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Building a Topline
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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LauraC
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 Posted: Sat Oct 4th, 2014 08:16 am
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Hi Dr.Deb, I have been trying to build a topline on my 5 1/2 yr. TB/Shire cross since I got her 3 years ago. Because there is so little muscle/fat where the saddle would sit I have postponed riding her. She has been sat on a number of times and is great about it. I have done tons of groundwork, liberty, clicker , and we have an awesome relationship. When I lunge her I don't allow her to proceed if she is not relaxed with a lowered head, she goes back to walk, calms , and we carry on. She is built with a higher neck set so head lowering was one of our first lessons. I am a bitless bridle fan and don't use bits or side reins. I am looking for specific exercises to strengthen her abdominals and back. I have tried trot poles and she has a tendency to raise her head going over them so I didn't think that exercise was helping. I am concerned if I started riding her she will end up with a sway back. I have no problem waiting longer. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated .

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Oct 4th, 2014 01:04 pm
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Laura, you've bought into a number of fallacies which are current fads, and you're going to need to get ready to open your mind to learning how to ride and train properly before you can hope to be effective. These are big changes that I am asking you to make, not stopgaps or little "patches" or "corrections", because you need to begin completely over. Another way to put this is to say that you have not yet begun.

First: there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a bit -- so long as the bit is not designed to work by hurting the horse, then it is "within the pale" and can be considered as a possible option for use.

Second: You don't need the clicker. If you begin riding with me, that is, taking my advice and acting upon it, then one of the first things I'm going to want for you to do is to discover your own power. You do not need a clicker; the only persons who do need clickers or whistles are those such as dolphin trainers or dog-trainers whose animals work at a great distance or in noisy environments, so that their signals would otherwise be difficult for their animal to perceive. But a horse has zero difficulty perceiving your output, that comes merely from the energy of your body. It is this energy that you need to discover, develop, enhance, learn how to focus, and learn how to modulate and regulate. So long as you cling to the clicker, you will never discover what you need to know about yourself.

Third: Lowering the head is no more difficult for a horse with a high-set neck than for one with a low-set neck. Your statements about this show me that you don't really understand how the horse's body works, or how cavalletti or other gymnastics work. You could learn, though, I've no doubt of that.

Fourth: I'd be flat-out amazed to see any Shire-cross horse that lacked bulk in the topline (or anywhere else, for that matter), unless the animal is being starved, and I highly doubt that you would be doing that to your animal, my dear. What instead I hear 'between the lines' is that you are not too experienced with starting young horses and are a bit afraid to get on with it. Not to blame you; it is dangerous -- particularly with a strapping big rising six year old -- and when we add to that the likelihood that the animal is spoiled -- that is, it is one that has been handled by somebody who thinks bits are bad and that clickers are necessary -- then we do expect the animal to still be thinking, indeed be thoroughly convinced, that it, and not you, is running the show.

You will therefore need to tell me where you live, so that I can direct you to the appropriate one-on-one help -- in other words, besides any instruction you choose to take from me, you will also need to go see Buck, Harry, Josh, or one of our other recommended instructors. This not only because the nuances of colt-starting are almost impossible to teach over the Internet, but also because you will very likely need to hire one of them, or else some other younger man who is willing to travel to where they are and work with them, to get the horse started under saddle directly under the supervision of these men who are much more capable and experienced than you are yourself.

You understand, Laura, that I'm responding to what YOU DID ASK -- and I am being 100% straight with you. Colt-starting is not for amateurs, it is not for the timid or the ineffective or those whose thinking and beliefs are fuddled. The horse is going to cut right through all of that, you see, and in the process may get you seriously hurt. We don't want that to happen, so we begin by advising you to shed the fantasy that it's all about being nice. It is absolutely NOT about being nice, or having an "awesome relationship": the awesome relationship instead comes from being CLEAR, and I fear from all that you have said that "clear" has not been one of your outstanding features as a trainer. This is what the bit is for,you see -- it is a tool of communication. So is your body energy. In fact, your body energy is by far the most powerful tool of communication that you will have in working with horses, but it is currently, as I indicated above, being inhibited or shut off by your use of a crutch device which is interposed between you and your animal.

If you choose to write back with a tone of gratitude and expressing your willingness to make these big changes, then you and I can get started with your first lesson, in which you will begin learning how to have an authentic relationship with your animal. We'll be doing this even as you begin budgeting and planning your work and travel schedule so as to be able, at your earliest opportunity, to bring your animal for one-on-one work with the horsemen above recommended. It is time she was started under saddle, and for YOU to get "re-started". -- Dr. Deb

LauraC
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 Posted: Sun Oct 5th, 2014 04:47 am
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Hi Doc,
Thanks for getting back to me. I appreciate your input. I'm apparently not very good at explaining so much in few words.
Laura

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Oct 13th, 2014 06:40 am
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Anybody else interested in this topic might like to go look at the latest issue of Eclectic Horseman magazine, where I have an article on this subject that has lots of photos of good vs. weak or damaged or undeveloped toplines, plus specific instructions telling how to improve the topline as well as the muscles of the haunches. The key word is: transitions. Happy reading....Dr. Deb

ruth
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 Posted: Mon Oct 13th, 2014 04:16 pm
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Dr Deb, could you let us know the title of this article as I have tried to search on Eclectic Horseman website and not found it - also, is this part of a series of articles, in which case I would like to order all of the relevant back issues. Many thanks.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Oct 14th, 2014 06:25 am
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Ruth, you might enjoy the previous articles anyway, or find them beneficial. They are in a series, but the topics are only related by whatever I want to say from month to month. They deal with horsemanship basics as I heard them from our teacher, Ray Hunt, plus whatever insights I can offer through my research and experience. So, the series begins with a good story about Ray, what "picking up a soft feel" means, what "twirling the head means", and why you should understand that and practice it. It goes on to talk about raising the base of the neck and other aspects of collection, straightness, the three classes of lateral work, and more. The article I recommended in this thread is in the very latest issue of The Eclectic Horseman and it's entitled "The Power of Transitions." Whichever of these articles you choose to get, I hope you enjoy them. Further, you might want to consider actually getting a subscription, because there are several other people, including Buck Brannaman, who write for that magazine whose insights you will find helpful. -- Dr. Deb

ruth
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 Posted: Tue Oct 14th, 2014 02:33 pm
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Thank you Dr Deb. Will look at back issues and subscriptions to the UK.


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