It’s already over A WEEK since arrival of our new PRE stallion, 4yo PICCOLO. PICCOLO was sent to us shortly after he was purchased by his new owner in order to receive his Optimal Performance Program STARTER-KIT Education. His owner, a competing European Dressage Rider, wished for her green, unbroken dressage prospect to learn Conscious Muscle Relaxation skills of Optimal Performance Program in order to excel in his future career as a competing dressage horse.
We were especially excited about accepting this young horse in training for few reasons:
- First being that he is not a wild horse, but he received very little education in his life so far. He is very green (as we have been warned by the drivers who drove him here!) but he knows people. This is a typical starting point for many riders and horse owners who buy their new young horse: a horse who has been minimally handled, knows humans, knows halter, and knows leading. This is a fantastic starting point for us to step in, and start the journey of the horse from teaching him Conscious Muscle Relaxation.
- Another reason is that it’s a high quality horse whose future is to compete at high level dressage competitions. We are beyond certain that such horses need and can profit most from the ability to release tensions of their muscles consciously, and therefore we want to give him the best start into his later career possible, and check how this will influence his future and all learning situations ahead of him.
- Thirdly, learning dressage requires from the horse very high cognitive skills, and we know that these are strongly reinforced by relaxation.
After 3-day journey through Spain PICCOLO arrived to our yard very tired, but at the same time very excited.
Below you can see us after over a WEEK of work on developing Conscious Muscle Relaxation, along the lines of Optimal Performance Program. OPP is based on SCIENTIFIC RELAXATION. Scientific Relaxation is a measurable phenomenon that happens in the body of the horse. It’s based on lowering activity of the Central Nervous System, which can be measured by voltmeter and therefore is called scientific. Whenever we say RELAXATION we have this precise term in our mind.
After a week of training we achieved the following:
- The horse comes to me when he sees me approaching the training area,
- The horse stopped chasing away our dogs, and kicking at them,
- The horse stopped nipping us, and walking past us,
- The horse learned OPP Relaxation Technique: he recognises when he gets tensed, and he connects with the tension and is able to release it,
- The horse stands still for grooming at the pasture,
- The horse stopped calling other horses (lowering hormones due to lowering stress), and doesn’t respond to their movement (which was a big case before),
- The horse responds to subtle body language communication form my side which is always oriented towards supporting bigger relaxation, and never pressure oriented.
- Whenever something is happening around the horse comes to me to seek possibility to deepen his relaxation,
- I became his safe space and desired place to be around.
The training is led without treats and use of halter and ropes so far, but we will introduce the halter and rope later on. The whole training is led without treats and pressure/release system. We focus only on deepening conscious muscle relaxation of the horse:
Scientific Relaxation is not a subjective opinion of the trainer about the relaxation of the horse, but a precise term. In practice, during everyday trainings we don’t use the voltmeter to measure relaxation of the horse, but all the time we remember that for us relaxation is about doing less, ceasing activity of the Central Nervous System (taking less actions = keeping less tensions in the body). We see that horses and people, even when seemingly at rest are still keeping their Central Nervous System active by keeping many unnecessary tensions up in the body. This leads to such effects as:
- Overstimulation, spookiness, anxiety,
- Existential fear and deep unjustified fear (panic attacks),
- Lack of focus, getting easily distracted by the environment,
- Sleepiness, laziness, lack of motivation,
In the video above you can see me and Piccolo after A WEEK of developing Relaxation Technique, and you can see how his interaction with the environment, me, other horses and dogs is changed. These are just short pieces, I am very excited to be able to show the whole process in my OPP STARTER-KIT Program, focused on sharing with others how to lead the training of the young horse through the principles of Scientific Relaxation of OPP Program.
As you can see Conscious Relaxation of PICCOLO at this stage is based on helping him to recognise the emotion of excitement and release tension that builds it. Emotion of EXCITEMENT is the mind interpretation of the tensions connected with fear and not getting something that we want. Each horse shows fear, and excitement differently, but the process of recognising it and releasing it looks the same.
- If the horse is chasing dogs, he is excited,
- If the horse is nipping at you, he is excited,
- If the horse is pushing you to scratch him, he is excited,
- If the horse calls back at other horses and pays attention to their movement, he is excited,
- If the horse moves away when you touch his legs, he is excited.
Deepening Relaxation is enough for teaching a horse any new thing
This is a simple concept, but is a part of a much broader idea: Normally, teaching is based on the concept of a teacher having to REPEAT THE INFORMATION WHICH IS BELIEVED TO BE NEW to the student in order for the student to consume it and eventually understand it and be able to execute/know or learn it.
In the context of teaching the horse to give legs, the traditional approach is that for the touch of the leg by the trainer, the response should be to lift up the leg and keep it steady up in the air. The training is based on the principle that the horse CAN GIVE ONLY ONE RESPONSE = to give the leg and lift it up, in response to the cue = touch of the trainer. From many responses given by the horse, the trainer chooses only the ones that take him closer to the desired answer, and he blocks possibility of appearing new answers.
It doesn’t matter if the training is based on punishment or reward, such ideology behind the training always focuses the training on teaching the horse for as long as it takes for the horse to give only this ONE ANSWER to the question asked. Any other answer given is treated as a wrong answer, and it is either not-rewarded, or punished. Both options provide equal amount of tensions to the body of the horse.
Teaching based on Conscious Relaxation
Teaching based on Relaxation reaches to profound mechanisms that allow people, and horses to learn.
In the video below I am explaining the new possible perspective: the horse is not giving a leg not because he doesn’t know what to do, or that he doesn’t want to do it, but because he is too tensed to do so. This simple shift in perception changes the whole training, and all future decisions of the trainer. Thanks to recognising that the behaviour doesn’t occur due to too big tensions of the horse:
- The trainer can realise there the horse doesn’t need more time spent on repeating the exercise,
- The trainer can realise that he doesn’t have to spend more time on explaining the horse how to do the exercise,
- The horse doesn’t need any extra motivation in order to commit or engage into the exercise.
The trainer can realise that the horse just needs to be relaxed enough to perform this action without tensing his body upon anticipation of what is going to happen.
Learning is Relaxing in the Context of Doing Something New
Deepening Relaxation is a general Rule thanks to which the Process of Learning takes place. Such a Learning, based on Deepening Relaxation, is focused on the principle that when learning new things the horse, or the human is learning how to relax in face of doing something new. Thanks to Relaxation, their ability to perform new actions opens, and taking new actions becomes possible.
Motivating the horse to do something, using both: rewards or punishment, in the situation when the horse is convinced that he cannot do something because doing it makes him tense can only increase these tensions in the future.
In the effect of such approach to learning and teaching new things the horse and the human is becoming more tensed whenever they have to do something new. It’s enough to look at kids who clench their fists or toes when they have to say or do something, horses who tense necks when they have to do transitions, and trainers who tense whenever they have to ask the horse to do something.
Thanks to Optimal Performance Program, focused on teaching the horse how to relax in the context of the new task, the horse’s subjective perception of the difficulty of the action is changing, and task becomes seen as easy. It is based on the fact, that emotion connected with anticipating difficulties is in fact the mind’s interpretation of the tensions appearing in the body upon doing something new that we are not ready to do.
Overcoming difficulties vs. making difficulties disappear
People are so used to overcoming these tensions with even bigger tensions, and seeing tasks ahead as difficult and hard, that seeing tasks ahead as difficult it’s seen as something good and needed in order to move forward. People seek the emotion of difficulty and they identify it with doing good, honest job, and they transfer this feeling to horses.
Of course, when the horse believes that something is difficult, he feels tensions in his body and he won’t be wanting to do this thing. It opens a big possibility for the trainers to seek for the “right motivation” for the horse. This is why so many people in horsemanship talk about ways to “motivate horses even better”.
In the below video you can see that it’s not necessary to motivate the horse to do something, it’s enough for the horse to not have any tensions connected with doing this task for him to commit to it willingly.
Training led through creating tensions connected with anticipating difficulties, and providing “motivation” to overcome it, with time brings more and more tensions to the horse’s body.
Training led through ceasing tensions connected with anticipating difficulties, is releasing tensions from the horse’s body.
Now we could start the whole new article about what happens in the body of the horse when the tensions rise, and what happens in the whole body and body’s systems (digestive, emotional, cognitive, health, motor, immune, hormonal, etc) when the tensions are released, and the relaxation deepens… We will save it for another article ;-)
From the perspective of training a horse it’s very important to understand for the trainer that with time teaching the new things to the horse becomes more and more difficult if he tenses up. On the other hand, when the horse is more and more relaxed in time when training progresses, teaching new things becomes more and more easy.
You can join me and PICCOLO and follow our 3-MONTH journey through the CONSCIOUS MUSCLE RELAXATION TRAINING – Optimal Performance Program – here -> www.gum.co/opp-starterkit [click on the link]
OPP STARTER-KIT is especially designed for everyone who wants to know more about Conscious Muscle Relaxation for horses, and how it can be incorporated into the everyday training of a young horse. I want to show you as much as possible, and I want to give you a GOOD FAT SOLID STARTER-KIT to Optimal Performance Program at the affordable price.
Please comment under this post to stay up-to-date with all follow-up information, IF YOU:
1. Already know *something* about Optimal Performance Program, but want to have a solid step-by-step base to introduce it to your horse due to behavioural issues,
2. Know *nothing* about OPP but follow me here on Facebook and feel like you want to learn more, and feel the “itch” to start to practice it with your own horses!,
3. Think about full OPP Self-Study or Guided Program but wonder if this is something you will be able to do with your horse, or had to withhold the decision due to financial reasons,
4. Want to see how I solve everyday issues and challenges with a green stallion based on Optimal Performance Program principles,
5. Want to see how to give your horse good manners, everyday-life skills, and social skills through OPP,
6. Want to see how I introduce a new stallion to a part of my herd so it’s a safe and good experience for everyone,
7. Want to introduce OPP to your future green horses,
8. Want to see how and in which areas of life, and to what extent Conscious Muscle Relaxation changes horses.
9. Want to see what is the WORKING POWER behind OPP.
This program is means to give you a SOLID KICK-START on your journey with Optimal Performance Program, however cannot be treated as Replacement of the Full Optimal Performance Program (which has over 60 tutorial step-by-step videos, and 2 Theory and Practical WorkBooks, plus a training plan and week by week practical application plans).
Please let me know WHAT MORE you wish to learn in the OPP STARTER-KIT, and in which areas of his journey with OPP you are MOST INTERESTED IN at the moment? What are you MOST interested to see? What you MOST WANT to learn? What you DON’T WANT to see? 🙃
I just cannot wait to hear from you!!