2018 Series 5

Taking Body Language into Motion


Tango with Horses!

Week 3:  Movement fundamentals

  • What am I looking for in a horse’s movement to determine when I’m ready to ride?

  • Working through challenges along the way.

Working with Coco several years ago. Trotting in hand.

Working with Coco several years ago. Trotting in hand.

December 10 - 16, 2018

course content for week 3:

Movement fundamentals

Welcome to week 3!

Introduction to week 3

As I proceed along with Smokey, I find the old doubts creep in. What do I know? Is this really working? I realized yesterday that I have not taken on a project with a horse in almost four years. This is the first time I am very purely making use of the ideas I have explored the last four years and applying them to taking a horse under saddle. Some of what I find myself doing is work I learned and practiced while rehabilitating horses with lameness issues. I always found the rehab process quite difficult. It was hard on the horses and hard on me. It was that work that motivated me to find this new path toward finding ways to work to support wellness in horse and human, to eliminate the struggle.

It is both terrifying and gratifying to finally feel confident enough that this approach works to now take it to riding. I am reminded each time I go out there and hold true to my ideals how important it is to just have a clear intention and keep showing up. I saw a post from Mark Rashid last week wherein he spoke of the importance of consistency. I think I finally understand what this means to me. I used to think it just meant being consistent about the work. But what it means is being consistent within myself, within my own heart. It means I am consistent. My heart, intention, and energy never change.

At the end of the day I believe this is what the horses have been guiding me towards the last four years. A journey that truly forced me to set aside any notions of technique or ‘how to’ approaches in favor of finding my own voice. In finding my voice and embracing ‘my way’ I have stopped (or at least can quell) the voices whispering over my shoulder telling me I am doing it ‘wrong’. Those ‘voices’ are not my truth. Those voices used to override my inner voice that still could not believe my personal way had any validity. Each time I second guessed, I showed up with some agenda other than what the horses had been carefully guiding me home to. That meant I was not consistent from one session to the next or even within a session. The horses could not trust me enough to commit to dancing with me until I found my own internal consistency.

I have never felt so calm or peaceful about my work with horses. Smokey is progressing exactly how I feel he should if all of my theories are correct. There is no longer the temptation to escalate or push for more. This slow, steady progress he makes is intensely gratifying. And it is so easy. Easy on him and easy on me. I am able to challenge him just enough to keep it interesting and keep us moving forward but never so much I feel we are in a fight or at odds with each other. Never enough to damage the burgeoning trust between us. Importantly, I am learning so much about Smokey that makes me feel safe proceeding towards riding him. I have not looked forward to riding and seeing where I can with it in so long, I cannot even remember! Smokey is a fabulous example of what can happen if good, patient work is done over time. It has been a few years since his owner pulled him out of the proverbial fire. She has done good, patient work, and it shows. He trusts me based on the little bits of work I did over the years, and that shows.

This week I want to elaborate a bit on what I look and feel for as I develop this relationship on the ground. I want to share what I have learned, in layman’s terms, about what constitutes healthy movement in a horse and how I go about developing that movement. I want to share how I took what I learned from Jean Luc about riding and work in hand, and adapted it so that it can be easier on both horse and human. If the weather holds, I plan to saddle Smokey on Thursday and see how he feels about that. Such fun!

Welcome to week 3 video:

Course Content for Week 3:


Links to PDF Documents for week 3:

PDF:  Movement Fundamentals

Live Chat January 6, 2019


  • How to join in to the free two week intro for this year

  • My plan for wrapping up this class

  • What I hope you understand about what I prioritize when I’m getting a horse ready to ride and when I’m riding.

Here is my 5th in hand session with Smokey. I recorded audio on this one. Some interesting things here in how he responded to the surcingle going on and to long lining. He’s starting to find his balance relative to me and I feel some moments of real connection.


Here is another video installment. There are two clips here. The first one is another session I did with Merlin leading where you can see how much he's improving in his willingness to follow my feel. I work with him wherever I find him. I have no expectation about where we go or what we do, it's all about the connection. The first clip is about 14 minutes.

The second clip (they are strung together in one video), is me coaching Joyce as she explores leading him. Joyce has only practiced leading him this way a few times, I think this might have been the third time. It's always interesting to me to see how what I've been doing translates to other people. I'm not really looking to create a situation where a horse will blindly follow anyone, anytime, anywhere. I'm looking for a horse to give honest feedback about the quality of the lead. Not to make up for our deficits but to help us learn when we are accurate and when we are not so that we can improve.

What I loved about the session Joyce, Merlin and I did together yesterday, is that Merlin showed us that he can and will give accurate feedback. This is a huge step forward from a horse who was always just shut down and so we couldn't count on his feedback. That makes it really hard for Joyce to learn, when her horse won't give any feedback about what she's doing and how she's doing it. Now, he gives accurate feedback and so Joyce can begin to work on her own and trust that Merlin will follow her feel when she gets it right (for him).

Yesterday was a great example of the difference between matching and waiting and pulling. I've never had a horse do what Merlin does with the leading. It's not that he has disengaged or left us, there is life on the end of the line, but he often rocks back and increases the feel so from our end it's quite heavy, just before he walks off. My sense is that he's using the heavier feel to help him explore his balance so I have been hanging in there matching the energy he puts into the line. That's a tricky one to explain and Merlin very clearly let Joyce know when she tipped over into pulling by bracing against her. Nothing happens when we brace against each other, we're just stuck in this counterbalanced place. This is why I love this way of working so much. It makes me honest!

I followed around with the camera and talked while i coached. I think the audio is workable but please do let me know if you have trouble.

Following a feel: where merlin is now in comparison to Kastani

I thought it might be useful if you guys could see what I’m talking about when I feel a horse is following a feel on the halter and lead well enough I’m ready to move on to other things. Here is another session with Merlin - the forth if I’m not mistaken.

I just did a fifth session that I thought I caught on tape but my camera was not recording (sigh). It was a short session right before evening feeding and I decided to see if I could halter Merlin in Smokey’s pen (where he was eating hay) and get him to follow me to his pen (only a short distance away). It was a bit of a challenge because he was sure interested in Smokey and his hay. I felt it was worth the try because I was in a position where I could let him go if needed and just put his hay out to get him over to his pen.

This time I was able to explore keeping a little bit of a firmer feel for a bit longer. Still had to be careful not to tip into pulling, but it felt like he was thinking about moving so it was worth staying with it for a little bit. Sure enough, after waiting just a short time with a distinct feel (still not firm or resisting or pulling) he took a step. After a few times releasing when he moved his feet he took off walking and followed me all the way to his pen on a loose line. Hooray!

This was such a big step for him that I pulled the halter and quit there. Tempting as it was to try again with the camera actually recording! We are working with Merlin with a homeopathic remedy and he seems to be having some detox reaction in the form of looser stool than normal and his coat looks dull. This frequently happens when you are on the right track with a homeopathic remedy. Old symptoms resurface and then clear out again in a few days or a week. He also looked much brighter in his eye today, softer and more available, which is one of the things we are hoping this remedy does is remove the mental/emotional block he’s had for so long.