You can lead a horse to water, but if you don't hand him the microphone, he'll never sing the song. I asked the rider to repeat after me:
"You...You... Me-Me-Me, You-Me-You-Me, MeYou MYou MYou-You-Yooooou!"
The sentence was sing-songy, like a nursery rhyme, so it wasn't hard to remember. Everyone in the arena stands clapped out the little jingle. I asked the rider to show me that song now with the reins. No problem there; the rider knew how to hold the me's and (perfectly, and to an almost imperceptible degree) to push the rein away on the you's . Now I asked for a canter around the arena, with rider chanting the jingle out loud while mimicking the song in the physical. (Me=Presence) (You=Release) The rider loudly said, and rode, the following song:
"You...You... Me-Me-Me, Me-You, Me-You, MYou-Me-Me!"
Did you hear the sound of an ever so faint squeaky hinge?
I asked the people in the observation balcony if that was their song. (Always let the crowd report the news...) The peanut gallery came back with a resounding, "Wow! Nope!" The rider was surprised.
Rider: "Ok, I'll go again."
Casey: "How about that one?"
Rider: "What the?! Again."
Rider: "Darn it!!"
And then, one by one, a sea of tiny voices began to whisper, one and then another, ever louder, from the gallery "me-you, me-you, MYou!-You!-YOU!"
I didn't know where to look! The rider? The horse? The gallery? I was in the middle of a 3-way tennis volley! I watched the whole arena in awe. Soon, the rider took back the authority, "Okay, ok, I got it; now everyone leave me alone for a minute."
The arena went silent. All you could hear was thunder as the big horse covered ground. We all watched. The horse was listening to every word. The first few times he heard you-you-you, he didn't believe it. The next time he heard you-you-you, he stopped short. The next few times, he realized he was the one in the spotlight. The next time, he offered power, energy. The next few times he offered energy with turns. The next few times, he offered energy, and single tempi flying lead changes with turns. The rider asked for the first canter pirouette, and the power down was a super-charged Tada!! He stuck the landing, and was ready for whatever was next.
The rider knew what was next: "I have to quit, this was quite a workout for him. Well, his creativity is back... it's been missing for a month... just needs a little tuning, but I think he gets it now," and the very professional rider hugged this horse's neck like a kid on a pony, to spontaneous applause and cheering from the gallery.
I raised my hand.
"Umm? Can we back up a step for a second?" said I. "Did anyone see it, a few minutes back, right about there?" and I pointed to a corner of the arena. "Did that horse just offer the first half of a single tempi pirouette?"
"Yep." from the gallery.
"Have any of you ever seen ANY horse ever do that before?"
"Nope." from the gallery.
"Is that an Olympic skill?" I asked.
Someone behind me said, "Not yet."
In concluding this riding session, everyone left a little dazed and confused. No one knew whether to congratulate the rider, or the horse, or the crowd, or the jingle, or the horse, or the rider or... As for me, I thanked my lucky stars that it didn't seem to matter that I'd had only one Dressage lesson in my life; a brain is a brain, and a brain is every sport.
Now, why did this sing-song jingle make such an impact?
Well, that particular jingle was custom made for this pair, (all pairs of brains have different harmonies and rhythms) but that song translated back into English would look like this:
"You...You... Me-Me-Me, You-Me-You-Me, MeYou MYou, MYou-You-Yooooou!"
I see you --On my mark-- Get ready Get Set go, Go, GO!
This song teaches the horse to believe that s/he's now on stage! What more does any willing brain need to hear? Plus, a jingle that delineates roles is also respectful of the rider, so that s/he can feel very good about stepping back and getting out of the horse's way so that s/he can bloom into great things, with the rider just along for the ride.
Casey Sugarman, Phobia Specialist/ Behaviorist
Sugarman has been reversing phobias in animals and in people for 18 years.
For help with behavioral triggers or behavior-centered rehabilitation or instruction, call (617) 359-7941.
Release patterns are
more important than rein contact...
Free Articles from Willing Results
Opposite of Contact: A Repeating Release Teaches ALL
By Casey Sugarman, Behaviorist
In the equestrian Olympic Games, Dressage is a strange and unique sport. You've seen it on TV. It's the sport where tall horses dance like ballerinas under riders in black and white coat and tails with old-timey looking top hats. There's not a ton of speed, but there is a ton of elegance. These horses are mostly dancing "in place" because the origin of the sport was to teach ancient war horses to be agile enough to avoid getting killed while still stomping on the opposing armies in battle. Today, as with many ancient skills, the battle has become a dance.
One trainer on a Grand Prix horse (that's the Olympic level) reported having a horse who was having trouble on the canter-pirouette-down transition. Here's what that means in normal English: Whereas people have two legs, horses have four. When horses "walk", they use all four feet, one at a time. When they trot, they use opposite feet at the same time, like in a 2-beat shuffle. When they canter, which is much faster and is more like flying, they do a little of both. It is the exact counterpart to the human "skip to my Lou". When kids skip across the playground, they are cantering. Galloping is what race horses do at break neck speed, and when they crash, they break your neck.
OK, now imagine our kid on the playground, skipping on, say her right leg. Now imagine her skipping on the right leg but not going forward, just skipping in place. Now imagine that kid, skipping in place and now spinning in a clockwise circle. Now imagine that kid (who is tripping all over herself) weighing 1,000 pounds. The power and physical agility required to pull off this move boggles the mind. That is a canter pirouette.
This horse was reported to perform this move brilliantly, but he'd sort of deflate in the last step, the down transition. The rider imagined a "Tada!" and the horse would instead lose power, like a gymnast who just can't stick the landing.
I asked the rider, who I'd never watched before, to run through all of the other less complex moves so that I could observe the communication between their two brains. I also requested single tempi lines directly toward me, so that I could look for minute physical imbalances. (If our playground girl were to skip one step with her right foot, then skip the next step with her left, then R, L, R, L, that's a single tempi pattern.) On a saloon dance floor, it's called the Texas Two Step; the lead changes every single stride. Not easy on four legs. But I saw only perfection as the stirrup brushed my shoulder sleeve in complete control.
Next, I asked to see a few of the canter pirouettes. I must say that trying to find a squeaky bolt in such a well-oiled machine was no easy task, but metaphorically, there was one faint echo of a squeak under the perfection, and it took me about 20 minutes to amplify the "sound" enough in my head so that I could put my finger on it. On the final footfall of the power downs, there was a split-second moment where this magnificent beast was waiting for the rider's direction at the very same moment that the rider was waiting for the horse's increasing power. The two brains were waiting on each other at that single split second, and with no one holding the other aloft, both fell flat.
Now, this was a beautiful rider as well as a talented trainer who had the "It" required to make magic out of physical sport. And yet, there was also a split-second kink in the telephone line. Both brains were holding the soup cans to their ears, but no one was talking. The rider had felt this to be true and had spent a week or two trying to fill in the gap, helping the horse more during the power downs, but to no avail. The horse would not say "Tada."