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December 2011

“Creating stronger partnerships and healthy biomechanics by combining the principles of natural horsemanship with the art of dressage.”

Karen Rohlf

Upcoming Clinics: March 23-25 Georgetown, KY Sweet Spot taught by: Shelby Hume

Welcome to the December 2011 Newsletter! Yup, I gave the newsletter a make-over!

In this issue: Questions from students, and answers from me. Video Biography of Karenʼs original dressage experience New gifts in the webshop Holiday message from Dana & Karen

• • • •

June 2-4 Gilroy, CA Sweet Spot taught by: Shelby Hume

What is a ‘Temenos’?

June 2-12 UK 2 clinics taught by: Karen Rohlf

Temenos is an ancient Greek word. It refers to a sacred space that has no limits, where special rules apply and extra-ordinary events are free to occur.

June 15-18 Poland taught by Karen Rohlf 1

Quote of the Month: “Where attention goes, energy flows” Tony Robbins

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What to do about tension in mouth and jaw?


Hi Karen, Thank you for what you are doing to create more horse-centred dressage. I have a horse who is one of those internalizers. He tries very hard, and at the show he tries too hard, resulting in tension most evident through his jaw and mouth. I know the answer is thoroughness and connection, but it is hard to explain the degree to which he 'shuts down' at any suggestion of pressure. He's a horse who needs to understand his job and be allowed to do it. My point is, he never, ever feels heavy in, or against my hand, yet when you look at photo's he is almost always opening his mouth or crossing his jaw, normally associated with resisting the contact.



He if fantastic on my seat, and works beautifully in a halter. Is there any bit that feels to the horse like he has nothing in his mouth yet satisfies dressage rules about bits? Also, should you ever feel like visiting South Africa I would be more than happy to arrange a clinic! ~Ansi Hi Ansi, Thanks for your email, and invite to South Africa! The issue you write about can be tricky. Tension can show up in the mouth even when there is no bit! My horse, Ovation has been very delicate to bring along in the bit. He had tendencies to be heavy in the halter, and finally when he was light enough for a bit, he ended up being super sensitive in his mouth. I played with thinner bits that i thought would fit in his mouth easier, I tried the 'Happy Mouth' rubber bits and I tried Myler comfort bit, I even tried a Myler comfort and wrapped it with Latex... He preferred different ones at different times. Something training-wise that helped a lot was to ride him in the halter and bridle at the same time, with a set of reins on each, and in the confident moments in the halter, just take the slack out of the bit reins so he could feel me. and gradually he gained confidence. I have a video of this on my website. (go to: and scroll down to the video: transitioning to the bit) And yes, you are correct, the more through he is, the more of a desire to seek the stretch he has, and the less emotional tension that is present the better. Also keep in mind that a moving mouth is sometimes better than a shut mouth and you can practice techniques that help promote relaxation in response to the bit. There is a video of this in the DN Classroom in the November videos I hope that helps a little... let me know Cheers, Karen


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Q &


How do you reconcile the difference between the aids for back up in dressage vs. Parelli? Hi Karen, I am a dressage rider and I follow the Parelli program for years now. I do have one remaining question. In classical dressage and even according to the FEI rules (dressage federation in Europe), the aids for going backwards are : lean slightly forward, put your legs back, close hands. In freestyle you do the opposite : Lean slichtly backwards, sit deep (little round low back), if necessary wiggle feet forwards and if necessary use reins. I know it's all about communication and as long as you understand each other it is ok. But for me freestyle is the preparation for finesse. As you say (I have your DVD's and book) : you need to be able to do anything without reins. Ok, we do. However, when going backwards we have a problem, because we also ride dressage and in dressage the weight aids and leg aids are completely opposite. How can I combine without confusing my horse?   I saw several videos of you and if I'm not mistaken, I did see you shifting your weight slightly forward and legs very subtile backwards (dressage rules). But when you ride freestyle, I noticed something else. (I might be mistaken of course). Could you please inform me, as I did not find a solid answer in you book, nor DVDs on this subject. I asked the question on the Parelli forum, but nobody could answer me. A lot of other dressage riders seemed to have the same "problem" as me.   Thanks a lot ! ~Isabel

Hi Isabel Thanks for your email and interesting question! It is one I have had to think about also. In playing with what I know in dressage and natural horsemanship there are many times I have had to reconcile seemingly conflicting information. One thing to keep in mind that many different systems can work. (Horses are amazing in that they can learn so many different systems.) I like to look at what the 2 different methods have in common, and then what the different circumstance is in each. One thing that both have in common is that the body weight is going backwards. Even if you see a slight tip forward in the more dressage way, the intention is that you are pointing your seat bones now backwards and are drawing back your movement. In natural horsemanship they may say to sit back more, but in both cases for sure energy is drawing backwards. In both systems, if the horse responds to the cue, then there is only a slight tip of the body.. Any exaggeration comes from a lack of responsiveness or refinement. From what I have seen, dressage-position-gone-too-far in the back up looks like a rider tipping way forward with an arched lower back, and pulling on the reins... Natural horsemanship-position-gone-too-far in the back up looks like a rider leaning too far back, usually with a round back, and feet flapping out in front. The truth is somewhere in the middle! The other difference is that the FEI describes aids keeping in mind the complete 'circuit of energy' and will always describe every movement as having a component of 'legs into the hands'. My feeling is that the circuit of energy is always flowing, so no need to necessarily describe that again in the aid for the back up. Of course, the energy should be flowing forward through the horse, all we need to do is redirect its direction through 'control-central': our seat! Freestyle in natural horsemanship by definition is not connected through the reins, and often is described in very foundational terms which are not particular about posture. Pat and Linda teach that students should "exaggerate to teach" so it is simpler to tell people to "bring their weight back". If that does not work, you can use a number of things to help the horse find the answer: your feet, string around the neck, a stick in front of the drive line, steady or rhythmic rein pressure. None of these are the aid for backup... They are the secondary supportive aids if the first set (our seat) doesn't work. In the beginning especially in freestyle I will probably sit back a little more to be more obvious to get something going... Then when they understand the feeling of weight and intention coming back, I can refine it and allow my seat to lighten. Ultimately we need our position to stay very close to the middle so we can go forward ready to back, and go back ready to go forward. Sometimes I think of my seat bones being like flashlights... I want to shine them where I want to go! A simulation you can do on the ground is to very actively go forward and then transition to back up with no stop, then go forward again with no stop. Play with different positions. You will find you cannot lean too far forward or back and accomplish this in balance. Also pay attention to the feeling inside your core, in your lower back and lower abdominals, to feel the sensation of drawing your energy backwards. You may have to go very actively... you won't feel it so much if you just walk through it.



copyright 2011 temenos fields, inc 2011

Ever wonder what caused Karen to start doing dressage? See the Video Biography about her original dressage experiences! I realized that many of you only know me since I started doing Dressage, Naturally... But before that I did dressage.... I thought you may find it interesting to learn about the event that caused me to start taking dressage lessons. This 12 minute video describes a little about what my original dressage experience was like... I hope you enjoy it!

Click Here for Dressage Bio

Gift Certificates available for Web Shop and Video Classroom In the webshop you can purchase a gift certificate for an amount of your choice for the webshop. You can also purchase $60 (3 months!) in the Video Classroom. During checkout you are able to download your gift certificate and then you can give it to someone! They will fill out the information and get it to us and we will set them up to enjoy 3 months access to all the archives and the Student Forum.


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The Art of Dressage, Naturally...

Bring the Sweet Spot with you with prints, tote bags and mugs! Artwork by Karen.

Web Shop

Items on sale: Book/DVD $89 regularly $99 SiMoN tool for learning lateral work $50 regularly $59


copyright 2011 temenos fields, inc 2011


Be everything with so much love in your heart that you would never want to do it any other way. ~Amrit Desai

A simple wish... From Dana & Karen

When you spend your life with horses you realize how powerful love can be.... And how powerful fear can be. From the first moment we interact with our prey friends, we must dissolve their fear. They show us how fear can quickly and completely interrupt forward progress. Fear separates us. They fear the unfamiliar, they fear things that confuse them, they fear things in the dark shadows beyond what we can see. We help them overcome this by proving to them that we will keep them safe. We prove it to them by seeing things from their perspective, so even if we donʼt agree, we can understand. As we near the end of this year, and begin another, maybe it is a good time to reflect on the unfamiliar things that we come across in our lives. We can think of the people and concepts that confuse us, and we can imagine that there may be things in the dark shadows beyond what we can see. We can also do for ourselves and each other what we strive to do for our horses: We can try to see the world from other perspectives and imagine that even if we donʼt agree, we can understand. The opposite of fear is love. Love yourself like you love your horse. Love will keep us safe. The quote on the first page of this newsletter is: “Where attention goes, energy flows.” Focus on love. Practice curiosity. Put your attention on this and your energy will flow to the most wonderful adventures... Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy New Adventures!


Love, Karen & Dana

copyright 2011 temenos fields, inc 2011

December 2011 Newsletter  

December 2011 Newsletter from Dressage, Naturally