April 4th – May 29th
This 8-week study group with Hannah really focuses on the theory behind our approach to training healthy movement in horses. You’ll learn why training your horse to move in different ways is so important for his health and exactly why our domestic horses need this work. We’ll look at how horses move if they are weak, stiff or imbalanced and what sound, healthy movement looks like, too. If you’re confused when people talk about ‘engagement’, ‘tracking up’, ‘on the forehand’, ‘throughness’ or ‘collection’, this study group will clear it all up for you. If you want to learn how to assess equine movement and learn what to look for in how horses move, this will help you to do that. And, if you want to know how you can train your horse to move healthily in a way that is positive, relaxed and joyful for both of you, this study group will cover that, too, as the emotional element is just as important as the physical one in Connection Training.
Click here to watch a video explaining exactly what Gymnastic Groundwork is and our approach to training it.
This Study Group will go in-depth into the theory side, so is perfect if you can’t get to your horse right now or you want to really know what you’re looking for before training your horse. If you’ve already worked in-hand or trained some groundwork but want to go back and get a deeper understanding and assess your horse’s movement, this will be great for you, too. We want you feel to clear and confident on how to train YOUR horse positively and effectively – this study group will give you that guidance.
This study group is freely available to CT Club members (you get access as soon as you join, so come and learn with us!). Each week, you’ll be given specific videos to watch and exercises to try (most are done without horses if you can’t currently visit your horse, though there are also opportunities to film your own horse for us all to assess the movement together if possible). There is a dedicated forum where you can discuss the topic with your fellow students and share your thoughts and questions. Each week, Hannah will follow the discussions, questions and watch your videos. She will record her answers and advice for you via either video or audio and will post that back here. This is a great opportunity to get guidance throughout the course, learn alongside others and get direct feedback from Hannah.
You can join the CT Club here. You’ll get instant access to all the Home Study Courses and this study group as soon as you join 🙂
Here's the Schedule:
Week 1: How Do Horses Move Naturally and How Does Gymnastic groundwork Help Our Horses? (4-10 April)
Gymnastic work is so beneficial to all horses to help them become and stay sound, strong, supple and stable throughout their body. But, in order to understand why they need it and what we should include in our training, we need to look at how horses move in the wild and the challenges they face that naturally keeps their bodies in top condition. From there, we look at the environment our domestic horses live in, what activities and challenges we need to physically prepare them for and the kind of training exercises and movement patterns that will most benefit them.
As we begin to explore equine movement, this video also covers an understanding of the basic gaits of the horse and some common detrimental movement patterns, before moving on to what healthy movement looks like and what ‘engagement’ actually is.
Week 2: Understanding Engagement and Healthy Movement (11-17 April)
These videos take a deeper (but simple!) look at what engagement means and how horses move when engaged.
The first video looks at the role of different parts of the equine body in movement, including:
> The important and effect of the spinal ligaments
> Why do you need to lighten the forehand and what does that mean?
> The power, stride and carrying capacity of the hind legs
> How the position of the head and neck influences movement
> Lifting the chest
> How it all combines to support and lift the spine and allow balanced, free movement in the horse.
The second video gets more practical as we look at engagement in movement, including exactly what to look for in your horse as Hannah demonstrates with Rowan.
The third video explains the sliding scale of engagement, as you begin with the slightest amount in your training, extension and collection, and some more demonstrations of engagement in movement, including how the CT approach teaches horses to create this movement themselves so it’s free and relaxed, never forced.
Week 3: Straightness and Symmetry (18-24 April)
In order for your horse to be moving well and staying strong and sound, it’s important that they’re using their body symmetrically. Horses, like humans, will tend to have a stronger or more supple side, or prefer to do things in a certain way, such as bending in one direction or easily picking up one canter lead and struggling with the other. In this video, we look at why it’s important for your horse to be straight and contributing factors that can lead to one-sidedness or imbalance in horses. We’ll also look at how gymnastic exercises can help your horse become even on both sides of their body.
Throughout the practical videos, you will learn more about your horse’s symmetry and preferences in movement, learning what they find more difficult and how you can help them to improve. To get you started on learning more about your horse, Veterinary Nurse and Equine Bodyworker, Sophie Pickard, shows you some simple ways to assess your horse in halt, easily done while tied up, held by a friend, or standing at a target.
Week 4: The Fundamentals of Bending and Lateral Movements (25 April – 1 May)
This video begins by looking at how a horse bends throughout their body from nose to tail and why bending and circles are so helpful to strengthen, supple and straighten your horse. We then look at lateral movements. If you’ve ever wondered what a shoulder-in actually is then this is for you! We then take a look at each of the lateral movements so you understand exactly what they are (including some exercises you can try yourself with a banana!) and some of the benefits your horse can gain from including them in your training.
Week 5: Mindful Movement – Proprioception and Coordination (2-8 may)
Improving your horse’s body awareness and control can help them to move more safely, from going over uneven terrain to playing with their friends in the field. It can help to build their confidence in all areas from lifting their feet for the farrier, loading and travelling to carrying a rider. This video looks at the different ways you can improve your horse’s co-ordination using a range of exercises such as body isolations (just moving one part of their body), using poles and obstacles and working on different surfaces and terrain. Throughout, as always, the emphasis is on gentle, fun progression with your horse.
Week 6: Balance, Rhythm and Power (9-15 May)
Many horse trainers talk about getting the horse to go forwards. In this video, we look at the importance of good balance and rhythm before adding more energy. Allowing your horse to move in a slow rhythm also helps them to quietly and calmly learn these exercises without feeling rushed or out of balance. Adding energy without balance and rhythm leads to horses who fall on the forehand, rush, brace and lean. By teaching our horses how to move in balance first, then adding forwards energy, we get true impulsion with relaxed, powerful, balanced forwards motion.
Week 7: Gymnastic Joy – Feel-Good Training (16-22 May)
So far, we’ve been mainly focusing on our horses’ bodies, but, of course, this is Connection Training, so what about their minds? It’s not uncommon in many training systems for the health of the horse’s body to be prioritised over their emotional well-being. In some emergency situations, this is often unavoidable, but as a general practice, we want out horses to be emotionally happy as well as physically healthy. This can mean that it can take a little longer to get the physical results, but is more than worth it as you’ll have a horse who has not been pushed, stressed or over-faced by the training, but has enjoyed it, building their confidence, joy and communication with you, leading to a horse who loves to move well for life.
Building on the general Connection Training approach, this video gives an overview of the specific techniques we use through this course in order to make it a joyful experience for our horses including the use of objects, variety, equipment and exercises used.
Week 8: Synchrony and Feel – Handler and Rider Fitness (23-29 May)
It’s now time to look at the other half of your partnership – You! Training is much more subtle and complex than simply ‘cue=behaviour=reward’. Your horse is always responding to your movement, breathing, heart rate, focus, speed and energy. In this video, we look at some of the ways horses naturally synchronise their movement with each other and how you can tap into this to improve your communication with your horse. We’ll also look at different ways you can bring your awareness to the training to make it softer, more subtle and more effective, improving your ‘feel’ with your horse.
Understanding your own preferences and imbalances is also of the utmost importance, both when you’re riding your horse and when you’re training from the ground. To help you improve your own strength, suppleness, straightness and body awareness, we’ve got videos from massage therapist and Tai Chi instructor, Kate Roux, and yoga teacher, Helen Gilbertson. You will learn more about how your body affects your horse, as well as some great exercises to improve your awareness and physical health.