2019 Tango with Horses

A slow horsemanship revolution

Assessment, Adaptability, Progression

resources for fall lessons

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I am thrilled you chose to join the Tango with Horses community. The intention behind this work 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. I invite you to set aside this fast-paced notion of life and step into the pace of nature and horses. 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.

Following you’ll find some resources to support the things we talked about during the weekend.

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.

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?

Following are a few videos about various ways to start your own movement practice. If you have a hard time kneeling or a lot of physical stuff, old injuries, etc. then you may want to begin with the video on the left. Much like our horses, movement shouldn’t be a huge struggle - if it is - find a way to back it off and go easier on yourself.

Links to Movement programs:

Here are links to some of the movement programs I follow:

I’d recommend beginning with Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement

I seriously love this concept she has of movement as a nutrient equally as important as food. I truly believe that if we start thinking this way about our interactions with our horses (shifting from exercise to movement) it can take so much pressure off the need to perform or get them fit. I just love it!

Please don’t feel obliged to watch any or all of these videos, they are just here if you’re interested

MovNat is quite a bit more strenuous but feel free to check it out. I found it more accessible after doing Katy’s pieces.

A Beginner’s Guide to MovNat

A few videos illustrating empathic resonance and touch in action

Assess, Address and re-assess

This concept is at the core of all I do.

I find folks often get stuck on the figure eight as an assessment tool. Here is an audio where I go into the specifics of the difference between using the figure 8 as a diagnostic tool versus as a gymnastic exercise. It’s an important distinction to make because if you ask your horse to do the figure 8 as an exercise you won’t get the information you need to determine how to help them.

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 below 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.

And a few more examples of visual assessment using the figure 8 pattern so you can see it in different horses…

Visual assessment can give us many clues about what’s going on with our horses.



Once you assess, you address, always beginning with the poll, and upper neck because the reflexes to stand, walk and turn originate in the first three cervical vertebra.

Using the figure 8 pattern to assess Huey’s movement


Since the reflexes to stand, walk and turn originate from the first 3 cervical vertebra, palpation around the head and neck is a good starting point

Sometimes it helps to see someone else get coached in these concepts. This was the first time Justine did these things and it was also Rivaldo’s first time working with the figure 8 pattern and postural reflexes.

Here is a demonstration of palpation points I’ve worked with for many years. This covers the entire body.

After you check out the head and neck, repeat the figure 8 pattern. Continue to do a little bit of assessment/bodywork and then repeat the figure 8 until the movement is fluid and your horse follows you easily. Sometimes they get much worse, allowing you to identify other areas of the body that might be problematic so you can begin to address those areas. Here are a few videos that go into more detail about various areas we talked about during the weekend:

Here’s an example of the beginnings of working on balance control in hand. Hopefully this gives you the idea and triggers enough to keep you going forward. I don’t have any good video of taking this concept under saddle yet but as soon as I do I’ll post it for you guys.