So amazing to be back in the incredible environment Elsa always creates at her clinics!
When I’m playing with Lawrence, especially when I’m playing with Freedom Based Training, or feeling for his body and releasing tension in the pasture, I have the best sessions when I can really focus my mind and get into an almost meditative state. I find myself totally in the moment, and time goes so fast when I’m in that place. Sometimes it is hard work to focus my mind. As a loud and proud extrovert, often it can be difficult to quiet my mind and engage in the moment.
From the moment Elsa arrived, I found myself back in that mindset. Effortlessly.
The theory session was fascinating. I’m always amazed by how each year of this clinic, the discussion is so different. How each year’s participants interpret the concepts in a new way. And of course, every year Elsa comes back to us with more and more to add and build on.
This year, the conversation was all about the spectrum of leadership.
One of my most significant notes on this was how as you move down the scale from dominant to passive leadership, the discomfort of the horse decreases, and vice versa. Huh.
It seems blindingly obvious now that I know this, and I think I did know it before, but I never really quite understood how this concept explains why Freedom Based Training and passive leadership is so important, and so successful.
The more comfort you can offer your horse, the more you fulfill their needs, the more positively they feel and think about you, the more time they want to spend with you naturally and the more they trust you as a leader and a partner.
The next piece of the puzzle for me came as the group discussed the different types of stress. I have heard many trainers talk about good and bad stress before. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to hear it yet, or maybe Elsa’s explanation was just right for me, but this is a piece I have been missing for a long time I think!
We usually categorise stress in 3 ways: FIGHT, FLIGHT and FREEZE, but there is so much more to it than this!
Elsa asked the room what the positive version of the fight stress would be. There was a pause while we all mulled this, before the realisation that PLAY (grooming, playfighting etc.) is the good side of the FIGHT instinct.
Freedom Based Training is the foundation for turning stress into fun. Negative into positive excluding as many external factors as possible, just stripping the relationship right down to what’s between you and the horse.
The minute details of refinement, training yourself to become fluent in the language of the horse. To read every ear flick, every tail swish, every blink and every step and all the things you haven’t even noticed you don’t notice yet.
And in the process, create a partnership where your horse yields to you, plays with you and is keen and engaged with you because they want to. Because it’s enjoyable for them.
I always find it interesting how it seems the further into refinement I go, the more I seem to go back to the foundation, with every horseman I study with…
Elsa set the riders off with this final phrase in mind. This sentence is one that has stuck with me like a compass for the last 12 months as Lawrence and I have grown and developed and begun our journey towards health and happiness:
IS IT GETTING BETTER OR IS IT GETTING WORSE?
(…TO BE CONTINUED…)
I can’t believe how much I have to say! This feels like a good place to stop, as I’m writing this it is the end of the first 2 day clinic. Tomorrow is my first day with Lawrence as a participant, and it has taken me this long to digest enough to write this one!
What an incredible weekend. I hope you all enjoy this first instalment and are ready to come along with me on this journey!
For now, peace out and pony love!