In 2018, Antonio and Leslie offered a team approach to help riders reach their goals. Their students learned how to take a pro-active approach that keeps horses mentally sound, physically fit and willing to work as a full partner. Every course includes an assessment of the horse’s overall condition, including hoof care analysis, saddle fit, and a thorough equipment check.
Their courses in Italy, France, Spain and Sweden provide opportunities for a new level of learning that is designed to the help ambitious riders advance to their potential in a way that enhances the horse’s contribution to the outcome.
“Gone are the days when success in the show ring is expected to
come at the price of a horse’s mental availability and physical potential,” Leslie said. “Our clients are ambitious riders and trainers who face many challenges as responsible horse owners, and that’s what we are here to help them identify and simplify!”
Client services include:
a locomotion and soundness evaluation;
hoof care assessment;
ground-school basics using feel and release that establish a light and available forehand;
development of centered transitions that combine accurate posture and intentional speed in a desired maneuver;
equitation with a focus on optimum use of balance and core energy, and line of sight;
Team coaching, and private coaching with Leslie and Antonio is available to all students in the 3-5 day course format; group classes are small (3-8, Max) to ensure high quality. For personal coaching and apprenticeship opportunities contact
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
If you are not trying to achieve submission, what is it that you are trying to get from the horse?
You are not trying to get submission. What you want from the horse is a partnership. Someone that goes along with you. Your legs are his legs. And he moves with you the same as a dancer. You take the horse around and make the horse move, in perfect harmony.
Once you have the partner you are able to move all parts of his body -- shoulders, hips and the ribcage, the way you want, at the speed that you want. Then you have everything. The difference with submission is that you would you would have his body and his mind at the same time, not only the body of the horse.
To know what is the right feel, in a certain situation, that is something that can be learned. You have to pay close attention to every movement of the horse. His ears, the muscle tension, the look in his eyes, the way he breathes…
Practice the feel, that’s going on. Practice to know, what is happening inside them. And, obviously, when you have the chance, to have someone that can teach you, that teaches you what is happening in every movement. Then it will be much easier. A horse person, a person who has been around horses for years, he will know exactly what’s going on and when someone tells you what that means and you see something that’s going on inside the horse, you see what’s happening there, you are easily and quickly going to find the good feel for the right moment.
How do we change from Pressure Based techniques to other techniques?
And, the most important thing to change inside, in the way of doing these kinds of things is, really, seeing horse as a partner, not as a slave. When you see horses in a different way, and you realize that the horses are not against you, and they don’t want to do contrary things in response to what you ask them. Sometimes you make it very difficult for them to understand your demands, and to do what is expected of them. Sometimes, this is not clear. Other times, because they aren’t able to do as you expect them to do because of physical problems, or because they are afraid, or what you ask is too difficult to do. That is the important part. And sometimes when people think that the horse doesn’t want to do a certain thing, they start using more pressure, instead of realizing that he cannot do it.
The same thing with a physical problem. Sometimes we demand for them to do some kinds of exercises that they are physically not prepared to do it. Once you realize that, is when you are able to do things a different and better way.
And the way to do it, once you have understood that horses aren’t our slaves, and that they want, really, to please us as much as they can. We have to, first of all, learn to recognize and read the horse correctly. And that is a very important part of the job, to read the horse the right way so you can help him to do what you expect the horse to understand.
Once you are able to read the horse, the right way, and then how to communicate your desires to the horse is the next job. This will involve different technical aspects and challenges no matters how you do things, but remember to focus on the importance of timing; good timing is knowing exactly the moment to offer the feel that fits that individual horse at the right time, and to stop asking. If you keep pulling the horse will go against that pressure and the result would not be good.
To change from strictly pressure based approach to a feel and release communication the best way is when you feel it. And you realize how much better your results are, clear, accurate and soft and he participates willingly in the discussion.
The feeling that you will get, and the results that you will get, are the ones that will make you want to improve more and more, And try getting better feel with help from a good coach. This is very, very important.
You have to spend time with the horses. You have to have a lot of patience because results don’t come overnight. And, eventually, if you stick with it you will get the results you want.
HOW DOES A HORSE KNOW THAT WE HAVE CHANGED INSIDE?
When you have made the changes inside that lead to the changes a horse can understand in a new ad more effective approach he understands, the horses automatically know that you have made that change. When you stand in front of them, or on the top of them, they perceive you in a totally different way. You will understand at this point that your new approach is understood, and your connection to that horse, has changed….for the better.
And, you have to remember, because of the way that horses instinctively read people, they know what you know about them…. and they also know what you don’t know about them. So, horses automatically know that there is change in perspective and thoughts about them, and this is reflected in how you stand, how you present yourself, how you do things, how you respect them. And if he is respected, he is going to respect you.
In the beginning, as you change the way you communicate with him, the horse might become a little confused about your intention. You are not going to have the skills, or the ability to move the way you have to in order to get the results you want without a lot of practice and thought. Obviously, you are not going to be clear enough for him to understand you at the start, and that is the part that has to be learned: how, where and when to move your own body parts in a way that lets the horse clearly know what is supposed to do with his own body parts.
The horse is born knowing how to move, and, in fact, he already knows how to do any athletic, graceful or complex move that can be asked of him. The challenge for people is learning how to present these requests in a way that does not interfere with the horse’s willingness and capacity to deliver these things. Your relationship to self-control, self-discipline, and learning from someone who knows what to practice is the best way to show him what you have learned that can help him most. He already understands it perfectly, because he was born like that.
For the horse, the confusion comes at the same time it would come for a person who is trying to learn something new.
At any point in your training and efforts to improve communication with your horse, he might not understand you. If you are trying to present an already known exercise to him in a new way, a lighter or more refined way, he will reveal his clarity or his confusion, and you need to be prepared for this. You will discover these things from his reactions to a small movement, or a change in his responses to you.
The important part of all this is to establish and confirm his belief in your desire that he succeed, because when he is repeatedly corrected, this leads to a lack of confidence. The responsibility for success is on the person to offer things that the horse can understand.
The most important thing is that you see when they try, and just a little try is enough to let them know that that try that they made was in a good direction. Maybe it is not exactly what you hoped they would do, but if the try is good, he has to know! “OK! That is what I wanted. Not exactly this, let’s try a little bit more until, one day, we get that feel between us what we really wanted.
Horses really try. And they try as hard as they can. Even when we do something wrong, they try to understand, what do we want, what’s happening there. Once you get the good skill, the good communication things come fluidly, and then they “get it” easily, and he will get it, for sure, once you understand the How, When and Where to help him with the smaller parts of feel that he needs to understand to put your request from his mind, and into his body and its movements.
If I AM ALREADY A RECOGNIZED RIDER, WHY SHOULD I USE THESE TECHNIQUES?
If you already are recognized by the top level, you certainly are do a good job already, but you might know that there is more, and you want those parts, those extra refined connection parts and the feel that leads to the softer ways that a horse can respond, accurately and with full power.
It is not a matter of changing what you are doing, just adding new things to what you are already doing to get better results. And some things you think that you could do better. You could turn better, for example, or you could do the half-halt and the pirouette better.
You can get some new hints that can help you to perform better. Using a better feel and understanding where the release fits in best – for the horse and for you, too -- doesn’t mean changing what you do, but really adding to what you already do so better results are easier to obtain.
There is a very high percentage of people at all skill levels that talk about using feel, and they are interested in how feel works. It is something that most serious horse people have heard about. The discussions revolve around its value, and if it is good, or if it is not good. Some people are interested in knowing a little bit more, they are curious, and they try to investigate and they try to see how this way can help their horses. Many of them reach the point of interest from a horse that changes their life, because they didn’t know what to do with him, or that they failed with a certain horse, using the toughest imaginable solutions, and don’t understand why. And, obviously there are people have been hardly damaged, or been hardly hurt by a horse and they correctly conclude that , well, maybe that wasn’t the right way to do things. And that is when certain kinds of people try to know a little bit more about it. Other people don’t even wonder why things don’t work out.… they do things one way because they have done them that way all the time, and more or less, things work. They normalize certain situations, they make normal things that shouldn’t be normal like, for example, when the horse doesn’t turn, or get into a trailer. As if this was something OK tpo ignore, pass over and still expect that other things can happen when the horse cannot follow a lead rope, or a leading rein.
When you turn right, he goes left. It’s hard to stop. You have to push him all the time, because he’s lazy. You have to go with your leg all the time, because he doesn’t go forward. Then you have to be pulling all the time, because he doesn’t go back. Or, because that horse doesn’t go in the van, and they normalize the situation to get three or four people over there with lunge lines and whips, and different stuff to make him go in. Or, take another example, like going on the horse. Some people need three persons to go on top of their horse, and one has to hold the horse against the wall, the other has to give him a lift so that he can go up.
People who solve their problems in these ways don’t even wonder that there might be another way, a better and easier way to do it. They could put the horse next to the fence, the horse stays still, and they go up, easy as that. But they normalize their own situation and they do it like that, they go along with what they have done. And after there is a less percentage of people that do it, and that’s because to learn things you need to spend time…
If you want a light horse, easy, with full respect and with full confidence in you, and to have a horse that goes with you . . . the use of more feel can lead directly to this communication. But some people don’t believe they have enough time to make a change like this. They just do it the way they know.
Now, this is an exercise to consider.
Someone can try to see how quickly their horse understands a different presentation, it also includes an easy way to show the horse some deep respect.
This will help him prepare to understand how to offer you to a much lighter forehand. This is a simple way to test the theory, and experiment with a basic experience of your feel that horses understand.
An observant person can easily see that to get a forehand lighter in forward movements, or at all, you need to be working from the back. This is possible to “train” even when standing next to your horse.
Instead of standing at the horse’s eyes, and blocking his view of the world… Standing so far back has a purpose. Since the beginning of the horses' days, the mothers bite their little colts on the backside. They are used to that all the time. They don’t push their colts at the head, or crowd around the face. They just bite all the horses from the back, and in this way, they actually “lead” them from the back. so...they already expect you to do these kinds of things. To an uneducated eye, or a less experienced person, it might seem and actually be an unwise or unsafe approach, but it nevertheless IS the way they understand their mothers, and also learn to adjust to living their lives with other colts. It is the way they work – meaning that the feel to move, is just that. It is a feel to move the feet. Then, comes the matter of what direction to take that movement, and a colt can instinctively understand this intent from wherever it is presented. When they take the milk form their mothers, she can influence his forward movements in the best way by presentation from the back. We can learn much from this, and get results she already taught him to understand.
When a person socializes with their horse at the eye, and crowds into the head and shoulder areas, it is much easier for a horse to think that he should run over you, and to push you down. If this sort of shift in presentation sounds attractive or useful, be sure to get advice or coaching from someone who already does this well, and can explain and demonstrate the best way for a particular horse to understand your new approach to a better connection, away from the eyes.
When it comes to respect . . .
Whether you desire a respectful connection with horses or people, it begins with, and is gained by being fair, and by showing respect, first of all. Once you show respect you will receive it. This is not a matter of submission, it is a matter of understanding the point of view in another being, and the need for a two-way connection that feels correct to both sides. The horse will let you know if he respects you.
Once you get through to him, he will wants to be with you, and want to please you… and the sound of your voice will prepare him for the better, respectful experience he has learned you can offer, and exchange with him for best results. The alternative, a harsher, harder way to present a conditional connection that has fear and punishments connected to the relationship, causes many horses to shut their minds. They give you their bodies, but not their intelligence, and certainly not their souls.
And, about the matter of MAGIC!! . . .
Really there is no magic in this. And there is no trick. It is really just a matter of learning the what, when, and where. What to do, when you have to do it, and where your and focus have to be. Once you learn this in every situation in every moment, things go in a right way. Sometimes it seems as if you didn't do anything. It seems like it really could be just pure magic… because there are many things that you, or another person, did not see. The smallest things, at first may not appreciated by people because they are too small to notice…for example, just shifting your weight onto your heels, and standing up straighter and taller up, or perhaps changing the posture to present the horse with a less demanding or imposing energy, or changing your own thoughts about the perceptions that the horse has. These small things add up for the horse, and can totally alter the way the horse reacts. These are the smaller particles of feel that influence -- in large ways -- what he can choose do with you, and for you, or not.