Sunday, July 1, 2018

Improving Performance: An Interview with Adrienne Tomkinson

Adrienne Tomkinson. Photo by Simon Wackerle

Improving Performance:
An Interview with Adrienne Tomkinson
Archived from the June 2018 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission.                                    

“…prepare to spend all your money on your horse, free time smelling like stables, and dressed in dirty (expensive) clothes…”

The proprietor and creator of the ImPuls Methode™, Adrienne Tomkinson was born and raised in horse-crazy Australia and has spent most of her life working with horses. She developed her passion for the majestic four-legged creatures as a child. Adrienne has been involved with horses for over 30 years, breeding, training, treating and formerly participating in competitions. With a deep and keen interest in the equine athlete and improving performance through many channels, Adrienne has built a fine reputation and is considered a guarantee for exceptional results.

Her curiosity in musculo-skeletal issues, how to overcome them and how to prevent injuries stemmed from her own experience. This encouraged her to develop preventative and ongoing management techniques coupled with performance enhancement. Adrienne has developed her own method, the ImPuls Methode™, which consists of Massage, Energy balancing and Aktivgymnastiks™. These important elements complement each other and are the basis for the success of ImPuls Methode™ along with Sport Conditioning/ Coaching for the best ongoing results.

Adrienne has been in demand for her work with sport horses of the highest standard for many years. Regular customers include the horses of the World Equestrian Games (WEG) and some of the successful European Dressage, Western and Jumping horses. In Australia, she has worked with the elite of Thoroughbred Racehorses and Harness racers. Adrienne believes all horses, regardless of age or discipline, deserve the best care and management, achievable through ImPuls Methode™.

GM: Welcome Adrienne! Congratulations on your success! I am thrilled to meet you and introduce your passion for horses! When was your first encounter with a horse?
AT: So long ago that it’s hard to remember! Definitely around 2-3 years of age. As with most ‘horse people’ I am sure I was born with a passion for horses in my blood.

GM: The ImPuls Methode™ is an intriguing and innovative program that has helped horses and horse owners around the world! When did you begin your program and how has it progressed through the years?
AT: I have been practicing for around 15 years. Firstly, as an Equine Physical Therapist in Australia. Now in Austria as a Masseurin, Energy Worker and Sport Coach. I started many, many years ago as a teenager massaging my own horses and appreciated the positive effects of regular massage. I then completed certificates in Equine Massage, Sports Therapy and as an Equine Veterinary Nurse. During this time, I also began to treat other horses professionally. ImPuls Methode™ was set in motion as I began using self-developed routines based on years of experience and extensive learning on my own horses. This involved the use of Energy work. Not to be ridiculed in my profession in Australia, I kept fairly quiet about this ‘secret’ to my success. About six years ago I asked myself why should I not be more open about this. Then I put together the principle techniques that provided the best results. ImPuls Methode™ was officially established three years ago - although I have been using this approach for many years.

GM: You were a competitor on the field as well as a trainer and motivator behind the scenes. What was/is your favorite event?
AT: I stopped competing about ten years ago. Now I just enjoy being indispensable to my clients in their competition endeavors! My real interest is in building a solid foundation in training and musculo-skeletal management, strength and condition. I believe taking the time to develop the structures required for a long term and relatively injury free competition career is imperative and for me a lot more fun! I still enjoy attending competitions. Western Reining (I have a lot of reining clients in Italy) is high up as for a spectator as it is exciting and there is a good vibe.

GM: With extensive training in equine medicine (and an Equine Veterinary Nurse), equine sports therapy, and horse massage, your methods offer experience and wisdom to equine performance. What are your methods for bringing a horse from mediocre to excellent?
AT: As previously mentioned, a solid foundation in conditioning the horse for the demands of the sport is the first step. A horse cannot perform the tasks required if its body cannot sustain the demands. Horses learn tasks quicker than their body adapts to perform these tasks regularly. I consult to develop appropriate Training Adaptation Plans (TAP’s) designed to suit individual needs or goals. This involves a mixture of exercising for correct muscle development, bone/tendon/ligament strengthening, cardiovascular training and technical training as per discipline. A plan should involve activities to improve the function of each of the above-mentioned factors, sufficient rest periods to allow for regeneration of tissues and replenishment of necessary nutrients. Increasing intensity/stress intervals need to be balanced with sufficient intermission, to allow the body time to adapt without over stressing the structures. This is in order to reduce the risk of injury. In my professional opinion, time for adaptation/conditioning is the biggest factor to improving the performance of a horse. It is true to say that athletic ability differs amongst horses and with the right training program these athletically gifted horses are more likely to be winners. That being said, bad training or pushing a horse too quickly will often result in performance/ stress injuries and impair a competition career, regardless of natural talent.

Secondly, but equally important, care of the muscles through methods such as ImPuls Methode™ (including Massage, energy balancing and Aktivgymnastiks™) ensures that blockages and tension are removed before they become problematic. Many people underestimate the effect tension and blockages in muscles can have on the whole body. Aktivgymnastiks™ is like yoga - active and passive stretching and strengthening exercises to keep the joints mobile and flexible, and also helps muscle health. And Energy balancing is so underrated! It is also extremely important in preventing a horse becoming sour and improving willingness to work.

GM: Horses, like barrel horses, suffer from repetitive movements and high expectations. What is the best plan for horses in a high-stress environment and what is key to helping them maintain a quality life?
AT: Any discipline has performance-based stress problems. Just like our human counterparts that suffer from sport related injuries (such as tennis elbow or groin injuries) and that is a fact. As mentioned above, an appropriate time orientated Training Adaptation Plan (TAP) and regular massage/energy balancing sessions are key instruments in maintenance. It is essential to observe changes in the horse during heavy training and competition so that the first indications of potential performance related problems are noticed. Addressing these problems immediately and ensuring adequate time to resolve issues is additionally imperative. As for stress - changing workouts styles frequently reduce the impact of stress and boredom. Sufficient breaks during the season provide much needed rest and aim to reduce stress. Cross training is part of my TAP so there is a preventative measure considered here as with rest periods.

GM: Impressive! There are so many aspects to consider when conditioning horses. You also provide cranio-sacral and chakra balancing. What are these techniques?
AT: Cranio-Sacral balancing and Chakra balancing are energetic techniques to help remove blockages and increase energy flow within the energetic body as compared to the physical body. Both are techniques commonly used in the human fields. You may have heard of Aura’s? We all know that the physical body possesses energy fields that are not so easily defined. A living being gives off an energy (some refer to this as an electromagnetic field) which can become stagnant through disturbances in the physical body. Think of phantom pain that amputees often experience, this is to do with the energetic body that is linked to the physical body. Cranio-Sacral balancing works with improving the energy pulse from the head (cranium) to the base of the spine or the Sacrum (the triangular part of the spine that sits within the pelvis). In horses this includes the tail although the technique is still called Cranio-Sacral. Chakra Balancing works on the principle that each part of the body is governed by its own energy field (chakra). Balancing work here clears blockages and increases the flow of the life force through stimulating the chakras. This improves vitality (no it won’t make your horse crazy!) and encourages a sense of calmness. There are many energetic balancing techniques, some are more esoteric as others. My own modus operandi resonates with me and is an integral part of my massage routine. I work with the energy connection between the physical and energetic body. The benefits are to help the body return to its natural state of balance and release ‘muscle memory’ blocks. Muscle memory blocks are those where the horse expects an uncomfortable response to using a muscle in a particular way and thus makes compensatory changes to biomechanics and stance. Removal of these blocks with energy balancing assist recovery as a compliment to other treatments.

GM: You are a licensed vaulting trainer (FENA). What are the benefits of vaulting? What does it entail?
AT: The benefits of vaulting are for both the person and the horse!!! Vaulters must be extremely fit, strong and flexible with exceptional balance. For the normal rider, training techniques from vaulting can assist with core muscle strength. Core muscle strength is necessary for riders to assist with good balance when riding, so as to interfere as little as possible with the horse’s mechanics and learn to move in harmony with the horse. Too often horses have back or muscular problems due to imbalanced riders or disharmony between rider and horse. The horse changes movement to accommodate an imbalanced/disharmonic rider resulting in tension or stress in particular muscles. Coaching riders to look after their own fitness and body is also part of the ImPuls Methode™, although this aspect is relatively new to the services offered by myself.

GM: Do you have advice for those who are looking to purchase their first horse?
AT: Oh please, please, please, take an experienced person with you! And only buy a schoolmaster or proven horse, one that can teach you and is patient. There are so many problems that can arise when an inexperienced person buys an inexperienced horse that may inevitably become chronic issues or life threatening (for you!). Have lessons regularly, form good relationships with your vet, farrier, therapist and nutritionist. Ask an expert when in doubt. Take the advice from qualified people (like your vet!) And prepare to spend all your money on your horse and free time smelling like stables dressed in (expensive) dirty clothes ;). For that you will be eternally happy, and your soul will be enriched!!

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
AT: For me horsemanship is first understanding that a horse is and always will be a horse!! Never should a horse to be compared to a human, they are a different species and do not have the same thought process. Then being able to develop a positive relationship between horse and human. Good horsemen/women have an understanding and a special talent in working with horses without the necessity for dominance, aggression or severe punishment. Being able to teach a horse well, have healthy human/horse boundaries and have a horse willingly attempt to do all that is asked for. Communicating with horses is part of having good horsemanship skills, communicating oneself clearly with the horse so that it understands what is being asked of it, and recognizing what the horse wants to communicate. Being able to respond accordingly and without instilling fear. We need to respect horses and at the same time receive respect from horses. Horse have an amazing ability and willingness to learn, which means they can also be taught not to perform undesirable behavior. That being said, often undesirable behaviors are communication tools that are misunderstood. As with almost everything, some people have a natural talent and gift for bringing out the best in horses, usually they are good horsemen/women!

Connect with Adrienne…

Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from Ohio USA.

Adrienne Tomkinson. Photo by Simon Wackerle

Adrienne Tomkinson. Photo by Simon Wackerle

Adrienne Tomkinson. Photo by Simon Wackerle

Adrienne Tomkinson. Photo by Simon Wackerle

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