Functional movements are based on real-world situational biomechanics, or reality. They usually involve multi-planar, multi-joint movements which place demand on the body's core musculature and innervation.
Too geeky? Let’s look at how to create FUNctional movements through motivating intrinsic play in our horses !
Autonomy. Choice. Voice.
They are the foundation of my liberty program, along with positive reinforcement.
Taught with +R, clicker and target training, this liberty program asks for 'permission, not submission' between you and your horse.
The willing connection you develop is unlike anything you've ever experienced with your horse.
FUNctional movement play leads the way to better balance, strength, coordination, ability, agility, mobility, flexibility, confidence and connection to space and the environment.
The invitation to play through autonomy, choice, and voice.
Extrinsic and Intrinsic both provide opportunities to find motivation for movement.
What emotional state motivates your horse?
Emotions are directly related to motivation, and studies have shown that emotions play an
important role in the elicitation of motivation in general, and intrinsic motivation in particular.
-Extrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards or avoid punishment.
Positive reinforcement and food rewards are extrinsically motivating for the horse to repeat and build behaviors. It involves rewards for a job well done just like your paycheck from your job.
I use the extrinsic motivation tools of positive reinforcement, clicker and target training, and food reinforcers to explore, find and reward those moments of highest effort for movement.
-Intrinsic motivation involves a behavior that is driven by internal rewards. It feels good and you feel inspired and moved to do it.
Those effortful moments are internally driven with the release of 'feel good' chemicals. This becomes intrinsic in motivation to move similarly again to simply get a hit of 'nature's pharmacy'.
I tap into intrinsic motivation through play and movement myself for the horse to imitate/mimic.
I shape those playful movements with +R into functional collection/physical engagement. Both create mental and emotional engagemet as well.
Intrinsic motivation helps horses feel confident, brave, proud, and agile and balanced.
Horses enjoy showing off these movements and are rewarded by the natural release of brain chemicals. Balance is found emotionally and mentally as well as physically when a horse is intrinsically motivated.
Fun fact: After movement, especially intrinsic movements, when a horse stands or lands ‘square’, they are emotionally, mentally and physically balanced in their body and mind.
Proprioception, also referred to as kinaesthesia, is the sense of self-movement and body position. It is sometimes described as the "sixth sense".
Proprioception is mediated by proprioceptors, mechanosensory neurons located within muscles, tendons, and joints.
Proprioception, in layman speak, is the ability to know where you are, and where your respective body parts are, in relation to the environment.
For a horse, a lack of this sensation could lead to injury.
Many horses who show behaviors their humans find challenging have poor proprioceptive awareness.
It can affect their ability to walk calmly and in balance on the halter and lead. Their willingness to jump over something on the ground, like a barrel or a log, or pass through a narrow space can be affected as well.
Sometimes they stand on top of you and are seemingly unaware of this.
Improving proprioception improves your horse’s awareness of where their body parts are in space including limb and foot placement.
Most horses will benefit from improving their proprioception, but if your horse tends to stumble, trip or finds it difficult to negotiate poles this could be due to poor proprioception so any exercises to help increase their awareness of where their limbs are will help.
▪️If they are more aware of where their limbs are they are less likely to clip that pole during your showjumping round, loose their footing when negotiating uneven ground on a hack or on the cross country course, and find it easier to position their limbs and body as you are asking during your dressage test.
▪️If your horse is rehabbing from an injury or has a weaker limb, improving their awareness of this limb is a great way to encourage them to strengthen it.
▪️An example of this is to use a single overreach boot or a weighted bracelet on the weaker limb, making the horse suddenly more aware of the limb as it feels different and therefore encouraging them to increase the flexion in this limb.**
**This effect only lasts temporarily though as after time the horse will get used to the different feeling in the leg.
Stability Mat or Stability Pad Benefits
There are many benefits to using these in FUNctional movement training.
No motivation or proprioceptive system challenges are possible without offering our horses autonomy, choice and voice.
They will accept our ‘invitation’ for intrinsic play and FUNctional movement if motivated properly through fun and fair learning.
Your horse is the hero of the story. He/She is the hero.
Of their story.
And still is the hero in your combined story.
You are not rushing in as the hero
to 'save' your horse.
You are rushing in with a solution as the problem solver for the hero of the story.
Your story with your horse will be stronger and more connected as soon as you realize and acknowledge your horse as the hero of your relationship.
A horse is born with joyful, functional movement patterns.
Those agile, forward, joyful leaps and patterns come from the brain.
Time and improper movement patterns, usually brought on by humans, can reak havoc on the horse's body AND mind.
Years and years of improper and incorrect movement cause the patterns the horse is born with develop 'parking brakes'.
Add to that humans training incorrect and unhealthy micromanaged movements and the parking brakes get stronger.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Which type of motivation is best?
The primary difference between these two types of motivation is extrinsic motivation arises from outside of the individual
while intrinsic motivation arises from within.
While intrinsic motivation is often seen as the ideal, both extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation are important ways of driving behavior.
The foundation of my work with training horses:
When there is no choice, there is no engagement.
By engagement, I mean that the horse is really consciously trying to do what we are asking him to do.
Without autonomy and choice, engagement is not possible because, simply, it is a choice that that the horse makes.
Engagement is the 'voice' communication. You need a way to tell your horse what the exercise is, what the criteria within that exercise is and a way to give feedback when the exercise is done well.
The horse is an incredible, mobile work of art. It is capable of almost ridiculous amounts of movement patterns, at a variety of intensities.
The horse can walk, run, jump, and climb and each requires an amazingly sophisticated movement control system.
The horse stands out in their sophistication of movement.
But, and it is a big but, if they don’t use it, they lose it.
The horse must move more freely to maintain pain free healthy movement patterns.
The trouble we have today is that our horses's don’t experience enough functional movement, which is a varied array of movement patterns at varying intensities.
The stability mat challenges the physical body in addition to the emtional and mental elements.
It challenges the horse's :
The emotional and mental strength comes from autonomy which balances body and mind.
Once the horse experiences the balance and proproceptive changes the stability mat provides, it can be hard to get them to not stand on it or even to leave it!