Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Focus and Attention by Sherry Jarvis

I see so many horses that are not paying the least bit of attention to their handler or rider.  When you take a horse away from the comfort and safety of his natural surroundings, there are many things in the big wide world that can distract or attract him. His attention wanders to those other things. All horses are this way by nature, and green horses or horses that haven't been handled much or well are by far the worst. They HAVE to check this, that, and the next thing out in their environment.  They need to be sure there's nothing that's going to come get them. They like to check and see if there is some other horses they'd like to be with, some grass or some other food they'd like to go eat, some manure to smell, or some wide open space they would like to go lounge in. These are the things that give pleasure to all horses.

A horse pays attention to what matters to him, and the direction of his desires. Are you more important to your horse, than anything else in the world, including such powerful draws as other horses, food, and piles of manure? At some point you have to get to where you rate higher in his mind than those piles of manure!!! Are you something that gives your horse pleasure? Or does he dread to see you coming unless you have a bucket of grain?

If your horse is easily distracted and doesn’t seem to want to stay with you it's time for you to start thinking about supporting your horse toward being more able to choose to be with you rather than anywhere else. When a horse learns to pay attention to the handler/rider he becomes able to focus on the handler/rider when requested for a few seconds at first then building to longer periods. Something magical happens when a horse begins to really pay attention. It is like something clicks over on the inside to where he begins to have a feeling of inner peace and confidence, rather than a feeling of anxiety. He actually stops trying to leave you all the time, and starts wanting to be with you.

We have all had the experience of being in a classroom at school. The teacher stands at the front of the room and expects all the students to pay attention to what he/she is saying. When people pay attention to a speaker they look at the speaker. But if, suddenly, there was gunfire out in the street, then everyone's head would turn because their attention would have been caught by the sound from outside. It is your power of observation to see where the horse’s attention is and how to get it back that allows you to train horses with effectiveness and without the need of painful physical force or coercive methods.

There is a law of the horse's life which says; wherever the horse’s attention goes, his body must also go. It causes a horse to experience great inner turmoil to have his body separated from his attention. The main cause of a horse’s body and attention being separated is the actions of people who do not even realize what is occurring. Some horse owners are not even aware when the horse has lost his attention they only see and are aware of the things the body is doing wrong. I challenge each of you to pay closer attention to where your horse’s attention is especially when he isn’t doing what you want him to do.

A common way to practice being more aware of where the attention of your horse is directed is to dramatically slow down your actions. If you will learn to be more present in each moment with the horse you will start to see things you never saw before. Learn to wait on the horse, and give him wait time. This doesn't mean you can't be present while working fast. Speed and intensity of focus can go hand in hand.  Also worth considering is the subtle distinction between "working quickly" and "being in a hurry"

If your horse jumps around and this catches you by surprise, it is because you were not paying attention. This means you were not attentive to what the horse was paying attention to. It means you were not sufficiently focused to call upon him to remain focused upon his work, or what you wanted him to do. Your focus determines his focus. Your confidence and inner peace determines his confidence and inner peace. Your ability to "set the horse up" to go quietly depends entirely upon your ability to attend to the signs he gives you BEFORE he jumps around.

There are a million things that can potentially distract or spook a horse. You can never desensitize him to all the things he may encounter. Our mistake is in thinking that being distracted or being afraid is the horse's main problem. It is not his main problem. The external situation or objects are not what cause the horse to be distracted or concerned. It is the loss of his attention, the loss of his inner peace and confidence in himself and in us that is the problem. There is a buildup before this happens. The rider or handler's shortcoming lies in not being able to detect, or defuse, this buildup. We have to know what happens before what happens happens.

It is true that other animals, dead fish, flags, blowing paper, motorcycles, bicycles, rattling dry branches, loud noises, flowing water, high wind, other horses, and ten thousand other things all have the power to unsettle a horse. But they do not have the power to do that all the time. I am sure that all of you have noticed that sometimes the sign on the road doesn’t concern your horse in the least and he keeps his mind on his job. Then the next day the same road sign is associated with a buildup that leads to an explosion. Why is it that on the same trail ride some horses totally refuse to cross flowing water at the same stream that another horse will quietly cross?

The answer is that when a horse gets 100% OK on the inside, nothing bothers him, or at least he has learned how to deal with it. Some people believe this is impossible. But I believe it is possible you just have to work to find that ability with yourself. How do you help a horse become 100% OK on the inside so he is OK with everything on the outside? How do you help a horse learn to deal in a postive manner anything that is thrown at him? In order to do this you have to start with one particular thing or situation where you work through together successfully with the horse no matter how long or how much effort it takes. Then you go on to another success and another. After a time, it becomes second-nature, a habit that both you and your horse do all the time when something unexpected happens.  Many of you have heard me say over and over that good horsemanship is a HABIT. And you have to be Ok with this stuff you are asking the horse to do too. Because until you are 100% OK with what you are bringing to the horse, they will never be 100% OK with you or the object. An example is a person who really wants to canter their horse but the moment the horse brings ups his energy to do it the person immediately says "Whoa" in his mind and also in his body, but especailly the reins. I call it the "Go but not really syndrome". I see it all the time.

Remember horses learn to be 100% OK from the release of pressure. To drive a horse into pressure destroys his confidence and causes the horse to develop distrust for you as a leader.  I take the horse back away from the pressure area until we find that place where the horse is comfortable.  Then once calm is fully restored, move back toward the pressure until we reach the slightest reaction point. Keep repeating the approach and retreat while holding the horse’s attention with you all the time. As soon as you feel or see the horse’s attention starting to leave you need to catch it before it leaves. If you catch it before it leaves it never does leave. This is why we need to ride every step and be present every moment with your horse. The earlier you try to capture the attention the less physical you will have to be to get it back. The goal is to become so subtle that it is invisible to those watching.

If we expect to be able to control our horse's attention, we had better be able to control our own first.  If I am still focused on other things or if I have a case of ADD, is it fair to ask my horse to focus on something other than the grass beneath his feet or the next manure pile that he would like to smell? 

PS: Our Friendly Warning: There is always some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Horses can cause serious injury. Be sensible and don’t attempt anything that is outside your comfort level. Any information in this article or that we present through any of our programs are intended to illustrate how we apply our training techniques with success. However you are responsible for using this information wisely. If you don’t feel comfortable with your abilities or an exercise, don’t do it! Seek advice or assistance from a professional before attempting things beyond your skill or confidence level. Stay on the "high side of trouble". Keep it natural and above all KEEP IT SAFE!

Until Next Time, 
Sherry Jarvis
Author of "Win Your Horse's Heart" (And Be a Better Horseman)

82507 465th Ave. Burwell, NE 68823, Tel: 308-346-5663

Friday, October 15, 2010

Interview With Eitan and Debbie Beth-Halachmy

You will be able to find further updates on Eitan’s activities on the new Western Dressage Association website  Eitan is an Advisory Director with this new association.  You can also find continued information on his Cowboy Dressage website.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Going to WEG? Don't miss this:

Check out:

This is a separate event and only cost $5 for entry! It goes from 1-9 pm each day, with shopping, entertainment, seminars and clinicians. It's downtown--with air conditioning! Rides on a segway or a horse simulator are available. Julie Goodnight, Monty Roberts, Rex Peterson and JP Giacomini (and his stallion Istoso) will be there.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Join us WEG!

Dear all,

I hope some of you will make it to WEG and we will get a chance to meet YOU at our booth (26/27, Equine Village).

On the Friday Oct 1st, I will be on at 5:00 in the "clinician arena" which is the square ring where they usually show the breed parade, if you know the Horse Park.

We will have several of our Lusitanos there. Orion is 5 yrs. old. We will also show his 1/2 brother Zafer (3) who will demonstrate the results of endotapping in hand and another 3 year old, Zidane who will be ridden by my assitant Cedar. He is a very nice young horse with about 120 rides. We will have a Quarter Horse stud with his cowboy rider and later in the Games, a GP jumper that has been transformed by the technique from a talented rebel into a very classy horse who goes like a decent dressage horse (though his true job is to jump the really big stuff). We had a GP dressage horse scheduled, but he got a bug and can't come.  We'll also have another very talented huge Hanoverian which I have been working with between Nov and April, but he hurt himself in a paddock, so our Iberian horses it will be for the most part for me to ride an show.

See you there, please stop and say hello.

JP Giacomini
Baroque Farms USA

Join our yahoo group 1ArtofTraining to stay in touch.

In answer to a question about self-carriage, I wrote the post below to a list (bragging as the proud breeders of the horses we are taking).

Preparation Notes:
The last few days, I have been doing work all over the farm rather than in the arena to get my young stallion Orion used to work in strange places in preparation for WEG. It will be the first time that he will go anywhere other than the farm he has grown on since he was 2.

I wanted to test his willingness to go everywhere as well as his balance and I worked him on a hill that is probably 20% slope in most places. We did all his work up and down and obliquely to the slope, including tempi on a circle, canter half-passes and pirouettes, figure 8 in rein back and passage circles. He can do all the canter work in balance without changing his very light contact or his speed (particularly the tempi). That is the beginning of decent self carriage. Today, he still sped up a little in the trot downhill but that maybe because he just got trimmed and his balance has changed.

Needless to say, we are hugely proud of him :). Shelley and I bred him, his mother and his grandmother and I trained his father and his grandfather which I imported one from France and one from Portugal.

Come and see him and his brothers at WEG in the Equine Village (or visit us at booth 26/27 right between the Visitors Center and the Museum, next to Pat Parelli - can't miss his huge booth :).

I will be there giving clinics everyday for the duration. The times are different everyday and are in the program. I am probably the only dressage clinician there from what I gathered (except maybe for Eitan Beth Halchmy who does "Cowboy Dressage").

I will also do 4 presentations of high school in-hand in Lexington at the IEF (Rupp Arena) after 8:00 PM with Istoso.

I promise to tell you what I get to see in the warm up arena, which is right by our arena, if I get allowed to escape my job at the booth... Will report when it is all over.

Take care, JP

Photo courtesy of Shelley Giacomini

Body Language--What's my horse reading: my thoughts or my body?

Julie asked if I would post this here. I re-wrote and added to it to
eliminate the comments I was replying to, so hopefully it makes sense
on it own.

In the course of a discussion on another list, someone commented that
they didn't agree with the concept of horses reading our "intent"
because in their opinion, it sounded as if it meant that horses were
reading our minds. Additionally, the argument was raised that one
could (purposely) fool a horse by thinking one thing, but displaying a
"cue" that a horse is already familiar with. I'm assuming that this
comment was to bolster the argument that horses don't read minds.

Well, maybe they are (reading minds), maybe they aren't, I don't know.
What I do know is, that if I form an intent, the thought itself
results in a change in my physical self. My horse reads this. It's not's just an ability to observe, interpret, and respond to
minute changes in the demeanor of another being.

I like the word intent, because it indicates a conscious awareness of
the connection between a thought and the physiological manifestation
of that thought. I don't think that horses read minds....I think
rather that they are amazingly gifted observers and interpreters of
body language. The very best trainers know exactly how the horse is
interpreting their body language. They know that the formation of a
intention forms a physical reaction that a horse can read. By being
aware of the connection between intent and the physiological response
that results from it, one can choose to control the physical (outward)
response as subtly or overtly as the situation calls for. They have
mastered the display of their physiological responses. They know how/
when/where to direct energy, they know how much energy is needed or
exactly when to turn it all off. They are also incredibly consistent
in their actions so a horse learns to trust what a trainer is telling
them through the body language.

I've spent a lot of time paying close attention to what body language
I display, and trying to fine tune it. Tamarack is a great sounding
board for all of this. Especially at liberty, something as small as
adjusting the pitch of my shoulders in relation to him by an inch can
block or allow his movement as well as affect the quality of that
movement. What part of his body I look at matters (and he knows where
I'm looking), an arm slightly raised, a shoulder tipped lower than the
other, tensing the muscles in the back of my neck or across my
shoulders...hundreds of combinations, all form virtual sentences that
Tam can read and respond
to. And they are, for the most part, natural reactions that he
displayed, that I took note of and capitalized on. It all means as
much on the ground as it does in the saddle. It begins to LOOK like
the horse is reading your mind if you are very consistent in your
delivery. Your horse begins to respond almost before you ask. They see
or feel everything. By being very conscious of my own body language,
being as consistent as I can in thought and action, then I can observe
consistent responses in my horse and mentally catalogue it. I then
know if I do a certain thing, that Tam responds a particular way.

I never attempt to disguise intent, because that would create a muddy
picture or "muffled words" or otherwise cause a confusion in my horse.
Clarity is key. If I cannot remain focused and clear and in the moment
with my horse, then I do nothing instead. It's like trying to have a
discussion with someone who always's frustrating and
eventually you just give up listening because you can't really
understand them.

Since horses can read the smallest body language signals in us, I feel
it's important that we are aware of it ourselves. I think I've only
scratched the surface with what my horse is capable of understanding.
Discovering the potential in the subtlety of it all is fascinating.


Photos courtesy of colt starting clinic.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Featured Book

Win Your Horse's Heart (Be a Better Horseman) by Sherry jarvis

Order Your Copy now!

Review By Buffy: New Zealand

Before you read one more "how-to" book, it's absolutely necessary that you read Win Your Horse's Heart because if your whole way of THINKING about the human/equine relationship doesn't change, all the how-to books in the world aren't going to work for you. And once your perspective changes, everything else will fall into place and you'll be amazed how "easy" your training becomes. This book ought to be the bible given with every horse purchase.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Karen Scholl article on better trail riding

The Dressage Is My Discipline, The Cowboy Is My Freedom

Eitan on Santa Fe Renegade at
The World Equestrian Games

What a wonderful clinic today! Eitan has been in town (Parker, Colorado), and we audited. A bunch of our Equestrian Theater members were there too.

For those of you who don't know him, Eitan is the "Cowboy Dressage" trainer from California who is also an exhibition performer with his Morgan stallions. ( His most famous horse, Holiday Compadre, is retired and stands at stud in Parker, CO, not ten minutes from our place. The owner of the ranch, Sunrise Morgans, is a most delightful and charming Morgan breeder, Ellen DiBella. She was the most gracious host, and made us feel so welcome.

We had an absolutely wonderful time. Ellen offered a "hospitality package" where she and her volunteers kept us content with water, coffee, and snacks, then offered a scrumptious lunch, organized a fascinating evening talk by her Equine Veterinarian Lad Squires, and then blessed us with a fabulous Italian themed dinner. Her home was so elegant and welcoming, with beautiful lush gardens, a shady patio, and of course, HORSES! It was one of the nicest horse related events!

But back to the main reason we were there... EITAN! Oh my... Here is this gentle, unassuming, humorous man with more than his share of horse magic. He calls himself a cowboy, and most of the students were in western garb with western tack. He begins the clinic talking about "lightness" and "using the shoulder-in to strengthen the hindquarters," and "shifting the weight to the hind end." I immediately knew we were in the right place!

He explained many of the same things I've learned from my own trainer, TJ, and from auditing TJ's rides with her trainer, Ralf Schmitzer. I felt my face break into a big grin when this "cowboy" started chatting about Classical Principles with the ease and familiarity you'd expect from a student of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Wait a minute.. oh yea--[has history there too]!

Almost every rider started off being told to LET GO OF THE REINS! He gently, and with great compassion and humor, found a hundred different ways to ask the riders to give up their pulling and sawing and over-controlling with the reins. It was not long at all before each rider found they actually had MORE control when they quit hanging onto their horse's faces and learned how to use their bodies, legs, and lateral movement to get through the resistance and finally to the work they really wanted. It was, LET GO AND RELAX THE HORSE FIRST, and then we'll get to the other work.

Among the thousands of details, there are two very valuable mega-truths I will take home from today. The first one is, timing is EVERYTHING! You can know exactly what to do, but if you don't have the timing right, you're not going to communicate with your horse correctly and get the behavior and the training you want. You have to know WHEN to ask and WHEN to release. Both are VITAL! The release is the harder [part] for most people to recognize, but without it, you just dull your horse and your training is going to suffer. We all HAVE to get the release timing down and correct and as natural as breathing.

Secondly, I really got deep into my stubborn brain that the way to change resistance in the horse is to make what you are asking easy for the horse to do, and what the horse thinks HE wants to do more difficult or more work for the horse. No fighting with your horse allowed. Just make sure that what you want is easy, and if the horses resists he has to work harder. What that harder action is changes with what you are asking and how the horse is demonstrating his resistance. But bottom line... JUST PULLING HARDER ON THE REINS IS NEVER THE ANSWER!

I really admire and respect this man as a true horseman. I don't care if he wears a cowboy hat or a black top hat and breeches... he gets it. He understands the horse's mind, he understands the biomechanics of the horse and the rider, and he is a very good communicator. He was never rude or abusive of either horse or rider, and made us all feel very comfortable. I am so glad we went.

You can check out this wonderful trainer at You can also listen to a The Wow Factor Radio interview with him at


Friday, July 16, 2010

Color Genetics For Beginners

Every horse has two of the BASIC color genes - red and black. A horse is either red-based or black-based. In addition it can have modifying genes like agouti, gray, dun, or creme.

Black based colors are black, bay, buckskin, brown, perlino.

Red based colors are palomino, chestnut , cremello.

Every horse will throw one gene from their basic color makeup.

Red Factor gene (really it is an Alelle which is a portion of a gene but for simplicity I'm going to call them genes) (chestnut) is written as a small e.

Black factor gene is written as a capital E.

For instance a chestnut is ee - meaning it will always throw the chestnut gene. That is why chestnut bred to chestnut always equals chestnut. The sire throws one e gene and the dam throws one e gene resulting in a ee foal.

A bay horse is E (the black gene) and the second gene can be the chestnut gene e. The black gene E is dominant and will always express itself over the red e gene. A bay horse has a 3rd gene, the agouti gene which is A . Agouti restricts the black to the points (ie legs, mane, tip of the ears etc) So a Bay horse can be Ee Aa (meaning it is neither homozygous for Black nor for Agouti). A bay horse can be homozygous for bay and would be EE AA and could only produce a bay.

A black horse has the E gene but NO agouti. A homozygous black horse would be EE aa. A black horse who could produce chestnut would be Ee aa, meaning it can pass on the e gene instead of the E gene.

Now we come to the dilutes (creme) which are written as CR. A dilute gene 'fades' the color of the horse.

A palomino is a chestnut with one creme gene. ee CR

A buckskin is a bay horse with a creme gene -- Ee Aa CR. In this case the horse could produce a palomino, a buckskin, a smoky black (remember black is dominant so it's not diluted but the horse will carry the creme gene) or bred to another creme carrying horse it could have a cremello or perlino.

The cremellos and perlinos are double dilutes meaning they have two creme genes CR CR and are homzygous for creme and will always pass it on. A cremello is a double dilute chestnut ee CR CR and a perlino is a double dilute bay horse which can have several combinations, ie Ee Aa CR CR or EE AA CR CR (homozygous black and homozygous agouti).

Merideth Sears - MeridethinWyoming

AFS Morgans @

Friday, June 11, 2010

Is Riding Still Fun? Are You Practicing FUNdamentals?

My favorite riding icon half passes across the YouTube screen and I dream of riding like that. I've poured over DVDs, riding theory books, studied my favorite mentors, and I'm trying SO HARD to improve. Things aren't going well though.

I sometimes find myself wanting to point out that the majority of riders, while calling it classical dressage, are mostly going through motions---with limited success and plenty of frustration for themselves and their equine friend. Most riders would be better served spending their riding hours working on their own riding posture and allowing the "dressage" to take care of itself. Riders are too often seen doing pretzel contortions on their horses, and trying to micro-manage a list of do's and don'ts;they are making their horses crazy. Show me twenty-one riders trying to define or demonstrate decent self- carriage and I'll show you one rider who gets it. Sometimes I want to post "just go out and get on your horse and have a good time!" If your horse is happy you just might be doing something right---even by accident.

Correct rider posture and breath (is your horse breathing--relaxed, snorting, blowing, making happy sounds? are YOU breathing too?) are the basis for freedom of optimum movement.

As human critters we desire learning and perfections. The twist comes when we dissect and micromanage through our over-intellectualizations---and we cannot seem to resist these. We then swing from one extreme to another in our quest to understand and perform to our expectations.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the simplicity of horsemanship. The FUNdamentals should always maintain an element of FUN, otherwise the results will be lackluster. FUNdamentals and FUNctionality.

I am always reminded of Ivy, and wanting to ask "are you having as much fun as Ivy and her gelding? If not, why not?" (View her most recent journeys at: )

Despite the strengths of the hallowed classical dressage exercises, sometimes riders sabotage the very thing they aim towards by narrowing their focus too much.

Mix up your horse time, your training time. Make a gymkhana course and trot from one point to another in a brisk cadence with a good halt. Look up, go to the next cone with clean departs and halts. Instead of drilling and trying SO HARD, try putting those hallowed principles into a more interesting format.

You get the drift.

Julie W.

More fun with horses?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Endotapping, What Is It?

Explore Endotapping as another tool for relaxation and training.
(Tapping has been used on human patients for a variety of problems. One area is EFFT for PTSD.)

You can learn more about Endotapping through the subscription site and/or join the yahoo group 1ArtofTraining hosted by JP Giacomini.

Prairie Pines

Andras Szieberth
Wellborn, Fl

To whom it may concern:

I am the breeder, owner and trainer of the 1998 Chestnut Holsteiner (approved Belgian Warmblood and Rheniland-Pfalz-Saar) stallion Lotus T. He started his training in 2001 and by early 2002 I have taken him to horse shows in both dressage and jumping. He was very easy to train and some of my students also rode him successfully. I have sent Lotus T to participate in the 100-day stallion testing in August, 2002, which he successfully completed in 3rd place. During the final testing he exhibited some discomfort, rearing with some of the test riders, which was a very uncharacteristic behavior from him.

After he returned to my farm in Florida, he started exhibiting neurological symptoms - unable to lie down to roll, unable to lower his neck and graze, unable to pick his feet up. These symptoms got worse by the day. When I attempted to ride him, he would refuse to go forward, and upon encouragement, he would rear up violently, them back up and tremble.

I took him to several top veterinarians but the conventional western veterinary practitioners were unable to come to a diagnosis. After resting him for 9 months, putting him on tranquilizers, I resumed his training - with very limited success.

In February, 2005 Dr Judith Shoemaker, a veterinarian specializing in the treatment of neurological problems diagnosed Lotus T with a blunt trauma to the neck, withers and tail. After several treatments and extensive physical therapy, Lotus T started showing some improvement, but remained unrideable. Then, in August 2005, on the recommendation of Dr Shoemaker, I took Lotus T to a clinic given by J.P. Giacomini, with major reservations from my part. After two days of work-in-hand, on the lunge line and with long lines, as well as using some unconventional techniques, Mr. Giacomini put me back on Lotus T - and the horse was moving forward, uninhibited and showed no signs of disobedience, after almost 3 years of refusing to do anything at all. In the following months Lotus T showed steady signs of improvement, while being trained according to Mr. Giacomini’s methods.

In December 2005, another eastern practitioner, Charlie D’Oruso treated Lotus T and the result was a major decrease of Lotus T’s neurological symptoms. At this time I still wasn’t comfortable riding Lotus T in certain circumstances, e.g. riding him around other horses or outside the arena, so I asked and arranged for Mr. Giacomini’s help again. During the 3 day clinic, Lotus T improved leaps and bounds and I have been enjoying riding him in the arena, in company, on the trails and in every imaginable situation, with great success.

I firmly believe that Mr. Giacomini’s training methods, focusing on relaxation and on the improvement of the biomechanical function of the horse’s movement (in conjunction with the proper veterinary support) saved my stallion’s career as a sport horse


Andras Szieberth


Mr. Giacomini,

While I was at Pine Knoll Farm, I had the opportunity to watch JP Giacomini do an Endo-Therapy™ session on a 10 year old Dutch Warmblood that showed a big, unexplained lameness going in both directions at the trot on the lunge line. He used different length of hand whips carrying a 1,5 inch foam ball at the end, which he has designed and calls Endosticks. He calls this procedure which he invented Endotapping™ and it is clearly a unique type of work.

I have only seen this done one time before when I observed JP handling one of his own Lusitano breeding stallions [during breeding procedures; maintaining relaxation, readiness and obedience utilizing the Endotapping process].
JP Endo-tapped™ the lame Dutch horse at the walk first and helped him to extend his stride quite visibly, first by stimulating the timing of his outside hind leg (tapping under the belly), then the outside foreleg (tapping under the chest). Both the reach of the shoulder and the over-step from the hind leg increased noticeably, though the length of step varied as the horse was going on a circle, not a straight line.

After that, he did ground exercises tapping the horse first on the shoulder (turning around the hind legs), then tapping on the thigh (turning around the forehand), followed by tapping on the barrel (moving sideways with a pronounced bend of the neck). He repeated the exercise lunging at the trot and insisted that the horse quit leaning into the turn, which appeared to make him go lame, by demanding a flexion of the neck. The horse started to move more and more soundly and trotted with his body upright and his neck bent to the inside without the help of any rein or martingale other than the lunge line attached to a regular nylon stable halter.

Intermittently with the work-in-hand, I helped JP do front leg stretches at different angles. I simply held the leg passively while JP tapped on different areas of the back and shoulders until he found a specific place that elicited the release of the leg’s tension. At that point, the horse stretched his leg several inches forward. He clearly reached further each time we repeated the exercise.

At the end of all this work (about 35 minutes), the horse appeared 95% to 100% sound at a brisk trot. No drugs, acupuncture or chiropractic adjustment got used during this session.

I consider what I saw to be quite an exceptional result in relation to the understanding of lameness I have gained from a 40 years practice dedicated to the care of sport- and race horses.

J. Baker, DVM


Tapping™ method of JP Giacomini ~

By Dr Cindy Reynolds Ph.D

Senior Researcher (Biochemistry), Howard Hughes Institute of Medicine,

University of Washington, Dressage Rider & Certified Body Worker (Massage etc.)

"Research is to see what everybody else has seen and to think what nobody else has thought." Albert Szent-Gyorgi.

The difficulty in writing about this method is that there is so much to say about it and so many ways in which it is interesting and useful, yet it is basically so simple. It is a revolutionary method which bridges horse training and behavior modification with physical therapy and bodywork, which gives us humans a practical and elegant door to the connection between us AND the body and mind of the horse.

It is well known that relaxation at a deep level is an essential element of superb athletic performance. It is also well known that the relaxation response can be taught through conditioning. Entire subcultures of human endeavor exist as a result of the development of techniques for inducing relaxation in self and others . In the training and riding of horses, while there are many techniques and formats for training in many disciplines, across all disciplines relaxation and harmony remain elusive goals for many.


This lack of systematic relaxation produces tremendous problems for trainers, owners, and the horses themselves. Our ignorance of relaxation techniques in modern horse training and our lack of adequate time in most training programs to proceed through a hierarchy of training goals with a relaxed, supple horse cause many of the performance problems, injuries, frustrations, and disappointments in the horse-human relationship. The tension and apprehension experienced by many owners and riders blocks completely their hope of a full partnership with their horses.

In classical horsemanship during centuries past, at least in the idealized versions we hear of today, the possibility of supple relaxation in performance was enhanced by the depth of experience of both riders and horses. Traditions were rich; resources were great; lifetimes were spent learning the art of horsemanship; and young horses were handled in such a way as to ease them one step at a time (frequently with multiple handlers present) through the training situations which might provoke the flight response. Today, all too often, horse training is a one-person task, time is short, and competition demands are high on the hierarchy. It should not surprise us that the problems in our horse-person relationship parallel the problems in our families, our societies, and our world.

The western-oriented methods which have gained popularity with horse owners have spread awareness of the importance of relaxation outside of classical horsemanship. The goals of these methods have remained focused on the individual amateur horse owner, especially those relatively new to horse ownership, and while there is some detail in their protocols, they lack the benefits of the precise biomechanical awareness of more classical methods and are often costly and require extensive investment of time and energy. The art and science of Endo-Tapping™ arrive at a time when the horse world is badly in need of relaxation, suppleness, and harmony.

Equally important, the technique extends beyond relaxation into training techniques that, while derived from the most classical forms, are within the reach of everyone. It can influence virtually every phase of the horse-human interaction, whether used for relaxation itself, or for stimulating elements of the movement patterns of the horse from the ground or from the saddle. What can take a lifetime to learn to do from the saddle can be installed through Endo-Tapping™ in a few weeks' study by the amateur owner or the professional trainer. This technique cultivates systematic relaxation in the horse and informs the handler in ways which improve his finesse and awareness. .

As a research professional in biological sciences, a dressage rider, and a 30 year veteran of animal breeding, behavior and training, and human and equine bodywork, I have followed the development of the various (primarily Western style) horsemanship techniques with interest. I found parts worthwhile and usable, and other parts difficult to justify in terms of the kind of horse I work with, a larger horse with some physical issues and vulnerable hocks. Working on a small circle or even a large circle without being very correct about straightness and bend made me nervous. .

I find that the body of work associated with Endo-Tapping™ offers a simple approach to many of the same problems addressed by the various western horsemanship protocols and many more, up to the most difficult and elusive problems that challenge upper level dressage riders and trainers.

Because I am a researcher by training and instinct, a licensed massage practitioner for humans and horses, and have now spent some months working with this technique, I have considered possible mechanisms by which the Endo-Tapping™ method of Jean-Philippe Giacomini works. As a massage practitioner, it is striking to me how quickly the tapping works. I could use ordinary massage strokes on the same muscles for quite a period of time and still not get the rapidity and completeness of relaxation that comes from tapping! This suggests a reflexive response, and that is what I believe it is.

I believe tapping works through several concomitant effects on the body and mind of the horse; there are obvious possibilities related to the physiology of muscle and nerve which are part of the modern understanding of kinesiology and biomechanics and which might explain effects of Endo-Tapping™ on the relaxation state (and thus the mental focus and ability to learn) of the horse in its first level application, which is tapping at specific locations on muscles of locomotion and balance. Second level application of the tapping yields other effects, including muscle balancing, stretching, true bending, balancing and lengthening of stride, and ultimately self-carriage.

The technique itself can perhaps best be described as interactive “tapotement” (this is a French term for percussive massage, one of the classical strokes, used most commonly in American bodywork for invigorating muscle, but used very commonly in China and Europe for spot relaxation when the instrument used is of an appropriate size and shape). This “tapotement” is interactive in the sense that the firmness of the tapping is modified to adapt to the behavioral reaction of the horse, and so the mechanism varies to some extent as the horse goes through the stages of reaction to the tapping itself:


1) Noticing (which may include some avoidance behavior, confusion with the request of an aid, or resistance),

2) Ignoring (becoming still, attempting to outwait the tapping) and finally

3) Release, the stage we are interested in exploring as a function of its possible physiologic mechanisms.

As I mentioned above, the effectiveness and quickness of this “tapotement”, especially once the response has been conditioned, is striking. Ordinary massage techniques like “effleurage”, compression, cross-fiber friction, direct pressure, and the like, require more time, are effective over smaller areas (there is a distinct regional effect with Endo-Tapping™, perhaps because of the penetration of the vibration through to neighboring tissues, thus integrating the nervous system effects), and do not always result in the overall relaxation that this method yields, possibly as a result of endorphin release.

It is of interest that, during the period of ignoring the stimulus, the Endo-Tapping™ protocol calls for increasing the firmness of tapping, sometimes to a level that is very firm, in order to secure the release, and that horses vary enormously in their individual requirements for pressure of the touch and their rates of adaptation. Each part of the body varies with the individual horse as well, based on stored tension, body memory, and physical history. Old traumas, emotional residues from training techniques and devices, and positional memory all contribute, in all likelihood, to the response at each site that is tapped.

The first level application of tapping with each horse is simply to relax muscle and, with it, mind. How does this work? .

In the muscle itself, there are two anatomical elements well recognized in the science surrounding the physiology of muscle that probably contribute to the relaxation effect. The first is the muscle spindle cell, a specialized nerve-muscle hybrid, which is embedded at particular sites in muscle and which acts in extreme situations to protect the muscle from tearing: when the muscle and with it the spindle cell are stretched very suddenly beyond the neurological limit programmed by the body, the spindle cell communicates with the central nervous system to cause the muscle to contract suddenly, which in turn protects it from tearing. .

In human massage therapy, the muscle spindle cell can be manipulated manually by causing it to bunch, shortening the cells involved in sensing tension and communicating with the nervous system, and as a result the muscle relaxes whatever tension has developed through earlier stretching of the muscle spindle cell by trauma. In other words, the muscle spindle cell is "reset" to relaxation, causing the muscle cell to relax and return to optimal function.

The exact location of all the muscle spindle cells in each muscle is the subject of much research. Some mapping has been done to allow specific manipulation to effect change through this mechanism (refs). It is very likely that muscle spindle cells in the horse will be homologous, and it will be possible to clarify the role of these cells in “tapotement” in the horse.

So how might Endo-Tapping™ effect relaxation through action on the muscle spindle cell? Assuming a degree of abnormal contraction from mechanical stress, that is residual tension, in a muscle, “Tapotement”, quick and direct as it is, might pulse a bunching of the muscle spindle cell(s) adjacent to the site of tapping. The mechanical force of the tapping travels radially through tissue around the site of tapping, so it makes sense that those spindle cells oriented in a radial pattern there would experience a reduction in tension in their nerve fibers, and send a message to the central nervous system which would result in relaxation of the muscles served by those spindle cells.

The second anatomical element in muscle resides at the junction of the muscle itself and the tendon, which attaches every muscle to the bone which it acts upon to produce movement. This element is called the Golgi tendon organ, and its purpose is the opposite of the muscle spindle cell: when its intrinsic nerve fibers sense a sudden stretching, its communication with the central nervous system causes a relaxation of the muscle. The purpose of this nerve programming is to protect the muscle itself from pulling loose from the tendon, damaging the musculo-tendinous junction.

In its action upon this anatomical element, Endo-Tapping™ very likely supplies the pulse of sudden stretching of the Golgi tendon organ needed for relaxation of that particular muscle as it responds to protect its musculo-tendinous junction. And it is that very suddenness of the impulse from the tapping that probably makes it so effective, as no time is allowed for resistance or bracing as often happens during manual manipulation and training.

In addition to the clear possibility of two physiological mechanisms for local relaxation by “tapotement”, as I mentioned before, there is the gross appearance of an endorphin release during Endo-Tapping™. It would be very interesting to measure blood levels of endorphins, as well as heart rate and other indicators of relaxation as the “tapotement” proceeds.

One must ask, what is the full description of release, expressed as we see it in the application of this “tapotement” technique in the horse? What we see is a variety of signs of relaxation: full exhalation, softening of expression involving the small muscles around the eyes, nostrils, and ears, chewing and salivation, and lowering of the head. What we feel manually at the same time is overall softening of muscles associated with these obvious outward signs. The local effects mediated by the anatomical elements of the muscle are only part of the overall effect. Clearly the brain responds to some systemic effect as well.

The possibility is also there that something about the tapping, the close physical presence and the repetitive contact, "means" something to a horse that we can only speculate about. Over the eons, the horse's evolution has created a program for flight, and as a flip side of that a program for rest (relaxation) and play (relaxed performance, our training goal). Everything that happens in the horse's natural world fits into one of these categories. He is informed by the horses around him in the herd. Somehow, perhaps, this tapping may sum up to a feeling of safety in his limbic system.

There are many questions raised by these observations. How many ways can relaxation be quantified? By heart rate? By vaso-dilatation, or dilation of the pupil in the eye? By galvanic skin activity? Can the involvement of the muscle spindle cell and the Golgi tendon apparatus be demonstrated? Neuro-physiologic studies do address questions involving both the function and the anatomical mapping of these structures in animals. Can the release of endorphin, or other neuro-peptide, be demonstrated? Presumably, if it occurs, it can be demonstrated.

How many things can this tapping method be used for? Calming? Promoting healing? Preventing and treating colic? There is anecdotal evidence for all these. This is something which needs to be explored, understood more fully, refined, and made available for the benefit of the horses in our lives.



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Saddle Fitting Information

Friday, March 5, 2010


Contribution by author Lynne.

As a Graduate BALIMO^TM Instructor, I have learned that the 10-2 (or
even just 11-1) position [pictured as 10 o’clock and 2 o'clock oR 11:00 and 1:00] of a person's toes when they are walking, without consciously thinking about their feet, is indicative of the relative strength of the muscle chain that either rotates the whole leg in or out (from the hip). The toes point in the direction of the muscle
group that is tighter and more contracted. The solution lies in
balancing the two groups by stretching one and strengthening the other.

One excellent series of exercises, pioneered by Pete Egoscue, is this:
1. Three-position toe raises. Raise up onto the forefoot, then lower to
the ground. Repeat 10 times in each position. First position is with
toes pointing straight ahead, Second position is with toes pointing
outward, Third position is with toes pointing inward.
2. Adductor squeezes: Lying on the floor with both knees bent so the
soles of the feet are flat on the floor, place a pillow betwen the knees
and squeeze the legs together. Do 3 sets of 20 repetitions.
3. Floor bridge: Holding a pillow between the knees, and beginning from
the "idle" position in #2, raise the back and buttocks up off the floor
so that weight is only on the feet and the shoulders. The raised trunk
should make a relatively straight line to the knees. Hold for one minute.
4. Abductor presses: Starting from position in #2, and using a belt or
strap around the legs just above the knees, press outward against its
resistance. Do 3 sets of 20 repetitions.
5. Floor bridge. Hold for one minute.
6. Pelvic rocking. To relax the lower back and reintegrate the muscls,
rock the pelvis while lying on the floor. This means alternately raising
and lower the pubis so that the pelvic"bowl" tips backward, and then
forward. Repeat, playing with speed (faster/slower) and range of motion
(full range/partial range in differing degrees) until the back is
feeling limber.

With daily use, these exercises will result in visible improvement
within 2 weeks, and vast improvement in six weeks. They will need to be
made a regular part of the exercise repertoire for the improvements to

Question by reader: My lower back is tight, and when I try to do some exercises that require core use, the back tries to do them instead. What can I do to improve that?

Answer: As for difficulty with tightness in your sacrum and lower lumbar spine, there are a LOT of different exercises you can do to help limber up that area. Two of my favorites are: 1.) Knee over and 2). Crawling three ways. (By the way, if these help you, you can pass them along too, crediting the BALIMO program and its originator, Dr. Eckart Meyners.)

#1:KNEE OVER. Beginning position: Lie on your back with one knee bent so that the foot is flat on the floor, while the other leg is straight. (Let's say left is bent and right is straight.) While keeping your shoulders flat on the floor*, take the left leg across the right leg and attempt to touch the floor on the right side of your body with your left knee. You will feel a resistance that will prevent you, but if you allow gravity to do its job over the course of 5-10 minutes, assisted slightly by the weight of you left hand on your left knee, pressing ever so lightly, you will find that the areas of resistance will "give" a bit. Often the stretch seems to come from the muscles alongside the spine, but there may also be some discomfort in the hip area. You can try raising your left (bent) knee more towards your armpit, or by opening the angle of the knee, lowering the knee more towards your right ankle, while maintaining the stretch. Find the place where you can get the left knee closest to the floor and "dwell" there until you feel some "give." Then you may try different positions of the knee, which will be addressing different attachment points of the tight muscle group. Repeat this daily and you will eventually be able to get your left knee and whole lower leg to lie flat on the floor beside your right leg.
*It is useful to have a second person hold your left shoulder flat to the ground, or you can maneuver so that you anchor your hand and/or wrist under some heavy object (the front apron of a couch or sofa works well). Alternatively you can hold on to a table leg. Experiment with doing this with your anchoring arm's elbow bent or straight to see which is most effective in keeping your shoulder flat on the floor.

#2. CRAWLING THREE WAYS. Beginning position: On "all fours" (hands and knees). a.) Crawl like a baby, but be SURE you are executing a diagonal "foot fall" pattern: left leg, right hand, right leg, left hand, repeat. If you find that you are crawling homolaterally (left leg, left hand, right leg, right hand) STOP and think about (plan) the correct movement pattern before you begin again. b.) Crawl on forearms and knees. The same admonition about diagonal movement applies, but instead of supporting yourself on your hands, you support yourself on your forearms, which will be flat on the floor. c.) Crawl "military low crawl" style, a.k.a. "alligator crawl." Flatten your chest to the floor, and keep it there as much as possible while you are crawling. AVOID lifting your buttocks into the air (imagine they will get "shot off"!). By raising one knee out to the side while rolling onto your opposite hip, and then reversing the process, and using the side of the foot of your bent leg to push off and propel yourself forward, you will make progress. Feel the working of your sacrum and lower lumbar spine. When you can do this with some ease and alacrity, get up and walk and note how much more limber your whole pelvis/lower back will feel.

Nadja King of Horses for Life has just invited me to write an educational article about these kinds of exercises and the ones I've already posted, and I've agreed. So you may see what I've just written here reappearing in the pages of her on-line magazine eventually.

Thanks for asking permission to forward my writings, and thanks for taking the time and trouble to write. I credit Dr. Pete Egoscue. I didn't invent these exercises; he did.

Yours for the horses~

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Morgans performing at WEG 2010

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Carole and her Dancing Morgans need YOUR help to go to Lexington, Ky to perform at the Alltech FEIWEGames. (They will be dancing for the attendees on
September 25 - 28, 2010.) As some of you know, Carole's trip to the FEI World Equestrian Games and all her expenses there are her responsibility. She has no corporate sponsors, and it is a hefty expense. However, wonderful Morgan supporters are helping her $5 at a time! If you would like to help, visit Carole's website.



Monday, January 18, 2010

FOOTFALLS/Biomechanics of motion

Great examples of footfalls on this video and others on YouTube.
Contact Eitan at for their video
Poetry In Motion