What a lesson with Emily will entail.
Example horsemanship lesson:
I introduce the student to the Great Strides herd of horses and get a sense for how much the student knows. If it's nothing, we start at the beginning.
Some questions I may ask the student:
- Do you have any horse experience?
- Do you have any goals? Specifically, are there any things you do or do not want to do?
- Do you feel comfortable standing next to a horse?
- Can you tell me what these horses are thinking or feeling by watching their body language?
- Do you know how horses evolved to be one of man's closest companions?
- How aware are you of the herd dynamics playing out in front of you right now?
- What's your understanding of how horses are trained, and what are your opinions on the subject?
- Have you ever groomed and tacked a horse up to ride?
- Do you want to learn how to catch a horse in the field / lunge / free lunge / do vaulting / train a horse to do something / etc?
- How often do you feel as though the horse you work with ignores you, or is uncooperative?
I can teach students how to become more skillful horse handlers in all aspects of the term.
Example riding lesson:
I ask the student what they want to get out of the lesson today. If it's a first lesson, I get a "before" photo of the student at halt and walk, possibly in trot and canter if the student can do so safely. I may also get some video in each direction at the same time. If it's not a first lesson, I'll ask what the student remembers most from the last lesson with me, and/or their last ride.
I'll watch the student warm up and start asking questions, such as (but not limited to):
- What are you paying attention to the most right now? How helpful is that? Depending on the answer, a bit later I may use an audible marker to help you identify exactly when you're doing the right thing at the right time, so you can do it more often.
- How much of your weight is distributed along your seat, thighs and feet? Be specific, I'll be asking for percentages. If you're not sure, I'll have you exaggerate each until you are able to distinguish them better.
- What's the shape of the horse's back under you? If you can't tell, I'll demonstrate and give several images to help you understand. I may also do a belly lift if the horse permits it, so you can literally feel what it is supposed to feel like - without having to do anything.
- Point to how far down your breath goes when you breathe in. Do you hold your breath in transitions? How are you at blowing up balloons? I will give you balloon homework.
- If your pelvis was a bowl full of liquid, would the liquid be spilling out of the bowl? If you can't tell, I'll demonstrate, give images, and put my hands on you to help you feel the difference between spilling and not, all while you look in the mirror.
- If the horse were magically removed out from underneath you *poof* would you land on the arena floor and have to take a step forward to catch your balance, a step back, or would you land in "martial arts stance" and not lose your balance at all? If you can't tell, I'll demonstrate with my own body, give you images to help "see", and show you what you look like in the mirror.
- Does the horse tend to speed off at the worst possible moment? Fall on the forehand in down transitions? Does the horse frequently fall in, fall out, or seem crooked in one direction? If you know these things are happening, but you don't know what to do about it, I will explain the sequence of events that cause each situation to happen, starting with you / your balance. Using demonstration, hands-on sculpting, video replay, photo evidence, imagery and awareness games I'll help you feel when it's wrong, and know what to do to make it right.
The crucial factors in all the lessons I teach boil down to two things: noticing when something isn't right, and figuring out how to change it. Nine times out of ten, the rider can make a change in their own body which triggers a change for the better in the horse. Every time the rider does the new, different, possibly weird or difficult thing I've recommended, they are improving. Riders that aren't willing to make changes in themselves will get stuck on a plateau, but it's my job to help the rider know what changes to make, and how to make them.
This is what rider biomechanics is all about. Geometry and physics are integral to staying on top of a horse. I'll talk about tangents, degrees, and laws of motion. I'll draw them on the white board or use straps, rubber bands and imaginary boards, strings, buttons, and more to make my point. I'm not doing my job if you walk away confused about any aspect of the lesson.
At the end of the lesson: I recap the salient points we covered, and ask you what you think will be the most difficult changes to maintain. I'll ask you to put it into your own words, succinctly, so that you can remember it the next time you ride, and hopefully the next time I see you!