Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Posture and Locomotion.


Howdy Friends!

Posture and Locomotion. Watching your horse casually stroll along is a great time to check her posture, and overall movement. Do you see the hind end propelling your horse, the big hind muscles lifting and pushing? Toes, the last to lift, pushing down into earth. Can you witness the flow of energy from her gluteal and hamstring muscles and pelvis forward and along the topline? Can you see her abdomen engage, lift and support with each stride? Are those hind legs moving powerfully, and yet effortlessly forward to set down under her barrel in a fluid heel to toe placement? Hind foot placement should be just about where the front foot left, sometimes exactly on, sometimes half a sole behind. Is her head horizontal to her topline, her neck soft and sleek? Do her front legs float like butterflies with graceful, soft lift and effortless heel toe foot placement? Watch closely and you’ll see those feet, front and rear settle then roll from heel to toe. (This can’t happen effectively if the horse is shod). This is a description of a horse moving in correct, healthy posture and body carriage.
My Kessy strolling along
What we don’t want to see is a horse dragging with her front legs, as if that’s where the power originates. Many horses, because of what we do, fall into a “forehand” posture—and it’s bad. The hind end will become disengaged, and begin to fall farther back and atrophy, becoming weaker and weaker. (I’ve worked with horses who had no idea where their hind end was, from all the disengagement and break down). The abdomen cannot engage, the topline will drop. In her effort to find mobility in forehand posture she will be forced to carry and toss her head high, inverting neck muscles and further forcing down her topline. Muscles forced into overwork will tighten, preventing release and even restricting nourishment. Heel toe foot placement will become replaced with a plodding, slapping, jarring footfall.

Have a look at your horse as she strolls. Be honest with your evaluation. Her health depends on you. One of my strongest mantras is, “A horse’s health begins with posture.” Proper, healthy posture and body carriage is easy to establish, and maintain. But we must make the effort, for their sake. This is why I promote, and teach the exercises created by Peggy Cummings, taught me by my mentor Diane J. Sept, for the horse. A little effort can mean a whole new life for a horse. It’s up to us, our horses give for us all we ask. To ignore their posture and body carriage is not only letting them down, it is a form of neglect. ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Goldfinch & DistelFink


Howdy Friends,

The Goldfinch & DistelFink. I’ve long wanted to write about the spirited and lovely goldfinch, that sweet little yellow bird found in open fields and bird feeders all across our land. The poet T.S. Eliot wrote what pleasure it is to, “Follow the dance of the goldfinch at noon.” Year round residents for most of us this tiny burst of excited sunshine is often the first bird many amateur birders learn to identify. At feeders they love thistle seeds, in the wild they love seeds of every tiny variety. Nesting late in the mid-summer their preferred nesting material is thistledown, and can often be spied darting from thistle bloom to thistle bloom gathering fluffy down.
The American Goldfinch.
Growing up PA Dutch on a humble and, very old fashioned dairy farm, I spent many a hot summer day walking fields and pastures with a sickle cutting down tall Canadian thistle plants, and enjoyed repeated sweet encounters with frisky goldfinches as they gathered down, gobbled seeds and chattered. So many of my lonely childhood days in summer fields laid the foundation of my bird watching love. And the goldfinch is one of my earliest feathered friends. My understanding of their connection to the ever popular DistelFink is rooted in my PA Dutch youth as well.
Hex Sign with DistelFink, tulips and heart. All bring good luck and happiness.
While most folks understand the Hex-Sign (another PA Dutch tradition) as symbols of good luck, protection and happiness, not very many grasp the DistelFink origin, name and importance. In PA Dutch the tiny yellow bird is known as the “thistle finch,” pronounced in PA Dutch as “distel-fink.” Understood by PA Dutch folks as a symbol of the good luck, the goldfinch was a welcomed sight. It’s highly likely then that the “English” folks misunderstood the pronunciation of “Thistle Finch,” (“distel-fink” by PA Dutch folks) gave birth to the name of the most familiar little bird painted on most PA Dutch Hex Signs. In your travels keep your eyes peeled for this tiny golden burst of happiness and luck.


 ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let’s be Honest with Ourselves.


Howdy Friends!

Let’s be honest with ourselves. What, from the horse’s perspective, have we as advocates really accomplished in past decades? Thoroughbreds still started and raced before skeletal systems are even 60% mature—many broken down and discarded by age 3. Quarter Horses contorted in abnormal posture and gaits. Standardbreds and Saddlebreds twisted into bizarre posture, movement and head set. Tennessee Walking Horses still tortured beyond any ability to imagine a human could do this. Thousands of wild horses standing starving, freezing, blistering in ravishing sun in filthy holding pens. Rescues all across the country bursting at the seams with broken hearted, throw away horses. Breeders of all breeds still producing and producing. Auction houses flush with horses once magnificent, loved and pampered, now just so much waste to be discarded. People, sometimes well meaning people, care for and ride their horses in ways that break down their physical and mental well being. Poor fitting tack, harmful by ignorance or purposefully. Lousy housing, by ignorance or by design. I could, and probably should go on, and on. Let’s be honest with ourselves, from the horse’s perspective we’ve not done much. We serve the horses best by not blaming others, but looking in our own mirror. I learned decades ago in real estate sales, effort, no matter how valiant, means nothing without results. From the horse’s perspective there have been painfully few results. It’s not the horses fault, it’s not government’s fault, it’s those of us in the horse world who shoulder the blame—all of it. ~ Gitty Up, Dutch.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Posture, for the Horse’s Sake


Howdy Friends!

Reminding my Kessy of correct body carriage.
When a rider is braced the horse cannot move fluidly, in a healthful manner. When the rider is in neutral pelvis, and moving “with the horse,” the horse can respond in kind. When the horse is forced on the forehand by a rider’s bracing, it can only become compliant, and the rider is in charge. The horse is in a no choice position, which is why people are then taught to “control” the horse. The equation is backwards. What really needs to be taught is—the powerful effect of elasticity and freedom in the rider’s body, returns twice as much from the horse—in a much faster way along with a lot of stress release, on horse and rider. The rider really needs to look at herself/himself, and be willing to change. Even the language we use is compressive and invites students to squeeze, push and hold, which only increases the bracing during motion. Neutral posture helps the rider to override bracing and tension patterns in their body and their horse while creating truly freer movement. Find your neutral, your horse will thank you. I teach posture, for the horse’s sake.

Gitty Up, Dutch.