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Raising the base of the neck
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Lothmorwel
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 Posted: Tue Dec 10th, 2013 02:24 pm
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Hello everyone.

I have read the long thread on raising the base of the neck (2007 post) and found it very enlightening.

I am starting over Classically with my Traditional Cob (15 years old) and have been told I need to raise her neck by using gentle demi arettes (not half halt) to get her to lift her head, free up her shoulders to therefore enable her hind legs to step further under. The instructor I had a lesson with is excellent and highly knowledgeable. However, I have noticed that a fair amount of their horses have a pronounced dip in front of the withers - something I've heard is caused by not working through and not being connected hind legs to poll.

I really want to start off on the right foot and am worried that by asking my horse to lift her head and neck I am going about things 'front to back' rather than 'back to front'.

Should I follow the advice or work on other ways to get her working through from behind? We're just working on this in halt/walk/trot, and also am starting lateral flexion in walk on a circle to teach her to bend through turns and weight the outside shoulder rather than falling in.

I would appreciate any advice.

Thank you.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Dec 10th, 2013 05:58 pm
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Dear Loth: Ahh, the French. So good when they're actually wearing the black uniform of Saumur....so brutal when they can say "I was at Saumur" merely because they took some lessons there. All we have in this country is the latter, unfortunately; and it may also be true where you are.

In order to raise the base of the neck, you have to twirl the head, and you also have to untrack the horse, which twirls the loins. This is true for all common horses, horses of average ability, and horses that have been wrongly ridden at any previous time, which would be most of them.

There is one, and only one, purpose for twirling, and that is to induce the muscles that govern the said joint(s) to release.

After practicing to obtain release, and having obtained it at the poll and through the loinspan, you will gradually be able to obtain proper lateral flexion through the center of the horse, the part over which you sit. You obtain lateral flexion by riding circular figures correctly.

When the center of the horse starts to come loose in lateral flexions, the door is then open for the horse to coil its loins and raise the freespan of the back -- in other words, to flex not only laterally but in the up-and-down dimension. When this phase is reached, you test it by halts and half-halts, and by practicing the rocker in its elementary forms, i.e. walk-halt-back three-walk and walk-halt-back three-trot. You do this many times over a time period of six months to a year.

Sometime in that period, sooner or later depending upon the build of the horse, when you touch him with the calf of the leg, it will begin to mean not merely "go forward" but also "raise your back". And when you know that it means this to him, you may then offer a demi-arete -- you do this by merely WAITING AT THE SAME PRESSURE with his mouth (the bit) at the exact correct distance from his chest and from your hands -- and he will arch his neck, which is to say, raise the base of the neck. And there will be no dip, not even if he's a gooky-necked TB or QH that had, at the beginning of training, no particular ability or tendency to do this.

In short: no horse apart from one already tremendously built or talented for arching the neck will arch the neck from actions of the hand alone, as your French friends certainly should know (assuming they've ever actually looked at Baucher's writings!). From the hand alone, even the most talented horse will not reach his full potential, arching his neck to the greatest extent he actually can. It is a question of bringing the horse -- no matter what horse -- to the point where the aids may be used as an ensemble.

Now if you don't understand twirling, and can't reliably do it, then you'll have to learn it somewhere before you can follow this advice. Since you're far away, I'd suggest you get the "Conformation Biomechanics" DVD set, or else the "Anatomy of Bitting" DVD set -- I perform it on both, so you can see.

As to whose advice you take -- I smile when I say this -- why, Loth, that's entirely up to you. -- Dr. Deb

CarolineTwoPonies
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 Posted: Thu Dec 12th, 2013 04:43 am
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As a French native, I have to agree with Dr. Deb. In the USA, there are several instructors who attended the Ecole Nationale D'Equitation which is housed in Saumur and uses Cadre Noir instructors and now claim to have been Cadre Noir riders and instructors. Sometimes they call themselves "Maitre" or Master...It is worth contacting Saumur to check credentials because the riding you describe here is not something the real Cadre Noir trainers I have met would suggest.

Lothmorwel
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 Posted: Thu Dec 12th, 2013 08:14 am
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Thank you Dr Deb and Caroline.

My instructor isn't claiming to be of the Cadre Noir, I think she was just putting a name to the exercise we were doing.

I believe she follows the principles of Philippe Karl (although she is multi-talented and draws from many different sources) and I think what I need to do is to decide if I want to do so as well. I think you can achieve fantastic things, as PK has himself - as long as you know what you're doing. I don't, to put it bluntly. I need to a do a lot more reading, riding and get more experience before I attempt something like PK which requires a lot of finesse.

I don't have regular lessons on my horse (distance & cash issues), so wouldn't be under her guidance all the time and therefore liable to making a mess of things!

I have always leant more towards the 'set the horse up from behind and wait for the front to do it's own thing' way of thinking, so I think I shall follow my own advice (bolstered by yours Dr Deb, thank you) and stay on that track. For now I shall go back to lunge lessons and focus on my seat, while working with my horse at home.

Thank you again.

Pintado
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 Posted: Wed Dec 18th, 2013 03:52 am
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Hi!  I’ve been reading this blog for a while, but only just registered now to specifically respond to this post!  My own teacher is currently in the third and final year of the first Philippe Karl teacher training program in North America, so I’ve been getting lessons from her. 

[Remainder of this post has been deleted by Dr. Deb because it does not discuss concepts in the generic sense, but rather is a discussion of what is or is not done in the PK school. See my post below for more explanation -- thank you] -- Dr. Deb

Last edited on Wed Dec 18th, 2013 11:06 pm by DrDeb

Lothmorwel
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 Posted: Wed Dec 18th, 2013 08:46 am
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Pintado, thank you. I very much appreciate your opinions.

If I could afford to have regular lessons with a PK instructor - there is a lovely lady near me who is just completing the course - then I would like to learn more about PK stuff. Unfortunately I cannot, it's just me and my horse and a field usually! Without the knowledge from an instructor I don't want to 'attempt' PK things as I know there's a LOT more to it than just reading the books & watching DVD's.

My horse doesn't run through the bit but she is a heavy cob, with a lovely long neck that she carries just below her withers usually. I think the demi arêtes were just to lift her a little and to free up her shoulders but I worry that she'll be hoiking her head up using all the wrong muscles and still be on the forehand! Again, without regular one-to-one tuition I wouldn't be able to tell what's right & wrong.

My instructor is classical and isn't close to any of the 'modern' type of dressage trainers thankfully, she has a huge breadth & depth of knowledge and is ever-learning. She is going on a PK course this month but I don't know if she's doing the training or just observing, I shall ask next time I see her.

For now I will focus my cash on occasional lunge lessons with her on. I've only had two over the past year but have learnt more in them than in hours and hours of group lessons over the years. With my horse I will leave her head & neck alone and work on her back end - we're currently attempting shoulder-in and doing trot poles to get her more active (not at the same time obviously!).

Thank you again for your input, and for registering to help me out. :-)

Pintado
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 Posted: Wed Dec 18th, 2013 07:29 pm
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Perhaps if your local PK instructor gives clinics, you could go to audit them? Or even see if she would let you watch some lessons? Or you could try for one lesson a month, let's say, and get set up with the basic exercises? Also, if your other instructor is going on a PK course, whether to audit or participate, that's really good news as I'm sure it will answer a lot of her own questions about the methods, and she's going to be learning a lot very quickly! Good luck!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Dec 18th, 2013 11:04 pm
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Folks -- While we do not ban the mention of Philippe Karl's name in this Forum -- because unlike those whose names we DO ban, he is not greedy or particularly self-serving, neither is he incompetent -- it is not the purpose of this Forum to advocate for Mr. Karl or his program of instruction.

If you want to discuss PK and its program or instructors, please go to wherever the PK website is and get your information about that program from the horse's mouth; or else, correspond with one another privately.

The purpose of this Forum is to discuss concepts quite apart from this or that instructor, whether we approve of them or advocate for them or not. It is the concepts you should be discussing here, and also of course, any questions or problems that you, yourself, the individual correspondent, may have bumped up against; or any observations that you, yourself have made. -- Dr. Deb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Dec 18th, 2013 11:22 pm
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To Lothmorwel: You are getting here a reply to the real questions or problems that you do indicate.

1. If you lift your cob's HEAD you will cause her to collapse onto the forehand. Lifting the horse's HEAD forces the animal to drop the base of the neck, and this is what puts the horse on the forehand -- when the base of the neck drops, that also means that the front end of the thorax drops, which throws all the weight onto the forelimbs. What you need to be aiming for is to learn how to raise THE BASE of the neck, not the head. This confusion is the same one that caused American saddle-seat riding to go to pot once all the instructors who had had contact either directly with Baucher or with "own" students of Baucher had died, i.e. in the 1920's.

2. If you would actually obey the suggestions previously given, i.e. to learn how to twirl the head and to learn how to untrack the horse, you would find that you are doing that which is truly classical -- and you would also find that you no longer need your instructor. Your problems are very unlikely to be with your "seat" not being good enough. It is difficult or impossible to have a beautiful "seat" on a horse that is stiff, heavy, and crooked, and on one where you do not have 100% control of the feet. This therefore comes first, unless your balance on horseback is so bad that you are in danger of falling off (in which case you just need to go take lessons on the local packers at the ordinary Pony Club type riding school until you've put in the requisite saddle-time). But to go back to my point: Head-twirling and untracking are the two basic physiotherapeutic maneuvers which have been practiced since "how to elicit collection from the horse" was discovered in ancient Persia more than 2500 years ago. Unless you learn these, you will never be able to improve EITHER your seat or your horse.

3. In case you are confused about terminology, 'twirling the head' is just my own term, which I made up, to describe or give a name to a technique which Baucher called 'jaw flexions'. Twirling the head is a modification of Baucher's original technique which is suitable to green horses that have never been in a double bridle (much less actually in a cavalry battle, as many of Baucher's had been).

4. Likewise, 'untracking the horse' is a term which comes from LaGueriniere, and actually, one which is pictured in some training manuals even prior to his, i.e. it was quite well known and understood from about the middle of the 17th century in Europe (long before that in Persia, of course, too). Untracking is the fundamental basis for LaGueriniere's modification of it, which is called the 'shoulder-in' or (French) 'epaule en dedans'. All knowledgeable horsemen agree that the shoulder-in is an extremely important exercise which conveys many graces & benefits upon the horse. You need to learn how to untrack, therefore, before you can give your horse these benefits.

5. Before you can do shoulder-in, you'll also have to learn how to cause the horse to carry itself, and you, straight on both straight tracks and on curving tracks. This is explained, or at least the beginning of the explanation is given, where I told you before: in our main website, go to "knowledge base" and download the free .pdf document called "Lessons from Woody", and read and study that. Also, go get the Eclectic Horseman back issues (http://www.eclectichorseman.com) where I explain and illustrate very clearly both head-twirling and untracking.

You see, girls -- I don't really care what PK is doing, or what anybody else outside of our school is doing; not that I necessarily bear them any ill will, but I don't need them. My horse succeeds just fine, he is a joy to ride, we don't have any problems with him being on the forehand, disobedient, or not knowing how to do every maneuver known to the repertory. You want to know how to get your horse to be this way, or to have those abilities, and gain those graces & benefits, and you write in HERE to ask, why then I think you have to expect that you are going to hear the best advice I can manage to give you.

Go see Buck Brannaman; go see Harry Whitney; go see Josh Nichol, and please -- don't give me any B.S. about what you can and cannot AFFORD. You want these things? Then you will have to go find them. You have to pursue them -- relentlessly. Fine horsemanship does not fall on anybody's head. And yet it's right there for the price of a plane ticket and a couple of weeks of your time spent away -- and the asking. Yes, you do have to ask: ask, and the door shall be opened to you. So we open it here, but THEN YOU HAVE TO STEP THROUGH IT BY USING YOUR OWN RESOURCES. -- Dr. Deb

nejc
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 Posted: Fri Dec 20th, 2013 08:37 am
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Dr. Deb.
Till now I spent year and a half walking and doing allkind of exsercises from Bridie Book. My horse becomes very rounded and big under me after indication of twirling the head (just a slight signal from the inside rein) and initiation of the circular figure or leg yielding. It always surprises me how much it inflates and how intense is my feel of it.
When I twirl the head of my horse I exactly know (by feel) when the horse does it and tucks his chin in and inflates. But when the horse twirls his loins what part of whole feel can I address to untracking? I would like to feel correct twirling the loins as I can feel twirling the head. Along with rounding  there  is also  very distinctive feel of not dropping or even feel of raising me on the outside in turns and other circular figures. Is this the sign that the horse correctly twirls its loins?
Beside my question I have to mention how important for me and my understanding of balance through feel was the exercise “one step at a time”. Distinction of the balance between one step at a time by making one distinctive step forward and then another and another … vs. leaning forward and stepping under its forward falling weight becomes very clear. The difference in balance and the feel of it is very obvious.
Great “a-ha” moment was also when I become quiet in the saddle and make a clear separation between my aids (which are now very light) and quietness. The horse becomes endlessly more calm and relaxed.
These basic principles are so important and without learning them from Birdie Book and from your forum and then applying them (and this was quite a journey) I would be nowhere.
I am very grateful for that.   Thank you. Igor

Lothmorwel
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 Posted: Fri Dec 20th, 2013 10:01 am
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Thank you everyone.

Dr Deb, I very much appreciate your time and I solidly agree with your sentiments. Even as I say 'I can't afford lessons' I cringe and think 'how dare I own a horse then?!'. I have invested rather heavily in books (Albrecht, PK, Sylvia Loch, Bill Dorrance, Nuno Oliviera, and more) and need to get on and learn all I can from them. I think the knowledge in there will help me enormously.

I have downloaded & printed your 'Lessons From Woody' and look forward to going through that.

We (me and my horse) are working on shoulder-in at the moment, as well as general straightness training (all in walk so far). I will investigate the jaw flexions and make sure I am clear on what to do before doing them with my horse.

My seat isn't awful, don't worry, I just want to learn to be the best rider I can, to sit as well as I can for my horse at the same time as schooling her. I can't expect to get really good and THEN ride my horse - she hasn't got the years to wait for that!

I figure as long as we're both improving then we're on the right track. From the advice here I've got a much improved sense of purpose, a better idea of what to be doing, more confidence in my abilities and renewed enthusiasm for simply 'getting on with it'.

Thank you again.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Dec 21st, 2013 03:40 am
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Dear Lothmorwel: Well, you're reading a lot of real good stuff and I certainly encourage that. But please, it's not a 'how dare you' kind of thing with the money or what you can or can't afford. It's the fact that it does no good at all for anyone to SAY they want something and then not commit to doing whatever is necessary to achieve it. So I trust you'll do all you can, as soon as you can.

Do realize, however, that unless you start picturing in your mind how you're going to get on the plane to America, it likely will never happen. -- Dr. Deb

Kuhaylan Heify
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 Posted: Sat Dec 21st, 2013 07:57 am
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Dear Lothmorwell: If you are in the U.K. maybe you get to go see Buck Brannaman next summer at the the Dublin horse show. No kidding, he's really going to fly his horses across the pond and demonstrate Vacquero- Buckaroo- Classical high School riding. He's going to be taking one of his bridle horses so you folks can see what a finished spade bit horse looks like. I can tell you its exponentially better than any Olympic rider you could name.
Best wishes\
Bruice Peek

Jeannie
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 Posted: Sun Dec 22nd, 2013 05:35 pm
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Hi Igor, regarding your question about feeling the back as weight and bend flow, alternately riding shoulder in with haunches in has helped me feel how the back changes, first with the inside hind, then the outside hind reaching under the horse.

I taught him in hand to start with, so it was one step at a time, then under saddle.

 Lothmorel, one thing I have noticed which affects the seat is that whatever posture you have on the ground will carry over to how you sit on the horse. If you look at the photos of Buck Brannaman and Harry Whitney which Adam posted, you will notice how balanced and straight they sit. They also stand this way off the horse.

                              Jeannie

nejc
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 Posted: Fri Dec 27th, 2013 05:29 pm
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Jeannie.

Thank you for your answer. I do shoulder in by making circle larger and also a few steps of shoulder in starting out of the circle as suggested on many places on this forum. I also try a few steps of haunches in starting out of the circle. But I don’t know how to do or what is exactly meant with “alternately riding shoulder in with haunches in”. With advanced find function I found it only once but without any explanation.

Igor


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