learn. To know something or someone as they truly are, not only as we perceive them in relation to or as an extension of us.

Advanced communication can begin any time, it’s not magic or horse whispering; it is the ability to honestly and genuinely be able to connect and be as one with another’s mind, just for that moment.

Just plain old communication, nothing new. However in our new would were everything is virtual and nothing is really visceral have we forgotten how to connect?  Does our ever increasing ability to connect with the internet, decrease our ability to connect with each other at Liberty.

For sure we practice pseudo connection, via the various social media and at work with colleges, but somehow this is different from that ‘at Liberty’ connection, where you are both completely at free will. You are not there to make money or gain that promotion you are just there because you want to be, as does the other mind (horse, human or other). How often do we have the thrill and privilege, of being two minds just being better together in that moment?

Liberty