Emily’s philosophy for riders has been developed over many years, and includes these primary ideas.
Muscle Tone, Stability & Balance
The first thing Emily teaches her students is how to stabilize. A stabilized rider is secure, and therefore safer. Riders learn to stabilize by aligning their bones and then using muscle tone to stabilize and balance in a position that is independent of the horse. Horses learn to follow the shape of their rider, not the other way around. The stability of the rider includes movement, so a rider must have control of their biomechanics, not just be a block of stone on their horse.
Riders then learn to use their aids to influence a horse for thoroughness, self carriage, and suppleness in all the gaits and into the movements. Common factors that go into this category are volume and timing of the aids, self confidence, and gaining feel so that you can accurately hear what your horse is saying.
Horse Psychology and Rider Leadership
Emily teaches her students why horses do things, how to translate their actions, and what the appropriate response is. Riders learn when to get very soft and very still vs. when to get firm. They learn when to ignore a horse’s antics and how to address them when necessary. They learn what drives a horse, how horses seek leadership, and how to provide it.
Riding as a Practice
Joy, elation, discouragement, frustration, satisfaction, impatience, and doubt are some of the emotions riders will encounter while learning to ride. Emily believes riding is a practice of finding a balance between kinesthetic feel and intellectual understanding. Emily encourages and fosters determination, faith, self worth, trust, patience, and most importantly, riders must recognize and enjoy the gains along the way, they must "take their wins."
These are the basic principles that Emily applies when training.
Assessing the Situation
As a trainer, Emily gets to the underlying cause of a misbehavior, way of going, or other situation. For example: is a horse having problems coming through the back because of a lazy hind leg, a lack of straightness, anticipation of something the rider might do, discomfort in the body, or mental tension? Emily has great ability to discern and then solve these issues.
Prioritizing Issues, Learning Styles & Expectations
A good trainer must make split second decisions about what to prioritize. For example, Emily might allow a horse to go with their head in the air while addressing hind end activity and straightness, or while rehabilitating a badly trained horse with incorrect understanding.
Assessing the horse’s state of mind, temperament and history around an issue determines the best approach. Sometimes a direct, black and white approach is called for, making a lesson very obvious for a horse. Other times its better that the lesson be "around the side door" or "invisible", so that the horse doesn’t even know we are specifically working on something. The best option will change horse to horse and situation to situation, even from one moment to another in the same ride.
Adjusting expectations to achieve precisely the right challenge is critical. Horses that are not sufficiently challenged are quickly bored. Emily has met some horses who feel distain for their people, as if they are not being respected for their abilities and in return do not respect their humans. Horses that are over challenged have a variety of reactions: withdrawal, acting out, repressing their stress and “surviving” but not enjoying their work. Emily is highly skilled at reading horses and can provide the right level of challenge.
Developing Work Ethic
When one can accurately assess a horse’s issues, find the correct solution, train to the individual learning style, and find the appropriate level of challenge, horses blossom! They trust the learning process, feel pride in their work, look forward to learning new things, and forgive the occasional rider error. These horses have a true work ethic, and love their jobs.