Ben Atkinson,the Retake Day 2 –

Mijas and I made it to day 2! Result!

Over the last two sessions it felt like we have been tinkering around, tightening screws and adjusting the pieces.

Today, we put our building blocks together, and what we created just felt so beautiful.

My riding has completely changed. I can’t think of one thing about my body that is the same as it was before we first rode with Ben five weeks ago.

We came out again and worked more on our leg yield, circles and canter transitions. I tried to keep my elbows softer, and was somewhat successful. My next big job is to keep my legs positioned supportively, so that she is between my legs, with me touching her the whole time, rather than taking the leg off completely which prevents me from lifting her up underneath me into transitions and gaits generally.

My other major breakthrough today was the idea of every aid I give being like a pulsing or twitching motion not a continuous pressure. Like cooking with a pinch of salt or pepper, rather than just pouring the salt in and then trying to correct it when it’s too salty!

Just a little bit, then a little more, a little of this and a little of that. A little forwards, a little outside rein, a little inside leg, a little flexion, a little half halt, everything little. Then release, then again, then release, then something else, then release. Soft and smooth and open, no brace, just moving with the horse.

It’s actually really hard to do! Especially when you’re training new muscles, because you’re tensing things that have never tensed before, whilst simultaneously trying to relax those things! But I was blown away by the softness, and how quickly the end result came to be so beautiful; the power of being in the right place at the right time!

My brain is so saturated, so many pieces are clicking into place and today I really felt like it was right. Only a few strides here and there but we were going together, softly, nicely, in harmony.

I think, after all this time, I might finally be getting into dressage…oh dear!! Well, it’s an exciting new horizon to explore!

Ben had Mijas and I working on a few fun sideways and lateral exercises around poles at the end of the session. I’ve worked with these kind of exercises before, but never with this level of precision, and it really made me realise how small you can break it down, and how powerful that can be.

Every muscle in my body aches too! Muscles I didn’t even know I had, my feet, my calves, my hips, my thighs, stomach, shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, everything. Everything aches. I imagine Mijas is feeling somewhat similar. Tomorrow I will be sure to give her a good massage! (And try to find one for myself!)

What an incredible experience this has been with her, I feel so blessed and so lucky, and like I am finally on a path that lights a fire in my soul!

Mijas is so smart and talented too, and it truly fascinated me how motivated she is to get it right with me, and how much she will fill in to make it right. I had that addictive feeling today, where I felt like we were together, working on the same goal.

It’s not perfect, but we’re getting there!

With Lawrence, it still often feels like I am doing things to him, because he finds the dominance play so hard, even though I know the things we are doing are good for him and his body especially, but it is unusual for me to feel like we are in it together in the same way. He says yes because our connection is strong, and he trusts me that what we are doing will make him feel better in the end, but I’m still not sure if he would choose it for himself. Ambivalent is perhaps a good word for his energy in the arena now.

But Mijas? She has motivation to work with me to the end goal. I haven’t quite figured out what she really likes yet, I know some things she really hates, but I’m not quite sure on what makes her tick….it’s like a breath of fresh air though to have a shared vision together, and to know that she is by my side, even if I’m not quite sure why she is, or what makes her tick yet, is a magical feeling!

What a weekend! I can hand on heart recommend Ben Atkinson’s instruction, and as ever, massive kudos and applause for Organised Equestrian for always creating such a great learning environment!

Although the world is topsy turvy right now, there is another chance to catch Ben at his demonstration on the 9th October (here), or at his next clinic in Yorkshire (here)! If you can, I can assure you it will be well worth attending.

But for now, I need to stretch out my weary muscles and rest my brain, so

Peace out and pony love,

Lucy

Find my write up for the first half of this clinic here

And the start of this journey here

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Ben Atkinson, the Retake – every cloud has a silver lining!

Sometimes in life you get an opportunity for a second chance. It’s pretty unusual, but the cards all stacked up and myself and Mijas have been so privileged to have another opportunity to ride with Ben, only a few weeks later!

These strange and tumultuous times have postponed Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado from returning to us as planned this weekend, and although this is an almighty cloud, I cannot help but bask in my own silver lining, as Ben has filled the slot so brilliantly!

Mijas and I have been working hard, since I ran what felt like 100 miles with Mr Darcy last time I have been going to the gym, and I am so thankful that Mijas came sound so quickly and we were able to get right back on the horse (as it were)!

Mostly, I have been trying to work on keeping my pelvis tipped farther backwards, keeping my weight down through my knees, my arms straight through to my thumbs, my shoulders relaxed, my toes tucked under my horse and my riding the same no matter what my reins were doing. I could feel that my core muscles were getting stronger, and things definitely FELT better sometimes, but I wasn’t really sure if they WERE better or not!

For Mijas, this kind of work was/is quite stressful, so we usually work in a frame for a few days, then take a few days to decompress and lope about working on our transitions and steering Freestyle, and our Parelli patterns.

The week leading up to this clinic, I worked on Freestyle, to get her nice and loose, and then had one session in a frame the day before, which has seemed to work quite well.

I feel like we are peeling back the layers of the onion, and those many many pieces that I have been working so hard on were all in the background this time, the problems of yesterday, and Ben gave me a whole new set of issues to improve and correct!

(I’m actually taking this as quite a good sign, that we’re not still working on the same stuff as last time – I’m hoping this means I have been at least somewhat successful in working on what he gave us before!)

The headline act for today:

ELBOWS!

Elbows elbows elbows elbows elbows!

Elbows!

Mijas is such a gift, because with her, when I get myself in the right place, she gives me everything and it is just amazing! Every time I got my body in the right place, she slotted everything else together for me, and I could really feel the difference I was making when I wasn’t getting it quite right for her.

My elbows need to be softer, like a spring, to maintain a supportive contact but without bracing, and to move without tensing, so that everything is light and flexible and moving with her, not tensing against her.

I also need to stop relying on my inside rein so much. It’s a strange one this, I think a dusty remnant of my days in the riding school: left rein to go left, right rein to go right. So when I’m on a left rein circle, my brain goes “left rein left!”, when actually I need my left (inside) leg to shape her around the circle, my right (outside) rein to support her to stay balanced (not overbent and in a good frame, to my understanding), my left shoulder back and my weight in my left stirrup to direct the shoulders to create the circle and my hands low and symmetrical, touching her mane. Reprogramming that inside rein is possibly the hardest part, because it’s such a subconscious habit, even though it should actually be pretty quiet in reality, and serves no positive purpose.

And of course, whilst I’m focusing on all these new things, I still need to keep my back and shoulders straight but not tense, my pelvis bowl tilted backwards, my knees open, my legs long and slightly further back, my toes tucked under my horse and my fingertips touching my palms, and in a straight line through to my thumbs. Oh yeah, and try to breathe every once in a while, it helps!

There are a few things to remember here (!), and by the second half of the session my legs were ACHING like a workout! But we did so well together and I couldn’t be more proud of gorgeous Mijas. She is so special, with so much heart and try. We worked on some canter transitions towards the end of the session and we had two where we both (mostly me who actually needed to) managed to keep ourselves together and it’s was just like magic! Like we were lifting up in perfect balance together into a beautiful canter, two souls on the same wavelength, just incredible.

(I’m actually getting a bit emotional thinking about it over my glass of wine at the end of this awesome day, don’t tell anyone will you!)

The more you know, the less you know you know, and my list of things to work on has grown exponentially today. I couldn’t be more excited, and I can’t wait to return tomorrow to consolidate and enhance.

I am so grateful to have been given another opportunity to work with Ben, the stars have aligned for Mijas and I these past few months, and I intend to ride this wave for as long as I possibly can, it’s been such a rush so far, and it seems like we’re only going from strength to strength together!

But for now, I need some zzz’s, and to prepare for whatever tomorrow brings, so,

Peace out and pony love,

Lucy

To catch up on our first clinic together with Ben, click here!

Coming soon:

Lawrence update – where are we now?

Horse School launches our first series!

Follow us on Facebook @ Horseman’s Log!

Ben Atkinson 2020 Day 2 – Expect the Unexpected!

There are a great many sayings about the best laid plans, and it is my true belief that one of the most important skills you can have as a horseman is adaptability.

Overnight, Mijas and her herd had a BIG family row, one of the biggest I’ve ever seen, and as a result most of the herd had been put out of action when I arrived on Sunday morning, including Mijas.

So, time to change the game plan!

I am exceptionally privileged to have the opportunities that I do, and Larisa offered me her beautiful Mr Darcy for a ground session instead. An opportunity not to be missed, he is a gorgeous Oldenburg with a trot to DIE for.

Faced with such an exciting afternoon ahead, as well as the whole day to watch the other riders progress, I just couldn’t find it in myself to be disappointed. Of course I wished for Mijas to be sound again by the time I saw her this evening, but I couldn’t help but bask in the gigantic silver lining I had just been given!

Watching the other riders gave me such a warm glow (helped along by a VERY hot Sun!). Every single person had a noticeable progression of their clarity, consistency or confidence, and sometimes all three!

One rider in particular had wanted to set her horse up for starting liberty. Ben had helped put the send and return in for the nervous Thoroughbred on the first day, and let me tell you, it was a show! But Ben stuck with it and by the end of the second day, the rider and her horse had some beautiful moments walking together at Liberty with an amazing feeling and emotion from the horse. I always find it so magical when that first “catching game” type experience goes well for the horse, it can produce such a big breakthrough in such a short amount of time. I remember the first day Lawrence came towards me rather than running away when I came into his field, and how beautiful that moment was for me. Such a rewarding session to watch someone else find such harmony.

After lunch, I went to catch Darcy. We’ve never really played together without a fitness purpose, and I wanted us to get properly acquainted before we started pushing the boundaries!

He’s just a dream, he makes you work hard to earn the leadership and will test you at every chance he gets, but once you get the connection it’s like fire on your fingertips! Even though the weather was sweltering I couldn’t resist 10 minutes at Liberty! It was just a dream, to see that back arch and the neck round out as I drew him in was almost addictive!

So I asked Ben to work with us on Spanish walk and Passage, I have a vague notion of how to create Spanish walk but I have never been particularly successful. I didn’t have the first clue about passage. Had I realised how the passage should be, I would not have chosen it in 32 degree heat in my black jodhpurs!

The Spanish walk is actually all about getting out of the horse’s way and not asking too low. You want the horse to be reaching up and out always, and if you keep the whip at the knee, you are always blocking the movement. Instead come up near the chin, where a kerb chain would sit, and ask from there.

If you imagine yourself doing front crawl swimming, as you’re bringing the left arm over the top of your head, you want your head straight, or if anything, slightly to the right, and vice versa on the other side. I was tending to unconsciously flex Darcy’s head towards the inside, which was actually blocking his movement and restricting the lift. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher in Darcy, when I got it right, it was PERFECT and when I got it wrong, it sucked!

We moved on to the passage, which was a workout let me tell you! If I’d have realised what it entailed I may have chosen differently to save my poor legs in those black jodhpurs, but I’ve been told i didn’t look as deceased as I felt (!). Running around the arena trying to keep up with Darcy, keep balanced, not fall over (I was only partially successful with this), not have him or I step on the rope, stay straight, cue at the right time and place, not get in the way and above all REMEMBER TO BREATHE was another exercise in multitasking that I was mostly only somewhat successful in. But of course, with a horse as majestic as Darcy, when it’s right, it’s RIGHT, and it felt like we were flying for those couple of good strides before I collapsed back into a sweaty floppy mess!!

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with two amazing horses this weekend. I’ve had a bit of time to reflect and what I have really taken away from this weekend is the value of consistency in my training. The tasks and techniques that Ben has set me up with are complicated yes, but only in so much as that I am physically unable to keep all of my plates spinning due to a simple lack of practice. If I do these exercises daily, then I have absolute confidence that my skills will improve.

This is a rare and exciting piece of clarity in my training plan. All I have to do now is follow the plan and do the practice, and I’ll get results. I am so thankful that when I saw Mijas today that she was more sound, and I used my extra time today to finally get back out with Lawrence, and go to the gym, to improve my fitness so that I can be in the right place at the right time for my horses.

Thank you so much Ben, for giving me so much to work on, explaining it so well, and giving me the motivation to get back to my fitness and get back to my consistency!

I have no doubt that I will continue to have instruction from Ben in the future, and I would highly recommend that anyone do the same. I guarantee he can help you with whatever you are working on.

As ever, thank you to Larisa and Nicole and Organised Equestrian, for always bringing the magic and bridging the gap between trainers and riders so well. It was just fabulous to be back at an event.

Thank you to Larisa, for letting me ride and play with your awesome horses, for letting me learn and get it wrong and pick at all your hard woven threads as I improve, I promise I’m trying my best!

And finally, thank you to everyone who reads these ridiculous things that I throw out of my head! I love writing them, and it truly means so much to me when I hear people have enjoyed my posts.

Keep your eyes peeled, I have a few exciting pieces lined up and I am very excited to share them with you all!

For now, peace out and pony love

Lucy

Find my second clinic with Ben here!

Ben Atkinson 2020 Day 1 – WOW WOW WOW

What a day!

First off, it is just SO good for the soul to be at a horse event. I really hadn’t realised how much I had missed that feeling until I turned up this morning. 

Pulling in at Willow Fields with the flags out and the marquee up and dozens of cars parked felt like coming home. Lockdown has been kind to me, and I haven’t had much to complain of, but I hadn’t realised how much I’d desperately missed the magic of Organised Equestrian events.

I rode today with Mijas, Larisa Tasker’s Spanish mare, who I’ve only begun working with very recently. I played with her a few times a couple of years back and we didn’t really gel, I think we were both just still too stubborn and mareish (!)…

But something clicked for us about 2/3 months back and we’ve been taking leaps and bounds together! Mijas has a long and tumultuous history including Classical Spanish dressage training, and she has a lot in the bank that I haven’t got the skills to tap into (so far). She’s a wonderful sensitive mare who fills in so many gaps for me, bless her soul, and I was excited to get some help with my position and aids to progress my riding technique. 

Ben’s clinic is titled “Clarity, Consistency and Confidence”, and if you aren’t familiar with his work I’d recommend my previous review of his At Home with Ben Atkinson training film. Ben is a stunt, trick and film rider and trainer with a pretty impressive portfolio for a 26 year old, built on the back of perseverance and commitment.

The variety of riders across the day made for great watching, we saw work on shoulder in, piaffe, brideless riding, rearing, and a very interesting session on preparation for liberty and draw work. 

Ben is very young, but very knowledgeable, and I think his greatest asset is that his training methods and perception of the horse and human picture is firmly rooted in the physicality of what both partners are doing. 

There are many trainers, clinicians and riders who will talk about feel, timing, balance, movement and progression, some world class. A common theme that I’ve always struggled with is the use of phrases like “bring the horse round and through”, or “go more with the horse”…sometimes I can’t help but think “I’m on top of the bloody horse, how much more “with it” do you want me to get?!?!”

Ben talks about Clarity, Consistency and Confidence, and he teaches how he preaches, with a clarity of instruction that I haven’t experienced often before, and is such a breath of fresh air! 

He will tell you exactly where to put your hand, your leg, your whip, how to do it consistently every time, and exactly what you are looking for from the horse. 

Grand Prix is just the basics done really well, and I was already thoroughly enjoying watching the other riders and picking up a few exercises for Lawrence and I to try out together (yay! A plan!!)…

I got Mijas ready, and I could feel just a little bit of nerves in my chest. I think Ben can seem quite intimidating from the outside. He is so knowledgeable, and has earned the right to be confident in what he does simply through the extraordinary amount of hours he has put into his horsemanship. So I was a little anxious. My riding is exponentially better since I started riding Mijas, but I still flop about like a wonky raggedy doll most of the time!

We started out just playing with the shoulder on the ground – Mijas can be pretty dominant with it – and Ben gave me a whole bunch of progressions to work with to take me right up to that cool thing I’ve seen people do where their horse yields the fore quarters side to side really fast, like cow cutting! (No I can’t remember the name of that manoeuvre, it’s been a long hot day!)

Then I got on board, and that’s where the magic really started! After a quick warm up and some shoulder in, Ben had me working on my position in trot, and getting the balance right in me and her. 

What a magical experience. I felt like I was riding in the Olympics every time we came together and it was just the most amazing feeling!

The multitasking was seriously hard work! Let me give you a list of all the things I had to try to remember to do all at once:

– sit on my seat pockets, like my pelvis is a bowl and I’m pouring water out the back

– keep my reins short and my arms long

– but not too long, and keep my inside elbow veins in a straight line down through my wrists and thumbs

– tuck my toes under my horse

– relax my shoulders

– keep my outside rein stable to reassure her

– play with the ring finger on my inside rein but keep my fingers together not splayed

– look where I’m going (!)

– keep her straight in the neck but on the circle

– guide with the outside leg to stop her falling out

– guide with the inside leg to shape the circle

– push the trot forward through my seat and energy

– maintain a good contact, don’t abandon her with too much lightness

– try to remember to breathe and feel the magic! 

And this is just the stuff I can remember!! Let me tell you, every time Ben would point something out to me, something else would fall apart! Get the legs right and the arms were gone, get the arms, and the shoulders tensed, get the shoulders, and veer halfway across the school with my legs flopping about! Every now and again, for a couple of strides, I’d get perfection! Then back to dropping balls and spinning plates until I could keep it ALL together for maybe a stride or two then drop it all again!

Mijas was just incredible, and an hour flew by like five minutes. I had expected Ben to have a lot to teach me, but his teaching style also really suited me and I gained so much, even more than I could ever have expected.

The best moment of the day for me though really came at the end of the session. I felt Mijas’ energy drop, and her stride getting choppy, and I pushed her on with the encouragement that we were doing so well, and I was so proud of her even though she was getting tired. I hadn’t done another half a circle before Ben said that he could see that she was getting tired and he thought that was a good place to quit.

My respect for him as a horseman jumped massively with that statement. He has a very good eye and to see what I had felt just a couple of moments earlier, and then have the experience and savvy to call it for us then was just the perfect end to the session for us both.

It feels like there is nothing Mijas and I can’t accomplish after today, and I can’t wait to get back on tomorrow and feel that feeling all over again! 

I really cannot recommend Ben’s instruction highly enough. He has such a wide breadth of knowledge, and he put me so at ease with his friendly, confident teaching style. If you can catch the second day of this event, I would encourage you to do so, or check out his videos and video lesson opportunities on the Organised Equestrian Horsemanship Hub.

I am off to bed now to dream about dressage horses and liberty and get some shut eye before I do it again tomorrow! I hope to see some of you there!

For now, peace out and pony love,

Lucy

Check out Day 2 here!

Meditation: a clear mind

Elsa Sinclair first said the phrase to me “meditate on your horse”. It has really stuck in my mind, and I’ve found myself coming back to the idea often, to embellish it and build on how that feels for me.

At first it was literal meditation for me, with Lawrence. Being together in peace and harmony and just existing, no thoughts or goals in mind. Lawrence and I really enjoy this kind of meditation together, and he will often quickly say yes if I offer it.

Just watching the world go by…

More recently, meditation has started to seep more into my dominant play time (in this context, any time where I am playing with pressure and leadership). Specifically, in the feeling of being present and focused in the moment.

My life is moving fast at the moment, recently I confess a little faster than I can comfortably keep up with. But growth happens outside our comfort zone, as I keep saying to myself, and anyway, movement is often a good thing.

So my horse time has become a more sacred place for me, somewhere I can return to, unchanging and comforting, somewhere that is a safe space away from whatever else is happening. It’s pretty powerful, and I want to kick open the floodgates of this feeling and really immerse myself in creating that place where my mind is clear and focused.

Because my mind is quite scattered, I have been finding it hard to set down proper goals at the moment. Lawrence is not as physically comfortable in this changeable weather either, which is limiting his yes answers, which is ok, but limits my goal choices too. As it happens, all of the horses I’m hanging out with at the moment have been in different places in their journeys recently too, or needed to slow down for a few days for whatever reason and change their plans. But I have been determined to try anyway, simply because I have needed the escape to that peaceful horse place, and so I have finally broken through the fear of “I don’t know what I’m doing/what the plan is, so maybe it’s better to just leave it”.

I thought I didn’t have any goals because I didn’t have any physical goals, or technique goals, but without even realising I’d given myself the most powerful goal I’ve had in ages: to be PRESENT.

When I am present, let go of all other thoughts and focus solely on my horse and the moment, they show me the rest, and tell my what I need to do, what we are working on today. All I have to do is turn up, and the horse will do the rest. The trick is, I don’t think I ever turned up this much before.

By spending all this energy deciding what I thought needed to be worked on, I blocked out my ability to truly hear the horse, and listen and observe without my own agenda. By turning up with the one pure goal of just BEING THERE and only there, I opened the door for the horse to be there with me.

It’s so simple too, although of course not always easy! Just to clear my mind and reduce my world to living inside my connection to my horse in that moment. And feeling what happens. Even the biggest discussions and problems of the session seem more peaceful this way.

This feels like a wonderful breakthrough. I would encourage everyone to forget their goals for a session or two and just BE. Standing still for a moment to check out your surroundings helps you choose the best path to take next.

As ever, I hope you all enjoy my mad ramblings!

For now, peace out and pony love

Lucy

“At home with Ben Atkinson” – a review

I first met Ben at Organised Equestrian’s 2017 clinic with Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado. To be honest, I just thought he was a trick rider. His horses could clearly do some cool things but I wasn’t really that convinced that how he’d got there would be up my street. It looked cool though.

I was riding myself with Magali that year and I remember us all sat around the fire pit at lunchtime and Ben talking about his family, and his horses, and how he prepares for performances. I was struck by how open and friendly he seemed, and I felt my perception shift a little.

Later on I bumped into him walking back from the car park and we exchanged a few words, and I again found myself thinking that perhaps this was someone who was more on the horse’s level that I had assumed.

I’m pretty fussy about my horsemanship. I respect many different types, techniques and even philosophies of training, and I understand that different people have different journeys, but for me and what I do with MY horses, I am very selective. I am sure that a lot of you are the same.

I can confirm, after watching At home with Ben Atkinson and writing six pages of notes, that his philosophy and principles work for me. I am certain that everyone will take something from this production, regardless of your experience, goals or background. And I can also confirm that it will make you feel good (which I know can be a risk for some of us more sensitive horsepeople). These are happy horses.

We open with Ben working with a younger horse, on some of the very basic “foundation” commands.

When I was younger, a now nameless faceless instructor once told me “Grand Prix is just the basics done really really well”. The message was so powerful and I’ve repeated it so many times that I’ve forgotten who told it to me, but I could hear it again while watching Ben and his youngster, Graham.

From day 1, Ben focuses on working the body and the mind, working smarter, so more efficiently, and with precision. Because if you get it right the first time, you don’t have to go back to it.

The real unique selling point? Something I’ve always been looking for but never found? Someone to just TELL ME WHERE IM SUPPOSED TO BE!

Like literally. Put your right shoulder here, your left leg there, raise your stick to this point and put your other hand over here and do THIS. Create THIS exact response. Then repeat.

This is the magic. Ben talks about the magic of the liberty performance, and even refers to it as sleight of hand. Sleight of hand is created by consistently practising the same movement over and over again. This is Ben’s magic. He is completely consistent in his body and his cues.

He builds a language, a vocabulary with the horse, and most importantly, his physical pronunciation of the language is exact. I am HERE, you should be THERE, we will go HERE. He is clear, and consistent, and this fosters confidence in his horses, because they can speak the same language.

It is this same clarity with the horses that Ben brings to how he teaches and explains what he is doing, and it is very valuable. Often I find myself questioning the nuances of what I can see a trainer doing, but as I was doing this in my head, Ben was explaining with words my questions. He is very confident in his own movements, everything is deliberate. Because of this, he can relay in almost real time what he is doing.

There are little pieces of philosophy scattered through this feature, and some need to be experienced firsthand as you watch it yourself, but I want to share with you my two favourites:

1. The “Harry Potter” rule – hold your whip like your wand and there will be magic

2. Training horses is like laying one sheet of paper on top of another every day

I thought – how many pieces of paper until you make a book?

What kind of book do you want to write?

As our day with Ben progresses, we join him as he works with more and more advanced horses. The building blocks are starting to come together, and you can see how one fits on top of another, and another.

For many of us, we have been playing with concepts like yielding to and from pressure, desensitisation, flexion and lightness for a long time. If you want some real refinement for those concepts, you can find it here. If you are clear and consistent you can put a pin right in the spot you want. Just right THERE. Perfect. The more perfect blocks you can build, the more confident you and your horse can be in your language, and the more transferable your vocabulary becomes.

We started with a young horse in a round pen with a halter and a lead rope. We’re now Roman riding a team of four horses around an arena. It doesn’t feel any different. The path has been laid, and Ben is right, anyone can do this, it is all a language built on basic principles and written one word at a time until suddenly you can write sonnets and poems and ballads together. Nice. Very nice.

There are a thousand little puzzle pieces I haven’t included in this, because I would be here a very long time (!), the specific details that make the difference between good and excellent in a response that are so often missed out. These details needs to be watched first hand.

A note on price, as this is a review, you can rent At home with Ben Atkinson for £9.99, and purchase for £24.99. This is a feature length production, which is packed from start to finish with information and education. I can confidently recommend with hand on heart value for money with this product, and I would actually recommend purchasing, because you will likely want to watch it again at some point. I am sure I will be once I have had time to lick and chew and play around. If you want to rent instead, you can be assured that even if you rent twice you are still in good value. Stamp of approval from me!

An Easter weekend/bank holiday treat, I’ve had a lovely afternoon watching and reflecting and writing, I look forward to watching everyone enjoy this piece as much as I have!

You can find At home with Ben Atkinson at http://www.organisedequestrian.com, go and grab yourselves a notebook and some popcorn and settle in, I can’t wait to hear what you all think!

For now, peace out and pony love,

Lucy

 

Post Linda -Day 5 & 6

Day 5 was a write off for playing. Another day that got away from me. But this winter my goal is to have a more positive mindset, and so I screwed my smile on and made sure to spend time being present with my pony while he ate his dinner.

I don’t think the value of this time can be expressed strongly enough. To borrow from some of Elsa Sinclair’s language, for me it’s like putting money in the bank. Every minute that I spend with Lawrence in harmony, not asking for anything, not needing anything from him, just being there puts a pound in our relationship wallet. 5 minutes is 5 pounds. You can do a lot with 5 pounds when you need to spend it. 5 pounds could be, “come touch this scary object with me”, or “just push for that little bit more flexion/lightness/quality please”. I’m investing time here, and even though it can be frustrating for us progress-aholics, I’m started to enjoy the feeling that no day is wasted, that I have done something positive for our relationship, even if my time was short.

Day 6 was much like day 5, busy busy busy, but as luck would have it, my deadline for home time was stretched to 8pm. I got back to the yard for horsemanship time at 7:05. I was determined to make something of the time I had available, and on the drive there I had an idea.

Another ongoing goal of mine is to improve my creativity. I’m always getting stuck, and sometimes I find it hard to think outside the box and find new ways of doing things. Not today. I stumbled across a neat little mental mantra that flipped my normal “by the time I make the feed and he eats it I’ll only have 20 minutes” to “I have 20 minutes, great! What can I do?”

The 7 games?

How many?

I ended up parking my car in the middle of the playground for the lights, grinning as I raced to get my horse, filled with excitement to play the Can I game, again with just my 12ft line…

Can I play the driving game (stick to me) at walk and trot short and mid range?

Can I do a kissing fish pattern around two fallen jump wings?

Can I back through the tyre squeeze with lightness and responsiveness?

Can I back up from zone 1 with straightness? (This one was a no – add to the to do list for tomorrow!)

Can I move sideways over the pole in both directions?

Can I hindquarter yield over the pole to build up the muscles?

Can I…

20 minutes goes fast huh!

But I’m happy, very happy. I feel like I managed to stay positive, get creative and in the process found some questions, like the tyres, were waaaay better answers than the last time I played there, and got to give some nice releases with good timing, and found some others, like the HQ yields over the pole, that I could teach and have some positive learning and good feelings about. All in 20 minutes!

It’s really interesting for me to watch as this blog piece takes shape. I’d like to do 30 days, and I really have know idea where it’s going to go or end up, it’s kind of exciting!

I hope you’re all enjoying it as much as me!

Post Linda: Day 2

So today I didn’t have as much time as I thought I would, and I didn’t get back to my horse until nearly 8:30pm (!)

I made the feed and when I got down to see him I had a moment of inspiration and decided to play on the 12ft line for 10 minutes before he ate. It was a really nice moment for me because it reminded me that the tools aren’t as important as we all imagine them to be. I could play the same games with the same goals with my 12 foot as I could with my 22ft and a carrot stick. I don’t need to stay in the box.

We played porcupine with the hindquarters and forequarters, with some reasonable success. HQ yield on the left definitely felt better. I tried consciously to be at a greater distance on the right, obviously not that much changed physically as I was playing the porcupine game using my hand but my mindset was different. I was looking at the whole body with a better posture and more focus on the big picture, rather than focussing in on the movement on the legs or the neck etc. I think the result was good.

Then we played circling game on the 12ft, which ended up more like driving game because of the transitions but I was ok with it because I got a nice responsive downwards transition on both sides.

Moving forward with my transitions, I think I need to start to focus more on quality. Once the responsiveness is there I need to think about how he uses his body during the transition.

The trouble is, I don’t know what I’m looking for…I think I might need to do some research…

So, goals and plan for tomorrow (today once I’ve actually posted this):

– Friendly game from zone 4 for warm up

– porcupine game HQ/FQ with big picture in mind

– porcupine game HQ/FQ from a distance using carrot stick (just for fun)

– driving game HQ/FQ towards and away – need to read up on this as well…

– yo-yo zone 2/3 on the fence, lightness and patience

– circling transitions with responsiveness and quality

– sideways down one long side

Elsa 2018 – Day 2

Is it getting worse or is it getting better?

Seems like a pretty simple concept, but learning to read the movements, signs and signals that allow you to have the best timing and keep the progression going is something that is individual to every horse and human partnership I think.

This year I really took a lot of inspiration from watching people who haven’t worked on the passive side of the spectrum or used FBT before.

Each participant picks up on different pieces of communication first. Some notice every ear flick, some react to the slightest eye movement, some are perfect mirrors for their horses legs.

Some move more, others move less. Everyone is different, and everyone sees each horse individually. Comparing what I was seeing to what each rider was reacting to was so fascinating, learning to see what they saw at the start of their journey gave me a whole new layer of perception.

The more horses think, the better they feel, and by the end of the first day, every horse had had their needs fulfilled, their minds engaged and had begun to associate their human with comfort, good memories and an actively positive partnership through moving on on the best feeling possible, leaving when the situation was getting worse, and matching the horses in flow and harmony.

This was a lot to sleep on! And come the morning, everyone was brimming with questions, ready to advance and expand their understanding.

Our first topic of discussion was dominant behaviour. I have never been drawn to dominant horses, I freely admit that I struggle the most to be a good horseman when faced with behaviours that make me want to be dominant back. I like to hope it’s partly to do with age, and that as I grow up, it will become easier to be mellow and patient and I will find my own stubborn dominance rising less. But in reality I also realise that this is not a problem that will magically disappear…

But once again, what was cloudy became clearer after a fascinating discussion about the causes of dominant behaviour and tools to react to this passively.

Dominant behaviour is in horses similar to that in humans in that dominant horses become dominant because they are insecure…

Finally, an emotion I can relate to (!)

Connecting dominance with a lack of confidence was key for me, and understanding that you can deal with aggressive behaviour passively by not engaging (walking away/changing direction) nor rewarding with flow or harmony was pivotal. I’m so excited to put this into practice and see the results of such a big mindset change!

The focus for the riders on their final day was the stages of acceptance (to be used for assertive leadership – when you ask for something) and the brilliant analogy of the bank account of the relationship. I love a good analogy, and this one is perfect, simple to understand, and works consistently the deeper you dive.

Assertive leadership for me sits on a fine balance. I always feel like I need to check myself and make sure I am where I really think I am; have I gone further into insistence or dominance

– not that there is anything wrong with dominant leadership but it can be easy to think you’re being assertive when you aren’t –

or have I been inconsistent and slipped into a state of passive leadership where I’m not really making good decisions anymore…

Watching each rider build on their passive observations from the first day and use their knowledge of their horse’s likes and dislikes to make good decisions was a much more variable experience than I had anticipated.

Asking for a focus change or supporting the horse into a focus change by coming out of harmony and waiting for the horse to decide to change something to make themselves feel better looked so different in every partnership.

Some horses loved closeness, so supportive or assertive leadership often meant distance for these partnerships.

Some liked to stand in one spot, so a human moving was enough to cause that thinking moment.

Others prefer their human far away, and the closer the two became, the more the change was influenced. The same reaction but with such divergent conversations was exceptionally helpful to watch.

And of course, as with every Organised Equestrian clinic, it’s always a pleasure to be surrounded by such great horsemanship. Timing for the horses was brilliant from all; moving when they moved, choosing the perfect focus changes to choose an easy or enjoyable spot of activity to reinforce the positive association, and balancing the exact timing to move just as the good moment would reach its peak.

As the day came to a close, the foundations had been set, and most of the riders were now heading home.

I couldn’t wait for morning. To get right back into the proverbial saddle, to test everything I had learnt so far, to expand and explore and make leaps and bounds and have the opportunity to once again be in harmony with Lawrence in this very special environment.

Suffice to say I slept like a log, and arrived for Day 1 of clinic 2 bright eyed and bushy tailed! Little did I know my well laid plans were about to be broken down!

(TO BE CONTINUED…)

So, I hope you are all enjoying the next update! If you have anything you’d like me to talk about in the next post, anywhere you disagree with me or anything you’d love to discuss, please don’t hesitate: I am ready to connect!

But for now, peace out and pony love!

Lucy

Elsa 2018 – Day 1

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.

Huh.

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!

Lucy