Road to Bronze 2017 Apr 18

Current Book Study Report: Uta Graf’s Effortless Dressage Program: (Order your book today- it is a gem.  This book aligns well with the work I do with my trainer, Bronze, Silver, and Gold USDF medalist Dr. Susan Schneider.  It also aligns well with Beth Baumert’s book, “When Two Spines Align.”  I will be attending her tow-day riding clinic with GVDS in June.)

The book is not written in chapters but divided into sections and subsections. Our book study group has completed the Preface and is working on SECTION I: EFFORTLESS- BUT HOW? Part II

Preface gives an overview of the book and why riding should never be work.

Part 1 of section I “The Independent Horse” gives many examples of the need for balance, straightness, activity(forward), & connection. Uta outlines many exercises and strategies to develop these qualities, plus strategies for teaching your horse to be independent.


  • ride on the 2nd track
  • practice “stretchy-chewy” in trot and canter
  • stop the exercise as soon as the quality is lost; reestablish supple & forward from the circle
  • practice leg yield & shoulder in in stair-step pattern- every 5 meters switch from lateral to straight ahead the full length of the arena


  • test often to make sure the horse is doing the work/take away the driving aids; drive with very light pulses
  • ride in “stretch” position in all gaits with weight on hind end, long neck & open through throat latch


  • continually monitor rider position
  • monitor horse position on curved lines- neither shoulder or hind end should fall off the line
  • ride frequent transitions between and within gaits
  • ride should fore every corner
  • ride shoulder fore and shoulder in on the center line, straighten for a few strides, and change rein.  Hind end must stay on the center line.


  • walk warm up- focus on activity of horse/no rushing and following by rider/leave the horse alone
  • pulse aid lightly; immediately relax leg when horse responds.  If horse does not respond, increase aid, then test with a light aid.  Light aid should produce a surge forward.
  • expect transitions to be prompt- train through practicing transitions often skipping a gait and within a gait
  • train outside the arena; use hills
  • always incorporate variety


  • practice überstreichen in trot and canter
  • develop feel- know how it feels when poll is in the highest position; how pushing/carrying power feels.  Ride many transitions and tempo changes- focus on feel.
  • correct inversion, (when head is down/neck is curled) by riding forward to the hand

In Part 2- “Allow the Horse to Work Under You” she discusses the Circle of Effortless Riding. This is worth the price of the book. Page 36- check it out. She also discusses timing for rider effectiveness, how we can learn from para-equestrian riders who can’t squeeze or spur with strong aids, (less is more), and her 9 Steps to Drinking Coffee (while performing a pirouette.) This last part breaks any movement down to 9 steps to make it effortless using training exercises, the actual aids to perform the movement, & strategies to refine the movement after it is learned.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreshadow

Bad For Your Health copyright Barb Haynie

Bad For Your Health
copyright Barb Haynie

This is Barb’s new painting.  The title says it all:    “Bad For Your Health”

To help underscore the hazards of bronc riding, note the ads along the arena wall, (Tater Tots, Spam, Skol, Cheez Its).  A delightful, tongue-in-cheek painting.

Magnificence: Part II



Yesterday, while riding Monarch, I went into that zone where it was just he & I.  Instead of focusing on my position, which always makes me tighter, instead of looser, I put my consciousness deep into my horse’s balance, movement, and biomechanics.  I kept asking myself, what am I doing to produce this?  Sometimes I was trying to correct something.  As the ride progressed, I found that I was asking that question more and more often, so that I could reproduce something positive that was happening in our ride.  When I finished the ride, I had a feeling of elation.  It only occurred to me this morning that the elation I was feeling was the idea of  “magnificence” from Jago’s final chapter in Solo Schooling.

When I got off my horse and went into the house to change, my focus really changed.  My horses were munching on their beet pulp, and I was thinking , “ok, while they are having their first course, I can jump in the shower.  Then after I get dressed, I’ll throw hay.  Then I’ll get my pot luck dish out of the fridge and add the garnishes.  By then, my hair should be dry enough to style.  Oh and I’ve got to find a couple of birthday cards…”  All of a sudden, the real world that I had put aside while playing in the sandbox came rushing back……..

With everything ready, we got in the car to attend a small birthday dinner.  As we were pulling out of the driveway, the miracle of what had occurred with Monarch hit me like a lightning bolt.  This was a FEELING- I wasn’t thinking about what had occurred and was not processing my ride-

just a strong spontaneous feeling.  At the moment this feeling was washing over me, “SPRETZZATURA!”  bubbled up and burst from my mouth.   The feeling and the exclamation all happened without any conscious thought.   It was only after I heard myself, processing both the joy in my voice and the meaning of this word, that I realized what had happened.  Then this morning, I was able to connect yesterday with the chapter we have just discussed about magnificence.  I don’t think one can create magnificence; instead one discovers magnificence.

Developing Magnificence

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, be creative as you read these coaching notes about how to structure the schooling session.  Find ways to relate these ideas to your non-riding goals.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

book study

Part 5: “Developing Magnificence” 

"Connection" copyright Cheri Isgreen

“Connection” copyright Cheri Isgreen

P 194-195

Magnificence is accessible to all; it is possible when you clear away your personal interference to discover your full potential.  Embrace your uniqueness by fully expressing who you are and realizing your capabilities.  By reaching inside yourself to discover your personal resources, you will gain a sense of quiet satisfaction from knowing what is special about yourself.  These habits of mind developed with the horse have real spillover into the rest of life.  Maslow calls this state “self actualization,”  similar to the Renaissance idea of “sprezzatura,” an effortlessness or grace.  This state allows one to  experience the elation of harmony.  Your focus is in the moment.  Maslow calls this “peak experience.”  It matters not the content of the experience, (what happened); what is special is the process.  For peak experiences to occur, you must develop full engagement involving awareness at all levels- senses, emotions, intellect.

The following are examples from Jago’s case studies of her NLP coaching.

P195-199  NIKKI G     Her goals: change habit of collapsing at the waist and looking down. Improve her horse’s way of going which was heavy on the forehand, leaning on the rider’s hand.  Her assets:  commitment, enthusiastic engagement, creative problem solving     Her horse’s assets: good nature, rhythmical gaits, lateral suppleness     Strategy: play- allowing momentary issues and opportunities to guide schooling, focusing on only one or two issues each session.  Relaxed focus fostered improvement for the pair.

Enabled & Empowered:  Nikki feels she has achieved

  • the freedom to experiment and play to solve problems
  • awareness to capitalize on good points and improve or stretch other areas
  • horse is relaxed and happy in his work
  • Getting things right made me tense.  Now I think about patterns and exercises to engage the horse physically and mentally
  • There are no right/wrong or black & white.  Feedback from what I sense gives me a constructive way to change or improve something.

P199-203  NICKY M     Her goals:  change how she feels about performance problems and mistakes, so she can compete without “scratching.”     Strategy:  reframe problems during competition, not a success/failure issue or overwhelming disaster.  Instead, problems give input for where to focus work.  Change focus from worrying about how others see her mistakes to maintaining communication with her horse, which changed Nicky’s behavior, belief system, and identity.  Outcome of strategies: The mare became longer, looser, and more forward with greater softness, and engagement.  The pair experienced generous, expressive harmony.  Nicky became generous with herself after making mistakes, which allowed her to continue to compete without withdrawing, as well as to place and qualify.  Nicky developed a much broader sense of what doing well really meant to her.

Putting competitions into perspective, Nicky’s thoughts:

  • Unless I’m enjoying my horse, there’s no point in riding.
  • People are too busy in their own lives to ponder my mistakes in competition.
  • Most judges are on your side.
  • In the great scheme of things, it matters more whether I enjoyed the test and what I can learn from my performance, rather than if I made mistakes.
  • Applying this change of perspective to everyday life has resulted in positive effects.

Nicky feels she has achieved:

  • a different perspective of what really matters in life
  • a better, more trusting relationship with my horse, family, and friends
  • riding focus has changed from competition to preparatory work
  • I’ve learned to use positive thought processes.
  • I’m a happier person for others to be around, including my horse.

P205-207  SEAN     His goals: improve confidence and riding position to become more effective in communicating with his horses, especially in the lateral work.  A focus on the process: personalizing and evaluating tips for riding the laterals through use of search questions.  Sean learned how to analyze what happened inside his mind and body to make a strategy successful.  This helped him ride more effectively and understand his own metacognition for future improvement.

The process: try strategy, evaluate strategy- how did it work, personalize learning by making decisions based on experience & evaluation.

  • conscious incompetence I didn’t know that
  • conscious competenceI can do this now
  • unconscious competencesprezzatura, effortless effort

Sean feels he has achieved:

  • confidence to school in playfulness, not being afraid to make mistakes
  • taking charge of his horses’ training by understanding the how’s and why’s of schooling through search questions
  • improved posture to effectively communicate with his horses, using small details to make big changes

P209-215  MARISIAN  Her goals: build great rapport with her young ponies to develop freedom and fluency.  She works mostly on her own, with little formal instruction.  Her strategies: employ mutual attention and respect to discover and develop the innate abilities of each pony.  She uses groundwork (long-reining and lungeing), as much as riding to gather information and develop rapport.

Marisian’s reflections on Solo Schooling:

  • Because I can see the pony, I use groundwork to soften him until he “feels right.”  I aim for fluency, suppleness, and freedom, with one movement flowing into the next.
  • The pony must be forward, using his muscles, in front of the leg, accurate, listening.
  • Maximize what the pony’s has; don’t focus on what he doesn’t have.
  • Take into account the pony’s personality and my mood.
  • When riding, I’m in-time and in the moment, using unconscious competence.

Marisian’s recommendations for successful Solo Schooling:

  • continuous assessment- spend more time reflecting than riding
  • continue to discover new ways to communicate
  • model what other successful riders do; evaluate if it works for you, your horse
  • learn from bad rides
  • reflect how your body impacts your horse
  • develop a new language with each individual horse you ride, how they need to move, and how they could be
  • have confidence in yourself and your horse


Developing qualities of uniqueness, harmony, authenticity, and self-belief are more important than the specific goals you are working toward.  These qualities enable you to work through problems and achieve goals.  Coach yourself with generosity, support, and truthfulness.  As you ride your horse well with sympathy, and coach yourself with curiosity about what is observable, interesting, and relevant, you will release the magnificence in you and your horse.

Structure Your Schooling Session

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, be creative as you read these coaching notes about how to structure the schooling session.  Find ways to relate these ideas to your non-riding goals.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.


book study

Part 4: “Coaching in Action” Chapter 12: “Structuring the Work Session”

P 181- 183  CHAPTER INTRO: Be aware of focus when riding to avoid disappointment or a sense of failure.  Riding without focus won’t provide a sense of fulfillment.  Using a narrow focus, (such a focusing on perfection) produces a “trying” state and a success/failure frame.  Over-focus, (from feeling rushed), prevents the horse and rider from tuning into each other.  Use these guidelines to structure a schooling and/or coaching session:

  • work with an articulated agenda, but stay open to unexpected opportunities to serve your larger goals.
  • stay focused on the process, (rather than details of what happened during the schooling session).  Focus on the process means defining how something happened, what contributed to it happening, and what problems of action/reaction were at work.
  • be willing to experiment and abandon experiments that aren’t working.
  • use warm-up to tune into the heart of concern; attend to what is observable, interesting, and relevant.  Mark your learning by determining your next steps, adding homework before the next session, when appropriate.

SOLO SCHOOLING FORMAT: Caveats-(p186-187)- Shape each sessions into an enjoyable, productive experience for you and your horse.  Use the format as a basis, but be open to making diversions.

P 181-182 FORMAT


  • tune in
  • free/unblock
  • frame


  • explore
  • resource
  • focus & forward action


  • unwind
  • celebrate
  • mark learning
  • think forward


p183-184  STAGE ONE: WARM UP the mind and body of you and your horse.  Never cut this stage short.  If you work more than one horse, remember each needs an adequate warm-up.

  • TUNING IN: develop rapport with the horse, while you are walking on a long rein.  Discover how your horse is feeling physically and mentally.  Build on rapport & trust developed during TUNING IN; extend with play, experimentation, and discovery to the heart of the lesson.
  • FREEING & UNBLOCKING: TUNING IN provides information to anything that blocks fluency, (tightness or distraction of horse or rider).  To release and unblock, work long and low, ride big shapes, change directions frequently, do suppling exercises, alternate rising/sitting trot, light/deep seat, play with weight & rein aids, leg yield on straight lines and on circles.
  • FRAMING: check your state, (feelings), to ensure a positive frame to produce a productive, rather than limiting session.  If your frame is negative, return to FREEING & UNBLOCKING.  Monitor opportunities your horse offers to improve something you or he finds difficult.

P 185-186  STAGE TWO: WORKOUT  This state is full of engagement leading to learning, consolidation, or achievement.  It doesn’t need to last long; cultivate stopping at the peak moment to carry positive feelings forward to the next session.

  • EXPLORING- the state of playful attentiveness, (give & receive); variations of the message yield different results- notice and reflect on feedback from your conversation.
  • RESOURCING- become aware of what is needed to resolve difficulties or to take you further. Note external resources, (ex- schooling patterns, work without stirrups, etc) and internal resources, (ex- strategies to a foster positive state, etc), and capability issues, (ex- need to schedule a lesson or get more information).
  • FOCUSING & FORWARD ACTION- the heart of playful learning; moments of intense focus when you refine something enough to feel you’ve made a difference, which will take you in the direction you want to go.


  • CELEBRATING- reward your horse immediately as soon as you receive a ‘yes’ feeling
  • UNWINDING- take time to cool muscles, unwind mentally by allowing focus to open
  • MARKING THE LEARNING- while you are cooling down; put the experience into a frame that is easily remembered and retrieved.  Remind yourself of key ideas a couple of times immediately after the schooling session.
  • THINKING FORWARD- as you put your horse back and take yourself home, ask yourself what comes next.  Finish with a curiosity frame for continued exploration and inquiry at many levels.

p 187- 192  THE WORK STRUCTURE IN ACTION- Read about a schooling session with Sean, a professional trainer and Harry, an Intermediate event horse.  Harry responds to pressure by rearing.  Sean uses coaching & nlp to engage and work Harry on the bit without force or pressure. Two successful strategies for Sean were using an exhale breath on down transitions and “spinning back” his inside shoulder in time with the canter stride.  “Spinning back” the shoulder is Charles de Kunffy’s strategy for engagement in the canter, which has the effect of enhancing the massaging effect of the inside seat bone on the horse’s corresponding long back muscle, which encourages the same side hind leg to engage and lift in the canter.  The rider can use this non-confrontational aid intermittently to rebalance and collect or for longer periods to promote and maintain engagement.

P 192- You can learn from even difficult or frustrating sessions.  Progress means shifts in your mind and your horse’s mind, just as much as “improvement” in your observable performance.


Good Questions and Thoughtful Listening

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, read these coaching/motivation notes with your non-riding goals in mind.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

a partnership is good questions and thoughtful listening

a partnership is good questions and thoughtful listening,                      copyright C. Isgreen

book study

Part 4: “Coaching in Action” Chapter 11: “Coaching Yourself with Questions”

P 176  CHAPTER INTRO: Statements define and limit your response.  Open questions begin an internal search.

P 176-178 LEADING QUESTIONS: Don’t ask leading questions to which you know the answer.  ex: If the horse is falling into the circle because the rider’s weight is not centered, don’t ask, “Why did your horse fall in?”  In part 2, p44-45 the author advises us to avoid the question “why” because it leads to feelings of guilt and blame.  Instead ask “WHAT did you notice?” or “HOW can you help your horse to stay balanced on the circle?”  When coaching yourself, avoid WHY questions for the same reasons.  Form questions to:

  • sort through existing information
  • to seek information at the unconscious level
  • focus on specifics to indentify the key to what is/is not happening
  • to identify evidence of change or achiement

Questions take pressure off you and detail a problem into a prescription for improvement.  Begin questions with how, what, where, when, who; avoid why.  HOW is the best question.


  •  is the result of curiosity and questioning
  • reveals evidence, (internal & external), to inform how & what happens
  • moves you forward

P178  HOW is the best question to ask.

  • HOW models exemplars.
  • HOW pinpoints what to continue & what to improve.

P178  WHAT is another great coaching question.  Refine a WHAT question by asking:

  • what specifically tells me…….?
  • what next?
  • what else?

P179-180  QUESTIONING YOUR HORSE  Be tuned into your horse’s behavior.  You will learn what he knows, doesn’t know, and what he thinks you are asking.  If your horse gives the wrong answer, take the perspective of 3rd position, (outside yourself), to analyze your horse’s understanding.  Horses are incapable of lying.  Ask your horse:

  • how else can I explain?
  • what are the clearest signals I can give?
  • what range of signals do you understand?
  • what happens when I ask………..?
  • how do you let me know you find something difficult?  too difficult?  confusing?  easy?  fun?  scary?  etc

Besides behavior, pay attention to your horse’s facial expressions.  Refine your communication through processing your horse’s answers.

Good questioning and thoughtful listening will guide schooling, ensure relevance & purpose, and yield subtle & effective riding.

Make a Real Difference

The following are study guide notes for Solo Schooling by Wendy Jago.  For non-equestrian subscribers, read these coaching/motivation notes with your non-riding goals in mind.  Substitute the horse for a coworker, family member, teammate, or your passion, sport, advocation, etc.

Triangulation- using 3 points of perspective

Triangulation- using 3 points of perspective

book study

Part 2: “Getting Started;” Chapter 4: “Triangulation”

P 50-51 EXPANDING THE COMPARATIVE PROCESS: Triangulation is a way to expand the comparative process using three points of reference to evaluate problems and progress.  With three points of reference, you can analyze which difference makes the real difference.  Triangulation provides valuable information to measure and evaluate strategies.

P 52-54  HOW TRIANGULATION WORKS: (Each situation below illustrates three different points of reference; compare the three points of reference to determine a course of action.)

  1. Working out where you are now in relation to your aims: point 1-how things are now; point 2- how you want things to be; point 3- the difference between pt 1 & 2 indicated by self-assessment, understanding, observer comments, outside events/conditions/etc.  COMPARE/DETERMINE A COURSE OF ACTION.
  2. Working out the difference that makes a difference: point 1- an experience that went well; point 2- a similar experience that went poorly; point 3- the difference between point 1 & 2  COMPARE/DETERMINE A COURSE OF ACTION.
  3. Assessing your progress toward your aims: point 1- your goal; point 2- how it used to be; point 3- your progress  COMPARE/DETERMINE A COURSE OF ACTION based on the difference and what still needs to be accomplished.
  4. Comparing the effectiveness of different strategies: point 1- issue or problem; point 2-effect of strategy A on problem; point 3-effect of strategy B on problem  COMPARE effectiveness of strategies
  5. Understanding how the same situation may be viewed by different participants from different perspectives: point 1- your perspective/1st position; point 2- your horse’s perspective/2nd position; point 3- objective observer/3rd position  COURSE OF ACTION: neither you nor your horse is right/wrong; find a way to harmonize.

P55-56  SENSORY SYSTEM CHECK  Gather information using the full range of senses, not just your preferred sense for interpreting your world.  Individuals think in unique ways, replaying or creating thoughts using their dominant or sensory mode.  Some individuals are visual learners; others rely on physical feelings, (kinesthetic), or auditory input.  Within each sensory mode, individuals rely on unique sub-modes.  Example: a kinesthetic learner may rely on a sense of pressure; another kinesthetic learner will rely on rhythm.  When triangulating, note which sensory mode you are using for input.  Note which perspective you are coming from, articulate details, note what happens if you change the sensory mode, the submode, and the perspective.  Gather as much information as possible to develop strategies for improvement.

P56-58 LOGICAL LEVEL CHECK  Verify assets & results through the following hierarchy.  Use logic levels as starting points to examine issues for triangulation.  Though it’s a hierarchy, all logic levels are equally important. Example: Rider problems can arise at the identity level, (top), if rider view self as failure.  Rephrase problem to one of capability or behavior.  Then determine a course of action to improve skills.  Logic levels allow rider to define a problem or goal, and/or determine steps toward progressive purposeful progress.

  • identity: (top of the pyramid)
  • beliefs & values
  • capability, (what you know & can do)
  • behaviors, (what & how you do)
  • environment, (external circumstances)

P58-59  SUMMARIZING THE PROCESS  Triangulation is a process for self-assessment.

1.  Action to map where you are in relation to

  • where you’re coming from
  • what you want and how you’re going to get there
  • how far you’ve come

2.  Relates three points, such as

  • self, (1st person)
  • other, (2nd person)


  • how you were
  • how you want to be
  • models of excellence
  • theoretical understanding

3.  Amplified and enriched by sensory system, (one or more of 5 senses)

4. Verified by logical levels

5.  Provides options for action and change

P 59-64  TRIANGULATION IN ACTION- WORKING WITH NIKKI G  The last section discusses Jago’s case study, coaching Nikki G.  Nikki’s goals were developed into a triangulation strategy:

  1. Nikki’s current riding style
  2. her style with added positional improvements
  3. her larger goal, (improved movement of her horse) which her positional improvements will aid

The discussion of this coaching session introduces the idea of chunking.  Chunking puts together information into various size filters to analyze goals, strategies, and progress.  Starting with a basic goal, one can chunk down to break these goals into smaller, achievable steps. Chunking up takes the basic goal to articulate the larger outcome.  In Nikki’s case, the basic goal is improved position in the saddle. She will chunk down to pinpoint how she can improve her position: (make her hands more equal, correct her lower leg position, and sit with a more upright posture.)  Chunking up gives her a vision of her ultimate outcome: a horse with expressive, fluid movement.  The discussion illustrates how they aligned the work to logic levels, to ensure a coherence of activity, purpose, and achievement.