Scroll down to see Lessons 6, 7 and 8.


Physical balance has many benefits for your horse. He'll stay sounder longer. he'll have smoother, more beautiful gaits. And he'll be more focused and emotionally settled. How do you bring a horse into physical balance?  -  By shaping on a point of contact so your horse becomes internally body aware and learns how to adjust his own balance. find out what that means and learn the skills to help your own horse achieve physical and emotional balance in this DVD lesson.

The horse on the left is Oliver, a PMU draft cross.  Oliver was just two years old.  The picture was taken on day one of the clinic.  Every time Oliver stopped, he was out of balance.  His feet were all higgledy-piggledy, going every which way.  And his balance was all down hill.  Look at his chest - how pulled down he is.


In the second picture he's standing beautifully over himself and his balance is up.  Everything about him looks lifted.  He's in self carriage.  Gravity is no longer pulling him down and making him look like a an old plow horse.  


"Well, yes," you may be thinking.  "You'd expect to see this kind of change.  After all the horse in that picture looks as though he's grown up quite a bit.  He's what four in that picture?"  Actually, no.  He's still only two.  In fact that picture was taken just twenty-four hours later, after Oliver had learned to manage his body through a little mat work and shaping on a point pf contact.  Find out what that means in this DVD lesson.

Physical Balance Leads to Emotional Balance

Physical balance has many benefits for your horse. he'll stay sounder longer.  He'll have smoother, more beautiful gaits. And he'll be more focused and settled emotionally. How do you bring a horse into physical balance? By shaping on a point of contact so your horse becomes internally body aware and learns how to adjust his own balance.  Find out what this means and learn the skills to help your horse achieve physical and emotional balance in this two hour DVD lesson presented by Alexandra Kurland, author of The Click That Teaches: Riding with the Clicker.

On the surface "Shaping on a Point of Contact" is a lesson on standing on a mat - one of the foundation lessons. That's on the surface. What it is really about is learning how to work on a release to create the balance needed for upper-level performance.


The film features Keri Gorman and her three year old percheron cross, Oliver. Keri brought Oliver to the Oct. Toutle WA clinic. Oliver was originally a PMU foal. Keri got him when he was a year old. She's done a magnificent job with him. He's a good traveller. He's emotionally solid. He leads well. He's a very pleasant youngster, but . . . There's always a but. He was also three-year-old gangly. On Sat. Keri brought him into the arena to get him oriented to the new environment. She was going through the foundation exercises, including mat work. Oliver was great. He understood the mat, was willing to stand on it. But he was never square. Whenever he stopped, his legs were always sprawled every which way.


I've been wanting to get some good video of mat work for a video on mounting blocks, but I hadn't had the right horse for filming. What Oliver was doing was perfect for what I wanted. But we didn't have good light. So it was: Stop! Don't do any more. Let's wait until tomorrow when we have better light. We worked with Oliver just a few more minutes, then I did a long session with Keri going through the rope handling skills she'd need the next day in her session with Oliver. We uncovered some really important layers that needed to be shared. And of course - we weren't filming. Ah well.


That was Saturday. On Sunday we brought out the camera and got some awesome footage. I started with two ground work sessions on rope handling skills, one with another clinic participant and the other with Keri. We covered the mechanics of the lead handling: how you shape on a point of contact - what that means and how you do it. We looked at core structure, finding your t'ai chi power so you can be powerful without being aggressive. We looked at the difference between gross and fine motor control, the effect each has on the feel down the lead and the ability to release the hand. Very interesting the difference there! We explored the effect of steady contact versus working on a release. That was fascinating and such a key concept. Between the two sessions we covered many core elements of good rope handling.


And then Keri worked Oliver. He started out a little nervous. He saw his first deer, and there were goats grazing in an adjoining field that he wasn't so sure about. His nervousness turned out to be a huge asset for the taping. Keri did a beautiful job handling him, illustrat well what going to a point of contact and waiting for a give means.


Oliver was also very wiggly. Anytime Keri touched the lead, he would curl around her in a lateral bend. "For every exercise you teach there is an opposite exercise you must teach to keep things in balance." For those of you with horses that are at this wiggly stage, this will be a very useful video. Keri found the tools she needed to balance the wiggliness. In the process Oliver shifted from being a gangly three year old to a "Fred Astaire" dance partner. Very, very neat!


We filmed him again the next day and the change in him was startling. He stood square - but not just, yeah he's got his front feet together square - he was lifting through his back and the base of his neck. He was gorgeous! I made some still photos from the video to compare his before and after balance. The change is startling.


So we got good video. But more than that, we covered some very important concepts. The real core of the lesson was this: when you sit on your horse, he will either protect his spine, or he will offer you his spine. You want him to offer you his spine because that's how you get enhanced movement.


What does this mean? One of the "t'ai chi" awareness exercises I shared with Keri and included on the video is a warm-up exercise for the head and neck. It's a simple exercise that I often use to help people understand - by feeling it for themselves - the changes we are asking the horse to give us in the initial stages of a lateral flexion. The concept is: when you break a movement down into its component parts, you change the nature of the movement. That's the whole essence of clicker training. We're splitters, not lumpers. This exercise let's you experience first hand what that means.


When I use this exercise in clinics I first have people glance behind them. I ask them to make note of what they see when they glance over their shoulder. Then we go through the lesson, breaking the movement down into three steps. When I have them glance over their shoulder at the end of the process, most people will report that they can see much further around.


All good. But I can increase the range of motion yet again by guiding the process with my hands. If I stand behind someone and place my fingers gently just behind her ears, I can guide the process. What emerges is not just a freer turn of the head, but a coming alive of the entire spine. You get a real "cat stretch" lifting through the shoulder blades (the withers), that comes up from the pelvis. The spine is coming alive with energy - exactly what we want our horse's spine to do when we ride.


Sometimes I will have the person stand behind me and feel these changes by resting a hand between my shoulder blades. Almost invariably the person will press too hard and I will feel my spine stiffen. I can't give them that lovely full "cat stretch" sensation, much as I want to. My spine is protecting itself. I can go through the outer trappings of the movement, but that really glorious feel of the "cat stretch" will elude them. But lighten the fingers, take the guardedness away, and it is there to be had.


This is such an important piece to understand for our horses. Are you getting the outer trappings of a movement, or the real thing where the horse lets you inside and offers you his spine? You can't demand this. The more you demand, the more he will protect himself. This is something he gives you because he trusts you enough to let you inside.


And that's what we got on video. It was one of those perfect sessions where Keri and Oliver were at the right stage in their work together to make this leap in connection. And what is even better - we got it on film!


Shaping on a Point of Contact is part of a series of DVDs which are designed to accompany the Riding book.  These DVDs illustrate the major lessons and concepts covered in the riding book.

This DVD was first produced in Dec. 2006

Scroll down to see Lessons 7 and 8.


Do you know what your lead feels like to your horse? Can he trust your hand? Or are you inadvertently poisoning the clicker training experience with too much force? These t'ai chi" rope handling exercises will improve your balance, help you develop a more secure riding position, and give you a better understanding of the lead rope as a communication tool.

"Training is a mechanical skill. Don't let mechanics get in the way of good training." Bob Bailey


This DVD covers the morning ground work that I include in my clinics. In these sessions we leave the horses in their stalls to take a nap while their owners work on their mechanical skills. These sessions are extremely valuable. We work out the details of how we are going to ask for something before we involve the horse. This lesson looks at what I refer to as "t'ai chi" rope handling skills. 


We begin by experiencing what the lead feels like to your horse. How much can you perceive when you are tense versus relaxed? Are you balanced and how does that effect your horse. Do you know how to use the alignment of your bones and bone rotations so you can be powerful and effective without being forceful or aggressive? I use a series of Laing Gong exercises which I learned from James Shaw to help explain the rope handling skills I incorporate the clicker training. This DVD will be especially useful to all of you who are using the Riding book and who cannot get to one of my clinics.

The word exercise can put many people off. Don't think push ups or jumping jacks. The best way to describe them is to quote from James' book "Ride from Within."

"Laing Gong is a complete set of therapeutic exercises designed to unblock and create a strong flow of internal energy (chi) throughout the body. . . Beyond the general health benefits of these exercises are gains of particular interest to riders. Laing Gong enhances the range of motion in your joints while maintaining the structural balance essential in riding, and through Laing Gong, you develop highly sensitive control of your physical body as well as focus and concentration of the mind. These exercises . . . quickly and effectively increase your body's ability to ride." Ride from Within by James Shaw


In this new DVD I am presenting the Laing Gong exercises which I have found to be the most useful in understanding and accessing the rope handling skills I teach. I had help on this DVD from Ilse de Wit of the Canadian Clicker Centre. First I teach the exercises to Ilse, then we explore how they relate to ground work and to riding. We look at how you can develop better sensitivity and feel down a rope, how to improve your balance and riding position, how to use bone alignments to be powerful and effective without being forceful or aggressive.


The lesson explains why the rope mechanics work the way they do. And the exercises take you to the "t'ai chi" walk (see my Riding book - Chapter 24.) Good rope mechanics are very dependent upon being able to "walk and chew gum." Can you slide down a lead rope and step up into a balanced structure? In other words, are you using your core when you use a lead? Do you know what that means?


I also relate these exercises to riding. We look at what creates a stable, powerful riding position. We contrast this with what contributes to backwards traction and a rider who must hold onto the reins or lose her balance. We look at what allows a rider to stabilize her hand effectively versus one who is easily pulled out of the saddle. What are the subtle changes that gives a rider a secure, grounded seat?


This DVD is the third in a series of lessons which are designed to accompany the riding book. Later in the series we'll look at the underlying handling skills that lead to riding success. This lesson focuses on rope handling and body alignment. 

This DVD was first produced in Jan. 2007

Scroll down to see Lessons 8.

If you can count to three, you can teach your horse lateral work. 


When you follow the step by step lessons presented in this lesson series, that's how easy it is to teach your horse lateral work. Lateral work helps to steady your horse emotionally; it creates soft, rideable gaits; and it helps to maintain your horse's soundness. Find out how to teach your horse lateral flexions using the Three-Flip-Three counted exercise in this two hour DVD presented by Alexandra Kurland.

All horses will at times fall in on their inside shoulder, and they will drift out through their outside shoulder. If you have ridden, you have experienced this. You've been on a circle that seemed to spiral in on itself. That's your horse falling in on his inside shoulder. Or you wanted to turn across the center of the arena, but your horse kept walking down the long side toward his buddies. You could turn his nose, but he still kept drifting through his outside shoulder.


Loss of balance and its related loss of connection to the rider can be that obvious, and it can also be very subtle. This DVD helps you identify those moments where your horse is falling out of balance and you are losing your connection with him.


It begins with a short review of the "Why would you leave me?" lesson. That lesson, described in detail in the "Why would you leave me?" DVD, uses cones set out on a circle to teach your horse to stay with you and walk on a loose lead. The handler learns to recognize when her horse is connected to her, and when he is leaning in on her, or drifting away from her. As the horse connects more and more to his handler and keeps himself on the circle, the beginnings of lateral flexions evolve. 


This DVD shows you how to turn this lesson into a counted pattern that gives you the ability to separate from the circle without losing the good balance you have created. Like a gymnast on a balance beam, your horse learns how to keep himself aligned even as the patterns you are asking for become more complex.


This DVD eavesdrops in on a lesson where the handler is learning how to move from the "Why would you leave me?" circle exercise to the counted pattern of "Three-Flip-Three". Her questions -the places where she tripped over her own feet, or couldn't figure out how the pieces of the puzzle fit together - are very much the questions you will encounter when you first explore this lesson. You'll see not the finished, polished product, but how that product is produced, layer by shaping layer. 


The DVD also includes some great "t'ai chi walk" analysis of three-flip-three as the handler sorts out the pattern in her own body so she can understand better what she wants her horse to do.


The final section of the DVD looks as practical applications for lateral flexions. Lateral flexions help create not just physical balance, but also emotional balance. You'll see how to use them to:


 * get your horse past things that are frightening him.


 * to help a timid horse deal with riding in company.


 * to maneuver past obstacles out on a trail.


 * to teach your horse how to go down a hill without rushing.


Lateral flexions are the key to good balance. They help develop great gaits, they maintain soundness, and they build emotional stability. This DVD begins an exploration of lateral flexions, what they are, how to teach them to your horse, how to adjust them when your horse falls out of balance or overflexes, and how to use them for safety and performance.


This DVD is the fourth in a series I am producing to accompany "The Click That Teaches: Riding with the Clicker". It is intended to be used in conjunction with those other DVDs and the book.



This DVD was first produced in March 2007 

© Alexandra Kurland - The Clicker Center

Questions? Email kurlanda@crisny.org

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