TAO TRAINING SYSTEM
The Way to All Things Possible with Horses
Taoism simply means to live in harmony, be in balance with all things. When we are in balance, we are present, content and at ease. We feel great and in return this karmic energy finds like energy which creates deeply fulfilling connections and bliss.
I refer to this as Nirvana. In Buddhism, Nirvana is the most popular word. It is known as enlightenment. Buddhism teaches four stages of Nirvana. Those who achieve nirvana join God and merge their atman (pure self) in perfect communion with divine life. In this state, there is no ego or desire, and the atman is free from any kind of earthly manifestation, for it is one with eternal peace and perfection, also known as the state of yoga.
The Yogis have a similar path to enlightenment called Karma Yoga. Karma yoga is the spiritual practice of "selfless action performed for the benefit of others". Karma yoga is a path to reach moksha (spiritual liberation) through work.
Karma Yoga is about purifying the heart and counteracting egoism. It involves the dedication of all work as an offering, with no thought of personal reward. From this rule follows the four guiding principles: Right Attitude, Right Motive, Give up Result, and Serve the Self in All.
All of this relates to my life and my horsemanship. Think of our personal struggles and then think about how we struggle with our horses. Do you see the similarities? And do you see how these philosophies can help?
They are the cornerstone to my method and are incorporated throughout your MasteryMembership learning journey. These philosophies will become the principles that guide you and help you understand who you need to be when you interact and work with your horse.
One of the first, and most defining principles, you will learn will be about mindset.
A few examples of mindset are thinking we can fix our horses problems through training alone. Training alone doesn't fix your horse. This mindset has become the number one reason why so many of our conventional training methods, including natural horsemanship, have messed up and even ruined many of our horses.
Training combined with a holistic approach is what fixes your horse. When we can meet the horse where they are and learn how to help them grow, progress, and learn, and with compassion, understanding and ease, we are developing a horse that is open and confident about learning and training. This is what makes a happy, willing, and safe partnership!
Unfortunately, so much of our training today shows us how to escalate an already stressed out horse. Horse owners are being taught to mirror the horse’s strength until they wear them down, aka desensitize them. It doesn’t have to be this way, nor should it.
Here is science behind why training works best for horses when use a holistic approach not force, excessive pressure, or submissive tactics.
Like us, horses need to feel connected in deep and mutually rewarding relationships to fully develop socially, emotionally, and cognitively.
They also need to feel safe in the space we create for them to connect and be open to learning. Feeling safe can only happen when they are in their parasympathetic nervous system of calm, rest, and digest. It is only here, in the state of relaxation, that a horse is open to learning.
When we add holism to our horsemanship, we are allowing the emotional, mental, and physical space for our horses to feel safe enough to trust us, feel confident as learners and continue to develop fully in training.
Spiritual practices such as Taoism can help to guide us as we embark on this holistic journey towards helping our horses heal, develop fully, and be trusting, willing and confident partners.
Like Buddhism and Hinduism (Yogi/Yoga) Taoism offers a spiritual practice or path to enlightenment. Taoists believe that nature, not people, control the universe and emphasize living in harmony with all things.
The important Taoist principles are inaction (Wu Wei), simplicity and living in harmony with nature. The Taoist philosophical principle also includes a belief in the law of unity of the two opposite forces: yin and yang (duality).
Wu Wei is a key element throughout your learning. I call it the "path of least resistance" in my work and throughout your program. You will be asked to be mindful of Wu-Wei every time you interact with your horse.
Wu-Wei is “acting without forcing, moving in accordance with the flow of nature's course” (Chen, 2002, p. 52), is an important Chinese philosophical stance that relates to human experience and performance.
An example of Wu-Wei is struggling with our horse. Why do we struggle? Is it our horse's fault, our fault, what is the reason or cause of this struggle. Is it because they are lazy, overreacting, being bratty, disobedient, fearful, triggered?
No, they are none of those things. Let's explore why they aren't and how we can take the path of least resistance, the Wu-Wei, and make the change our horses need to want to change.
As the late and great Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote, "If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” The essence of this message is the power of perspective. Our leadership challenges and behaviors often come from how we see things and the “story” or “meaning” we make about what we see.
Dr. Dyer was a student of the Tao. I highly recommend reading his book: Change Your Thoughts - change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. His book will help you better understand my teachings, and how to use the program correctly so you and your horse learn how to be one, move as one, ride as one - in heart, thought and body.
This is why the program begins with you first. We must be the change we want to see in the world. If we want our horse's unwanted behavior to stop, stopping them isn't the solution. Changing how we see the behavior and offering our horses the opportunity to choose a better experience is what will change the behavior. When our horses make the connection to the positive experience, they will choose that experience. All we need to do is offer it to them, set it up and show them the way.
You're going to learn how to develop yourself so you can be the level of leader (conscious leadership) your horse needs to want to follow. This is the "holy grail" of horsemanship. It's about feeling of and for your horse and developing the timing, which is all about being present and in the moment.
Let's revisit the Wu-Wei principle again and align it with our mindset and our interactions with our horses so we can make the connection to our horsemanship.
When we allow our horses to show us how they feel in our presence, and in the work, we ask them to do, we not only give them a voice, we in turn show them how much we care. In the end, horses don’t care how much you know. They only care about how much you care.
This is possible because our emotions, feelings, are communicated through a deep energetic connection that is felt within our nervous system. This is true for both horses and humans and this is the science that supports the magic of the work you are about to experience.
When we express love and compassion, we release the “feel good” hormone called endorphin throughout our nervous system. Our horses feel this calm and soothing energy from us which in turn connects to their nervous system, aiding in their ability to release the same hormone.
It’s a reciprocal effect and if it doesn’t work right away, trust the process, and keep practicing until it does.
If you don’t believe me, reflect on your relationship with your horse, from haltering to leading, grooming to tacking, working on the ground to riding and ask yourself, is it effortless, easy, safe, happy, and progressing for you both?
If it’s not, I guarantee that shifting your mindset, combined with the engagement of your heart chakra, will instantly change the interaction between you and your horse from disconnected to connected, and connected in heart, thought and body (nervous system).
So, there it all is in a nutshell! That’s how powerful this is and why it can and does work for everyone and every horse. While this is the simplicity of the work you are about to learn, I understand it's not easy. And that is why I created my training system. You not only have my principles to guide you, but you also have a step-by-step program to teach you the many layers and nuances of the method of becoming one with horses in heart, thought and movement.
The Tao of Horsemanship training system encompasses all of this and so much more. It is an approach, a mindset, and way of being and interacting with our horses that creates deep and fulfilling relationships, harmony, consensual partnership and connected, safe riding.
Working with a horse in this way is what motivates them to seek you out and want to be and work with you. This level of interaction is what creates the deepest bonds and working partnership, both on the ground and under saddle.
Taoism has been such a huge and positive influence in both my personal life and my horsemanship. I can’t think of a better way to be and work with horses. That’s why I am sharing all I know with you so you too can enjoy the same level of connection, relationship, consensual partnership, and riding as you see between me and my horses.
When I was young, I showed horses and didn’t like it. I was deeply bothered by the harsh training horses experienced before, during and after the show. I was also blessed to be surrounded by gentle methods, the first being my Dad. He was a natural with all animals. They gravitated towards his soft and present manner. What I learned from watching him interact with horses has greatly influenced me to this day.
My childhood fostered my mindset and gave me opportunities to interact with animals and it was those experiences that have helped to shape who I am today. It was during my teens when I discovered Eastern philosophy and became a practicing Taoist. This practice changed my life completely and opened Pandora’s box of all possibilities with horses.
Before natural horsemanship became a brand name and horse trainers were teaching liberty and bridle-less riding, I was doing liberty and bridle-less riding with my horse Brandy. I was a kid back then and my inspiration was my relationship with Brandy and my desire to have that magical connection Alec Ramsey had with his Arabian horse, the Black Stallion.
I never taught Brandy tricks. What we had was earned naturally like Alec and the Black. Brandy would lie down with me when I asked, walk, and run freely with me and carry me on his back without any tack through hundreds of acres of hay fields. These experiences are now part of my teachings and what you will be learning.
When I got back into horses later in life, I had a plan, a course of action. I wanted to take what I learned from my experiences with Brandy, and my years studying with some of the most influential trainers of our time and create a training system that worked for the horse. I wanted everyone to feel the magic with their horse and learn how to take that magical relationship into every aspect of their learning and development together.
I studied, practiced, and developed my abilities in just about every discipline and eventually became a Working Equitation certified instructor. Click here to learn all about WE USA https://usawe.org/.
I was so impressed with the level of classical horsemanship, foundational principles and versatility training taught in WE. I included many of the training and principles in your program. Classical training works for the horse, and benefits all disciplines, and in so many ways. Having a well-rounded and thorough education is key to building a solid, strong and safe riding foundation too. That is why it is included in my training system and your Mastery Riding Program.
In addition to learning the magic of connecting and communicating with horses, you will learn
everything I know when it comes to developing horses from the inside out, ground to riding,
start to finish, rehab to recovery, novice to pro.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what discipline you ride, your experience or your horse’s age. The system works for every horse and person and has so much to offer!
Whether you need to start, rehabilitate, or advance your horse, the Tao training system will show you how to begin and take you all the way through, as far as you want to go.
Foundation training is the key here and important if you want to do great things with horses. That means there are no quick fixes, there is no one video, technique or solution. Instead, you learn as many tools (skills, techniques, approaches, and ways of doing) as you can fit in your toolbox, so you know what to do when x, y or z happens.
The next great thing about foundation is it sets you for life, meaning once the foundation is in place, there is no re-working, struggling, figuring out, or staying stuck. A correct and solid foundation means you are set for life and should you need to stop for a few months or years, like I've done, you can pick up where you left off anytime. Remember, foundation means forever.
Next great thing about foundation is it prepares you for advanced work. My training system does just that and sets you and your horse up for basic to advanced liberty, lunging, riding bitless, bridle-less, bareback, balanced and collected to alone, in groups or second level dressage. The foundation also develops you and your horse for versatility training where you are set up mentally, emotionally, and physically for any type of discipline, whether it’s jumping, working cows, reining, obstacle course, flat work, or classical dressage.
You’re probably asking yourself, how can one training system do all of this?
It is made possible by developing you first. This means the system is designed to develop you so you can become what your horse needs and wants in a relationship, friendship and working partnership. In the end, everything begins and ends with you. You have the power and if you learn how to use it correctly you will be consciously aware of how you affect your horse's desire to be with you and work with you.
Second, you learn how to develop the relationship needed with your horse, so connection and two-way communication happens easily. For this new way of training to work, relationships must come before training. This enables deep levels of trust and confidence to be created which become the pillars of your partnership, continued learning and positive experiences.
Third, the levels of education found within the Tao of Horsemanship training system are so comprehensive, they offer levels upon levels of learning within each lesson.
Fourth, the training curriculum is universal, progressive, holistic, well-rounded, classically principled, evidence based and applicable to all horses and equestrians.
When woven together the modalities create the elements needed to develop horses and people to their fullest potential easily, and harmoniously, from the inside out, ground to riding, start to finish, rehab to recovery, novice to pro. This is why it works for all horses and riders.
The Tao of Horsemanship system teaches all of this and expands to include mindset, meditation, and movement with horses. The results are nothing less than extraordinary, producing deep and lasting relationships, self-regulation, and flow – effortless action.
Like most classically designed training systems, the Tao’s training system is organized into stages, steps or pillars, of development. And, like all training systems, each pillar is in order and used as a building block for the next to follow.
The purpose of pillars is many, with the most significant in the ability to guide, support and advance one’s knowledge and skills. Understanding each pillar and what they are designed to do will help you understand where to begin, where the middle is and where you will end up.
Because the Tao of Horsemanship’s training system is so comprehensive, it has been
broken down into a step-by-step curriculum called the MasteryMembership
Riding Foundation Program (MMP).
The MMP is your roadmap and includes hundreds of video and written lessons designed to show you how to develop the relationship and ride of your dreams with horses.
In addition to the many levels of education and mastery skills taught within the MMP curriculum, you are provided many opportunities to connect deeply to your higher self through the wisdom of your horse. This is where the Tao’s spiritual journey awaits you and your horse.
As the Chinese Proverb says: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This means that no matter how ambitious your goal is, you must start at the beginning and initiate even the most basic forward action (a single step) towards your end goal. In the end, we are here to enjoy the journey. The MMP will show you how to do both, build your foundation - one step at a time and enjoy the process!
The following 8 pillars comprise the core training system of the Tao of Horsemanship methodology and are included within the MMP’s curriculum.
1. Attunement & Mindfulness
Becoming attuned and connected to your horse through sensory awareness, intuition, and energy connection. This begins from the inside out and from within both you and your horse.
This is how you learn to feel of and for one another as you become conscious equals on your journey to consensual partnership.
2. Spirituality – The Path to Conscious Horsemanship
Spirituality is a personal voyage into self-awareness, self-actualization, and oneness with all things. Being spiritual is a journey into our very essence, our consciousness, and our Being and this is where horses can be our spirit guides.
Horses are masters at Being and oneness – living harmoniously, peacefully, and attuned. They have so much to teach us, if we are willing to sit still, be quiet, listen and learn.
3. Horse Psychology & Behavior
99% of unwanted behaviors are learned and a result of a need that isn’t being met. Learning your horse’s nature, needs and learned behaviors is key to developing horses the way they need - as individuals and with love and leadership.
4. Liberty – Joining in Mind, Body & Heart Connection
Developing liberty with you horse in everything you do is both a test and the end goal. Liberty means the freedom to choose. We want our horses to choose us – choose to love us, be with us, and work with us.
This is a process where you will learn how to join with your horse in heart/relationship, the mind/thought and body/movement and in everything you do together.
5. Groundwork & Shaping Behavior
Taking what you’ve learned thus far and applying it to specific groundwork exercises and techniques designed to develop good habits, trust, confidence, and partnership in your horse.
6. Biomechanics & The Art of Lunging – Pilates for Your Horse
Many things happen simultaneously at this level of horse-human development. While you are learning how to develop your horse’s movement before you ride the movement, you are also learning how to embody energy, and rhythm so you can train your body to ride the movement.
While you and your horse’s movement are being developed, so is your connection, communication, feel and timing of the aids.
And that’s not all. You are also working on your horse’s emotional agility, and self-regulation of their nervous system.
7. Riding as One & Refinement
Taking what you’ve learned thus far and applying it to your riding. You will refine your horse’s movement through a series of arena exercises and patterns creating a horse that is supple, confident, connected, balanced and safe. You will also learn how to ride the movement bareback, confident, and in balance.
8. Testing the Truth of Your Relationship
The MMP is your roadmap to developing the relationship and ride of your dreams with horses. It is designed so that as you progress through the courses and lessons, you can review and test where you are with your horse.
Testing involves getting to the stage where you can ask your horse to do the lessons at liberty, with minimal aids and eventually bridle-less. This means you are constantly reviewing, testing, refining as you move through the curriculum.
When pillars 1-7 are solid, you will have created the foundation in your relationship and partnership that is needed to ride anywhere bitless and bareback, alone and in groups. You will also be able to easily learn, advance your skills and embark on new adventures together without getting stuck, or regressing.