On July 22-24, ST Instructor Zaneta Georgiades from South Africa gave an ST Mastery Clinic in the USA.
Meg and Zaneta wrote a summary with their key insights and learning moments and and shared some photos of the wonderful participants and their horses!
Summary ST Mastery Clinic USA
ST Instructor Meg Brauch:
"I have had an amazing couple of weeks of learning with Zaneta Georgiades. We worked privately with some of my horses here the week before the clinic and then had a truly epic weekend of learning for participants, auditors, and horses alike.
One thing that makes ST so wonderful is the almost tribal feel of such a supportive community, which is also very much present among the instructors as well.
I feel blessed and proud to call all of the instructors my peers as we all have things to share with and learn from each other. In the spirit of teamwork, Zaneta and I have decided to collaborate on this clinic summary to help share with you all some of the major insights that were touched on this past weekend. We invite any of our participants and auditors to share additional thoughts in the comments as well.
We had six participants including myself and have decided to focus on the primary insights from each one as part of the summary:
Diana & Bo
To start, we had Diana and Bo (a 10-year-old Spanish Mustang).
The first theme that was revealed, was the difference between trying to fix the horse as opposed to having a conversation with the horse. Don’t just blindly apply an aid to the horse. Be curious as to why the loss of balance could be happening and then think about where to give the aid, which would best help the horse.
Which muscle does he need to rebalance himself or to find more bend or to step more under? The clearer you are in your own inner picture, the more powerfully you can project your inner feeling in an aid.
Also generally what we see as lacking in our horse is a quality we are not yet embodying in ourselves yet.
So remember, it is ALWAYS you. It may not always be because of you, but it is ALWAYS your responsibility to find the answer and to do something about what is happening.
The emotional and physical balance of the horse are dependent on one another. It’s hard to address the physical body until the horse is mentally balanced, but for some horses, the physical imbalance leads to emotional imbalance, so both are connected.
Ultimately both horse and handler must be emotionally and physically fit, which is why good horsemanship is really a path to self-mastery.
Carolyn & Abra
Next, we had Carolyn and Abra (a 9-year-old Connemara pony).
With these lessons, we learned that the rider needs to be specific and clear.
Carolyn had to learn to be non-negotiable with Abra on the fact that there needs to be at least a ‘try,’ but then to be extremely generous in rewarding the slightest try when it happens (even if it is just thinking in the right direction at first!).
She needed to decide the quality and Abra could then guide her on the quantity.
She needed to own her inner picture and inner feeling and wait as long as it takes (hold the question), not just for the physical quality, but for Abra to really understand what she was asking for.
In the process of figuring out, the horse will start asking “Is this the right answer?” and that is great, and we should give RRR when this happens to let them know that they’re on the right track, BUT the final jackpot comes when the horse says confidently “this IS the right answer!” because then the final jackpot comes for the answer to the initial question, and therefore the exercise takes root in the mind as well, not just the body.
Jackie & Nell
Next, we had Jackie and Nell (18-year-old Hanoverian mare).
See yourself, your body, your intentions, as equal to your horse. Your horse is not below you in servant mode, but you are also not below your horse in servant mode either!
Don’t approach your horse in an apologetic or doubtful way, because if you don’t take your own body and your own requests seriously, why should they? You are the example.
Find your inner royalty so that you match and bring out your horse’s inner royalty.
With that clarity and confidence in yourself, your inner picture begins to take shape, and you can more clearly address the physical body of your horse.
We saw the change most clearly with how the power of the rider’s engaged core can completely change the shape of the horse in all 5 pillars.
Engaging the core is not just a physical act of your abdominal muscles, but fully committing your own line of travel, your own balance, and your inner compass.
Make sure to maintain confidence in what you are asking your horse and communicate to him/her how important it is to you as this will help you find clarity in both your mind and your body.
Lisa & Riker
Next, we had Lisa and Riker (a 17-year-old Oldenburg).
We discovered the importance of the ‘Steinbrecht forward’ of the hind legs in everything we do. Without it, at best we have a ‘pretty’ look-a-like. At worst, we have short-stepping hind legs, lack of thoroughness, and brace in the neck and back.
We worked on developing the Grade 2 Groundwork sequence where we dive into the realm of juggling balance, suppleness, shape, tempo, and rhythm within the exercises and explored the challenge of the 'two-way street' when we add more flow.
This is because the forward energy can easily shift the center of mass forward again and we need to maintain a constant balance of forward swinging hind legs and checking and rebalancing the center of mass.
It was great to see when she found these moments with 'all the balls in the air' because Riker started to really show us all his moves and the Ferrari horse was revealed.
Riker is quite cucumber in shape and a bit downhill in his conformation, but when he is in balance and the hind legs correctly step under, his shape changes and he become a beautiful example of how the mind is more important than the body.
Zusa & Paladin
Zuza and Paladin (a 19-year-old Anglo Trakehner).
Zuza came to us all the way from California to really focus on developing the riding pillar with Professor Paladin.
The theme was about being less passive.
In the desperation to ‘try’ to be light or nice, we end up becoming passively rigid. Effectiveness breeds lightness so we need to be as clear as we need to be so that we can be light.
Zuza found herself waiting for Pal, and Pal was waiting for her, so nothing happened!
She needed to ask for what she wanted and allow the horse to decide what volume of aid he needed to find his balance and to release all brace in the forward down search.
Another insight that arose in the lesson was about the actual forward down which is NOT the nose pushing forward and the poll dropping down, but rather the poll reaching forward with the nose stretching down.
The way Zuza experienced achieving this is by actively rebalancing the center of mass away from Paladin's shoulders to achieve a more 50/50 balance and then engaging more forward stepping of his hind legs to reach under and support the new position of the center of mass (Steinbrecht forward).
When she found this connection, he immediately offered the forward down tendency, which created the beautiful 'rainbow' shape over his top-line.
She played with this in the trot as well and, as she said, her smiling muscles were the most tired after the lesson!
She really found the key to Pal's powerful engine, and he showed off his floating trot with Zuza practicing the 'mosquito' seat to stay moving in harmony with him. She also closed the workshop with a beautiful liberty session exploring the grade 3 sequence and then diving into the feeling of bringing out Pal’s inner war horse through play and the importance of maintaining the horse’s spirit, especially in the more advanced exercises.
Meg & Renfrew
Finally, I worked with my young horse Renfrew (6-year-old Hanoverian).
We worked in 5 all pillars during the workshop days.
The importance of always keeping an open dialogue with our horses was the essence of the whole workshop, and I felt this theme really resonate in my work with Renfrew.
We were able to dive deep into the lateral exercises and how to use them in a way to subtly address the asymmetry in the moment, not just the general tendency.
In all the work on the ground or under saddle, being able to flow from LFS to haunches-in to shoulder-in to renvers, etc. feeling his body and specifically what the hind legs were doing and how to help him find balance.
Always keeping the hind legs stepping towards the center of mass and helping him to really trust his left hind leg again after numerous physical injuries in his life (broken cannon bone, locking stifle, OCD, and suspensory injury).
He can twist his poll slightly when tracking left, but the more he trusted the stepping under of the left hind, the poll straightened and his willingness to maintain a really consistent forward down search came shining through.
Renfrew is a confident and extroverted horse, and in liberty, we saw his spirit and inner war horse shine through, and the more I could give him advice to help his physical body, the stronger his connection with me and the higher his mental state.
I worked on refining my whip aids to help him use his abdominal muscles and core strength to keep his center of mass in balance while always keeping the Steinbrecht forward.
I also worked on my own energy bubble, being able to adjust it and really keeping the inner picture as if he was a label on a jar and the jar is my energy bubble. In other words, I should never feel as if I push him away from my bubble, but he should stick to it like a label, and I just adjust the size of my jar.
We never actually want to send our horses away from us as we always want them to feel connected and motivated to be with us. As always we are both a work in progress, but he was a beautiful representation of how ST is an amazing and correct way to bring young horses along and how to develop a horse in mind, body, and spirit.
During the three theory sessions, we worked in a Question and Answer structure, allowing the hour to shape itself according to the question that came up.
On the first day a question about 'the essence' came up, and we explored that first because it is the alpha and omega of the ST journey, so it was a great place to start!
We discussed the idea of 'why'. Why are we in the arena with our horses, what drives our efforts, what is the reason we keep coming back? To find this 'why' we need to keep asking ourselves until we get to an answer that doesn't have a logical, rational answer, eg. Zaneta shared that her 'why' is her fascination with the levels of dialogue between her and the horse. If someone had to ask her 'why' she is fascinated by this, her answer would be 'I can't explain it, I just am.' Our 'why' is our deepest compass that sustains us through the stretch zone, through the struggles and the areas of unconscious and conscious incompetence. It is what makes us light up when we feel moments of harmony, lightness, and synchronicity with our horses. The more we can connect with this 'why' the deeper we can dive into our own stretch zones and the warmer bath of energy we can offer our horses in the work.
During the second theory, we played with some practical exercises so that everyone could discover the feel of contact from the inside out. Everyone paired up, and we worked through various exercises to feel from the horse's perspective what pulling, grabbing, holding, leaning, dropping, etc. feels like. The great observation was when the feel of a light, supple contact was discovered and every 'horse' had a smile on her face. The big light bulb here was that 'contact' is not something we should be inflicting on our horses. It should be a pleasurable sensation of 'holding hands' between horse and rider that the horse seeks out rather than something the horse needs to tolerate, avoid, lean on, or brace against. We also touched on the idea of drawing versus pulling. When working on the ground or at liberty, we must feel a connection of our center to our horse’s center as if we are dancing. We invite the horse to stay with us, both in his mind and body, but we must never feel as if we are pulling him towards us. This would be like pulling his nose forward with the cavesson even if there is no line or rein there. The energy must always come from the hind legs, and the connection of two centers creates balance and harmony. The same feeling transfers to work under saddle where the horse’s center is connected to us through our seat and the feeling of the centaur arises.
During the third theory, we discussed the 'limitations' of conformation. We talked about the reality of better or more challenging conformation but that neither is an excuse for the training process to necessarily be easier or harder. It all comes down to the willingness and motivation of the horse and how much responsibility the rider is willing to take in putting the effort in to grow with their horse through the exercises.
We also discussed the importance of the front end of the horse and how we need it as a barometer, so it is best in ST not to condition behaviors in front as then we lose our barometer! So the way the horse carries their head and neck allows us to see if their undercarriage is engaged and if they are releasing over their top-line. The horse's shoulders and front legs give us feedback on how much they are supporting behind and the more they support behind, moving with their legs extending first and only then putting weight on the feet, they organically start developing free shoulders and more elegant front leg action.
The final topic we dug into was the various half halts - exactly what each of them is and then when and why we use them. We chatted about how vital it is to deeply understand the whole range of these observing and producing combined aids because they are our physical language in shaping our horses. The more we have their essence at our fingertips, the more freely we can use them in an organic way as we need them in training. They are our physical pressure and release vocabulary, and we can develop them until we can use our vocabulary like poetry to convey our inner picture and inner feeling to our horses.
Unicorns & Rainbows
We had an absolutely epic clinic weekend here with Zaneta Georgiades! I think I can easily say it was transformative for participants and auditors alike.
In our search for learning good horsemanship skills, our willingness to be open-minded, to have a continual dialogue with our horses even when challenges arise, and to forever self-reflect is what ultimately guides us on the path towards self-mastery.
We would like to deeply thank everyone who was with us this weekend for fully supporting each other, embracing the essence of Straightness Training and joining us with open hearts and open minds.
It was truly a weekend full of unicorns and rainbows!
THANK YOU to Katherine Nee for all the beautiful photos!"
~ ST Instructor Meg Brauch & Zaneta Georgiades
ST Mastery Clinic August 25/26
If you are hungry for more:
Auditor registration for Rebecca Gilbert’s Clinic at Narnia Stables on August 25th and 26th has opened.
It will be Rebecca's 3rd clinic here with us and we are SO very excited and honored to have her back.
Don’t miss out: