In my quest for improving my horsemanship (and humanship), I finally finished an In-Hand course by Patrick King and have begun to start implementing the ideas and tools he taught in the course with my horses in our daily sessions.
There are two foundational positions for in-hand work as I've understood it: positions 1 and 2. The first position is a kind of shoulder-in on a volte (small circle).
Position 2 transforms the shoulder-in into a counter-haunches in with a simple change of the human's bodily direction! Sounds complicated, but, the way Patrick teaches it, it’s not. (Check it out! Run, don’t walk to take this course--and others-- at crktrainingblog.com!)
My herd and I are at the VERY, VERY beginning, folks, so don't get too excited about what you’re going to see. The videos today are going to be my baseline from which I hope we will improve on over time! But, that said, it has been amazing to observe my horses' reactions to the work (physically, mentally, emotionally). Each one is different, but each one is getting huge benefits from the simple exercises even as I am not yet cueing them correctly and they are yet to do it all perfectly.
Here’s how I felt each horse’s reaction:
Patxi: he wowed me with how quickly he melted into this exercise—no resistance!!! He was the best at executing it, too! I NEVER expected this! He was the first of the herd to be able to do P2 for even one true step the first day.
Maia: her first day, like she is with anything new, Maia was mentally resistant and nervous as seen by her flapping upper lip (so cute). Yet, she took my guidance and corrected the over-bending of her neck by really reaching under her belly with the inside hind. I found her getting deeper and deeper into a strong mental focus.
Txoko: he hated my hand on his nose, but was so fluid in his movements! In the last clip he is nervously biting the halter rope tip because I know his left hip bone hurts him (old injury), but he seemed to really get some benefit from these movements (he would let me know with a fierce face if he wasn’t). I can’t wait until I can get him to unlock his mind to unlock his body and let his topline streeeeetch.
Txiki: normally resistant to guidance (is this a mare thing? 😋), she took to this exercise with relish, licking, chewing, clacking her teeth and processing galore. Some of it seemed to be a processing of pain/tension, another was almost like her body was re-awakening her mind to its possibilities and to muscles and movements it hadn’t made in a while. Fascinating and worth studying more. She is a pro at P1, but P2 is hard for her because her shoulders are stiff. (so these positions are almost a diagnostic tool, too!)
Here’s what I think I need to change in me:
Ponti: get a longer stick (I’ll use Warwick Schiller's telescoping flag) so that my cue to the inside hind doesn’t come out as a cue to sidepass or move the belly over; stop walking such a small circle—make it a bit bigger so the footfalls of the horse follow a true shoulder-in; keep a longer distance from the head of the horse—I am too close which makes them overbend or get confused and sidepass; re-visit the course to make sure I am not missing some key point as I progress!
With all the horses I am taking it slowly. Not expecting too many steps at a time or too much time per session. I keep them calm and under threshold, while encouraging them to experiment with me and find relaxation, release, stretching, and strengthening with every step.
There is no doubt that these simple exercises will help them tremendously in their bodies and minds. It's already working wonders at the very initial stages! And, I have to say, it puts both the horses and myself into a very focused, zen frame mind—I mean, we get in the stinkin’ zone and time FLIES!!!
Patrick King was one of the key contributors to the recent growth spurt in my horsemanship along with Warwick Schiller. That's why I wrote a few blog pieces about the key insights he gave me (click on the tab Written Musings; scroll down!) and I take and audit classes with him at every opportunity.
His "Bend it Like Patrick" tool (named by moi) became the foundational tool for my work with any horse whether I know their history or not, and, in his In-Hand course, we take this tool to the next levels. Pretty. Darn. Awesome.
So, if you see a bunch of videos from me, holding a horse's halter above his nose and walking sorta backward, it's all Patrick King's fault!!
Enjoy and happy weekend!