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Welcome to Joni Bentley natural horse training.

Both Degas and Leonardo da Vinci were infatuated with the mechanics of movement as illustrated in their beautiful pictures. Degas especially identified with the subject of dance, but what interested him more than the pretty dresses and beautiful women, was the living breathing mechanics of the dancer’s movement. Likewise Leonardo da Vinci believed that the artist must know not just the rules of perspective in art, but all the laws of nature that flow through it. They were great thinkers of their time because they thought- outside- the- box!



I have to admit, I think I was born thinking outside the box. Perhaps being hung upside down at birth and then promptly slapped on my derrière had something to do with not trusting the experts. I felt the same entering the horse world. When I had a riding lesson it didn’t feel comfortable or clear as to what I should be doing. It was this state of helplessness that spurred me on to become a more natural horse trainer. 


All I asked for was comfortable riding success without stress. To be able to ride my horse on the bit, be in good balance, and that riding would be enjoyable for both me and my Ned. It’s not rocket science, so why was it so complicated? Rescued by one of the greatest human movement specialist F M Alexander’s teacher training (Alexander pictured left), and then Moshe Feldenkrais, (pictured right) my journey to simplicity and thinking without boundaries finally began. What was even more liberating was that both of these great men agreed that the secret of good biomechanics lay deep within each and every one of us, so we don’t have to continue forking out shed loads of money, to the “experts,” hoping to gain a few crumbs from their table.




All we need to do to become natural horse riders and trainers is deceptively simple, we need to find our way back to how we learned and moved when we were innocent young children before we got bent out of shape by society. Have you noticed how well young children move? their posture is naturally graceful and biomechanically perfect. Have you noticed how adamant they are about finding out how things work for themselves, by trial and error? Have you noticed how we bend out of shape as we grow up. We abandon our inquiring minds, told, experts know best?


Putting my childhood cap back on I decided to make horse training more natural, more child like. In brief I found out:


classical riding

The first step in training a horse starts with the rider; they have to learn how to counterbalance their own and their horse’s one-sidedness in the saddle, which is what ART specialises in. Degas, Da Vinci, Alexander and Feldenkrais were not taught by experts, they used their child like (not to be confused with childish) curiosity to create something wonderful. Encouraged by them I found out over time that I actually knew more than I thought I did. I allowed myself to relax and started to figure out how riding works using the simple logic of a child. If we would only become child like, go with the flow, and stop micromanaging ourselves and our horses the world would be a kinder place. Our childhood memories are still buried deep inside us all which is why so many of my students say to me during a lesson, “Oh I used to do that when I was a kid before I got uptight!”

 

Good posture is never a fixed position.

How natural is training in the 21st century? We tend to describe and prescribe positions rather than movement- the very thing that Da Vinci, Degas, Alexander, Feldenkrais and natural horse training moves away from. It is lifeless, much like dressage today, see photos below. Positions are easier to talk about and to comprehend - they have shapes, they're visual, they stay still. The trouble is they also have nothing to do with real life. They’re dead, unyielding, and often cruel and let’s be honest not much fun, just look into the eyes of the horse and riders below!

 


Working from the inside out.

To make real, lasting improvements in our riding position and the way we apply our aids, we need natural horse and rider training strategies that work from from the inside out. Only then can we reach beyond the mind into the parts of our being that are actually in control of movement. We need to work with our bodies and our horses’ bodies in a natural way, as Feldenkrais and Alexander discovered in their lifetime. We need to go beyond manipulating our outline to conform to an accepted ideal, and instead discover the organic flow of good posture. In short, we need strategies that are in an alignment with real bodies, not imagined ones and that is what the ART of horse and rider straightness training is here to give you.