Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Recognizing Defensive Horse Behaviors"

In the July newsletter ­we talked about "Revealing the Truth Within". I suggested how to tap into the potential of both the horse and rider in order to release their "imprisoned splendor". I believe that in order to "Reveal the Truth Within" we must first crack through any "defensive behaviors", open the mind to new information, listen to different points of view, and be willing to look for and try new ways of doing things.

Then in last months newsletter I identified "Defensive Behaviors" in the human that may hinder us from "Revealing the Truth Within". I suggested fear as one of the main causes of "defensive behaviors". Then I concluded that by recognizing our "defensive behaviors" and replacing them with positive progressive knowledge and self-control the relationship with our horses can develop into a partnership where dreams will be realized.

I then promised to continue the discussion this month by discussing "Defensive Behaviors of the Horse".

When a horse is providing us with some less than positive feedback it becomes very easy to stick a label on the horse. I believe horse's do have individual personalities, and we have to learn to work with their inborn characteristics. But more often than not what people label as a negative personality trait is really just the horse finding a way to escape the situation that is uncomfortable at best and intolerable at worst.

Some examples of "Defensive Behaviors" displayed by horses are:

Defensive Behaviors: Disrespectful, Pushy, Dominant, Mouthy

This is one of the most common labels given to horses. A horse will lack respect for the human who is not a good leader. A disrespectful horse is testing the mental fitness of the rider as a leader. Once a horse has granted enough trust to accept the human as a herd member the one big question every horse has is, "where does this human fit in the pecking order?" If we are not more emotionally, mentally and physically fit and balanced than our horse we will rank lower.

Remedy: Understanding the horse's nature and needs, Protect Your Space

The common remedy of making the horse submit with force, fear, intimidation and pain is seldom the answer. You may gain his attention but not his true respect. Only fair and just leaders gain our true respect. On the other hand we can't love a horse into respect either.
Working with a horse's true nature and meeting his individual needs is the only thing that ultimately earns the horse's vote for your leadership. This means learning to be as soft as possible yet as firm as necessary depending on the situation. Become more interesting to this horse and keep him moving. Don't let him move you around. Every time you move him out of your space you move up in rank.

Defensive Behaviors: Aggressive, Dangerous, Mean, Unpredictable, Explosive,

As prey animals horses are naturally defensive. Their first instinct for self-preservation is flight or escape. However, sometimes when they are pushed hard enough, or if their genetics are right, they decide the best defense is a good offense. Horses that take an offensive position to defend themselves are simply expressing an extroverted behavior of defensiveness rooted in mistrust. This is usually caused by over aggressive handlers who may also be reacting out of ""defensive behavior" rooted in fear.

Remedy:A calm, focused leader who can balance firmness with friendliness

An extroverted, aggressive horse needs clear, firm and absolutely consistent boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Again this means learning to read the horse and the circumstance so you know when to be soft and when firmness is required and how much. What firmness means to one horse is not firm to another depending on their inborn nature. Interrupt their habits and patterns by constructively redirecting their energy.

Defensive Behaviors: ADD, No attention span, Naughty, Spooky, Wayward
This horse is trying to use mental distraction to cope with things. By focusing on anything but the rider the horse can avoid interaction. These horses are often tense, unpredictable and have a tendency to "freeze" and then explode. These horses are often misread. Most of the time the purpose of their "defensive behaviors" are to shut us out, much like a teenager who pretends they don't hear what we are saying.

Remedy: Focus, Slow down way down, Time and Repetition
A mentally distracted or disassociated horse needs help learning to focus on simple things. They need all the time and repetition it takes to process and accept new information. Slow down and take the time it takes with them and they will reward your effort. They need their thoughts politely interrupted and redirected as this helps them learn to focus. Sometimes it may feel like you have to do things a million times before they get it, but hang in their they need your strong focus and patience to keep them on track. Sometimes the best thing to do with them is nothing for quite a while until they become confident and curious enough to want to engage with us.

Defensive Behaviors: Lazy, Stupid, Stubborn, Dull, Sully, Unmotivated, Bored

This horse is choosing the route of introversion to escape from the rider. They "go away" mentally and emotionally in order to cope with the situation. They are not afraid of people and can be disobedient when they are left brained and un-confident when right brained. These horses have a tendency to buck because they don't want to go forward. This horse can out last most people. They simply stay non-responsive until you give up.

Remedy:Become more interesting, peek their curiosity, use variety

Introverted horses need to be drawn out into freedom of expression. This may mean you need to allow more mistakes, ask the horse to figure somethings out for itself and allow some time for the horse to move freely and imperfectly without a rider. Don't be fixated on perfecting a maneuver, this makes them act up because they are confident fast learners when using the left side of their brain. Whatever you do don't drill this horse use some creativity with obstacles and playful things to do.

Defensive Behaviors: Fearful, Frantic, Panicky, Crazy, Hypersensitive, Ballistic, Nervous, Hot, Over-reactive,

These horses are considered dangerous because they don't have self-control and have a lot of trouble learning. They have difficulty with anything new. They do not deal well with change. These horses are just trying to cope by utilizing the flight mechanism nature has provided, and they lack trust for the rider. Hot blooded horses are often left in a state of perpetual fear because people think they don't have the ability to work in a calm, focused manner.

Remedy:Simplicity, Consistency, Safety, Comfort, Relaxation, Trust

An extroverted, fearful horse needs simplicity and consistency to the
point of boredom until it finally feels safe enough to relax. These horses need lots of approach and retreat. More retreat than approach. Don't push them past thresholds you will blow their confidence in you, themselves and the situation. Repetition will be your friend with this horse because change scares them, so go slow and help them feel safe and comfortable. Once you get them to relax and trust you there isn't anything they won't do for you.

Recognizing negative behavior as a defense mechanism in the horse allows us to offer a better way to interact with our horses. ­ A way that the horse can learn to enjoy the interaction as much as we do.

If we take a perspective towards balance we begin to recognize what the horse needs in order to drop the defensive behaviors and start to want to work with us. The imbalance may be emotional, mental or physical and it is up to us to discover the heart of the problem. Balancing a horse's behaviors has many facets and by using the remedy ideas listed above we can begin to break through the various defense mechanisms of the horse.

Happy Trails,
Sherry Sherry

Recognizing Defensive Behavior

In the July newsletter ­we talked about "Revealing the Truth Within". We suggested how to tap into the potential of both the horse and rider in order to release their "imprisoned splendor". In order to "Reveal the Truth Within" we must first crack through any defensive behaviors, open the mind to new information, listen to different points of view, and be willing to look for and try new ways of doing things.

We must first be able to recognize defensive behavior before we can deal with them. The main cause of defensive behavior for most people stems from the fear of making mistakes, being wrong, feeling stupid or looking incompetent. Because a person doesn't want to look bad they tend to blame the horse when things are not going well. When a human feels he has to defend "being right" they often replace calm, confident leadership with anger, frustration, or stronger unfair tactics towards the horse. The human gets sucked into a win/lose battle with the horse instead of being flexible and changing until they find a better way to communicate with the horse.

Another way humans express defensive behavior is through feeling superior to others or to the horse. The most effective horsemen are humble and we often hear them say things like:
"horses are still teaching me",
"I still have a lot to learn",
"the more I know the more I realize I don't know",
"I love being a student and I'm still working on getting it all right",
"I just can't get enough of this", and
"I owe some horses apologies for my past ignorance".

On the opposite end of the spectrum their are some horse people who tend to give out unsolicited advice and are quick to dismiss other people, ideas or examples of horsemanship which don't fit into their point of view. The entire horse industry is notorious for surviving on more opinion than fact and feelings of superiority.

The failure rate of new horse owners who end up getting out of horses altogether, and the number of throw away horses deemed as unusable are proof that we are far from working in harmony with our equine friends. Once we are able to accept our mistakes and our shortcomings we will be able to let go of our defensive behaviors and become better horseman for our horses.
If we ask the question "why am I getting the results I am getting?" we will begin to understand the horse is just giving us feedback and an honest opinion. When we throw away the useless idea that mistakes are somehow bad we can begin to learn more useful and effective principles which will result in rapid positive progress. Every mistake we make brings us closer to harmony with horses if we are willing to learn from them. Remember in horsemanship it is rare when things are "right or wrong", "good or bad". ­Everything is either appropriate for the situation and useful to our goals or not.

When we feel like saying, "That dumb horse!" remember we may be the one making a mistake. Instead we should say "Wow, that didn't work, I wonder how I could present it in a different way in order to get a better outcome?". By recongnizing we have a role in the horse's response, and acknowledging our mistakes we will break down defensive barriers instead of building them. When the defensive barriers are gone we will be able to see more clearly where the horse is having trouble and then come up with creative solutions to all of our problems.

With a perspective of responsibility for the outcomes and responses a horse gives us, an attitude of humility, and accepting mistakes as learning opportunities, instead of having a defensive behavior where everything is either right/wrong or good/bad a horseman can begin to see new solutions to old problems. By recognizing our defensive behaviors and replacing them with positive progressive knowledge and self-control the relationship with our horses will develop into a partnership where dreams will be realized.

Stay tuned because next month we will discuss defensive behaviors of the horse.

Happy Trails,

"Revealing The Truth Within"

A poet put into words the very thing I search for when I am working with horses and riders, which is to "reveal the truth within". By "revealing the truth within" we are able to liberate the potential of both horse and rider, creating a harmonious relationship and picture of beauty and grace. This blueprint for our education in becoming master artisans of horsemanship may be found in the famous line of Robert Browning's "Paracelsus":

"Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, what'er you may believe.
There is an inmost centre in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
This perfect, clear perception ­ which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it, and makes all error: and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a lightSupposed to be without."

After many years of working with a very troubled horse named Sunshine, I may be on the verge of discovering the secret which is transforming Sunshine from one state of mind to another. To say she has been a challenge is an understatement. Five years ago she started as a belligerent, defensive, and aggressive horse and now is turning into an intelligent and co-operative partner who will let her guard down with me from time to time, offering me a little trust.

I have discovered that deep within this troubled horse is an imprisoned wealth of magnificent character qualities. Those talents and graces, buried beneath her rough and tough physical exterior, did not need to be developed but instead liberated. Before the true horse could shine through in her I dug deep down within myself, finding many things in my own character which needed rooting out or at least modified in order to understand how to help Sunshine releive her tension and heal her scars. Through the process we both have been liberated to be who we are, expressing our talents with unreserved passion. Well, maybe me more than Sunshine, but I hope to continue to lead the way for her.

With continuous observations, constant experimentation, and the gentle techniques I have learned with natural horsemanship, I have begun to open all sorts of ways for Sunshine's imprisoned splendor to escape into expression. At first the expression was limited, timid and confined because of the newness of the experience, but now it is begining to be more spontaneous, exuberant and abundant. The defensive horse who was really terrified of everything is starting to share more of her real self with me. And it is this unrestricted sharing of her real self which has enabled me to accomplish more with her than some thought possible. It is not my perfect technique or my own horsemanship talent that has brought about this change in her, but my willingness to allow her to be the horse she is and aiming to bring out her best qualities.

I think it is very important to recognize the potential in a horse and in arider, then give them the opportunity to reveal it from within. I guess that is my drive for providing clinics and camps for horses and people. The thing that has guided me with horses and students is that moment of recognition, that truth, when things are "right". We all know it, feel it and see it when that "rightness" happens. It is not difficult to spot, even an untrained eye can admire it.

Last week in the clinic at BKT in Lincoln we witnessed this moment of truth when we watched a young girl riding a plain brown horse named Molly. She is not an exceptional horse in confirmation or breeding. But together, horse and rider, looked like they were performing a ballet. All that was missing was the orchestra music, which wasn't necessary because they blended perfectly and not a note of music was needed to complete their harmony. Molly was so light on her feet, they were like a whisper in the dirt and her rider was a breath on her back. It was just a simple canter circle but there was something magical about it. Two beings as one. It was a moment of truth, peace, and happiness I will always remember.

I know when the riders are finding themselves because they look confident, elegant, and secure. I know when the horses are finding themselves because they choose to be deep in concentration, they experiment with their bodies and are happy in the work. Everyone can see it when things are right, but it can be hard to see what ismissing when things are not right. Trying to find what is missing, figuringout how to draw out the latent talents and teach the required skills is thegreatest challenge of what I do. Good horsemanship is so much more than technique or mechanics it is something that comes from within.

The brutal honest feedback provided by our horse is our best guide to the truth which is within us!
Happy Trails,

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Success Journey

By Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship
Phone Consultations and Video Evaluations
With Sherry Jarvis
To help people Live and Achieve their DREAMS across the miles.
Here is another idea to help fight rising fuel costs. THE SUCCESS JOURNEY is a personalized instruction and training program which can reach across the miles by using your phone, video camera, computer, and the old fashion paper and pencil.
For a while now I have been doing phone consultations and even some video evaluations using You Tube to give people advice and ideas of how to solve their horse problems and advance to the next level. More recently I have also been doing some business consulting work for people diving into the horse business giving them confidence and tools to move forward or for people needing new ideas and direction for an existing business.
Whether you need advice, assistance, more confidence, new ideas, and tools, to go to the next level I will help you achieve your dreams by giving you one/one assistance and a customized curriculum that is designed specifically for you.
Did you know that all the best athletes, horsemen, teachers and trainers all have coaches and mentors? Pat Parelli often credits his teachers for helping him achieve his successes with horses. No one ever made it alone. We all need someone who inspires us, encourages us, acknowledges our triumphs and holds us accountable. I am no different. I have had many mentors to guide and direct me through business, my personal life and horsemanship. With hard work and determination I am now applying with success the principles I have learned from these mentors.
I now want to offer the same opportunity to some of the most dedicated students in a way that won't break your bank. With rising gas prices causing travel to be more difficult for some, this new idea for continual learning seems to make sense. Instead of waiting and hoping you are on the right track in achieving your horsemanship dreams and goals, I want to be there and guide you each step of the way, thus the birth of THE SUCCESS JOURNEY opportunity.
Each month as a SUCCESS JOURNEY student you will receive:
Personal Phone Calls: (For either horsemanship or business) This is where we get to outline and assess how everything is going, celebrate successes, provide motivation, build confidence, avert common pitfalls and define new goals. You will need a pencil and paper to take notes and write down your assignments for the week.
Horsemanship Video Coaching: In the videos we ask for 15 minutes of recorded footage where you are with your horse now. We will review the video footage together in our phone calls. I want to see what you are playing with to help you excel and improve. Video coaching has proven to be a very powerful tool and an exceptional way to mark progress and success.
What's in it for you?
My goal is to hold nothing back allowing the truth within you to be revealed which will empower you for a SUCCESSFUL JOURNEY. I will share all of my knowledge and experience, inspire and empower you. You will enjoy the benefits of a safer relationship with your horse a rejuvenated confidence and motivation to reach new heights. You will face new challenges with more excitement and fun. Past frustrations will begin to fade being replaced by more celebrations!!! More than anything, you live your dreams!
Given each and every person has different needs there are 3 opportunities to choose from.
Once a week scheduled 45 minute one/one phone calls
Three 15 minute video coaching session each month
Unlimited email questions
Retainer; which is a quick response program for our top priority students giving you access to call or email us anytime with the ability to trouble shoot questions or problems.
25% off all 2-day clinics and the camps at Calamus Outfitters
15% off all 1-day clinics
Free Internship (Only pay for room and board, plus help with chores)
Two scheduled 45 minutes one/one phone calls/month
Two 15 minute video coaching session each month
15% off all 2-day clinics and the camps at Calamus Outfitters
10% off all 1-day clinics
Internship (Pay for room and board, help with chores and $50/day)
One scheduled 45 minute one/one phone call/month
One 15 minute video coaching session each month.
10% off all 2-day clinics and the camps at Calamus Outfitters
Internship (Pay for room and board, help with chores and $75/day)
**With these programs a one year commitment is required, as this will give us enough time to analyze your skills and then take you to the next level. The HORSEMANSHIP SUCCESS JOURNEY service is limited to a small number of dedicated students.
Weekly scheduled 45 minute one/one phone calls
Retainer; which is a quick response program for our top priority students giving you access to call or email us anytime with the ability to trouble shoot questions or problems.
Planning Packet: A Guide to Success
A two month commitment is required
Bi-weekly scheduled 45 minute one/one phone calls
Two e-mail question per week
A four month commitment is required
Once a month scheduled 45 minute one/one phone calls
One e-mail questions per week
A six month commitment is required
**The reason I have not put out the pricing for these services is they are not like any other program. This is a unique individualized program. I will guide you through the process and make sure you get the right program for your needs. Please phone us to get more detailed information. 308-346-5663
Who will I be coached by?
I will be coached by Sherry herself?
How do the phone calls work? Who calls who? When will you call?
Sherry will call you at a scheduled date and time.
What do I need for my phone call?
You will need a pen and paper to take notes.
What if I miss my phone call?
Sherry will try three times to get hold of you, if we are unable to connect, then she will try again at the next scheduled time.
How do the video’s work? How can I send videos?
Video tapes can be sent in a few forms.
Most preferably by email, as this is the fastest, most efficient and cost effective.
If this is not an option, post is fine, send DVD or VHS.
Putting these clips up on a web hosting site like You Tube is also a good option.
What do you want to see in the videos?
The idea of these video’s is so I can view what you are playing with or having trouble with, in the next phone coaching session we would watch this together, outlining what is going well and what could be done differently.
Sometimes I may ask for specific topics that arise from our conversations.
Is there a time frame within the month that I need to send the video in?
Yes, I need to have the video clip at least one week before the call so I can look at it; to make sure it works etc.
I am a Golden Success Journey Student can I send one 30 minute video rather than two 15 minute videos?
Yes you can.
Horses? Do I have to have just one horse or can I do this program with multiple horses?
Lots of people have lots of horses. I prefer you pick one horse to go through this success journey with.
Of course the more you learn you will be able to transfer to many different horses. If questions arise about your other horses, we want to address them with any extra time we may have in our phone calls.
What if my horse goes lame or has a problem?
You can of course change horses if there are any issues.
What if I want to upgrade during my year to Silver or Golden Success Journey?
You are welcome to upgrade at any time. Please notify Sherry to make the arrangements.
Call now to sign up for your SUCCESS JOURNEY!

How do Clinics and Lessons Work?

I have not had to travel as much this summer because of the many camps at Calamus Outfitters and the people who have kept me busy at home by coming to me for lessons. The people who have taken advantage of the family horse vacation package which we have been advertising for 3 years have loved it and so did I. With school starting soon and people staying closer to home again, I know I will have to go back on the road again this fall for clinics and private lessons, so I thought I would mention again how they work.
Here is how I currently structure clinics:
Clinic Days: Fridays through Mondays are the days I set aside for out of town work. I prefer two-day clinics because we will accomplish so much more and you will go away with skills you have had a chance to practice so you don't forget.
When I have a weekend open I am happy to fill it on short notice, but this year I have had a very busy schedule with most weekends booked up. So if you have a group who can agree on a weekend, the sooner I get it onto my calendar the better. I have had several saddle clubs and 4-H clubs book clinics this year. Remember I do a discount for 4-H clubs. Only $25/kid. Parents can watch for free. Minimum of 10 kids and we must have the arena for free.
The price for a One Day Clinic is $150 per person, with a 6 person minimum and 12 person maximum. For 8-9 people the price reduces to $125/person and for 10-12 people the price reduces to $100/person.
(This price does not include stall or arena fees which vary according to the facility)
The price for a Two Day Clinic is $250/person with a 6 person minimum and 12 person maximum. For 8-9 people the price reduces to $230 and for 10-12 people the price reduces to $200.
(This price does not include stall or arena fees which vary according to the facility)
A "Private Time Clinic" can also be booked by the hour at $100.00 per hour with a 6 hour minimum, no minimum # of people. This is great for people who want to work individually or in smaller groups. This pricing seems to work out well for groups who want to work together all day or groups who prefer private time for each individual and it leaves a lot of flexibility for last minute changes. Also if two or three people want to share an hour during a "private time clinic" then it becomes very affordable.
(This price does not include stall or arena fees which vary according to the facility)
A "Mini clinic" is reserved for people who have already attended at least one or more of my clinics or camps. They get special rates because they are dedicated to continue their learning with me. These clinics are from 2 to 4 hours at requested locations for 3-6 people.
We also have mini clinics at Sherry's house in Burwell with instruction in the mornings and a FREE Trail ride in the afternoon. The ones at Sherry's place are usually during the middle of the week, (Wed.)
Private Lessons: I travel to Omaha and Lincoln on a continual basis for those dedicated students who like to take repetitive lessons.
If I am traveling to a clinic and it is not far out of my way, I have been known to come to your house for lessons. I have traveled for special cases to do a private lesson for one person at their house, the price is negotiable depending on the circumstances.
I also offer private lessons early in the morning or late in the evening before or after a clinic. And of course, I offer private lessons at my place near Burwell.
A two hour minimum is required for all private lessons.
The cost of private lessons while I am in Omaha or Lincoln is $50/hour.
If you take a private lesson in the evening at a clinic location it is $40/hour.
If I come directly to your house on my way to a clinic it is $50/hour, if it is more than 30 miles out of my way there is an additional mileage charge.
These prices will usually include the arena fee.
Private lessons at my house are only $25/hour
Auditors: Parents can watch children under 17 who are participating for free.
It is $35/person/day if you have never taken a lesson or clinic from Sherry and $25/person/day if you have.
If it is a saddle or 4-H club hosting the clinic I will share 1/2 of the auditor fees with the club.
Travel expense: If I am within driving distance to the venue then travel isincluded in the above prices. If the clinic is out of state or more than 4 hoursfrom Burwell, NE then airfare or gas mileage must be provided by the group.
Topics: For a "Private Time, Mini Clinic, or Private Lesson" it works best if a certain topic is chosen that the entire group wants to work on. If there is only two or three people working together it is best if we have something in common to work on. However, no matter what clinic you attend at some point I always work individually with each person. I will work with each person and horse on whatever they need help with the most. Since my teaching has been morphing regularly over the past 4 years I am listing some topics below to get everyone up to speed.
Booking: If you are interested in arranging a date then the best way toreach me is by phone at 308-730-2150 or 308-346-5663. I can also be reached directly by email at

Four Categories of Learning

Question: I have never been to a clinic or taken formal lessons. What kind of things can one expect to learn when taking lessons or going to a natural horsemanship clinic or camp? How will I benefit?
There are Four Categories of Learning which any good instructor or clinician should cover to help their students become excellent horsemen. These categories are best mastered when taught in a progressive order. A good instructor teaches each category beginning with the easiest and most fundamental skills and slowly builds up to the more complicated aspects of training.
These are the four categories which I guide my students through over time.
(Developing the Learning Frame of Mind)
(Groundwork Skills and Fitness) 3) BALANCE & RELAXATION
(Secure Seat and Postural Training for the Rider) 4) CONFIDENCE & COLLECTION
(Perfecting Communication and Movement for the Horse) Level 1 FOCUS & PARTNERSHIP
(Developing the Learning Frame of Mind)
The first thing we often need to focus on is breaking through defensive behavior in the horse and training towards general calmness and focused attention on the rider in a variety of situations. The objective in this beginning stage is to develop calm, attentive leadership skills for the horseman so they have a clear plan and distinct focus. The rider works on awareness of self and the horse's response to his/her emotions, communication and leadership. Any person who is struggling with a horse who has behavioral issues, is new to natural horsemanship, or just needs a refresher course in reading a horse and how to respond to different horsenalities will benefit.
During this phase we focus on the psychological aspect of training. The exercises begin on the ground and will be carried directly up to the saddle. For people with confidence issues, a young horse, challenging horses or a remedial horses this is the place to start a healthy, happy partnership. If your horse has lameness issues or can’t be ridden for one reason or another, this is a great area of learning where you can make surprising progress and begin to have fun with your horse again.Level 2 FEEL & TIMING
(Groundwork Skills and Fitness)
After a person has developed a learning frame of mind, establishes a definite focus and is forming a partnership with their horse we move on to developing three layers of fitness in the horse and rider. The student is presented with challenging exercises which are designed to help them have better emotional, mental, and physical fitness.
1. Emotional Fitness (calm, focused, and attentive during activities),
2. Mental Fitness (understanding movement, energy and skill development)
3. Physical Fitness (timing, position, and self-carriage in movement)
This is where both the horse and rider learn their specific roles in the partnership. Although we often think of groundwork as something for the horse, it is just as important for developing the balance, feel and timing of the rider. Confidence, leadership, and communication are best developed in the context of groundwork because the separation helps clarify issues that are most often the result of miscommunication or misunderstandings between horse and rider.
Equipment is best assessed in this category so the rider can become fully aware how various training equipment, ropes, halters, whips, sticks, saddles, padding and bridles effect communication and motion.Level 3) BALANCE & RELAXATION
(Secure Seat and Postural Training for the Rider) With better feel and timing produced through the ground exercises for emotional, mental and physical fitness we can now begin to focus on the rider's balance and position while on the horse's back. Ideally this begins on the ground using exercise balls and reins for simulation exercises. During the mounted sessions a safe demo horse should be available for the participants to ride. A lesson horse is invaluable when helping a rider learn to have an independent seat. It is easier for a person to do postural training if they are not worried about their safety.
Once in the saddle, this category of training focuses on the rider finding their ownpoint of balance and working from their core on the back of a horse. We focus on the rider's balance through secure seat stretches and exercises so the rider becomes more aware their body. This also helps the rider realize where and how the horse is struggling and then they can offer better assistance to the movement of the horse.
With better focus, feel, timing, and balance the rider is now able to provide clear communication which is recognizable and useful to the horse. I have noticed as a student develops a more secure seat through proper placed legs and correct posture their whole body is stabilized and then their hands become softer, quieter and firmer when needed. Softer, quieter, dependable hands produce a more confident and willing horse who moves with fluidity.
Having a sense of balance which is independent of the horse's motion is whatprofessional riders have that gives them the ability to ride a variety ofhorses very well. While this level of quality is not often taught tonon-professional riders I believe it is imperative for all riders to learnbecause the correct development of a horse depends on good rider posture.Correct posture also helps a rider feel safer. With that feeling of securitycomes the confident, calm leadership from the saddle the horse is lookingfor.
(Perfecting Communication and Movement for the Horse) It is not until the rider has proper balance, posture, and relaxation that they can attain a secure seat. When a consistent secure seat is natural for the rider we can finally turn our focus to the horse and helping him achieve better balance and athleticism while carrying a rider. It is a learned skill for a horse to be able to find the correct use of his body while bearing the weight of a rider. Although a horse can and often "do" what is asked while he is unbalanced, the cumulative effect of riding an unbalanced horse is lameness, illness or behavioral problems.
Understanding the difference between quality movement and acceptable movement helps the rider understand WHY the horse has poor performance, behavior problems, or chronic health issues. It is a simple matter of basic physics at work between the rider's body, the horse's body and gravity. By helping the horse achieve quality movement under saddle we prove to the horse that his need for safety and comfort while we ride is as important as our own agenda of pleasure or performance.
The fundamental skill of self-carriage is crucial for the health and wellbeing of a horse whether it is only ridden on the trails once a week or is expected to compete at high levels. Your horse will benefit just as much as you will at this level because he will be able to move with more grace which means he will be able to carrying you more efficiently. This produces a more comfortable and enjoyable ride for both you.
If you have any questions about the 4 Categories of Learning or would like to find out more about Horsemanship Lessons, Clinics or Camps presented by Sherry Jarvis Instructor for Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship go to or call 308-730-2150. We have personal customer service and a number of different programs so we can be there for you during the challenges and guide you toward success on your horsemanship journey.