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How to improve movement in a horse with a low neck set/downhill
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stumpi
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 05:38 am
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Hi there,

Is there any activities I can do to improve the movement of a very downhill horse, (his neck pretty much comes out from between his front legs and his neck sits so his topline is parallel with the ground).  Apart from this he has good conformation, straight legs, a very correct hindquarter (maybe canons slightly to long) and a strong loose back & loins. He finds it very hard to travel 'forward' and to achieve impulsion.  Any suggestions?

Thanks

 

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 05:47 am
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Stumpi, how about posting us a photo of the animal. Put it up so that the image is about 25 to 30 inches wide at 72 dpi.

As to 'achieving impulsion': this is silly. If the horse is sound, he has ZERO trouble with 'impulsion'. Does he not move and play at pasture?

Where horses DO have trouble -- and a lot of trouble it is, too -- is with owners who have learned wrong theory, so that they are asking the horse to do things that no one should EVER ask a horse to do, such as 'track up' or 'increase their impulsion'.

If you have been listening to some instructor who speaks in these terms, Stumpi, I expect my answer here will confuse you. That's good. I want it to prompt you to go read much farther in this Forum.

Go to the Google homepage and click on 'advanced search'. Then do some searches by entering the following key words: hind step; balance; collection.

Before clicking 'go', you should also (in the box near the bottom) enter our address, http://esiforum.mywowbb.com, so that the search becomes limited to just this Forum.

I want you also to go over to the main section of our website by clicking on the 'home' button above. Then click on 'knowledge base' and download the three PDF documents you see under the buttons on the righthand side of the page. The three PDF's are entitled: "Lessons from Woody", "True Collection", and "The Ring of Muscles". These papers are the basic reading for all students in my classroom (this Forum is my classroom). As you study them, you will get some clarification as to what I could possibly mean by the answer I gave you above. They will also probably cause you to have further questions as you go along. That's healthy, and we'll look to receive any that you have when you write in here.

Meanwhile, though, I would like to see a photo of your horse. Be sure you take the picture from the side, so that the horse's body is perpendicular to the line of sight of the camera lens. This gives a nice "flat", undistorted picture. -- Dr. Deb

stumpi
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 06:03 am
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Thankyou for the quick reply!!

Even in the paddock when he is playing he dosnt 'get up in front' and prance around with 'suspension' & 'cadence' (sorry i dont know how to explain it!), my other horses will float along the ground and really 'use' themselves and stride out.  

I have attached a photo i already have with me riding him (please feel free to critique me as well). This is our sorry excuse for a medium trot :( and is probably the best i can get him going interms of striding out and 'using' himself.  But yes my instructor/s use the 'old' terms so i have probably been hindering him in many ways! 

I will take a photo this afternoon of him standing. In the mean time I will check out the suggested reading material. Thanks :)

 

 

 

Attachment: horse.jpg (Downloaded 587 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 06:38 am
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Stumpi, the first thing I now have to ask you (having seen the photo) is whether you are a minor. Because if you are not at least 18 years old, you will continue to have to obey your parents and your riding instructor, even if you find that I strongly disagree with them. You are under their control until you become an adult.

If you are an adult, then you are in a position to take full responsibility for everything that happens to your horse.

OK, that's the ground rules that we are going to follow here. The truth of the matter is that it appears that your instructor knows very little about how to train a horse and does not understand how to induce a horse, or teach you to induce the horse, to carry itself with lightness, softness, or good balance. I am going to get very specific about zones or areas in the photo which should be of concern to you (if you are an adult), or which should be of concern to your parents. Because if you go on riding the horse the way this photo shows, you will take an absolutely lovely animal and ruin him.

Now, we will take this one thing at a time. The first point is to determine whether your horse in fact has what you accuse him of having, Stumpi -- i.e. a downhill overall body balance, and a low-set neck.

You will see from the attached image that I took your photo and put it up in Photoshop so that I could mark on it. I traced out his breast and right foreleg because they're hard to see. Then I put two white dots on the photo. The upper white dot marks the base of your horse's throat -- the point where his windpipe comes out of his chest.

The lower white dot marks the center of the base of his breast, where the breast goes back toward the sternum.

You see that there is a lot of distance between these two points, which proves that your horse's neck is set on beautifully. It is not set on "low".

Now, we will still need to get that conformation photo from you that you promised to take tomorrow, because I cannot tell what your horse's body balance is from a photo in which he is moving -- and especially not from one in which he is being compelled by the rider to move so very badly.

Our forum software, Stumpi, does not allow us to post more than one photo at a time, so look at the first photo here and then I will post a series following so that you can see why I say that the rider is compelling this lovely horse to move badly, and what just some of those bad effects specifically are. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Stumpis supposedly low-set neck cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 580 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 06:45 am
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OK, Stumpi, here are your hands.

You are carrying them lower than your navel. The rider's hands should never be lower than their navel, and (for specific purposes) may often be higher.

You are doing what I see zillions of other dressage "wannabees" do: you are trying to PULL or HOLD the horse's head down by lowering your hands.

The finest technique that I know of to make a horse brace and RAISE its head is for the rider to pull or hold downward with her hands.

Go ACTUALLY LOOK at any book, Stumpi -- go look at the older generation of dressage champions -- people like Watjen, Seunig, Museler, Oliveira -- or go look at Carol Lavell or Nicole Uphoff or Reiner Klimke or Lendon Gray or Kay Meredith -- people who have been more recent national and international champions -- and you will not find a single one of them pressing downward with their hands!

The great masters, such as Oliveira, have their hands quietly at the level of their navel all the time.

When you raise your hands to the level of your navel, and always carry them there, the horse will begin offering, of his own volition, to 'spill over', to 'show himself the way to the ground', to 'come over the topline', to 'stretch to the bit'.

Your photo demonstrates that you know nothing whatsoever of this -- until today. Now is the time when you begin to learn. Today is not too soon to begin, to commit to this for the rest of your riding life. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Stumpis hands cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 577 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 06:55 am
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Now, Stumpi, here is your horse's loinspan. The loinspan is the part of the horse's topline that is visible between the back of the saddle or saddle cloth, and the hips.

This part is plainly visible even when the saddle covers the rest of the back. But what the loinspan is experiencing, I promise you that the rest of the horse's back is experiencing, too.

What your horse's loinspan shows is two things:

1) That by build, he is typical of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horses bred for the track. He is a speedy horse by nature. He has a huge long canter stride. What your horse has is a long, narrow loinspan that is shaped like a greyhound dog's.

I generally advise riders to try to look for a horse that has a wider loinspan than this. However, in your case, you appear to be a small, lightweight rider so that the weakness that is innate to this type of back will be no problem whatsoever. Your horse is perfectly able to carry you in comfort.

2) However, he is NOT comfortable. The loinspan of your horse is stiff. It shows strain. It tells me that he is NOT "coming over the top", that his back is NOT softly swinging.

Look at the width of your horse's hind step. By itself, it is not very wide, but that's not the worst of it. It is noticeably smaller than your horse's fore step. This is an easy way to tell when a horse is moving on the forehand.

The 'stringy', strained, angular look of your horse's loinspan, Stumpi, tells me that you have never been taught the very first and most elementary things that go into helping a horse move well. Those things are: to learn how to twirl the head, and to learn to untrack the horse.

These are the things that go into, that are the basic building blocks, that permit you to perform the two elementary arena figures, which are corners and circles. I am telling you that, despite what you probably think, you have never in your life actually ridden a circle correctly.

When your horse runs off with you, it will be because he has lost his balance from back to front. You are making him do this; you are teaching him to do this, and reinforcing it so long as you continue in ignorance. But you can change (if you are an adult).

When your horse speeds up, you must learn to stop him by turning him rather than by trying to prevent him from running off. You must learn to slow him down by turning him, and by untracking him. You practice untracking to both sides multiple times, gently, every day, and pretty soon he will not only quit falling onto his forehand (and thus being compelled to speed up or run off), but he will also start having a 'swinging' back.

When his back muscles turn loose, they will begin, as if by magic all by themselves, to thicken, becoming plumper and fuller month to month. This is a major object of all GOOD horse training, and I am sure it's something you do want, Stumpi.

Attachment: Stumpis loinspan cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 577 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 07:10 am
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Now, Stumpi, this photo is the absolute worst of all of them, and there are things here that I want you to change immediately (if you are an adult).

1. Take the dropped noseband off and throw it away forever. Do you not see the unhappy expression on your horse's face? Did you not know -- or does your instructor not know -- that once the horse's front teeth are touching, no amount of pressure, from any source including a tight noseband, can close the jaws any farther? When anyone, even a grownup who is supposed to know better, tells you that putting on the tight noseband "will make the horse go onto the bit", then Stumpi, you need to realize that adult is a person who is utterly lost. They know absolutely nothing. They are worse than ignorant; they are ignorant AND cruel.

2. Pay attention to the tilt in the horse's head. I have marked this by the cross shape. The short bar of the cross shows you how your horse's ears are carried unlevel -- the long bar defines the midline of his skull. You must never permit or encourage a horse to tip its head while it is being ridden. As soon as your horse offers to tip his head, he is telling you that his neck hurts (and given the noseband, also his mouth and lips in all probability). When your horse goes to tilt his head, you must:

a) Transition immediately to a walk

b) Use the opposite rein to help him put his skull back in the center of his chest, so it does not tip

c) Turn in the direction of whichever rein you used to help him quit tilting, and stay turned until you feel his whole body soften.

3. Your hard hands are also causing your horse to learn to "break" in the neck. He has so much tension and unnecessary contraction in the muscles of his neck that, when you pull backward and downward on the reins as you are in the habit of doing, it is causing his neck to break into short, angular segments defined by the bones of the neck. The arrow shows the biggest of these kinks, which is unusual in your case because so low in the neck (most horses that 'break' in their neck do it at the second, rather than the third or fourth joint. There is actually a 'break' at the second neck joint, but it is less than the one at the fourth joint).

Now, Stumpi, that's enough for now; I think these transmissions will give you a lot to think about. What I am telling you is that you have been wasting your money and your time -- and that you need to utterly abandon your current course of instruction. You will be able to do this if you are an adult.

I want you also to do several other things. First, go purchase a copy of Josh Nichol's new DVD set. This explains and beautifully illustrates the most important things that you need to work on right now, Stumpi. Get this by going to http://www.joshnichol.com.

I also want you (if you are an adult) to make every effort to go either spectate or ride in a clinic with Josh, or else with Harry Whitney. Find Harry at http://www.harrywhitney.com. Both of these men are extremely kind, very good teachers; but they are also extremely knowledgeable, highly competent horse trainers who understand what your horse needs in order to become first, soft and happy, which opens the door to him being able THEN to start offering and displaying his tremendous inborn athleticism. -- Dr. Deb

 

Attachment: Stumpis head and neck cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 582 times)

stumpi
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 Posted: Thu Apr 15th, 2010 07:15 am
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Thanks,  fanastic feedback.  Yes i am nearly 30 years old so i class as an adult :).  He is only 6 months off the race track so is very stiff in general and i have difficulty getting him off the forehand.  i will study your reading in depth and try and get this head twirling going but keep the feedback coming its great!! :)  It will be great to try and fix my riding before i ruin the poor boy!!

Indy
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 Posted: Sat Apr 17th, 2010 02:26 pm
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Dr. Deb,
Very informative break down. The loinspan information was particularly interesting. I think I am like most other people who see the issues from the hands forward, and know it affects the back end, but I think this picture and your explanation clearly shows the tension in the loin.
Thank you,
Clara

stumpi
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 12:24 am
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Well we had a few "lightbulb" moments over the weekend!  I always knew that we were not straight and on the forehand but never knew how to address this, and everything i tried didnt really work. 

My boy is almost permantly locked through the jaw so his head tilts to the left and then he dirfts and falls out to the right.  So matter how much leg or trying to 'pull' his head straight with the right rein i could never straighten him.  He also is a very tense and hot horse as the poor boy had a very rough start to life when racing and came to me with many behavioural problems.  He now is a lot more trusting and all on the ground issues have been fixed!! He is a much more relaxed horse...except under saddle. 

So the goal for the weekend was to master the art of head twirling and have happy ears for the majority of the workout (he normally has his ears tense and back, not out to the side and floppy).  I found the twirling fanastic as he gradually unlocked his jaw and softened into the bridle, straightened and relaxed!! We still have a long way to go still but he was starting to loosen through the back a bit as well, but did tensed up again with change of rein etc...but a marked improvement. 

We also did the best shoulder fore and turn on the haunches we have done as before he would lock his jaw and resist halfway through and getted jammed up and stop going forward through the excercise.  Over the weekend as soon as he locked up i stopped, twirled him until he softened and went again. In no time he was doing them fluently and all my aids could be a lot softer.

I also took the noseband off but he gets his tongue over the bit and gets very agitated (we has very bad at this when i first got him - someone has obviously put a tongue tie on him wayyyy to tight as half his tongue is nearly cut off and was very head shy) so i compromised and put it back on but loose enough that he could chew and eat happily but discouraged him from getting his tongue over.

And unfortunately i am in rural Australia so attending the clinics/instructors you suggested is impossible. Can you recommend anyone here?

I cant get my photos of his conformation of him to download off my phone (my camera has died) so i will put them up as soon as i work it out! in the mean time i have another one (its hard to see as it is so bright and he is black and he is tacked up and his rear end is about a foot closer to the camera-but hopefully it may indicate how he is built).  Its interesting to note he hardly ever has his head up this high (he was watching my dog chase a rabbit!) and usually carries it a lot lower with less angle.  Also the thickest palpable point seems to be a lot closer to his shoulder then other horses on your photos/website ?? do i have the correct point?

Dont mind the lines i have put i was just playing around looking at his confirmation.  If my lines are correct he is also a bit underneath himself in the front as well???  Or is he just standing funny?  Not that i care how he is built-he is still my baby and will not change anything, he is spending many years as my steed :)!! It is just really interesting to brake down their conformation and see how that relates to movement (and in tern how our riding restricts it!!!)i find it absolutely fascinating and love conparing horses different builds

Thanks for all your help. 

 

Attachment: DSC_0885.JPG (Downloaded 443 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 09:38 am
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Stumpi, some comments upon quotes from your post.

1. You wrote: "My boy is almost permantly locked through the jaw so his head tilts to the left and then he dirfts and falls out to the right.  So matter how much leg or trying to 'pull' his head straight with the right rein i could never straighten him....

Comment: Stop trying to shape, move, change the balance, or change the horse's speed by any application whatsoever of strength. You are trying to crush the horse into a certain shape by pushing, shoving, and pulling. But no human strength can do this. The only entity capable of shaping the horse up, the only entity capable of carrying him, is the horse himself. The horse must carry itself. For that to occur, you have to stop trying to do the horse's job FOR him.

2. You wrote: "He also is a very tense and hot horse as the poor boy had a very rough start to life when racing and came to me with many behavioural problems.  He now is a lot more trusting and all on the ground issues have been fixed!! He is a much more relaxed horse...except under saddle....

Comment: You're kidding yourself, Stumpi. I get this thousands-of-tiny-violins story from lots of inexperienced riders. If your horse manifests problems under saddle, then you have by no means solved all of his problems on the ground. I am not blaming you for this, but it's the very truth, and will continue to be the very truth until you learn how to really DO groundwork. Presently you have only a sketch of an idea.

3.  You wrote: "....So the goal for the weekend was to master the art of head twirling and have happy ears for the majority of the workout (he normally has his ears tense and back, not out to the side and floppy).  I found the twirling fanastic as he gradually unlocked his jaw and softened into the bridle, straightened and relaxed!! We still have a long way to go still but he was starting to loosen through the back a bit as well, but did tensed up again with change of rein etc...but a marked improvement....

Comment: I am glad you are trying some of these things. Please continue to write in here for more help.

4. You wrote: "....We also did the best shoulder fore and turn on the haunches we have done as before he would lock his jaw and resist halfway through and get  jammed up and stop going forward through the excercise....

Comment: Stumpi, there is no such thing as 'resistance'. 'Resistance' is a word -- a euphemism -- used by dressage people to excuse their sorry lack of horsemanship knowledge. It's a way they have of slyly turning the blame away from themselves and onto their horse. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with your horse. There is a lot, however, that needs changing about YOU. 

5. You wrote: "....Over the weekend as soon as he locked up i stopped, twirled him until he softened and went again. In no time he was doing them fluently and all my aids could be a lot softer.

Comment: This is the right thing to do, and a real good change in your idea of how to train. It does no good at all to continue to try to push or force a horse "through it" when he braces. Horses do not release to this, they do not mentally or physically improve from that type of approach. When the horse braces up, you have to stop and start over -- you have to recover Square One, then carry it with you throughout anything else you may do.

6. You wrote: "....I also took the noseband off but he gets his tongue over the bit and gets very agitated (he was very bad at this when I first got him - someone has obviously put a tongue tie on him wayyyy to tight as half his tongue is nearly cut off and was very head shy) so i compromised and put it back on but loose enough that he could chew and eat happily but discouraged him from getting his tongue over.

Comment: OK, Stumpi, loosening the noseband is OK for the time being. However, the horse's agitation, hotness, head-shyness and all the other symptoms you describe are not because someone put the tongue-tie on too tight. They are because your horse has no idea how to wear a bridle, how to HELP YOU put it on (rather than merely "let you" put it on), and has, above all, no idea what the bit is supposed to mean. And neither do you, so it's a case of the blind leading the blind. Your horse is trying all the time merely to escape from the bit or else to spit it out.

It is impossible to cut a tongue with a tongue-tie. If the horse actually has notches in the sides of his tongue, they are from some shanked device that had a curb strap, i.e. a leverage-type bit. Most cut tongues occur when the horse, bitted in this manner, dumps his rider and then runs off. The reins come down, he steps on the reins, he jerks his head up, and the bit then actually does have enough power behind it to cut the tongue. The rider did not do it, and the tongue-tie did not do it. What ULTIMATELY did it is the fact that your horse isn't even broke, does not know or deeply accept even the first, simplest things. This must change before you try to do anything else with the animal. You can be a brave rider, Stumpi, but I'd like it best if you were not a stupid one. There is no need, ever, to get on a horse that is in the condition that this one is in.

7. You wrote: "....And unfortunately I am in rural Australia so attending the clinics/instructors you suggested is impossible. Can you recommend anyone here?"

Comment: Yes, get ahold of either Brenton Matthews or Wayne Anderson. Reach Brenton by EMailing through this forum (look up Brenton's address in the User/Member list). Reach Wayne Anderson by EMailing Alex Wickham, tyffyn@hotmail.com. Of course, you would also be welcome at either of the clinics I am about to do in Australia: April 24-26 in Canberra (contact Alex), or April 30-May 2 in Adelaide (contact Deb Turk at the EMail address given under the "Dr. Deb's Schedule" button at the main part of this Website, http://www.equinestudies.org). Hope to meet up with you there. -- Dr. Deb


CarolineTwoPonies
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 09:46 pm
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This answers my other question Dr. Bennett. Thank you very much for your forthrightness and clarity.

stumpi
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 Posted: Tue Apr 20th, 2010 01:57 am
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Yes i freely admit that it is a case of the blind leading the blind-hence why i was trawling the web trying to find alternatives when i stumbled across your website.  It is great to get such direct feedback (definately deflates any notions i had that i was a good horse owner!!) but it is fanastic as so many people out there sugar coat everything and hence mislead us as we think we are doing the right thing by our horses. 

I want to be the best, most patience and insightful trainer and rider i can be so this week is the start of my new training techniques and mindset!!

As of the weekend i have conciencely  stopped "trying to shape, move, change the balance, or change the horse's speed by any application whatsoever of strength".   I rode out on the roads yesterday and focused on holding my hands at navel height and asking for softness, without shaping/moving him etc.  and really focused on heaps of transitions using my seat and legs and slowing/speeding the trot with the regulations of my rise (i think you call it posting trot?).  by the end of it he was doing it all with almost no aids with the reins. But i did have to pull him up with the reins when a mob of roos jumped out behind some trees and scared the bejeezas out of us!!! ha ha

In terms of  groundwork i have done heaps with him, now he self loads into a truck, dosnt pull back when tied and lowers his head to get bridled and wiggles his lips to find the bit himself, and he does all his laterals on the ground.  he is plesant now to handle whereas before he was a nightmare! what other exercises can i do with him to resolve under saddle issues? I have ordered both mikes book so i can 'restart' him from the beginning.

I found it very interesting about the cut tongue and it being from a curb bit (do they race in curb bits?? or could it be from a rearing bit??).  I was told my the trainer it was from a tongue tie (they apparently used pantyhoes to tie the tongue down? i admittedly know nothing of tongue ties).  Can i stress that he is not headshy now but was very when i got him-he even flinched when i went to pat his forehead, now he leans in for a scratch! :)  and he now lets me put my hand in his mouth and pull out his tongue and lets me put my hand in to feel his teeth etc (i always like them to be happy around the mouth so drenching them is a good experience or when they get there teeth done (on another note he had SHOCKING teeth when i first got him, giant hooks and lacerated gums and tongue).

So how do i teach him to 'wear' a bridle?  and to accept the bit and its meaning (and teach me of course!)

also can you comment on his conformation and muscle build up. I found the post about the grey horse and 'square' rider and it will be interesting to have the same contructive crititism about my boy.

I have already spoken to Alex and will hopefully pop in and say hello in Canberra (i have competing that weekend so cant attend the whole clinic :( )

please keep the feedback coming i REALLY want to improve my training and riding.  I have a super horse (my uncut diamond), and i really want to give him a good life and make up for the shit one he started off with, and i know that with alot of patience and the right training he will be a superstar (well my superstar anyways) :)

I would also be interested in other people that have had similar hurdles and conquered them and get their feedback as well.

thanks a bunch :)

 
ps: sorry about spelling etc  im in a mad rush doing this in my lunch break! :)
 




 

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 Posted: Tue Apr 20th, 2010 08:52 am
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Hi Stumpi,

I would love to see you at the clinic, but please don't just pop in. We have a fabulous clinic planned. We have two very exciting topics those being The Use of Lateral Work and the History of Classical Riding in the mornings and Horsemanship in the afternoons. If you make the investment of your time you will meet some friendly, supportive people with a variety of interesting horses who have trained in a variety of back grounds. There is a large pack of take home notes. You get fed well and an endless supply of caffeine. The cost for one day is $65 or for the two is $120.

There are spectator and rider places available and bookings are essential so that I can make sure I provide you with enough food!

Cheers,

Alex

Jeannie
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 Posted: Tue Apr 20th, 2010 07:04 pm
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Hello stumpi,
     Only you know if you are ready to begin the journey,  the teacher will show up when you are ready , and you can go through that door.
        For some guidance, I would recommend reading this forum completely, as well as The Birdie Book. Buy a roll of ribbon, so then you can look at it and remind yourself," been there, done that, got the ribbon", it's time to start my education. Then you can show up at the clinic fully mindful.
        As Blake said so well, " There are things that are known and things that are unknown; in between there are doors."
  Sometimes the hardest thing is just stepping through.
                          
                                           Jeannie


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