Working with What is

Working with What is

We all want what’s best for our horses. One area of the horse world that I have seen grow is the amount of people using bodywork on their horses. I am lucky to be one of the humans out there doing bodywork on these wonderful animals. Most humans have the best of intentions with their horses. Working on 20+ horses a month has taught me a great deal about their physical & emotional being. In turn I have learned how to educate the horse owner to understand their horses physical & emotional state and what to do to help them. 

What I have learned is riders focus mostly on learning to ride better to help their horse (while this is VERY TRUE) it is not the only factor effecting the horses physical & emotional well being. 

Below is the main areas I cover with my bodywork clients.

  1. Every rider is trying to improve somehow. Most of us are not amazing riders who ride in perfect balance. We are where we are in our riding evolution, and that’s OK! What’s important about recognizing this, is your horse is going to respond to where your riding baseline is, and that’s Ok!  For example; most intermediate riders are starting to get the correct timing of riding leg to hand to encourage connection and frame with their horse. But since they are just starting to get this they are not going to be perfect at it. It takes timeeeeee to develop this. So the horse has to tolerate their riders with. Riders with too much hand can cause the horse to curl their neck too much and get tight in their neck muscles. Riders with tense low hands can cause the horse to travel with head too high. This will cause tight glute muscles and hamstrings. Horses are one of the most forgiving animals alive and they tolerate our learning curve. But…. we must give back to them by taking care of their physical & emotion states, with modalities like bodywork, chiropractic, etc. The bodywork will help relieve some the tension in the muscles that is caused by the riding. This will prevent the muscles from becoming too tight which causes other issues, and help restore the horse. They will have a better chance at staying sound and happy. 

  2. Like I stated most riders naturally focus just on the riding part of the horses world. But when you add up how many minutes a day you are with them vs them just in their living space, we aren’t with them very much. We all know horses can be very creative! I massage most of my clients in their living space (vs the cross ties etc) and I have seen many things that explain why certain areas are always tight! For example: I had a gymkanna horse I did bodywork on every two weeks. He lived in a big pasture. I saw and knew he had a good rider. He ate naturally off the ground. Yet, he always had a tight, overdeveloped muscle on his left lower neck. I could not figure it out, until one day I was doing bodywork on his pasture mate. Every time the gymkhana horse went to bite a fly he ALWAYS turned his head to the left! Every two minutes he went to bite at flies and it was always to the left! If you had up how many minutes a day he’s doing that, that’s a lot of minutes!! I studied him longer because he never turned his head to the right to bit flies. It was just his way of warding off the flies. If you study horses most have a certain movement they do to ward off the flies. Whatever movement they are doing, somehow moves their whole body in such a way it gets all the flies on them. SO with no human interaction this guy is creating and keeping that muscle tight! 

  3. The horses living environment. Some have big space, some have no space. Obviously we all want big green Kentucky land for them, but sadly that’s not the case here in CA. So us horse owners have to work with what is. If your horse has a small space, just know that! And know their living space will have a natural impact on their physical & emotional state. Just like the riding topic, I’m not saying good or bad, just know so you can help support their physical & emotional being to keep them happy and sound. 

In summary, we all want what’s best for our horses. One of the best things we can give them is to understand all factors of their lives and how to help those areas. 

Help Your Horse Handle the Stress of Showing

Help Your Horse Handle the Stress of Showing

Horse shows are fun, exciting and challenging tests of our skills and knowledge. Yet, if given the chance, those same positives can be reversed, and the show can become stressful and complicated with long lasting negative effects. But fear not. There are well-proven strategies to managing the stress for you and your horse at a show.

First, know the energy of the venue. Some are very intense and kinetic. Since horses are energetically sensitive, the potency of the energy needs to be part of your formula for ensuring a successful show. I was at a show venue that was next to a shooting range and train tracks. The layout was wide open and the wind was blasting. Take a moment to feel what that kind of energy does to you and possibly to your horse. This can make your horse spooky, restless and super distracted. And then imagine the impact this atmosphere will have on your ride.

If you and your horse are having a hard time at the show, dial yourself down and take your time. I see people over and over get mad at their horses because they’re ‘being bad,’ ‘won’t listen,’ ‘won’t go near a fence.’ Take time to show your horse the grounds. It’s in their nature as fight or flight animals to constantly surveying their surroundings. Let him. For example, I had a horse who was super afraid of a huge tower of bagged shavings. The sun glistened off the white plastic and the clear plastic surrounding the whole tower flapped in the wind. I kept my energy quiet, non-reactive and grounded. My horse and I would walk towards the tower until he stopped to map the tower. I would stand and simply wait till I could feel his energy soften or he walked towards the tower on his own. We did this same pattern until we were next to the tower and he was smelling it on his own. After that, he never spooked at it again.

Take more time in the beginning so you can succeed more later.

Secondly, remember that the world is full of distractions, especially a horse show. Tractors, water trucks, trainers coaching, horses everywhere and riders and spectators walking and running every which way. It takes time and practice to learn how to stay focused and grounded amidst the goings-on of a show. Usually riders have to attend many shows before they truly are able to focus at it. I know a few stables that have new riders attend shows with them, but not show. They come along to just help and familiarize themselves with the atmosphere and flow of a show.

Once a rider and a horse become familiar with shows, only then do they have the ability to focus on their ride. Otherwise, they are completely overwhelmed and literally can’t focus well enough to be effective.

Communication and compassion also are tools to surviving horse shows. Communicate to your trainer and friends how you are feeling and what you need. Have compassion for yourself, your horse and for your fellow attendees.

As hard as showing is, there is no right way to survive a show or manage stress. You have to find your own, personal way. You have to know your horse and help them succeed. Every rider and horse react differently to stress and nerves, and for that reason, the management of stress is individual. Keep seeking to understand what’s best for you and your horse.

Some riders become quiet and shut down; some get more kinetic and rowdier. Notice which one you are and create something to do or focus on when this happens. Horses have their own way as well. Some pace the stall. Some hide in the corner and don’t eat. Notice what your horse does and help them. Take them for walks around the show with another horse. Let them stand and watch the horses warming up or showing. Study what works and what doesn’t and why. Do this and you will reach the point where the stress is less and the enjoyment so much more for both you and your horse.




Ask any of my students and they will tell you I ask them this question ALL THE TIME :)

Now you ask me, why? Why do I ask them this question ALL THE TIME?

Because it’s fun…… just kidding….. and not :)

I consider myself a student of life, I study everything I can. I want to understand, grow and evolve, and I am smart enough that I have surrounded myself with some of the best teachers, Horses.

I ask myself why ALL THE TIME. Why does this horse stop all the time? Why is this horse always tight in this muscle? Why does that rider have heavy hands? Why does this horse or rider get this ribbon?

I seek to understand so I am in comfort. If I understand the core reason why that horse is stopping then I can help them. If I understand why that horses muscle is always tight then I can help the owner fix it and the horse can have a longer and happier career. If I understand why I am placing a horse or rider in that placing then I know I did the best judging I could.

Not only does asking why bring you comfort, it tells you where to go and what to do next. This is whyyyyyy I am constantly asking my students why. I encourage them to think, wonder, feel. I want them to be good horsemen not just good riders.

For example; a student came for her lesson. She got on my horse and started her walking warm up routine. I could tell the student felt something was different but I waited for her to bring it up. She proceeded with her walking and then went to pick up a trot and my horse was reluctant and then once she trotted was stiff in her hind end. I still waited for my student to bring it up, knowing she was wondering what was occurring. My student tried again and got the same result. Then she giggled and finally asked what was happening. I started by asking what she felt, she explained what I saw. Then the fun work happened! I asked WHY do you think she is being reluctant? I love this because it asks the student to go in and try and feel. I want them to practice looking at all the layers of their horse and keep following the bouncing ball until they think they got it. After a few answers and me asking more why’s and what do you know about the horses life, my student got the core reason! My horse had just finished a bad heat cycle and she was really tight in some of her hind end muscles from it.

This trailing work gave us the real reason of what was happening for the horse so we could have compassion not frustration. Then we were able to address the core reason by treating her muscles to get her in comfort again.

So why ask why?! Seek to understand, keep trailing util you have found the core reason, everyone will be happy you did so!

Being a Kind Professional

Being a Kind Professional

One of the most rewarding and challenging jobs of being a judge is taking to riders about their performance. Judge’s often get put on a ‘pedestal’ and riders do not feel comfortable approaching the judge, and I believe that borrows from some truth, that some judge’s put themselves on a pedestal and are not approachable.

I judge many IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) shows, and when the show is complete, riders are given the chance to come up and receive ‘judge’s comments’. I like to think that I am a good hearted, nice, normal human being, with a good, fair eye to judge. When I started judging these shows, at first I could not understand why every rider was pretty much scared to come up and talk to me. I quickly started to learn why. Most IEA shows are two days, and require a different judge each day. I began to hear stories of how other judges would ‘give their comments’ to the riders. I was dumbfounded! I won’t go into any details, but it was bad.

There was no finesse, no compliments, compassion with the constructive criticism, just the guillotine of ‘what you did wrong’.

I was heartbroken for the riders when I learned this. These kids travel all over, draw a horse they have never ridden before from a hat, and then go compete. They try their best on whatever horse/pony they drew, it’s not easy! I felt sad for our sport understanding that these ‘professionals’ were being this way with the youth in our industry. I realized that some of the youth will eventually become professionals, and is this how we want to teach them? Or teach them to be this way?

Being a professional in our sport is no small task. It is a hard job with a million up’s and down’s, but still, there is a way to be in that role. Of course the riders want to hear what they could work on, and they should, but that can be done in a positive, constructive way, not ‘you’re a horrible rider/get a new trainer’ way.

I think what’s so hard or complicated about this topic is you can’t tell someone how to be. Of course you can try but they will only change if they truly want to. The world doesn’t work that way, especially in the horse world. I try to do my part by being in truth and rightness, fair and professional, and educate. During my clinics I educate riders and parents on the type of judges, riders and professionals out there, so they have an understanding when they come across them. And while it is easy to focus on the ‘bad’ in our sport, there is also the good. There are countless professionals, judges, and riders who educate from a positive grounded place, and are always in the pursuit of truth and rightness. You may have to weed through a few, but they are out there :)

Is it your fault?! Probably!

Is it your fault?! Probably!

Let’s just start with an example. 

I was at a show preparing my clients in the warm up ring. I began to watch other riders and a young woman caught my eye. I noticed how stiff her back was, and then I noticed her outside hand. Every 3 seconds she would jerk on her horses mouth. I watched this go on and on, and it was literally every 3 seconds!

Horses are one of the most pure and honest animals on the Earth. This saint of a horse was trying to figure out what this jerking motion meant. He started to curl his neck and fall behind the bit. Frustrated by his response she yanked his head straight up and kicked with both legs. Listening to his rider, he brought his head up.... But 3 seconds later she went back to the yanking. Was the falling behind the bit the riders fault or the horses? You guessed it, the riders!  

I write about this in hopes to increase the consciousness of a certain horseman mentality. So many riders demand and control, but did you ever stop to seek out why your horse isn’t framing up, moving off your leg, or jumping? And if you asked the question, did you ever look at what YOU might be doing to create the ‘issue’. 

There is an ‘ism’ I teach all my students. If something feels effortful with your equine then ‘Seek to Understand’. Unfortunately its human nature to blame problems on something outside ourselves, so naturally many riders don’t look at themselves as the problem. 

Can you imagine a horse world where riders said the following:

‘My horse is going to fast, is my lower leg in place or is it gripping?’

‘’My horse is starting to stop at jumps, am I keeping my leg on or is he tired of bailing me out.’

‘My horse bits me every time I tighten the girth, am I doing it too fast, or is he in pain from the saddle?

Feel the difference. Jerk, 3 seconds, jerk, or ‘why’. 




What perspective do you have for the judge? I often hear variations of the following;

‘The judge didn’t like me.’

‘The judge doesn’t like my horse.’

‘The judge keeps pinning that rider/horse so that must be what they want to see.’

‘The judge is mean.’

And the list goes on…..

I want to discuss both sides of the coin. I travel all over the United States and work with many judges. I can say that MOST judges are not out to get you. MOST don’t sit there and say ‘oh I don’t like that horse so it is getting last.’ MOST judges are truly trying to find the best horse or rider out of the group they are judging. The flip side of this coin is the minority of ‘bad’ or ‘grumpy’ judges out there. Whenever I teach a clinic on judging, I always speak to this because most riders, at some point, have encountered an unfortunate experience with a judge. I have seen some of these experiences first hand and felt sorry for the judge who is ‘bad’ or ‘grumpy.’ I felt sorry for them because their view of the rider/horse was limited, like always seeing the glass half empty. They no longer had joy doing what they were doing, and this was directly affected their judging.

When this topic comes up in my clinics, I encourage people to share their feelings with management. If an unfortunate experience is happening, it is probably happening to many competitors, and if many express their feelings to management, hopefully the judge will not be called back. I have seen this happen! So speak up and share with management.

The only way to change our perspective is through understanding. I try to teach people what judges do all day, and tell them exactly we are looking for. That way they can understand what we are thinking and going through all day. This leads to more comfort because the exhibitor understands what the judge is doing, and the judge doesn’t have any negativity coming towards them! 

Judging is fun! Certainly there are days where judges watch the best of the best. And then there are the other days, which are the majority, that are watching everything else. Most judging is watching the beginning-intermediate levels, and this leads to watching and keeping track of mistakes.  Embrace the comments and suggestions from the judges, and if taken to heart and applied in your daily practice, your showing success will undoubtedly follow.  I say this to educate, as education and communication is the key to understanding and being in comfort. Best of luck in the show ring!