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Icelandic Horse Connection

Making The Change 4

Facilitated by Nancy Allen and Dan

Let's get ready to move onto Exercise #6 on Bill & Leslie's site: Stopping & Standing Still. It can be found at: http://lesliedesmond.com/

"When we speak about having a connection with the horse through feel." Bill writes, "what's meant by that word "connection" is the part that's in place when what YOU UNDERSTAND AND DO is directly connected to what the HORSE UNDERSTANDS AND DOES, on account of his physical and mental systems being tied in to yours, through feel."

If you would, why don't you read through the latest exercise and we will begin to talk about it in the next couple of days. For now let's talk a little about utilizing what's around you, in your horse's environment, and using those things around him with what we're doing with our horses and these exercises.

There are alot of creative people out there and I'd like to hear what you all are doing!

Trail riding, for instance, can improve arena work. Can anyone give examples of what they are currently doing out on the trail that uses Bill's exercises? How has it improved things in others aspects of training or in other environments?

How about what people are using out in their pastures or in their barns for training?

We can talk a little bit about this. I'll give you examples of things I do with Dan but I would really be interested in reading what others are doing too!

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Exercise #6 on Bill's site: Stopping & Standing Still (Advancing Exercise #2: Leading Up Real Free & Backing Slowly).

Find it at: http://lesliedesmond.com/

Bill writes: "Teaching the horse to stand is the most important thing to get built in. You do this by understanding how to help him move, and him knowing that you know how to do this. Then, in the absence of your feel to move, he knows that other feel, which means stand. That feel for him to stand means for him to stop."

Standing still is not the absence of feel, but the absence of the feel to move.

As Bill describes it, standing still with feel, is connected to movement. The horse comes to understand, through the feel that you give to him, what you are asking him to do. "...he learns to wait for some other idea from the person to show up." So it is the contrast of the "feels" that he waits for and responds to.

Learn to stop well, to learn to move well. Understand how your horse moves, to understand how your horse stops. The two go hand in hand.

So what the heck does this mean and how do we begin to apply it?

Anatomy of a stop: "...a stop occurs at a place that is right exactly in between stepping forward and stepping back."

How many of you have seen or felt this "in between part" with your horse, as Bill describes it? That "place" in which you sit on or stand next to your horse and can rock his weight forwards or backwards without taking a step. It is easy to understand this if you've experienced it (of course) but pretty hard to imagine if you haven't. There is also quite a bit of variation in that "in between" section too!

Bill gives some good exercises for this on his site, with lots of opportunities to reward your horse. As you work on these remember that you will see the weight shift before any steps are actually taken. The shoulder muscle flexes, or the haunch does. When you get well intuned with this, it starts to seem like you have a lot more time to use your feel with accuracy.

Back to movement being tied in with learning to slow down and stand still: "Unless a horse can move, he can't settle and stand, and this part of horsemanship really tends to confuse people....Moving, slowing down, stopping and standing still are all connected real close in the horse's mind."

You cannot MAKE a horse stand still. The connection has to be through his mind and through feel.

Can anyone give an example of what this means and how they would begin to apply this with a horse that likes to move? (Just a simple little question huh?!)

So be sure to read Bill's words about this exercise on his site and we can discuss it some more. Although we are doing groundwork we can also talk about the horse that moves off when you first get into the saddle and before you're ready if anyone needs to.

Please keep us posted on your progress and where you and if you've been able to feel the "in between place" that's right smack dab in the middle of a forward step and a backward step.

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Standing Still for Mounting

In this section of Bill's book, he flat out says, "If a horse moves when you try to get on, don't get on." To do so, is what I sort of refer to as sneaking a ride. The horse isn't really with the person and they've pretty much just hitched a ride on an animal that is leaving them.

What makes not doing this really important is the fact that it's dangerous. There is a very close connection in the horse's mind to trotting off, or loping off or worse if he has learned that walking off while you get on is okay. It might even excellerate into the horse galloping off right when the person's foot leaves the ground and this, well, would not be good.

This might have all started because the person let him walk off as he was mounting without taking care of the situation as it happens. Perhaps the horse has not been taught or properly prepared for standing still for mounting and if it is not taken care of each time that it happens, then the horse pretty much considers that his behavior is alright with that person. Maybe trotting off would be alright then too, or even galloping off! If he's never been taught the importance of getting with his rider and standing still, then who could blame him for thinking this way?

If a person starts to get on and their horse starts to walk away, they should get off (still holding the reins) and ask the horse to back up as many steps as he stepped off. The person would want to stop before more than a couple of steps were taken though. It is good if the person can ask with the reins in a similar manner on the ground that they would as when they are riding.

The steps to back up should be asked for in a calm and relaxed manner-no big deal. When the horse is standing quietly, you would begin again. You may need to do this many times, but it is important to take care of it as it shapes up AND every time that it shapes up and to not let it upset you.

Before you get on it is good to look and see if the horse's feet are positioned well for him to balance without moving them when you get on in the first place. If you started to get on, and the horse needed to move to balance, then you would get off and help him get positioned better.

One way to help the horse adjust his feet is to rock the saddle back and forth. You can take it by the horn or pommel and sort of push it away from you, then back towards you and generally the horse will balance himself. It's okay if he takes a step here, but more than one or two and he's leaving you again and it might be a good time to review the previous excercises (especially 1-3) for the horse to get with your feel again.

Okay, from here I'll ask everyone a few questions: your horse is now ready for you to get on. He seems settled and is standing calmly. Can you describe the best way to mount the horse?

What if you want to teach your horse to come along side the mounting block or a fence for you to get on him from there, how will you do this? How can your sitting on a fence or mounting black help the younger horse as he is getting prepared to be ridden for the first time?

How will you hold your reins for mounting? What are some of the considerations here?

How will you step into the stirrup? How will you pick up the other stirrup?

What will you do if your horse stands still for you to get on, but leaves before you ask him to?

Thanks and I'll be looking forward to hearing from you!

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