What the Heck Are "Aikiponies"?
"Ai" means "love" or harmony in Japanese. "Ki" means "energy." "Do" means "path," or "way." Put all
together, "aikido" means "the way of harmonizing energies." (For more about aikido go to the FAQs
page.) "Aikido" has also been defined as "love," straight up, and as "purification."
"Aikiponies" is a catchy little phrase that is more than a marketing gimmick. It describes how I
approach horse training.
I've been training horses by myself and with mentors since I was a sprout. Like you, I just can't get
enough of horses. Horses make us fly. They receive all of our love. They are so forgiving and
adaptable. They're furry. They do what we tell them to.
Hold on a minute! "They do what we tell them to?!?!"
Yes, even when what we ask for is violent or crazy, the horses oblige us. Like you, I have won
competitions on horses that had little more to go on than trial-and-error, based on negative
Down that path, greater and greater degrees of dominance and compliance are required, if we
want to progress. Sooner or later the horse reaches his breaking point. He shuts down his initiative,
or he gets in a wreck, or he throws his back out, or he turns into a monster. To continue on that path
you need another horse. Then another. How far removed is that from the little girl whose Breyers
talked to her in their own secret language?
Here's where the aikido fits in. Paradoxically, in aikido, opening your heart and giving your partner
full access to your center, keeps you safe. LIkewise with your horse you will make yourself vulnerable
in order to find a safe place. If this does not make sense don't worry, we'll do it together.
This is not about control. It's about feeding each other. Giving your heart to your adversary.
Becoming softer so your partner can be bigger.
Quite a few trainers, some famous, study aikido in order to develop their horsemanship, and vice
versa. I did not invent this corelation, but I'm available to the curious. Of course you'll be helping
me learn too.
I use modern techniques of "natural" horsemanship, European and western dressage, on the ground
and in the saddle. To beginners, I teach technical skills. For intermediate riders, I help with
goal-setting and problem-solving. With advanced riders, I explore the heart of horsemanship:
cultivating the horses' initiative, confidence, and problem-solving skills.
I use the regular format of lessons and training, and usually assign specific exercises for homework.
Together we break down techniques into their simplest forms. Each piece has to be right for its own
sake. First we establish, or polish, our connection to the horse's feet. Then we begin to support the
horse's posture, and his self-expression. The student must constantly polish her own technique and
intentions as well.
Your horse will give you more and more back-talk as you open up and encourage it. (This is why
your Breyers talked in that secret language: you didn't stuff them in a box when they spoke to you.)
Once you get him talking he will show you what is needed next in your training. Pretty soon he'll
help you better than any trainer could, and then my job is done.