Groundwork Workbook Excerpts

Kirsten

Not only does talent create its own opportunities, intense desire creates its own talents
– Bruce Lee 

Below are the summary pages included in the new, updated and revised version of the Groundwork Workbook. All four workbook in the series are the practical guides for learning Optimal Balance Essentials, helping you become the trainer of your own horse no matter where you are starting today. Enjoy the excerpts! You can download your own copy of any or all the workbooks ONLY on my website www.kirstennelsen.com

Summary of Part 1
Developing The Learning Frame of Mind

The exercises in this first part of the workbook are ways we can help our horse feel safe internally by reducing fear and overcoming defensiveness. The work is purposely simple and slow in order to take pressure off our horse and encourage calm energy. 

The fastest path to calm cooperation from our horse is to work in a way that does not add fear, stress or anything too challenging just yet. Once our horse begins to see us as the herd member that always creates a sense of safety, then that relationship is what we carry forward and rely upon during more challenging work. 

Changing physical coordination is a big deal to the one doing it! Improving physical balance is challenging for our horse, even during groundwork. Inherent in the process of improving physical balance is the challenge of changing deeply ingrained habits, causing instability and some discomfort during the process. If our horse feels fearful, defensive or does not trust us, then our horse will not be able to improve coordination. Our horse must first feel safe in order to even think about comfort in motion or improve physical balance. 

The power of learning about optimal, mechanically correct, physical coordination for our horse is that, once achieved, ideal physical coordination always improves comfort, stability and enhances feeling safe internally. The process of changing patterns of movement from the current habit into more optimal coordination is the tricky part. 

To work through the inherent challenges of changing physical habits of coordination, our horse must trust us and feel willing to cooperate with our guidance. We will need to pay attention to our horse’s unique response during the process. If thresholds of discomfort are ignored or crossed, then our horse will start losing The Learning Frame of Mind. Even if we are following accurate, good theory, our horse will resist making changes and we can inadvertently cause more fear and defensiveness. 

The Learning Frame of Mind, developed during this first part, is what becomes our beacon during the second part of the process, where we learn to improve physical coordination or develop Basic Balance. Our horse can only overcome dysfunctional use of the body and learn a new, more ideal coordination if our horse feels safe with us during the process. 

Whenever our horse is showing signs of losing The Learning Frame of Mind, then our horse is clearly telling us that we are asking too much. Even if we have the right theory, the application of that theory must be fully accepted and actualized by our horse. Our horse will make a million mistakes and struggle with physical changes, but when our horse starts to escalate energy, increasing defensiveness with anxiety or tension, then we need to back off a little and find a way to make the physical work easier to achieve. The Learning Frame of Mind coming and going tells us when and how to adjust our strategies. Maintaining or restoring our horse’s internal sense of safety is always our priority of work and is what helps us navigate the pace during exercises that improve physical balance.

Summary of Groundwork

The information and exercises in this workbook are intended to prepare us and our horse for riding or driving. The skills we develop while mastering each groundwork exercise improve our balance, feel, timing and sensitivity as a rider very directly and as a “horseman” in general. 

Even if we don’t plan to ride our horse, the same groundwork will help restore our horse’s sense of safety, gaining balance in the mind, and physical comfort, gaining balance in the body. Helping our horse find balance in both mind and body is what builds trust and develops a mutually beneficial relationship with our horse. 

The skills and balance our horse can learn through groundwork, make the job of carrying a rider feel safe, comfortable and interesting. Helping our horse feel safe, stable and mechanically well coordinated before having to bear weight sets our horse up for success under saddle. These feelings are also the only benefits we can offer to our horse in this relationship, whether we ride or we don’t. 

Learning is not a timed event for horses, they get there when they get there. If we patiently persist with the horse we have right now, then the magic that unfolds between us and and our horse during the learning process often exceeds our highest goals. 

Groundwork provides time for us to step back and take a fresh look at riding or gives us time to build a relationship with our horse in uncomplicated ways. While groundwork is necessary when our horse is unsafe to ride, it is also a tool of training that can be used during all stages of training, even if we already ride and compete with our horse. 

Developing a mutually beneficial relationship with our horse and becoming an excellent horseman is a life long journey for all of us. There is so much to learn about horses that no single person can know it all. Instead we rely on our horse’s guidance, listening to communication through energy, spatial awareness, body language and behavior, in order to know when we are on the right track with our horse and when we need to change our strategies or seek out more information. 

As we learn new ways of doing things, we test any and all information through the response our horse offers. The information might be right, but not yet appropriate for our horse just yet. Some information can send us down the wrong path with our horse. Instead of blaming ourselves or our horse for failures in training, we learn to adjust, adapt and try something different in order to uncover the very best parts of our horse. Every horse bonds with trusted herd members, so as we learn to listen to our horse and gain that status in our horse’s mind, then we will find success with whatever we choose to do. 

I wish you and your horse a magical journey, uncovering the shining brilliance that lays waiting to be discovered inside every horse and every person.
– Kirsten 

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