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JOHANNA’S FOUR-STEP APPROACH

to Developing Equine Coaches

When a horse finds his way to us they are usually in one of two states, completely dissociated or extremely dominant/ defensive. Where they fall on this continuum will determine the path of intervention. My holistic approach to working with any horse or rider is to understand and develop them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I treat each horse and rider as an individual and weave my way in and out of each these four elements as I work with them. This process peels back the layers embedded by history that brought them to their current state and offers a new way to develop them into a trusting horse human relationship; exactly what is needed in coaching.

P H A S E I

Behavioral exploration on the ground

Before I do any work on a new horse we want to be sure that the horse is not experiencing any pain. What I have found is that a horse will develop major behavioral issues because they are experiencing severe discomfort. Most horses will start with subtle indicators to let the rider know that there is a pain issue. If these indicators are ignored, the horse continues to experience physical discomfort. As this escalates, their mental and emotional state becomes more and more fragile until it eventually breaks down. With any horse that comes into

“Interestingly, this whole issue of boundaries translates into how people relate to each other without horses.”

Fergie

Fergie a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare was imported from Europe with the classic behavioral symptoms of a dominant, fear based and defensive horse. Some examples of her behavior included standing at the bottom of the ramp of the trailer with her front feet planted and her hind legs kicking at no one or nothing. When I led her she would try to pull away from me or run me over. Her energy was so intense that she could barely stand still to be groomed. As with any horse that comes to me I will always start with ground work. By incorporating Natural Horsemanship techniques and just good old basic handling skills I begin to define the foundational language that will take us from the ground to under saddle and then

Johanna riding coach Fergie.

my program I always start with two different examinations. The first is a traditional pre-purchase, and if there are no major issues I will bring in another veterinarian who specializes in chiropractic and acupuncture. Their perspective provides a more holistic picture of the horse and creates a base line to work from. Based on the findings of these examinations I will next work with a like-minded farrier to make any required adjustments. We have found time and again that a horse that isn’t balanced and supported properly from the ground up often creates a myriad of other problems. The other foundation piece is the horse’s nutrition. Horses can be greatly affected by their diet. Therefore, with the help of the reps at Thera-cell I put all my horses on a whole food diet customized to the individual needs of each horse.

on to Equine Facilitated Coaching. To begin working with Fergie in a safe manner I had

to develop clear cut boundaries while developing a relationship of trust and leadership. I put her on space restriction and was consistently clear about my personal space and boundaries as well as making it clear that she was not allowed to cross it. This allowed me to safely give her the space she needed to move her feet and provide

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