Wendy Murdoch and her magic!
Last month, Wendy Murdoch was in Europe again. After travelling to countless places already this year, she survived a successful 9 days at Equitana in Germany AND gave several Open Clinics. I have to say, not only her teaching is magic: she must have special powers to do it all...
So in this post, I would like to share the most important things I have learned at my second clinic with Wendy. I guess the main theme this time for me was:
Be determined but flexible
On Saturday before the clinic, my own horse Kai got kicked pretty bad. He had a small wound and that spot was pretty swollen. Of course it hurt, so he did not walk 100%... I knew I would learn a lot either way so I decided to leave him home and I drove to Lienden alone.
At the clinic, Wendy in the morning started with theory and exercises for all participants. Here are my main learnings from the first day:
- Everybody is different, every body is different
- Every body moves differently: the possibilities are endless.
- Differences can be in: movement direction, speed, start of the movement, part of the body with most movement, etc.
- Even the concept of a movement, can be interpreted by each person differently
So rigid concepts that are commonly taught in horse riding like "sit up straight", "shoulders back", "heels down", they bring misconception of how to achieve that in a balanced posture. Although these concepts are not untrue in itself...
It is like influencing the horse: you can get his head down, but there will be no engagement. If a horse is engaged, the frame or posture will look round as a result of engagement.
When a rider is balanced, the RESULT will be a posture where the rider sits straight, has his shoulders back and the heels relatively down.
So just like you can not force a horse into a posture, we can not expect our bodies to be functional when we have the wrong picture or idea in our head.
You should be looking to achieve balance, in a dynamic posture where you are independent of the horse. You then reach a position where you can wait for the horse.
The horse no longer needs to compensate your unbalance on top of his own.
All above is also true for horses: every horse is different so find what is balance for your horse...
In the afternoon all the riders had lessons from Wendy, and I really wanted to join the party! It is so amazing to find the next level of awareness in your own body and feel how the connection to the horse is about way more than "using aids".
I was determined to make it happen, so I called my sister in law and she was willing to lend me her horse for the second day! I left the clinic to go and pick up her amazing mare, so I could ride on the second day :-) see me smiling:
On Day 2 we first started without the horses again. We continued on the topics of the first day, and here are the main ideas:
- From your elbow to the horses mouth should be a straight line. So the length of your upper arm will dictate where your hands are in space and in relation to the withers. You can not ask all riders to "keep your hands down"!
- Doing everything with less effort let's us feel smaller changes. So if you are working really hard when riding, you don't feel small differences. Riding should be easy, let go of tension so that you can feel smaller movements.
- Contrast brings clarity. We have to switch back and forth to feel a difference. Experiment with movements and postures. If one feels better, also keep trying the other! Your nervous system will remember the most functional one, but only if you practice the contrast. The more you switch back and forth between different options, the quicker the way back to the most functional one will become.
- Believe you can and you will! My favorite life motto also applies to the movements you want to make.
- Movement is everywhere: release and let move, to find the stable middle (dynamic position)
We were really "fried" at the end of the second morning... So much knowledge and experiences through movement! Fortunately, we were provided a very good lunch at Stal Mireille to recharge for the afternoon.
Then it all came down to this moment: riding a horse I had never done anything with, at a clinic, in the Netherlands in March so basically trying to survive in the wind!
Comes in magic worker Wendy Murdoch with her fantastic Sure Foot pads :-)
I can not explain much about that, because I just don't know HOW they work, I just know THAT they work!!
Here is the video of me riding with Wendy:
You might not SEE me doing a lot, but that is because it is very subtle. On a feeling-level there was a lot going on. The Sure Foot pads and the little adjustments in my posture made a HUGE difference to this mare. For her to relax and stretch in this unknown (and windy!) environment is a very big deal.
Wendy is telling me to let my shoulder blades slide over my ribs. We also raised awareness for this movement during the morning exercises. Now on the horse I could make a space between my shoulder blades and let them slide, as a release that flows in the direction of the reins. The horse then mirrors me and makes room between her shoulders to lift the wither, which then lengthens her top line into a healthy posture.
And because this mare was so sensitive and not my own horse, my nervous system got amazing input! She gave me the best feedback and it was so valuable to feel when I could trigger the calming, relaxing and balancing response... it truly is MAGIC!
Can't wait for the next time :-)