After having received and answered questions on this blog for some time now, a recurring theme keeps popping up.
Riders of all disciplines seem to get to a certain level but never seem to be able to get past it. That’s when the questions come forth, and the frustration begins. People intuitively know, even if they don’t consciously know, that they are missing a very integral part of the “equine journey”.
It’s all fine to learn the “mechanics” of riding. We learn how to sit so that we and the horse are more comfortable and safe. We learn how to use our hands and legs to ask the horse how to do a specific task – but we really don’t feel, at a deeper level, what that truly is – to the horse. And so begins our feeling of being “stuck” and asking questions.
We brush our horses, feed them, kiss them goodnight or goodbye, and the second we step away, we move right back into our outer world beyond the horse. But our whole intention, if we search higher, of having a horse in the first place, is to connect very deeply with another spirit. Not another human or animal. Another spirit. And to retain that connection while away from them. This does not mean that you “think” about the horse. It means you bring forward “that” which you carry between you and your horse into all the other aspects of your life. Things like, patience, understanding, grounding, centeredness, unflappable and unshakeable – emotionally and ego free.
I teach groundwork and I love the performance and the teaching of it, as it makes me feel “energized” or something like that (we have not come across the words for this feeling yet, but I feel it on a cellular level). Groundwork produces a connection with a horse that riding either cannot do (for some), or often blocks the pathways.
Groundwork can be learned in many ways. Again, you learn the mechanics and the movements, and in the same time you gain fluidity and grace yourself, as good groundwork done over time is a dance. It enhances your performance as much as the horse’s. It is done on the “ground”, a place to reconnect and re-member your conscious self. Thus the word “grounding”.
Apart from sounding like a broken record, groundwork also transfers to the saddle. This is where the true understanding of the importance of this skill comes in. It has the ability to connect you and the horse at a level that is transferred to everything you do with your horse, including getting past any blocks in your riding. It also allows you to connect quickly with any horse, for that matter.
There are many exercises that may appear to look like something done in a circus, but if you truly understand the connection, they allow the horse to utilize his/her body in a sort of “horse yoga” fashion. One such exercise is having a horse stand with his front feet elevated. This is not merely teaching a horse to stand on a pedestal! So much more is happening here. Watch how the muscles in the horse stretch and flow, in ways the horse cannot do with four feet on the ground (as easily). Once up there, you can ask the horse to lower his/her head and get some great longitudinal stretching. You can do “belly lifts” and strengthen their backs and hindquarters. This is just a small example of the value these teachings bring to the relationship you and your horse move through, and how they improve the overall physical and spiritual nature of the horse.
Have you ever seen someone working in liberty (no physical connection to the horse) and it looks and feels like a dance? How the horse watches you for every change-up? This is what groundwork is all about. This is the connection you need to feel in order to move past the blocks that face you. By performing this on the ground first, you intuitively move it into your saddle work as well. Your training goes from “an okay trainer that can get the job done”, to “an exceptional trainer that people instinctively follow”. It is not about the horse: it has never been about the horse. It has always been about you.
Quit Going Along For The Ride
I see a real lack of this skill in the English disciplines, although at the time of this writing, I am working with only English riders in some very high-end facilities! Perhaps we are playing “catch up” with the recreational and Western disciplines, but the truth remains, as the English set begins to embrace the advantages of groundwork, it is truly the horse that will reap the benefits.
And it will begin to show up in our show arenas. We don’t need all the “inventions” to allow our horses to look better and move better. What we really need is the connection. This truly does show up as an amazing and individual “thing” right now – yet we are all capable of it. And it’s not so much a difficult thing to do as much as a difficult thing to “accept”. But it is the difference between an exceptional rider and a mechanical rider.
A Deeper Journey
We live in a new paradigm. What is a paradigm? It’s the movement “out” of old beliefs and patterns that no longer serve us, that leave our spirit, and thus, leave a “hole” if we do not follow where the “new” is leading us. Put simply.
In our lives today, we are being asked, and often challenged, to rise and take this new way of thinking and seeing things (mind and spirit together) into a brave new world.
The horse is not following us on this journey. He is leading us there. This is what we must understand: this is what we must “get” in order to move and advance our work with our horses. Animals are the ambassadors on this planet. They deserve our respect, our care, and our love in all ways. We have a symbiotic relationship with everything and all animals on this Pachamama. Yet look around you: the world has much “upgrading” to do still…
I will be writing about this subject more and more, as there is much to write about in regards to energy work and “balance” in the higher dimensions. I hope you will come with me on this journey of connection.
And please, continue your groundwork, every day, no matter how little you think you need to do. It’s not about “performing” it. It is about “living” it.
Thank you for this posting!!! I would love to do more of this –or any of this–with my horse. It’s a bit challenging at the barn where I have her as there are so many riders and especially now in the winter where we are all in the limited space of the indoor riding arena! However, I’m going to follow you keenly on this and see what I can start to do even with the space challenges!
A quote from Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Thank you SallyAnne, and I will be writing and this year, filming again, much of the new material I have coming. Try to do what you can, and hopefully one day you will have a place where you can work as you need to. They do exist: finding them is not always easy. Good luck and talk to you again in the future!