Using Groundwork like Bodywork

My mom and I were out with the horses together. I was giving her instructions and demonstrations for the Peggy Cummings’ exercises and then playing with them with Hope.

I found that watching my mom use my incomplete directions was extremely helpful. Giving fuller directions, showing her the feel, and showing her how I would do it on Finale (the horse she was with) painted a more complete picture of the exercises for me.

I realized that while doing them, it had been important that I had unconsciously turned and shifted my body so as to allow the horse to turn their head into me. Once we both started doing this more consciously in addition to softening our bodies and opening space for the horses (like an open door invitation feeling), they had a much easier time joining us.

I had been using a lot of intention and feel for the exercise in my own body, and not using a “press” and “pull” to ask–which I believe were the words I had used to describe it to my mom. Words and language can be confusing, and I’m finding more and more it’s important to be conscious and aware of them. My mom pointed out to me that my action did not match my words. Once we shifted our perspectives in language, we were both able to clearly and consistently provide the same action which allowed things to flow easily.

When my demonstrations worked the best is when I felt the movement in my own body, and then offered that feeling to the horse. While I was giving instruction and demonstration, I realized this and then shared it with my mom. I practiced this more with Hope, and found that each horse was very connected to what I was feeling. This is something I often use in movements, but only sporadically, and for more obvious things. This made me aware that it’s really important to use this communication piece all the time. 

It was important to notice where the horse’s weight was, and which areas they were pushing into (due to poor posture and tension in their body). If you took this into account and helped the horse gently shift their body first, they would often do the movement effortlessly.

There was one time I noticed a lot of restriction in the neck, in the fascia and muscles between C4/C5. I brought my hand here and just rested it, feeling love and offering the intention of balancing and release. I felt what I knew how to feel–I leave this vague here because I believe you can apply your own feel and experience, and it will still be effective. As far as I’m aware, this is not a Peggy Cummings exercise, but rather something I use frequently with my own horses that I find anyone can do.

With all of these things put together, Finale found the most beautiful release and bascule through her neck I had ever witnessed in person through these simple exercises. I was over-the-top excited… for the moment, and also for what this meant: my mind started dreaming of possibilities, of dancing with horses in a way that was empowered and connected.

As we played and explored, I began to realize more and more how much Peggy Cummings’ work is like bodywork. I understood now why Jillian Kreinbring had told me that I may want to become a Connected Riding instructor. I’m very excited to continue to explore groundwork and riding like bodywork, connecting with the horses and with myself in mind, body, and heart.

Published by Kara Cumberton

Wellness and horses are my things. I'm a rider, a bodyworker, and a college student studying integrative health and wellness. I also love nature, yoga, my dog, art, writing, and cooking.

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