BY MARGIE DONDE
There has been a lot of chatter recently about grains, wheat and gluten. From Tim Noakes on Carte Blanche stating that a protein and fat diet with very low carbohydrate content and no gluten is best, to a variety of webinars on the dangers of gluten.
A recent large study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with gluten sensitivity had a higher risk of death, mostly from heart disease and cancer (i) with a 72 percent increased risk in those with gut inflammation related to gluten.
Gluten sensitivity plays a major role in a host of diseases.
WHAT IS A LEAKY GUT?
Leaky gut is a condition affecting the lining of the intestines, creating a dysfunctional environment for proper digestion. It is also called “increased intestinal permeability”, because particles of incompletely digested foods, bacteria, and other waste by-products may leak through the intestines into the bloodstream.(v) It is usually caused by some form of damage to the intestinal lining. In lay-mans terms your gastro-intestinal tract, particularly your small intestine, is like a shag carpet(iii). All “shags: absorb different nutrients so if they are not working properly you can stop absorbing certain nutrients. Each “shag” is covered with “cheese cloth” that lets certain size molecules through. With leaky gut you get tears in this “cheese cloth” which lets larger molecules through. This allows the proteins that you eat (the protein in wheat is gluten) to permeate your intestine, not as single chain molecules but as multi-chain molecules. Your immune system sees these multi-chain protein molecules as an invader. This causes inflammation. Your immune system then uses lots of energy to make antibodies to fight this “invader”. So every time you eat a particular food you body spends lots of energy trying to get rid of the food as if it is a virus or bacteria – this means that long term, your immune system becomes compromised as it spends more and more time responding to something that it thinks is an infection but is not. Once your immune system is challenged all diseases are possible including cancer.
Instead of keeping the bad stuff out, the delicate lining of your intestine is letting all the bad stuff in, and your body is breaking down from the inside out.
Once the gut is sensitised to gluten the intestines become more permeable and allow a lot of other proteins to cross the gut wall and challenge the immune system. These protein molecules, which may not have been a problem before, now become a problem for the person and very soon the person has multiple food sensitivities.
Intestinal permeability causes damage in the body. A leaky gut allows food particles, environmental chemicals, and bacterial waste to leak through your digestive tract and into the rest of the body – once inside, these foreign particles travel to different areas of the body and trigger an immune response, promoting inflammation and jump starting the development of chronic disease.
But this is the real problem. A large percentage of people who have a problem with eating gluten don’t even know it. They believe their health problems are related to something else entirely or in many instances have no idea what their ill health relates to. So they start taking medication for their symptoms, create more symptoms and don’t realise that there is a really simple solution. Well not that simple actually because the solution means cutting out all gluten products. Not so easy to do in modern society where much of our food is already packaged and processed for our “on the go and ever busy” lives.
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. (ii) These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, migraines, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, dementia, and epilepsy.
In essence gluten sensitivity creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Go to a Kinesiologist and let them check you for food sensitivities. Click on the directory link above for a Kinesiologist in your province
Or eliminate all gluten for a short period of time (2 to 4 weeks) and see how you feel. Don’t eat the following foods:
- Gluten (barley, rye, oats, spelt, wheat,) -that means no bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes, pies, refined pastries of any sort.
- Hidden sources (soup mixes, salad dressings, sauces, as well as, some soaps, lipstick, certain vitamin supplements, medications, stamps and envelopes you have to lick, and even Play-Doh.(iv))
This means if you want to find out if gluten is an issue NO CHEATING – JUST ONE CRUMB OF GLUTEN CAN AFFECT YOU FOR UP TO 3 MONTHS.
In next month’s newsletter we will have more on the emotional aspects of leaky gut.
(i) Ludvigsson JF, Montgomery SM, Ekbom A, Brandt L, Granath F. Small-intestinal histopathology and mortality risk in celiac disease. JAMA. 2009 Sep 16;302(11):1171-8.
(ii) Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac sprue. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8. Review
(iv)Dr Mark Hyman MD
(iii)Dr. Tom O’Bryan
In previous issues of the newsletter we looked at the physical symptoms of leaky gut or dysbiosis and the emotional aspects that exacerbate it or even cause it. Now we have a look at what support may be required to repair the damage.
Besides staying off the offending substances for a while to allow the gut to heal physically, (proponents of the gluten free lifestyle say that staying off any gluten forever is the best approach for health), It may be necessary to take supplements to support the changes.
Firstly though, eating healthy organically grown and non GMO foods is a must. Avoid anything that triggers an inflammatory response, which can include foods like dairy, eggs, gluten, wheat, soy and peanuts. Deal with emotional issues, particularly if you are the type of person who takes on too much, if you want to save the world and if you don’t have boundaries around the need to help others. A Kinesiologist can help you to find out which foods enhance your energetic system and which may cause a reaction as well as to change your emotional stance to one that supports your health.
Most proponents of a gluten free diet recommend the 4 R’s to support any Kinesiology changes made and your Kinesiologist may muscle test for what you need to support the changes.
If leaky gut has been present for a long time removing all foods that increase permeability is imperative as well as treating fungal overgrowths.
Citrus seed extract and caprilic acid help to kill the overgrowth while cutting out yeasts, sugars and fermented food from the diet for three months will assistance. This will help calm the over sensitized immune system as well as reverse the inflammation in the gut. Also treating parasites, that is, a good deworming protocol, may be necessary.
This means replacing digestive factors and enzymes.
Digestive enzymes (HCL) and pancreatic enzymes would be beneficial especially if there is a feeling of bloating or over fullness after eating meals.
One needs to reintroduce friendly gut bacteria or probiotics, like Acidophilus, Bifidobacteria and bifidum species. Probiotics are good bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. There are ten times more probiotics in your gut than there are cells in your body. Make sure that the formulation you use contains live bacteria and check if it needs to be refrigerated.
Specific nutrients which have been shown to support intestinal repair and function are:
L-Glutamine, Glutathione , Gammalinoleic acid (GLA), vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin B5, vitamin E
The Homeopathic preparation Mucosa compositum from Heel is also beneficial.
Dr Axe (www.draxe.com) recommends peppermint essential oil to soothe the digestive tract and reduce inflammatory symptoms associated with food allergies.
Happy eating until next time!
Dr Alta Smit MBBCh.BSC(Phys) COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE, VOL 2 1997
In the last newsletter we spoke about the physical symptoms of leaky gut or dysbiosis. So let’s have a look at the emotional issues that can exacerbate or even cause a leaky gut.
We have been lead to believe that there can be a single cause of health problems. However in my 24 years of working with clients in the holistic health field, I have noticed that without exception there are many factors; genetic predisposition, life-style, modern food and eating habits, relationship issues, emotional responses, positive or negative ways of thinking and many other factors affect each and every client I have seen. Most interestingly, change of mind set and therefore the way a person feels seems to be very powerful in changing any health problem.
I remember working with a young girl, in her teens, who had constant health issues, to the point of not being able to attend school for months at a time. She was diagnosed with many different things by many different doctors – Chronic fatigue, depression, viral infection etc – and yet today as a young adult she is as healthy as can be. The real issue was the pressure she put on herself to achieve, to do well, to be top of her class. Now, as a person who has left school and is following her passion working with young kids she is healthy and well. She no longer feels that she has to live up to others expectations, she is no longer comparing herself to her class mates.
When working with leaky gut, and food sensitivities in general, I have found that there is a common theme. The person normally is very sensitive to others and the world around them. They are empathetic to others emotions, take on too much, want to save the world and don’t have boundaries around the need to help others. They are too “thin skinned”. This emotional stance is reflected in their physiology. They become overly sensitive to the foods that they eat, the barriers between the gut and the surrounding tissue becomes open and the gut begins to leak.
“The Kinesiologist acts as a tour guide to empower the client to make holistic choices for their own wellbeing, using the client’s subconscious and physical prompts as sign posts”
A Kinesiologist can test the client for food sensitivities and as discussed in the last newsletter, it is often appropriate to stay off the offending substance for a while to allow the gut to heal physically. (Proponents of the gluten free lifestyle say that staying off any gluten forever is the best approach for health). More importantly the Kinesiologist will work with the client over a number of sessions to help the client develop a new and different approach to the world around them. This is the most important aspect to make permanent changes. Once the client is able to recognise, understand and break the patterns that hinder them they can then create a positive change in all aspects that will support the body in engaging its natural healing process. Click on the directory link above for a Kinesiologist in your province.
Next time we will have a look at what supplement support can help the gut to heal.
2014 was an exciting year of change for me. One of the biggest privileges I had was to be introduced to the world of teaching Kinesiology. Something I feel so passionate about I am now able to pass on to others! Although we started off with just a few students, this being our first year of teaching in Durban it was such a privilege to work, learn and grow with the students. Between the laughter, tears, victories and frustrations we quickly became a close unit and the wonderful ladies encouraged each other to continue even when the goal seemed impossible to achieve. The students are very close to obtaining their BKP certificates and it has been such a pleasure watching them grow into competent Kinesiologists. I am excited to see where this will take them in the future.
And the students have the last word!
19TH MARCH 2013
My wife recently gave birth to twins and had a caesarian. Being in excruciating pain I tried the figure 8s technique from the pain unit (BKP 107). I did not have my notes with me so I worked from memory. I found the direction that caused unlock and did figure 8’s in the opposite direction. I then challenged for deeper levels. and repeated the procedure. I repeated this until all was clear on all levels.
Her feed back was that she could feel the energy being shifted to the lateral part of her abdomen and that she felt pain relief.
The down side was that the pain returned an hour later. Posted by Paulo
I have been wondering recently if stress is so much a part of our lives that if its possible to not experience stress. Traffic, time constraints, responding to emails, facebook, tweeting, and now blogging. How much extra stress have we created for our selves in this new global world that we live in.
I would love to hear from you. Please sign up and then login to respond to this post. How do you experience stress? Can we ever get away from stress? How do you know you are under stress? How do you know that you are not stressed? What does stress and non stress feel like in your body?
Is stress our circumstances, our state of mind or our personality type? What do you think?
OW STRESSED IS YOUR HORSE?
(Taken from the Kinesiology Workshop – Happy Horses written by Margie Donde)
Horses are prey animala, i.e. nature intended that they get eaten for a living. Their natural instinct is to herd together for protection and to roam looking for food. Their natural position for eating is with their head down and their backs rounded. In nature they eat for most of the day and their digestive systems are designed to work continuously.
Horses have been taken out of their natural environment where they have lived for thousands of years. The domestic horse today often lives in the stable for the most part of the day, or walks in a small paddock without adequate availability to grass. Often they do not have access to other horses to play with or groom. They are fed at times that are convenient for us, their owners or keepers, with food that has been heated and treated which may affect the vitamin and mineral content.
They may be ridden with ill-fitting saddles and bridles and when riding we tend to force them into a frame that best suits humans. They are expect to be ambidextrous when riders are very often one sided. They are ridden on uneven ground; exposed to horseboxes, car fumes, noise and taken away from the only herd environment they know – their mates back at the stable yard.
All of this causes stress. This could be mental, emotional or physical stress. Due to the fact that horses are prey animals, they easily get stressed and believe their very survival is at stake. Once they are stressed their natural ability to heal themselves may be affected.
Lets consider the different types of nutritional stress that a horse may incounter
Studies have shown that horses in the wild roam about 30 kms per day where they are exposed to and thrive on different scrub, grass, herbs (weeds) fruits and tubers. The stabled horses today are mainly fed concentrates and processed and baled food.
In the first part of this century, there was little advancement in horse nutrition and little research was undertaken. However, in the last few years, there has been a great increase in interest in this whole area. The conventional feeds today are mostly made up of processed synthetic, chemically adulterated ‘nutrition’. It may be argued that this diet has produced healthy successful horses for many years. However many sources agree that with conventional diets we have seen an increase in ailments.
This means that we have now added a new stress to our horses – NUTRITIONAL STRESS!
NUTRITIONAL STRESS MAY CONSIST OF:
Pelleted food and concentrates may have been heated and may contain preservatives, flavourings, and waste grain products. They may have added vitamins and minerals but this does not necessarily mean that these nutrients can by utilized by the horse as these nutrients may have been exposed to heat rendering them ineffective.
The grains in the concentrates tend to create an overly acid system, which may be a problem for some horses. The wild horse seldom encounters grains.
Eregrostis, teff and hay crops contain pesticides, fungicides and herbicides used on and around pastures. Studies have shown have detrimental effects on the brain, liver, kidneys and immune system, as well as the environment, over the long term. The use of synthetic fertilizers and the resulting depleted soils that much of our baled grass is produced on eliminates much of the nutritious qualities of these otherwise natural foods.
THE NATURAL DIET
A natural diet for the horse is fresh grass, hay and herbs (weeds). If a horse eats only a diet of prepared, ‘dead’ feed it will not receive nor develop the intestinal flora that promote good digestion.
Tall, wild grass and beneficial weeds should be encouraged, and rotating pastures often to limit worm ingestion will help maintain their natural state.
Teff, eregrostis, lucerne, and smuts finger are the more popular grasses that are fed in South Africa. They should however be grown on fertile soil and should not be treated with chemicals, in other words they should be organic. The chemical residues present on most hay, even in minute amounts, counteract the many benefits that the feed has. Any baled food will also have less nutrition than fresh, so it is important to have it as freshly picked and baled as possible.
Herbs are another component of the natural horse’s diet. They provide the horse with vitamins, minerals and trace elements and have healing properties that are not found in grass. Certain herbs grow best in particular areas but there is an endless variety that horses enjoy. Herbs such as dandelion, burdock, plantain, clover, Lucerne (alfalfa) and chamomile grow almost anywhere and are very beneficial. They should be grown in the horses paddock to provide benefit to the horse at will. If fresh herbs are not available, dried herbs can be fed. They should however be organically grown.
If extra food were necessary for a competition horse it would be best to feed grains that would be eaten by horses in the wild. Organically grown whole grain wheat, oats, barley, rye and flax are the best choices. They should be fed as a supplement to the diet and not as the base ingredient. Feed enough grains to help the horse maintain energy.
Tree bark is an essential yet seldom considered part of the equine diet. It is eaten in very small quantities but provides numerous minerals and certain nutrients beneficial to digestive tract health, and helps maintain natural wear of the teeth. The horse would be less likely to chew fences and stall doors. All chemically treated and preserved wood is toxic.
Fruit and vegetables can be helpful to promote proper digestion. Organically grown carrots, apples, and turnips, are helpful and can be feed at every meal.
Probiotics may also be needed to promote better digestion especially for horses that are on concentrates and have little fresh food available.
A diet of whole, raw, living foods can only mean immense benefits for our horses.
ALL GOOD OR ESCAPE, DENIAL AND AVOIDANCE?
Positive thinking (focus) works. But there is one enormous exception to that rule. Positive thinking works on everything except the things you’re trying to avoid. In other words, positive thinking works on everything except for when it is used as a tool to enable resistance.
The concept of positive focus appears to promise, like a magic pill, that it will allow us to escape and avoid all of our unwanted issues. (read more) Many of us are excited to find the power of positive focus because it feels like “a get out of jail free card”. However, consider this, if we are enthusiastic about positive focus for that reason, it means that we have big things we are trying to avoid. Like it or not and conscious or not, a large part of our consciousness is therefore dedicated to those very big things. We are like emotional cripples who on one level know that we are really hurt, or fear that we might be hurt in the future, and on another level we don’t want to admit to it. We’d rather believe that if we focus positively enough, we will miraculously have a new reality and therefore safety.
Here is an example: When we experience something traumatic on an emotional level, it works the same way as it does with physical trauma. If you are involved in a car accident and you end up with a fractured foot, no amount of pure positive focus is going to put the bones back together again. If we were to address the reality we would need a Doctor who is able to correct the fracture. It’s not a comfortable process. It’s a process that demands that we admit that the bone is broken, undergo procedures to realign the bones, and pay attention to restrictions during the healing process. If however, we attempt to distract ourselves from the fracture by thinking positive thoughts, we are now in a mental and emotional tug of war between the awareness that this is a serious issue that needs conscious attention, and not wanting to admit to that reality. We do this because we are trying to avoid it. In other words we find ourselves in a state of denial and fear. We are then trying to focus on something positive for the sake of trying to escape from, ignore or get away from the fearful state. If ignored the wound festers. In short, when we try to avoid something, the thing we are trying to avoid gets worse. What we resist – persists!
This is the exact scenario we face on an emotional level. If we suffered an emotional trauma and we ignore, suppress or deny it in favour of positive focus, we are using positivity to get away from negativity. The emotional wound does not get better; it festers. It may continually manifests itself in many different ways. By obsessively focusing positively and trying to ignore it and divert our attention from it, we only resist it further. Because we are trying to avoid it, we are in essence focusing on it and sending it energy without even being aware that we are doing so. When the situation becomes intolerable we find ourselves looking for someone or something for relief. It is around this time that clients may look to us for help.
Awareness is always the first step towards emotional integration. It’s the first step to shine a light in a dark cupboard to see what is there. We fear our emotional wounds, which is why we resist them. By becoming aware of them, we can come to understand them and understanding is the #1 way to diminish fear.
The belief that all it takes to create a perfect life, is perfect positive focus, is a misconstrued belief. To make matters worse positive thinking can be used as misguided advice when we are faced with “negativity” in others. Has anyone ever said to you “Oh, don’t be so negative … it will just draw more negativity into your life – focus on the positive …” If you have heard this, you will know that it is almost impossible. In truth the person who suggested it, no matter how caring they are, probably was at a loss to offer any better advice. You will also notice that the suggestion shuts conversations down pretty quickly, leaving you feeling conflicted and possibly even resentful. Positive focus can also be used to chastise ourselves. When undesirable circumstances in our lives crop up, we admonish our negative thinking patterns that must have drawn the circumstances in the first place. Neither of these belief patterns are helpful. Both are damaging.
Muscle testing is the tool that Kinesiologist use to shine a light into the cupboard. This brings awareness, which in and of itself will already afford immense relief. It allows one to feel authentic and grounded. Kinesiologist then use a variety of techniques to shift the client further towards integration and to lock in the changes. We are able to find causal age and a great deal of information relating to the emotional wounding. Following the Kinesiology session, the cupboard won’t feel quite so dark anymore. It is at this point that positive focus will show its greatest rewards in relation to the original issue, once and only once the negativity has been acknowledged and integrated.
It was an AWESOME year at the Specialised Kinesiology College of South Africa in 2014. With 6 students well on their way to completing the advanced diploma, 12 students on the road to their first diploma and 11 “newbies” in various stages of completing first year, the college was very busy.
As Kinesiologists we give our time, our compassion and a safe place for expression for what others are struggling with in their life, be it on a physical, spiritual or emotional level. Through Kinesiology, we help to bring about self-awareness, understanding and acceptance. Kinesiology is about bringing home the power of change, from the inside out. In order to be able to hold a safe space for our clients, each students needs to put a huge amount of effort into the learning process, not only learning the immense amount of knowledge that comes with the Kinesiology process but more importantly each student needs to deal with their own life issues.
I am immensely proud of every one of the students. This year, more than any other, the College has moved forward with cohesion and passion due to the wonderful students of this college. The students really worked hard on their own issues with some amazing results. I look forward to continuing on in 2015. We have a very busy year planned with 2 classes on some weekends.
First Year Assistant Teacher- Angela Corbett
During 2014 I was given the opportunity to teach Kinesiology to some willing students. That first time was quite daunting; I was excited and apprehensive at the same time. Lucky for me I was blessed with an awesome group of students that made it easy and fun for me to share what I know. I looked forward to each lesson and was thrilled to see how they made the info their own and started getting more and more confident the further along we went. Each unit of study allowing me to revisit, reconnect and grow as a teacher and fellow Kinesiologist.
I wish to thank Margie for the opportunity and a special thanks to My Students of 2014, without whom I could not have done it.
A couple of years ago I picked up a book called the Last Lecture. It had become something of a phenomena and I was keen to see what all the hype was about. You will probably know that the author, Professor Randy Pausch, had been asked to deliver a “last lecture” to impart personal insights to his University’s graduating class. This was particularly poignant, as unbeknown to many at the time of the request, he had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had 6 months to live. The book, well written and filled to the brim with hints and tips for achieving your dreams (or rather what had worked for Randy to have achieved his dreams), was an easy read and inspiring.
The book came to mind while I was taking a mental inventory of the Cape Town Kinesiology classes of 2014. I remembered that Randy had dedicated an entire chapter to enabling the dreams of others. He points out that “as one gets older you may find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun than fulfilling your own dreams”.
Older? …. Seriously? Ok, well then I may have to accept that I am in fact getting older. Over the past few years, teaching, and from my standpoint thereby contributing to the dreams of my students through the ICPKP knowledge entrusted to me to impart to them, has been inspiring, challenging, busy, emotional, humbling, serious …. but above all it has truly been fun!
The Cape Town College has grown exponentially in the past couple of years. The student groups are without exception made up of very special people, and their contribution to others both within and outside of the classroom is significant and very meaningful. We look forward to celebrating their hard work, dedication and successes at the Certificate Evening in May! I feel very grateful to have joined them in the regular “pilgrimage” to Constantia on weekends (some from very far afield) and to continuing to support them in their studies going forward. I am also very excited to be meeting the 2015 students. I’m not for one moment underestimating the hard work that lies ahead, but let the fun begin!
Just a last thought to those who are still considering enrolling as there is still a small window of opportunity: remember in a year from now, you will wish you had started today!
Starting off as first year students at Specialised Kinesiology South Africa, we encountered a roller coaster ride for the first six months from “O yeah, I completely get it!!!!!!” to “Whaaaaaaaaat?????!!!
Fortunately we all got it – thanks to our amazing teachers, who maintained sanity throughout the challenging journey of Kinesiology. And so Margie, Angie and Gabby guided us through the process of development, working towards the ease of muscle testing, and circuits. Always there to assure us –“Yes, it is a long process, and our confidence and skills will grow with practice and time”, they were constantly putting us at ease.
We will reach the stage, as demonstrated by the senior students during their final exams, to work with poise, believing in ourselves and what we have learned.
Enough time for a friendly pose, during an exam balance. Another event, bringing a sigh of relief to all as every balance, every end of series exam and every muscle test is one step closer to the final reward, and realisation, that not one piece of homework, practise or minute spent studying was in vain.
And always enough time to capture as many memories as possible.
And so the year went by, transforming us all into great presenters and public speakers as we (the students) also gave some talks and presentations to our peers.
SAYING GOOD BYE
The senior students of 2015 have finalised their studies and are ready to move on. They will be missed and have left a not so easy, yet beautiful path for us to follow. We wish them prosperity and success, where ever they are headed.
A highlight of the year – Uniting as fellow students, humans, friends, with assistance of the college, to give one of the greatest gift of all – unconditional giving with open hearts, reaching out to those in need. The warmth and kindness with which the students extended their generosity, in raising funds for the Orkney establishment (home for abused woman and their children) left all hearts filled with joy – joy and appreciation, knowing that kindness, love and light, will always take precedence over the dark, when we allow ourselves to be embraced by the passion of life.
To everybody for 2015:
May your lives be filled with love
May your hearts be filled with harmony
May your days be filled with joy – Go forth with a song
THE TREND TOWARDS NATURAL AALTERNATIVES FOR ANIMALS
by Margie Donde
It is currently more common to see natural herbs and supplements being sold for animals as people become aware of the natural options available to them.
Specialised Kinesiology is one of the Natural Alternative Therapies that can be used on both animals and humans. It is a simple, non-invasive, and inexpensive method that is becoming more widely utilized by veterinarians, chiropractors, medical doctors, sports trainers and natural health care practitioners.
Kinesiology, works with an animal or human’s body, utilising its own inner intelligence and ability to heal itself. The body can be used to help determine the underlying cause of a problem and reveal what is needed to address. Read More
THE DIFFERENCE IS ATTITUDE!
LEARNING FROM OLIVER AND USING CLICKER TRAINING.
By Margie Donde (this article appeared in the HQ magazine)
Being on a horse’s back for the first time at age twelve was an awesome experience. I remember the sense of power under me and at the same time such gentleness from these large animals. I was instantly hooked and all my spare time from then on was spent walking, grooming, playing, riding, loving and dreaming horses. My interest in horses lay in schooling and doing dressage. I was fascinated with how a horse learns; noting that some learned faster than others. I have spent most of the last 30 years schooling horses and riding dressage. My experience was that a clever willing horse would work better for me than one that may have the talent but not the temperament.
However money was always an issue and I tended to inherit other peoples cast offs. Recently I decided to breed hoping that I could have a more quality horse without necessarily having to spend the tens of thousands of Rands that a good horse costs these days. I used my thoroughbred mare and bred her to an Andalusian Stallion. Equinox Centaur or Oliver as he is affectionately known was born in October 2000. Right from the start he was an inquisitive and outgoing foal. When only a few hours old he happily walked up to dogs and a horsebox and gave them both an inquisitive nibble. As he grew he bullied his mother, biting and climbing all over her and developed into a pushy hyperactive youngster. I patiently worked with him using everything that I had ever learned to teach him manners and gradually started lunging him in preparation for riding. He was constantly pushing the boundaries – crowding, biting, running into me and refusing to stand still for longer that a second. I didn’t enjoy working with him and my patience was rapidly running out. Frankly, I was at my wits end.
I heard about clicker training through a friend of mine who was backing her youngster, who was the same age as Oliver now aged three.
I was extremely skeptical. How could I risk feeding a horse that constantly bit anything in range? The poles in the paddock, the lead rope, me! Surely this would just make more problems. Feeding him seemed like the wrong thing to do!
With much skepticism I went to watch a lesson.
What I saw was a three-year-old colt being worked loose in the school. He lunged around the trainer without a lunge line, he offered walk, trot and canter, halted and backed up on command. He also willingly offered different behaviours. He was asked to jump loose over a jump – not only did he jump it but turned around and jumped it again. However the most exciting thing for me was his attitude! His eyes were bright, he was interested in his surroundings and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his work. He worked with utter joy.
I was absolutely fascinated. What if I could get my youngster to work that way? I started clicker training with Oliver the very next week. Within a few minutes he had got it. By the end of the lesson he was backing up out of the trainer’s space, offering the behaviour in order to get the reward. As the hour progressed he was biting less and less and standing still for a second at a time. When learning to execute a turn around the hindquarters to the left, he was only clicked and rewarded when he crossed his front off fore in front of his near fore. Within a few minutes he had worked it out and did the turn correctly. He was really bright and learned very quickly – we also learned very quickly to keep him occupied and direct his hyperactive behaviour in a more positive and appropriate direction. By the end of the session he settled down considerably and was co-operating and even trying to anticipate what was being asked of him. In fact every time Jenku arrived to teach, Oliver’s head would come up, his ears would go forward and he would run around the paddock in utter excitement and go towards Jenku.
Clicker training uses the same basis as Richard Maxwell – pressure and release. The difference is that Richard Maxwell is very quick to make a distinction and is very quick to apply pressure and release appropriately so that the horse understands very easily and there is no confusion. His consistency also provides clarity and there are no grey areas for the horse. However for most of us we may not be as quick and as clear as Richard Maxwell. This can cause our horse to be confused. In clicker training, the release and reward is very clear and there is no confusion for the horse. This makes it very easy for the majority of riders to use. Clicker training is about positive reinforcement. A huge benefit of this is that it changes the rider’s attitude. The focus goes from what is wrong to looking for what is right – what can I reward – This change of attitude and focus will also influence the horse positively.
Instead of dominance and force, clicker training gives the horse a problem to solve, sets him up to succeed and the first step towards success is rewarded therefore there is a huge motivation for the horse to keep trying and to solve the problem. This also stimulates in the horse problem solving, thinking and co-operation. The power of positive thinking! With a click and reward for the appropriate behaviour, the horse instantly understands that it has behaved correctly and it therefore gains the correct attitude. This increases the motivation to co-operate.
There is a saying that comes from Neuro-linguistic Programming that says “Behaviour is geared for adaptation. The present behaviour is the best choice available. Behind every behaviour is a positive intention; identify the positive intention and offer more choices!” I learned from clicker training that Oliver’s hyperactive behaviour was as a result of his extreme intelligence and intensity not naughtiness and if I am able to channel that intensity towards what I want he is a joy to work. .
It is so easy to buy into “the horse is wrong or naughty or just being impossible to annoy or provoke his owner”. If I loose my temper it displays my lack of knowledge and understanding and has nothing to do with the horse.
I have learned from clicker training that horses are so much brighter than we think. If they are not doing as we ask – we are either asking something that they don’t yet know how to do, or they are confused as to what we want. Either way we need to find the solution -break it down into smaller junks – look for what you can reward to motivate and encourage the horse to come up with a solution. In the words of Mark Rashid from the book Horses Never Lie “Reward the smallest try and you horse will start doing as you ask!”
Oliver is now going very well – he is still a very busy horse but I am able to direct him. He stays out of my space, is able to stand still for longer and longer periods, lunges with his head down and back rounded without any gadgets and even comes round under saddle. He does basic walk, trot and canter, leg yielding, turns around the hindquarters, basic shoulder in and backs up whilst being ridden on a halter only. I also allow him playtime – he chases a ball, climbs on a pedestal, does Spanish walk and fetches a Frisbee.
This allows him to free his mind and express his exuberance however they all also have training value – i.e channeling his energy in a controlled direction but also building up his neck muscles when he plays with the ball, using his shoulder freely for Spanish walk and standing on the pedestal helps him with balance and bringing his hind legs under the body – all necessities for a dressage horse
Creating a willing partnership with a horse has been a new and freeing experience for me and one I intend to continue.
Want to know more about clicker training – www.schoolofhorsemanship.co.za