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toe-first striking
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DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Aug 17th, 2013 08:07 pm
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Yes, just about everybody has to do quite a bit of exploring for the right feel when first learning to twirl the horse's head. And yes indeed -- it is a small thing and subtle; and therefore, one of the greatest and most powerful of all techniques. It is also, as you now know from reading "Conquerors", one of the most ancient; Baucher merely revived it in his day. That most of Europe and the "conventional" riders of America have utterly forgotten it is quite tragic.

Remember that the ONE AND ONLY purpose for twirling the head is to provoke or induce the horse to release whatever braces it may be holding with the tongue, throat, jaws, and poll area. Generally when they brace in one of these areas, they brace in all.

One of Baucher's greatest insights was that a brace in the poll area, jaws, throat, or tongue "locks" the animal's loins. In other words, until and unless you get rid of -- in Baucher's words "annihilate" -- braces in this area, you will not be getting control of, you will not be able to govern, you will not be able to condition or teach, the horse's hindquarters.

So long as the horse braces in front, he will not be ABLE to sit down behind. This is not only because the loins will be braced just as the neck is braced; it is also because the loins govern the stifles, and the stifles govern the hocks. Whatever the loins do -- i.e. brace or elastically release -- the stifles will also do; and whatever the stifles do, the hocks MUST do. This is straight out of the facts of equine anatomy, so that there is absolutely no alternative.

Twirling the head therefore addresses not only the front end of the horse but also the loins and hindquarters. The direct way to address the loins and hindquarters is to untrack the horse. You mention nothing about this in your post, but I told you about it in the previous directions because you can't do the one really without the other. You have to "ride the whole horse" as my teacher used to say, and that's only cutting the surface of what he meant by "whole". But at the very least, we work the ENDS of the horse in order to get to the MIDDLE.

If you have the Eclectic Horseman series, then you'll also be reading about untracking. Please look in those issues, and many older issues before I contributed to that magazine, and see Buck Brannaman untracking horses -- over and over, many times, with many different horses, on the ground and under saddle. This is essential, that you learn what untracking means and learn to use it with no shoving or pushing with your inside leg.

I am pleased with the quality of your observations regarding the crookedness of your horse. She is very crooked, isn't she? A difference of 8 vs. 5 ft. in the corner is pretty considerable. This is something we will gently work on her to get rid of. You will not have to expect it to take very long. As your ability to twirl and untrack gets better, you will find that she begins to even up rather rapidly, in a matter of only a few weeks, a couple of dozen rides.

How you work on the horse to get rid of the crookedness is you untrack her first one way, and then the other way. This helps to break up whatever braces there are, wherever they are. You combine this with twirling the head at the same time in the appropriate direction, i.e. a right twirl for stepping under the body shadow with the right hind leg, and the opposite for stepping under with the left hind leg.

Note please that it is very likely that your mare has some degree of soreness -- an actual lesion -- in the left front leg or hoof. Note this, but do not worry about it, and do not use it as a reason not to work her to the same degree on both sides. The lesion is there BECAUSE she has been allowed to go crooked over many years. In other words, the asymmetry of movement -- the LAMENESS -- preceded, and was the cause for, the development of whatever lesion. Straightening her by this process of suppling can therefore be the cause for the reduction and even the eventual disappearance of the lesion.

It is because her forelimb gives her some pain that you find her continuing to want to brace on that side. Just gently work her through it. You have no business whatsoever trotting, as far as beneficial schooling. You can trot if you like, but there can be no possibility of the horse moving without first bracing up through the transition and then wanting to hold the brace while trotting. So no matter what gait you are in, the very INSTANT you feel a brace developing anywhere, you are to return immediately to the walk and "annihilate" the brace at either the walk or the halt.

I think I don't need to go into explicit detail at this point as to figures you might ride that will make it easy and natural for you to twirl the head and/or untrack. The classics are figures of 8 made as two perfectly round circles tangent at a single point; circles with change of direction through the circle; 10M circles; and corners ridden properly.

I do want you to contemplate the following saying of Nuno Oliviera, who did not approve of leg-yielding in the manner practiced by the Germans, i.e. big booming traverses executed on long lines in the center of the arena. To Nuno this is what a "leg yield" is, but what you do when you untrack on a 10M circle in such a manner that the circle expands -- the no. 1 most basic and essential exercise of the entire school -- in Nuno's terminology this is a shoulder-fore, and he is absolutely right. And so I want you to practice this exercise, which is right on the borderline between "straight" untracking, which would be a leg-yield, and the shoulder-in. Nuno said:

"Please remember, every corner of the arena when properly ridden is a small moment of shoulder-in".

This is why I told you in my previous to use the arena corners to gently encourage the mare to bend a little more deeply than she feels like she wants to every single time you pass through a corner. Do this, and then go out in the center, plant a 10M circle, and leg-yield/untrack/expand the circle from 10M to 20M, encouraging the animal to step obliquely sideways-and-forward by tapping her NOT PRESSING HER with your inside calf in rhythm with her steps (why we count cadence every time we ride -- don't forget).

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

seminolewind
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 Posted: Mon Aug 19th, 2013 09:43 pm
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Wow. It's been a very long time since I've heard correct instruction as to Juliet. Years. I'm enjoying all this and refreshing the little things that matter. Thankyou!
Karen

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Mon Aug 26th, 2013 07:47 pm
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Hello again--I was away on vacation for a several days and have only ridden two or three times since your last post but wanted to report our progress...because there's definitely been progress! I think I'm beginning to get a glimmer of what things are supposed to feel like, which is very exciting! Twirling at a halt is happening more readily and more reliably and seems to be getting clearer to both of us. She's still more hesitant to twirl left. She almost always combines a twirl with a head drop--this is okay, isn't it?

Our corners are still a work in progress, mostly on my part. I'm still somewhat clumsy about holding the inside rein still and steady while counting cadence and bumping her gently with my inside calf when her inside hind begins to swing forward. (for me, it's akin to rubbing my belly while patting my head!) Just to make sure I'm doing it right: when tracking left, I bump with my left leg when she's stepping forward with her right front, is this right? This reminds me of a question: in reading the Baucher piece, he seems to present a different approach to this. In Part 2, under the section titled "Changes of Direction" he says (paraphrasing) to press with the outside leg and to move the inside hand toward the outside hind. Am I misunderstanding?


The circles are coming along. I've been doing the 10m circle that expands to 20m and then changing direction to the other circle of a figure eight. The left tracking circles are not much in the way of actual circles but I'm focussing instead on staying flexy and relaxed and hoping things will get more circular as we get more straight (ironically). Overall, it seems like together we're lighter and more elastic. We've almost eliminated all pulling and urging and grumpiness. Things don't always go just so but I feel like some of what we're learning is to be okay with that. This feels good.

oh, one other question: can you tell me more about the "lesion" you suspect she has! where might this be? what do I look for?

thanks in advance for your reply and future suggestions!
--Juliet

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Aug 26th, 2013 10:43 pm
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Yes, Juliet, it is normal and indeed usual for the horse to want to drop its head along with, or just after, you twirl. Remember that the ONE AND ONLY PURPOSE for twirling the head is to provoke release of the muscles that run along the back of the neck, from the poll downwards toward the withers. What -- apart from tension in these very same muscles -- could possibly hold the horse's head UP? Therefore, when those muscles release, the head drops.

As an aside on this: it is a very clear illustration of how erroneous people are when they speak of 'overdeveloped muscles on the underside of the horse's neck' functioning to PUSH the head up. MUSCLES CANNOT PUSH. But that's another thread, which you can look up by using the Google Advanced Search function.

As to what it says in Baucher: I'm afraid, my dear, that he's quite a few lessons ahead of you. For one thing....isn't it quite plain to you that what I am telling you to do (i.e. use only your inside hand and inside leg) is not at all like what Baucher is describing (i.e. to use the outside hand and leg) --? You, along with all other beginners, have no business whatsoever even touching the outside rein UNLESS we detect in your animal a tendency to take advantage of you or even to take dangerous advantage of you by running through its outside shoulder.

Your mare does no such thing, by anything I can see in the original photo or by anything you have described -- so therefore, you stay with inside aids for the moment, until we begin to succeed a little better with the corners, and until the mare begins to be a little more even going on the right vs. the left hand. Why then, you may ask, do I suggest that you read Baucher? Of course, so that you will have a shot at getting the bigger picture, some idea of what is to come, and of where you are ultimately going. Also, because he is the European originator of head-twirling and we owe him a read for that if for nothing else.

If you pick up the outside rein to the point where there is any feel on it or any tension in it whatsoever, you will simply push your horse back onto its inside shoulder. I want your horse to be carrying -- to your feel anyway -- 5% to 15% MORE weight on its OUTSIDE pair of feet than on its inside pair, at all times when you are on a curving track (which means, at all times whatsoever when you are riding in an arena, even when you "think" you are on a straight line -- because in fact there are no straight lines in any arena. You are always either on the right hand, on the left hand, or preparing to change from one hand to the other, even if it takes you most of the length of the long diagonal to effect the change of hand).

A horse cannot execute any curve AS a curve unless he has more weight, as above specified, on his outside pair of feet. You are therefore, frankly, using your inside aids to get the horse to shift its weight from the inside to the outside.

You have gotten a very good insight about this already, for you correctly surmise that FIGURES HAVE NO EXISTENCE WHATSOEVER when they exist only on paper or only as a picture in your head. Let me repeat that: FIGURES HAVE NO EXISTENCE WHATSOEVER WHEN THEY'RE IN YOUR HEAD.

Therefore it is an enormous mistake to think that you can improve your ability to ride figures accurately by painting a circle on the ground and then trying to steer the horse (it wouldn't matter whether you steered mainly with your hands or mainly with your legs) so that he would go exactly over this painted figure. If you try doing that, you will find that your horse goes right back to the most horrible bracing, holding, and overall bodily stiffness.

Figures can only be produced when the horse is (as the Germans say) "durchlassigkeit" (umlauts over the "u" and the "a") -- the English translation of which has been offered to us brilliantly by my teacher Ray Hunt as "turned loose". Figures can only be produced when the horse is turned loose.

What does "turned loose" mean to you? Does it mean that the horse is given freedom through the reins and bit by the rider? Does it mean that the rider does not clamp on, or try to push or shove, with her legs? Does it mean that the rider has twirled the head and untracked the inside hind leg repeatedly in both directions, and expanded the circle to both directions, so that the horse has "turned loose" of its physical braces? Or does it, rather, mean that BECAUSE YOU DID ALL THESE THINGS you are not bothering or frightening or trapping your horse, but are helping her through a difficulty she herself knows that she has, so that she can achieve a degree of inner equanimity and thus "turn loose" of her worries and confusions? What do you think?

As a suggestion....go to http://www.eclectichorseman.com and see if they are selling copies of Ray Hunt's old classic film, "Turning Loose". If not there, you can probably find it at http://www.rayhunt.com. As you watch it, see about the above meanings and MORE.

But to return to figures: so you cannot ride a round circle or any arc of a circle, which is what a corner properly ridden is, unless the horse comes into that figure already "turned loose". This is because THE FIGURE HAS NO EXISTENCE WHATSOEVER UNTIL THE HORSE "PAINTS" IT ONTO THE GROUND.

And whatever state his vertebral chain is in -- braced, that is, vs. turned loose -- will absolutely govern the shape the figure you are trying to create will have. The more turned loose the horse is, the more accurate and the more beautiful and expressive the figure will be. FIGURES ARISE OUT OF WHAT THE HORSE IS AND OUT OF WHAT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE RIDER AND THE HORSE IS.

It follows, therefore, that if your horse produces -- that is to say, he "paints" or "stamps into the ground" -- a "circle" that is really a polygon, it is because he is on his inside shoulder; he has more weight on his inside pair of feet than on his outside pair of feet; and he is, for that reason, braced up. He is crooked by definition, and polygons rather than circles are what crooked horses naturally produce. As soon as you make him straight, that is, as soon as he turns loose of his neck, ribcage, and loins enough that those bodyparts can easily and fluidly bend into an arc that's of just a little bit smaller diameter than the curve of the figure you intended to ride -- until this is the case, you will never actually produce the figure you intended to ride.

If you're confused about making straight, go back to "Knowledge Base" and read the "Lessons from Woody" homework.

If you'll go back also and review more carefully what I said in my previous post, you'll see that I said there that I don't know where or what the lesion your horse has, or may have, is. If she moves and there is an asymmetry to the movement, that is what all crooked horses do; and all stiff horses are crooked. Since your horse came into this set of lessons bracing like a freight-train, we know thereby that she is also crooked; and we know that also because you and she are still struggling with corners. If this has been going on for years, and I have no reason to think that it has not been, the accumulated stress of always putting more weight on the preferred pair of legs is LIKELY to have worn the system out, or worn it more, in some spot or in several spots. I was telling you that if this is the case and it creates some twinges of pain, the mare will try harder for that reason to maintain her wrong habits. You must ask her to work through any small pains that going straight, which means weighting the non-preferred pair of limbs equally, may entail.

I still want to hear from you more concerning untracking. I need to make sure that you understand this correctly before we go on to the next "exercise" -- which means in reality another, little bit different, way to play with controlling her feet from the saddle. "Through the mind through the mouth through the back to the feet," as Ray used to say. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Thu Aug 29th, 2013 02:46 pm
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Hi, this is an interim reply as I'm still working on learning about and getting a better feel for untracking and turning loose. I've re-read Woody and the sections about untracking from the Eclectic Horseman series and have gotten some more understanding from studying these again (amazing how much I miss just reading something once.) I've been looking online for a copy of "Turning Loose" and have come up empty handed. Any advice on how to view this? (I've sent emails to both the Ray Hunt website and the E.H. website but haven't heard back yet. WorldCat shows there's a copy in Iowa City and one in Utah! I guess I can pursue some sort of long-distance interlibrary loan, but that will be a last resort as I'd prefer to buy a copy.)

Anyhoo, in the saddle I've been trying to visualize the inside leg stepping under and I've been trying to feel the outside of the rib cage expanding and rising slightly as you show in the illustrations from the E.H. series. I'm still working on this and have more learning/feeling to go. You ask what turning loose means to me but I have to say that I don't really have a first-hand experience of this and am searching for how to allow/encourage it to happen so I can feel it. I'm hoping that the elusive Ray Hunt video might help as well as more time riding, counting cadence and working on untracking and head-twirling and no square reins.

thanks--Juliet

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Sun Sep 8th, 2013 01:17 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb, I think I might have fallen down a rabbit hole of uncertainty. Here’s what’s going on: in order to better understand the phrase “turning loose” I’ve been google searching through the forum and reading any thread that contains the phrase. In doing this, the meaning of turning loose has become much clearer to me in its many senses: the anatomical/bio-mechanical sense (the phrase “twirling the loins” considered in conjunction with the illustration of the skeleton in the EH article was helpful for this), the how-to or riding technique way to acheive turning loose and how that should feel to the rider, and lastly, the spiritual/emotional/relationship sense of the term. I’ve been working on the first two senses of the term by riding but it is the last aspect of the term that has introduced uncertainty into our riding. I’m concerned that my mare is not with me, is not interested in what we’re doing and would rather be elsewhere. In our last few rides, when I give her a break and let her walk around the arena on the buckle she heads for the door as if to say “are we done yet?” Sometimes she just stops in her tracks while we’re working on our untracking circles. I could “get her to go” (which I would have done in the past) but that seems to work totally against the whole idea of her “turning loose” or of us “aligning our desires”. Today, after I read the thread “Draping Reins?” in which you suggest that the poster spend time with her horse at liberty approaching her mare only when the mare invites her in, I went to the barn to do this and had uninspiring results. Typically I tack my horse up in the arena while she’s at liberty. This sometimes can take a little while because while she usually stands quietly for saddling (which took us a long time to acheive) there are days lately when, as I pick up the bridle, she’ll turn and walk away. I respond by first waiting a minute to see where she goes and if she looks back at me, then I’ll approach her and if she continues to travel, I walk along with her. Then I’ll stop and usually she’ll stop too and then she’ll usually stand and let me bridle her. So, my question is: given the behavior I describe I’m uncertain as to how much to assert myself--how to lead without pushing. I was reading another thread in which the person posted referred to a short video of Mike Shaffer schooling the chestnut horse Indeed at the trot. Someone asked about the horse swishing his tail and you explained that the horse was responding to Mike reminding him to not fall onto his forehand--that the horse’s reaction was mild annoyance at being asked to change his accostomed way of going and to put forth an effort but that this annoyance was understandable and acceptable and to be acknowledged and moved past. So I guess my question is how can I guage what is an acceptable “I’d rather not but okay I guess it’s good for me” reaction from an “I’m not with you nor have I any interest in being with you” reaction? am I getting ahead of myself? or losing myself in an area of doubt that’s unproductive? or do I need to go back to a more basic level with my horse and address what I guess might be called the birdie issues before more riding? or can these issues be addressed as we work through these riding fundamental/un-stiffening exercises. Thanks as usual for any advice, suggestions and insight. --Juliet

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Sep 8th, 2013 04:41 pm
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Juliet, next time you go out, put yourself and the horse either in a roundpen or in some kind of smallish enclosure -- the shape doesn't matter; what is helpful is that it isn't too large -- half the size of a standard dressage court would be great. But if all you have is a fenced arena, then use that.

Then go through your usual thing with approaching the mare, but you be carrying a "mild" flag with you as you come along. A "mild" flag would be a whipstock the length of a riding crop, with a soft rag tied to the end -- something like a bandana would work fine. We don't want too much noise, i.e. as a plastic sack or a chunk of tarp would make.

You approach with the flag held unobtrusively. I don't mean for you to exactly hide it; let the mare know you have it, but you're just packing it quietly.

Then approach her. If she stands, fine; pet her and also pet her with the flag, as if it were a grooming rag.

If she stands and permits you to go all the way through saddling, great.

Then come back next day and see if she stands. If at any time she does not stand, but instead looks back at you but walks off, DO NOT FOLLOW HER but instead flag the livin' crap out of her. As soon as she goes to leave, you make GIANT gestures with the flag and all the noise that this particular type of flag can make. To this end, be double-sure before you start that the rag is firmly tied to the end of the crop so it doesn't come off -- you're going to be flagging that hard.

This will probably surprise the mare and cause her to leave. That's what we want. You are saying to her: honey, you're too disgusting to believe and I'm kissin' your sorry be-hind good-BYE."

Flag her off, then, and then if she shows signs of slowing down or stopping, then you come right at her and flag her off again. And you keep doing this several times.

Then you find a moment when you can walk crosswise the horse's nose. This means that you are to wait until she's stopped and is definitely looking at you. From a distance of about ten feet in front of her nose, you then walk on a diagonal line, angling slightly from rear forwards, so that the line crosses her midline. This will cause her to turn her head toward you as she tracks your movement.

It may by itself also cause her to want to come to you. Be very alert for this, and if she turns, faces you, and starts to step toward you, make very sure you're ready to softly step back just one or two steps -- you see, both the crosswise her nose and the stepping back are invitations to her to come to you.

However, this may not be enough, and if it isn't and all you get is the turn of the head, then go ahead and set it up again and get another turn of the head. As you go from, say, the horse's left side to its right side -- and her head turns to the right to track you -- you then alter your track so that the energy of your aura or the energy projected from your leading arm and/or your chest push against her inside (right) hind leg. You are using your body-bubble to push on her hindquarter, and you are telling her to untrack with that inside hind leg. This is the key to all roundpenning. Once the mare untracks, she will PERFORCE turn to face you and will be highly likely to take at least one or two steps toward you. Again, be very alert and forewarned that this is going to happen, and when you see her THINK of coming forward -- even before she does come forward -- then you soften your middle and you take that one or two soft steps backward which say to her "OK with me if you come to me now."

Now, understand that when the horse does come at call like this, it can be a very emotional moment. People find it very satisfying. The Queen Mother found it moving when that Hollywood Nobody demonstrated it for her. He's a Nobody because he confuses the sacred act of hooking on with something HE did. Did you know that the Knights Templar order of Spain conducts a form of the Mass based on hooking on? Hardly something that a person of any feeling or taste would go "ta-da, look what I did" over.

My point is that the act of hooking on is indeed sacred, a sacred mystery: for who can plumb the actual workings of the animal mind? For this reason, I warn you as I warn all who read here: there is no such thing as a 'behavior'. There is only intention, communication, and love.

So you're going to learn how to hook the horse on. But once you've done that, you ALSO have to go back to the first part of this lesson: because the lesson -- the life lesson -- is not complete or whole or healthy unless you do both parts. So once the horse has come to you, and you stand there for as long as it took to get her to come in of her own volition, and you pet her and make much of her for that amount of time -- but when that time is done, then you must drive her away again. When you do this, you will not do it with the kind of force you used the first time, when she LEFT you of her own volition -- you're not disgusted with her now, you're not offended at her attitude; you're just 'the boss' and that is something horses both understand and like, because it begins to show them where the boundaries are, in other words, they get clear what it is that's expected of them, they don't have to go about guessing, which is what your description of your mare is telling me.

The bottom line is this: that whether she comes, or whether she goes, is not up to her -- and that is the lesson from you to her. The lesson for YOU is that you MUST be in control of both halves of this, you must be willing to execute both halves; you must, in short, be willing to govern your horse.

I am pleased that you have come now, by your own work and thought process, to discover that the physical aspects of riding are hardly the most important parts. Notice how we got here: we began with the physical, and I chose that because it is for most people the easiest and least scary approach. You may now be able to understand another saying of our elderly teacher: "When a horse is uncomfortable physically, he'll pretty soon be uncomfortable mentally and emotionally."

Go at it, and let me know your observations and results. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

Jill
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 Posted: Mon Sep 9th, 2013 03:55 pm
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Juliet - I just want to thank you again for this thread. I am getting much out of your posts; it seems that you are having all the experiences and thoughts that I am, plus, you display the additional talent of being able to articulate them!

Thanks again also to you, Dr. Deb, for your teaching on all of this. I've been doing the exercises as you describe them to Juliet and feel like I'm making progress. Improving my hand position alone has made a significant difference. Your comments regarding figures and the necessity of the horse being turned loose in order to execute (create) a circular figure produced a real light bulb moment for me as well. I'm embarrassed to admit I had been trying to "steer" circles, unsuccessfully of course! Since I quit steering and started focusing on encouraging the correct bend from head twirl in front to stepping under behind as we move along, the circles appear like magic. Its quite humbling to realize how blind I've been to such a simple concept but at least I'm beginning to see a bit now.

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Wed Sep 11th, 2013 02:02 am
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Hi Dr. Deb

First of all, thank you! This exercise is exactly what we needed at this juncture. We tried it this afternoon and here's my best reconstruction of what happened. Since there's no round pen at the barn where Macie lives, we did the exercise in the indoor arena. I let her into the arena at liberty. She walked toward the center of the arena and stopped. As I approached her holding my flag, she turned and walked away. I flagged like crazy and she cantered off (as you predicted my hanky flew off the stick!). She stopped about halfway across the arena and turned to look at me and I flagged wildly again. This happened a couple more times. Then she stopped and gave me a sweet, quizzical look and even though I had read your instructions THREE TIMES, I flubbed it at this point and walked right up to her petted and praised her. Oops. After a couple of minutes of petting, I sent her on her way with the flag again, which she responded to very quickly. At this point I went back to my printed instructions and read it for a 4th time and realized my error. She was standing in the center of the arena now and I approached again. When I got about 10 feet away, she turned her head away from me so I flagged her away. She soon stopped and turned to look at me and this time I walked over to the side of her about 15 feet away and then turned to walk crosswise in front of her. She watched me but when I paused and invited her in she just looked at me. At this point I was standing about 10 feet from her and I walked toward her hindquarters to have her step her back end away from me which she did (we do this at liberty quite a bit so she's used to that maneuver) and then I sent her away. She didn't go far before turning and slowly approaching me and then stopping and looking at me. I invited her in with the "come to me" posture and she came! I petted her and ran the flag over her which didn't bother her at all. After a few minutes of this loving I sent her on her way again and started to walk back to where I left the tack. She followed me quietly and stood very calmly while I saddled her. However, after she was saddled and I picked up her bridle, she turned and walked away again. So we did the same sort of sequence again -- sending and approaching, her turning away again and me resending -- a few times before she once again came to me like the first time and stood to be bridled. After that we did our mounted exercises: corners, head twirling at a halt, one step at a time backing, serpentines and expanding circles. She was very quiet and willing. Each time we do these exercises I try to do less with my hands and legs and more with my attitude, posture, and intention. She's still softer and more flexy to the right than the left but I think we're slowly improving. Did I do the flag exercise correctly enough? Any suggestions? What does her behavior reveal? And how often do you suggest I do this with her? Thank you as always!

--Juliet

ps. Jill, thank you for your kind words!

DCA
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 Posted: Tue Sep 17th, 2013 11:58 pm
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I (and my horse) just want to thank you, Dr Deb, for taking the time to so thoroughly explain this entire process. And you, Juliet, for asking the initial question and reporting your progress! It came at such a perfect time, as I feel I am finally at a point where I can understand and use this invaluable information!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Sep 20th, 2013 08:49 pm
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Juliet, sorry it has taken me some time to get back to you on this....I've been in England and we were in the last week of work at the dig at Vindolanda, which is always a big push.

You did pretty well on this, particularly so since really your only guide has been printed instructions. It is always MUCH better to learn the art of roundpenning -- which is the art of gentle calling and sending, which alters the horse's mind -- in the live company of an expert teacher. There are, incidentally, very few expert teachers of this art.

The main mistake you made is not the mistake you think you made. That mistake was minor. The main mistake was this, quoting from your post:

"....She watched me but when I paused and invited her in she just looked at me. At this point I was standing about 10 feet from her and I walked toward her hindquarters to have her step her back end away from me which she did (we do this at liberty quite a bit so she's used to that maneuver) and then I sent her away."

It is the last thing (underlined) that is the mistake, which reveals that you don't fully understand what we're doing here. The amazing thing is that, according to your report, in the next twenty seconds the horse filled in for you and came. In other words, the horse understood what would be most fitting and did that, despite your garbled version of "horse".

The purpose, in a roundpenning context, of causing the horse to step under the body-shadow with the inside hind leg, in other words to untrack, is to very strongly induce them to come to the handler. This is HOW you get 99% of horses to come to the handler; as I said in the printed instructions (which you read four times), it is the essential key to all roundpenning, just as it is the essential key to obedience of all kinds, whether on the ground or under saddle. To be able to untrack the horse, or to cause it to untrack itself I should more properly say, is to be able to control the horse, both "internally" in terms of its thoughts, intentions, attitudes, and feelings, and "externally" in the ordinary sense of being able to govern where the animal goes and at what rate.

Therefore, whenever you cause the horse to untrack, your very next action and expectation should be that it will come to you, and you must yield enough "space" for the animal to feel comfortable doing that. What you would NOT do is drive the animal away; this is like saying "come to me -- no wait! Don't come!"

For the present, you will be calling the horse all the way in to you, so that it can be petted and stroked. Later, you will discover how to refine this so that a "little" turn-and-come -- i.e. a "little" untracking -- can be morphed into a soft turn, thereby teaching you how to guide the horse or "steer" him by means of the Birdie rather than by means of the reins -- the reins, which although they are how beginners must first learn, are rather crude.

Working with the horse on the ground gives you a great opportunity to observe exactly how your horse untracks. If she's softer and more flexy to the right, this may be because Juliet herself is more right than left-handed, and if that's the case, we'll be teaching you to throw a ball with your left hand until you can throw a ball with that left hand better than you can throw it with your right hand. However, it may also be, or may additionally be, due to a side preference of the horse itself. So you should observe whether the horse untracks as deeply on the left side as upon the right; and if less deeply, then it is likely that the animal doesn't really want to come to you when you are on its left side at all.

You will therefore put special emphasis -- i.e. more repeats -- on getting the animal to turn left in order to come to you. At this stage you probably don't have to grossly walk across the nose anymore in order to get her to hook on, and if that's where you're at, then you can just send the horse off to the left hand and drive it at a gentle trot around a curve or two. Then aim your eyes at its left stifle, step back slightly and to your right to induce a slowdown and turn in, and then let the animal come to you.

Now here's an additional, and more important, bit of observation to do: when you get the horse to come in, and it is coming in, does it stay curved to the left the whole time it is coming in from having been on the left hand? Or instead does it, about ten or fifteen feet away from you, overturn its head so that by the time it reaches you, you are in the scan of the right eye rather than the left -- or indeed so that by the time the horse gets up to you, it has actually "placed you" on its right side? This is the root of the problem -- or one root of the problem -- in many cases; so that you then have to watch the horse very carefully as it comes in toward you, and be ready to step off to the right, if it tries to "beat you" to the right.

If the horse makes a hard effort to keep you in the right eye, so that you feel like you have to jump fast to the right like a flea in order to be quicker than the horse, then certainly you must not jump or hurry or get hard in any way yourself. Instead, put the animal on a halter and work on calling just the eye. At first, stand in the scan of the left eye, untrack the horse's left hind leg, then when she softens and lowers her neck and blinks, approach, pet, and praise.  Do it on the "bad" side five times as often as on the "good" side. If she tries to overturn, then drive her forward and work it out while you're longeing her like this, that you drop back pretty far so that you are at the level of her flank. Then you stop and see if you can get her to stop WITHOUT turning back to you so much, so that she must maintain you in her left eye.

After a "set" of this -- let's say five left, one right -- then go do something else for a few minutes, and then come back and do another set.

Then go get your flag and stand with it in front of the horse. You need to be back all the way to the end of the tail of the leadrope, so that you and the horse are fully six or seven feet apart, and you need to be able to get the horse to stop and stand back away from you as described (if you don't know how to do this, then that's a separate lesson -- let me know).

Get the horse looking at you "square" with both eyes with you standing plumb on the midline directly to the front. Then (assuming the flag is in your right hand), point the shaft out to your right and slowly raise the cloth upward to about the height of the horse's right eye, then lower it again. Then change the flag into your other hand and do the same to the left eye. If the horse is snorty about this, repeat until she's confident -- you make her confident by stopping and lowering the flag every time she stands -- and you will soon find that she'll stand calmly and totally OK with it even when you raise it right over your head.

When this is going well, then move the flag faster and, while holding it in your right hand, cross the cloth part over the midline so that it goes from the scan of the right eye to the scan of the left eye -- like a navy signaller doing semaphore. Then put the flag in your left hand and do the same from the left side. Repeat this many times during the course of any ground session, finding a moment to work it in every few times you call her in, for example (eventually she won't need the halter to stand still  for this -- she will learn to differentiate you doing semaphore from you telling her to leave or driving her with the flag). The whole purpose of this is to "exercise" the less-competent eye, so as to even up the life in the body.

Let me know how things are going when you have some news to report. -- Dr. Deb

nejc
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 Posted: Sat Sep 21st, 2013 03:59 pm
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Dr. Deb this thread is wonderful. I am carefully studying your Bride Book and simultaneously working with my horse. We spent almost a whole year just walking and doing most of the exercises that you suggest. We are doing also a lot of mannering and other ground working. Last three months we began trotting and occasionally doing some canter departures. He becomes entirely new horse; much more calm, obedient and willing on psychological level and much suppler, strait and collected on physical level.
I have a question about my eye dominance. When we are doing curves I try to follow the advice and look and aim with my inside eye over his outside ear. There is no problem when my inside eye is my dominant eye but when my inside eye is left (not dominant) eye I have to close my right eye to do the curve right. Is there any eye exercise to train my left eye to do the job without closing my right eye?
Your explanation about the horse’s eye dominance and how to handle it is amazing and I shall immediately put it in practice.
I notice that untracking applies on my own walk too. When I put my left foot slightly ahead and inward my turns on the left side (and vice versa) becomes much more friendly for my knees and when  at the same time I use my inside left eye as a leading eye my walk becomes more balanced on the strait lines  and pain in  my left knee is relieved. Obviously I am crooked too. The same position and action of my legs for turning me, I applied as an aid for turning a horse while riding and for now it works great.
Igor

Katherine
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 Posted: Sun Sep 22nd, 2013 09:52 pm
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This thread may have been written just for me too... I have a green and crooked mare (who sold herself to me last year) but the improvement since following the instruction here has been immense and significant.

Getting back to the hooking on piece - I remember you mentioning "Fundamentals of Free Lungeing" by Stephen Mackenzie some years ago Dr. Deb, I think when at one of your classes in Haddington, Scotland. I just remembered this book and pulled it out of the bookcase, and will re-read. It's been some time since I did much with horses since having family, and I have forgotten quite a bit. Perhaps this book would be useful to other readers.

This mare I have has many similarities with Juliet's but additional "holes" in the foundation also, which I know need full closure. She would be one that hangs by the wall and doesn't draw fully in to you. Also unequal with the eyes. We have plenty to improve, and I am sure I will have questions.

With thanks for your continued teaching,

Katherine

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Sep 23rd, 2013 01:37 am
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Katherine, I mentioned Mackenzie's book because it is nearly the only one out there -- in response to the question of someone who was present at that seminar many years ago. You may remember the questioner: it was the equine version of Rita Skeeter. Mackenzie is a behaviorist and, as I have said many times before, there is no single person more dangerous to any horse, or to any animal for that matter, than an academic behaviorist. In short -- he understands some of the mechanics; he does not tell us, or show us, that he comprehends the deeper meanings.

You can try to go find video footage of Freddy Knie, Jr.; he was a master. You find the footage and you watch it over and over and over.

You can also try to go find video footage of Angel and Rafael Peralta; they too are masters. This footage will show them on horseback; understand, it is the same on horseback as on the ground, once you know the art at all. There's a YouTube clip showing the two brothers talking about their farm, teaching, and breeding operation. It doesn't matter whether you understand Castiliano; watch how the 92-year-old Angel 'talks' to his horse, which is trying to push on him while Rafael talks. Just watch and hear what the horse is saying, and see that little smile on Angel's face as he tells him 'that's enough for just now'.

In short I would prefer you go elsewhere than Mackenzie: especially to go visit with Harry Whitney or Josh Nichol in person, or come attend my anatomy class as a full five-day enrollee. If you do that, we'll see whether there is anyone else interested; if there is, then it wouldn't kill me to do a sixth day on roundpenning for you & other students. Not this year though; we're full (there is a waiting list). -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Mon Sep 23rd, 2013 02:08 am
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Hello!

thanks for your lengthy, informative and as usual, extremely helpful reply. I understand what I did wrong with the "come/don't come" and understanding this mistake has made the process and purpose of untracking more clear to me.

I've only had one full session to try these new "eye" exercises but wanted to report sooner rather than later because I'm a little unsure of the results I got.

First I did the sending/coming in/untracking exercise at liberty and carefully observed how she came in to me when traveling to the left vs to the right. As you predicted, to the left, she would come in and as she got near she would either swing her hindquarters around to the right so that she was facing me squarely or she would bend her neck around to a degree that enabled her to face me. Sometimes she would go all the way to have her right eye on me, but usually she would just maneuver herself so that both eyes were on me. Once she was facing me, she would stop.

Next, I put her lead rope on her and and tried the "calling just the eye" exercise. I don't think I fully understood this one though. I asked her to walk around me and then, by pointing at her inside hind and taking a step toward her, I asked her to step under with her inside hind and move her quarters away from me. (is this what you meant?) To the left she did the same thing as at liberty: either swinging her hind end to the right or bending her neck so that she could face me squarely. It was very hard to get her to hold me in her left eye--it seemed to me that she would either not look at me at all (head not twirled, neck stiff) or she'd do the turning to face me maneuver. We tried it several times (5-6) and I think she only held me in her left eye once and only very briefly. I felt like I wasn't doing it correctly. I often ended up positioned in line with her hip -- it this right? This exercise felt sort of difficult and unclear to me.

After this, we did the semaphore exercise. This went unexpectedly well! she stood facing me quietly, watching me. I moved the flag up slowly with first my left hand (so that it would be in her right eye) and then with my right hand. She didn't flinch or react in any way on either side. I did it again, this time going slowly all the way up overhead and then switching hands and back down the other side. Again, no big deal to her, she just stood and watched. I did it again a little faster and she was still fine. So, I'm a little confused as to why this last exercise seemed to contradict the first two.

By the way, I'm very right-handed/right-sided. Another similarity I sort of share with Macie is that I clench my jaw (I have to wear a guard on my teeth at night because I grind) and often have a stiff neck! (coincidence?)

One more question, when you write "observe whether the horse untracks as deeply on the left side as on the right" I take you to mean for me to see if she's more flexed throughout her whole length, not just her inside hind stepping under more deeply. Is this correct?

One other observation: when I'm lunging her at liberty, she's lately (past few weeks) started dropping her head and bending softly when she's going to the right but today, for the first time, she did this going left. That seems like a significant improvement! yes?

Thanks as always for this invaluable information. It really means so much to me!

--Juliet


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