Downregulation in practice

Editor’s Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and has been a horse gal since age six. She  runs Essence Horsemanship, rides and teaches English and Western at Jim Thomas’ Bar T Ranch. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, and many others. She

Amy Skinner, Dr. Steve Peters, and a horse brain

heads to Maine next month to teach lessons.

Recently, Skinner attended the Healthy Horse Seminar which featured Dr. Steve Peters. She writes about applying what she learned to her work.

She writes:

It’s a very exciting time in the horse world right now. There’s more information available to the layman than ever.  We have a better understanding of the horse physically and mentally, and with Evidence-Based Horsemanship, it seems like we literally have an operations manual with a scientific approach to the horse’s brain.

As a trainer, all this new science-y information swirled around in my head and I looked for ways to apply it. When Dr. Steve Peters talked about keeping horses interest peaked without panic setting in, I thought about how I often went about trying to introduce a horse to something new and scary.  I set out to experiment a little, to get out of my set ideas of how horses “should” be trained and just be a scientist for a little bit.

Peters will present at the Best Horse Practices Summit.

The Bar T Ranch is home to five cows. They live in a field behind the arena.  Sometimes, I think they get a kick out of seeing what sort of trouble they can stir up; they might lie down by the far end of the arena and stand up just as I ride a young horse near them. To the colt, I imagine this looks like a monster just popped up from underground.  Several horses in training have some aversion to the monster end of the arena.

One horse is particularly scared of the cows.  I’ve ridden him around them and worked the cows off him. He’d settle down for the moment, but his deep suspicion lingered and every new day in the arena he’d spot the cows and start snorting and bracing his neck and head like a submarine periscope.

Dr. Peters explained how a horse can vacillate between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. In my new mindset of experimentation, I took the colt to the far end of the arena with a bucket of grain and set it right by the fence. The cows, curious and greedy, came running.  At first, the little colt eyed the cows with concern, unable to eat his grain. But after a few minutes he started munching, even with the cows poking their muzzles through the gate.  He lifted his head up out of his bucket and for the first time touched the cows with his own muzzle, then went back to eating.

Grazing is a good way to encourage engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system

After he finished the grain, I worked him on the ground and allowed him to stretch his neck down and sneeze. He let go of his back and walked balanced circles.  I then rode him past the cows for the next hour. He was buttery in my hands and stretchy through his back. From Dr. Peters lectures, I know that the colt had successfully down-regulated, in other words, with that healthy exposure, the horse was now responding less to the stimulus. He was no longer concerned about the cows and more interested in paying attention to me and having his body be aligned.

Read more about the comfort zone here.

I had another insight when working with my mare, Dee. For a long time, she has struggled with crossing Bar T Ranch’s tippy bridge obstacle.

Following the seminar, I had a new strategy to try:

I let Dee graze by the bridge for a while. She was able to be comfortable near it and engage her parasympathetic nervous system (“Rest and Digest”). She eyed the bridge while she chewed grass and hung out. Then I asked her to cross it. Success!

Dr. Peters reminded me that it’s not really about the food. “It is about managing where the horse is within its nervous system and less about the food. We are just using the food to activate the parasympathetic nervous system,” said Peters.

Now I’m realizing that I have no reason to hold on to old beliefs and habits that don’t serve the horse.  Learning new things can challenge my belief system. This is good! I urge you to be a scientist and a horseman.  Use your eyes, ears, and mind always.  Don’t just believe what you’re told:  think, compare, observe, and experiment.  You owe it to your horse.

Skinner heads to Maine next month to teach lessons.

Watch what happens after Dee is allowed to graze before tackling an obstacle.

Horses flourish when humans get the science

If you’ve ever sought a second medical opinion or gotten more than one estimate for a home repair, you know that each vested party has a different take on things.

Dr. Steve Peters

Working with horses, every trainer has a distinguished manner of looking at the horse, of training the horse, and of conveying his knowledge to the audience.

The horse, however, has the facts. Its movements and behaviors are results of the horse acting and reacting to its world as only the horse understands. Thankfully, science is helping us humans have a better appreciation for just how and what our horses are taking in and processing. Science can confirm or refute that what we’re doing is appropriate. Research supports, for instance:

— letting horses live in a group and live where they can move about

— solely offering hay and grass without grain or other condensed food

— when riding, letting a horse have free movement of its head for better balance and vision.

These topics and others have been discussed by Dr. Steve Peters in Evidence-Based Horsemanship, the book he co-authored with Martin Black. Increasingly, clinicians are gravitating to the understandings Peters and Black pioneered. The more the merrier, say the pair. As they write in the book:

EBH is an approach that continually evolves as our knowledge base grows. Finding that one has done something the wrong way may be just as valuable as getting it right if it refines the knowledge base so others do not have to struggle with a similar wrong turn.

This approach is not concerned with arguing over a school of thought or following one trainer over another. Egos, persuasive salespeople, and charismatic personalities would have little relevance to EBH.

With that philosophy in mind, the EBH world is indeed growing to incorporate other clinicians who also have an appreciation for the science. Years ago, trainers at the Horsemen’s Re-Union (including Thomas Saunders V, Bryan Neubert, Chris Cox, and Craig Cameron) absorbed EBH presentations. Said Saunders at the time, “it’s something we were seeing, but we lacked the vernacular for it.”

Jim Thomas

More recently, West Taylor, who works almost exclusively with wild horses, hosted Dr. Peters for a weekend event in St. George, Utah. This week, Jim Thomas will host Peters at the Healthy Horse weekend in North Carolina.

As the book states:

There is room for everyone under this umbrella to educate themselves by asking:
“What does our current scientific knowledge of the horse, when applied and empirically observed, show me about getting the best outcomes possible for me and the horse?
Does it work?
What’s the proof?
What is it based on?”

What is a Good Seat? Katrin Silva explains

Katrin Silva grew up riding dressage in Germany before moving to the United States at age 19 to learn to ride Western. She’s been riding both disciplines for the last twenty years. Read her article on Contact here.

Silva has competed successfully through fourth level dressage on quarter horses, Morgans, Arabians, Hanoverians, and many other breeds. Based in New Mexico, she enjoys improving horse-rider partnerships and firmly believes that good riding is always good riding, no matter which type of tack a horse is wearing. Check out her blog here.

By Katrin Silva

Good riding is always good riding. No matter what riding discipline, we have much more in common than it appears at first sight. All good riders develop a good seat.

But what is a good seat?

  1. A Good Seat is an independent seat.

We can’t expect our horses to carry themselves until we, their riders, carry ourselves. A good rider is in self-carriage, whether she is a hunter-jumper rider in two-point position or a Western rider sliding to a stop.

Julie

If we look at pictures of horses and riders in any discipline, there’s an easy way to figure out whether the rider is in self-carriage: Imagine the horse disappears suddenly, like in a Star Trek episode. Now, look at the rider: What happens when she hits the ground? Does she land on her backside?

During this transition, Julie would fall over backward . . .

Does she fall forward, face-first? Or does she remain standing, with both feet firmly planted on the dirt?

A few strides later, harmony is reestablished. (see second image)

Riders who land standing are in self-carriage. They are less likely to cause pain or discomfort to their horses. They are less likely to struggle for balance, or to hang on to the reins in a desperate attempt to feel secure.

 

We expect our horses to carry themselves, but we have to fulfill our part of the bargain before asking our partners to do the same.

A rider in self-carriage will have a better chance of staying on when young horses get a little scared or excited.

  1. A good seat is an effective seat

I don’t really like to use the adjective “correct” to describe a good seat. It sounds too much like there is only one ideal way to sit on a horse. But it depends on everything from body type to rider goals. A much more fitting adjective is “effective.”

There are many riders whose position in the saddle mimics what they’ve learned from their well-meaning instructors, yet their seat is anything but effective. Some riders have been told to sit up straight so often that they look like they have swallowed a broomstick. They are often so focused on maintaining their “correct” body position that they forget to breathe.

An effective seat allows for good two-way communication

Others have heard that they need to relax completely and to avoid all tension at all cost. That’s good advice, but without a certain degree of elastic core engagement, these riders resemble spineless creatures carried around like so much dead weight. Either extreme is wrong and ineffective. Only an effective seat allows a rider to communicate with the horse.

Communication is a two-way process. An effective seat allows riders to feel what the horse is doing. It’s soft and following. The rider’s core is engaged but not tense; her core muscles tighten and release in rhythm with the horse’s back, picking up the signals it sends without static interference, and without causing discomfort to the horse. A good seat enables riders to link into a constant feedback loop between horse and rider.

An effective seat allows the rider to influence the horse in a controlled way via leg and rein aids. Ideally, this can happen on a more subtle level via the core muscles. The rider feels what the horse is doing, and requests changes of direction or gait primarily through the seat. Accomplished riders on responsive horses can look like they’re not doing anything. What a beautiful sight, like a couple dancing together.

A good seat keeps you in the saddle when the horse spooks.

There are varieties of a good seat when riders sacrifice this level of subtlety for added stability, comfort (their own or the horse’s), or a specific goal like getting out of the horse’s way when jumping an obstacle.

So, the search for the ideal seat must remain in vain. Trying to conform to someone else’s idea of the perfect position can be counterproductive because it keeps us from focusing on feel and communication. But a more independent, more effective seat is something every good rider spends a lifetime developing.

The Brain’s “Low Road” and “High Road”

Mechanics know that one big problem – smoke under the hood – is often caused by tiny, less visible issues. To solve the big problem, you need to understand finer points and foundational concepts. The more you know, the more effective you can be in solving the big problem.

The same can be said with horsemanship and the details of horse brain function. The more you know, the more effective you can be in solving behavior or training problems.

Two books on human brain function are helping me sort through what I see and do with horses. They are reaffirming some of my techniques while dismissing others. This winter, I’ve read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk.

Read about Coyle and Deep Practice here.

While it’s a mistake to interpret animal behavior through a lens of human dynamics, better know as “anthropomorphizing,” it is appropriate to relate basic actions and reactions of horses with humans. Why? We humans share with horses the same primitive layers of the brain: the reptilian system, the limbic system, and the brain stem.

We also share basic neurological chemistry and building blocks. The way our brains grow and function is largely the same.

My partner, Dr. Steve Peters, and I have several rescued horses.

  • Brooke, for instance, was kept in a stall with three other horses for years. At every feeding, she had to fight for her food. Read about her here.
  • Jolene, the mule, was born in Missouri, sold at an Iowa auction, and has a history of bolting at the slightest cue. Read more about her here.

Courtesy of NY Times

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk has helped me better understand the neurology behind their “bad” behaviors.

He explains:

The thalamus, inside the limbic system, receives sensory information from the eyes, nose, ears, and skin. It is the “cook” within the brain. The thalamus stirs all the input from our perceptions into a fully blended autobiographical soup, an integrated, coherent experience of “this is what is happening to me.”

It passes information in two directions, down to the amygdala (the primal “low road”) and to the cortex (the conscious “high road”).

The route to the amygdala is several milliseconds faster than the route to the cortex. In other words, the emotional brain has first dibs on interpreting incoming information.

Don’t be confused by the word “emotional.” It is from the Latin word, emovere, and refers to the limbic system and the Flight or Fight response.

Van Der Kolk continues:

The amygdala is the brain’s smoke detector. It identifies whether or not incoming input is relevant to our survival. It does so quickly and automatically, with help of feedback from the hippocampus, a nearby structure that relates the new input to past experiences.

If the amygdala sense threat, it sends an immediate message to hypothalamus and the autonomic nervous system to orchestrate a whole body response. It decides whether incoming information is a threat before we are consciously aware of the danger. By the time we realize what is happening, our body may already be on the move.

Danger is a normal part of life…[but] after trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system… Every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.

I can’t help what happened in the past, but I can encourage new habits by the way I routinely, patiently encourage them to not hit the low road, ie, by reacting with fear or aggression.

It’s hard work and, in my experience, it takes years to carve out new, healthier, safer neural pathways. Eventually, I’ve observed that Van Der Kolk is correct:

Generally the rational brain can override the emotional brain, as long as our fears don’t hijack us…But the moment we feel trapped…we are vulnerable to activating old maps and following their directions.

Understanding “Deep Practice”

In The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle discusses the merits of soccer hotbeds in Brazil and training methods of famous pianists. So, what does all that have to do with horsemanship?

Everything.

As Coyle explains, it all comes down to one microscopic detail, shared by horses and humans alike: the development of myelin.

He writes:

  1. Every movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers.
  2. Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy.
  3. The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

Coyle traveled the world to research what’s called Deep Practice.

Deep Practice is built on a paradox:

Struggling in certain targeted ways – operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes – makes you smarter.

Experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them…end up making you swift and graceful.

Randy Rieman’s clinic last year confirms this approach. He extolled the virtues of slowing down and getting the fundamentals sound. These basics become habits and movements to build and rely on. Time and again, he had students return to simpler forms in order to work on smoothness.

“When the horses are in a hurry, their minds are uncomfortable because their bodies are uncomfortable. When we break things down and move more slowly through an exercise, we work on removing the anxiety and extending their range of motion. They aren’t livening up and getting tight. They are livening up and getting loose,” said Rieman, who studied at length with Tom and Bill Dorrance. “Tom Dorrance used to say, ‘Do less more often.’”

Writes Coyle in The Talent Code:

“…[T]he best way to build a good circuit is to fire it, attend to mistakes, then fire it again, over and over. Struggle is not an option: it’s a biological requirement.”

Why does slowing down work so well?

“ …Going slow allows you to attend more closely to errors, creating a higher degree of precision with each firing – and when it comes to growing myelin, precision is everything. As football

Dr. Steve Peters with Martin Black

coach Tom Martinez likes to say, “It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slow you can do it correctly.” Second, going slow helps the practice to develop something even more important: a working perception of the skill’s internal blueprints – the shape and rhythm of the interlocking skill circuits.”

At a recent Evidence-Based Horsemanship Seminar, Dr. Steve Peters used a passage from the book to remind students that giving horses the option to seek and search, yields better results. He shared this table:

 

A                                                             B

ocean/breeze                                       bread/b_tter

leaf/tree                                                music/l_rics

high school/college                             pencil/p_per

chair/couch                                          l_nch/dinner

When people were asked to recall the words in each column, researchers discovered they had far better recall from Column B than Column A.

Why?

The process of seeking and problem solving is far more powerful than rote memorization.

“We think of effortless performance as desirable, but it’s really a terrible way to learn,” said Robert Bjork, a researcher highlighted in the book. “Things that appear to be obstacles turn out to be desirable in the long haul…one real encounter, even for a few seconds, is far more useful than several hundred observations.”

Turns out my cartoon hero, Ms. Frizzle of Magic School Bus fame was right all along:

“Take chances! Make Mistakes! Get Messy!”

Read this week’s related content on Brain and Trauma.

Check out this article on the Cons of Comfort.

A Dressage Vote for Pilates

We hear this week from Katrin Kuenstler, a German rider living and teaching in Australia. She weighs in on Rider Fitness and Core Strength. Read more about it here.

Kuenstler writes:

I am a dressage rider, riding instructor and Pilates instructor and can only say from my own experience that taking up Pilates as a core strengthening exercise has made a huge difference in the way my body can cope with the physical stress of riding. I used to get really sore, especially in my lower back and hips, but don’t anymore.

Research has shown that the only activity to get riders in shape for riding is riding. However, I wouldn’t want to miss Pilates as a supporting core building activity.

One of our big goals while schooling our horses is to allow the horse to move in balance and straight, so it can become supple. This requires the rider being secure in his own balance, which will help the horse’s balance and not be negatively influenced by it.

Think of a really great rider who you admire and like to watch. They would never shift when the horse tries to get its own way. They are so strong in their position that they can stay balanced even if the horse tries to pull them out of balance.

Ultimately, the horse will become more balanced itself because the rider maintains her balance. It requires immense body control and core strength for a rider to keep her position stay secure and centered. After all, riding means sitting – and balancing – on an unsteady surface.

I am referring to ‘the core’ as the corsage around our spine and pelvis. It is formed by the very little abdominal and spinal muscles that sit very close to our skeleton and stabilize our bones and joints.

The reason children seem to ride so beautifully and effortlessly is because they are much more active than adults and include core-building exercises – like jumping on a trampoline – in their every day play.

I teach a lot of young riders who are also engaged in other sports, such swimming or gymnastics, which will naturally increase their overall fitness and muscle tone.

Men also often seem to sit more stably and more centered on a horse and I’ve found that men naturally have a much stronger core muscles than women.

Core strengthening exercises do not necessarily have to be static. Riding is dynamic and therefore the strengthening of the core needs to be, too.

A key element is the breathing. In Pilates, every exercise is connected with a breathing pattern and I find the lateral Pilates breathing (in which you breath into the sides of your rip cage) most useful in my riding.

The rider’s pelvis is what connects us to our horse. It absorbs the horse’s movements and passes them onto the spine in way that gives the appearance that the rider is sitting still. In order to relax our gluteus muscles, so our hip joints can open, close, and absorb the movements of the horse and able to protect our spine when it is flexing, extending, and rotating with the horse’s movement, a strong core is the key.

For me, planking is one of the most beneficial exercises to strengthen one’s core – IF it is done correctly and NOT statically, but connected to the breathing and mixed up by movements such as lifting one hand or foot off the floor.

It is my strong believe that by strengthening our core through targeted exercise, we make it easier for ourselves to sit in balance and keep our stability. At the end of the day, that will do our horses a great favor!

 

Amy Skinner moves to Bar T

For years, our readers have enjoyed the news and perspective from horsewoman Amy Skinner of Essence Horsemanship. Through dozens of guest columns, Skinner has conveyed wisdom and thoughtfulness that belie her age (she’s 27). Read her articles here.

This year, Skinner took her talents and horses from Michigan to North Carolina, where she now works with BestHorsePractices Summit presenter, Jim Thomas.

At Bar T Horsemanship in Pittsboro, Thomas takes in a wide range of horse projects and starts scores of colts for owners of all disciplines. He described the work:

“We build a strong foundation for the horse, no matter the discipline. These young horses are exposed to arena work, trail rides, lots of horse-human time. We stress them in order to expand their bubble, so that they are open to learning a lot. When they leave here, after one to three months, they leave with a smile on their face. I think they’re saying, ‘Hey, my time with humans has been pretty good so far!’” said Thomas.

Skinner rides English and Western and has been a student at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain and with Buck Brannaman, Brent Graef, and many others.

“Amy is working out beautifully. She’s a hard worker and I trust her,” said Thomas. “Too many trainers think you need to be harder, stronger, tougher, and meaner when you run into a problem with a horse. Amy is not too quick to scold. She understands the patience required with horse work. She understands enough to say to the horse, ‘let’s back up, find solid ground, and then we can move forward.’”

Good job, Amy! Sounds like a great arrangement for horses and humans alike.

You’ll be able to visit with Skinner and Thomas at the BestHorsePractices Summit.

Amy’s “office” at Bar T Horsemanship

Another Core Insight from Katrin Silva

Katrin Silva grew up riding dressage in Germany before moving to the United States at age 19 to learn to ride Western. She’s been riding both disciplines for the last twenty years. Read her article on Contact here.

Silva has competed successfully through fourth level dressage on quarter horses, Morgans, Arabians, Hanoverians, and many other breeds. Based in New Mexico, she enjoys improving horse-rider partnerships and firmly believes that good riding is always good riding, no matter which type of tack a horse is wearing. Check out her blog here.

Here, Silva responds to our discussion on the Wendy Murdoch piece which questioned the need for core strength. Physical therapist Beth Watson wrote about it here.

Silva writes:

I agree with the point this article is making, but disagree with the conclusion that riders should not work on their core strength.

  • Yes, functional core stability is more important than pure core strength or a set of six-pack abs for good riding.
  • Yes, using one’s entire body through “exercises such as hula hooping, dance, swimming, walking” is a great thing.
  • Yes, children don’t do planks and still can ride horses for hours. All true.

Now for the parts I disagree with:

The riders I teach are mostly adult amateurs, in their forties, fifties, sixties and even seventies. Most of them are women, and most of them would not describe themselves as athletes. They spend long hours sitting in front of computers at work, so they can afford the pleasure of riding their horse for an hour a day.

My students want to be better riders. A big part of that goal is more effective communication with their horses, and a big part of communicating more effectively with a horse is to use one’s seat in a clear, precise manner. Riders follow the horse’s back with their own back, which allows them to feel what the horse is doing.

The type of “melting into the horse’s back” that I try to teach means that the riders back follows the horse’s back, which requires a constant tightening and releasing of one’s core muscles, even at a walk. This tightening and relaxing happens subconsciously for an experienced rider, or a child, but it still happens. A rider who can’t sit the trot is often tense or stiff, but just as often weak in the core. Most of the time, it’s a combination of both.

There’s more to good riding than passively following the horse’s back, though a following seat is a prerequisite for a truly effective seat. The ultimate goal is to “sit the movement you want the horse to execute.” On a well-trained horse, I half-halt, stop my seat, and the horse stops. I sit a bigger trot, and the horse extends. I turn my shoulders, and the horse does a shoulder-in, etc. It is like dancing, with the rider being the leading partner.

So, core strength in and of itself does not make a rider better, but it’s nevertheless necessary. And many of the riders I work with have cores that are so weak that regular planking benefits them immensely.

And one more point about functional exercises mentioned by Beth Watson:

Riding itself, if done correctly, is an excellent way of gaining the type of functional core strength and stability most of us need more of. When I rode ten horses a day, every day, my abs were in excellent shape without the daily planking I have to do now to maintain them.

Check out core strengthening exercises here.

Review our Focus on Fitness articles.

Core Strength Requires Understanding

Beth Watson is a physiotherapist living in Perth, Australia. Here, she lends yet another excellent point of view to our focus on Rider Fitness, especially core fitness.
Clinician Wendy Murdoch suggested in a recent article that “core strength is counterproductive to good riding.” We disagree.

Watson, owner of Performance Physiotherapy, works with horses and riders. We welcome her as a contributor. Read more Rider Fitness articles here.

Watson writes:

The core, particularly in a rider, is not isolated but one part of your entire body moving in concert: think of the spine as a tower encased in a cushioned barrel. There are back extensors, abdominals, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and glutes forming an airbag cushioning system around the spine.
You want to be able to be able to move your spine in all directions and be able to activate this support network efficiently. Ms. Murdoch mentions the healthy core and posture of a baby – that’s because babies use their cores in a variety of postures throughout the day.  I would love to see adults do this, but most adults spend at least six hours at a desk per day. Adult musculoskeletal life is not at all like a baby.

To add to this, if you have a back injury, your body goes all out of whack; fast and slow twitch muscle fibers decondition at different rates. Instead of providing a beautiful cushioning system, this deconditioning contributes to poor posture and alignment and can cause more pain. If you spend lots of time at a desk, this issue will only be exacerbated.

This is why specific core retraining programs can be useful. Please note that this training is distinct from balance work. Balance

Beth Watson

is equally as important but needs to be addressed specifically.

You do not have to do heaps of repetitions of non-functional exercises in order to improve core strength. Functional training should be the star of your show. It’s all about awareness of your body and what muscles are activating and being able to take that movement memory into lots of situations. Having core strength for us mere mortals isn’t about doing the plank for hours. It’s about moving your spine in a healthy way.

Training equestrian riders to have a strong core is much more complex than prescribing exercise. Mental awareness and visualization of this system and how it works can be as important as the physical strength itself. If the ability to fine tune and accurately activate the muscles in the riders back is not there, it is impossible to tweak your position to go with the horse, and indeed help the horse through its work.

If you are a rider who:

  • already has a strong core
  • spends little time at a desk
  • has no previous injuries

then there may indeed be little benefit to core training. Otherwise, there are excellent benefits in undertaking specific training to optimize activation of your core.

Having good core strength correlates with a healthy spine and good posture. It’s essential for riders to carry out their sport.
For the average rider who may be time-poor, it may be more appropriate to focus on training movement in a way that activates the muscles appropriately as opposed to focusing only on ‘core strength’ training. An example that comes to mind is the plank exercise which may encourage incorrect activation of the core muscles in some cases.

A combination of mental visualization, understanding the core unit, functional training through daily activities, and specific strengthening provides the greatest benefit in the least amount of time. Riders can find ways to train smarter, not harder. Remember core strength is still essential for those who wish to ride and train their horses with success.

Read Amy Skinner’s article on Core Engagement.

A Nod of Thanks and A Look to 2017

We want to take this moment to thank you, our readers, for another great year of support. Thank you!

Thanks to you, we defined ourselves as a premier purveyor of top quality articles concerning horse science and good horsemanship. Our features reached readers of all disciplines and in all parts of the world. We enjoyed lively discussion on controversial topics and benefited from the support of many top trainers and advocates in the country.

2016 will also be remembered for the establishment of the BestHorsePractices Summit, an exciting new conference debuting on October 8-10, 2017. It will be an innovative meeting of the minds, embracing equine research and practical horsemanship in a collaborative manner. We’re excited to have some of the best names in the horse world already committed to present at the Summit in Durango, Colorado.

Read more here.

Beginning next month, Remuda Reader subscribers will get first access to interviews and articles about BHPS presenters, before the features are available to the general public. Remuda Readers will also receive extra BHPS-related content. Stay tuned for details.

The BestHorsePractices Summit is a Colorado non profit with pending 501 (c)(3) status. To donate, head here.

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