Sunday, 11 April 2010

Perry Wood Clinic - Lecture

I have been rather remiss at blogging because I've attended a two-day clinic with Perry Wood this weekend. Ideally I ought to have taken more notes and blogged when I got home but circumstances and lack of energy dictated otherwise!

The original plan was to take the boys to the clinic but owing to the threat of strangles in the area we were very lucky and Perry was most gracious to come and teach us at home over the two days.

We still attended the clinic and the lecture, but chose to take the precaution of not touching strange horses and not travelling our own. Not least because in two days we expect the arrival of A Bay Baby...

Onto the lecture:

We sat around and introduced ourselves and what we wanted to get out of the clinic. And to describe in one word how we felt at that moment. I said 'nervous'. Not imaginative but very true! Given that I've been told I don't know what's good for my horse, I don't deserve him, etc, I certainly was apprehensive! It's taken a long time to galvanise my self-esteem to go and do something like this. So it was disappointing not to have left the yard for this clinic!

Next we were asked to do a little meditation/visualisation. I remember when we've felt best on a horse and to recreate everything about that moment/those moments in our mind's eye. A lovely way to settle us all and to open our minds positively to the two days ahead of us.

The first thing Perry asked of us is that we Do Not Judge. As spectators, we were not to judge the horse and rider combination in front of us. And as riders, not to judge the horse we are riding. Not to judge ourselves, or even that moment. We were to observe in order to learn. The theme for the weekend (from my perspective) would be that doing nothing is the hardest thing for our minds, but why shouldn't riding be easy?!

Horses and riders have physical limitations. It was nice to hear that. Not that every horse shouldn't be capable of quite a high level even if their conformation is far from ideal, but injury/stiffness/etc can further prevent this. It's our job to ensure they are as fit and supple as possible to do their job, which is to carry us with ease. Something they're not designed for.

It is the rider's responsibility for how they feel when riding. We cannot make another being feel a certain way, but we can create the best possible environment for our horse to learn and co-operate in. When we focus on negative aspects of a riding session, the focus we give them lends them power and we will be offered more of the same. So we ought to try to focus on the positives, ignore the negatives and only ride moment-to-moment. The horse-rider partnership is a dynamic one and the same pairing change year-to-year, month-to-month, day-to-day, from start-to-end of a session and indeed moment-to-moment. This sound a little hippy out of context but really all that is meant is to drop expectations and ride the horse under you and what's happening now.

Quality of riding is affected by quality of feeling, and we have to take responsibility for our own bodies. Easier said than done!

Leading from our expectations...many of the beliefs we hold are unconscious and we ought to question them. To illustrate this point, Perry started sentences and had us all finish them.

"Horses are..."

"Riding is..."

"Men are..." *lol*

From this I learned to experiment. Just because I believe that doing x and y will produce z, what if I experiment and use less or more of each, or try something else entirely? My prior experiences and teachings may lead me to believe certain things, but why do I believe them and do they even work?

Finally, we talked about contact and had demonstrated using pairs of reins what contact should be and what it ought to feel like. Not every horse is the same of course but we have to start somewhere. The elbow must be under the shoulder and ear because this is where the arm can be passive (in that no tense muscle tone need be engaged) and it can just hang all loose and lovely. Anywhere else will introduce tension, particularly between the shoulder blades of the rider.

I learned a whole bunch from watching everyone ride. The second lecture on the second day was what we learned from our own session on the previous day, what we learned from other peoples' sessions and what we wanted to achieve on this second day.

As far as what I learned from my lesson, that'll come in a further installment ;) But from other people I learned that we need to give ourselves a break. Perry always says remember the F word...FUN! We invest our emotions hugely into what we do and whilst we do need to take responsibility we do need to to chill out and not take everything quite so seriously. And personally! Another thing I learned was that tiny, subtle changes can produce amazing results. These changes are sometimes a physical and mental challenge, but sometimes not. At times I could have slapped myself for little changes which feel easier not having been so obvious to me. But that's why we have lessons :)

The last thing I wrote down was 'Listen to what the horse is telling you'. Enough said!

I will follow this with a post for each day's session, and hopefully tomorrow I will have photos :D


  1. deep ...

    does it come back to "less is more" ?

  2. Yes, exactly that! I think it needed to be 'deep' because most of us had the same problem, not being able to switch our brains to neutral for even a second! The right words can unlock/switch on something in our heads :)