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Twirling The Head
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Ash
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 Posted: Thu Oct 11th, 2007 12:37 pm
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Hello,

I was reading in the article, True Collection, about twirling the head and was wondering if it is similar to something I have been doing.

I do ride dressage.  However, I started my horse with long rope reins, teaching her how to give from the ground and then from the saddle before I ever "picked her up." 

Now we are riding Training Level.  I went to a clinic over the weekend where the clinician had the riders suppling the horses.  I just audited but I took copious notes.  Basically, you first ride the horse forward so it is active from behind.  Then, with contact, you hold your outside hand in neutral so the horse's nose is straight and then you take your inside rein, use an indirect rein in a turning-of-the-key motion, and supple the horse's head 7 inches to the side for three repetitions.  At the same time you, you use your inside leg at the girth.  Then you ride forward for several strides before you do it again.  You relax your hands in between the supples to give the release and wait for the horse's head to lower.

Does this sound kinda like twirling?  I'm thinking it is.  I like most of what this trainer has to say, but I am still hyper-concerned about the well-being of my horse and about being soft.  Yet, I want to ride dressage!  I hope I have found a place finally where I can get some answers.

Ash

danee
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 Posted: Sat Oct 13th, 2007 11:07 pm
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Last edited on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 02:53 am by danee

Ash
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 Posted: Sun Oct 14th, 2007 05:56 pm
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Danee, do you ride on contact?  How does your contact "feel"?  I understand that the horse has to make contact and that the horse puts himself on the bit only after he is moving forward and is relaxed.  I feel that we cannot "put" the horse on the bit.  My current trainer seems to have me use my hands a lot more than I would like.  Yesterday, I rode my mare on a trail ride on rope reins with slack in them and she chewed and chewed the bit.  Was she on the bit?  It seemed like it, although not in the show ring sense.

The suppling that I learned is definitely better than the extreme flexing, but I still had a problem with the fact that the horse was not allowed to wait to give.  Basically, the horse, impolitely if necessary, is asked to bend and take its nose 7 inches to the inside, quickly, back and forth.  To me, there is not much feel here.  That's why I am confused.  That is why I am riding my english horse like a western rider, trying to figure out what contact is so I do not frustrate my horse.  People tend to say that resistance is necessary before softness.  This may be true, but my horse cow kicked last week during a training session and she does not do this.  I didn't really feel comfortable about it.

So, is twirling a very subtle movement?  7 inches?  or 2?

Ash

Adrienne
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 Posted: Sun Oct 14th, 2007 09:05 pm
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 Ash,


 You'll want to go back to the "Knowledge Base" and carefully read "Woody" and then re-read "True Collection."

 Head Twirling is subtle and is about release which leads to relaxation which opens the way to collection through forwardness and straightness.

Head Twirling is just that, it isn't difficult to understand or hard to do. Read the articles and try it just as it's described in the articles.
 Many people do have trouble at first understanding it but I think we as riders have often been learning "higher ways of riding" along with many difficult complex exercises from all kinds of different books, trainers and programs and now we are finding out riding is simple instead of really hard!!

 Forget about what you've done in the past and what your being taught now and just focus on learning what ONE teachers has to say, at least about this exercise. THEN when you understand it and are able to do it well compare it to other methods that seem to be  similar, don't confuse your self trying to combined two different exercises BEFORE you know each exercise through and through.

 What you've described from the clinic is NOT head twirling and sounds in my opinion to be like many other "flexing" exercises which the focus of is to "supple" the horse by repetitively forcing the horse to bend one way then the other. The goal being that the horse will "learn to give right NOW". Sounds good but it will NOT lead to relaxation (did it look comfortable or relaxing for the horse to you? Would you have liked being ridden that way if you were a horse? ). Also horse learn to get by and do the exercise but because of the kind of exercise they often learn to defend them selves and get behind the bit rather than relax, find their balance, reach for the bit with confidence and collect.

 7 inches is a big flex! Head twirling is about the skull rotating slightly to the inside so you can just start seeing the eye. Head twirling IS NOT about flexing the neckI can't explain it in more depth right now due to time constraints but it's explained in the articles much better than I could anyway.:-)

 Head twirling is an EXCELLENT  tool and it's REALLY EASY and very SIMPLE. It's about RELEASE.
  I'm from an eventing and dressage background myself and everything was taught to me as being "hard" and we had to "make" the horse do it "for his own good".
  I'm so thankful I've found a better way! I'm sure you'll find this forum very helpful.
 It took me  a while to "get" head twirling, what it was and what it wan't but I finally "got it" and it  is  the one most used tool I have now. I use it all the time for so many situations so please stick with it, you'll love it!

 Have a lovely day!
         Adrienne

Julie
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 Posted: Mon Oct 15th, 2007 09:42 am
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Hi Adrienne, thanks for your explanation of twirling. It helped me to understand the softness that is behind it. Cathie

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Oct 22nd, 2007 06:49 am
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Hello to everyone. I've been gone a while -- after getting back from England in early October, I immediately had to turn my attention to teaching the Farriers' special anatomy class, which has now completed. We had a great time doing that, and I hope to see even more hoof-care professionals come out for this class next year when we offer it again.

I now have a spot of about two weeks before I must be gone again for another class. I have been monitoring the forum the whole time, of course, and there has been some buildup of questions and thoughts and so it is time for me to start knocking down this woodpile in hopes of making some order out of it.

Adrienne, your answer to Ash in this thread is just excellent. What Adrienne is saying, Ash, is that you are going to have to find the place within yourself where you can let go of the reins. Not only let go, but let go at the right time and for the right reasons. This is what "release" is, or in French, "descente de main". This is set forth, as Adrienne points out, in the Woody article and its sequel, True Collection. And again, I agree completely that all students who hope to learn how to ride in partnership with their horse (as opposed to merely "piloting") need to set aside, or empty their mind of, everything else. The reason for this is that you cannot have things both ways, or have them all ways. All kinds of riding do not fit together. You cannot make a "quilt" for yourself and call that horsemanship.

This is disappointing news to a lot of people -- even shocking to them -- I know. Nevertheless I can't do less than tell you the truth. You cannot get to where you want to be with your horse if you try to take a little bit from this teacher and stitch it together with a little bit from some other teacher, and so forth.

Does this mean you have to give up all that you know, all that you have so laboriously (and probably expensively) learned in lessons and clinics? No. But you ARE going to have to give up all the parts that no longer fit, in the same way that in the autumn a tree gives up leaves it no longer needs. Or again, in the same way that we put seed in the ground, and it apparently dies while buried there, but in a little time it rises again and produces a crop that is a hundred or a thousand times bigger than the amount of seedcorn that was put into the ground. This is a basic fact or lesson of all life: you have to die in order to live. What I am specifically saying here is that most of your ideas about riding are going to have to die before your horse, or I, can teach you what you most want to know.

It is not at all an easy lesson, because you have to decide whether what is being offered here is worth dying for. This is why I find that it is impossible to teach anyone anything until they almost beg for it. They themselves have to be so empty, so much hitting bottom, that they are ready and willing to do as they are told: just as they are told: not ball it up with somebody else's theory, or with "levels" from whatever source, or fallacious techniques that they learned from some instructor certified somewhere by somebody. As Adrienne has noticed: when you do just as I am telling you, then the whole thing is really simple.

But -- Ash -- as I mentioned above, you have to be fully ready to let go of the reins. Are you ready? If you are, I'll be here to help you do that. So will your horse -- but you may not believe that part until it has already begun happening.

If you are ready to let go of the reins, then you can write back in this thread and I'll give you specific little things to do that will help you find out on your own what "twirling the head" really means.

Best wishes, and thanks for your interest and inquiry. -- Dr. Deb

Ash
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 Posted: Mon Oct 22nd, 2007 03:03 pm
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Dr. Deb,

First of all, thank you so much for your time to reply, your insight, and your honesty.   What you said about piecing things together is a real eye-opener.

I have been riding in rope reins for the last week and a half and feel very confused, but happy.  This is a long time coming, and I have thought about it for at least two years, but now I am ready to do it.  I am ready to let go.

Ash

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Oct 23rd, 2007 07:33 am
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OK, Ash, real good. I'll begin by asking you a couple of questions. I need your responses to these so that I can better understand where you're coming from.

(1) What significance does riding in rope reins have for you? Specifically, I need to know whether you do anything differently when riding in rope reins vs. when riding in any other kind of reins (i.e. reins made out of leather, rubber-coated reins, etc.).

(2) What, exactly, is confusing you? Apparently you feel confused after having switched to rope reins. Why?

I'll get back to you again after I hear your responses. -- Dr. Deb

Ash
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 Posted: Thu Oct 25th, 2007 01:58 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb,

I have taken a bit of time to think about your questions.  I had to ride again to work on the answer!


(1) What significance does riding in rope reins have for you? Specifically, I need to know whether you do anything differently when riding in rope reins vs. when riding in any other kind of reins (i.e. reins made out of leather, rubber-coated reins, etc.).

For the horse, I think that rope reins mean more obvious releases and clearer signals.  For me, rope reins signify a different style of riding that I have to learn.  Granted, this style seems softer, with much more distinct releases than I have used in my dressage training, but it is different than what I have known before.  For instance, with my regular web, dressage reins I would not let the rein go completely loose and then pick it up again for an aid because I have been taught that inconsistent rein contact where the horse sporadically is bumped in the mouth is much more unpleasant than consistent contact.  The web reins are so light and without water straps so that there is really no feeling in the reins when they are slack, unlike a rope rein that has a little more life in it. 

When I ride in my web reins, I keep the slack out, the reins and my elbows in a straight line to the bit, and I TRY to communicate via subtle aids like slight opening or indirect reins, and vibrating my fingers but the subtlety sometimes seems not enough and then I feel that the pressure on my horse's mouth is more than it should be.  I understand that contact should be just a constant "feel";  a give and take between horse and rider where the rider softens to a horse's braces and where the horse yields to the rider's soft firmness.  Yet, this idea of contact is not what I have been learning at my lessons.  If my horse in the forehand, for instance, I am told to raise my hands and take up more pounds in the reins, while driving forward.  To me, this is wrong!  Also, if I am out on the trail and I am riding on contact, if my horse gets nervous or spooky, I have always found that problems are solved more easily with my rope reins than with my web reins.

Now, when I ride with rope reins, everything seems more liberated.  I am not pulling my horse up off her forehand.  I have a bunch of slack in my reins.  Sometimes when I get her moving well with her hindquarters, I actually start to feel a bit of collection.  Everything I do with the reins can start out subtle, then grow to more pressure if needed, and then the release is quick and obvious.  The difference in riding technique comes in the form of learning things like disengaging the hips, which is not done in dressage or with "normal" contact.  Moving the forequarters around, which I understand helps with collection, is not done in dressage or with web reins.  My instructor would be horrified if she saw me doing these things!  LOL  I am also learning "soft feel" with my rope reins, which seems to be a much nicer way of asking a horse to flex through the poll than just suppling a horse's nose back and forth a few times. 

With the web reins I vibrate or repeatedly squeeze the rein to ask for something and then quit when the horse responds and then when I use the rope reins, I just hold but don't pull and wait for the response before I release.  The web reins seem to encourage more pressure than the rope reins ever do, however.

Both my mare and I seem happier when we are just "playing" with the rope reins.

(2) What, exactly, is confusing you? Apparently you feel confused after having switched to rope reins. Why?

I believe I am confused afer switching to rope reins because I do not understand how riding with the different reins can be similar.  Many, many people tell me that it does not matter whether you ride with english reins, rope reins, or mecates:  a horse is a horse and good horsemanship is good horsemanship.  This is always what I hear.

So, why is it that my rope reins seem to just "feel" better?  Why do the web reins seem constricting and dressage more a series of ineffectively squeezing, asking, squeezing, asking, INDIRECT REIN, asking, and not getting anywhere really whereas riding with rope reins a la Buck Brannaman seems more clear cut?

Can I ever ride "dressage" again with my web reins after teaching my horse things on rope reins?

I feel like I have to make a choice and not just based on the reins, but based on the principles of each kind of training.  I love dressage, but true classical dressage does not seem to be taught much anymore.  Methods based on using the rope reins or mecates seem closer to true classical dressage than modern dressage can ever be, and that confuses me. 

My horse seems more well-trained and well behaved than my instructor's 2nd level dressage horses.  She is much more willing, relaxed, and rideable (on the trail for sure) than any of my instructor's horses.  I believe that is connected to the lack of feel in the method that goes with the web reins.

Ash

danee
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 Posted: Fri Oct 26th, 2007 05:14 am
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Last edited on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 02:53 am by danee

Ash
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 Posted: Fri Oct 26th, 2007 04:59 pm
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Danee,

Yes, it makes a lot of sense!  Actually, you seem to be a lot like me in your thinking.  This will be an interesting progression and journey. 

Tell me, when you say you have contact with your rope reins, what do you mean by that?  Contact seems to have so many different connotations.  Is the line straight or is there slack? 

Also, when do you ride with rope reins and when do you ride with dressage reins, and at what point did you feel you could go back to "picking up" your horse after "letting go"?

Thanks guys!

   
~Ash

Pam
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 Posted: Fri Oct 26th, 2007 07:17 pm
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Danee,

You make alot of sense to me!  You talk about "feel" quite a bit, which to me is the number one thing a rider must develop - I don't think anybody can teach that.  I could be wrong, it is just what I have observed for myself.  It seems to me to have the correct contact you have to have a good feel for your horse.

I just started riding with the western split leather reins and find that I like the different feel it offers. I get to hold my hands in a more relaxed way - so I like that.  I don't see any problem with switching the type of reins used. 

Happy Riding,

Pam

 

danee
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 Posted: Sat Oct 27th, 2007 01:23 am
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Keep in mind- this is just what I do because it feels best to me...

I like to start horses in a hackamore and rope reins, but I hate a mecate because I can't stand having double weight on one side- again, that is just me.  On my rope halter I tie a fat cotton lead around to make reins.  At this point I make sure the horse understands and is confident about bending to a halt- I don't over practice it, but i make sure it is there.  I do what I call "your idea/my idea", where I may pick up the reins and ask the horse for a leg yield with a lot of bend (not a "competition" leg yiled).  What I am really looking for isn't sideways or bend, but rather a release of the topline muscles.  As soon as the horse releases, I drop the reins and go into passenger mode- the horse can go where he wants as long as it isn't too much faster than the tempo or gait I strated with.  When the horse gets hollow, tight, or quick, it is automatically my turn again.  The horse releases and it is his turn.  The longer he stays relaxed ans soft the longer it is his turn.  I do this a lot at the walk, but I will do it at the trot too.  On some horses I need to use a little rein during "their turn" to keep it civil, but my gaol is to have the reins on the neck.  This exercise usually results in a horse that is confident, calm, relaxed physically and mentally, is stretching and bends readily.  The horse is typically on the forhand too, but i feel we can deal with that later- after relaxation and basic communication is solid.

After this stage I will put on a snaffle and webreins, but I still warm up this way.  Than I use exercises that automatically bring the horse more up.

On my own horse I use roping reins- they are short enough that I can lay them on her neck or ride one handed, but a nice texture for riding more up on short reins.

 

When I say I ride 'on contact' I am (in this thread in this context) refering to the type of contact I can do advanced lateral work with- when my horse is up and reins are not slack.

 

I big part of my journey was realizing that if I don't want a pulled in, short necked, gaping mouthed  dressage horse, than I HAD TO STOP PICTURING THEM!!!!  I wanted a "dressage" horse- up in front, lots of suspension and doing halfpasses.  But I realized I liked the "feel" of a reining horse.  So I finally decided to picture a reining horse that was a little higher than most and knew some dressage movements.  That image did a lot for me.  Now That I have pretty much acheived that mix of reining and dressage (because that is the definition that worked best for me) I now struggle a little to expand that and get the suspension, but we are pluggin away at it.

Pam
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 Posted: Sat Oct 27th, 2007 02:10 am
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Danee,

Interesting warm up method you have there!

I'm with you in not wanting to ride my horse with short reins -  in fact I have gone the other extreme and find I ride with too long of reins now .  Mike Schaffer (whom I mentioned to you somewhere) rides with fairly long reins in the early stages of training his horse Indeed - very different from every dressage trainer I have seen.  You can watch his training on his web site.

I just attended a four day riding clinic with a cowboy from Montana.  I was the only person there in a dressage saddle but he said it didn't matter because he taught basic handle, any type of saddle will do for that.  All of the people there had quarter horses, who do cutting work with the cows, and I rode my big TB.   I had to completely empty myself (as Dr. Deb puts it) and forget about everything else I had been taught to be able to learn what it was the clinician was teaching.  Once  I did that it was great.  I was really there to solve my cantering/galloping issues and that was accomplished.  All of the problems I had with cantering disappeared there and I got my horse moving and using his whole body very nicely.  I've got pictures to remind me.  I thought he had problems with the left lead in the canter, but he didn't in this clinic.  I'm glad I took the opportunity to take myself out of my comfort zone, by attending this basic western riding clinic.  

Anyway, hope I stayed with the subject here.

Happy Riding,

Pam

 

danee
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 Posted: Mon Oct 29th, 2007 01:40 am
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Last edited on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 02:54 am by danee


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