I hope you are enjoying this festive season and taking some time to slow down on the inside, even if outside activities are still in full swing.
For some of you the winter has shown its face, even though we are only one day in. The north, north eastern and western states have already seen a large amount of snow, the southern states including south east and south west are warmer and wet and those of us in the Midwest are experiencing a combination of all. It can be a challenging time to navigate horse care as temperatures and wet stuff fluctuates daily, and sometimes hour by hour. Last week here in Indiana I turned horses out in the evening with temperature of 60 and in the morning it was 24 with a wind chill of 19… Brrr.
As I have mentioned before, most horses have an incredible resilience and way of adapting to whatever is in front of them, yet still, as domesticated horses there are always challenges that accompany weather and seasonal changes. For example, did you know that the sudden extreme cold can trigger insulin resistant horses into a flare up? How about our grey and light colored 4 legged friends who are more susceptible to visual reflective snow disorders? Maybe a pair of sunglasses for them in their stocking! Ok, not so realistic and they would prefer carrots anyway, but before you wash and put you summer fly masks away think about washing them and having them ready for those winter snow days!
The winter is indeed one of my favorite seasons. For me I have developed a tradition of staying home and ceasing work related travel so that I can focus on learning and writing educational materials. 2021 has been a transformational year for me and for Equine Self Expression. In March I moved my horses to Indiana to be with my partner John and step daughter Genevieve. For many years I have been promising my horses electricity in the barn so they can have summer fans, and promising myself water in the barn so I don’t have to haul it and I can have a lovely wash stall. In my beautiful Ozark home there was neither in the barn although they had acres upon acres to roam. This year, they moved into their fabulous new stalls which my partner John meticulously finished, complete with 250 personalized hand cut and fitted bars around the stalls which he custom made for each stall for air flow and companionship.
They enjoyed standing under fans and roaming in and out of their stall runs. In addition to their new barn, we have our training barn and educational facility at the other end of the property so my horses are never disturbed by incoming training or clinic horses, yet get to visit when they go down to the indoor arena for their working sessions.
This fall we finished the feed room in the new barn which is insulated and heated and we are preparing for completion of the tack room and wash stall, then the lecture room next year. I am truly blessed and humbled by the manifestation of my deepest heartfelt dreams and goals. This is a good time to mention however, that you do not need a fancy barn or arena to produce horses. For many years I competed, conditioned and trained my horses in fields and on trails and I believe both they and I enjoyed the continuous changes of environment as well as terrain. I am blessed now to have both a lovely equipped facility and indoor which is a Godsend in the heat of the summer and wet, cold days, yet both myself and my 4 leggeds still venture into the woods and fields for training whenever possible!
I want to thank all of you who are dedicated to the well being of your horses and your own education. It is the commitment and passion that drives each and every one of you to seek more learning and education so that we can all continue to improve for our horses. This year, with the help of my team, I launched my Equine Self Expression University, and I was overwhelmed by the positive response and feedback from those of you that participated in the classes. In the new year there will be an increased selection of courses to choose from, many created because of feedback, questions and requests from you. As the year progresses, stay tuned for our video courses and classes that will fill in educational holes as well as be stand-alone classes. Look out for an announcement toward the end of January regarding another awesome educational tool that will be launched both on our Facebook page and on the web site, so mark your calendar, become a facebook follower of Equine Self Expression and be sure not to miss the launch.
Here at home in Indiana next year, our educational facility will continue to host amazing clinics and events, some repeats and some brand new launches, including the addition of a course designed specifically for riders to strengthen and prepare their riding posture to enhance their own body performance and ability to adapt to the horses every movement. As riders and horsemen we put a lot of attention on our horses’ body, as we should.
It is essential that we support them with their postural system so they are better prepared to carry us without discomfort, distress, aches or pains. Have you ever considered though, that the muscles and positions you use to ride your horse, are unique to just riding? They are not the same as walking, biking, running, skiing or any other exercise muscles, so our bodies may thank us if we take steps to prepare it for our riding activity.
Most successful athletes in all sports spend time conditioning their body to prepare them for their specific endeavor. Riders tend to just get on their horse and the only time we access many of those muscles, ligaments and stretch apparatus, is when we are riding. Consider this, we are asking the brain to use a part of the body differently at the same time we are needing clear communication to our horse. Riding is not the time to 'practice' using our body, but we do because very few riders condition their riding body off the horse. It is no wonder we get aches and pains and spend a large portion of our ride attempting to reorganize our body parts. Skiers train their body off the skis, bike riders train off their bike, runners condition their core they don’t just run every day, and so it is true for all athletes that enjoy their passion and want to preserve their body so they can continue their sport long term. I have created a specific program for riders to learn how to access and use some of the very same muscles we need to ride and balance, both static and dynamic. The brain needs time to reprogram pathways for different stretch receptors, core development, proprioception and tensegrity. Learning how to redefine balance and weight in the foot for example, can support the stance and alignment of the tendons, muscles and ligaments throughout the leg, through the knee up to the hip joints and pelvic apparatus. I designed this course to assist my students with a foundational place to access their body in a new way using balance and stretch techniques, along with the help of a trampoline and other proprioceptive and strengthening and stretching apparatus. This course will be listed on our calendar of events which will be available on our web site by January 1, 2022. Let your New Year’s resolution be to ‘Rebalance from Heel to Head’ and remember, the very same muscles you need to be adaptive, are the same muscles your horse uses for his movement. He cannot access his unless you access yours!!!
As we come to the end of this year, I hope you will all take some time for yourself to reflect, embrace your successes, reevaluate your goals if necessary, but most important be as kind and gentle with yourself as you are with your horse.
I wish you and your family and all your sacred 4 leggeds and any other little creature you may have in your family, a very Happy Holiday. May the stillness of the season bring quiet and peace on the inside and the outside!
My Fondest Wishes and Deepest Appreciation to you all,