You’re listening to Episode 30 of the Confident Rider Podcast with Jane Pike.
A super fun one for you today. I’m talking with Patrick King who is an incredible horseman and
human, and someone I’ve been following online for a long time. I’m actually currently a member
of his in-hand course, and next March I will be doing a clinic with him in person, which I’m really
looking forward to. So today I’m sharing our conversation that we recorded a couple of weeks
back. This one is slightly different from the usual in that whilst we were recording, we also shared
our conversation live on Facebook, and we’re really putting it out there welcomed calls in via my
website, so we mixed things app. Whether you’re familiar with Patrick already or not, you are in
for a treat. He is a wealth of knowledge as you are about to discover it for yourself.
Thank you so much for agreeing to do this with me. It’s really, really fun.
Absolutely, absolutely. And I know I told you before that it’s causing a little anxiety for me
because now I’m on the other side of the microphone with this deal. As many podcasts as I’ve
done. I’ve always shied away from being on the podcast myself, being in the hot seat.
I mean, I come across so friendly, but once I get into the interrogation, it is pretty intense. You
know, just put that out there from the start.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So we’re doing this in one of two ways. We are going live on your page right now, And this is also
going to go up on the Confident Rider Podcast in a couple of weeks, which I’m super excited
about. I have a couple of questions that have come in from the outside as well, which we will
share along the way. And actually, let me just grab that one now, so we can perhaps get started
with it. For those of you who… there’s two sides of it, because obviously, we’re on your page right
now, so everyone who is in your world will be very familiar with the work that you do and the, you
know, all the amazing knowledge that you have. And I know for one, just from the start to start off
with a compliment, like your range and breadth of experience and knowledge about horses and
anatomy and biomechanics and behaviour is so impressive, and I’ve been learning so much from
you in the relatively short time. I’ve been aware of you being out there. So thank you so much for
Oh, absolutely. Thank you
to get us started. I’m really curious to know more about you and how you came to be in the
position that you are in now. And I know that we also have a question from Chelsea, who has a
similar stream of thought going so I’ll just press play from here and I think this is a really good one
to get out. started with. So let’s hear from Chelsea right now.
“Hi, this is Chelsea from Northwest Ohio. My question for Patrick is could you describe how you’ve
gotten to where you are now and your understanding of horses? And what have been some of the
most important steps along your way? Thanks.”
That’s a that’s a short question with a long answer. Have you got all night?
We have all night!
Good. So gosh, how have I gotten to where I am with my knowledge? I would say, you know, when
people ask that question, I’m a little hesitant on that because I feel like there’s not a whole lot yet
that I know. There’s there’s a lot that I want to learn. There’s a lot that I’ve been continuing to
learn. I was really fortunate growing up with horses, as a kid, and I had some horses early on that
one in particular that really set me on a path of trying to, or needing to, find something different
than what was kind of common place in the area that I was growing up in the circles that I was
kind of travelling in. This horse was super aggressive, out of self defence as it as it turned out, but
he was, he was really a challenging horse. And he really pushed me and stretched me to learn. I
had been taking advice from local trainers and things like that growing up. Friends of the family, I
grew up in the 4H programme, I grew up showing horses and that sort of thing. It seemed like all
the advice that I was getting the horse kept getting more aggressive and more aggressive and
more dangerous to the point where you couldn’t walk through the pasture with this horse unless
you had, I think I was 14 at this point, you had to have a piece of six foot PVC pipe as self defence,
to go through the pasture to get to the barn because he would he would attack and at one point
he cornered me in the back of his stall and he trimmed the side of my ears with his feet. And that
was that was the day that I decided I had to try something different. I had to learn something
new, you know, after I you know uncurled from my sobbing, bleeding corner of the stall. I was a
But that, that day I committed myself that I had to look outside that box. I was in at that point.
And so I started ordering videotapes and ordering books from everybody that I could find. From
folks that I got really fortunate that through time, was able to eventually call them friends and
mentors. Folks like John Lyons and Ray hunt and guys like that, that really just set me down a
path of trying to understand a little bit more how the horse’s mind works. And then I was afforded
I was very fortunate. I was afforded an opportunity to apprentice and live with Ray hunt for a few
months. That really changed things for me. And then I got more and more involved in dressage,
which led me to the biomechanics and so going from learning how the mind works to then
learning how the body worked even more. And it’s just been a path. You know, it’s been a journey,
and I’m kind of an addict when it comes to learning. So I get on these little rabbit trails and side
roads and and start studying down all sorts of things. I think it was 18 or 19, I took an equine
chiropractic course, because I wanted to learn more about that just recently got back from farrier
school. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do and learn more about was the horse’s feet. I
feel like we can’t, we can’t ever know enough, you know, at least I can’t. So that’s, that’s been the
biggest part of what’s kind of gotten me where I am. And I’ve been very fortunate to make a lot of
friends on the way. You know, I would always say I’m not very good at this, but I’ve got some
really good and really smart friends or they share what they know with me very freely and I’m
fortunate for that.
It’s so true what you say about that worldview that you come to have where it’s like you, you start
to peel back the layers and all of a sudden you’re like, wow, I really don’t know anything or you
know, a little bit and you want to know more, and there’s all of these pieces that fall into place. So
when I was reading through your bio on your website, as well, it’s so impressive, honestly, Patrick,
and I was thinking, how is he not like 85 having done all of this stuff and work with all of these
people! It was really, really amazing. And so that… those two pieces that fit together between
these horsemanship elements and having that background and behavioural and emotional
understanding of the horse, and then this classical, this beautiful classical dressage piece where
everything starts to blend in together and you have the biomechanics and you know the other
elements of understanding that come to form such a beautiful, holistic picture of how to work
with horses…. so for those of us who might be attempting to fuse those two worlds together as
well, such as myself, how would you describe the difference between groundwork from a
horsemanship perspective and in hand work from a classical perspective and how we can actually
bring those two together but also how they’re distinct pieces in their own right?
Yeah, and that’s that’s a question that I get quite frequently and it sometimes I would say that
that line gets a little bit blurry because there’s a lot of things that we can, as far as the in-hand
work goes that we can really incorporate into everything that we do from the very beginning, the
very basics of making first contact with a horse, even as known as a foal. As a generalisation. I
often say that groundwork gets the mind ready to learn, in-hand work gets the body more ready
to carry the rider. That’s a way that attempt to think about it. And and I kind of use other different
analogies with that too. I think of our groundwork is being like our primary education, right? I refer
to it as kindergarten or grade school. And I don’t say that to demean it or belittle it because I
think it’s the most important part. If we had solid groundwork and we never got to the in
handwork we’d probably be okay.
Try to do in hand work without getting solid groundwork, we’re going to get into some trouble. I
think of the groundwork as the, like I said, the primary school and then the in-hand work more is
the secondary school. Another way that I think of it is or groundwork is kind of like line dancing,
right? We’re thinking of it from the dancer perspective. The groundwork is like line dancing, I know
your feet. I know I move my feet, you move your feet, we can all be on the dance floor at the same
time and until one of us has had too much to drink, nobody’s bumping into each other. Our inhand
work is more like ballroom dancing. There’s more of a contact there. There’s more, You and I
can work together and shape each other. There’s never pushing or pulling, but it’s a togetherness.
It’s a synchronicity in that sense. So I kind of you know, I draw those lines but the reality is those
lines blur quite frequently as well.
Yeah, it’s never completely compartmentalised, hey, like everything sort of fuses together. So if
you were working with your own horse and training from the start the groundwork elements
would be where you would start fundamentally before you started to look at more advancedadvanced
is not the right word- but more systematic approaches to organising their body would
that be the start point for you?
I think so. To to a differing degree, depending on that horses natural confirmation. Yeah, who that
is as a person. Because something something as basic as halter breaking a young horse, I’ve
gotten to the point where I want to focus on their balance right off the bat, and influence the way
that they hold themselves will carry themselves even at a standstill. Once we start putting the
halter on, that becomes something that I feel can help to build a lot, a lot more strength, balance,
confidence as we go through the process. So that’s that, I would say that’s at least one piece
there that I would filter it in, and I would trickle that in as early as possible.
And so regardless of where you start in the training, the relaxation piece seems to be like the
fundamental foundation that we’re looking to build from. And if we’re talking generally, so
making the assumption that people listening don’t have much of a classical or a biomechanical
background, so we just started talking on a principle perspective, when it comes to actually
talking about roundness and connection and engagement, all of these terms which are thrown
around in the horse world with varying degrees of understanding… We have this idea or maybe
this way going about things where it’s like, Okay, well, inside leg to outside rain, or more forward,
or you know, keep him going, keep him going, keep him going, when actually what I have really
come to understand through your work as well, if we were to take it from a much more subtle and
refined perspective is actually that relaxation in the horse is obviously an entire piece, you know
that everything works in together, but it actually starts with the jaw and the tongue and the front
end, you know, and the connection between those elements and how that actually runs through
the whole body both in a muscular sense and in neurological sense to connect with the back end.
I know this is a huge topic. But can we talk can we talk about that, like how relaxation begins in
that place, or how it is that we can start to create relaxation from that place?
Yes, we can we can certainly talk about that, that’s a great conversation sometime!
Yeah, we should get into that.
No, we’re gonna, we’re going to get there. So the balance, the relaxation, the balance, all of that,
starting with the jaw starting with the tongue, that’s very important to us. Any pressure that we
put on the horse’s mouth through the reins, if the horse doesn’t have what my friend Mark Russell
would call an academic understanding of the contract, if the horse doesn’t have that, there’s just
going to be pressure that’s going to cause the horse to lean into the bit and that’s going to cause
the horse then to lean on to the forehand. So if the horse isn’t understanding, soft yielding, and,
you know, slightly manipulations and flexions of the job through the bridle, as a means of
relaxation and then guiding or shaping, then we’re just going to end up on the forehand, which,
you know… if you and I are if we’re standing up and we lose our balance, we fall down, right?
Horse’s will of course do that also if it becomes that dramatic, but in general, they will fall to the
forehand. Yeah. And if you or I are out of balance, there’s a certain degree of mental, emotional,
physical tension that that’s causing. Because you’re out of balance basically. It’s the brain saying,
we need to stay safe, we need to stay upright, right? There’s that tension into the body. And the
same thing happens with our horse. If they’re on the forehand, if they’re losing their balance,
there’s a certain degree of tension that’s coming from that. So the first thing that we need to have
in that course, is relaxation, and an understanding of the aids in that way, and then we need to
get that balance.
The idea of more forward, more forward… A friend of mine, Ariana Sakaris, made a post on social
media a few months back, and I forget exactly the wording that she used, but basically what she
said was, we can’t send bad balance more forward. Which makes perfect sense. And you know, I
use the analogy a lot of times, if you and I are walking down a hill, and we start to lose our
balance, generally we kind of rush to catch ourselves, right. But we never catch ourselves, we just
end up at the bottom of the hill faster. We need to slow down into balance, we need to slow down
and use our joints in a way that allows them to carry our weight, to carry our mass in that
I love that, I love that quote that you just pulled up about that, you know, you can’t send bad
balance move forward. I have another similar one that I refer to all the time, which is if you add
power to tension, you just get more tension, and it’s the same kind of deal. You know, where we’re
trying to actually, I think maybe from a human perspective, we’re trying to sort of like break
through to the next level next level by by push, push, push when actually it has to come in a
different completely different paradigm. Sorry to interrupt you. It just popped into my head.
No, no, that’s perfect. That’s perfect. And and what I’ll do a lot of times is play around with
students, and I’ll have them walk across the arena on foot. And and we compare the difference
between them just walking across the arena on foot and then standing on one leg and reaching
the other leg forward and touching it to the ground and then shifting their way into that leg
instead of, you know, really working through the core and working in an extremely aware balance
that uses the body in completely different ways. And you know, when we think about being on the
horse, just the the act of being on our horse puts him heavier on the forehand. Yeah, then his
natural balance, and this is why things like self carriage sounds easy. Let the horse carry himself,
right? But it’s not that easy, because the horse carries two thirds of the weight of the tack and the
rider on the front end. So he’s ultimately automatically on the forehand just because we’re sitting
Yeah. And if you’ve ever carried a small child in a backpack on your back, even though it seems
like they’re only a few kilos, it’s amazing how it can just completely throw you off your off your
game. So I’m completely empathetic to that as well. So that process then of creating relaxation in
that way where we’re actually looking to mobilise the tongue, or the jaw, which is something that I
know your work refers to a lot, or it’s certainly been my experience… I’m a member of your inhand
course, and that’s been something that really blew my tiny brain when I started looking at
that, I was like, “wow, look at those connections that the tongue has, just in and of itself to the
various parts of the body.” I mean, I think that you described that the base of the tongue, and
correct the details of this, actually joins directly to 20 other assertions assertion points in theinsertion
points rather- in the body, that directly affect relaxation and connection and the ability
to do all the things that we want them to do.
Absolutely, absolutely. If we look, if we look specifically at the tongue, the tongue connects
directly to over 20 individual muscles in the horse’s body. The tongue connects directly to the
muscle we sit on, in our horses back and ultimately, every muscle in the horses body comes back
and connects to the tongue. The idea of the mobilisation of the jaw and the relaxation of the
tongue and I talk a lot about the hyoid apparatus, that series of bones in the horses tongue, it has
a huge influence there. If that tongue is tense, if we think about it- and this is where I should have
had my skull handy here for this- but if we think about the connection of the tongue to the horse’s
TMJ, there’s a link between the tension or relaxation in both of those places. And the TMJ carries
a tremendous amount of proprioceptors, the nerves that talk to the brain about balance. And if
you’ve ever had an inner ear infection that has messed with your balance, you know what
happens when there’s pressure and compression around your balance receptors. It throws off
your sense of balance through your whole body. And the same is true for our horse. If there’s
tension in the TMJ, his sense of balance and awareness of his body is going to be not as clear as
what it could be.
And then leading on from that, what really strikes me is just how important is from the early
stages of a horses development, and obviously, this is not something that we’re always in a
position to be able to influence because some of us have horses later in their life where they’ve
already had certain experiences coming into it, but their experience with the bit…. what bit
they’ve been, you know, ridden with and how that’s been introduced, and how their associations I
guess… that early, early pace has such a dramatic effect on everything else that comes from that
point, that we really can’t underestimate, you know, how it is we need to work with that in
training. Does that make sense?
It does make sense Absolutely. And a large part of of what we end up working with in clinics is
changing the horses I refer to it as their personal philosophy… contact or as it relates to the bridle,
because that is such a huge piece, you know, and we could, we could argue that any bit can be
harsh if used harshly. And of course, that’s true. What I think ends up happening and I get to
talking about all of the riders aids in this sense, but the bit specifically, but one of the the primary
function of the bit and all of the aids the primary function is to bring relaxation and release
tension. The secondary function of our aids would be to direct, educate or shape. And so we get
oftentimes these horses that have been educated in a different way that relaxation has not been
a part of that, true relaxation. We talk about acceptance of the bit, you know, we could talk
about it all day long, but what does that look like?
It can be tricky sometimes, you know? We can, we can see that horse, it’s maybe quietly mouthing
the bit… Mark Russell used to refer to it as savouring the bit… and I think that’s a great way to, to
picture that in your mind. But it’s a very fine line between savouring the bit and anxiously working
the tongue and chewing on also, you know? And then we get these horses that can be quiet in the
mouth, either because of tension and they learn to be stable or still as a self protective thing. We
can also have a horse that’s quiet in the mouth because he is accepting and so definitely a
different feel through the rest of the body when we have that taking place. There’s going to be a
feel kind of in the tongue, you’d feel it in your hands. You know, once you’ve experienced it, you
feel the difference in it, but it can be a little bit tricky sometimes. And this is where all the
troubles… we talked about horses that are showing signs of tension in the bridle or against the bit
or however you want to call it, so now we just strap their mouth shut by tightening the nose band.
And if that doesn’t do it, well, thank goodness, they sell all these bridles with those crappy flashes
now that we can hide the fact that our horses going around actually anxious and uneducated.
Yeah, yeah. So, um, I mean, these conversations I’m going to put entirely separate selfishly
motivated, Patrick, like, I have questions that I want to ask off the back of this. So but I think in
terms of it being relevant to everyone out there, when we think about bits then and that function
like you say, of actually the primary function of an aid, or any device that we’re using is first to
really encourage that relaxation and move that forward to suppleness and strength and balance
and all of those lovely things that come about. And then the secondary function of our aids being
to sort of direct in the way that perhaps we want to move that energy… when we have horses
from varying stages of life and varying backgrounds of understanding and experience… when we
talk about the importance of the bit and how we want to create relaxation in terms of their
association, and they able to establish that level of subtlety between us as a rider with the bit, am
I making sense so far? On the one hand, we will have horses which have a negative association
with the bit from previous experience. So, a trauma reaction if you like where there’s that
chomping or anxiety or apprehension about what it is that it means to have that in their mouth
and what’s coming. And then perhaps we have young horses or horses, which haven’t been ridden
much with a bit, like maybe they’re just getting into the stage of riding with a snaffle, or they’ve
been primarily bit less is, is the process coming into that similar? Like, do you treat that
reintegration proess, Or re-association process with the bit in a similar way to introducing the bit
to a horse that perhaps doesn’t have an association yet? Or is there… I know that you can’t kind
of break it down this specifically or is there something else that I’m missing here?
Well, I was thinking about that. And I make the joke all the time that I am the laziest freakin
princess anybody has ever met when it comes to riding and working with the horse. And when
when we’re talking about this association, there, there might be certain things that we might have
to do a little bit differently and how we approach things slightly differently depending on the
intensity of the anxiety and that sort of thing. But for the most part, you know, we can talk about
getting the horse to relax all we want, but that’s like what you work with when you’re working with
riders, that’s like making someone else relax. Yeah, right. You can introduce things to them that
encourages that to happen. Yeah, you can’t be you can’t be the one to bring it about, right? It’s
like, I can explain something to you, but I can’t understand it for you, right? You allow the horse to
time to work through that on their own. And sometimes, sometimes it’s for very brief moments,
and then you might get out of there, you might take it off completely. Other times, it’s about
hanging in there longer until they can find that release and that relaxation coming through, but
the biggest piece is that the horse is the active participant in releasing their own tension. Yeah.
And that’s about how we present it to the horse. So I would say most of the time, I don’t want to
say all the time, although I’m tempted, I would present it the same way regardless of whether the
horse that ever carried a bit in the first place, or if I had 20 years of riding and he’s just learned to
be tense. It’s about that soft mobilisation of the jaw, you know. It’s about little vibrations to
activate the tongue. It’s about just waiting until we get that lateral release.
We talked about a lateral release of the occipital poll, the atlanto occipital joint, the first
connection between the skull and the atlas or the first vertebrae in the horse’s neck. That’s a huge
piece right there. My friend Mark would talk about that as being the doorway to the rest of the
spine. As if there’s tension in the poll there, there’s going to be tension through the rest of the
body. Now, of course, when we’re talking about the poll, we’re not talking about that bony knob
on top of the horses skull. That’s technically the poll, but you hear people talk all the time about
poll flexion, and that’s what we’re talking about… it’s just about bringing the relaxation there and
the big thing that we need to do in that case is wait. Right? We might pick up the rain say it’s a
young horse, a green horses the first time with a bit in their mouth, I might pick up on that bit and
just wait right there until that horse softens mildly into it. And it’s a soft, little subtle sflexion.
Release into the hand, it’s not about pulling his nose over one way. I think about it as though I’m
just going to pick up the bit and move it here. And I’m going to wait for the horse to come
underneath that. And they find their own release within the movement that they offer. I’m always
thinking, I control my horse controls the pressure, I control the parameters. I can move it over
there and have them find their spot underneath that or within that contact. That’s where our
lightness is going to come from. That’s where our understanding is going to come from. That gets
challenging when a horse has had negative association; that gets challenging when a horse has
learned to be protective in the contact, or in spite of the contact, where they might just hang there
forever- or seemingly forever on the bit. And so then I might go in and tickle their tongue a little
bit to get the jaw to mobilise and then help them to find that spot. But again, for the most part,
we’re just waiting for that horse to find the answer for himself.
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense, thank you. Actually I have a question from Tania Spencer in New
Zealand, and she asked what your thoughts were on Baucher and his second manner. And also
the reason that I thought this was a good time to bring this question up was because the second
part of that is she was asking how much of a change you’ve seen on your travels with jaw flexion.
So, so we hear a lot about Baucher, in dressage, when we’re talking about jaw flexions, and as
Tanya asked, you know Baucher in the second manner, there was we’d say a couple stages of
Baucher and his development and training process and that’s basically…
They formally divided that up into a first and second maner, haven’t they, in terms of the
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s very Yin and Yang. Yes, it’s a one one way was rather rough and kind of
just pull their head around and and really kind of get at them to get them supple… kind of what
we see in some circles nowadays
Baucher must have had his moment in the stables with the horse grazing his ears!
Yeah, exactly. And in the in the Second Manner that everyone refers to, it was more of an
academic approach to that, as far as the horses balance goes and and it’s much like what, what I
teach, what I’ve learned from my teachers, and what we see in a lot of really great horsemanship,
not just dressage- where we’re talking about elevating the base of the neck, so and I refer to it as
an elevated release, right? Upward lifting of the base of the neck and the softening, swanning
forward. Slight lateral flexing or lateral releases to one side or another and then up to… a horse
can bend the neck up to 90 degrees before they fall into that inside sshoulder lose their balance.
So there different flexions in that way, different positions. And it’s super, super helpful to educate
the horse again about controlling, controlling the pressure, right understanding where the
parameters are to the rein aids, rather than having that horse just dive down onto the forehand,
because we’re pulling on the bridle. And the second part of Tania’s question there… can you re ask
that second part part?
How much of a change are you seeing on your travels with jaw flexion?
How much of a change am I seeing? So I would say that through the years, I’ve been seeing a lot
more of it, but I think, as we kind of talked about, I feel like a little bit of a selection problem for
me, you know? Because I’m travelling within circles and kind of becoming known as someone who
teaches a lot of this work, that I’m seeing more of it, because, like the whole law of attraction, I’m
presented with a lot more of it. Yeah.
I don’t know if I’m chasing it or if it’s chasing me, but it does come up a lot more. You know what if
I think about kind of maybe circles I used to travel in, I may have never noticed it there. It may
have never been a thing there, but I wasn’t aware of it anyway.
It’s like the yellow car theory!
Yes, the yellow colour theory, absolutely, you know, you don’t see any yellow cars until you buy
one and suddenly you see them everywhere, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. Fascinating. Okay, I mean, we could go for days. So I know, these are hugely general
topics that I’m bringing out for the sake of discussion, but we’ve been talking a lot about creating
relaxation and its necessity for that to start, you know, at the front and work towards the back not
only because of, you know, anatomical, well mainly because of the anatomical considerations
there as well. So in order to actually create a situation where we’re able to move into collection
and engagement and these, what are quite gymnastic positions for the horse, when they’re
required to do so with us, influencing them in different ways, how does the in-hand work then
inform and allow us to create that platform for being able to establish that communication and
create that conversation before we even get on their backs?
Yeah, that’s a great, great question. So a way that I described it recently, and I think I’m going to
stick with this description for a while until I come up with a better one, and then I’ll change!
Yeah, we can do we can redo it any point? Yeah.
We can always hit the reset button!
You know, that’s what I love about this journey, too, is that, you know, I would like to think that my
answers get better as my education and awareness improves…
You would hope, huh! I hope that in five to ten years time, the stuff that I’ve done is obsolete. And
I’m thinking actually looking back on even a couple of years, I have cringe worthy moments when
someone reads something and I think Oh, no, don’t read that! Read this instead!
Exactly, exactly. Great thing.
Yeah. Right. Yeah.
So when we’re talking about helping the horse to find that balance in-hand and and that carried
over into the saddle, one of the one of the ways that I’ve come to start to describe that now is,
you know, you’re giving the horse a place of awareness within their own body, that’s easier for
them to find without us on top of them. And then once we get on top, they have that as a point of
reference. They know how to engage those muscles, even if it’s a little more challenging because
we’re on their back, right? Now, maybe we’re going to go to the gym and we’re going to do some
squats. Chances are we’re going to learn about the form of doing a squat before we add 300
pounds to a bar with that over top of our shoulders, right?
I would really hope so!
Exactly, otherwise it could end really poorly. Yeah. And it’s the same. It’s the same idea with our
horses. If we can help them find- particularly our horses that have tension when it comes to
lateral work, challenges being very heavy on the forehand, which, you know, a lot of our horses
are naturally heavier on the forehand than what we’d want them to be to be a riding horse, we
can educate them about that balance and those muscles that need to begin to work before we
ever climb on. And then it’s easier for them because like I said, then they have that point of
reference, which I think is so important.
And it’s not only the mental organisation that you’re referring to, it’s the it’s a literal physical
organisation as well. If their conformation or anatomy perhaps doesn’t allow for- doesn’t allow for
that’s not the right way to describe it- you know, it hasn’t been programmed or set that way
previously, then it literally is like trying to connect up left and right again, for them.
What I’ve noticed during your in-hand course is that slowing everything down to the extent that
you need to to be able to set those new patterns in place, it becomes much easier to identify
where the tension exists or where the immobility or the bracing happens because especially
because I have a big, long horse… all of a sudden you see like… it’s like literally saying things pop
out in different areas. Like the shoulder might go or all of a sudden we have way too much
flexion. And those details get so easily overlooked when you’re actually moving things through
things fast. Yes. So that’s been a huge lesson as well to be able to to do it in that way.
Yes, and speed is definitely a horses natural response to tension. There a flight animal. Where the
horse feels tense or tight, they’ll generally want to rush or they’ll generally want that kind of more
forward idea. Which, again, makes it challenging with this idea of more forward, move forward,
move forward, move forward, right? In that, the tension is never addressed in that sense. So then
because we’re not addressing it, we can’t eradicate it. I think of it like it’s a seek and destroy
mission. I want to find all the places where there’s tension, and I want to get rid of that, you know.
And the thing to think about, you know, if we think about it from, say, a physical therapy
perspective, when you go in for whatever injury, rehabilitation, whatever, you go into physical
therapy, there’s just as much about the mental connection and the rewiring past mobility
patterns, as there is the strength building, right? So if you go in and you get a set of exercises, and
you just breeze through them really fast, you’re not helping that mental connection, you know. So
when we really slow down to break through the tense spots or the bracey spots we might about…
we’re- and I don’t want to talk too much about this because it’s getting a little bit out of my lanebut
we’re actually affecting the neurology at that point, we’re rewiring the horse’s brain for better
movement in the body. You know, we think about… I have a friend who’s training to be an equine
osteopath, and a way that he said it was really interesting. You know, we talked about
Chiropractic and moving bones, right? Well, bones only go where the muscles tell them to go,
right? And the muscles only go where the brain tells them to go, right? If we can come in there on
more of a deeper level, and again, allowing the horse to release the tension for themselves, have
a much greater impact. You know that when we think about things like building strength, that’s
really important to. If you go to the gym, and you do, let’s say you’re doing a bicep curl weight
and you’re just swinging it, flying around with it. Well, all you’re going to really be doing is wearing
out your joints. You’re not going to be building muscle. The slower you move, that way, the more
focused you get on the muscles that actually need to develop…so your strength with, you’re
gonna build strength faster with even, you know, really less recovery time because you’re not
wearing the joints out when you do it.
It’s much like yoga for horses. When I was studying yoga therapy… like the the actual nuances of
yoga where you’re using your own body weight to build muscle strength and to reorganise
patterns which aren’t serving you. Like I went from a very dynamic practice, which was essentially
just like a gym based yoga practice, not really yoga at all, to proper proper therapeutic
understanding. And you see how, actually they’re very subtle and they’re very simple, have these
hugely profound effects on changing the whole movement, pattern and function of the body,
provided that your primary focus at all time is on optimising the spine. So as long as you’re
staying within the range of optimising the spine, then everything else, you know, people’s natural
limitations, you optimise the function within the sphere that’s possible for that person. So it might
not be that they’re going to be the most flexible or the most, you know, the most strong even, but
within what’s possible for the individual, then you’re really looking to create a practice to optimise
them. And I feel like with the in-hand work and dressage, at its core as well is really about
gymnastiscising the horse to optimise the function that’s possible for that horse, which is, it’s not
really possible to not be good at it, because it’s not a competition.
That’s so true. So trie,
The other thing…. I get excited, so my brains like going ahead of my tongue now…but um, the
other thing that I found really interesting from a human perspective, is that that idea that we’re
all addicted to at times, and I think this comes from, like the push mentality like, we’re all told to
push harder and go faster and go longer and like break through the pain barrier if you like to get
to the other side. And when it comes to being presented with a horse that perhaps is in a higher
energy place, you know, that perhaps they’re anxious or upset or just sort of operating on that sort
of higher tensile that you see in some horses, that our natural thought pattern, before we really
understand the behaviour or the underlying behavioural concerns attached to that, is actually to
make them move faster, you know, to get rid of the adrenaline and sort of move that through. And
actually, when you break it down, sometimes it feels really counterintuitive, but when I’ve worked
with my horses in the ways that you’ve described, which feels like super slow and methodical, and
very specific about where it is, I want you to put this foot and how it is you’re going to move, the
releases are enormous. Like all of a sudden I have the yawns and the eye rolling and and it seems
from a very small but specific exercise that I’ve asked them to do.
Yes, yes, absolutely the focus that comes into that. And you know, and I keep going back to the
horse is the active participant in the releasing, you know? The focus that we get with that slowing
it down is is just tremendous. And like you said, the releases from little tiny movements, little tiny
pieces of bringing awareness to their body, you know. I say all the time, the horse can be their own
masseuse, all we have to do is show them where the tight muscle is, you know? Yes. And of course,
I’m generalising with that, but But yeah, the tiny movements you know, so important. And if we
think about it from a biological perspective, when we rush a prey animal, we put them in the
sympathetic dominant state of their nervous system, we put them on fight or flight, they go into
self preservation mode and learning does not happen from that place.
The telescoping as well… like when we’re looking to extend the top lineas that start point for the
handwork. So just to briefly, potentially bastardised, something that you would explain beautifully,
with the start of the exercise where you’re asking the horse to, you know, like extend the neck in a
way that’s actually creating that beautiful stretch as opposed to forcing into the…. you can get a
similar look without it being the same through actually like forcing it rather than allowing for it.
And something that I learned in yoga that struck me when I was out there, waiting for that
moment to come rather than being able to sort of like, make it come, if that makes sense, was this
off this other misconception that we have that you know, pulling creates stretch, whereas actually
what happens is that pulling creates contraction because as soon as you… if you were to pull my
rapidly what would happen was the muscles contract around the joint to protect it, as you
already know, this is just for the sake of explanation. But that that you know, if we were to gently
sort of mobilised that, then everything relaxes. So it’s the support that creates the relaxation
rather than the actual mechanical action. And that really got me thinking when we were when
we were doing that exercise. So a total tangent.
No, it’s perfect, it’s perfect. And that’s so true, you know, and often I’ll tell students, you know,
follow where the horse wants to go until he releases where you want him to go. Because exactly
what you said, you know, you start pulling on that, you’re going to create that contraction and
very much a difference between so say, we’re talking about the stretching and the lengthening in
the top one, there’s very much a difference between the horse putting his head down, and a horse
actively reaching forward through the spine. That’s two very different things. And often, if we just
teach the horse head down, will cause him to be kind of stuck in that spine, to be stuck in his body,
versus helping him to find that releasing stress.
I had to use a really good example for that which clicked in my mind, which was it’s different. You
know, there’s a difference between just reaching down to tie your shoe lace up and actually
stretching and touching your toes. Like that’s a completely…. the same kind of action, like if you
looked at the snapshot of the end result, it could look very similar, but two very different ways of
going about things and processes that create that.
Absolutely. Yeah, talking, you know, going back to the yoga, right, there’s definitely a difference
between bending down to tie your shoes or to pluck a weed out of the sidewalk or something, and
doing that forward fold, right? Very, very different movement that can look similar, if we’re not
really paying close attention.
Yeah, when you can force and when you can’t.
And one is going to do your body good and one is going to be your body harm.
Yeah. And in terms of the riding, it’s all about the feel at that stage, isn’t it? Like you feel there’s
something very unique and addictive about that feeling of reach when it’s coming from a place
that’s engaged and and connected? It’s really lovely.
Yes, it is addictive. That’s a great way to put it, because if you feel that, you just don’t want to
settle for anything.
Look at us all a bunch of addicts over here waiting for the next hit!
Right? And control freaks no less,
So much! I’ll just talk for myself. I don’t want to, like scrape everyone into my seedy pool!
I don’t know, I think if we’re involved with horses in any way, we are not just you know, people
talking about a Type A personality? We’re Type A squared, right? We don’t just want to control
things. We want to control the entire existence of another living being.
I have a few non horsey friends and… it’s kind of crazy to talk about… I have a few non horsey
friends and occasionally… I met someone recently in my… sort of a business group, I think and she
said I met this horsey woman, but she was kind of obsessive. Is that normal? And I was like, really?
Oh, no, no, that’s not normal. I’m just gonna go and get a cup of tea. Okay, yeah.Because I don’t
have anything else to talk about…
Yeah, conversation over.
So funny. Oh my goodness, to the I’m just looking at my notes because I made like copious notes
before we got into this. Is there anything that you want to jump in that is sort of front of mind or
that you’d like to share with everyone while we’re here?
Oh being put on the spot right here! Gosh, no, you know, I guess I guess I would just go back to
when we talk about the slower idea. You know, I talked often about the four keys to doing any of
this stuff. And the first of first piece actually, before we talk about the four keys is understanding
that we have permission to suck at this stuff, right? We have permission to do it wrong, and we’re
not going to mess our horse up. That’s something that you know, I find students worrying about
that all the time. And I say all the time also that, you know, you can’t mess up something with a
brain. You can confuse it. You can frustrate it. But you can’t mess it up. If you want to see
something messed up, give me anything mechanical or electronic. Right? I’ll show you what it is to
mess something up. Because for me, if it doesn’t wear hair, fur, fins or feathers, I don’t understand
absolutely. But so so that’s a piece that I want people to really understand is that when we’re
doing any of this stuff we have we have unlimited permission to get it wrong to do it wrong to
completely flub and fail and look like a dummy, you know?
Usually the people that are actually concerned about that, are the ones that probably have least
reason to be concerned about that because they actually aware of what it is that they’re doing.
And probably the biggest harm they’re going to cause is actually not doing anything because
that thought immobilises them from taking any sort of action.
Absolutely. 100% Yeah,
yeah. I see that thought through a lot also.
I’m sure, yes, it seems to be pretty common.
Yeah. well intentioned and but sometimes quite destructive in terms of stopping movement
Yes, exactly, exactly. But so after that, I talk often about the four keys to all of these pieces. And
those are rather deceptively simple keys and that’s slower, softer, wait, and breathe. Mm hmm. I
feel that those are really the most important pieces. Slower, softer, wait and breathe. That’s
something that, you know, we’ll be talking about the breath, we need to notice is are your horses
breathing? Are you breathing but even more or are your horse’s breathing, when, when we’re
doing any of this work together? It’s something that we focus on with ourselves. So often we’re
doing yoga, focus on the breath. You’re playing golf, right learning how to golf you focus on the
breath. You’re shooting archery, focus on the breath. Y ou’re taking riding lessons, focus on the
breath. You’re working with your horse in-hand, make sure he’s breathing also, like focused on his
breath. or her breath as the case may be. But when we’re when, when we’re riding, when we’re
working in-hand, it’s important to note is our horse actually breathing or they coming from a
place of holding their breath, which is going to limit their body also, right? It’s just like us, when
we’re not breathing from the diaphragm, movement is going to be restricted. It the horse is taking
shallow breaths, or even holding their breath, because of tension, distraction, anxiety, anything
like that, it’s going to have a negative effect on their movement, and thereby whether or not their
body’s actually capable of releasing into the postures, the movements we’re asking for.
Mm hmm. I love that. Yeah, that’s awesome. So much can be solved by actually slowing down or
potentially just waiting.
Just waiting. Absolutely, yeah. Wait and breathe. I had a student- she had several sessions with
me to clinic in Ohio this past weekend- and, and she made the joke that if anybody were to just
walk in and look at that lesson, they’d think we weren’t doing a darn thing. Because there were
moments when we stood around and waited for nearly 10 minutes for her horse to actually take a
breath before moving on.
The amount of situations I’ve complicated by not waiting for long enough… I can’t count them.
And now I’m like, why don’t we just wait and see what happens if we wait. We can always do what
we were going to do afterwards, but we could just leave it for a little while. Yeah.
Definitely. I have a friend who’s a reining trainer and every time he would get a really good stop
out of one of his reining horses, this sliding stop, he would sit there and smoke a cigarette. He was
a heavy smoker. And, and he was you know, giving those horses that opportunity to wait and I’m
not saying we should all go and start smoking but it was, you know, he would he would stop and
give them a break long enough for himself to have a cigarette, right. And at one point he tried to
quit smoking. And he jokes about it as being the worst time when his horses couldn’t stop for a
damn. Because he was just going on to the next thing, right? They weren’t getting that time to
stop and think and breathe and focus and relax and you know, really soak on what they had
done. I took smoking back up again and my horse training improved haha.
I’ll tell you something funny, completely unrelated. But occasionally I get business propositions
come into my email like we all do. Like “we think you’d be a great partnership for this, let’s hook
up and do this and I got one from a cigar company. And you just think about like, “our cigars we
think would be the perfect fit for your audience and like, and they listed three different reasons as
to why smoking cigars would be beneficial for the horse riding community. And I until you
mentioned that, Patrick, I’d completely wrote it out. But now you mention it I can see how not just
a cigarette but a cigar would leave a significant wait time.
Sorry. Yeah, I was missing I missed a trick. You can’t.
Right You got to call them back. See if they’re still interested.
Exactly. Yeah. So what’s next on the cards for you then you just done I know you’re farrier
qualification like that was? Yeah, I was like, Where did you get the time to do that? I was so
impressed. I was I was like, just squeezing that in there. Just popping it in, you know,
Popping it in. Yeah. I had the schedule that a year and a half ago…. My business manager Dede,
she could tell you where I’m going to be next December. Actually, we know where I’m going to be
next, not this coming…. So February of 2021. She tell you where I’m going to be… frightening. I
think It was about a year and a half ago that I had to schedule for the farrier course. And again,
that’s something that you know, I’ve wanted to do that since I was 16. Not going to ever be a
farrier. But just because I’m obsessive about learning more and knowing everything in my quest to
eventually take over the world.
Yeah. domination basically. Hashtag world domination Patrick King Horsemanship.
That’ll be the new hashtag. Yeah, yeah. And I was I was really fortunate. Somehow I ended up with
an excessive amount of energy like drove through the night instead of breaking up my drive from
Virginia to Oklahoma in two or three days. So I got I got home early and a friend of mine Mike
Corcoran is a saddle maker, western and dressage saddles and makes jumping saddles as well,
and I was going to pop down and visit him for a day and just visit and I ended up with, it was two
and a half days that I ended up free. So I popped down and visited with him and took a saddle
fitting school, saddle fitting course, while I was getting there, so I got to that was just a super
awesome bonus that I got to add on to that. So lucky again, you know, in those moments. At this
point, we’re coordinating the next leg on the big adventures. We’ve got a trip to Portugal coming
up again, we’ve been doing those for a couple years now.
I’m really jealous about that. I’m going to I’m, I’ve locked that in for the future. Every time that
comes up, I have like a physical reaction. I’m like, I really would want to do that.
That’s going to be super awesome. And then we’re also going to be heading over to Spain for a
couple of weeks as well after we go through Portugal. Then I’m coming back just in time to pop
over to New Zealand Actually,
I know, I know! Just flying you back to Portugal for a second. You spend a chunk of the year
training there don’t you?
It’s a great opportunity for me to go over and get lessons up to several lessons a day. While I’m
there for a couple months. The biggest reason is as I said before, I’m a princess. And I’m not a fan
of the cold.
Me either, which is why I choose to live near the Antarctic.
Yeah, you go Yeah.
It is great. I get to I get to go over there and enjoy it much nicer climate for for a good part of the
winter. But it is also my opportunity to get more lessons. Yeah. And actually the first year that we
did see my schedule, the first year that we went over there to Portugal was the longest I’d sat still
in one place for about 20 years. Wow, it’s kind of insane. Yeah. But man it was it was fantastic.
You know, as I said, it’s my opportunity to ride upper level horses, higher level horses, and work on
We all get to benefit from it as well!
Exactly right. To bring that back and and, you know, share that with as many horses as I touch,
which I think I figured it out the other day, it’s about 200 to 250 horses every month.
I feel like I’m super blessed that way to be able to get that much experience. You know, I can
experiment with so many horses. Amazing.
So that those of us out there who are like where can I learn from Patrick or how can I find out
more about him? Where what’s the best way to go about doing that?
Oh, gosh. So my website www.pkhorsemanship.com com has a Google calendar on there that’s
constantly updated with where I’m going to be around the world til February 2021.
Exactly, right. Yes, exactly. Well, at least as far out as that calendar will show it!
And we do a lot through Facebook. That’s a big, big piece for us. We try to do daily posts, not
always just educational posts, but sometimes said, you know really interacting, that sort of thing.
But we’re always posting where our clinics are going to be when my clinics are going to be. I do a
lot of lectures and things like that as well. And we’ve got, of course, the as you know, the in-hand
course that’s online, that’s going to be released again, in the spring, we have timing for when
that’s released, because students each get video coaching along with that. And that’s something
that I do outside of that course also is video coaching. So even if somebody that I’m maybe not
going to be in their country or their area, I get a lot of videos through the month that I can coach,
as writers are going and progressing.
I’m going to be adding myself to that list, as I’ve already highlighted. Yeah, that’s really cool.
Well, thank you so much for hanging out today. It was wonderful to be able to have this
conversation. I’ll link to all the bits and pieces that you described in the show notes as well once it
goes up on the actual podcast, but it’s been really fun to do this.
Awesome. Perfect. Thank you so much. This has been a blast. My first time on the other side of the
I know how was it, are you ok? Or do you need to go and have more coffee or something stiffer?
Oh man, I’ve gotta pull up the whiskey. Yeah.
That’s awesome. Oh, thank you again, Patrick. Okay.
Absolutely. Thank you so much.
Thanks so much for tuning in today. It’s always a pleasure. If you want to learn more about Patrick
and his amazing work, you can jump on his website pkhorsemanship.com and you can also find
him on Facebook and Instagram under Patrick King Horsemanship. If it’s me, you want to connect
with confidentrider.online is the place to do that. And all the details of my membership
programme, JoyRide, are there also.
Until next week, it’s peace out from me. Have a great rest of your day!