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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

Intentions Make A Difference
by Mary D. Midkiff

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The Women & Horses Newsletter - September 2007

Have you noticed that just by changing your thoughts around a horse they pick up on it? Have you noticed that just by thinking your horse gets what you are intending? Horses are very intuitive creatures and hear us in many ways. We depend a great deal on the spoken word but it's only one of our tools to train horses. They listen to us through body language, movement, sound, smell, sight, feel and intention.

The human partner's (owner/handler) responsibility inside the human/horse relationship has a great deal to do with communication and learning process. Many times I come across horses that are considered having "behavior problems" when there was a lack of communication, understanding and intentions between the human partner and the horse.

It is my intention as a trainer and instructor to leave the human/horse partnership enabled to be safe, comfortable and happy together when I am not around. Ultimately, the partnership needs me to guide them less and less over time. I have seen many training situations where the owner/rider becomes more and more dependent on the trainer to create the perfect horse for the rider to simply "sit" on and look good. Once the lesson or show is over, then the trainer takes over again before the next public appearance. To me this is not creating a foundation for the horse and rider to bond deeply and go through life's experiences together and build trust and confidence in each other over time.

My role as an instructor is similar to a Driver's Ed. teacher. As the Driver's Ed. Instructor introduces a person to a car and driving, it is my job to introduce the student to every aspect of the horse and rider partnership including grooming, healthcare, saddle fit, ground work, body work, and working under saddle. Sitting beside them as they take the wheel and guiding them through every process and occasionally taking the wheel myself, I share and demonstrate for them to see how it can work.

I also know that when I teach, I try and give the student a sense of awareness about their internal language, intuition and intention with their horse. Horses know when we refer to them as "Alpo" or "Dumb blood" or "Stupid" and can feel the intention behind those words. (I met a cowpony whose name was the N word and it broke my heart). Usually we are frustrated, angry, out of patience, confused or we just want to make ourselves feel superior when we start calling horse's names. I realize some people think it's just funny to call their horse a derogatory name but I believe they know when we are demeaning them and treating them as if they cannot hear, "behind their back" so to speak.

I use the words "Unacceptable" or "that is not fair" or "come on, let's work together here" when I get upset with a horse for any reason. Then I will take a deep breath, take a break, try something else and when the horse gives me an indication of trying or is just unable to get it, I say "thank you" and we finish.

Can you imagine if your Driver's Ed. Teacher or the policeperson that taught you to drive started calling you names when you were learning how to merge into traffic on a highway or parallel parking on a busy city street? You can see how stress can come just from intention.

I have added teaching intention to my students over the years and really enjoy seeing the results. People tell me after our lessons that not only does their horse change for the better but they change too within the relationship.

When working with horses you must understand that boundaries of respect need to be created. ("Respect" in my world does not mean dominance, force, pressure or "winning".) As a trainer you may know this, but your students need to work with it as much as you do. I show students how to lead their horse on both sides of his body without pulling or dragging the horse and they learn to walk together as if they were lovers holding hands. Everywhere I go the horse goes, I can back up, turn a circle, halt and walk on and the horse is 100% locked into me and my intentional movements. I teach this to the student and they begin to feel what a deep bond is like with a horse.

They notice how the horse's eyes are focused inward and not affected by external variables when their intention is clear. If the horse does get distracted, then I teach the student how to bring the horse back immediately and how to be aware of a shift even before it happens. The student cannot be thinking about his or her job, next appointment, phone calls, deadlines, family commitments or anything else but the intention of being with his or her horse within that moment. When they come to a halt, the horse is standing on all fours squarely; only then the student can reward the horse with her voice and stroking the head and neck, and finally release intention and relax for a moment. But you need to always see the horse out of the corner of your eye even when you are standing and talking with someone else. The horse needs to honor your space and wait there with you while you focus on something else. Honor the horse too by not making him wait too long or he will feel ignored, left out, neglected.

If you feel or see the horse starting to move the student must catch it right away and ask him again to "stand" with intention in the body and voice.

I also teach the student to do massage work, acupressure, stretches and aromatherapy to get to know their horse fully. I want the student to see she or he can affect the horse's personality and bring out the best in them. Horse's love to have boundaries and be respected for who they are while feeling safe, secure and confidant with their partner.

I start all of this work in the stall and in the arena with my students, then we take the horse in hand and go out looking for challenges. We travel outside the arena looking for ditches, holes, logs, water, dark to light areas, around ponds where geese, ducks and foul live to work with them when the birds are startled. My horse has gotten to the point now where he is not bothered one bit by wild geese taking flight very close to him. I laugh at his playfulness and fearlessness that we have developed together.

With my student and her horse we work on her intention while asking her horse to take on a challenge, to overcome fear, to listen to her while the horse is questioning. We do all of this work in hand first then translate it to the saddle as we progress. Now, when my student goes out with her horse she has many tools to keep her and her horse safe. They can enjoy their rides together and continue to do whatever they want to do together. Whether it be enjoying weekend trail rides or competing at horse shows. The foundation has been set, the intentions are clear and the partnership can flourish.

Try it with your horse. Place a halter and lead rope (no chains please) on your horse and go into an arena or round pen. If your horse is not familiar with leading or leads only by being dragged along, you may want to carry a dressage whip or wand to demonstrate intention of the back end to move with you.

Stand beside him with one hand snuggly holding the lead up under his chin. Do not pull down or forward, simply use the words "walk" or "walk on" with intention and lift your knee as if you were going to take a step. If nothing happens say the command again and gently tap the whip on his hindquarter until he moves first. Then you move with him and reward him with your voice. Come to a halt and try it again until he moves first with the words "walk". He will be watching your knees and listening to your intention every second. If he has a hard time getting it quickly, try marching in place and lifting your knees higher so he sees you want him to walk with you. Do this exercise on both sides of his body as they can learn differently on each side.

Many of my students and website readers are using The InBalance Oil with success. The holidays are coming up quickly and you may want to consider giving it as a gift to a friend or your horse! The InBalance Oil is purely natural made with the highest quality of essential oils designed to calm, balance, relieve anxiety and provide mental clarity. Just rub a tiny amount around and inside the nostrils and you will notice a difference. I even have a race trainer that is using it on a difficult filly and he says it has made a big difference in her emotions which is allowing her to relax in her work. The 2 oz. bottle lasts at least 6 months for one horse.

I appreciate all of your letters and feedback and hope to see you at a clinic one of these days. Equine Affaire and I are working out a schedule for the next year as well as a few private barns. I will keep you posted on my website calendar. I am also available for lessons if you would like to trailer in to the Louisville, KY area. If you are not too far away I would be happy to come to your barn also.

By the way, my horse Redge, is back to form and training beautifully. Thanks to great veterinary care, holistic care and his trust in me to try hard he is on his way to being extraordinary! It feels great to have him back fully in my life. I'll have some pictures for you on the website soon.

Happy Riding!!!

Mary D. Midkiff

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