I think is time to say thank youFor reading the ramblings here on the blog, for clicking on the email that delivers my newsletter, and for following me on twitter.
I know that time is precious and I appreciate that you give me some of yours by reading my stuff. I don't take for granted that you leave your comments here and take the time to engage in discussions. That you write me emails pointing out what you like and what you think needs some fixing.
Though I haven't met you personally, I feel that I have made new friends here. It's an amazing experience to connect like this (and I can warmly recommend to anybody to start a blog or at least read some). 

So please, just keep doing what you do and I too will try my best to keep writing interesting posts and newsletters and tweets.

Thanks again! 
Nadja

beingwithorses, chillen

Last time I introduced the balance-series, and explained some of its backgrounds. Today, we dive into the middle of the practical side. What can we actually do to improve our physical balance?

1. I started growing sunflowers in the garden (to support bees and bumble bees). When I water them, I could use the stairs. Instead I jump up and down a small wall to get there - sometimes with the watering can in hand. That sounds (and looks) funny, yes. At first, I was about to wrench my ankles, but after a few days I quite know how to use my body to make it over there rather elegantly. And the best thing: It does not take much repetition (even for someone like my whose strengths are more on the theoretical, not practical side).
So my first advice: Use your body in new ways, break fresh ground, even or especially when not on horseback. Go to balance along this wall, stand on one foot when brushing your teeth and wrestle your car in a small parking space - from the side you are least comfortable with.

2. On horseback I'd recommend to ride bareback. Not all the time, not in situations that are likely to get out of control. But riding without a saddle can be very beneficial for your feel and balance. Not only are the horse's movements transferred directly with no saddle to muffle them. You'll also notice how likely you are to just slip of the horse's back when he moves unexpectedly. So you'll learn quickly about the state of your balance. At the beginning you'll probably be quick to push your knees in the horse's shoulders to gain balance (which is wrong) and grasp your reins for hold, but you'll learn to sit further back and balance with your core rather than the legs.



balance, horses
Is your body in balance? And how about your horse's? Foto: Nadja
3. I'd further recommend that you start jumping (I know what I am talking about. I am clueless about jumping but I want to learn it as the horse moves differently than normal and you are more likely to loose your balance). When I learnt riding at the riding club (or at least what was considered "riding" then) the jumping classes were always the ones when most people came off their horses. You don't have to overcome a whole course right away. Start with poles, trotting over them, cantering over them and practice the jumping style seat (two point seat). Do the same over cavalettis. Then, build the first small jump and start experimenting. Get yourself a teacher that accompanies you and that respects your limits (that can be the trickiest part).

4. Experiment with different positions of your body when riding. What happens when you lean forward with your upper body, what happens if your feet come to far forward, what happens when you stiffen your knee? Stand in your stirrups in all gaits, let go of the reins and move your arms like a windmill. Post the trot and stay up not one but two strides (this imbalanced me enormously). If we tense, we tend to bring our balance point up from the saddle (to me it feels like it was somewhere in my ribcage where my breath stopped). We don't want that to happen. Instead our core should be way down in our belly button area. The higher it becomes, the more likely we are to fall off.

5. Ride different horses. You can be the perfect fit for one horse and be at a total loss with another. So get on as many horses as possible. Find if and how you can flow along with them, where you are in the way of their movement and what comes easy to both of you. Try to get as good as possible for all of them. It will help your balance and improve your self-confidence.

I found some great advice in several horse blogs I'd like to share with you.
Wiola from Aspire Equstrian recommends biking to help improve your balance (I am sure you'll find more posts on her page covering that subject). 
Jenn Zeller will tell you how brushing your teeth can relate to better riding. 
Stephanie Krahl from Soulful Equine shares her favorite pilates techniques. 
And Pat Parelli has something to say about flowing along with the horse.

PS: You find the first part of the balance series here.
Balance is one of the main ingredients for a successful partnership with a horse - be it on the ground or riding. When looking at the horse from a horsemanship perspective, we check his physical, mental and emotional balance. With us humans, it's the same. We can loose our balance because our body is unable to keep it up, because we are emotionally troubled or because our mind struggles with some concepts and disturbs it. Of course, these aspects are interlinked as well. Depending on the person, the three parameters of balance are easier or harder to achieve.

I decided I wanted to do a small series on balance, exploring all three parts, writing about my experiences and giving tips (and links to helpful articles and videos) on how to become better balanced.


Many horses are balanced in themselves as long as the
 human does not interfere. Foto:Nadja
Today, we are starting with a general approach to the physical part of balance.

Naturally, I am not the most balanced person. I am the kind who grasps a rail when looking down an abyss to stabilize me and I only clumsily survive the climbing crag - which makes me not exactly an athletic person (I always was the last to be asked to join a team in sports classes at school - I'd rather run from a ball than catching it).
When it comes to horses, the picture doesn't vary a lot: A slight bolt and I loose my stirrups, and a slight buck sends me flying over the horses neck. Both of which doesn't give me too much confidence in tricky situations. But that doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

As always, change isn't easy but possible. And the measures to achieve it are simple as well: start it, become active, and expose yourself to situations where you need balance and that help you gain more awareness of you body. It's a process. Unbalanced as we are, it takes time.
Don't exaggerate - stretch the limits of you comfort zone but don't override them, because you will loose confidence instead of gaining it. 
In the second part of this small series about balance I'll dive into the practical side of developing physical balance. 
I'd love to hear your experiences and tips!

The second part of the series, covering physical balance, is located here.



I came across both "carrots" yesterday at our barn. I didn't arrange them, I just found them - the hoof pick just around the corner from the real carrot. I though it rather curious (and I love the picture of the carrot on the chair. Yes, you may call me strange).


The original. Photo: Nadja
The counterfeit: Photo: Nadja
Today one of the all time favorite list posts: How to make your horse's life easier in 3 simple steps. 
Careful, dear readers, I was quite pissed when I wrote this, so please don't feel personally insulted. 

1. Put slack in that lead rope!
It makes me sick to see some people leading their horses in textbook manner 20 centimeters under the chin on a tight line. What is the use in pulling your horse on top of you? That is exactly what we do when leading the horse on a tight rope. Horses learn when they are released. Pressure going away means „I found the right solution“ to the horse. If we keep a tight grip on the rope all the time, the horse never gets rid of the pressure on his nose - even if he does the right thing, is standing still quietly and patiently. He will pretty soon start to wonder what the hell he is supposed to do. Maybe he‘ll start to root his head, pull on the rope or shove the human with his nose. But it‘s not the horse being disobedient. It is the human teaching the horse behaviors he‘d better not. 

2. Use the horse‘s right side!
It annoys me to hear people advice other people to lead a horse from the left side. Saddle from the left. Bridle from the left. Get on from the left. Why? We don‘t wear sabers anymore on our left side that could pinch the horse when dealt with from the right. We are not in the military anymore (at least not us recreationals riders) - so there is no reason to stick to the traditional left side. On the countrary, when mainly handled from on side, the horse - lo and behold - becomes one-sided. We complain about crookedness in the horse while we are diligently causing it.

3. Give him some peace!
Do you know these people who need to talk to their horse incessantly? Who not only give orders but ramble on all the time? How would you feel in the presence of someone who cannot for once be quiet? And now think of how often a human articulates verbally and how often a horse does (meaning whinnying). Horses are nonverbal, the major part of the communication is delivered via body language. How about us just shutting up sometime and listen instead of talking? Once experienced the peace of a horse and a human communicating without words, you‘ll want to get there again and again. 


To show you the dramatic effects a loose rope can have, I've included some pictures. Please read the captions of the following series with the "irony button" switched on. 


slack in the rope
Oh no, I've dropped the rope! There is even some slack in there! 
Hopefully he is not running away with me now!
slack in the rope
Oh Jesus! He's not only stepped on the rope but has is foot 
also on this yellow block? Hopefully we both will survive this!
slack in the rope
Oh no again! He's stepped on the rope again!
slack in the rope
Oh gosh, we are so lucky that nothing has happened. 
You know what he did? He just stepped away from the rope again!
Video: Marko, Photos: Nadja
PS: Of course, stepping on the rope can have dramatic consequences - but only for the horse that is not prepared. As you can hopefully see, the black one is quite cool with pressure. I am not suggesting you get yourself all tangled up and hope for the best. You need to work on becoming handy with longer ropes to keep yourself and your horse safe. 
Check the blog out again - I am preparing a post with tips on what to take care of when using longer ropes.

I had the two horses I currently take care of in the arena today. I rode the smaller one bareback, and the other one run free. It was such a nice experience. The horses, both geldings, know each other from the pasture, they are in one herd, and the one I was on is the alpha (which is decent when riding as the other horse can be easily directed). 
I had no idea what would happen and was just experimenting. When I turn them loose, they often go separate ways in the arena, with the big Frisian exploring and wandering around and the warmblood relaxing and not moving a foot.


riding two horses at once
The picture was taken another day when
we did some liberty work in the arena
together. Those horses are true characters.
Photo: Marko
So I hopped on the warmblood, and the frisian was following us right away. He stayed with us even in his spooky corners (of sudden death) and even managed to be squeezed between us and the terrible corner (of the eternal darkness). 
He was relaxed and responsive. As I gave him quite a good foundation on the ground, I could steer him from horseback as if I was on foot. So we did some hind - and frontend yields, some sideways parallel with my riding horse side passing plus we rode straight and the frisian would side pass with us driving him. 
Sometimes, when the he was about to overtake us (as the warmblood has not too much go) I used my riding stick to steer his nose which worked really well. Another time I rested the stick on the withers of both horses when they teamed up and it lasted for quite some strides.
I know this is just goofing around, but it was so much fun. The horses did not overwork themselves but it was a great lesson in harmony and relaxation. I am proud of them!