Sunday, March 20, 2011

Peggy Cummings 3.20.2011

I had another lesson with Peggy Cummings today. Sarah scheduled today’s lessons so we would have the chance to work with Peggy before she heads off to give clinics in Europe. There was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity to work with her just 6 weeks after our initial lesson.

Peggy pointed out the improvement in Grace’s posture and said Grace’s front legs no longer looked like they were cemented into the ground. That to me was a huge compliment. For the span of my riding career I have taken countless clinics, for the majority of them I retained what I learned for maybe 10 rides, but then I had to get ready for a show or another event and I threw everything I had learned out the window and went back to my old habits. I saw such a difference in Grace during the lesson 6 weeks ago that I knew I wanted to become a student of this work. To have Peggy notice the change in my horse and later when I sat in the saddle, point out the improvement in my seat, is a report card worthy of taping to the fridge!

We started with Connected Groundwork and I was able to show Peggy some of the exercises that have really been working for Grace. Peggy gave me more exercises to build on the ones I was using and was able to correct some of the mistakes I had started to make. It didn’t take long for Peggy to find the spot in Grace’s neck where she holds all of her tension; it is right behind and below her bridle path. For me this was further confirmation that we have found the core beneath the onion layers. Peggy showed me how to get into that space in Grace’s neck to help her release it.

Grace provided us with a wonderful teaching opportunity when she decided to tune in the horses that were outside the barn across from the arena. Peggy showed me that when Grace became locked in her neck it turned off her connection to her front legs, Grace then looked to the herd for safety. It is my job to keep her unlocked and tuned in, I can provide Grace with that safe place right there in her own body. Peggy had me “draw the bow” and walk Grace towards the herd right before the spot in the arena I was losing her attention, when I got to that spot, I “combed the line” and turned Grace away from the herd. This kept the back and forth movement in her head and neck, Grace’s neck stayed soft and she remained connected to her feet. The next time we got to the spot that she had been tuning me out; she didn’t even look in that direction. Once again I was impressed that I didn’t need to chase my horse, make her sweat or get in a fight with her to accomplish something. It was just a matter of keeping her brain connected to her body.

For the under saddle work I let Peggy know that I haven’t had a lot of success with the leg cue she taught me. It seems to just irritate Grace; she lifts her head and sucks back when I use it. Turns out my stirrups were too long and were not allowing me to make contact with my calves along Grace’s side. After adjusting my stirrups she had me give Grace the “come on” cue with her standing, Grace immediately lowered her head. I struggled to keep it going at the walk, as my body wasn’t quite ready to absorb the new change. That’s when Peggy got on Grace! When Peggy used the “come on” leg cue on Grace I saw Grace’s hind legs come up underneath her farther than I ever have! I didn’t think it was possible for my horse to reach that far underneath herself. Peggy rotated her body and showed me the difference in Grace’s movement. The rotation (while the rider is in neutral pelvis) allows Grace to unlock her spine and ribcage. Peggy sat straight with no rotation so I could see the difference. Be sure to check out the difference in Grace’s hind end from when I am on her and when Peggy is on her.

I stayed after my lesson and was able to watch the next few lessons go. I am always amazed by how much I learn from that. I was able to see the movment improve in horse after horse that Peggy worked with. I have a ton of homework exercises to do now and more tools in my bag to help me find the horse that is Grace. I also have more insight and feel into how I am going to find the rider inside of me worthy to sit on that mare’s back.
Nina took some fabulous picture of Grace and I at the clinic today! Everytime I look at them I think "Wow, that is a nice looking horse!"

For those of you that have Peggy’s new book on order, I got a sneak peak at her personal copy today. It is worth the wait!

Peggy showing me a Connected Groundwork exercise with Grace

This was the spot Grace was looking out at the other horses.
By the position of her head and neck, it looks like it was no longer an issue here.

Compare the step in Grace's hind end with the picture below

Peggy rotating her upper body.
Look at that hind leg! I have never seen it that far underneath my horse!

My Favorite picture! Thank you Nina

My goodness what nice little mare!


  1. While I am still so green to Peggy and her methods, I havent even been able to read her book yet, the changes I was able to see through all the horses was just incredible, and mine is an untrained eye! I hope she returns back after I have my saddle so I can invest the money into a lesson with her. I had a great time though watching your lesson. I took a lot of photos as you could tell, focusing in on Grace's face. I was fascinated by how soft her eyes where throughout. Im glad you enjoyed the photos.

  2. The difference in her hind end is AMAZING. Wow.

  3. Excellent! She really is a nice little mare.

    Did Peggy put riding pointers in the book too or just groundwork? Not that I wouldn't be happy with just the groundwork.

  4. I can't help but wonder if this approach might help me with Legs issue of spooking at shows. I know it got started because something really scared him but now, like Dandy did too, I see he is reacting to something about the ride.

    I don't know really how to describe it except to say I think when we get to the most difficult part of collection for him sometimes something breaks his concentration and he spooks. I wonder if something about my body position is causing that break for him and he's reacting like he's spooked because that's what he equates as breaking his concentration. It sure would be interesting to know and I know my body position is not perfect.

  5. I agree, your favorite picture is pretty darn cute but I like the one with me in it, not for that reason however.... Look at how nicely your horse is standing in that one... Look at how balanced you are in the saddle. That picture says a thousand words. I will start with 1... Connected :-)