Leslie Desmond’s blog page

I just added a link to Leslie’s blog, to my Links page. Here’s the description from the site: “In this blog you can follow how Leslie’s approach is helping horses coast-to-coast and gain insight about how to work with horses through “feel and release”. We will post photos, audio clips and video clips as they become available, including highlights from Leslie’s 2009 Horsemanship Seminar tour, and from clinics with trainers in her program. You can also catch other news from Leslie and Diamond Lu Productions.” There are several photo essays on the site already, each with detailed stories through the captions. Leslie is an exceptional horsewoman who always puts the horse first, a great writer and her unique perspective on horses and horsemanship always comes through. Check her...

The Right Way

On the DressageDisgrace.com site there is a discussion about some videos which have been posted as representatives of the ‘right way’ to do dressage. The idea is to identify riders who are not using rollkur as a regular part of their training program and support them. Interestingly, one of the videos posted was of a rider who has taken a stand against rollkur. YET, the horse still showed signs of the same disconnection seen in the rollkured horses. What gives? This is my theory. What really is the difference between “deep and round” and “hyperflexion”? Where is that line that makes one OK and the other not? Just blue tongues? I guess. But really the only difference is degree because as the second video demonstrates (or demonstrated since it has since been removed by the user) the result is the same–disconnected toe flinging trots and no real collection. So, we need to see riders who really follow the actual facts of classical training. I submit Cathy Morelli as one person who is competing very successfully and who does not just talk the talk, but walks the walk. If you head over the the DressageDisgrace.com site you’ll see that I posted a link to a video of Cathy on her horse BeSe. What’s interesting is that (unlike the rollkur crowd) she warms up her horse the way she rides the test–up, open and showing that collecting actually involves bending the hind legs. If you can’t wait to see the video just check it out right here… Cathy also has a great DVD where she explains her system for training, titled...

Classical Schooling with Kalman de Jurenak

Right now, I don’t know if I’m inspired or just plain envious.  Lovely horses, ridden beautifully.  This was an interesting video because it begins with a rider on a 3 year old horse who had just been ridden a few times.  The horse is calm and relaxed and quite frankly looking “like a million bucks”.   Clearly not the average 3 year old!   So that is the envy part. Part of me questioned asking ‘so much’ of such a youngster.  Was the neck too shortened?  But the proof is in the pudding. The video continues showing the same horse a couple months later, looking quite steady and improved.  Other horses are featured as well, each a little older and further along in their development–all the way to beginning piaffe/passage and one-tempis.  Each ridden according to the same principles.  The concerns I had about the neck being short just didn’t pan out.  Every horse even the most advanced horses were able to and were asked to stretch forward out and down.  No curling, no rollkur/hyperflexion–ever.  All the horses show correct muscle development, so in the end I had to let myself enjoy it all. One particularly interesting segment showed a very talented and nicely trained 5 year old.  First ridden by the trainer, and then the trainer’s student.  The student rider  was built to ride (tall and leggy) but had only been riding one year.  The transformation in the horse was remarkable.  In the matter of a few minutes the horse began to look quite ‘average’ because he was no longer properly engaged, he was rushing and out of balance.   At...

Whole Heart, Whole Horse by Mark Rashid

In Whole Heart, Whole Horse , through stories about his days as a kid working for the “Old Man” as well as people he’s met through years of doing clinics, Marks brings the process of building trust between the horse and rider to life.   As is typical for Mark’s books, this is not a ‘how-to’ book.  Having tried to write something of a how-to book I can appreciate his desire to avoid that.  So instead he focuses on our attitude and though processes which I know have a huge impact on our success (or lack thereof) with horses. Mark sold me on his philosophy about how he wanted to be with a horse way back when I read his first book.  Each book since then has added a little more to the story.  This book is no exception.  Mark is a great storyteller and draws you into his world easily. If we can read a book and come away with a passage or two that resonates, I think it was a book worth reading.  Here’s one that I underlined: “One of the reasons some folks aren’t sure of the difference between a horse that is willingly available and one that is simply available is that so many horses out there today are light, but not necessarily soft.   As a result, a lot of folks at one time or another have probably ridden a light and thought is was soft, when in reality there is a sizable difference between the two (in my opinion). The difference for me is that lightness is primarily on the outside of the horse and...

New book by Karen Pryor

When I was first introduced to clicker training some 10 years ago one of the books that was a real mind alterer was “Don’t Shoot the Dog” by Karen Pryor. Although the title would suggest that the book is somehow about dog training, it isn’t. It is about practical applications of reinforcement in any training situation. Or, really, any of our relationships, even with people. Over the years it has been one book I have recommended frequently. Karen has just released a new book called “Reaching the Animal Mind.” Now, I admit that I have not yet read it. But, I expect it to be as least as interesting as Don’t Shoot the Dog. The website associated with the book is also good. It is set up to follow the book chapters and provides additional reading suggestions, links to useful sites and video clips. You’ll see that this book is also full of information that is broadly applicable to all species–including people! The reason that I am mentioning it now, before I’ve read it, is because we all have a great opportunity to listen in on (and participate, too, if you want) a discussion with Karen about her new book. The discussion is taking place on the Yahoo Group, DogRead. The discussion has already...

Horses don’t hide their emotions

Recently, Dr. Deb Bennett posted this excellent essay on the forum at her Equine Studies Institute site. Here are just a few quotes to entice you to read the whole thing. On the horse’s fear: “Why this is, is that horses, more than most other creatures, embody their feelings and thoughts: they ‘body them forth’. No horse that spooks and runs away does it because of effort by his muscles, even though effort by his muscles is what moves his legs. A horse runs away because he is frightened: the adrenalin is pumping: the thoughts are not focused on any task but mere escape and survival. The muscles are the slaves of the emotions, and thus, any rider who tries to stop a runaway with the bit is addressing the wrong part of the animal. Getting the horse stopped once the emotions have taken over is both difficult and chancy.” On our role at Teacher for the horse: “The teacher’s task is to explain what she wants the student to do, in a step-by-step manner. The greatest challenge for the teacher is to find and maintain the maturity, mental flexibility, and creativity to be able to RE-explain something when the horse doesn’t get it the first time — re-explain it in a different way, with variety in the variation, so as to give the horse a different angle on it to help him to get it. When the penny drops, you might say, the physical tension in the horse will long since have dropped, too. Curiosity and engagement are the primary antidote to fear. Do check out the...