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09-28-2009, 09:11 AM
This is and is not aikido related. Not totally sure where this thread belongs.
I know I and at least one other person on here were drawn to aikido through our love of horses and having met a certain horse trainer named Mark Rashid. In my searches on line before I made the choice to try Aikido and even after I have sen a number of great articles and blog posts relating horsemanship to martial arts. So I have to figgure at least some of you out there are horse lovers like me.
Thought we could share a bit about our horse lives and interests and maybe how Aikido has improved our riding or how our riding has helped us with our aikido.
So a little about me...
I was born loving horses, they are my whole world, but only got my first horse at age 13. I had that horse for 22 years, he only died just a few years ago. When I finished high school I went to a collage specializing in horses called Meredith Manor, and specialized in training in the western discipline. Mainly concentrated on cutting and reining horses. Graduated in 91 and went on to train appaloosas and run a breeding operation in Western PA.
Decided I really didn't care for that world and went to just having my two horses and not training for quite a long time. A couple of bad riding accidents almost ended my riding in 97/98. Horse flipped over on me and landed me on my back on a trailer hitch the first time and then knocked me out the second.
After about 5 years of major anxiety attacks I got back to riding and even back to training. I was riding the horse that had injured me, bareback and on trails again, by this point. Meanwhile I also began trimming hooves and studying barefoot (natural) hoof care.
Currently I am a professional barefoot trimmer. I maintain about 30 horses while also working a part time job as a cook. Eventually trimming will go full time and cooking will be just for me.
I do a little training for select individuals and own and ride a 12 year old off the track standardbred mare named Baby. Trail riding is my passion and I train only trail horses.
After 4 months of training in the dojo I have to say I can see a definite difference in my connection with my horse. Ive always been centered and connected with her but have found it only getting deeper the more I train. Learning to go with Nage and take falls has helped to settle the last of the fears from my past riding accidents.
The ability to feel connection and to center that I acquired from riding has come in quite handy in the dojo as well. Sensei Heiny picked up on my being a horse person pretty quickly when she asked me to grab her wrist at a seminar this summer. And Sensi Garth has used that ability to center and connect strongly in order to show some points in class.
So anyone else out there want to share their horse/aikido connection?
09-29-2009, 12:54 PM
hmm maybe I'm the only one....
ok so based on another conversation that brought up horses and comparing them to Aikido students...
How is a horse like an aikidoka?
1) Horses desire peace
2) Horses always look for a peaceful resolution to conflict
3) Horses will use force when necessary but no more than is needed in order to achieve the desired result
3) Horses only fight when there is no other option
4) Horses are very sensitive to pressure and can learn to yield to them rather than fight them.
5) Horses desire strong leaders and when none presents itself they will become that leader.
6) Horses live in harmony with one another and their surroundings
7) Horses move in spirals and circles
8) Horses naturally go to and move from their center
9) A horse will leave a potential threatening situation before he will engage and fight if given a chance
10) horses are expert in reading subtle body language.
With regard to the other thread, I was thinking how growing up training and riding horses had a lot of awareness training attached to it. When you are around horses and certainly when you are riding one you must maintain a level of awareness as to what the horse might do next. In maintaining this level of awareness you learn to control the "flight or fight" response ( well most of the time).
What do you think?
09-29-2009, 02:07 PM
Oh absolutely you must be aware at all times and ready to respond or you get hurt.
The accident I mentioned involving the horse trailer hitch is a good example. I was aware something was wrong form the moment I began interaction with the horse. The signals were not loud but they were there. I made the mistake of ignoring them and getting up on his back anyway. I am very lucky I was not paralyzed in that incident. And it taught me a valuable lesson in paying attention to the small details.
Awareness of tensions in the horse body, things around you, use of peripheral vision all play a big part in both riding and Aikido.
Something really interesting I noticed in myself in the area of awareness and peripheral vision. When I am driving my car using soft relaxed but aware eyes I can simultaneously see and be aware of what I see in all three mirrors of my car. It's saved me from a number of close calls. I've used this level of awareness when riding instinctively for years.
Growing up around horses had a strong influence on awareness. So did growing up in a home with an undiagnosed, schizophrenic Vietnam vet with an alcohol problem. ;)
An example of not maintaining awareness.
My brother had a registered Appaloosa stallion that was fairly docile. One day while trail riding with some neighbors, my brother turned in his saddle to talk to the person behind him and relaxed his attention. Immediately Rusty ( the Appy) kicked him off, grabbed the girl riding the Quater Horse gelding in front of him by the leg, yanked her off and attacked the Quarter Horse.
My horse's " flight, hell no I don't want to fight " response engaged, kicked me off and hightailed it through the woods to the barn.
As a kid on a farm my main job was taking care of the horses. We would pasture them during the day and bring them into the barn at night. In the evening I would bring them in, feed them, groom them and bed them down. In the morning before the school bus arrived I let them loose.
The evenings in the barn were my favorite time of the day and I would stay out there as late as I could.
09-29-2009, 03:03 PM
Yeah there is just something about horses that is very soothing. Its like they exude peace and relaxation. Actually horses are strongly empathic so its probable that they do.
Stallions.... people really need to stop keeping them unless they are involved in a serious breeding program and know what they are doing. A stallion is always dangerous no matter how well trained. I've had some great relationships with stud horses and known some very dangerous ones, always handled them with heavy respect and awareness of how quickly they can turn. Their sole purpose in life is to reproduce and that instinct/drive will override almost all training at times. If they do not have the opportunity to fulfill that drive they become frustrated and unhappy. It's never a good idea to take your attention off of them when working or riding one.
09-29-2009, 11:53 PM
I used to ride when I was younger, but it has been YEARS! I can relate to some of the things you say about horses and riding because of this. :)
09-30-2009, 12:23 AM
I was aquitted! Just so you know...:D
09-30-2009, 07:22 AM
When I was a lad on the farm, sometimes my boss would ask me to help him "break" a horse or two. Interesting animals.
09-30-2009, 08:39 AM
So I had been reviewing the DVD the art of Falling the other night and paying attention tot he part on Uke sticking close to Nage through the technique. Then in last nights class was giving attention to that aspect in my ukemi. One thing I really need to work on is staying close and engaged through the throw.
Well at one point it clicked and once more comparing Aikido to horses helped me get the lesson.
With horses it is very important to stick close to them and go with them. If a horse kicks out you actually want to be really close,,, touching them if possible. The closer yo are tot eh origin of the kick the safer you are. If, as many people do you stand back at arms length and try to say pick up a hoof you are in a major danger zone. The further that kick travels the faster the horses foot is moving and the bigger the impact will be on your body. So when I am working on a horses hooves I tend to get really close and in as much physical contact as possible. This saved my life once.
A few months back I was working on a horses feet for the first time. The horse was extremely nervous as he had had bad handling ion the past and he had a lot of fear of people handling him. He was a big black, going about 1,300#. Well I went to lift a hind foot, standing with my body right up against his leg and hip. Bent over to lift the hoof and felt that hip come up...As I felt him come I knew what was coming and rather than jumping away I moved and blended with his motion. As the hoof connected to the side of my head I allowed the energy of him to move me and spin me out and away from him. I walked away form that without so much as a scratch or bruise. If I had resisted, tensed up or tried to get away I have no doubt I would be either dead or severely injured.
Ukemi is just like that. If you resist, try to get away before you are moved, if you don't blend and go with and if you do not stick close to nage you stand a far higher chance of getting hurt.
Ok now Ive figgured it out lets see if I can make it work in the dojo. ;)
Oh I should add that after I stood back and let what happened sink in I went back and finished the trim. The next time I worked on the horse he was much less afraid and the trim was uneventful.
09-30-2009, 02:58 PM
Cherie! Love this thread you started!!! Major horse fanatic here =) Aikido and horses go together so beautifully don't they?? I've found so many connections and synchronicities between the two! Often I relate horses to aikido and vice versa! I have to head to physical therapy right now, but I will return to this thread tonight to answer the question you posed.
10-08-2009, 09:22 PM
Hey Sarah. Hope you make it back here to share some of your thoughts on this subject. :)
LOL one thing Ive found in this new world of Aikido. My ability to get grounded and centered and my strength, gained in working with horses, makes it fun for people to play with me. If I am not being a very obliging Uke its not so easy for people to move me. :D Of course I only get heavy for those who want some resistance to work with.
My daughter started pointe in her ballet class at the end of last year. She shares my love of horses. While looking on youtube for my favorite violinist, Vanessa Mae, I found this clip.
10-14-2009, 08:24 AM
Oooh I could definitely ride to that! Nice vid. I'm almost certain Ive heard bits of that tune in some horse related movies. Certainly could easily imagine doing a freestyle dressage ride tot hat.
So last weekend I attended my first full seminar with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei. The seminar was all about internal power and center. Connection and unbalancing. Very cool stuff.
At the party after class on Saturday night I was part of a small group that was chatting with Sensei. Someone asked him about something he had said about moving his center. I commented that for horsemen this is not unheard of because when we ride we do this as a natural part of riding. If we wish to elevate the horse we lift our center and he comes with us if we wish to stop we drop our center and so the horse sinks down to a stop. I had never given it much conscious thought before but I know Ive done this in my riding, even moving it side to side as my mare and I slide around trees out in the woods without really breaking speed.
Thus ensued some discussion on some of the horse experience others have had. One fellow talked about a rented horse he was on once that he could not get the horse to go for him. His friends told him to kick and so he would kick and no matter how hard he did the horse would ignore him. I said to him if you have to kick the horse you are not connected. If you have connection you only have to think about it and the horse will move because he feels your center move and follows it.
Ok so I can apply it to riding. Now I am even more conscious of it while on my horse. Now if I can just find that same feel in the dojo with a human partner.
10-14-2009, 08:47 AM
lol I just keep remembering more stuff, from the seminar, and how Ive found applications to riding this week.
Ran out of time to add this in an edit to the last post.
Another interesting point was about changing yourself rather than trying to do something to uke. And not fighting back when attacked.
While riding on Monday afternoon my mare was quite a handful. She had been in he stall for the better part of days and not ridden since I was out of town. I could feel all kinds of power and energy under me. She was looking for any opportunity to blow up into a big bucking and running fit. Every time I would feel her start to come up I'd just adjust internally. I cant describe how but I knew it was a change that was just enough to redirect her energy in a way that disrupted the force and prevented her form acting out. Keeping my energy low and not allowing the usual adrenaline rush and tension that would have only made her more excited. In the past when she would be this way I would have gotten very tense and up in fight/flight mode. Now I just remain calm and centered.
10-14-2009, 09:43 AM
Hi Cherie - Thank you for starting this thread!
I still haven't ridden since I started Aikido in May, but I need to get back to it. I'd planned to two weekends ago, but I was home alone, the air had cooled down for the first time in months, the wind was up, and Rainy (5 y/o, very green, draft cross) was a little more excited about things than I wanted to deal with at the moment. Instead I did some simple groundwork with him - walking/trotting on a lead, and changing energy levels. Plod, plod, plod... OK, let's walk right out! Walkwalkwalk... Creep... creep... Stop... This is something we've done a lot before, just to get in tune with each other. He was really good at it that day - very responsive - even though he was about ready to leap out of his skin at the cool weather.
For anyone who hasn't seen my large equine partner, here he is, running around the backyard with the donkeys:
In last Sunday's seminar on Connection we explored what's required for connection on Nage's and Uke's sides the equation. Everything applied to working with horses. One that comes to mind at the moment is that Nage has to keep in mind what's possible for Uke. Not assume that because their part is easy for them, that Uke's part will be easy for Uke. We were talking more in terms of the physical motion (I think...) but it applies as well to mental work. If you reach beyond what they can do, you'll lose the connection.
So, in Rainy's case, asking him just to walk with me, and match speeds, might have been asking all he could do that day. I kept it possible for him, and we stayed connected.
There was a lot more from the seminar to explore (some I discussed in my AikiBlog, here: http://www.aikiweb.com/blogs/grab-my-wrist-17246/connection-and-riding-3660/). I'm looking forward to exploring connection while riding, soon. I'll be thinking of your experience with your (non-bucking) mare. Good work there!
11-03-2009, 07:13 AM
Often when I ride, I ride alone. I really enjoy the time out in nature exploring my relationship with my mare, Baby, and thinking about things. Some rides I experience such moments of clarity and connection that just leave me in awe. Sunday was one of those days.
As I have been learning more and more in aikido and noticing how it has improved aspects of my life, including my riding, I have many times compared aikido and horsemanship. I've been kinda missing the real point.
When I met my friend ,Rodger, one of the things that stuck out about him to me was his connection with his horses. He'd only been riding for a couple of years really and so was really a bare beginner. Yet he had the same sort of connection with his horses that I have with mine. In fact he also connected to mine on the occasion he visited here and rode her. Baby is generally not a horse that will happily work for just anyone so this certainly got my attention. She not only worked for him, but she took her usual leadership role on the trails which she never does with a stranger on her back. Somehow in spite of his lack of experience with horses he managed to "feel " enough like me to give her confidence in him.
I later learned about his career and history as a martial artist. Still didn't understand the connection. But at one point last spring I was in need of some help regaining my balance within the world. He sent me a movie to watch and said he though it might help me. I have to say that Circle of Iron was not the kind of movie I would generally watch. But I watched it. Strangely for a movie that I would definitely not call a good one I did in fact find some centering and calming influence in it. Yet after watching it I told my friend that that martial arts stuff just is not me. To which he said...." think again."
At the time I thought he really did not understand. I have spent years of my life in a way that abhors violence, avoids it at all costs. Refuses to even look at any kind of violence on TV much less consider taking part in it. And all that I had been taught said that martial arts is a violent activity. It could not possibly be me.
LOL only a few months later I found myself in a dojo for the first time. I was still searching for something and in spite of my thoughts otherwise this is where I felt compelled to look next. And so started my journey into aikido.
Just a week ago tonight I took and passed my first test. 6th kyu. Looking back at all of the preparation that went into that test. How much I have learned about myself in so short a time and looking ahead at how very far I have to go really got me thinking.
So as I rode along on Sunday As usual I was in the moment. Really feeling everything, the connection with my horse and the world around me. I had one of those moments where everything just suddenly makes so much sense.
Quite suddenly I thought on my comparison of Riding to martial arts and realized something. Horseback riding is not like martial arts..... horsemanship.... IS.... a martial art.
All of the discipline that goes into learning MA also goes into learning to ride. My 6th kyu status is much like someone who has begun to understand the very basics in horsemanship. Just like there are people who do a martial art and also people who make it their way of life the same goes for horsemanship.
You have horse owners and horseman. Horseman make it a way of life. They invest years into their learning and they take it very seriously. For them horseback riding is not just something they do for fun, excercise,or status. It is a necessary part of life. And there is no end to learning and increasing in understanding. It is, in fact, a martial art.
And just like a lot of MA. Horsemanship once had a strong tie and application to actual combat. Today's dressage riders don't generally think of themselves as being in combat training but only a few hundred years ago that is exactly what they would have been doing.
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