Upcoming Events

Come take part, as a rider or auditor, in these upcoming special two day horse and rider assessment clinics with Dr. Maria Katsamanis to identify and tackle common challenges you may be facing and develop a game plan for success. Identify common issues with rider positioning, balance, saddle fit, topline development, flexibility, detecting sources resistance, and more to get you in tune with your horse and and his or her comfort under saddle.  All breeds and disciplines welcomed. For more details about how this clinic can benefit you and your horse, or to sign up, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Maria directly at mskatsamani@aol.com or 732 921-0565

September 15-16 2018:     Vernon, New Jersey, United States,  399 State Rt. 94S, Organizer: Laura Swan 

September 28-29 2018:    Ringoes, New Jersey, Amwell Ridge Farm, 28 Rocktown Road, Ringoes

October 13-14 2018:           Barcelona, Spain, Can Riu Farm is located 1 hr north of Barcelona Spain

December 2-9 2018:           Rajastan, India


Past Events

Small Group Clinic

Join acclaimed horse trainer and riding expert Dr. Maria Katsamanis for an in-depth two day small group clinic!

Each participant will receive a detailed, personalized evaluation and training plan. This is your chance to tackle any issues you have been facing with your horse or riding, and to create a concrete game plan towards achieving your goals.

Come learn with us and take your horsemanship and riding to the next level!

• The cost for participants is $400, and auditors are welcome with a $35/day fee.
• Local and non-local attendees welcome!
• Space for this clinic is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot soon!

To sign up, contact Dr. Maria Katsamanis:
(732) 921-0565 mskatsamani@aol.com

One-Day Horseless Workshop with Dr. Maria Katsamanis

May 6th, 2017

9:00am – 4:00pm

Amwell Ridge Farm

28 Rocktown Rd Ringoes, NJ 08551

Admission Fee: $50.00

RSVP to mskatsamani@aol.com

2016 Event Schedule
Date Location
January 26 Seminar- New Jersey

2015 Event Schedule
Date Location
June 20-22 Clinic in Street, Maryland
July 18 Open House Event,  Amwell Ridge Farm,  28 Rocktown Road, Ringoes, New Jersey, Open to the public
July 22-24 Clinic in Barcelona, Spain
August 8-9 Clinic in Mahopac, New York
August 15-16 “Dancing with your horse”  Horse and Drum Festival, St. Charles Illinois
September 12-13 Clinic at Amwell Ridge Farm, Ringoes, New Jersey
September 19-20 Clinic in Street, Maryland
September 26 Speaker at the Thornewood Farm Conference, Stockton, New Jersey
October 17 Horseless Clinic at Amwell Ridge Farm, Ringoes, NJ
October 25 Clinic in Street, Maryland
November 7-8 Clinic in Mahopac, New York
November 20-21 Speakers Panel, Meet the Author, Equus Film Festival, Village East Cinema, New York City
2014 Clinic Schedule
Date Location
March 22-23-24 Woodbine, New Jersey, Toni Techner, Private clinic
April 5-6-7 Ringoes, New Jersey, Diamond Creek Farm
May 17-18-19 Ringoes, New Jersey, Wuthering Heights Farm
July 19-20-21 Ringoes, New Jersey, Diamond Creek Farm
September 27-28-29 Barcelona, Spain, Private clinic
October 11-12-13 Ringoes, New Jersey


Nov 2017- Dr. Maria Katsamanis featured Expert in November Edition of Dressage Today

Dr. Maria Katsamanis was selected to be the featured expert in Dressage Today’s Ask the Experts column, jumping in to provide some valuable insight and helpful advice for a reader struggling to get her mare to go forward.

Read the full article below:

Jan. 2017- Inspired Horse Trainer and Clinician Dr. Maria Katsamanis Transforms Horses with The Pegasus Foundation

Ringoes, NJ (December 9, 2016) – For accomplished horse trainer, clinician, and author Dr. Maria Katsamanis, working with horses has always been a matter of the heart. Over the years, Maria’s innate gift for understanding people, horses, and the complex physical and emotional interplay that goes on between them has enabled her to transform the lives of countless horses and humans alike. Now, with the official launch of The Pegasus Foundation, she is ready to enhance the life of many more.

Maria’s newest endeavor, The Pegasus Foundation, will work to provide a second chance at life for horses that otherwise would likely have ended up being sold at auction or even worse, sent to slaughter. Once enrolled in the program, horses with mental or physical issues will complete a comprehensive transformation and rehabilitation process, with the ultimate objective of facilitating an adoption with a new owner, and providing them with a fulfilling and productive life as reliable equine partners.

“The Pegasus Foundation will provide comprehensive care and an effective training program for each these horses- to restore and transform them as individuals, and to increase their adoptability” said Katsamanis. “Our greater goal is to inspire people within the equestrian industry that through compassionate and effective training, every horse can truly have a second chance at becoming a healthy, fulfilled, and productive companion.”

Horses lucky enough to find their way to the foundation will benefit from an initial restoration process, in which optimal physical health will be achieved through recovery from injury and attaining an appropriate weight level.  After the horse has reached an ideal state of health and comfort, the transformation process begins, in which Maria’s compassionate gift and effective training approach unfailingly brings out the very best in every equine.

In addition to transforming the lives of horses and humans, funds from The Pegasus Foundation will also be allocated to produce educational seminars and workshops held throughout the year highlighting the step-by-step progress of horses enrolled in the program. Funding will also allow for the production of visual educational materials that will systematically document the changes in and progress of each horse. These materials will inspire and educate the public about compassionate and ethical training practices.

Experienced riders from all disciplines have been stunned by the transformation they saw in their horses after working with Maria. Maria’s wealth of knowledge and years of study include a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, and she continues to maintain an appointment as Clinical Assistant Professor at Rutgers Medical School. Her expertise also includes the integration of key concepts of the molecular and noetic sciences, a robust foundational riding background in the Greek and French classics, and an expert knowledge of horse and human physiology. The Pegasus Foundation will operate out of Katsamanis’ home base, Amwell Ridge Farm in Ringoes, New Jersey, where she also offers comprehensive training and riding instruction, as well as boarding services.

In addition to The Pegasus Foundation, Maria is also a highly sought-after seminar speaker and clinician, where she shares her knowledge and experience with those seeking to develop a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with their horse, regardless of discipline. Her book, The Alchemy of Lightness, provides an in-depth study of Molecular Equitation, the fundamental mechanics that underlie all human-equine interaction. As a clinician, she often utilizes her background in biofeedback and psychophysiology to “connect” humans with their own body signals.

“The Pegasus Foundation is committed to inspiring and informing people about the power and beauty of a horse living up to its full potential. The horse’s transformation into a masterpiece, into a sound and viable companion, will inspire and instill hope in those interested in adopting a horse. It is my goal that through the Pegasus Foundation, we will have the opportunity to dramatically improve the lives of these horses, but also to educate and inspire members of the equestrian community at large.”

To learn more about Dr. Maria Katsamanis, follow her on facebook @molecularequitation or visit www.mariakatsamanis.com.

To learn more about The Pegasus Foundation, or to get involved with the Pegasus mission to help horses, visit www.thepegasusfoundation.org or follow on facebook @thepegasusfoundationnj.

Aug 27, 2015 - Bucks County Herald: Marwari stallion makes home in Hunterdon County
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Aug 08, 2015 - Mindfulness and Wellbeing: Building Trust, Turning Toward the Difficult
Aug 8, 2015 – Building Trust, Turning Toward the Difficult By Jane Mayers, Mindfulness and Wellbeing Read on mindfulnessandwellbeing.com Yesterday I went to visit a colleague and friend of mine, a clinical psychologist who has been developing a livelihood that embodies her passion…horses. She is renting a beautiful farm that has two barns with spacious, clean stalls and an indoor arena for training the horses and teaching classes. She has a number of clients who board their horses…many of whom have horses which have previously been abused or traumatized. While driving to her farm, I had a deeply unsettling ‘close call’. I arrived breathless, distracted and tense. I found my friend deeply involved in her very full day of caring for her horses so I just jumped in and shadowed her as she moved through her chores. She described the endless nature of the chores as very grounding and noted that they help her to be in the moment and present with the horses. “They speak but we can only hear if our minds are quiet”, she explained. She showed me photographs of one of the horses when she first saw him with his coat dull, head low and eyes lifeless after years of abuse. I couldn’t believe the horse before me could have possibly been that horse in the photograph…now with bright, shining black coat, massive and muscular with his head held high yet totally tuned in and curious about his environment and very attentive and responsive to my petite friend who cooed, spoke endearingly and yet firmly if needed. Soon she wanted me to get actively involved. She encouraged me to use a massage brush with a (big to me) brown, male horse, who had been abused as a working horse out West. She told me the horse would let me know what felt good and pointed out a few areas that he liked where the muscles were still healing. I felt a little intimidated. I had difficulty noticing the horse’s feedback, which she patiently continued to point out to me. Despite being a massage therapist, I was aware of thoughts like, “I’m not strong enough to do this”, “I don’t know how much pressure to use”, “I just came for a visit and she has me working”, “I’m too tense to do this.” etc. My discomfort was painful. At some point, however, I began to settle into the process, with one hand on the brush and the other on the horse, patting him, talking to him. I began to feel the movement of the horse into the brush, as if asking for more. I noticed how he would extend his neck and curl his lips back while extending his tongue when he was really enjoying the area I worked on…not unlike we humans when the massage is a ‘good sore’. I also noticed I was more in my own body and calmer, the thoughts disappearing. Occasionally, he would touch his nose to places where he wanted more massage. My friend explained that when horses are abused it affects the musculature from the neck all the way down the spine. Healing involves mobilizing all these micro muscles, which is challenging for them because there is discomfort for them in doing that. The healing process involves building trust so they will be willing to go to those difficult and sore places they’ve learned to brace around to avoid the pain, losing progressively more mobility. After the horse’s muscles were warmed and loosened with massage, we went to the indoor arena where she asked me to walk my horse around the perimeter of the arena. I noticed how much more present and connected I felt with him now and how much more present I felt in my own body in that time and space. The whole afternoon started to seem timeless. Then she started to lead him through a series of figure eight turns that required him to turn his neck both left and right. The left turn extended the right side which is the difficult side for him. In this process she can see where he is having difficulty in the movement on this particular day. Only after being armed with this important information does she actually ride him to encourage him to gently push the boundaries of what he can do, moving more into the difficult areas, building confidence and trust. I was truly amazed to watch the rider and horse become so seamlessly one, like a dance. She only invited him and he complied to her coos, clicks, snorts (reminding him to breathe) and “good boy’s”. I had arrived at 1 pm. I looked at my watch and it was already 5 pm. …the time had definitely flown! I felt like a different person than when I had arrived, so much more grounded and present. I was so grateful and expressed my deep appreciation to my friend. My horse had shared many lessons with me. Working with him, afforded me a chance to practice with my own pain. With him I relearned the importance of the body and connecting with our experience even when it is painful or unpleasant. I experienced on a deep level that turning toward the painful, difficult or unpleasant instead of avoiding is an “effective way through”. I also saw how our history and experience shows up in our bodies and can take up residence there, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. The paradox is… by bringing attention and gentle awareness to our bodies and what is painful or unpleasant, there is the possibility of change which arises on its own out of that process. I learned that experience, even very difficult experience, by its very nature changes when we approach it with a curious and kind attention…and I learned that our wholeness is never lost.
May 2015 - Pennsylvania Equestrian
April, 2015 - Warmbloods Today Magazine: Before You Mount; A Checklist
Written by Dr. Katsamanis WarmbloodsToday.com
Feb., 2015 - Warmbloods Today Magazine: Seven Myths That May Be Blocking You From The Ultimate Ride
Written by Dr. Katsamanis WarmbloodsToday.com
Dec., 2014 - Warmbloods Today Magazine: Horse Listening vs. Horse Whispering
Written by Dr. Katsamanis WarmbloodsToday.com Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 3.21.42 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 3.21.57 PM
Dec.17, 2014 - Hunterdon County Democrat: Rare Marwari horses once again training in New Jersey
By Hunterdon County Democrat on December 17, 2014 at 10:02 AM Read on NJ.com RINGOES, N.J. — Four rare Marwari horses have taken up residence in New Jersey to be trained by Dr. Maria Katsamanis. This is the fourth year she has received these horses to train. This rare Indian breed, whose ears form a heart shape, numbers only about 900 animals in its native land. There are currently less than 30 Marwari horses outside of India. Most of them reside now in the United States, Spain, Pakistan and Oman. The status around exportation from India is a tentative issue and one that is on-going. The Marwari are part of the old world of horse mythology and folklore. One of the oldest breeds in existence, the Marwari bring a legacy of unforgettable appeal and tradition to horsemanship. They were reserved for the Rajastani nobility, and were the war horse of the Maharaja. In historical documents there were accounts of these horses lunging at elephants during battle. Their loyalty and fearlessness was legendary. Their numbers diminished during the era of British rule, according to Katsamanis, adding that the breed almost became extinct. Those distinctive ears are a dominant trait, and it takes two generations of crossing with other breeds to remove it, she said. Katsamanis said she has always been fascinated by exotic breeds. A Greek native, she has worked with Akhal-Tekes and other eastern breeds. She first learned about the Marwari from a friend when she was planning to organize a clinic in India. According to Katsamanis, the Indian government severely limits exportation of the breed to avoid uncontrolled and cross-breeding abroad. For me, she said, “they look and seem like mythical creatures.” Besides the distinctive ears, Marwaris somewhat resemble the American Saddlebred in appearance. Katsamanis points out that they are a sensitive, hot-blooded breed. “They are extremely tractable and very intelligent, ” she said. Katsamanis notes that, as war horses, they were originally bred to bond with a member of the military. Like other breeds, there are specific Marwari lines, and these are divided by color. The solid-colored lines are “quick,” hyperaware and look to their person for guidance,” she said, while the pinto lines are quieter and more like quarter horses in build. With either line, mature horses should not weigh more than 1,200 pounds or stand over 16 hands. In India, the Marwaris are used for endurance and on safari, but Katsamanis believes they are well-suited for any discipline, especially eventing. Dr. Katsamanis is among a very few select trainers in the world that have worked with the breed and knows them very well. “I have worked with most of the ones outside of India including all the ones residing in Spain. I feel very honored to have this continued connection with the Marwari community.” Based in Ringoes, N.J., Katsamanis continues to lecture, twice a year, for Rutgers Medical School in order to maintain her academic appointment as a clinical assistant professor. As a horse trainer, she works from classical principles, which include in-hand and advanced lunge work and long-reining. “The in-hand is a lost art but one that is invaluable to establish trust and balance,” said Katsamanis. She does not use spurs, and prefers exhibition riding rather than the show circuit. In the published books she wrote with Dominique Barbier, The Alchemy of Lightness, Katsamanis’s goal is enlightening riders on how to truly become one with the horse. The book formally introduces the concept of molecular equitation to the equestrian community. These days you can find her at the barn where she currently has horses for winter training. “I am also looking forward to the Spring/Summer where my clinic work gets me out to connect even more with horses and their humans” Katsamanis said. In other news, Katsamanis will be honored as the Delaware Valley Horseman’s Association Trainer of the Year for the second year in a row at their awards banquet in January. For more information about the Marwari horses or about Dr. Maria Katsamanis, visit mariakatsamanis.com For more equestrian news see Horse News Horse News covers everything equestrian in the mid-Atlantic area and can be reached at horsenews@hcdemocrat.com  
Nov 4, 2014 - Horseback Magazine: Dressage Trainer Captivates Movie Audience
Nov 4, 2014 – Horseback Magazine: Dressage Trainer Captivates Movie Audience Read on Horseback Magazine Horse Trainer Dr. Maria Katsamanis Featured in New York City’s Equus Film Festival LAMBERTVILLE, NJ – “They naturally draw people in, captivate, and intrigue viewers. They symbolize so many things even when we are not sitting on them. They elicit emotions and yearnings that can inspire and motivate people,” Dr. Maria Katsamanis describes the magnificent horse, an animal she has devoted much of her life to studying and training. The horse trainer and clinical psychologist presents a look into her unorthodox approach to working with horses in two captivating films— Equestre Molecular and Dr. Maria Katsamanis- Artist Profile. This November, Katsamanis will be helping her equestrian community put a hoof in the door of mainstream media by having her films presented in the Equus Film Festival and the esteemed SOHO Film Festival in New York, New York. Watching classical dressage trainer Dr. Maria Katsamanis interact with horses is an extraordinarily unique experience. Her methods invite the observer to adopt a completely new mindset in the riding arena and open the door to the natural language of horse-and-human communication. In Dr. Maria Katsamanis- Artist Profile by Skynine Corp., Katsamanis introduces her audience to her innovative view of equestrian activities by describing riding as “not just a sport, not just a hobby, but an art form. A way of living. Everybody’s very interested in a riding lesson— but it’s not a riding lesson, it’s a life lesson.” Katsamanis says the film “highlights what I felt were the more important aspects between horse and human.” Equestre Molecular by Ferran Serra features footage from a three-day clinic that Katsamanis hosted in Cataluna, Spain. The connection between science and dressage along with many more of the themes presented in The Alchemy of Lightness, a book Katsamanis co-authored with Dominique Barbier, are explained in this thought-provoking film. The trainer and psychologist states, “Dressage is the ultimate moving art form. For me, it is not a sport but a palate of creativity. The films were meant not to showcase riding skill or grandiose movements that an upper level mount can achieve, but to be an invitation to cultivate a mind to appreciate the simplest of things and to see the elegance in that simplicity. Horsemanship is an invitation to humanship; thus, psychology and horses parallel each other.” Dr. Maria Katsamanis’s films will appear in the Equus Film Festival in New York City on November 21-22, 2014. The event will be Equus Film Festival’s first integration into New York’s film pop culture. For Katsamanis, this means an opportunity to reach out to people who may not be familiar with horsemanship. “I hope that this expands my audience to people that may not be currently connected to nature but are open to the learnings that it can bring,” she says. “Horses are beautiful creatures. I think the general public can connect to a union that has existed for ages. It is a primordial calling that we all have to connect with nature. Horses have carried us to build civilizations. We have a history with them— an unconscious relationship that is in our DNA.” “This is my first time participating in a film initiative,” Katsamanis shares. “I am fascinated by moving art— I feel that this is my mission with horses, and what a better way to invite the general public to that than with film. There are so many avenues to create a message with film and the collaborative union involved to make it is growth-inspiring.” Dr. Katsamanis is eager to add film to her repertoire of venues for sharing her beliefs on how to connect with and train equine. Currently, Katsamanis’s views are already taught internationally through the clinics she hosts worldwide and her co-authored book The Alchemy of Lightness. To learn more about Dr. Maria Katsamanis, visit www.mariakatsamanis.com. For more details about the Equus Film Festival, please visit: http://equusfilmfestival.com Tickets will go on sale October 15th and will be available via the web site. Join the film community on Facebook at:www.facebook.com/EquusFilmFestivalNYC
Nov. 3, 2014 - Horse News: Local Horse Trainer Featured in New Horse City's Equus Film Festival
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Aug 18, 2014 - Horse Collaborative: “It’s not a riding lesson, it’s a life lesson”
“It’s not a riding lesson, it’s a life lesson” The Alchemy in Horsemanship Demystified Read on 

Last week, we took a fascinating peek into Jonathan Field’s natural approach to horsemanship, centered around observance, patience and most of all, understanding. Here’s another individual with a very interesting and holistic approach to horsemanship, Dr. Maria Katsamanis. An accomplished horsewomanand clinical psychologist (now that’s a business card), she combines her knowledge of connection with the methods of classical horsemanship. Check it out:

“The ideal relationship between a horse and a human would be a place where they are both physically and mentally comfortable, where they’re both there because on some level they wish to spend some time together. And that’s what I facilitate.”

Aug. 05, 2014 - Hunterdon County Democrat: Local equestrian Katsamanis speaking at Drum Horse Festival in Illinois
By Hunterdon County Democrat on August 05, 2014 at 3:00 PM Read on NJ.com Local horse trainer, clinician and author Dr. Maria Katsamanis, co-author of “The Alchemy of Lightness,” has been invited to speak at the Festival of the Horse and Drum in St Charles, Ill., Aug. 16-17. The festival is a one of a kind multicultural, multimedia equestrian extravaganza designed to provide a place where all horse lovers can come together to enjoy the beauty and energy of the horse. Katsamanis will discuss the concept of ‘molecular equitation,’ which was introduced in her book “The Alchemy of Lightness.” Two film clips of her work have been accepted to the Equus Film Festival, which is a part of the overall event. In addition, those clips accepted to the Equus Film Festival are also entered in the prestigious SOHO Film Festival, which takes place in the spring in New York City. A sought-after clinician, Katsamanis will cover many topics at the festival that she would in a clinic setting. Molecular equitation is the scientific study of the interplay of mechanisms during horse-human interaction. She introduces participants to the classical principles of the French tradition of dressage along with scientific findings from the world of New Physics.

“Our two species, horses and humans, share a connection that pre-dates gadgets or formulas,” says Katsamanis. “The inclusion of scientific information to explain our relationship with horses allows a new way of thinking. Science helps explain what we experience with our horses.”

Her background with horses combined with a doctorate in psychology bring her unique insight. Her empathy, training, and experience allow her to explain the barriers and myths that block the path between a horse and rider enjoying the ultimate dance together. She introduces simple yet powerful techniques that can improve the horse/rider connection and offers a unique evaluation process that identifies key physiological and psychological factors that affect rapport with an equine partner, and identifies and releases physical and mental barriers. “I have been fortunate to have been influenced by many great people that have been instrumental in my evolution as a horsewoman and trainer. My horses and students continue to teach me” says Dr. Katsamanis. She is one of a select few trainers outside of India that have worked with the rare Marwari horses. Dr. Katsamanis recently hosted a clinic at Diamond Creek Farm in Ringoes, Enrollment for her upcoming New Jersey clinic to be held in October 2014 is now open. Katsamanis’ presentation will fit in with the Festival of the Horse and Drum’s line up, which includes the Equus Film Festival, a wide range of speakers on various topics, and presentations including a Native American Pow Wow, Renaissance Fair, model horse show, and a Cowboy town. “This will be my first time attending the Festival and I was thrilled for the invitation,” said Dr. Katsamanis. “I am positive that this will be a great venue to discuss a philosophy that can be considered regardless of discipline or breed.” For more information on Katsamanis, visit her website at www.mariakatsamanis.com. To view her films that were submitted to the Equus Film Festival, visit these two links: Film #1 http://vimeo.com/74387995, Film #2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiDKpfqe9vM. For more information on the Festival of the Horse and Drum, visit their website at festivalofthehorseanddrum.com.    

May 05, 2014 - Horse News: Learn how science can aid equestrians
Horse News May 2014  
Feb. 25, 2014 - Dressage Daily: Jane Savoie's Interviews with the Experts Radio Show Features Dr. Maria Katsamanis on The Alchemy of Lightness
Published by DressageDaily.com Feb. 25, 2014 Lambertville, NJ – “I think it shows how open-minded she is,” says Dr. Maria Katsamanis horse trainer and co-author of The Alchemy of Lightness with Dominique Barbier, on the invitation from Olympic coach, author and three-time U.S. National Freestyle champion, Jane Savoie, to appear on Savoie’s internet radio show, ‘Interview with the Experts.’ Savoie’s December 2013 radio show, hosted by Kris Garett, featured Dr. Katsamanis for an engaging 45-minute discussion on what inspired The Alchemy of Lightness and how to open up to its ‘tiers to lightness.’ “You have really been able to work ‘outside the box,’” Garret said when introducing the New Jersey-based clinical psychologist and pioneer of the molecular equitation approach to the horse/human relationship. Katsamanis melds the classical principles of French dressage with the science of New Physics, and her experience as one of the world’s only trainers of Marwari horses outside of India led to a Royal invitation to serve as a breed display rider in the Queen of England’s 60th Diamond Jubilee Pageant at Windsor. Garret’s interview includes asking Katsamanis about her philosophy on riding, how her training in psychology affects how she makes behavioral connections and, in a poignant, personal moment, the author and trainer shares a story about the stallion she still calls the “teacher of her lifetime.”
Jan. 05, 2014 - Horse News: Rare Marwari horses come to New Jersey for third year
Oct 2013 - Dressage Today: The Science Behind Equitation
The Science Behind Equitation By Dominique Barbier With Maria Katsamanis Read on dressagetoday.com A book excerpt from The Alchemy of Lightness by Dominique Barbier and Maria Katsamanis The more self-disciplined we are, the more conscious we are of our body because our mind is available and compassionate, and the better prepared we are to be received by the horse. In the new book, The Alchemy of Lightness, authors Dominique Barbier—a certified British Horse Society assistant instructor and author of Dressage for the New Age and Meditation for Two—and Dr. Maria Katsamanis—a licensed clinical psychologist and dressage trainer—introduce what they call “the world of molecular equitation, otherwise known as the scientific study of the interplay of mechanisms when humans and horses meet, communicate and interact.” By encouraging the equestrian to let the horse be the teacher at times, this book hopes to explain how a rider can change consciousness in order to affect riding habits and build on togetherness with an equine partner. In the following excerpt, adapted from their book, Barbier discusses the science behind the art of equitation and what happens between a horse and human on a molecular level. Used with permission from Trafalgar Square Books. At the very frontier of scientific thought, new ideas are emerging that challenge everything we believe about how our world works and our relationship with ourselves and other living beings. For decades, respected scientists in a variety of disciplines all over the world have been carrying out well-designed experiments whose results fly in the face of current biology and physics. Together, these studies offer information about the central organizing force governing our bodies and the rest of the cosmos. What they have discovered is nothing less than astonishing. At our most elemental, we are not a chemical reaction, but an energetic charge. Human beings and all other living things are linked and connected in a pulsating field of energy, which is the central engine in the relationship between the mind and the world with which it must interact. Our relationships with animals and the molecular processes that happen from them to us, and from us to them, enrich all the other relationships we have. These processes—which we are often not conscious of—are actually intermolecular exchanges of energy. These intermolecular energy exchanges create change, a transmutation—the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form. In other words, it is this energy exchange that allows for molecular change. The molecular process that would allow for oneness with another being necessitates having an openness of mind and a childlike imagination willing to accept the invitation to explore the endless possibilities that can exist between a human and an animal. This is also an invitation to entertain the idea that there is a different way of training, a different way of being with the horse. The result is nothing short of an alchemical process that creates change on a molecular level. We have to be conscious of the fact that how we think impacts how we interact with the horse, how we communicate with him. Who We Are, Not What We Do The more self-disciplined we are, the more conscious we are of our body because our mind is more available and compassionate, and the better prepared we are to be received by the horse. The more we are aware of who we are, the better the chances that any situation can be dealt with. If we are calm and centered, the horse will likely pass through resistance or disturbance much more easily. He will happily partner with us. The horse is ready for us. His state is pure. We have to preserve that purity of feeling by being as clean as we can for him. Let me explain what I mean by “clean.” When you first connect with a horse, something happens. In the initial contact, there is a lot of communication: the exchange of energy. When entering the stable or going to the paddock, your first visual contact with the horse is the beginning of your relationship with him. Make sure you are prepared, meaning you have left the frustration and complications of your daily life behind you. Bring who you really are, clear and open. Welcome him; breathe and smile. This first connection starts the relationship; after that, you can decide what shape the relationship will take: Will it simply be a physical one, or will it be more sophisticated? Slow down your breath, your vibration; breathe out and be mindful of your movement around your horse. Then be the best you can: Your tact, your sensibility, your love will be ready to produce magic. This is the start of making your intermolecular energy exchange, and thereby molecular change, a conscious one. The more self-disciplined we are, the more conscious we are of our body because our mind is available and compassionate, and the better prepared we are to be received by the horse. A New Paradigm I want to introduce a new paradigm that elevates the existing hierarchical outline of lightness presented within the horse industry until now. When I use the term “lightness,” I mean being with the horse as he is truly collected, on the bit with maximum impulsion and a slack rein, with brilliance, beauty and life. This new paradigm will serve as the lay of the land and a template for much of what is discussed in this book. It includes the molecular parallels to my existing mantra of riding art, creating a new Molecular Mantra: direction, rhythm, bend and lightness. The new parallels are concentration, energy, physicality and openness/release. These parallels serve as the building blocks that comprise the bubble of molecular lightness. Their sequential order results in the openness and release that characterizes lightness, oneness and enlightenment. Direction involves being able to concentrate on one thing. That may be focusing on where you are going with the horse. It can be directing your attention to an object or to a thought. Direction requires self-discipline and it is the first thing that you must achieve in riding. The next is rhythm. When you find and keep a distinct rhythm, you find and keep the same balance, the same energy that the rhythm dictates. For example, when you are dancing with a partner to salsa music, you get a great feeling of happiness and carry yourselves in a balance and with an energy that relates to that happiness. With a slow dance or music in a minor key, you will feel blue and perhaps sadness, and the energy you emanate will reflect that. Bend is the physical position that ensures the horse’s well-being and allows mental communication between rider and horse once the horse is on the bit. Mental communication is facilitated when there is no resistance, no force, no blocking, no aggression. The horse is relaxed and open to mirror the relaxed and open rider. Lightness is condicio sine qua non (without it, there is nothing). It is the result of the horse being on the bit and the classical French riding goal descente de main et descente de jambe—the relaxing of the rider’s hands and legs (a cessation of action…release). In addition, the key to understanding lightness is through recognition of the superior matter, the greater power that we are part of and that is inherent in us. This is the power we need to have when riding. The popular mantra used in some meditative practice in the journey to self-realization is Om Namah Shivaya—meaning, you are open to and acknowledge (and indeed bow to) your true inner self, which is the form of God in you. This is our connection to something bigger than who we are, and it is what facilitates the creation of “oneness” with the horse. It is what creates the very thing that is so extraordinary about molecular change. It is through the circle created by the molecular mantra of direction, rhythm, bend and lightness, and its parallel elements concentration, energy, physicality and openness/release that we arrive at a molecular process—an intermolecular exchange of energy that leads to molecular change in human and horse. All these elements, in their order, need to be honored for union to occur. Small, Simple Tasks The molecular process starts when we are present (being right here, right now, focused on this very moment) and when we have defined goals. We are mentally and physically available. In that regard, communication begins as a state of mind and body. If, instead, we are scattered and without focus, we risk losing the very essence of what we are looking for. It is important that one learns how to be and not just how to do. We need to begin riding with a very simple task, one that is meant to initiate the relationship with the horse. It could be as simple as establishing a walk as we focus on knowing where we are going (direction) or find a particular rhythm. We should not necessarily be focused on passage or piaffe, even when riding those movements is one of our goals. This is very tricky because we learn throughout our life that when we want to produce something, we have to do something. The sequence of first focusing on pursuing small, simple tasks with our horse may seem, on the surface, as if nothing is happening. However, in the end, when all the basic building elements come together, we have something incredible. I learned this from my grandfather. He was a locksmith by profession and knew everything about locks—he could pick every one. Consequently, his mind worked backward. When beginning a new project, he would not work on the project itself but on preparing for it: He would gather the necessary tools, the needed materials and organize the different parts. He carefully measured and weighed everything. To us children, it seemed that for days he was doing nothing, which drove us crazy. However, when my grandfather did, in fact, start working on the project itself, the job was done quickly because of all the preparations made beforehand. This was a great lesson for me. When you approach a new lesson with your horse, do your thinking first. Use the power of your mind in the form of visualization (create a clear picture in your head of each interaction with your horse); work on your ability to be present; gather the basic building blocks of communication, that we just discussed. That way, when you are with your horse and beginning the communion that is riding, then everything is ready for your horse to meet you in the place where molecular change can occur. There are many things you can do without your horse to prepare to be with him and prepare for the feeling you will experience when both of you come together. For example, you can sit in a quiet place and play a movie of your ride in your head. Do this with your eyes closed. This enables you to create a situation where you mentally ride your horse. Your movie can be as complete as you wish. It is a visual image of your state of being, your horse’s, and the feeling that is the result of both of you together. For you, this movie is like being a pilot in a flight simulator. The horse is ready for us. His state is pure. Make sure you are prepared, meaning you have left the frustration and complications of your daily life behind you. Misconceptions Become Barriers Molecular change will occur when we want it to, when we have a clear intention. For most people, this may seem too simple a formula because it involves debunking previous notions of what training should be. But because of the way I teach during my clinics, which are time-intensive, I am unable to be conventional. Years of working in this way have made me refine my ability to establish a quick rapport with a horse, assess his needs and consider the next step in his training. My work differs from regular training offered by others because the emphasis is not on the systematic training of the horse, and this might be a point of criticism by some. Because my time is limited, my priority becomes the quality of the relationship formed with the horse, and that facilitates his ability to learn. We can accelerate his learning—and even help make things happen—when we use our mind. It is because I am forced to adhere to a schedule that I rely on creating change in myself and the horse through mental clarity. This kind of approach is quite different from what is currently out there; it is a result of the way I choose to be as a teacher, as a clinician. Lessons from Mestre Nuno Oliveira Very early one morning when I was in Portugal visiting the old picadero (riding school), Mestre Oliveira arrived riding an extremely large gray horse that was owned by a banker. He was a strange-looking horse: His back was slanted—I think he had once injured his haunches. Catching sight of me, Mestre asked me to ride the horse. Wearing plain shoes and pants, I was not dressed properly, but still, I climbed into the saddle. The ring was very small, about 13.5 meters wide, maybe 27 meters long; just enough room for a circle at each end. Mestre asked me to canter on a circle. He requested descente de mains, descente de jambes (let go with the hands and the legs). Then he said, “Reins on the buckle.” So I dropped the reins, and the horse stayed in the same position. Then he asked me to lengthen the stride down the long side, and in about five or six strides, I was at the other end. The gray was strong, and as I circled to the right, he was in a big canter. Mestre asked me to collect the horse. Of course, I went to grab the reins, but he said, “Oh no….” And that was about the extent of it. Then I stretched upward and pulled my shoulders back, and the whole horse came back in a collected canter—without any rein. This became one of the most important experiences of my life. I decided that this was what I wanted to learn and what I wanted to teach. Remembering more and more, each time we ride, becomes yet another opportunity for refinement. Lightness, The Ultimate Connection Lightness, true collection on the part of the horse with maximum impulsion and a slack rein, allows the horse to be himself. Rein contact and strong leg contact, in many ways, interfere with the physical movement of the horse, and totally destroy and alienate the horse’s mind. Only when he is comfortable in the correct position and light, do we have a chance to experience a superior understanding of the relationship between the two. The horse is already light by nature. He experiences lightness under saddle only when he is ridden properly. In other words, it depends on how competent, tactful and refined we are in order for him to just be himself. When he is himself, he is light. When a horse has been pulled on for many years, a tactful rider is suddenly a new feeling. He must form a new understanding of being ridden that he no longer has to answer to all the pushing of the rider’s seat and legs and pulling of the hands. The horse has to learn that this is not part of the equation anymore, and sometimes this realization takes a certain amount of time. Once the horse does understand that the rider does not intend to interfere with his body or his mind, then it is only a matter of how clear the rider can continue to be…and molecular change will be able to happen at the discretion of the horse. Lightness Is a Rider’s Perception Lightness comes as a result of the rider’s body and mind. First, the rider has to get out of the way of what is (remember, the horse is already light). When the rider can do this and can put the horse in a correct position while maintaining enough energy to help the horse stay there, it is then that the dance will happen. The quality of the dance is dependent on the quality of the dancer, especially of he who leads.
Oct. 2013 - Dressage Today: The Alchemy of Lightness, The science behind the art of equitation.
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Oct. 18, 2013 - Dressage Daily: Getting it Write: Maria Katsamanis Co-Authors The Alchemy of Lightness
Read on DressageDaily.com Lambertville, NJ – When looking for ways to improve riding skills or raise equitation scores, most equestrians would never think to turn to the science world for training tips, riding lessons or for solving problems in the dressage ring. Words such as molecules, electric charges and chemical reactions don’t seem to naturally coincide with words like piaffe or passage. But for clinical psychologist and horse trainer, Dr. Maria Katsamanis, the two worlds are deeply intertwined. For her, phrases like “intermolecular energy exchange” and “being on the bit” co-exist quite nicely. In a new book that Katsamanis co-authored, along with Dominique Barbier, called The Alchemy of Lightness, she explains how science can easily be converged with the art of dressage, and the results between horse and rider are amazing. Enlightening riders on how to truly become one with the horse, this spiritual riding guide opens the world of molecular equitation, which is otherwise known as the scientific study of the interplay of mechanisms when humans and horses meet, communicate and interact. By encouraging the equestrian to let the horse be the teacher at times, this book explains how a rider can change consciousness in order to affect riding habits and build on togetherness with an equine partner. A beautiful example of the importance of respecting, trusting and fully connecting with the horse, this resource provides the key to obtaining the ever-elusive quest to find total lightness with our horses. “Our relationship with our horse is key,” Katsamanis explains. “It is timeless, and our two species, horses and humans, share a connection that predates any gadget or formula.  The inclusion of scientific information to explain our relationship with our horses allows for a new way of thinking. Science helps to explain what we experience with our horses.”  Katsamanis goes on to describe that The Alchemy of Lightness provides dressage riders with valuable, best-of-both-worlds information based on real life experiences that she and Barbier have had with horses, and combines it with clinical and scientific facts. In this book, Katsamanis has skillfully leveraged her background as both a psychologist and a dressage trainer to benefit the reader. “Evaluating the science behind the art of equitation is the perfect marriage of my experiences in both arenas,” she states. “In the end, both professional caps I wear contend with mammals, albeit different species. I am fortunate that my education as a scientist helps me describe the excellence we aspire to with our horses.” Katsamanis also shares these experiences and provides this beneficial information to equestrians through many clinics that she conducts around the world. “During the gathering that I hold the night before my clinics, I introduce the participants to classical principles of the French tradition of dressage along with scientific findings from the world of New Physics,” said Katsamanis. She adds that all of her work is based on real-life experiences. “So, writing a book with Dominique, who is a world renowned clinician, was just another way that we can share personal life experiences. It was fortunate for the two of us that many of our life philosophies parallel each other.” Katsamanis hopes that The Alchemy of Lightness will provide valuable information, guidance and direction to benefit all riders well into the future, and ultimately help to shape a new way of how humans relate to horses. “I wanted to be part of creating a new philosophy of equitation that will endure through time,” she explains. “I see so much aggression and ego in the equestrian community, and no major advances to bring us closer to connecting to something bigger and more powerful. Having a doctorate in psychology provides the perfect complement to my working with horses and their human counterparts. Because I have a parallel passion about humans, I am committed to each individual’s journey with the horse. We ride as we are. We ride as we live.” Dr. Maria Katsamanis is a horse trainer, clinician and psychologist. Her equine background is broad. She studied in Greece, France, and the United States and influenced by great masters such as Dominique Barbier and Walter Zettl. Her early equestrian career included working as an exercise rider for a French racing barn. Katsamanis is part of a select few trainers, outside of India, that has worked with the rare and exotic Marwari horses. She was selected to be a breed display rider in Windsor, England for the Queen’s 60th Diamond Jubilee Pageant. She maintains an active and exclusive student base in New Jersey and continues to be sought out as a clinician both here and abroad. With a formal education as a clinical psychologist, she is able to help demystify and explain the elements of equitation that are key in helping riders establish the ultimate connection with their horses. Her explanations of the barriers and myths that block the path between horse and rider help to free the rider to connect with their mounts, making the dance accessible to anyone regardless of age or breed.  
Oct. 24, 2013 - Phelps Sports: November Clinic on Molecular Elements for the Ultimate Connection Sold Out­ Dr. Maria Katsamanis Accepting New Clinic Dates
Read on PhelpsSports.com Lambertville, New Jersey­ (October 24, 2013) At the gathering she traditionally holds the night before one of her clinics, New Jersey­based clinical psychologist and horse trainer, Dr. Katsamanis introduces participants to classical principles of the French tradition of dressage along with scientific findings from the world of New Physics. Dr. Katsamanis, who co­authored The Alchemy of Lightness with Dominique Barbier, says when science converges with dressage, the results between a horse and rider can be amazing. Her clinics introduce a world of ‘molecular equitation,’ a scientific study of the interplay between mechanisms during human­horse interaction. “Our two species ­­ horses and humans ­­ share a connection that pre­dates gadgets or formulas. The inclusion of scientific information to explain our relationship with our horses allows a new way of thinking. Science helps explain what we experience with our horses.” While her November 9­11 clinic, ‘Molecular Elements for the Ultimate Connection’ in Ringoes, New Jersey, has sold out, there is still time to secure this groundbreaking pioneer of the Klassical­Kind­Konnected approach to the equestrian relationship to your facility as Dr. Katsamanis is now accepting clinic dates and new clients. Her clinics introduce simple yet powerful techniques that can improve the horse/rider connection; evaluate key physiological factors in each participant that affect rapport with an equine partner; and identify and release physical and mental barriers in riding styles. As a clinician, Dr. Katsamanis brings an extraordinary skill set: experience as a horse trainer combined with a doctorate in clinical psychology. Her empathy, training and experience allow her to explain the barriers and myths that block the path between a horse and rider enjoying the ultimate dance together. Her broad equestrian expertise includes studying in Greece and France, as well as America, and she credits among her dressage influences the great masters Dominique Barbier and Walter Zettl. Her early equestrian career included working as an exercise rider for a French racing barn and she is one of a select few trainers outside of India, that has worked with rare Marwari horses. Dr. Katasmanis also had the honor of performing as an exhibition rider for the Queen’s 60th Diamond Jubilee Pageant in Windsor, England. Dr. Katsamanis maintains an active and exclusive student base in New Jersey and is sought after as a clinician here and abroad. While she teaches classical dressage and does not compete, many of her students are top competitors who regard Dr. Katsamanis as their “personal secret to success”!
Sept., 2013 - Se habla español? Student in Spain, Alicia Anguera, speak about the language of energy in working with horses
Click here to listen to my student Alicia Anguera: http://www.goear.com/listen/b569151/equitacion-molecular-entrevista-es-por-alicia-anguera-en-equisalud-de-radio-marca
Jul., 2013 - The Horse Luxury Magazine (Italy): The Alchemy of Lightness
Jul., 2013 - Horse News: Katsamans to leak clinic at Diamond Creek Farm
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Jun., 2013 - The Horse Connection: Close Contact with Maria Katsamanis
May, 2013 - Horse News: Katsamanis helps unravel difficult training issues
Horse Newsmay 2013
Apr., 2013 - Going Gaited: Marwari of USA: Jewels of Antiquity Dr. Maria Katsamanis, Horse Trainer & Clinical Psychologist
Equestrians Around the World By Gina McKnight, GoingGaited.com The New Jersey arena is filled with emotions, heartbeats and reflections this morning. In training is Alohaj, a noble Arabian stallion owned by Hemlock Crest Arabians. The mirrors along the arena wall reflect a perfect image of trainer and equine. The morning sun through the arena window imports stellar rays of warmth and sundust. Alohaj has come to Dr. Maria Katsamanis, Horse Trainer & Clinical Psychologist, for a course in ambitious groundwork that will re-establish his connectivity to maintaining emotional balance as well as physical comfort. Dr. Katsamanis maintains an academic appointment as a Clinical Assistant Professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Jersey USA, as well as Horse Trainer and Riding Coach. Her training emphasizes maximizing a positive self-carriage for both the horse and rider. Her philosophy for optimum equestrian pleasure focuses on equine and human physiology. Horses and riders attending Dr. Katsamanis’ clinics receive tailored treatment depending upon their physical profile, personality and overall disposition. Dr. Katsamanis embraces all horse breeds into her training and visits stables around the world. Hailing from Greece, she has been schooled in the classical, natural art of horse training; the idea that respect is created and maintained between horse and rider through clarity of intent, awareness of self-carriage and mutual respect, creating a deep bond and love between horse and human. Xenophon, the Greek horseman of antiquities, wrote on the importance of your horse as a partner, not a slave. “You must ask yourself, what can I do to be my horse’s best partner? Why would he want to dance with me? How can I grow in this relationship? What are the learnings that this relationship is bringing to me? This relationship being no different than all those one creates with others, spouses, parents and colleagues.” Recently, Dr. Katsamanis visited the stables of Ms. Francesca Kelly, Martha’s Vineyard USA, owner of Marwari horses. Marwari are an indigenous breed to India and their exportation is currently limited due to low census. The opportunity to work with Marwari has been a long desire of Dr. Katsamanis. “My time with Francesca was incredible,” says Dr. Katsamanis. “When I was invited to Francescas, I felt compelled to go. I went as a horse trainer because I wanted to learn and experience the horses up close. I had never worked with them before. Ms. Kelly, the patroness of the breed, extended the invitation to what was an elegant and unforgettable journey. As a horsewoman she has allowed her horses to be horses. I rode her horses bareback with rope halters over sand mounds and into the sea; it was amazing…very phenomenal! Their reliability, tractability, high intelligence and kind nature left me wanting more. I found myself missing them long after I left Martha’s Vineyard. I had bonded. I am Greek, so I was impressed with the simplicity and elegance.” Marwari are known for their beautiful confirmation, angelic grace and strong confidence. Dr. Katsamanis describes Marwari as the ‘jewels of antiquity’, confirming their royal heritage as one of India’s most beautiful resources. The Marwari are part of the old world of horse mythology and folklore. One of the oldest breeds in existence, Marwari bring a legacy of unforgettable appeal and tradition to horsemanship. Dr. Katsamanis welcomes the opportunity to work with Marwari, identifying their unique place in the world of horses. Marwari, like all equines, are spiritual by nature. Dr. Katsamanis explains, “If you are having a bad day and you go into a stall with a horse, the horse creates a ‘torus’, a circle of energy that embraces us. Horses have a heart five times larger than ours, emitting electro-magnetic signals. This is what creates the ‘torus’. This electro-magnetic field has a wingspan five times greater than our own. It is in this space that their heart pattern, being an electrical wave, can affect our own heart rhythms. Perhaps it is through this, our heart connection that we bond and communicate. There is a lot of healing through horses – from the horse to man. Horses have healing power; the healing comes from the connection we have with animals. When we are connected with the horse, the creation of a magical electrical circuit is likely to arise. Horses have a slower heart rate than we do. Their on/off alarm button has been refined because of their prey status, so that they are great role models for us to learn how to manage our own levels of stress and alertness. That is one way that they help us heal. On another level, physically being in their space promotes emotional and physical healing via the electro-magnetic force created by their heart resonance.” Science proves that this unseen connection between horses and humans creates a catalyst for motivation, confidence, increased self-esteem and overall well-being. This phenomenon has been documented and tested through years of research. Horses have healing power. “We need to go back to nature, back to basics in life and in our training of horses. Simplicity is key. You see more and more that people are drawn to activities that connect them to the earth. Being around horses is grounding. There is a meditative component to the seemingly mundane rituals of things as simple as grooming. The mental health community even endorsed Equine Assisted Psychotherapy as a viable psychological approach to emotional and mental distress . In that spirit, I do a lot of groundwork to establish communication on the groundwork and then taking it to the saddle. We waste a lot of chatter on what we want the horse to do instead of letting the horse show us what it is capable of. It is about allowing them to show us who they are, how they wish to be ridden, and what they have to teach us. Honoring that means being prepared to see changes in other areas of your life.” says Dr. Katsamanis. Being conscious of our body language and breathing behavior creates a blueprint in establishing the horse-human relationship. Anish Gajjar, Freelance Equestrian Trainer and Riding Instructor from Ahmedabad, India, is an acquaintance of Dr. Katsamanis. Anish states, “I have particularly admired Maria’s training methods as she is very patient with her horses. Lots of groundwork does give you a wonderful horse and that is exactly what Maria emphasizes on. I am happy to hear that a Marwari will soon be making their way to her stables and it will be a new experience for her as a trainer. Maria plans to conduct equine training workshops in India soon, which I will help her organize and I am sure many horse owners here will be happy to learn about her ways of training and the importance given to groundwork.” Helen Hylander shares her joy of being one of Dr. Katsamanis’ students. Helen writes, “I am a breast and colon cancer survivor with many disabilities. Wear back and knee braces so I can ride. Maria is giving our 19 yr old quarter horse paint mare Cassie and me a canter/stop lesson here preparing us for our trail ride for the cure October 16, 2011. I am Cassie’s 4th owner and 3rd breast cancer survivor. My husband David and I adopted her two years ago from a field. Maria has been working with us from the beginning. Using Maria’s body awareness, groundwork and in-hand training methods have helped both of us come to this point in time. No braces!!!! And a balanced horse!!!” Marwari, the ‘jewels of antiquity’, have arrived at Dr. Katsamanis New Jersey arena. They are experiencing her talent as a trainer, her wisdom as a clinical psychologist, and her undivided love for life. Her Greek ancestors would be honored by her commitment and compassion to classical horsemanship and healing. The Marwari, as well as other horses in Dr. Katsamanis’ arena, will receive affirmation of the importance of trust, the key components of balance and the commitment of comfort for both horse and rider. With a smile and confidence in her abilities to proclaim the joys of horsemanship, Dr. Katsamanis states, “A commitment to kindness and deep connection – a classical formula for your dream ride, your dream life.”
Mar., 2013 - By Dr. Katsamanis: Ordinary horses can do extraordinary things
pic7There is an old adage in Greek that, when translated, means something along the lines of “even old shoes when polished look brand new.” In English, there is the saying, “when given a lemon make lemonade.” Many people would see this mare in a field and never consider that underneath that physique is a beauty. Most only see what is and not what can be. Imagine every horse came with a blueprint of what that horse could do if given some attention, proper nutritional care and correct flat-work. To prepare their body is to prepare their soul, and there lies the magical transformation. The magic comes from believing that there exists the possibility that something ordinary can transform into the extraordinary. My hope in documenting the change of this mare, as she begins her retraining, can inspire others with backyard pets. I was contacted by the owner of a 12-year-old Haflinger mare about eight months ago. Her original owners were an Amish family. She was a cart and work horse for them. She was in a cart accident that caused lacerations and injury to her right hind leg, which prompted the family to sell her. A woman with two small children purchased her as a pet. She was not ridden but they would brush her mane and hand-feed her. She became grossly overweight. After two years, the woman  divorced and could not afford to keep the horse. The horse was given to the current owner to be used as a riding mount for her daughter. The veterinarian check indicated that she previously had founder and laminitis, which are reflected in the condition of the hooves. They surmised that she been on too much grass and grain. The new owners worked to get the weight off through the winter. While they were away on vacation the following summer, however, she had too much access to grass and gained weight. The pressure of the weight affected the hoof condition and it prompted a flare up. The original training goal, after veterinarian approval, was to reduce her weight. The vet had also recommended limiting movement, and adding corrective shoes to reduce pressure and encourage proper growth and healing of the hoof. The goal was modest in the beginning and was centered around reversing the tear and rotation, due to laminitis, and ensure her comfort.  The goals changed progressively as her condition improved. The mare was described, by the owner, as friendly and sweet. She came when called and followed like a puppy dog and was motivated by treats. However, she was described as “stubborn” under saddle. For example, the owner was unable to control her direction, especially going to the right, and the mare would head to the barn when she decided. She would also use shoulder-leverage and “root,” thereby pulling the reins out the rider’s hand. The Haflinger, unbeknownst to many, is a horse and not a pony. They are considered draft horses and have greater distribution of weight in the front. They were originally bred to pull carts and function as work horses for family farms in Austria.   Haflinger personalities are also fascinating, sensitive but sensible. They tend, on average, to have a lot more energy than one might imagine in a draft horse. While there are many roads to Rome, I chose lunge-work, in-hand work and riding. This sequence allows for proper development of muscles in relaxation and ensures a positive human and animal bond. The first, and most important, goal was to ensure that the mare was comfortable. Her physical limitations dictated that each session maximize her comfort, both physical and mental comfort. I used lunge-work and brief in-hand work to evaluate her movement and mental attitude. Lunge work, when used correctly, is not a method to simply exercise the horse. Lunge work allows for proper muscle development, and is a tool that allows the horse to find balance without the weight of the rider. A horse in physical balance is likely to be mentally balanced. This allows for a better ride. In-hand work is the second element. Both techniques are rooted in very classical principals and are considered lost arts. They are under used or misused, which is a shame since their benefits are critical. The lunge work and in-hand evaluation were consistent with the owner’s chief complaints. The mare’s injury to her right side manifested in a frantic pace to the right. This unbalance led to a visibly worried horse, as evidenced by stomping and quivering lip. Helping her use her hind-end was critical to help redistribute weight from the front end. By teaching her to move correctly, pressure was relieved from her front feet. It was likely that much of what she experienced under saddle was not misbehavior but unbalance, pain and subsequent worry. I worked with the mare until she was able to carry herself in balance in a circle-pattern. My rule of thumb is that if a horse cannot balance in a 20-meter circle, a person has no business riding on its back. When a horse is not in balance its muscles are tense, which creates joint issues and health problems. Once the mare was relaxed, balanced and had a consistent rhythm walking and trotting in both directions, I included riding in her treatment. The ground work allowed the owner to establish herself as the leader and to establish communication and respect with her horse.  This proved invaluable as the two of them progressed under saddle. Patience, respect and clear communication create a timeless, classical and magical formula that has proven itself over centuries to better horses. Through a progressive and systematic program consisting of lunge work, in-hand work and riding, we gradually saw the emergence of a happy Haflinger.
2012 - Horse News: Rare Marwari horses take up residence in New Jersey