Update from Piccolo’s Training Diary: OPP STARTER-KIT
I am so pleased. I really feel we are moving in the right direction, and his improvements are happening in the speed of light.
Piccolo is a 4yo green PRE stallion who arrived just over 2weeks ago to OHL HQ for trainings, and to learn Conscious Muscle Relaxation Program: Optimal Performance. He is owned by an European dressage rider. When he arrived, upon being led out from the lorry we heard from the drivers that he is “Green. Very green.”. Well, I haven’t paid much attention to it, until they repeated this sentence twice.
Right from the very beginning it was obvious that Piccolo had very little of the basic training behind him, which was a very good news for us, because it gave us a possibility to start fresh, and take care of all the basics from the very beginning, rooting them in Conscious Muscle Relaxation. We have started to work on his ability to relax spontaneously, and in the following days we took the next steps and turned his ability of Spontaneous Relaxation — Conscious.
Since these TWO WEEKS Piccolo has already changed SO MUCH
First of all, his access to Relaxation has really became conscious, and he seeks my presence SO MUCH to be able to relax together with me. He is looking forward to come to me and spend time with me to deepen his relaxation every time he sees me. He makes conscious decisions to leave hay and alfalfa (and mares which occupy the track above his paddock) to come down to me when I enter the track of his paddock at the bottom level.
He stopped responding to other horse’s movements and when I train in the arena comes down to me, and seeks to be closer (I feel that he does it in order to be able to deepen his relaxation together with me). Other important changes are related to the beginning of our interactions together:
- He really seeks my presence, when I come to the paddock, he always leaves his food and company of other horses (through the fence) and was coming in engaged walk, and now started to run down towards me to greet me,
- He started to trust me, and doesn’t move around when with me. I can touch him all over his body, and groom him while he stands still without being held or kept on the halter.
- He uses all the time he is with me to practice his OPP Relaxation Technique; this is his choice, and he wants to do it himself, I really do feel how it betters his mood, attitude and general feeling, I really believe he wants to do that himself and he seeks my presence, as I became a trigger which triggers for him ability to enter this experience,
- On top of that we are working more on giving legs and together with that how to Relax at Restrictions.
The below video shows the begging of the process of teaching Piccolo how to find his relaxation at the idea of that his legs will be lifted, and how to open possibility of him to WANT to give legs all by himself. For me it’s a very important concept, which is unfortunately so often skipped when training horses: people tend to make horses do things regarding basic handling, and then in the riding arena they expect the horse to OFFER exercises, behaviours and movement by himself.
In fact, for horses there is no difference between arena, and a grooming bay: it’s still interacting with you, and which seeds you will plant at these early stages, that fruits you will bear later on.
The below video shows how how we started teaching Piccolo the lesson of giving legs. It looked like watching the paint dry, but I believe it’s so crucial to not advance if the horse is even slightly tensed, and wait until he can relax and be able to offer what we are asking for. Trust me, horses are extremely smart and intelligent and they always know what you ask them about. They are just sometimes too tense to be able to give it to you.
Now, Piccolo gives the legs confidently, and just on a gentle touch of my hand. We are at the beginning of working on expanding duration of the time during which Piccolo can keep his leg up for me, and stay equally relaxed at the same time. The key of completing this step successfully is to draw horse’s attention onto following the release coming from my body, while he is tensing up loosing balance etc.
To be able to guide the horse through that, the trainer has to have a very good awareness of his/her body and notice tensions in their body, and be able to release them as they come without any “jet-lags”. We help people to expand their body awareness and release such tensions (they are called residual tensions) via BodyMarc Program for expanding Body Awareness.
It’s quite mind-blowing how later on this very first and simple experience is transferred by the horse for the same “follow my relaxation” response when under the saddle, being led, etc. I have been successfully calming my horses down by the bare touch of my hand when during the vet-check, vaccination, etc…
Why is giving legs so important? Why I spend so much time on that, and not work it out in 1h session and just have it done, and move on? Because once you start collecting the dirt under the carpet… well, it stays there, and is surfacing whenever the horse enters new task, new environment, and new exercise. Please take a small moment and listen to my explanation:
Is Giving Legs just about having them given? Or…?
For me it all goes down to ability of Relaxation at Restrictions. Relaxation is very different than acceptance or tolerating. Relaxation is the ability not only to stay relaxed, but to even deepen one’s relaxation when something that we might have seen before as limiting or threatening is happening to us.
It’s very important training turning point for many horses, as one of the first restriction they are experiencing is the restriction of having their leg lifted-up and held. It’s quite a big thing actually, because you are directly influencing horse’s balance and ability to move. Many horses respond to that with nervousness, irritation, they move off or take the leg away quickly.
In Optimal Performance Program we teach the horse that as he feels the tensions growing up in his body, he can connect with them and have them released, instead of following them. As a result, the process of giving legs and the duration in which they are held up in the space is becoming something pleasurable for the horse, because it becomes an opportunity do deepen his relaxation, feel better. You can see on one of the videos above how Piccolo is relaxing while his leg is held (held = supported with my open hand).
Here we are developing the pattern, that later the horse takes advantage of when being leg, and tied for grooming: I am restricted, I can use this time to consciously deepen my relaxation.
By taking time for preparing your horse to give legs in Relaxation, you are solving and addressing many issues which would come up on the surface later on, if you have just “made” your horse give you the legs without taking into account his emotions, tensions and how he sees the context of this situation.
And we keep on rolling forward…
Falcao is passing by paddock of Piccolo, and both horses learn to access their Conscious Muscle Relaxation in this context. Here we use the fact that Piccolo, our new young stallion, is already using his OPP Relaxation Technique consciously and ALL THE TIME:
NEXT WEEK I plan to introduce Piccolo to other horses
It’s aFANTASTIC MOMENTfor you to join, catch up with the first week’s training videos, and lean TONS about excitement management and hormonal management in the field (where stallions, mares and geldings are seeing each other and being in close proximity to one another) for your young, mature, old mare, gelding or a stallion. It all will follow in the upcoming updates of the Optimal Performance Program STARTER-KIT:
Join Optimal Performance Program STARTER-KIT:
https://gum.co/OPP-KICKSTART (<- click on the link)