A Fresian’s Journey on the Path Excerpts from Session III

There is a lot of video footage that comes before the work taped in this session, which you can find

and I am still editing and uploading. If you take a peek at the above video, you can see it is complicated work for the horse, and it may seem like very little progress is happening. In the previous sessions, we worked on softening the four quarters of the horse through yielding exercises. The work in session two is asking the horse to use his body as one orchestrated whole… subtle pressure is put on the hind and forequarters at once, and the horse is being asked to move straight forward without bracing on any of the quarters. You can see that he tends to “waddle” side to side trying to get it right, before he realizes his head has to REACH forward to move forward softly.  Every so SLOWLY, and with subtle cues, the horse learns that this work has something to do with softening in the neck and poll – something to do with whole body movement THROUGH THE BACK AND UP AND DOWN THE NECK AND POLL… and ever so slowly, the walk becomes lengthened, the neck lowers, and the movement becomes soft. THIS IS VERY HARD WORK TO CUE AND VERY HARD WORK FOR THE BRACING HORSE!

Two weeks later, you can see marvelous results in this horse.

First he allows me to help relaz, release, and soften his neck — as he has learned HAPPILY that the work has something good to do for his neck and poll. Here is the warm-up work

We move right into soft circles through the “pentagon of bamboo poles” that I have laid out as visual cues. In subsequent video you will see how the “pentagon” helps the horse point his nose out and down into the circle, making his movement soft and whole through the whole body.

Today is my last session with this boy for a while. I have to have surgery, and am taking a break from life. I will be working on trying to get the video into some kind of format for educational use. But I wanted to get some recent video of him out for you all to enjoy.

Thanks for keeping posted.

A Freisian’s Journey on the Path I (5)

To end this session, I am merely looking for simplicity and consistency and a sense of relationship. A short sequence gets us straight to the point. Look closely at the Freisian at the end. He stood there thinking/ processing all that occurred for a long long while…. When we put him in his paddock, he looked curiously over the gate, asking for more MORE! I could see we were well on our way to cultivating the joy inside him

A Freisian’s Journey on the Path I (4)

This clip is in slow motion to give the viewer a sense of the close, intimate work that is being done. My goal at this point is to relieve some of the tension that the horse holds in his neck and through the poll. You can see how the way I ask him to yield his shoulder, requires/ allows him to lower his head and move from the hindquarter through the back and into the step. The Freisian can only relax to a certain point– too many years of bracing have created difficult muscle memory for him to overcome, but overall the movement is becoming more relaxed and grounded.

I aks for yielding of the hindquarter also, and then we walk on. He begins to walk with me with a sense of contentment as the head becomes increasingly lowered as he relaxes into his stride. The horse is becoming grounded and is developing a sense of self in relationship to me and the work we are sharing. This simple, grounded, and contented movement, points to a happier future for this Freisian.

Unfortunately, when he gets to the rail, his head rises up, and he lapses back into old habits. Since he is no longer sensitive to my subtle cues, I fuss with the rope — but he doesn’t wait for me to use it before he moves off the rail an onward.

A Freisian’s Journey on the Path I (3)

Because some of the slow, intense and close work can build up tension in a horse like this, after his break, I decide to work at greater speed with a greater sense of space and liberty. Ideally, the horse should move enthusiastically and joyfully. This requires the horse to release his tension and braci-ness. At first I send him in a circle, with more energy and enthusiasm than I showed previously. Without proper understanding from the intitial work, a bracing horse might just become more tense when you add more action to the request. The Freisian moves rather nicely, first yeilding his right hindquarter to circle clockwise; then I reverse him by asking for the shoulder to yield, and immediately turn to work on the left hindquarter as he comes off the rail.

Now something peculiar happens. He comes off the rail rather willingly, but in this session I am asking for more enthusiasm, so I throw the rope to touch his left hindquater, and the horse is somewhat startled into attention. This causes the following reactions

1. He counters by bracing in the right shoulder and right hindquarter at the same time.
2. He throws his left hindquarter out into a brace.
3. With his left side braced, the right side in a sense “falls into” his left side, and he stumbles sideways.

The good news is that the horse moves off of this blunder rather softly by first, releasing the bracing in his left, and then yielding nicely in the hindquarter– which is what was asked of him at the beginning of the sequence.

The entire episode seems to have brought up some of the natural enthusiasm of the horse, as he breaks into a canter from an expressive trot in a balanced and entusiastic way along the far rail. You can hear his owner’s happiness at witnessing this. You will then see he trots nicely down the near (right rail) since he is now working without tension and bracing.

When he stops and I approach, his habit returns, and he turns away from me, bracing with the left hindquarter. He is quite insistent on keeping this between me and him, and so I turn him by moving his right shoulder couterclockwise– which exposes his left hindquarter to me, without getting into a fight or fuss over anything. It all happens quite naturally and effortlessly. This is at 1:36-1:49 in the clip. As he moves off, you can now see me alternating back and forth between the hindquarter and the shoulder, so the Freisian doesn’t “rest” on a braced limb. A few trots later, he again braces in the left hindquarter, so I once again turn him with implied pressure on his right shoulder, once again, exposing the bracing left hindquarter. The next move is wonderfully soft– as all the bracing disappears from the left hindquarter, and the horse moves gently and softly to face me.

He trots off to the rail, and there is a sense of bracing in the left hindquarter– which is his habit when he puts himself on the near (right rail). But happily he turns softly by yielding off the rail to face me. A real breakthrough! which he repeats as I approach him an turn him around, completely off and parallel to the rail.

I end with an experiment of putting implied pressure directly in front of him– which the horse did not respond to.

A Freisian’s Journey on the Path I (2)

In this next clip, the Freisian starts off along the rail braced in the left hind as before. Still, he moves rather nicely off the rail when I ask him to yield the left hind. From then on, as long as you see him move in a circle around me, rather than straight away, he continues to yield and be soft in the left hind. I then move toward working on the inside shoulder, for a soft outward-going turn, which positions me to work on the right hindquarter which he also yields very nicely. Soon he is soft and focussed in his work– and gets good praise and a deserved break.

A Freisian’s Journey on the Path I

In this first segment, I am looking to allow the horse space and time to accomodate my approach. If he is attentive to me without bracing (a soft turn of the neck) I leave him and circle again. His natural tendency to like people, keeps him engaged with me. His habit of bracing, pushes me away. There is a back-and-forth/ give-and-take kind of dance going on.

You can see his tail switching during my approaches. This is a subtle signal that the hindquarter will brace from any pressure (such as my intention) placed on it. Once he moves forward from me, he positions himself against the rail, and braces with his left hindquarter — notice the angle he takes to keep the hip positioned to back me off of him. This then becomes the focus of the events that follow — to release the bracing in the left hindquarter. But I do not take offense at this, nor do I seek to punish the bracing. My attitude is soft and focussed — just the same as the behavior I want to see in the horse. I must BE the behavior I want to see in the horse. Therefore, I take up his bracing as an “offer” — as if I had asked “and what would you like to work on now?” — and he had answered “how about this bracing hindquarter– see how it braces so.” He nicely moves off the rail by bending through the hindquarter.

If you look closely, you might also see why this horse presents unusual difficulties in his training program. As he releases in the hindquarter, he braces in the shoulder. Therefore I work on alternating between the shoulder and the hindquarter.

My intention, attitude, body position — espeically the position and angle of my own shoulder and hips — are all crucial in this work — I must not pose a problem to this horse, who needs his confidence built up piece by piece, from one small and brilliant success to another.

Here is part 1 of our first session: