Monday, January 17, 2011

Another Layer of the Onion

Do you remember when Shrek said that Ogres are like onions? I am finding more and more that horses are like onions. Every time I uncover another layer of the inner workings of Grace, I find another one beneath it. They are all connected, but I find I also have to address them individually so that they can work together as a whole.

I have spent most of my time over the years focused on Grace’s hind end. Her left hock has been a glaring issue at times. Years of compensating led to issues with her hips and the lumbosacral area of her back. We have made some pretty amazing progress in the last 6 months in her movement. Her back has changed; areas that were once weak are now strong. Grace’s posture has changed and her stride behind is longer and much closer to correct. There are days that I swear her back is shorter and her neck is longer. The left hind toe drag that I had come to know as “her sound” is all but gone; I haven’t heard it in weeks.

If you were to follow the invisible flow of energy through Grace’s body it would start at her hind end and move towards the front end. The energy would build and flow in waves as her impulsion from behind increased, only to stop dead at her withers. Grace seems to be “locked down” right at the base of her neck. I wasn’t really aware of it; until Sarah showed me how to “unlock” Grace’s wither at our last lesson. It was only for a few strides, but I had that 17 hand dressage horse underneath me. It felt like she lifted me out of her back and onto the crest of a wave. I am started to get a few more strides at a time at home before Grace locks me out. The difference now is that I feel it. She has been locked down for years, and to me it was just normal. Now when she does it, I am immediately aware of it. It feels like someone let the power out of the wave and it just goes flat.

Now that we are working in the dark at home during the week, this seems like a perfect time to refocus on
Connected Groundwork. Sure enough there is an exercise call the “Wither Rock”. Sarah and I worked on it at our last lesson. It always amazes me how well the Connected Groundwork actually works. It is fairly simple, the movements start out small, I don’t sweat, I don’t have to chase my horse in circles or chase her with a stick. It’s much more “centered” than all that. It is a balance of energy. I know when I am doing the exercises correctly because within minutes I become grounded and very aware of how my body relates to my horse’s body. Even on the ground the smallest movements in my energy translate to movements in my horse’s energy.

As we start to unpeel this layer of the onion I can’t help but wonder what is next. Will there come a day when I finally finish peeling away all the mystery and find the “perfect” horse waiting for me in the middle? I almost hope not because I fear that if that day happens I will have nothing left to learn.


  1. Very cool stuff - I'll have to check out that book.

  2. Melissa, I have been entirely entrigued by your work with Grace on the ground and would love to learn more about it, as I said to Sarah at my last lesson too. Maybe sometime you can meet with Milo and I? Im glad to hear your onion peeling, and I believe with the help of Sarah, Im on the beginning of that journey as well. :)

  3. Nina,
    I am taking a lesson with Peggy Cummings on Feb. 13th at 9:00am. I swear I am more excited about this lesson than any show I've been to! I wonder if you could come watch?

  4. I have a horse that can get locked up as you describe. I know exactly that feeling you're talking about when the flow is there and when it's not. It may take a while to get her to stay open for you because she's used to doing otherwise but as long as you keep asking for it, she'll get there. It's really cool stuff.