On the Joys of Contortions and Not Conforming

“You know, to do this kind of groundwork, you have to be pretty self-confident,” one of my clients said to me as she was leading her lovely white mare in smooth serpentines around the ring, making minute adjustments to release the horse’s jaw, free up her shoulder and induce her to lift her ample barrel to engage her equally ample hindquarters.

“Huh?” I responded.

“Just look at me,” she said with a laugh. Her mare was stretching her topline long and dropping her head, and her handler was adapting by bending her knees and doing a kind of crab walk that kept her body aligned and balanced while she supported her horse’s postural experimentation.

Yes, you too can walk funny while encouraging your horse to stretch her topline and step through!Really? Not everyone would feel comfortable out in public at a traditional equine venue doing very non-traditional work? One of those “Duh!” moments, for sure.

My client was right, of course. I’ve been doing unusual exercises with my horses and my clients for so long now, that I forget sometimes how strong is the urge to conform, to do what the other people are doing in the way they are doing it (and often wearing the same clothes and using the same gear.)

I’ve been “the crazy woman” for so long, it’s now my “normal!”

And I’m okay with that, mostly because the biomechanics-based groundwork I do and teach has created such amazing results for horses and their humans. Most people who see and experience these ground exercises do admit their efficacy. Many are amazed at what they can feel and experience with a horse just by taking a different approach to contact and connection. And a few find themselves hopelessly fascinated and realize their interactions with horses will never again be the same.

I’d love to switch that around so that most were fascinated just like I was after my very first clinic experience with Connected Groundwork, which is the backbone of much of my groundwork. Honestly, I’ve never really understood why more people don’t make that leap of faith and start experimenting with different ways to help horses feel better in their bodies.

Not that there aren’t a number of perfectly good training methods that aim to get to the same place, and I don’t really expect everyone to be interested in what I am. But there’s still way too much “same old, same old” going on. Like the guy who recently bragged to me that he’d used a tractor to pull his young horse into a trailer. He honestly seemed proud of the way he’d solved the problem of the horse he hadn’t taken the time to trailer train. Brute force is old news, guys. Been there, done that.

Continuing her very non-conforming crab-like walk, my wise client also noted, “That confidence issue is probably why most of your client aren’t teens and twenty-somethings. Most of them are still focused on fitting in with the crowd.”

I think she’s on to something. Most of the people who have become real converts to the type of ground and mounted work I do and teach have been mature men and women who either have actually been there and done that with other methods and are seeking alternatives, or who are just starting or returning to horse interactions with a focus on relationship and mutual enjoyment.

One notable exception was a lovely 16-year-old girl who took to the ground exercises like she had invented them herself. But she was a rare one, for sure. I’ve taught basic leading and ground exercises to a lot of young people over the years, but most of them only did them in lesson settings. And a few protested they were “boring.”  I don’t get it. Really. I’m endlessly fascinated by “asking” horses’ bodies balance questions and guiding them to the answers that make them feel the best.

So thanks to all of you who have the trust, the adventurous spirit and the confidence to come along with me on the miles and miles of S-turns and spirals, intentionally doing whatever contortions are helpful to your horse’s long-term balance and comfort. And to everyone else, an open invitation to come and play with us. Don’t worry. You’ll know us when you see us!

Not sure what in the world I’m talking about? Find more information here.

8 thoughts on “On the Joys of Contortions and Not Conforming

  1. It’s the Department of Silly Walks!

    Try being a Recovering Dressage Perfectionist and convincing yourself no, it’s really not stupid, it just looks that way.

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