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toe-first striking
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kcooper
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 Posted: Wed Jul 17th, 2013 09:10 am
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Yes,
Thank you Dr Deb. I'm glad to see a really detailed description of how you would go about counting cadence in a session as well as the description for a proper stop.
Nice work on this Juliet!

Jill
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 Posted: Thu Jul 18th, 2013 03:15 pm
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I am also getting much out of this thread. Thank you both - Juliet for starting it and Dr. Deb for the very clear explanation/directions! 

Jill

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Sun Jul 28th, 2013 10:28 am
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Dr. Deb-- we've been working on this stopping technique since your last post. It's taken us longer to get it than I expected, and I'm not sure we totally have it even now. It seems Macie is listening, but not really sure what I'm asking. It got clearer when, in addition to the action with the reins and the visualizing her front legs, I added my seat stopping. I find that when I count cadence I rely (sort of semi-consciously) on my seat telling me where her front legs are--my seat bones move with her. When I stop my seat bones moving in synch to what I'm doing with the reins, it works better. It still takes us several steps to come to a full stop though. Is this right? or should she be stopping more immediately?

That said, I've interestingly noticed some big changes in how our downward transitions from trot to walk. The counting cadence at the walk has really increased my awareness of what's going on with her front legs at the trot. I used to pick up the correct diagonal about 65% of the time and now it's more like 90%. When I ask her to transition to the walk from the trot I feel like she's really using her back and hind end more. The transition feels much less jarring than it used to. Is this a related effect from the walk-stop exercise or is this due to her trotting in better balance (something we've also been working on with my teacher and from reading "Right from the Start"). Or both?

thanks! -- Juliet

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jul 28th, 2013 05:47 pm
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Yes, Juliet, one of the purposes for working on "down" transitions to get them done correctly, instead of by you pulling back against the "hood" which is what you have always done before this, is to improve your "up" transitions. In other words, the quality of "up" transitions is dependent upon the quality of "down" transitions.

Stop trying to use your seat. Do not brace your back, your diaphragm, your upper thighs, any part of your thighs, or any other part of your body. Do absolutely nothing, not one thing, "actively" with your seat.

This is different from saying "stop following". To simply cease following is fine. But this cessation must be entirely passive. DO NOT BRACE YOUR LOWER BACK, because that will cause the horse to brace its lower back, which is fatal. Your back remains softly flexible....her back remains softly flexible. Unless her back remains flexible, she cannot coil her loins, and her stops will then become "hind limb jams".

I never told you, not even the least suggestion, that the stop must or should be very quick. You are not looking for a military-style "halt", much less a slidestop or stockhorse type stop.

You simply INHIBIT and I believe this is the word I used -- you inhibit the given knee.

If the horse's response seems sluggish to you, that's because it certainly is. Your horse (vis., the photo you posted originally) braces its neck and PULLS all the time. This is what you had taught it through all your time together before. What we are now doing is getting you out of that. So your "inhibition" will probably, at first, need to be quite firm. Whenever you are not firm enough, the animal will, because that is what you had previously taught it, it will not understand this firmness -- because it does not at all understand what a bit is for, which again is because you yourself do not -- so in not understanding that the bit is the absolute authority of the universe, which is what a bit is -- in not understanding this, the animal will try to PUSH THROUGH YOUR HAND AND THE BIT, and it will push harder and harder until it gets you to give and let it push through, like a person pushing with all their might to get through a room packed full of heavy medicine balls. Or in other words the horse, the best it knows from all its prior history, treats the bit as if it were the handle of a push-lawnmower. It holds the handle in the "grip" of the bars of its mouth, and it leans against the mower, bracing its neck as you would brace your arms in order to push the mower through high, thick, wet grass. This is what 99% of the dressage world mistakes for "firm contact". It really is a tragedy, so that when I saw the photo you originally submitted, I thought -- let's change this.

So you do all that it takes, but no more than it takes. That is the commitment. If the horse is pushing through your hand, you must -- there is no choice -- you must firm up to that exact degree. If the horse is pushing with 150 lbs. (and they can easily do that), you must meet that with 150 lbs.

Mind, you do NOT meet it with 151 lbs. or with 150 lbs., 1 oz. YOu meet it with 150 lbs.

On the other hand, you do not meet it either with 149 lbs. or 149 lbs. 7 ozs. This is the error that I suepect you have been making.

So you feel of her and find out how bad she's leaning on you, and then you meet that exact amount. Our teacher Ray Hunt used to ask, "how much does it take to get a stick that's balanced across a wire to teeter off?" This is the same question I'm asking you to find out. Because in the end, that's all it will be -- after the horse begins to realize and you begin to realize what the power in that snaffle bit actually is. It will be a stick teetering on a wire, whereas right now it's a lawnmower in thick grass. -- Dr. Deb

 

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Sun Jul 28th, 2013 09:30 pm
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Okay, back to it! But first one point of clarification: I'm using a side pull bitless bridle. Should I switch to a snaffle? Thanks. --J

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jul 29th, 2013 12:02 am
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There is no difference whatsoever. You will be teaching the horse to respond exactly the same way -- that is, with exactly the same understanding that the thing which is the extension of your hands feeling of and communicating with its head, is the greatest and final authority in the universe, against which it is about as stupid and futile to push or try to push it out of the way or stiff-arm it as it would be if the animal had its head up against a cement block wall.

The sidepull/jumping hackamore and the snaffle bit are to be interchanged on about a five-to-one ratio in the beginning, with the sidepull being the five and the snaffle being the one, i.e. one ride in the snaffle for every five rides in the sidepull. So yes, you should obtain a snaffle bit that fits the horse and have that in your tackroom.

Have fun -- I shall not be available for a few days after Tuesday the 30th, as I will be driving back to California from Kansas. So you'll have a few days to practice before reporting again. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Thu Aug 8th, 2013 12:25 pm
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Hello -- I think we're getting this finally. We still don't usually stop very promptly, but I think she's listening and understanding the reins in a new way so that the ideas around this specific exercise are popping up in other aspects of our ride--backing most apparently. I have a question about my hand position: if my hands are at waist-level then the line from elbow to bit is often broken. Is that old adage to be tossed away? In the last couple of weeks she's been dropping her head down when we're trotting circles. It doesn't stay down for long, but she's doing it more and more often. Is this relaxation and better balance? what's next!?! Thank you as always!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Aug 8th, 2013 03:02 pm
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Yes, Juliet, the old adage about having a straight line from elbow to bit was never more than a rule of thumb, and is essentially worthless or totally inappropriate for a lot of situations. So yes indeed -- forget about that totally.

We have now reached the point -- given the progress you report -- that it is time for you to begin understanding how to twirl the horse's head. This will build upon the response you report that your horse has been giving, i.e., she wants to soften and she wants to drop her head. Our objective here is to go from this response 'flickering' -- so that it is there briefly but then she stiffens/raises her head again, to where she is soft almost all the time. Also, so that you have a tool whereby you can ask her to soften and she will respond to that reliably.

Twirling the head has been discussed in this Forum many times, so you can go look up old threads using the Google advanced search function. Its history as well as illustrations and discussion of how to practice it are also set forth in my book "Conquerors" -- indeed, the history of the hackamore is the 'backbone theme' of that book.

You do not need a hackamore in order to practice head-twirling -- or the exercise by its name in 19th century Europe was 'jaw flexions', as taught by Francois Baucher. It is therefore also time for you to start reading the essential materials by Baucher and his best-informed followers:

(1) My translation of Baucher, which is found in the 2004 "Inner Horseman" back issues disk;

(2) Also go get a copy of Captain E. Beaudant's "Horsemanship Outdoor and High School" (sometimes goes by other titles, just go to Amazon.com -- this authority wrote only one book so you can't go wrong).

There are others also, but begin with these two -- so much for reading homework at the moment.

Now, as to what you are to practice: The first thing to realize is that riding arenas ought to be built as rectangles or squares, not ovals or circles, because in order to train a horse properly, you need all the tools and one of them is corners. Most people do not know how to use an arena corner -- do not even know that the corner IS a tool. Roundpens are great -- much later in your education you will also need to know how to use a roundpen properly -- but the roundpen has one drawback (which is also its greatest advantage), in that it has no corners.

So if there's junk in the corners of your arena, you need to remove the junk or barrier or pile of hay or jump equipment stored there, so that you can ride through the corner.

Now the arena 'track' obviously does not go all the way down the long side of the arena until it actually bumps into the fence on the short side, then making a 90-degree turn. The track accommodates the average body size of the horse -- and the average abilities of riders -- and 'cuts the corner' in some kind of rounded way, so that while the arena is a rectangle with 90-degree corners, the track inside of it is a rectangle with rounded corners.

Now obviously, you can 'cut the corner' more -- or less. Inexperienced riders on stiff, bracey horses -- such as yours has been -- will habitually cut the corner more, because the horse literally cannot bend in the lateral plane with enough fluidity to negotiate a tighter curve. This is exactly what we are out to fix at this stage of your progress.

You will therefore practice riding down the long side of the arena at a walk, and simply follow the track when you get to the corner. When you get to the corner, notice how much "hollow space" there is between your outside boot and the actual corner where the fences meet. Up to twenty feet there will be!

Now I want you to ride through this corner five times, and each time, I want you to use your inside leg and your inside hand to ask the horse to flex through the corner more deeply. You do this very gently; you are not trying to crush the horse in any manner. But you will readily see how the fencelines act as a kind of vice; they 'hold' the horse's forequarter and its hindquarter. They 'hold' the ends of the horse steady, allowing you to work on the midsection, the ribcage, the part you're sitting over. This is the part of its body that the horse actually stiffens the most, and it is for the simple reason that you are in fact sitting on it and the animal then has to figure out how to deal with that. Most of them -- like yours -- figure it out wrong, and need therefore to be shown the right way. The wrong way is to stiffen up; the right way is to totally relax through this section of the body.

Now I said we were going to learn to twirl the head. You are also going to learn to untrack. Twirling the head provokes, or induces, the fore part of the horse's body to let go, unlax, or "turn loose" as Ray Hunt used to say. Untracking does the same for the rear quarters. The best source of information about untracking is found in the back issues of "The Eclectic Horseman" magazine where my articles on that appeared a couple of years ago; get ahold of the editor, Emily Kitching, via http://www.eclectichorseman.com and obtain the back issues, and read them. More reading homework.

The upshot is that you are working on both ENDS of the horse -- by twirling the head in front and by untracking in the rear -- with the object of getting the animal to turn loose through the middle.

After you've ridden through the corner in the first direction five times, repeat it five times in the opposite direction, noting particularly any differences: which way does it seem the horse is more reluctant to "turn loose"? You will need this information at all later stages.

After learning this little bit about the arena corners and getting the first beginnings of an idea of their enormous power and usefulness, you will then get away from the corners altogether, go out into the center of the arena away from the influence of the railings, and halt and pet the horse. Then address the reins and ask her to twirl her head at a halt. The sign you should be looking for visually is NOT to be able to see the inside eye -- this is a true sign but I find that it induces riders to lean over in their anxiety to look. Instead, I want you to tuck the horse's inside jowl under its throat. Do this with ABSOLUTELY ZERO vibration of the rein; DO NOT vibrate the rein. Do not tug, pound, yank, rap, or tap the mouth; there is to be ABSOLUTELY ZERO variation in the feel. You take up a feel and you remain at that exact same feel. You will have to guess, at first, what this feel is going to need to be. It must not be too light or tentative; the horse has to know you're asking something. You take up the feel ONLY on the inside rein; the outside rein is totally, completely slack. If you take up a given feel and the horse just stands there frozen, or freezes or braces up even more, then you increase the feel just as you would have when blocking the knees for a halt, until you exactly meet whatever degree of stiffness or heaviness the horse offers, and there you WAIT. If 'waiting' gets beyond one minute, then you increase again by some small amount. Eventually -- or very soon it may be -- the horse will 'give' or turn loose a little bit through its jaws and/or poll, the head will incline a little bit in the direction you're indicating, and the horse will also probably try to drop its head. When you see these signs, drop all pressure and immediately lean forward and with both hands rub the horse's neck, up and down, many times, from withers up toward the poll and back again. Spend as long petting the horse in this manner as you did in waiting for it to yield. Then repeat again. Each time you repeat, you will find the horse complies by yielding or turning loose of the braces in its neck sooner.

Getting the initial yielding will probably take four or five tries. Once it's happening pretty soon -- and likely the magnitude of the yielding will increase also -- then you can ride the horse on a 15-meter circle at a walk. While on this circle, you'll twirl the head to the inside. Go two rounds, then change through the circle and go two rounds the opposite way. Then again stop and pet the horse as above described -- not some pitsy-poo cheapass little patty-pat, but a great big bunch of neck rubs that the horse finds pleasurable.

Mix this in now, with your other work on stopping, and report back again in a few days or as soon as you need to, if the directions on head-twirling aren't clear. You'll need time to get the reading materials together, too. Good work so far, you're making real progress. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Thu Aug 8th, 2013 09:40 pm
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Hello again. Thank you for your lengthy, informative and inspiring response. It being too late here to go to the barn, I went right to google to find the reading material. I bought the Inner Horseman disk, I emailed Eclectic Horseman to figure out which back issues to buy and I spent about 45 minutes looking for the Beudant book. (His name is Etienne Beudant, by the way). I can't find it anywhere except in the NY Public Library and a handful of university libraries. Any leads on where to find this? Thanks again! Juliet

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Aug 9th, 2013 02:17 am
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H'm, I was pretty sure it was available for purchase. See if they have it at Eclectic Horseman Mercantile. However, if not, since it is long out of copyright and therefore in the public domain, perhaps the Institute could begin making it available as a PDF-on-request, like Pauline Moore's magnesium paper. I will look into this & get back to you. -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Fri Aug 9th, 2013 09:10 am
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I did a search for "Beudant" at Eclectic Horseman and came up with nothing. In the meantime, I have plenty of reading material! --Juliet

RachelZ
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 Posted: Mon Aug 12th, 2013 08:42 am
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So you pass on tack except for one question -- do you ever feel when riding in this saddle that you're in a continual battle to get your feet underneath your butt? Do you catch your legs swinging forward, or does anyone ever mention to you that you're sitting with your feet out in front of yourself? This is not a giant problem necessarily -- we can work around it if necessary -- but I need to hear what your own observations are.

Hi there Dr. Deb I have a question about what you mentioned pertaining to the fact that there is a feeling that the feet keep wanting to move forward instead of staying underneath the butt.  Is that because the area where the fenders are placed on the
saddle are too far forward or is it a matter of horsemanship or is it about bad saddle fit?

thank you in advance

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Aug 12th, 2013 02:19 pm
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Can be any of the above, Rachel. The most common, however, is that the point from which the leathers or fenders are hung is more than four inches in front of the deepest part of the seat.

So, go put your saddle on your horse in the normal manner. Then, while a friend holds the lead rope, you back away so that you're looking at him from the side about ten or fifteen feet back. Identify where the lowest (deepest) part of the seat is, and then walk up to this point and put your hand on it.

Then lift up the little leather flap that covers the "root" of the fender, and find the center-point of the top of the fender. This is the point from which the fender is hung.

Then measure the back-to-front distance between these two points. If it is greater than four inches -- i.e. if it is greater than the distance between the notch where the heel of your boot extends downward and the ball of your foot -- then you will certainly find yourself trying to "scrape" the stirrups back all the time, because your saddle is forcing you into a "chair seat". -- Dr. Deb

RachelZ
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 Posted: Mon Aug 12th, 2013 03:20 pm
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Thanks so very much for the information.  I will measure the next time I'm at the stables. My saddle is very worn,  parts are missing and I did buy it as a used second- hand years ago. I'm thinking of getting Dave Genadek's saddle dvd soon.  My next equine investment is of purchasing another saddle, that is after I finish paying the huge vet bill for the bad founder episodes my horse experienced this spring.  

Thanks again

Rachel

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Thu Aug 15th, 2013 06:38 pm
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Hello! So, this head twirling is proving to be a little tricky for us. Before I get the practical description of our efforts, let me report on the reading (I guess I'm a better student than horsewoman!) I've downloaded and read the first three parts of the series from "Eclectic Horseman" (for future reference these are in issues #51-58). Being able to visualize the skeleton at the poll and top of the neck was extremely helpful and made me realize that I was initially looking for too much "twirl". I also read the first half (still reading) of the Conquerors book -- also fascinating! I have the Baucher translation from "Inner Horseman" but haven't gotten to that yet. The reading is really, really helpful. The first day the corners went better than I expected. I'd say there was about 8 feet from my outside foot to the corner when we went to the left and about 5 going to the right. There was very noticeable difference between her head position going right and going left. To the right I saw the jaw tuck and she felt pretty soft and flexible; going left she was stiff and braced in her head and neck. When we worked in the middle of the arena at the halt, at first she was pretty confused as to what I was asking. She alternated between moving her feet--walking either forward or backing up, bracing herself against my hand and not doing anything and then bending her head all the way around. At the beginning, as I mentioned, I think I was looking for too much to happen so I was probably not releasing/rewarding on her correct tries. By the second session, we did a little better--she stood still at least but was still bending her neck around or bracing and not moving and then bending her whole neck. (This isn't twirling, right?) Then I read the Eclectic Horseman articles and by the third and fourth sessions we started getting better at it. It's a small thing, isn't it? The left is still unreliable and "sticky" but the right is pretty consistent. This plays out in our corner work as well-- the left is somewhat better, not great (she's still stiffish in the front end) and the right is pretty nice. When we walk and trot on a circle the right is coming along--much more softness and that elastic, yielding feel, but again to the left she still braces--almost always braced when trotting. It's as if the "lesson" hasn't clicked for her on the left. I'm a bit concerned that I'm asking too hard and she's tensing up on the left. Should I be more patient and more focussed on her relaxing? I get a little frustrated because I think she understands what I'm looking for since she'll twirl left at the halt and at the walk. Advice? Thanks in advance -- as always!


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