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ALL RESISTANCE IS INTERNAL

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There are other principles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan that we practice when we are sparring or playing push hands with another. When we play push hands, it is not so that we can defeat our opponent but so that we can lean to be soft, responsive, and to flow like water. When we are not soft and we receive a push, that push will knock us out of balance and throw us off course. I must say … to get pushed is annoying!!! Ok, it pisses me off! Which leads to one of the principles of movement applied to the art of working with another being. Push hands is a dance of balance, timing, and feel. One principle is All Resistance Is Internal. Trust me, I don’t like this one either! When pushed off balance, I would much rather make excuses, chalk  it up to a bad day, and/or apply blame, (maybe a combination of all three!) … but that ultimately never leads to softness. Push hands shows me where I resist being pushed, and when I resist, I brace and get defensive. I am out of balance and I struggle to maintain it. That is the root of hardness! I don’t mind saying and admitting these things, because it is our human nature to protect ourselves. Push hands teaches that we have to rethink human nature, if we are to become soft and yielding which makes us warm and compassionate in all our encounters. I am not there yet, maybe never will be totally, however, in my awareness I can let go of the struggle and regain my balance and softness.

How does this apply to horsemanship?  I will write the things I learn and practice in hopes that some of this resonants with you so that you can begin to cultivate softness through recognition of hardness. Awareness is the first step and without awareness there is no choice. One thing that leaps to mind is when my horse starts to act up and disconnect and ignores me … oh, my, I get frustrated. What happens is that I kind of panic, then get a little fearful which sometimes leads to anger and then upset, especially if I leave my emotions unchecked. All that is internal resistance to some imagined or real misfortune. Fear has a valid base to it…yes, I have been bucked off, run over, stepped on, bitten and kicked…to name a few! It hurts and is dangerous sometimes. Does bracing and getting upset help…NO.

One day, out of the blue while working with my horse who was having a uppity day, I viscerally realized that I don’t have to panic when he gets concerned or obstinate. I asked myself, “What is the big deal anyway?'”  I also realized that many trainers do it, too. I have been yelled at during lessons which I used to let it set me up to brace against my horse’s behavior. I learned to panic and get after him when he does THAT!  When we get after our horse, we get brace, get hard and demanding. That is  internal resistance and the horse “didn’t make us do it!”  When I can see that I am the driver of my internal resistance, I can learn to let it go, get soft and wait for my horse to do the same. I do a mini reboot!

Learning to notice that first sign of upset is the most optimum time to let go of it. Catch it quick! Just drop it, take a breath, soften your body and wait for your horse to follow you into the space of softness. It is such a lovely place to be with your horse.

Ride the Spirit

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Ride the spirit

practice the form

ride the spirit

forget the form

Ride the spirit

set the spirit free

don’t hold on to it

the spirit is elusive

catch a glimpse

recognize it

Ride the spirit

make it comfortable

give it shape

give it expression

stay out of its way

Rebound the spirit

the spirit circulates

round and round

rebound and shape

Ride the spirit

set it free

it never leaves

Sara

Clinic Format and Costs

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Chi Gung for Horsemen Clinics

Experience “The Perfect Ride”

Clinics are interactive and dynamic. I believe The Perfect Ride is an experience of feel, listening, connecting and influencing your horse so you both go together to get the ‘job’ done…whatever that means to you as an equestrian. The Perfect Ride does not have to be left to chance, a good day, and whether or not Mars is in retrograde. Even though you are learning simple yet profound exercises to cultivate principles of relaxation and building a foundation to understanding human biomechanics, clinics are really about you and helping you get to your Perfect Ride. Chi Gung is not about you becoming an expert Chi Gung master (only if you wish it so)…it is about using the T’ai Chi Ch’uan Yang Style Short Form – Five Principles of Natural Movement to help you enhance feel and awareness of your own body/mind/spirit, to become aware  of balance through relaxation, and then relating it to having a meaningful conversation with your horse through gentle, soft and consistent body language.

Every rider wants a soft and responsive horse. We all genuinely strive to get that feel from our horse, but when we do not kinesthetically understand softness within our own body/mind, it leaves the horse guessing what the aids mean. Because our human body language is stiff, braced, incongruent and many times forceful, the horse has to work harder to make sense of the “aids”. Tense bodies and static aids equals multiple levels of indirection for horse and rider.

This kinesthetic misunderstanding need not be the norm. We can cultivate that feel within ourselves and enjoy a greater sense of real connection with our horse. We all want the Perfect Ride every time we are with our horse and why not learn to get that every time you ride?

There are two parts to every clinic. On the ground exercises and a ridden portion for those wanting to ride in the clinic.

The first portion I call  Ground Work For the Rider and it really isn’t a bad thing!! Trying to align ourselves with external measurements and postures leads to frustration and sore muscles. Put your legs here, pull your shoulders back, push your heals downs and sit up straight are all examples of alignment from the outside. It finally doesn’t work because it lacks relaxation.

T’ai Chi and Chi Gung alignment is an internal sense of what is right for you through relaxation and true relaxation is an upward, light and balanced presentation of your genuine inner self that strings together the entire body like a strand of pearls. Movement is invoked from the inside not forced from the outside. Interactive discussions of Chi Gung shows you how this simple practice is a perfect fit for riders. Hand in glove and only a few minutes a day. (Sounds like a info-mercial I realize, trite but true.) We discuss biomechanics of movement so you really feel how your hips rotate and  how your back supports you upright naturally thus allowing your shoulders to sit quietly upon  your ribcage. We don’t have to micro manage our bodies at all once we understand a few simple things. Practicing these simple yet profound chi gung exercises teaches  you to embody the Five Principles of Natural Movement and then take them to your riding. Through understanding alignment of our inherent design from the inside, these movements begin to bring awareness into areas the seem to be “lost” which shows up as tension, resistance and immobility especially of the hips and spine. The Five Principles of Natural Movement  have roots in the Yang Style Short Form tradition of T’ai Chi Ch’uan where in sparing; balance, timing and feel are the cornerstones to health, flexibility and peace of mind. I believe if you can stay in balance, you can help another be balanced as well. When you get a direct experience of what constitutes fluid and efficient movement then you can practice how to dynamically move with your horse which ultimately effects how fluidly your horse can move with you. The beautiful thing is it is a never ending practice…you only get better the more you practice.

The other part is a ridden portion where I help mounted riders learn to relax their body/mind, become aware of how they hold tension and bracing then show you where and how to let go of excess tension in walk, trot, and canter. As you ride, you can learn to let go of excess tension so your  body becomes integrated and you are then able to enhance your feel of you horse. By cultivating feel, you learn to listen, connect, follow and influence your horse without resorting to forceful aids. Riding becomes a mutual body language that is based on relaxation. Relaxation teaches you (and ultimately their horse) to become fluid, balanced, soft and responsive. You will learn a simple routine to help you learn and practice…relax. Works every time.

The weekend looks like this: Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday morning is spent doing “ground work for riders” exercises and discussion and study of the Five Principles of Natural Movement. Experience what relax really means, learn how to cultivate those principles in your own body so you can then apply them to your riding. A rider can increase awareness and through awareness enhance feel, timing and balance. There is no end to how much a person can learn to relax. Relax is not the same as collapse and not the same as “sit up straight and relax” and an understanding of the difference will make your riding much more fluid, dynamic and interactive.

I have plenty of room in the clinics for people who want to do just the exercise and lecture portion of the clinic. Even if they do not ride they will gain a greater understanding of biomechanics from the inside out leading to a greater sense of feel and balance which they can immediately apply to their riding.

Riding is in the afternoons and depending on the time and number of people that wish to ride will determine the time we need. I usually work with the riders for one hour. I don’t like to work with more than 3 riders at a time. Depending on how many people want to ride will determine how many we can take in the afternoons. If we have 3 hours of ride time (with in-between break times) we could handle 9 to 10 riders each afternoon during the clinic.

Friday pm, Sat/Sun am  Usually 9 – 12 Three hours Ground Work for Riders theory and exercises

Sat/Sun afternoon mounted classes (each rider gets a ride both Sat and Sun)

Lecture, Exercise and Ridden portion  $350.00

Lecture and Exercise and observation of ridden is $200.00

Minimum of 5 people doing the entire clinic.

Please contact me for information on setting up a clinic with your riding friends in a barn near you.

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