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Rider's eyesight and the birdie
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ruth
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 Posted: Mon Jan 18th, 2010 05:41 am
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Dear Dr Deb, Do you ride in glasses?  I am very shortsighted, and am assuming you are to some extent.  I used to wear contact lenses in my youth, and needed them for fast riding and jumping, glasses not being very practical in our wet, changeable climate in the UK.   However, I have not worn contacts for many years, and don't wear glasses to ride in (can't read the letters on an arena!).  The few occasions when I ride in glasses now makes a huge difference (as you will appreciate) not just in focus but spatial awareness.   I totally appreciate your formulation of the birdie theory and can retrospectively relate it to a horse I have had in the past , when I wore contacts, who gave me the gift of complete focus on the birdie.   (She wasn't following the metaphorical calf, but being Irish, was following the hounds!)   However, I do have problems with my current horses maintaining their birdie focus, which is probably coincidental,  but wonder if there could possibly be a relation between rider eye focus and horse focus.  Or is this just shortsighted thinking?!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jan 18th, 2010 04:02 pm
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Not shortsighted thinking, Ruth, but thinking "on the surface." There is no relationship between a person's physical eyesight and the ability to project, or see, the invisible calf (or invisible hounds). The one relates to the physical eyes, the organs of sight; the other, to either a metaphor, which is a mental picture or mental construct -- or, to those who have lived it a long time -- a reality, but one that is on another and non-physical plane of existence.

The greatest proof of the reality and the usefulness of this kind of projection is that discussed by Dr. Oliver Sacks, MD, in his book "A Leg to Stand On": for when someone loses a limb, they limb may be lost but the part of the brain -- and consciousness -- that related to the limb is not lost and still functioning. As Sacks notes, no amputee can effectively wear a prosthesis unless he can "project the phantom of his limb" into the prosthesis, thus animating the prosthesis. You see from this (not to use another metaphor) that this has nothing to do with the eyeballs, optic nerves, etc.; it is another mechanism altogether.

Your feeling of BALANCE, however, has EVERYTHING to do with your eyeballs, and also with your middle ears, and it would not surprise me at all that your balance might feel different to you depending on whether your glasses or contacts were on or not, or glasses vs. contacts if the correction was different.

And yes, I do wear glasses when I ride, and have never worn contact lenses. Occasionally I will appear in a film without my glasses, and very rarely on horseback if someone is supposed to be taking my picture: for the reason that studio lights will glare and flash off of glasses and this tends to bother the photographer. Glasses also obscure the person's eyes and face, so I have had directors ask me to work without them. When I do, though, I can't see far enough to read a cuecard, so then I really do have to know what I am going to say before I get in front of the camera! -- Dr. Deb

Dorothy
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 Posted: Tue Jan 19th, 2010 02:51 pm
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Hi Dr Deb and Ruth,

I am short sighted and wear glasses all the time when riding, except in certain rain conditions, when I take my glasses off. This leads to a somewhat disconcerting change of perspective as I also have an astigmatism (without my glasses everything appears tall and thin, and I feel as though I am on an 18 hand horse and not a 15.3) and I have to consciously put this aside and not allow it to off balance me.

This, however, is a bit of an aside as the observation I wish to make is that I find I can get a much stronger inner focus, and awareness of the calf or hounds, if I am not focussing strongly on something with my eyes. So, if you tend to be a visually oriented person, and are inclined to stare hard at your horse's ears, or neck, as many people do, taking your glasses off and / or  deliberately unfocussing your vision may help with connecting with the metaphorical.

Conversely, when I become aware that I am having a particuarly good feel and connection with my horse, I also become aware that my vision is much more peripheral, and less sharp and centered.

So, I guess that any individual needs to work out how their vision affects their ability to project or find their inner focus, and vice versa.

Dorothy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jan 19th, 2010 11:02 pm
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Dorothy, your observations echo precisely the teaching of Sally Swift. I think you might enjoy a good thorough look-through of her "Centered Riding." -- Dr. Deb

Dorothy
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 Posted: Thu Jan 21st, 2010 07:10 am
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Hi Dr Deb,

I will find her book and read it!

I hope it is ok to post an experience that I have just had, and feel very excited about. It is related to the Birdie, focus and the thread, so I hope it is not off topic for this thread.

My horse tends to be very fearful and can become 'not OK' very easily, and he had a bad experience last weekend when he saw a pig which frightened him and I got the sense that his Birdie flew home as fast as it could and tried to drag him with it. He is sufficiently mannerly and schooled that he remained with me in body, if not entirely in brain, but it was not nice and I would not like to repeat that feeling, and appreciate how dangerous it could be.

Today, I rode him out for the first time since the pig, and he was definitely not quite ok as we went out of the yard, so I projected not a calf or hounds, but the backside of a really reliable, steady, safe other horse that he could follow and feel protected by. He very quickly lowered his head and became OK. I did a short ride avoiding the pig, but still going through a farm that can upset him, but I kept projecting the safe horse in front, just walking steadily along, and the effect was amazing, he remained Ok virtually all the way. In the moments when he was not ok, reinforcing his Birdie with the Safe Horse very quickly got head lowering and deep breaths again.

As my difficulty with him, when he is not Ok, is slowing him down, I kept thinking of him wading through treacle to slow his legs down behind his Safe Horse, is it ok to use this imagery?

I took the idea further, as he can spook at things immediately beside him at ground level, and made sure that his Birdie was firmly in front with the Safe Horse, so when he felt as though he would spook, I reinforced the fact that his Birdie and his Safe Horse had already gone past, and there was no need even to look. Again, the difference was awesome.

Thank you so much for these concepts!!

Dorothy

 

 

Dorothy
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 Posted: Thu Jan 21st, 2010 07:12 am
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By the way, wearing or not wearing glasses would have made no difference to my ability to project, nor, I think the effect of it.

Dorothy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Jan 21st, 2010 03:52 pm
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Terriffic!!!! Everybody else: READ DOROTHY'S POST. Thanks -- from all the horses! -- Dr. Deb

rachel
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 Posted: Mon Jan 25th, 2010 05:57 pm
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Thank you Dorothy, you have explained a concept to me in a different way, that touches on a problem I have been having,and I have finally had the penny drop. Thank you.

Dorothy
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 Posted: Tue Jan 26th, 2010 03:31 am
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Hi Dr Deb and Rachel,

Good for you, Rachel!

Yesterday I had a 'penny dropping' moment as well.

My horse bulges his shoulders left, and when he is OK and we have his Birdie, he is much straighter and I can use 'untracking' to gain true straightness. When we loose 'OK-ness'and his Birdie, his crookedness is much harder to control, and his shoulder 'pops' left so quickly.

I was struggling with this towards the end of our hack yesterday. Later on I finished re-reading the Lessons from Woody - and realised that I had been trying to ride his body in order to get straightness and thereby get his Birdie, when what I need to do is 'ride' his Birdie, so that that is safe and he is OK, and then I will get the straightness. Indeed, trying to get straightness when he is not OK, makes him even less OK, but until now, I did not know what else to do.

Today I will really focus on the Birdie again.

Dorothy

 

 

Last edited on Tue Jan 26th, 2010 03:32 am by Dorothy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jan 26th, 2010 03:43 am
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This is the MAIN problem with the opening statement in the F.E.I. Handbook. No horse that is not already OK can ever be made straight -- or more calm -- through the repeated practice of shoulder-in, or through the repeated practice of any other maneuver, exercise, or figure.

Dorothy, you are discovering now many of the lessons that are given in "The Birdie Book" -- you might perhaps like to get that as an aid at this point. -- Dr. Deb

Dorothy
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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2010 04:21 am
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Hello Dr Deb,

yes, I certainly would like to read the Birdie Book.

Embarrasingly, I realise that I actually have it! I must have bought it when I came on your course in Devon in 2003, and have found it amongst my CDs together with the 2004 Inner Horseman and the Members' Archives - so now I have 2 copies of 2004. I had a vague memory of the BB, but completely forgotten the others. (I am fascinated by the Baucher translation / interpretation - thank you).

Just shows how superficially I was appreciating your work at the time.

Dorothy

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2010 04:33 am
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You and most of the others as well. They were looking for someone with "star quality" to tell them what they should do, and I will not do that. You have to find it out for yourself. When they started to hear how much work this actually is, they didn't want to do it.

They were also looking for someone to tell them pretty lies, and because I wouldn't do that -- especially not to the lady who hosted us at her facility -- I no longer go to that facility. They get tired of me pretty quick when their horsemanship is poor and I won't encourage them to continue along the same lines or validate it when they say "oh but he's SO much better than he USED to be". Oh, really? I found the lady's horsemanship semi-incompetent, despite the fact that she's all about telling me how she has hosted the Prince of Wales.

And, they were looking for somebody to tell them that their horsemanship is "natural" -- and by extension, what they really meant was that they wanted someone to tell them that their horsemanship was "superior". They equate "natural" with "superior". I do not. There is, and can be, no such thing as "natural" horsemanship.

This goes back to how much work it is. There is no "natural" horsemanship, but there is certainly the possibility of having CONSCIOUS horsemanship. This means, the person takes personal responsibility for every single thing that happens to their horse. This takes strength, knowledge, persistence, and commitment, and it's a lot more work than most people care to get involved in, no matter how much they may SAY they love their horses.

You will also, perhaps, remember the presence at those seminars of a real-life clone of Rita Skeeter -- the lady who, because she's a writer for a horse mag, expected free admission, free lunch, and to be able to freely quote me as having said anything she wanted me to have said. By far, she was the most venomously dangerous person present. Good thing I didn't -- and don't -- care one whit whether I receive her endorsement in print -- indeed, best I shouldn't. Really frustrating to her was discovering how much I didn't care about that.

The only way for real knowledge to get disseminated and put into practice is for the teacher to be knowledgeable, competent, and honest, and to uphold an inflexibly high standard of integrity. Then, once in a while, there's a chance of getting a student such as yourself, who (sooner, although sometimes later) figures out that there might be something worthwhile on offer.

Have fun reading -- we'll expect to hear back from you in about a month. -- Dr. Deb

 

Dorothy
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 Posted: Thu Feb 11th, 2010 12:35 pm
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Hello Dr Deb and readers,

I am gradually working my way through the Birdie Book and I have been doing the 'mannering' exercises that you describe in another thread with two of my horses as well.

I have also been working on the 'safe brown horse' in front of Solo, though with less good effect than the first time. It is almost as though Solo has said 'thank goodness you have started to listen' and he is now being more exacting, whilst I am becoming more sensitive and aware of his Birdie and his not-OKness.

I have realised that he is not even Ok to walk out of our yard. I am mortified at how much I have frightened him over the years by not taking his feelings into consideration, and pushing him through and past his fears, in my misguided attempts to convince him I would keep him safe. I realise that I have done it all the wrong way round. I don't think that it was that I wasn't listening, as much as I didn't want to hear what he had to say, so I ignored or tried to over-rule him.

Having had this slap around the face by these home truths, yesterday I started at the mounting block ensuring he was ok with me getting on, and then waiting until he was ok to walk towards the yard entrance, and eventually out onto the lane.

I aimed at feeling the first signs of not-ok in his body, but found that the earliest sign was his Birdie fluttering off to one side 'looking for an escape route' even before he had changed physically. On stopping, his Birdie would pull his head to one side and the other, so I focussed ahead and helped him keep his head straight in front of him. Each time we did this, after some time, he just lowered his head, took a deep breath, and I could feel him offering forward steps, and his Birdie was quietly ahead of him.

I don't think I am now kidding myself about his OK-ness, or have misread it, and we only went some 10s of yards along the lane, but whenever I turned around, even when he was at an OK point, as soon as we turned towards home, his Birdie became agitated and started pulling him this way and that, and fluttering wildly.

I found this situation harder to deal with than the going away from home. It was much easier to sit on a stopped horse and wait for him to offer to go, than to sit on horse with too much go. I felt I needed to stop him, and he was good at keeping his feet still, but not his insides or his Birdie. I needed to focus on pursuading his Birdie to perch on his forehead and close its wings in order for him to be quiet inside. I found it much harder to quietly keep him still and his head in front of him until this happened before hinting that he could move. On moving, mostly his Birdie immediately flustered off, and we had to stop again to get it perched. I really would have liked it to stay perched while he walked just for now, and we did have some steps of this.

It was quite a profound feeling of change inside him when we could get the Birdie to perch and fold its wings. I guess I will have to get quicker at preventing the Birdie from even unfolding them!

Another thing I did notice was how his straightness / crookedness changed with his OK-ness. Going away from home, when he felt ok, his head was low - at or lower than wither height, with his ears lightly pricked, and he felt totally straight. Going towards home, his head was up, ears all over the place, and he was very crooked, bulging his shoulders left and very bracey in the left hand side of his neck. I don't think I really got OK-ness when facing home at all.

Dr Deb, in the Birdie Book and the various threads where you have talked about these things, you have explained in some detail how to deal with the horse that does not want to go away from home, but I have not read anything about the horse that is over keen to get home (I realise that I probably need alot more work on going out, but even turning around in an OK place caused us to loose OK-ness). I have thought alot about how to handle it, and was wondering if you have any further advice? Am I kidding myself about the OK-ness that I am feeling? Do I just need to wait longer when facing home for the Birdie to settle before moving?

Thank-you,

Dorothy

 

Last edited on Thu Feb 11th, 2010 01:05 pm by Dorothy

Philine
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 Posted: Fri Feb 12th, 2010 08:11 pm
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Today, I rode him out for the first time since the pig, and he was definitely not quite ok as we went out of the yard, so I projected not a calf or hounds, but the backside of a really reliable, steady, safe other horse that he could follow and feel protected by. He very quickly lowered his head and became OK. I did a short ride avoiding the pig, but still going through a farm that can upset him, but I kept projecting the safe horse in front, just walking steadily along, and the effect was amazing, he remained Ok virtually all the way. In the moments when he was not ok, reinforcing his Birdie with the Safe Horse very quickly got head lowering and deep breaths again.

As my difficulty with him, when he is not Ok, is slowing him down, I kept thinking of him wading through treacle to slow his legs down behind his Safe Horse, is it ok to use this imagery?


Hi Dorothy,

This is great imagery and I will use it with my horse, who is also a nervous Nellie.  In the excellent Birdie intro CD I got with my membership this year, Dr Deb suggests cows for the same thing but I relate much more to the reliable, steady, safe other horse.  And since I do, I think it would be easier to convince my horse.  Same thing with the treacle.

Although this had nothing to do with vision, as far as the eye focus discussion, one of my teachers used to use 'soft eye' (more peripheral vision) and 'hard eye' (more intense focus as in heading towards a jump).  Since I haven't read Sally Swift, I don't know whether these specific terms came from her but I found them really helpful.  They were useful in helping to adjust riding pace to specific circumstances.  Now that I am learning more about 'Birdie', I think they could also relate to that.  'Hard eye' would be when you are pulling the horse's birdie to some point in front and 'soft eye' would be when both horse and rider's Birdies are closer to where their bodies are and the circumstances more relaxed.

Think it's time to review my Birdie book again.  I was at a much different level of awareness when I first read it.  All of this is such good stuff.  I love lurking on the forum.

Philine 

Tammy 2
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 Posted: Fri Feb 12th, 2010 08:39 pm
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Hi Philine,

Since you are so close to Edmonton, have you heard of or gone to see Josh Nichol ?

 

 

 


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