Stay with an exercise long enough and wonderful things will pop out.

When I first started Alexandra Kurland’s training program with my horse, Dragon, he was an emotional, physically imbalanced gelding. I knew I wanted a better way to teach him. He had stopped responding to the bit at all and was just frustrated and running through my cues. He was so large and his movement was so extravagant that it was close to impossible to help him rebalance, he was too emotional to receive information once he was going faster than a walk. Here’s a short video of how he generally moved at trot :

He did a lot of head shaking, which is often imbalance, and sometimes emotional arousal. He was very heavy on his forehand and his legs were strung out behind him. I don’t think I saw a lot of the imbalance, I just knew he seemed very heavy and that movement was often hard for him. He seemed frustrated and angry a lot.

As we worked our way through the foundation lessons, and then into the “Why Would You Leave Me Game?”, Dragon started to become increasingly centered, attentive and balanced. We did the majority of our work in the walk. The premise of WWYLM is simple – it starts out ย just like loose lead walking for dogs. You have your horse in the bridle, on the circle. When they move their nose off the circle and begin to wander off, you slide your hand down the rein and bring their nose back to same point on the circle. It teaches them to use your body as a target the same way they should use your seatbones as a target in the saddle. It teaches them that when you ask them for a certain carriage, they should maintain it on their own until you ask for something else – this is the ever elusive self-carriage. It teaches them to enjoy bending and staying on a circle, voluntarily. And best off all, it gives you the underpinnings for lateral work, the foundation of soundness and dressage. Now, I didn’t know all of this then. I just knew I was supposed to pick an imaginary box, bring my horses nose into that box via the rein and click him when he left it there on his own. Easy enough.

One of Alexandra’s sayings is: Stay with an exercise long enough and wonderful things will pop out. Here’s a video of Dragon’s trot work today, improved completely through ground work during WWYLM.

It’s easy to see he has an even, steady cadence to his trot, elevation of the wither (shifting weight onto his hind end) and is relaxed and quiet emotionally. If you compare his length from head to tail in both videos, you will see his outline is shorter in the second video. This means he has achieved some degree of vertical flexion – a more advanced balance. All of this was available in the trot once he had done enough work in the walk. The old masters used to say, ” The walk is the mother of all gaits,” and this is what they meant!

5 thoughts on “Stay with an exercise long enough and wonderful things will pop out.

  1. Good post, Jen. I love Alexandra’s saying — “stay with an exercise long enough and wonderful things will pop out.” It’s so easy sometimes to want to rush on to the next exercise. But this saying really is so true.

    Thanks for posting the before and after videos. It is nice to be able to see the comparison. You have done great work with him–the difference between the two videos is huge, he looks like a completely different horse. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ~Mary

    • Thanks, Mary! I don’t think people realize the transformation that occurs with truly following a lesson instead of just teaching it superficially. He has probably had six to eight months of WWYLM work at the point of the second video. Of course we work on other exercises and don’t do the same thing every day, but we come back to it, over and over, like meditation.
      The comparison was really exciting for me too. I don’t really review my old video, but when I did I was shocked. It was so ugly and disorganized! But I’m glad I have it because it really is a testament to the work. Thanks for the comment – he really is a new horse physically and emotionally. And I definitely will be at ORCA next year!

  2. Hi Jen,

    I’m also a follower of Alex K’s work. Really enjoyed your before and after pics.

    I’m doing horse agility with my horse, and when she offers her collected jog as we progress thru the obstacles, it always makes me smile.

    Cheers, Hertha

    • Thanks for the kind words, Hertha. I bet your mare looks lovely doing her agility in a collected frame:) Do you have a youtube channel or website where we can peek at her?
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read/watch.
      Jen

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