2019 Tango with Horses
A slow horsemanship revolution
Assessment, Adaptability, Progression
I am thrilled you chose to join the Tango with Horses community. The intention behind this 2-week intensive is to provide a clear, concise path toward building a mutually beneficial partnership with your horse.
We live in a world that is fast paced and expects quick results. So many of us work under pressure to perform. We are inundated by information and stimulation. Kastani and I invite you to set aside this fast-paced notion of life and step into our world. Quiet yourself. Take a walk outside in nature and notice how different the pace is there. Take a breath and let go of expectations. Allow yourself to settle into this experience with an open mind and heart. Let your horse and your heart guide you down your unique path to transformative relationships.
The reality is that we all have full lives. I place great value on your investment to be here and want to provide the most useful information I can in the time we have together. I could give you an encyclopedia of my horsemanship philosophy and let you wade through it on your own for the next year. I AM an information junky so it is hard for me to rein myself in! But, as I thought about this course, I realized that the essential conversation is the same, regardless of what I happen to be doing with my horse. So, what I want to focus on is a philosophy of training horses:
· What are the qualities that horses seek in a human partner?
· What is it that makes you successful with your horse? How do you define success?
· How do we identify when our horse is struggling and address underlying issues effectively?
· How do we create an environment that allows a horse to heal, and stay healthy?
· How do we design logical progressions that inspire our partnership to thrive and excel in whatever we decide to do together?
Tools and safety:
Here are a few words about the basic tack I use along with a few words about basic safety considerations.
Let’s dive right in!
There are distinct phases of development in how I build a mutually beneficial partnership with a horse. Creating a definition for each phase helps me find clarity and purpose in my interactions with each horse, focusing on the specific needs that relate to the phase of their development, my development, and our relationship. A logical progression arises.
The larger progression is through the phases:
Phase 1 – Establish our connection and build a fundamental body language dialogue.
Phase 2 – Identify and address any physical, mental or emotional stuck areas in myself and my horse that interfere with our ability to connect, communicate or progress.
Phase 3 – Well balanced horse and human ready to begin physical training.
Phase 4 – Dancing Tango together in our chosen discipline.
And so on. You can break your own process down into phases that make sense given the priorities in your relationship with your horse.
My horse, Kastani, will be my dance partner for this two-week course. All of you get to follow along as I set real life goals and engage in daily sessions with Kastani. In this way, I share my real-life process, and you get to see how it unfolds from phase to phase, warts and all. This is the best way I know to give you the truest sense of how my philosophy of Tango with Horses unfolds.
I encourage each of you to choose a horse to be your dance partner for the next two weeks. I will guide you step by step in creating your own progression through the phases so you get to experience your own real-life progression. I am here to walk you through every step of the way! Some of you may end up spending the next 2 weeks in Phase 1. Some may already have Phase 1 established and be ready for Phase 2, or even Phase 3. Hopefully by now you have started envisioning your dream, where you want to go with your horse. We’ll look at what your goal is, where you are now, and identify your starting point.
The tools available to support your journey:
All of the content for this course is housed here on this webpage.
Audio Files: I find most of us don’t have time to sit and read a lot of content so instead you’ll find a lot of audio clips on a variety of topics. You can download the clips and listen as it’s convenient for you.
Journal: I encourage you to keep a journal during this two weeks. Begin by defining your dream and then keep some pages open for breaking that big vision down into steps until you find your starting point. Essentially, you will create your own manual to help you remember the process you create for building relationships with horses your way.
Videos: I’ve included a wide array of video clips of various topics I think will be useful to you on this journey.
Daily Diary of sessions with Kastani: I’ll share narrated video clips from my daily sessions with Kastani to allow you to see how we progress together. I also created a blog where I’ll share my training notes, my thought process and how I’m making decisions about what to do next. You’ll find all the content related to my journey with Kastani if you scroll to the bottom of this page.
I encourage you to follow your intuition as you pick and choose which videos and audio recordings you take a look at in the content below. You are under no obligation to look at all of it during this two weeks. I have enough here to meet the needs of people at different stages of development in their horse journey, as well as accommodating your learning style. If you aren’t sure where to begin, I’m here to help. Just fill me in on what your need is in the moment and I’ll point you to the most supportive content for you. The rest will be here in the future should as you are ready.
In the following audio I elaborate on the concept of the phases of progression in training/developing a mutually beneficial partnership. As we go along I hope you will see how there is a common thread in every conversation we have with our horses.
Self awareness and self care practices
Spending time getting to know our horse
Initiating Contact and empathic resonance
Initiating movement or the invitation to dance
Developing a two way conversation or dance:
It does, as they say, take two to Tango. It is easy to become quite passive when we seek a relationship with our horses that is free from force. There are two sides to any conversation/dance we engage with our horses. We must offer input to get feedback and response from our horse.
Developing our side of the conversation entails doing what we need to take care of ourselves. In my work, Tango with Horses, I prioritize a conversation based in body language. I found it essential for me to build my own fitness and maximize my movement capability. Here are some basic things you can do to get yourself moving more. The less sedentary we are the better! It is essential we take just as good of ourselves as we do our horses. Before you head out to see your horse check:
Are you hydrated?
Did you have something to eat?
Have you gotten enough rest?
Do you need to move your own energy before you ask your horse to move?
You can practice developing your intuition by noticing how you feel as you look at the three options of videos below. Which one draws you and what does it feel like to be drawn to something? How does it feel if you try to go look at one of the videos that did not draw you?
Initial Interactions that are good phase 1 explorations:
Kastani has made it quite clear over the last few days that he is not interested in my demonstrating things with him that he is already confirmed in. So, with that in mind, here are some videos illustrating various things you might encounter as you begin interacting with your horse and working through the first part of Phase 1. Again, pick and choose videos that seem to support what you are encountering with your horse. If you aren’t sure let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction.
The video to the left is from my second session with Kastani for this course. Once we have our horse haltered, getting them to come with us, groom them and clean feet become part of the conversation.
Phase 1 and Phase 2 almost always overlap. That’s what’s happening with Kastani. I see Phase 2 as the point at which we discover things that interfere with the fluid communication between myself and my horse. Here are some resources to start you down the path of evaluating what might be going on and how to work with it. In the audio below I elaborate on how phase 1 and 2 progress and often overlap. The video shows me doing a flow from phase 1 - connecting with Kastani in our second session to phase 2 - doing a figure eight pattern to assess his movement and then body work to address what I discover. Below that you’ll find more videos providing additional information about palpation points, the figure 8 pattern as an assessment tool, touch as therapy and so forth. The audio below also include the energetic and emotional aspects of working through issues like having a horse that gets anxious about things like being haltered, bridled or saddled.
Once again, I urge you to only watch the videos that seem like they support your current exploration. Allow yourself to go the videos you’re most drawn to and know the rest is here if you need or want it.
Assess and address
Once my horse and I have established our connection and he is willingly following me around, then I can begin discovering anything that might need addressing in his body before we begin getting in shape for whatever activities we have in mind. In the video above you’ll see me to through a basic round of assessing by walking Kastani in a figure 8 pattern, addressing what comes up and then re-assessing with the figure 8 pattern again. Below are a host of video clips that illustrate these concepts with other horses. Bottom line, we have loads of ways to gather information about things that are going on with our horses so let’s learn how to use them.
If you have a horse that has PTSD or trauma, working with the kidneys, adrenals and diaphragm can really help reset their nervous system.
Phase 3 begins when both ourselves and our horse are ready for more intentional movement. It’s time to start developing the finer points of communication, connection and the physical aptitude for our chosen activity.
early work in hand
Introducing saddle and other tack
Prep for mounted work
standing for mounting
advanced ground work
This is a link to the page where all the journal entries are for my sessions with Kastani - click on the title and it is an active link:
My video Diary of sessions with Kastani:
This is a video that is a compilation of catching Kastani over the course of about 8 days. Or, as I like to say, ‘inviting him to dance with me’. Until I slowed down I never realized how much anxiety he had about having the halter put on and being asked to do things. It was an interesting exploration and I hope it gives you some inspiration for things to try on your own. Know that the first time I went to halter him it took 12 minutes. Each time after that was shorter and shorter until in the end it took less than 2 minutes. This gives you some context for where our relationship began.
Here is the video from our session on August 18. Session 4. I was still experimenting with some things here. Tried a bit of work at liberty and some work in hand again. He has repeating behaviors I’m trying to suss out. What’s the underlying cause? Another session where I felt a bit awkward and and filled with angst about the camera running. So much of these early sessions are about finding my own equilibrium - emotionally as well as physically.
So this was the second time I worked Kastani in long lines. The first session was so amazing and smooth. This session was a bit angsty from my perspective but when I watch the video, it doesn’t look as bad as I felt about it. I think this is an important lesson. I think sometimes we’re just really hard on ourselves and maybe it’s just not as bad as we think. The cool thing is that Kastani’s body is really changing for the better and that’s the main thing right now.
You know, Kastani taught me this way back when I first took him to a colt starting clinic with Mark Rashid. We really didn’t think I’d be riding him by the end of the 4 days and I ended up sitting on his back for the first time the last day. He taught me that less is more. And he’s doing it again now. This was a short, but sweet session with clear progression from the first to the second ride. He’s showing more all the time and it’s awesome.
Here is the video from my session with Kastani on August 16. Our 3rd session. I was testing a few things out and was not happy with this day. Watching it and talking about what I see from this perspective a few days later is quite eye opening. In some places it doesn’t look as bad as it felt and in others it does. I beat myself up a lot in the aftermath of this session and second guessed a lot of things. This is the session that prompted the call to the animal communicator!
Here is the video for Session 5 on August 20. I ended up talking quite a bit about a few things while I did some of the stuff with Kastani that you guys have seen before. I talk a bit, for example, about how working with horses this way lays the foundation for having a horse that’s safe to be around. You’ll also get to see the first day that Kastani rewarded all my efforts of communicating with him by openly communicating with me about what kind of bodywork he needed.
At long last, here’s the video of our first ride together. I cut the video off about 5 minutes early for the sake of time, but finished up with a little body work to just be sure his body was integrated and all okay. What you’ll see here in terms of the ridden piece is likely pretty different from what you’re used to. Keep in mind I’m experimenting with my own theories here and testing a big one that I elaborated on in the audio track for phase 3.
This was a super interesting day because my nervous system was pretty fried but it was a blissfully cool day and I really wanted to continue with Kastani. I had to negotiate with him so he understood why I was there in my anxious state. He showed me his rear again and I ended up discovering some gelding scar issues that were attended to prior to our ride. It turned out to be a good day and I was a much happier person for spending time with my horse!