Friday, June 12, 2015

My mid life crisis = more tips and learnings to share

You may have noticed that a lot has been happening in 2015 for me – two horses training for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Makeover, NHA trade show demos, flying to Maine for the Centred Riding Instructor course, participating in Cowboy Dressage with Don Halladay, riding with Beth Underhill at Can Am, etc. Well I’d like you to prepare for a whole lot more.

I guess you could call this my midlife crisis…. Well sort of. I turn 30 this year, and I’m feeling the pressure to start the next chapter of my life with kids…. I’ve heard it many times before ‘if only I had just done x before I have kids,’ or ‘once you have kids you have no time for yourself.’ I’m sure you’ve heard it all before too, so I’m making this year a big year with something happening pretty much every weekend – it’s a year about me and my learning before I embark on a different chapter of my life.

I’m trying really hard to give you a post every week to keep you in the loop and share my midlife crisis learnings with you.

So here’s what happened this past weekend.

Last Friday I finished my last FEEL session. James and I did it together and did different obstacles that represented challenges in our lives. We allowed the horses to do the obstacles and reveal insights to our challenges. It was a really neat exercise of getting in tune with the horses and recognizing our own feelings and energy. 

Saturday, Esther Johnson, my centered riding level 2 coach, came to teach me 4 hours of back to back private lessons. We started with Kahleesi and worked on building the foundation skills needed for excellence.

Esther has a lot of western and trail experience so she is helping me with my riding as well as preparing for the Trail class for in Kentucky. I was reminded of the importance of keeping centred and balance through the basic movements of forehand & haunch turns, leg yields, and shoulder in.

When we were starting the movements I was shifting my weight too much, and Esther brought awareness to my body and leaning so that I could have better balance. By the end I was being much more subtle in my cues and Kahleesi was being responsive.

We also did a fun exercise of loping a half circle, then halting and doing a 180 degree haunch turn (so that I changed direction) and then loping off while still finishing the turn. This was setting Kahleesi up for the correct canter leads and improving our up & down transitions – lots of fun!

Cupid had his first session with a bit. I had been riding him bitless to gain his confidence and self-carriage. I like to get out of the horse’s mouth and build trust, communication, and freestyle riding before adding a bit and collection. I find if the horse can ride on a loose rein and no bit first, then they are usually calmer and better prepared to start riding with a bit.

We worked on stretching circles, maintaining bend and straightness. We even dabbled in a little shoulder and haunches in. During this lesson I was reminded about how keeping soft elbows, shoulders, and wrists are so important to maintain collection. It can be hard to keep my joints elastic and flowing as I hold feel on the reins, but wow what a difference it makes when I remember to stretch and give in time with my horse’s stride.

Try feeling your horse’s rhythm next time you ride. You will feel the horse has a natural up and down movement. On the ‘down’ movement, remember to allow your joints to stretch and give with the horse so they can have their natural movement. If you are too still or static with your reins then your horse is restricted by your hand when they need to stretch down.

Watch the video of highlights and tips:

On Sunday I taught a few natural horsemanship lessons in the morning – the horses and students were fantastic. Then we rounded out the day with Summer Camp Staff Training 2015. We had a great time with a lot of the horses out practicing different exercises. We have an excellent line up of staff and horses for this year.

There are a handful of spots left, and juggled things a bit to offer two more mini camps during the last week of August. Kids can sign up for a 3 day (Mon-Wed), or a 2 day camp (Thurs-Fri). More information at:

Thank you for reading!

Check out this video of Kahleesi's progress so far:

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