Iliane Lorenz & Rupert Isaacson: Co-Founders of Horse Boy Method & Stressfree Dressage Read more....
Together Iliane and Rupert came up with the concept of Stress-Free Dressage - a way of preparing horses and riders to work in soft collection with the express purpose of creating rhythms for the child that promote oxytocin production (through rocking the hips) and therefore opening up the learning receptors of the child's brain.
Because the exercises are designed to eliminate stress (cortisol) and promote relaxation (oxytocin) all the methods of Stressfree Dressage promote well being for the horse and rider - not just the child.
The main thing is that this is dressage with a purpose - to really help teach children on horseback - rather than for sport or as an end in itself.
We guarantee you will find the process stressfree and healing. You will also be amazed by what you can do on a horse. We have amazing schoolmasters here at New Trails. Its Classical Dressage without the stress.
Welcome to Stress-Free Dressage, our Horse Boy Dressage section.
Have you ever looked at those dressage riders and thought “that looks like too difficult, too snobby of a club to join”?
Have you been screamed at by this instructor, humiliated by that instructor, confused by yet another instructor and come away feeling that the word dressage should be replaced with stressage?
Have you been trying for years to get beyond level 1 but the instructors just don’t seem to be able to get you through your blocks?
Have you been around sport dressage horses whose bodies are sore and whose brains are fried – the light having gone out of their eyes?
Have you always wondered on just how these riders actually get to Piaffe and Passage and found that no matter which instructor you ask, you never really get a clear answer?
Have you always secretly wished that you could easily, delightfully ride the same moves that the Spanish Riding School guys ride but though you were not good enough?
Let us help you access the superb dressage rider inside of you. Without stress. Without being screamed at. Without being confused. Without being humiliated. With delight.
With a clear road map of how to get there exercise by exercise. With playfulness, fun and in a way that your horse will enjoy, not resent. In a way that provides therapy for both yourself and your horse – both in body and soul. Where you can learn as much on the trail and the forest as in the arena. Where you can find just how talented you actually are.
But what has Horse Boy – the epitome of Live Free Ride Free – have to do with dressage?
Long ago, when Rowan and Rupert were first riding through the Texas countryside together, and Rowan was learning to talk on Betsy’s back, Ru discovered that the more collection he used with Betsy, the more communication he got from Rowan.
So Ru became curious: was there a direct link between the horse’s collection and Rowan’s communication or was it pure coincidence?
Ru began to refine Betsy’a canter until it became a “terre a terre” - a canter on the spot. He also trained Betsy into an ultra-collected rocking horse type canter known as mezzaire.
Rowan’s communication skills went through the roof.
Eventually Rupert learned that anything that rocks the hips in rhythm makes the produce oxytocin – the feel good hormone. And anything that causes you to have to find and refind your balance from moment to moment opens up the learning receptors of the brain. Presumably Betsy’s collection was having just this effect, not just on Rowan but on other kids too. This was in 2005/6. Rupert started running some unofficial playdates (the first Horse Boy Method sessions) for other autistic kids in the neighborhood using the same collected moves and noticed similar reactions.
As time went on Rupert began using halt to canter to halt to teach kids how to understand fractions (riding a half of a half a circle in canter for instance). He also noticed that the softer the transitions between the horses gaits, the better the kids began to deal with transitions in their every day lives.
Rupert found that even just working in a soft rhythm also produces oxytocin and is very, very pleasant for the kids.
Flying changes and collection made it possible to play rule based games such as “tag – you are it” on horseback at the canter safely without risk of the horse falling over or the kid getting bounced around.
He also found that working through the classical training scale was better for the horses’ backs and that high school dressage movements done in hand – e.g. terre a terre (canter on the spot); piaffe, spanish walk can be cued like tricks (good for communication), are, again, amazing for producing oxytocin and therefore have huge sensory benefits, and also - as the kids get older - provide great opportunities for the kids themselves to learn in hand work, which makes them employable as these are sought after skills.
Terre a terre canter allows an older kid to canter in the long lines - allowing kids too big for back riding to get the benefits of working at the canter because it can a) be controlled from the ground and b) is so collected that, again, it floods the kid or young adult with oxytocin making their academic sessions on horseback way way more productive.
Sometimes just putting the horse into a terre a terre or piaffe/passage for a few steps got a massive euphoric response from the child followed by speech.
Rupert wrote a piece about all this for the magazine Dressage Today back in 2009 but as stated above, began the process much earlier in 2005-6.
Obviously Rupert didn’t get here on his own. The more he began to see the value of collection and dressage in Horse Boy work, the more he began to invest in his own training.
From 2008 he began to train with Janine Pendlebury a dressage genius in the UK (www.LusitanosUK.com) and in 2009 he met Iliane Lorenz, a German dressage rider, who was strongly interested in the Horse Boy Method and together they conceived Horse Boy’s Stress-Free Dressage Workshops.
The reasons for the workshops were twofold: to help people prepare their Horse Boy Horses and to help people maximize the oxytocin producing element of Horse Boy Method so as to better serve the kids. However, we also found that people who had been put off sport dressage for all ‘stressage’ reasons listed above began taking the workshops too.
So here we are.
This is classical riding in service to kids and families, not for sport or ego. We want to be the best horseman we can be so that we can teach a kid math on horseback, not because we want to go to shows. Weirdly, once you take out the ego and the inner critic and judge (always present when you train for sport), you relax, so both you and the horse learn it all way, way quicker than you would if you tried to learn it for sport. Put more simply, we are in service, so we want to be the best service providers we can possibly be. Dressage is the key to that, whether on the trail or in the arena. For us it will be a lifelong devotion. It’s a calling. It’s what we do.
People usually come to New Trails for one week (5 days riding) or 2 weeks (10 days riding with some down time in the middle so it doesn’t get too intense).
We take people through the entire training scale from basic rhythm, lunging and long-lining right through all the laterals, flying changes if the rider is up to them and piaffe and passage/basic airs such as levade, pesade, terre a terre and mezzaire – ridden and in hand.
The week starts out with a basic 2 day workshop that covers all the theory, how it relates to autism and and the first mounted exercises – building blocks for the more advanced stuff later in the week.
You will ride the exercises on a variety of schoolmasters; one of the things we spend a lot of time on is contact - the most difficult part of dressage - very few people really explain contact and even fewer teach specific exercises for contact for different personality and physical horse types. we also look at the various training aids when to use them/not use them all as part of the maintenance of the horses top lines which is a bit of an art in itself, especially for horses that do a lot of back-riding.
More details about Stress-Free Dressage workshops
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Information deemed to be reliable but not guaranteed. Check for pricing and trainings. Terms subject to change.
The Horse Boy Method is not intended or offered as a cure for autism. Ameliorative effects may or may not occur. The method was found to be very useful with Rupert's son Rowan and with other children subsequently. We simply follow what worked for Rowan and others but there is no guarantee of outcome.
By participating in a Horse Boy Method session or training or applying them at home you accept full personal responsibility for any injury or death that can follow any equine activity. The Horse Boy Foundation accepts no liability.
Just as a reminder… The Horse Boy Method Training is an intro into the methods including but not limited to back-riding. We do NOT suggest that you go home and start back-riding with children. Practice, practice, practice! Seek professional advice from your trainers to deepen your skills as a rider and horseman/woman. Take lessons! Again, after the training you are probably NOT ready to ride with a child. Practice until you, your horses and your property are ready for back-riding! HORSE BOY LLC, IT’S MEMBERS, OFFICERS, TRAINERS ETC ARE NOT LIABLE FOR ANY INJURY, DEATH OR DAMAGE CAUSED BY YOU BACKRIDING WITH A CHILD OR OTHER PERSON.
We do suggest you and anybody you work with wears protective gear like protective riding helmets etc.