I would like to introduce you to Keila. Keila is a lovely Icelandic horse who has been staying with me for two weeks. She is new to ST – having only had a little bit of help with the standstill exercises and the start of the LFS on a circle. She came to me when a Mastery student and friend of mine recommended that her owner searched into Straightness Training and the possibility of rehab work to help Keila deal with her Natural Asymmetry – because this NA was very likely to cause her some problems in the future if it was not addressed. Fortunately her owner was very open to the idea, and could see that without help the future of lovely Keila didn’t look too promising. With her living only a short distance from mine I was able to take an afternoon to go and take a look at her. Well, it didn’t take much to see that she did indeed have a puzzle that needed solving! And I wasn’t sure how much of an in-road we could make on this puzzle in a short time – but her owner was determined to help her, and prepared to put in the time after her stay with me to continue with the ST work.
The first day it was obvious that she was holding a lot of tension in her poll. Asking for the Forward down in the standstill exercises, she would oblige, but it felt like a cog wheel that was missing a lot of teeth! Judder, judder – nothing smooth and flowing. She was a little tight in her emotions too so I took a little time to be sure she felt that she was invited rather than made to bring her head into a forward down position and allowed her to start to ‘let loose’.
Now the eye, of course, was very drawn to the front legs – but it is not really a front leg issue – so my plan was as soon as I got a half decent LFS on the circle and straight line I would look to encourage her to understand about her outside hind and would start to teach her the Haunches in. On the left rein it came along quite nicely – once she understood what I was asking and by using the formula of the 3Rs – Release, Reward, Relax to capture the empowering responses and the smallest try in the right direction.
Teaching Haunches in on the right rein was a great deal harder for her. I had seen a pattern in how she solved a puzzle – she would push a little with her nose – now a push is never a great thing! but it just felt that she needed to do this to allow her to arrive to her puzzle solution. And that turned out to be a right call in this instance – and she became a super-powered learner. And guess what? The pushy nose went away completely once she had worked out the puzzle.
I think this was the biggest lesson I learnt with her stay – and was actually a major key to her super-charged learning. Its not a good thing for all horses, thats for sure!!! but sometimes things work outside of the box.
After two weeks she was able to take the haunches in away from the wall and making a start on the half pass and the working pirouette. We also took a look at her starting to understand the function of the reins in the work in hand. Another interesting thing that happened during this time was in the beginning in the field and when asking her to work in the Groundwork her right stifle would lock a little and have a very jerky action. After a couple days of LFS in the Groundwork the evidence of this completely went. However, later when I introduced the work in hand with the set of reins – the locking stifle came back!!! Two days later all was clean. How very, very interesting.
Every horse that comes through has something to teach the human – of that there is no doubt. And Keila was no exception.
And this week her owner is with her for an Experience Plus week so they can have a really solid hand-over for her to keep up the rehabilitation work……I’ll keep you updated, but after Day 1 I can reveal that they are both doing FANTASTICALLY.