Charlotte Cannon - Showing Naturally Clinic Mar 2007
When we stop thinking and training for events/classes and we start to understand and use natural concepts, principles and techniques, we can achieve a balanced horse physically, mentally and emotionally. This horse can apply his foundation to many events/classes with success.
All events/classes test or check for proper balance with a variety of maneuvers. Some showcase high quality movement; some test precision with specified points (cones, barrels, etc); some combine both with obstacles (jumps, poles, etc). Some focus more on collection; others more on extension. Horses may be challenged forward, backward, left, right, up and down. A complete natural foundation will yield a horse who is a joy to ride and can face all these challenges with confidence.
Confidence is what we are trying to build at all times. Every exercise needs to be building – not destroying – confidence. Confidence is started on the ground. All movements and maneuvers can be prepared on the ground. Groundwork helps humans understand the way a specific horse’s body and mind responds and works. You can visually see what is happening. You can observe what is working and what is not. You can use this information to set things up better for your horse to feel smart and successful – confident. You must stretch yourself (mentally, physically and emotionally) if you ever expect your horse to stretch for you.
Observe horses unsaddled and unmounted:
- front feet/hind feet – width and placement
The first two refer to physical balance; second two refer more to mental balance; all combine for emotional balance.
The stronger side of the horse will contract – the more severe your horse is contracted on one side, the more severe the physical, mental and emotional imbalance.
If you use the ‘Seven Games’ (4 separate and 3 combination groundwork exercises) you can isolate your imbalances (stuck spots) > teach them to move separately > then recombine and check your progress.
Friendly Game or Sacking Out:
- look for blinking, licking and chewing
- watch posture and reactions/responses
- use information to adapt your approach to each individual
Porcupine or Steady Pressure:
- use phases – push hair>skin>muscle>bone
- compare right side to left side
- use this game to educate horse to move away from pressure (of legs/spurs/bits)
- use this game to teach horse turn on forehand and turn on haunches
- notice “loaded”/pivot foot in each turn
- notice bend vs straightness in turns
Driving Game or Rhythmic Pressure:
- use this game to further ‘lighten’ horse with ‘implied’ pressure
- using your stick or energy you can stand further back to observe responses
- advancing to a ‘traveling’ or target game, you can build huge confidence
- use this game to challenge/test horse’s understanding of turns
- you can use more speed to challenge pivot foot and bend/straitness
Yo-Yo or Backing and Drawing:
- use phases – wiggle finger>wrist>bent arm>straight arm
- use this game to establish respect
- use this game to teach horse to have ‘self-carriage’
- use this game to teach patience and attention
- notice how straight (or not) horse backs
- use this game to balance ‘drive and draw’
Circling Game or Lungeing:
- use proper send/allow/disengage
- use Send to check ‘wait’, evenness right to left, softness/looseness of front end, ease of engagement
- use Allow to check self-carriage and emotions – do not micromanage
- use Disengage to check softness/looseness of hind end, quality of attention, draw
Sideways Game or Side passing:
- use to check softness and balance of front end vs. hind end yields
- make sure forward motion is maintained, forward motion is key to suspension
- use to improve suspension and elevation in all gaits and movements (i.e. flying changes, lope, etc)
- use to help horse learn to solve ‘puzzles’ or problems with patience
- use to build confidence and patience
- helps claustrophobic, panicky horse
- use to teach trail obstacles and jumps
- use to build great trailer loading (add yo-yo to finish great loading)