Q: We hear you grew up in Limpopo cattle farming with your dad, tell us how you got involved with horses? A: I grew up on a maize farm initially and my dad then went on to work in the cattle trade, I helped a lot at the auctions with herding cattle. I was spotted by two cattle speculators that had horses in training. The late Aubrey Upton and Duggy Renz, suggested I should attend the academy and that’s was me hooked on racing!! 😂
Q: Who did you do your apprenticeship with?
A: Corne Offer, Billy Jackobson and Deni Smith. We were the last 4 of 17 that entered the academy in 1997.

Q: You raced in Durban for a long time but are now based in the Cape, tell us what brought you to the Cape?
A: I qualified as a professional jockey in 2001 and stayed in Durban where i did very well. Never one to really move when I have settled in, Glen Kotzen offered me the job and to be honest I was very hesitant about the Western Cape. The rugby must have had something to do with it, LOL. Haven’t looked back since then. I really must thank them for moving me here, moved a couple yards since then but call the Cape home now!

Q: Tell us about some of your most memorable rides and achievements?
A: I think any jockeys 1st winner is always one to be memorable! But winning The Mercury Sprint (GR1) for Mr Marshall and Garth Miller was one, The Cape Guineas on William Longsword was special, éspecially now that he is a breeding stallion and we have a hoof share in him. But, this years Sun Met takes the cake!!!! Wow what a memory!!

 

Q: You are back to being involved with cattle and sheep, good Afrikaans boy going back to his roots, are you looking to expand this business?
A: I’ve always loved cattle and will try be involved for as long as I can. We have a small trading business for now, maybe one day when I’m finished my racing career I can fall back on it  and build it up to be something big. I’m not one to lie on the couch or play golf so it will have to expand😂.

Q: You joke that you are due for an injury every 2nd year in September, obviously all horse related, tell us about your worst one?
A: Lol yes I have some great timing, probably the best in the world. Breaking my ankle now has definitely been the most painful and longest injury I’ve had! Most frightening one was my neck though, one of my discs had pushed into my spinal cord and was close to making me a quadriplegic, had my C5 and C6 fused. I was very lucky to walk away from that.

Q: We know you are currently off injured, we wish you a speedy recovery and will be looking out for you on your next big race day.
A: Thanks Kuda for this opportunity, much appreciated.   I’m sure I’ll be back in no time. No horses will keep this Dutchman down!!

I’ve been having a lot of fun teaching Jazz to do things and then rewarding her behaviour with a “ssscchhhh” noise (to imitate a click) and a small piece of carrot.

It’s called “positive reinforcement” and it means that every time she does something I want her to do she is positively reinforced with a piece of her favorite snack.  In the horse world, this somewhat simple idea is actually not that commonly used, with much of the training for horses being of the “negative reinforcement” kind.  Ie – if the horse doesn’t do what you want; you tap it with your stick, hold harder with your reins, shout NO, or whatever you choose to do to let your horse know you are not pleased with what they have offered.

With positive reinforcement, I can set up the conditions so that my horse has a good chance of getting something right, and then as soon as I do catch her doing what I asked for, I reward her with the “sssschhh” noise and a treat, or even just a scratch on her neck, which she loves.  Whether I am riding or working on the ground with her, it gives me huge pleasure and appreciation to see her “thinking” so hard, trying to figure out what I want and how she can give it to me.

Having studied Nancy Klein’s “Time to Think” and realizing that the ratio of appreciation to criticism needs to be 5:1 in order for one of the essential components of a thinking environment to be present, I am again struck by how easy it actually is to reward good behaviour, thereby encouraging more of the same.

I originally learnt about “clicker training” when I took Boss, the Jack Russell, to puppy school.  He learnt to sit, down, stand, “follow me” and all kinds of other things, through a bit of good old-fashioned bribery!  He gets frantic watching Jazz earning treats, and tries out all his “good tricks” to earn a small piece of her carrot!

So, with my two “besties” firmly on the path to positive reinforcement, I have really been pondering….  How can I “clicker-train” my husband??

Now, before you all giggle nervously, and ask if he knows about this plan, lets just look at what I really mean here.  Obviously, when he comes home with flowers for me, I throw my arms around him and tell him he’s the best husband in the world.  But that’s not “cued” behaviour.  That’s a special treat that he offers me “just because”.  I’m interested to see if I can set up the conditions to help him do things that he may not realize I want him to do, and then “reward” that behaviour, to try and get more of it.

Like what, I hear you ask?  Well, how about like having an open and honest discussion about emotions?  What about rewarding the places that he steps out of his comfort zone as a strong protector and provider, and tests out what it may feel like to be more vulnerable?  What about the areas where he is practicing being a good leader in, at home as well as at work?  What are the leadership behaviours I most want him to exhibit more of, and how can I “click and reward” these in the instant they are happening?

As I think about how to answer these questions in a way that makes sense to me, and doesn’t seem too weird for this post, I ask myself:  What gets in the way of positive reinforcement training?

  • Impatience – I need it and I need it NOW. This is common in our world.  There seems to be less and less time to experiment with a variety of behaviours; the pressure is on us all to perform, to get it right, and to do it instantly.  Can we create a space that allows us to slow down enough to try out some new possibilities?
  • Hurt for past wrongs – if I ask for something from you that I really need, and you don’t understand me the first time, will I shrivel up and shut down again? How can I be safe enough to stay with it, and keep trying, even though I don’t know if you will ever find the behaviour that I really want?
  • Trust – how can I trust this new way? It is way out of my own comfort zone, and the way I usually operate.  What if you use it as a way to win against me?  What if it makes me look stupid and you use that against me?  How can I trust you enough to keep trying even if we misunderstand one another the first few (hundred) times?
  • Habit – I’ve always done it this way, and I don’t think I can change enough to focus only on the good behaviours. How do you expect me to just ignore all the things you are doing wrong?

I’m going to go back to Jazz for a moment, to remind myself what she does when we are trying to learn something new together.  Often, she will offer a range of behaviours until she figures out what I want.  So, when I taught her to walk backwards by wiggling my finger, she tested what I wanted by stepping forwards, sideways and even by stamping her foot.  She only got rewarded when she took a step back.  It took a good few tries for her to figure out that that was what I wanted.  She really wanted the carrot, so she kept trying until she hit upon the behavior that worked.  While she was doing the wrong things, nothing was happening from me; when she took her first step back, the “ssscchhhh” and reward was instant.

Back to the husband…. I decided that the “click” would be a big smile, followed by a reward of some kind – either a cuddle, or a squeeze of the hand, or a back rub.  (These are things I know he likes).  After dinner last night, he plopped down in front of the TV to relax.  I went off to the study to work.  He came to check what I was doing.  I gave him a huge smile.  He sat down.  I smiled again.  He started talking.  More smiling.  We had a really lovely and important conversation punctuated by lots of smiling and loving gestures.  Sounds simple, right?  It actually was really simple.  Yet the other side is one that happens all too often; he watches TV, I nag that he never talks to me, he carries on watching TV.  Result:  no conversation and two grumpy people.

An interesting by-product of this experiment is that I get to smile a lot. And that makes me giggle a bit.  Which makes me feel happy.

I will let you know how this develops, as I keep playing with the idea of positive reinforcement….  Give it a try for yourself – you never know what could happen!

Follow us on:

Facebook – @ForgingAheadSA
Instagram – @forgingahead1

These are unprecedented times, and I’ve made so many changes to and edits to this article, that it really has taken on a life and direction of its own.  I wanted to write about motivation, and how it can be one of the most important tools in your mental skills toolbox as an equestrian.  As it turns out, motivation is one of the key skills to help us at this particular time in our history.

Its really easy to stay excited and motivated when everything is going well, isn’t it?  You won your last two classes, you aced your last exam, and you just wrote a stellar report that has your boss beaming from ear to ear.  Life is good, you and your horse are flying through the grades and everything is rosy.

But what happens when life gets in the way and you just aren’t on top of your game?  Maybe you’ve had an intense few weeks of deadlines for projects, or your new young horse tried to jump out of the paddock and is now hopping around on three legs, or you have an unexpected stop or crash in a practice session.  Or a combination of those and some other curve balls have you feeling less than confident for the upcoming event.

Like, for instance, the impossible happened, and the whole world is in lockdown because of the Corona Virus, and you wonder if anything will ever make sense again…

It might be a really challenging time for most of us riders currently, but I want to implore you not to sink into the depths of despair and give up on your hopes and dreams just yet.  Now is possibly one of the most important times in your life to get really clear about your motivation.

Never have your mental skills been more important to your health and wellbeing.  Right now, when the whole world is upside down, and everything in your life previously taken for granted, has changed; now is the time to re-group, revise and reset.

One of the most important aspects to your successful riding career is a strong mindset, that will help you to focus on what is going right, as opposed to what you can’t do.  Being able to keep going in the face of setbacks requires you to draw strength from your core motivation for doing the sport of riding.  Let’s look a little deeper into Motivation, as one of the nine essential Mental Skills of a Successful Athlete.

While there are many different definitions for motivation, for our purposes as riders, we can usefully apply Gadson’s explanation, which is “the internal and external stimuli which arouse and direct behaviour”

This suggests that motivation is both intrinsic and extrinsic, and that it has to inspire us enough to take action.  Other sources call motivation the athlete’s inner will and dedication to focus on achieving goals they have set themselves.  It is both the internal strength and the driving force behind our actions, fueled by our desire to achieve success in that area.

According to Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Sports Psychology course, intrinsic Goals come from within, and have to do with self-worth, knowledge, growth, passion, dedication, fun and purpose.  Intrinsically motivated people find it easy to motivate themselves, and often engage in an activity because it is personally rewarding, rather than for some external reward.

Extrinsic goals are from your external environment and include deadlines, social status, money, prizes, winning, failure, and perks.  Extrinsically motivated athletes have the desire to gain external rewards or avoid punishment.  Athletes who are externally motivated often find it difficult to deal with failure, and need lots of encouragement from their coaches.  Extrinsic rewards can be used to motivate athletes to acquire new skills, but once these skills are mastered, athletes may become more intrinsically motivated to pursue the activity.  External rewards are also a useful source of feedback, allowing athletes to know when their performance has met the required standard.

Motivation is what gets you out of bed in the mornings.  Even on days when the clouds seem really dark and threatening.  And at this time, when many equestrians are in lockdown without their beloved horses for comfort and strength, it can be both useful and comforting to develop a motivation statement that will remind you of all you love about riding, and what you aspire to in the sport.  “Reminding yourself of your passion for the sport and your desire to accomplish your goals can help you overcome a challenging time,” says Tonya Johnstone

Uncovering and working with your core motivation statement can help you to focus on what’s important, even if only for today, for now.

So here’s how to start.  You will need a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.  If you feel at all creative, you can use different colours for each section.

In the middle of the page, write the word, Riding – or any other word that inspires you.

Circle it.  Then, draw lines from this word, as though you are drawing a sun, and answer the following questions in a bit of a brainstorming session:

What do you love about riding?

What type of rider do you want to be?

What are your favorite riding memories?

This can be a rather intimidating exercise to try on your own, so I’ve included some examples to get you thinking.  The key is to not limit yourself to only one or two statements.  Try and get about 4 or 5 per question.  Don’t edit and don’t judge yourself.

Once you have about twenty or so words or short phrases coming from your sun, sit back a little, and reflect.  Some people like to put this away for a day or two, to percolate a bit.  When you come back to your mind map, circle 3 or 4 words that really resonate for you.

Now you have the basis for a sentence, acronym or motto that really epitomizes your motivation for riding, or whatever sport or area of your life you are currently working with, and wanting to be clear about.  Play around with it, and begin to formulate your own, personalized motivation statement.

Here are a few examples:

“I am excited to develop, excel and achieve this year.”

“Working with horses, I am positive, encouraging and an analytical rider.”

“I’m a thinking rider, who loves to learn with my horse.”

PACE – Planning +  Action + Commitment = Excellence

I have found over and over again, that this exercise can be incredibly grounding, and reminds us of what’s really important to us within the larger context of the sport we love.

Once you have your motivation statement, use it everywhere.  Put it on your mirror, pin it to the cover of your show jacket, put it up in the tack room, if you have one at home.  Even during this time of lock down, a strong motivation statement about your riding can keep you focused on where you are headed, and this is an excellent place from which to do your planning.

 

Reference:

Johnston, T. (2012). Inside your Ride: Mental Skills for being happy and successful with your horse. Boulder, CO: Equine Network

Q: How did you start out with horses and what led you to become a barefoot trimmer?
A: I’ve been an animal lover since I was a small boy. I used to watch the farriers working on our horses. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to be trained in the art of shoeing by a family of 4 Farriers (3rd generation Farriers). During the years I spent with them, I gained invaluable knowledge.

I have a very analytical mind and I always need to understand how things work. My fascination with the foot of a horse and how it functions has driven my quest for knowledge on the subject. There is still so much to be learned and understood about the foot.  As technology advances, theories change about how the foot functions and works. Shoeing, for a tall person like myself can be physically taxing and I therefore found trimming to be much easier on my body.

Barefoot trimming is extremely rewarding as one sees so many structural changes in a surprisingly short period of time. Especially with deformed and neglected feet, or feet with pathologies. It is evident how the foot wants to heal itself when given the right stimulus. My obsession with the functions and anatomy of the feet has brought me to a point where I concluded that barefoot is the way forward.

Q: We have been told that Pete Ramey has had a major influence on your work. Please tell us a bit more about the man and how he has influenced you.
A: Yes, Pete was able to provide answers that made sense to many of my questions with regards to the  workings of the foot and how to accurately identify the placement of the internal structures by using the outside foot structures. He is one of the major role players in the barefoot industry. He is based in America and he has a wealth of knowledge and experience. His approach and understanding of the foot is really very good.

Q: Currently you are studying KC La Pierre’s work, what are you learning from him that is having an impact on your work?
A: KC La  Pierre is another one of the industry’s leaders in barefoot farriery and he heads the school of Applied Equine Podiatry. His work is on a different level in that it focuses a lot more on the inner workings of the foot, structures and function. His foot balancing technique has a few more dimensions than the normal trimming teachings which even encompasses the neurological effects of trimming. His motto is Structure + Function = Performance, which makes a lot of sense once you study his material.

Q: Finally, why, in your opinion, barefoot vs shod?
A: Barefoot horses’ feet are much healthier and their structures function like nature intended. It allows me to be proactive in prevention of serious unsoundness issues by reading the foot and any abnormal wear is investigated immediately. How the foot wears  tells one exactly how the horse is moving and using it’s body.

I can really see healthy structures in the feet that I work on. I incorporate structural health in guiding me regarding where and what to trim. Some horses do need protection when being worked; domestication and breeding have negatively affected our equines feet. If the horse requires protection there are various options i.e., Hoof boots, glue on boots/shoes or shoes. I believe all horses should be paddock sound when barefoot.
Sometimes just changing a horse’s environment or diet is enough to allow them to be 100% sound for their intended use. There are a lot of horses that I believe can go barefoot that are currently in shoes. Horses with bad foot conformation more often than not need protection. The reality is that most people opt for shoes as it’s easier. In my opinion there is still a need for further research in dealing with barefoot horses and keeping them barefoot when treating injuries and foot pathologies. I have successfully developed various remedial trimming techniques for various foot pathologies. I incorporate what I have learnt from remedial shoeing and shoe mechanics and apply it to my trimming protocols. Quick and positive improvements have been observed in most of the rehab cases that I have been involved with. The added bonus is that trimming horses allows me to travel to different parts of the country and continent. I travel on a monthly basis between Gauteng and the Western Cape and also a few times a year I travel into Africa.

Q: If anyone is interested in your services, how can they get in touch with you?
A: My cell # 0832128993 or can message me through my FB page  https://www.facebook.com/theodorejanssen

I fell off today.

It strikes me as a rather memorable event, because I came to a few important conclusions as I reflected on the ride as I hacked home after my lesson.  Firstly, it’s only the second fall I’ve had after returning to riding just over five years ago, after a break of 15 years.  Secondly, I realized I had crossed an important barrier in my riding.

How so?  Well, this fall happened while jumping.  Over a very scary (to my horse) water tray.  So, what’s useful about it?  Well, it brought up the conversation that I have been avoiding with my Inner Critic.

Who is my Inner Critic, I hear you ask?  We all have a version of this voice in our heads to a greater or lesser extent.  The Inner Critic is that nit-picky part of ourselves, that leaps over to offer advice when things aren’t going very well for you.  It goes something like this, for me: “What on earth made you think you could jump that!?”  And, “You should probably just stick to hacking.” Also: “Come on now, pull yourself together, you are so embarrassing!”

Or, sometimes, when things have gone extremely well, like for example you just won your last class, and that little voice in your head says something like this: “Well, this win doesn’t really count because the class was so small.”  Or, “What a surprise – I wouldn’t have won if so and so was competing today.” Or even, “Well, well, you better enjoy this win, its unlikely to happen again soon.”

To be fair, my inner critic didn’t start out so mean.  She was originally the voice who motivated me to work harder, and helped me with my discipline and planning.  She was my biggest (internal) fan, and she made me believe in myself and my ability to succeed.  But gradually, as I started to get better at whatever new skill I was learning at the time, she started to have an opinion on how I could be and should be doing things differently.  She gradually started to show up more and more, and she definitely made things less fun.  Eventually, I realized that she was running the show, and my confidence was in tatters.

Most of the people that I have coached have had to confront their Inner Critic at some point and remind this voice that although it means well, and it really wants you to succeed, constantly criticizing everything you do is not actually useful, and doesn’t make you do things better. It often makes you feel like a failure, or a fraud, or just flipping lucky to have got where you are – rather than encouraging you and boosting your confidence with small successes.You see, the very trait of our characters as competitive riders that drives us to do our best, to be determined to succeed against the odds and to bravely step up when we are shaking in our boots, is the same little quirky trait that can turn on us and rob us of small moments of joy, and little celebrations of tiny successes. It makes you so focused on producing perfect plaits that you forget to chuckle at your horse’s goofy morning yawns. It can make you all too serious, and destroy your perspective of the bigger picture, while it concentrates on picking every little detail of your ride apart.

As a rather toxic sideshow, it also makes you more critical of everyone else, so if you have a bad round, you end up shouting at your mom, or being irritable with your horse or snapping at your groom….

So here’s how my conversation went, with my own Inner Critic….

IC: You fell off!

Me: Yup – I sure did!

IC: You could have hurt yourself, and where would that leave you? You are too old to be doing this jumping stuff again!

Me: Actually, I thought I did a pretty good job of landing and bouncing, for my age!

IC: Oh come on! Don’t be so silly – you are not actually going to pursue this jumping thing, are you?

Me: Thank you for your input – I need you to take a time out now. I know you care about my safety, and about me looking efficient and professional, but I really love my jumping lessons, and when you whine at me all the time, you take all my enjoyment away. You are not the boss of me.

IC: I’m trying to help you succeed!

Me: I don’t really need to succeed at every single thing – my confidence needs me to believe in myself and remind myself that I’m having fun and enjoying the process. Sometimes you are really hurtful and say horrible things that make me feel incompetent. I want you to back off and sit down please. I will let you know when I need you to comment.

As I smiled to myself and patted my horse on my way home after my jumping

lesson, I thought about all the jumps I had jumped beautifully, and how proud I was of Punchy for overcoming his fear of the dreaded water tray enough to actually jump it, even after dislodging his mom. We ended the lesson on a really good note, and I realized that after much practice, and lots of other experiences, both horsey and in general life, my own Inner Critic is becoming more like a rather tame and friendly dragon. It still has an opinion, but as long as I remember that I’m in charge, it doesn’t breathe smoke and flames over me anymore.

This article appeared in HQ’s April/May issue and was written by Linda Hennings – Forging Ahead

6 Indicators of SIJ pain/stiffness

Either Yes/No indication
3/more out of 6= POSITIVE pain/stiffness

 

  1. Reduced Lumbosacral flexibility:
    • Side to Side (Lateral) and Up/Down (Ventrodorsal) mobility should be symmetrical
    • NOW: Presence of “guarding mechanism”
    • Horse avoids movement on one side or overall movement

 

  1. Tracking narrow behind:
    • Normally horses hind feet follow front feet, on 2 tracks
    • NOW: Looks like walking on a cord with the hindlegs
    • Easily spotted in walk/trot
    • Could be 1 or both hindlegs that track narrow

 

  1. Lateral walk:
    • Normal gait pattern the front and opposite hind leg work together
    • NOW: 2 feet on the same side move forward at the same time
    • Spotted when walking in serpentine, often in one direction(L/R)
    • In severe cases can be seen on straight line

 

  1. Haunches/Quarters in/out:
    • Normally horses walk, trot, canter on 2 tracks.
    • Front and hind limbs stay on the same track(straight)
    • NOW: Horse moves in 3 tracks, haunches either in or out
    • More obvious on circle and mostly to one side

 

  1. Asymmetry of the tail:
    • Normal position is midline, slightly elevated
    • NOW: If in walk on straight line it is kept to one side(L/R)
    • In serpentine the tail is “Locked” to one side(L/R)

 

  1. Bunny hop canter:
    • Normal canter has separation between footfalls of hind end
    • Rhythmically moving (1,2 :1,2)
    • NOW: No separation between footfalls, hops like a bunny and croup is higher
    • No rhythm of (1,2 : 1,2), moving together (1,1 : 1,1)

Earlier this week I had to go for a medical treatment. It’s something that has to get done every year with a 6 month follow up so it isn’t unplanned or surprising in any way, but unfortunately my personal medical aid policy doesn’t cover this treatment so I find myself down R9000 per appointment. As a student in the very dry COVID effected economy, this is a large sum of money to spend all at once. It got me thinking about how, if I couldn’t afford it or get help paying at some point, I would just go without the treatment and suck up whatever consequences there would be. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it is something that I could do if needed.

Then I started thinking about my horse and his occasional medical bills. If the same sum of money was needed for some sort of treatment for him, I would make every sacrifice I could to find the money for my beloved gelding. Would I sacrifice my monthly portion of food money to contribute to the payment? Yes. Would I live off of 2 min noodles for the next month because I had far less money for food? Yes. Would I do the same thing to pay for the best treatment for myself? No. So what is the difference then? It’s the same amount of money so why am I willing to make sacrifices for one situation and not the other?

I think it comes down to being able to make choices for ourselves, but not being able to have our horses make their own choices. I am fully capable of deciding to forgo a treatment because I know what the consequences are and what I will have to deal with because of that. Horses can’t do that, and we certainly can’t explain it to them either so the decision that feels most morally correct is making a self sacrifice to do what is best for the unknowing horse. It’s not our place to chose the “harder option” for them so we always go with the best option.

Problem – if I am always choosing the best option for my horse, how do I survive paying for my horse’s unplanned whoopsies? Personally, I feel that since horses are the most accident prone creatures to walk the earth, insurance is the only real way to secure the best for the horse while not having to survive on 2 min noodles until the payment is done. What is a monthly fee worth when you need to fork out a chunk of money for some treatment – life threatening or not? That small fee is priceless! The general understanding is “insurance may save your horse’s life one day” and while that is true, the part we all forget about is how insurance indirectly saves the self sacrificing owner too! Insurance isn’t there just for the horse, it is there for the owner’s own well being, for the emotional security of the carers of the horse, the little girl who comes to the yard every day to feed that horse a carrot, the trainer who has put hours of work and dedication into the horse, and everybody else who is involved in some way or another. It’s there for everyone and that makes it priceless.

Follow this dyanmic duo on instagram @crazyredchestnut

Q: Sue we understand both your daughters are avid event riders, where and when did your interest in horses start? We understand you own the very successful Global Herbs and are an expert when it comes to fitting the correct bit for a horse? Please tell us a bit more.
A: I am from a non horsey family, although my Grandfather had a great fondness for hoses – particularly heavy horses. That may be why I imported my massive Irish Draft into South Africa! Global Herbs has been running for over 20 years, I started it to fund my rather nasty addiction to horses as I felt my horses should be funded independently of the “housekeeping money”. My daughters are identical twins and the current SA Junior Eventing Champion and Reserve Champion.

Q: How did you get into bit fitting, its quite an unusual service?
A: The twins are at boarding school at St Annes in Hilton with their horses, after one year of commuting I decided that I would also relocate to the Misty Midlands. Being closer to them meant I could help them with their four horses and competition schedules – leaving them to concentrate on academics. I had a huge amount of time on my hands so I decided to reconnect with Bomber Nel whom I have known for a number of years. At the time Amy was riding an ex racehorse called Heavy Metal (ex Durban July winner) who was proving impossible to bit. We discussed him at length and concluded that the only way to know was to “look inside” and so in mid 2017 the journey began….

Q: We understand you work very closely with an equine dentist, why is that so important?
A: It is the same as having a lameness issue and the vet working with the farrier..the saddle fitter working with physio, we must respect each other’s fields of expertise and complement each other well. I am not a dentist and cannot see what their years’ experience and training show them – without their input I would be bit fitting blindly. Horses sadly cannot tell us what causes them pain so we work together.

Q: What is the process to assess which bit would suit a particular horse? I would imagine the horses mouth conformation plays a part, anything else?
A: It is not just about the bit and the horse – there is also the rider and the discipline to take into account. Once the EDT has given me his rundown I spend time listening to the rider and looking at the horse’s temperament and history. I will not deviate from the comfort of the horse and I will bit the mouthpiece to the horse.  The cheek piece then belongs to the rider and I will fit according to their needs.

Q: Do you have a particular brand of bit that you prefer and why?
A: I am fiercely loyal to Bomber Nel, his passion and knowledge of bitting is unsurpassed. South Africa is very lucky to have him! Bomber is revered worldwide and highly respected by many top riders. I am eternally grateful for the knowledge he has passed on to me!

Q: What is a very common problem that you see with bitting?
A: Ignorance. Knowledge is power and people seem to have a one size fits all attitude. Bitting is pretty much your brakes and steering and yet people tend to pay it so little attention. I see people riding with incredibly expensive saddles, bridles, boots, helmets and a R300 bit 3 sizes too big….

Q: We have been told that you do a lot of work overseas too, who are some of the top riders that you have fitted for?
A: Andrew Hoy, Francis Whittignton, Liz Halliday, Like Barber Davis, Jennifer Whittaker, Jess Dunn, Charlotte Du Jardin, harry Mead, Tom Crisp, Lisse Anderson, Holly Smith

Q: You do quite a bit of work throughout South Africa, how could we get in touch with you to book an appointment?

A: Whats app is the best way…. AS horses move through the different stages of their training (particularly top performance horses) they require changes to their bits. When I am not on the road doing actual bit fitting I am watching video clips of horses from all over the world that I have bitted, referring to notes and making changes – so I am never far from my phone.

Q: You have quite a history of working with riders and improving their bodies, I understand you started out teaching Pilates. Please explain how this improves the way in which the rider communicates with their horse.
A: Pilates gave me the understanding of the importance and impact of posture and mobility on the body and its performance. However I soon moved on to another exercise modality called the Egoscue Method and have since added a muscle testing based technique called Neurokinetic Therapy (NKT) which works in conjunction with the motor control center of the brain. These modalities have given me the tools to help alleviate pain and dysfunctional movement patterns within the body. So many of my clients lived in chronic pain due to previous injuries or repetitive movement from computer, office work or from sport. As all horse riders know, falling off a horse happens and it often leads to injury. Alleviating chronic pain and realizing that life can exist pain free really broadens your horizons. When your body is operating effectively with natural freedom of movement, it allows you the subtle application of the aids that are the hallmark of a good rider. It also enables you to maintain the correct posture and body alignment that assists in you moving naturally with the horse. Being pain free removes the distraction that arises from experiencing your enjoyment of the sport of riding through a filter of body aches and pains.

My primary focus is on the physical body and restoring correct movement patterns and mobility, however I am becoming more and more aware of the impact of emotional trauma on my ability to correct movement and mobility in a client. Because the nervous system of the body is also affected by emotions, we sometimes need to treat the body as a whole with other modalities before the changes from my modalities can really be effective.

Q: What are the most common problems that you encounter with riders and how do you work with them to fix the issues?
A: There are two… Sonnentänzer and Berghof Eragon… and both involve 1st’s that I am proud of.
Sonnentänzer I purchased at the Elite auction Vechta, Germany and put him through his Stallion licensing. He was the first South African owned stallion to be licensed in Germany. A few months later, Callaho licensed Benicio.
The other is Berghof Eragon who I bred and became the first ever African bred Warmblood to be licensed as a breeding stallion in Europe.

Q: Which stallion do you feel has impacted modern breeding the most and why?
A: The most common problems I see are as a result of past injuries or scars from medical procedures or injuries. I use a technique called NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) to test what dysfunction the injury or scar is causing in the body. The motor control center in the brain has an incredible ability to compensate when the physical structure of bones and muscles is injured or damaged by finding ways of keeping the body moving and operating by using other muscles. These compensation patterns do the job but are not the most effective or efficient. The physical injuries then heal, but by then the compensation mechanism or pattern is established and the brain has forgotten the most efficient or optimal way of doing a movement. These patterns often cause pain and limited mobility because the physical structure and muscles are now not being used correctly. NKT is a tool that helps me identify what these dysfunctional patterns are and gives us a method of reminding the brain how to perform a movement correctly. In simple terms, NKT debugs the neural software that tells the muscle hardware how to operate properly

Q: Tell us about one of the most chronic/serious problems that you have encountered
A: The most challenging problems I have encountered are clients that have had damage or change to their physical body structure, for example removal of a body part due to cancer or severe damage in ankle joints, spinal fusions etc. As I mentioned previously, the body’s design gives it the ability to move, so when the design function is changed its movement ability is reduced and the body compensates around that damage. It then starts using other muscles to do the job of the damaged one. This is unfortunately a chronic state, but we can stimulate the body and encourage it to perform as close to design function as possible, given the physical limitations.  It is amazing how the body can keep going despite the change in its design function; disabled athletes have shown us what can be achieved with a damaged body, but working with an impaired design function in the body, has been the most challenging part of my work.

Q: Dynamic Posture Performance has quite a different approach – I understand that the body is assessed and issues are typically symptoms of past injuries that we would never imagine would cause a problem. Please tell us how you assess the body and release blockages.
A: The client first fills out an in-depth history form – even though the injury may have happened 10 years ago, at birth or just a week ago, the neurological dysfunction does not change until we reprogram it through the brain and the central nervous system. In the appointment, I take the client through different movement functions to identify what compensation patterns the body has fallen into so that I can find the link to the dysfunctional pattern. Using the NKT protocols, we can then do a muscle test and find out where the weak inactive muscles are in the body. From there I would identify what the connection is and what would fire and turn that inactive muscle back on. The client will be given homework for their specific release and activation exercises that correct the weak and inactive muscles that were not functioning correctly or optimally.

Q :Once you have assessed and released as much as you can, what are the next steps? Do you work with the rider on an ongoing basis?
:Some clients choose to continue with ongoing maintenance sessions after addressing their immediate issues. In these sessions, we challenge the body by finding potential problems that could cause it to blow out, go dysfunctional, and then clear those impacts. Others choose to only work with me again when they have new issues or injuries to address. Their bodies are at a good functional point and are performing well within their given activity, so there is no need to fiddle with it. It depends on the person and their desires or goals.

:Where do you work from and how would we get in touch with you?
:I am based at the Collaborative Healing centre at 17 Cactus road Kyalami. You can either contact me via cell 0784111061 or email ayla@dynamicpp.co.za or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AylaDynamicPosturePerformance or on the NKT Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NeuroKineticTherapySouthAfrica