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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

1 - Announcing the Dynamic Rider System®
2 - Horses Lack Vision in Indoor Spaces
3 - Just a Horse

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The Women & Horses Newsletter - March 2006

I am excited to announce the release of Women & Horses™ The Dynamic Rider System®: The Total Exercise and Biomechanical Solution for the Female Equestrian (Integrating the Pilates Method). You will find information, the press release and ordering on the website. I have reprinted the press release here for your information. You may download and reprint it as you wish. There will be Inserts coming out every 4 months and we are working on producing accompanying DVDs later this year.

Mary D. Midkiff Introduces
The Dynamic Rider System® from Women & Horses™

Mary D. Midkiff’s Women & Horses™ line of products and services is expanding once again with a unique Pilates-based program of integrated flexibility, strength and postural position exercises to help female equestrians get the most from the time they spend with their horses. DRS has been developed by Midkiff in collaboration with certified Pilates Method instructor and lifetime horsewoman Maggie Parker.

Subscribers to the new The Dynamic Rider System (DRS) will receive a series of easy-to-use installments detailing body part specific exercises and related riding techniques. "This is a unique program fully integrating the nationally acclaimed Pilates Method with effective riding specifically for women," Midkiff says.

"This is a total exercise and biomechanical solution that will enable female equestrians to achieve better form, function and comfort with their horses."

Over the course of progressive learning installments, it will teach the female rider, both in and out of the saddle, body movement patterns and awareness, body alignment, breathing with exercise, development of core strength, stability and flexibility of the pelvis and shoulder girdle, spinal rotation, flexion and extension and much more. A unique aspect of this system is that it can improve the rider's physical integration both in riding and in everyday life.

The first installment, "Finding Your Foundation: Insert 1", is now available for $17.95 plus shipping through www.womenandhorses.com. The initial package includes an introduction to the DRS and the Pilates Method, a full-color, fold out instructional exercise pamphlet, and cover art for a reference binder to store the installments.

Other W&H products include the books: "Fitness, Performance and the Female Equestrian" (Macmillan), "She Flies Without Wings: How Horses Touch a Woman’s Soul" (Delacourte), and W&H Essential Oils. Electronic photos are available upon request.

Horses Lack Vision in Indoor Spaces

Riding and training in indoor arenas are always a topic of discussion during the winter months. We absolutely need them to exercise our horses when the weather is just too extreme to ride outside; however, they have their own issues. Horses must see what's going on to be comfortable. They rely on all of their senses but they are wide eyed prey always watching for the steely-eyed predators.

"The equine eye is similar to that of other mammals and represents the largest globe size of land mammals."

"Ancestors of domestic horses were adapted to open range conditions and able to swiftly flee predators. Their visual system provided a wide panoramic view to detect danger, identify nutrition, and assist during locomotion… Functionally, the horse enjoys a total field of vision slightly greater than 350 degrees and has only a narrow blind spot, immediately anterior to the nose and several meters posterior to the rump. Thus, the horse detects motion and objects, whether threatening or not, in a wide panoramic view. It has been proposed that horses are using binocular vision when the ears are erect and facing forward."

Excerpts taken from "Equine Vision and Optics" by Steven M. Roberts, DVM, MS, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice, Volume 8, Number 3, December 1992.

In an indoor arena, because we have blocked or taken away the horse's ability to see what they hear, smell or sense, many horses have a hard time relaxing their mind in this environment, which inevitably leads to a tense back. Horses that are afraid or insecure in the indoor arena setting could be reacting to the inability to identify the origin of a sound or noise, a smell or something they sense.

Create a Positive environment:

An indoor arena should be as large as possible, with natural and artificial light available. The footing should be no more than 3.25 to 3.50 inches deep on top of a secure sub base and base, and as dust free as possible. A watering or sprinkler system used daily is optimum. The ceiling should be high enough for large trucks, front end loaders and tractors to come in and out with venting in the roof for circulation and air exchange. Doors should be wide and high so riders may enter and exit mounted. Doors should open and close easily, safely and as quietly as possible. Bolt down and secure all flashing and panel material and replace dry or rotted wood as often as needed. At least insulate the ceiling to prevent noise during heavy rain, hail and sleet storms. Make extra building considerations if you are in extreme areas of heat, cold, ice or snow.

This may sound unconventional but you may want to have a psychic or communicator visit your indoor arena to make sure it is clear of unpleasant energy. I rode in an indoor arena in Virginia for several years where the horses would not go near one of the corners of the building. All of the horses spooked or backed away from a particular corner. It was a real mystery to everyone who boarded and rode in that arena every day, because the horses were willing to go everywhere else comfortably. We finally had a psychic come out and do a reading. We did not tell her anything about our observations just that the horses were acting strange in the arena in general.

Her reading told us that the arena sat on top of a civil war battleground and many horses were killed and buried on this site. In fact, she indicated that there were a pile of horses buried underneath the SE corner of the arena and there were disturbed horse spirits still lurking. What an amazing experience that was and how intuitive the horses were. We asked her to talk to all of the horses and tell them it was okay to go into that corner. The horses were better about it after that day but I will never forget how much of an impact something from the past made on those horses that was completely unknown to us as humans.

I believe if there is negative energy coming from the people at a barn the horses will feel it and demonstrate it through their behavior. This is intensified in the indoor arena where the negative feelings are even stronger due to stress and tension. The people that surround horses need to be clear, present, available and open to create a positive environment.

Let the horse tell you when he/she is ready:

When first introducing a horse to an indoor arena, prepare their nervous system with some acupressure and aromatherapy and/or Rescue Remedy. Give them a walk around in hand for awhile and let them sniff, look, roll, check out the mirrors and smell the environment. It is also nice to have some music playing at a medium sound level to cover up the pops and cracks of the wind, rain and snow outside. Make sure everyone using the arena knows to say "Door" or any word loud enough before they enter and exit to give you and your horse fair warning. You may also want to lunge the horse, or if it is safe without mirrors, let them free lunge to get to know the place.

When you decide your horse is familiar with the space and you feel it is safe to ride, use a mounting block and walk for a few minutes to let the horse stretch and relax. I like to use an ear bonnet to help muffle scary noises and I give my horse The InBalance Horse oil blend and Rescue Remedy too on extremely windy days.

If your horse continues to be afraid and nervous in indoor situations you may want to take their feed tub into the arena and let them have their grain in that environment. If they will eat within this space they are relaxing. After finishing the grain, give him a walk for a few minutes, and then walk under saddle until you have had about 30 minutes of time for digestion. You can begin your work after this time.

Mix up your routine in the indoor area as much as possible. The horse should not associate any arena with pressure and hard work but as an exercise area to do different things. One day do ground work, another day do your acupressure and massage therapy in the indoor, another day ride practicing lateral moves, and still another day do simple transitions.

Also, some horses need other horses in an indoor setting to feel safe. They may be worriers and concerned about the whereabouts of the herd outside. Did they leave? Are they safe where I cannot see them? If they worry and fret too much when alone, find out when others are riding and plan your rides accordingly.

Showing in an indoor arena can be a whole new set of experiences and sensory overload for your horse. Especially since a judge will be sitting at one end which is a new addition to the space they probably don’t see at home. Give him or her time to adjust. Ask the show management if you can arrive a day early or early that morning and walk your horse around the grounds and around the indoor. Most will be happy to accommodate you if you ask and act courteously. And again, use the W&H oil blends and/or Rescue Remedy whenever you confront a potentially stressful situation.

Just remember this is an artificial space for horses and they are not used to hearing and smelling without seeing what is causing a noise. They need to turn their trust to you and have self-confidence that they will be okay. It is up to you to help ease their emotions and establish that special bond. You know your horse’s individuality better than anyone else. Honor it.

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Just a Horse

This passage was sent to me from a horse friend, Jody Marken, and I wanted to pass it along to all of you:

From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a horse,"or,"that's a lot of money for just a horse".

Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a horse."

Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a horse," but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a horse," and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a horse" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it's "just a horse," then you probably understand phrases like "just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise."

"Just a horse" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.

"Just a horse" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.

Because of "just a horse" I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.

So for me, it's not "just a horse" but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

"Just a horse" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand it's not "just a horse" but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a woman/man."

So the next time you hear the phrase "just a horse" just smile, because they "just" don't understand.

Happy Riding!

Mary Midkiff will be speaking three times per day at the Minnesota Horse Expo, April 28-30 at the Minneapolis State Fairgrounds. Go to www.mnhorseexpo.org for more information.

Helpful websites:
Pinchless Bits
Equiscentials
Healers Who Share

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