Optimal Performance Program: Self-Study
Optimal Performance Program is not another training method, or horsemanship path people engage for a while to later discover it wasn’t yet “the one” and they return to searches for something better. Optimal Performance Program is not something that discriminates other training techniques, which you may be using now or in the future.
Optimal Performance Program is another WAY OF DOING THINGS: it teaches you how to teach your horse to Consciously Relax PRIOR, DURING and AFTER each action and each movement through a Relaxation Technique, which every horse has, but is not aware of it. You are going to teach your horse how to be able to access his Relaxation Technique no matter what is happening in the environment and with him internally (it’s like yogic practice in which you learn to meditate in a closed room and then you wrap yourself in wet sheets and you do the same in Himalayan cave – you rise access to the technique to become independent of the environment).
If we are meeting here, it means that you are seriously interested in relaxation of your horse. Relaxation is the most powerful force one can harness for his personal profit in Life. It’s like a high quality dressage horse — when one can enter Relaxation, then the only job one has to do is not to disturb it. After all, the whole world yields to the mind that is at peace.
No matter what’s the reason you found yourself here — may it be increasing your horse’s performance, and helping him to make most of his natural qualities and skills, turning your horse into the roaring lion of the competition field, making your horse feel more self-aware, and self-confident in all every-day life situations, opening-up your horse’s gaits and unzipping all the energy that you feel he holds within, or calming your horse down, and supporting him in dealing with his anxiety attacks — I want you to know that you are in the right place.
Ball Dresses and Suits Made Out of Tensions
When I speak with horse owners, I often hear that their horses can act like two, or even three totally different horses depending on a situation. In one situation, usually on the paddock, a horse can be super relaxed, sweet and affectionate, and in another situation, for example in the arena or when being ridden, the horse is tensed and feels like a ticking bomb ready to explode in any moment.
Based on these observations many horse owners come to the conclusion that their horses don’t like to be ridden, trained, or even interact with humans and that the only thing a human can bring to a horse is disturbance, bother and turmoil.
If you are one of these people yourself, here I am to tell you that you were mistaken. Horses love to be trained, spend time with humans and some of them even enjoy being ridden, but there is one condition under which all of these can happen: the horse must be really deeply relaxed in these situations. If your horse gets tensed in the arena, or when being ridden, or if your horse tenses up just by seeing you, he will be able to neither enjoy these activities nor enjoy spending time with you.
Tensions are like outfits: yoga outfits, pajamas, suits and ball dresses. Our bodies have a great memory of how to dress-up in the tensions for the given occasion. How the body learns what to “put on” for the given occasion? It experiences the occasion for the very first time, and it remembers forever (or at least for a very long time) how exactly it made the body tensed.
If your horse had been started under the saddle in a way that made him very tense, his body remembers this Dress Code, and the next time, and all following times, when the horse sees the saddle or is mounted he will dress-up accordingly to the situation: he will tense up in the very same way, as he learned he must when in the given situation for the very first time.
It’s very hard, if not impossible, to change the tension dress-code of the body using the regular training techniques. This is because the body is convinced it really needs these tensions in order to survive and cope with the situation. In the same way, as you are convinced that wearing breeches is the best outfit to go to the stables, and you would never wear breeches when going for a job interview, your horse’s body believes it must “wear” certain outfits made out of tensions for the given situations. Let’s take a look:
- Being in the paddock — wearing pajamas,
- Being groomed — wearing yoga outfit,
- Being in the training arena — wearing suit or a ball dress,
- Riding outside in the forest — wearing a suit with a very tight tie, or wearing a ball dress with an extremely tight corset.
As you can see it would be very hard to convince your horse that he can go wearing his fluffy pajamas or his cozy yoga outfit for a ride in a forest, if his body’s firm belief it’s that he needs a ball dress with a really tight corset, or a suit with a tie tightened firmly around his neck. It’s not a matter of seeking comfort, it’s a matter of what we believe in is required out of us. If your horse’s body learned once it needs a ball dress or a suit to be in the dressage arena, it will be very hard to convince him, he is going to be absolutely alright there wearing stretchy sweatpants.
Optimal Performance Program is not another training technique, a new way of holding the whip, or a manner of changing the whip with a string to a flag that has changed the horse, it’s not positive reinforcement, clicker, presence or lack of treats, or a special approach. Optimal Performance Program is teaching your horse’s body to take NEW OUTFITS for the old and new occasions.
In Optimal Performance Program all exercises are thought, and designed in such a way, so that your horse’s body learns how to change it’s outfit, and learns a new dress code suitable for the SIX MAJOR TENSIONS, that all horses experience on every day basis, and some of them experience a really big struggle with them.
This feeling of struggle, is nothing different than a feeling of having to dress up for an occasion in an outfit that you really don’t like and that makes you really uncomfortable, but you simply don’t see another option. Optimal Performance Program will teach your horse that it’s always OK to take the ballroom dress or a suit off, and seek a different, a more comfortable outfit for the situation. To feel better, perform better and excel in everything they do.
Optimal Performance Program PLAN
During Optimal Performance Program you are going to learn SIX RELAXATION PATTERNS in order to teach your horse how to release tensions, and therefore be able to change his beliefs about the dress code, that is required from him under SIX different types of tensions, appearing in SIX different contexts, and then during the WEEK 9 I am going to show you how to use relaxation to Change & Improve your horse’s Movement Patterns. After that we are going to use the RELAXATION PATTERNS’ PUZZLES that you have developed with your horse to build out from them complex behaviors, and show you how you can implement Optimal Performance Program into any Training Method, and Horsemanship Path you wish to follow, now and in the future.
WEEK 1-2: Developing Relaxation Technique
During the first week of Optimal Performance Program you are going to learn how to increase the number of your horse’s Relaxation Signs, and therefore the time your horse spends in the state of Spontaneous Relaxation. This is one of the two most important weeks of Optimal Performance Training, during which you teach your horse how to recognize appearance of physical tensions in his body, and release them. During the Second Week’s practice you are going to learn how to support your horse in learning how to turn moments of Spontaneous Relaxation into Conscious Relaxation, available for your horse through a conscious act of will. Your horse will learn how to look for tensions in his body consciously in order to be able to have them released, and relax. The process of looking for tensions consciously while performing an action will be your horse’s first experience of his Relaxation Technique.
WEEK 3: Relaxation on Restrictions of Food
Relaxation on Restriction of Food is a Relaxation Technique for every single horse: it’s perfect for horses who eat too quickly, and too much, and therefore have problems with excess weight, and it’s equally suitable for horses who are fussy, tend to eat too little, and have problems with maintaining their weight. It’s suitable for horses who are trained with treats, and for those who are trained without treats. It’s an essential tool in life of every horse who eats.
WEEK 4: Relaxation on Distractions
Distraction is everything in the environment of your horse that causes him distress, pulls his focus away from the trainer and the training routine, and therefore causes the horse to become more tensed. Of course, the fact that your horse becomes distressed by changes in his environment is already a sign that his body has been already quite tensed at the beginning. A truly relaxed horse notices everything, but responds adequate to the external trigger.
WEEK 5: Relaxation on Orders
At the beginning of the OPP course a horse trainer may ask: “Why cannot we work without orders and rules?”. He thinks that rules are an unnecessary formality, and orders unnecessarily control his horse. In fact, rules are the main and first form of help a trainer receives from work, and orders are not meant to provide entertainment neither to the trainer nor to the horse, but to communicate what is going to happen in order to allow the work to be completed.
WEEK 6: Relaxation on Restrictions of Movement
Horses are not coping very well with restrictions. Any restriction to the horse’s movement or suddenly felt desire is tensing the body in a very certain way, and this certain tension is interpreted by the horse’s mind as fear. When the horse is scared, his natural response is to escape the situation, to run away from it.
WEEK 7: Relaxation on Difficulties,
Difficulty is everything that evokes tension in your horse: the exercise he is doing, but also the one he expects. Going into a new task, your horse tightens the body, and later remembers this specific net of tensions for a very long time. When a horse starts that exercise, or begins to expect that he will be asked to do that task in the nearest future, his body starts to tense in the exact same way, as when he tried that exercise for the very first time.
WEEK 8: Relaxation on Elevated Heart Rate
The ability to maintain and deepen muscle relaxation during movement with an elevated heart rate is the basic ability that distinguishes an ordinary mortal from a professional athlete. Without this ability, movement tires body very quickly, and makes the performer avoid the movement. Relaxation on Elevated Heart Rate is a crucial skill when working with all lazy horses, and horses who respond to movement with excitement. It’s also especially important for sports horses.
+ EXTRA WEEK 9: Changing Movement Patterns
Movement Patterns define how your horse moves. Teaching new movement patterns is an essential part of horse training. You need to teach your horse how to move in balance before you can introduce him to advanced exercises and riding. In this chapter, you will learn how to teach your horse new movement patterns using Relaxation. Thanks to relaxation your horse can improve and accept a new way of moving without tensing his muscles.
+ EXTRA RELAXATION ON COMPLEX BEHAVIORS
- Relaxation on Saddling, Girth, and Mounting: a proven way of starting young horses under the saddle, and re-starting horses with saddling & mounting related issues,
- For horses who are extra shy when taking a deworming paste, rear, pull themselves lose, escape and avoid, and for whom neither positive reinforcement nor pressure/release oriented training methods were not working
- Relaxation on Showering, and Fly Spray for extra shy horses,