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Feeling the footfalls in walk.
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Aloha
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 Posted: Sun Feb 22nd, 2015 08:51 am
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Been wanting to start this discussion for weeks. Finally think I have it edited to where it makes sense.

I've been doing alot of trail riding lately where I mostly just walk. I notice a distinct difference in what I'm feeling between my two horses.

On my bigger mare I can easily feel when the hind hoof touches the ground.

On my smaller mare I am catching it AFTER the touchdown. I am feeling my own hip being lifted up by her hip as it comes up and the ribcage swings out.

Don't think there is anything wrong with this as long as I am aware of what I am feeling and where the hoof is to time my aids.

But I find it so interesting that on one horse I can peg the landing hoof every time. On the other horse I get it wrong most of the time and consciously have to become aware of it. I almost don't feel the bump when it touches down but rather feel my hip as it rises with hers.

On the bigger mare, the touch down is more pronounced. The smaller mare I hardly feel the touchdown.

When trying to think about the mechanics of it, it is mind boggling. They both are under the forces of gravity. They both have to have a foot on the ground for a certain amount of time before it unweights. I guess I've never thought about that this could be so varied.

This all changes when riding downhill. THEN I feel her hooves grounding very easily and it doesn't matter who I ride. I think that is because going downhill they collect themselves more and the steps are more deliberate. The ribcage swing is greater. Riding downhill makes it more obvious.

I find this very intriguing and thought it might make for a good discussion here. Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with your horses!

Last edited on Sun Feb 22nd, 2015 08:59 am by Aloha

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Feb 28th, 2015 12:42 pm
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Aloha, it is always relatively easy to feel when any given foot touches the ground. In many horses, the forefeet are easier to feel than the hind feet when they touch down, because most horses are built more or less downhill and almost all of them are, in any case, not carrying themselves; in other words, they're "on the forehand".

And typically, they're even more on the forehand when moving downhill. This will be especially the case in the horse that tends to speed up when going downhill. On the other hand, in the horse that knows very well how to go downhill properly, in other words the horse that does carry itself downhill, you will quite easily feel the touch-down of the HIND feet, because the trained horse pushes down-and-forward with each hindlimb. This is how the trainbed horse "puts the brakes on" so that it does not rush down like the green horse would.

But it is not when the foot touches down that you should normally concern yourself with; rather, it is when the designated hind limb ("designated" meaning the one you happen to be paying attention to, the one you've selected to pay attention to) PICKS UP. This moment occurs when the designated hind limb is stretched as far out to the rear as it is going to go.

Now, just for a bit of review, Aloha -- can you state why this would be the moment of most interest, or the most important moment? I think getting this clear in your mind will add quite a bit to your rides as well as to your thinking. -- Dr. Deb

 

Aloha
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 Posted: Sun Mar 1st, 2015 03:28 am
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Oh yes absolutely! Because that is the moment when you can ask it to step under, or untrack.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Mar 1st, 2015 03:49 am
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Very good -- so now, what 'methodology' do you use to help you feel when the moment of maximum backward extension of the designated foot occurs?

CorynKiefer
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 Posted: Tue Apr 21st, 2015 08:20 pm
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Very good question,... that I do NOT know the answer to. I am 'just' beginning to 'get' a feel (the mechanics phase of my learning) for knowing 'at a walk' where my horse's feet are.

Would someone help answer Dr Deb's question? Or better still would someone recommend an article (resource) that would help figure out the answer to this question?

I too would love to hear about the experience of others as they learned the 'mechanics' of this,... that with time and proficiency 'morphed' into 'feel'.

Thank-you,
Corinne

Last edited on Tue Apr 21st, 2015 08:21 pm by CorynKiefer

Cheddar
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 Posted: Tue Apr 21st, 2015 11:55 pm
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http://sillydragon.com/muybridge/Plate_0576/Plate_576_Horse_Eagle_Walking_Free.jpg

If the link will work, this is a series of photographs by Muybridge showing a horse at a walk, the pictures from the side are numbered to match the pictures from the rear. Seeing how the butt moves from the rear as well as the rib cage may help you realize what you should feel.

Riding with a friend how can call out 'now' when the rear foot is about to start the swing forward will also help a lot. That is what Dr. Deb did at a clinic I attended, she got everyone started and then the rider had to be able to continue to identify when the rear foot reached the end of the stride and was going to become airborne. Something similar was done at Ray Hunt clinics, it was a standard exercise to ride by Ray and he would pick a foot and you told him if the foot was grounded.

As a matter of thinking instead of just answering the question, maybe the pictures will help.

Mare`s Tales
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 Posted: Wed Apr 22nd, 2015 12:20 am
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When first learning to follow the footfalls I tell people to sit and observe/study horses being ridden, and hopefully the riders, if they are accomplished enough, are establishing a steady tempo for a length of time where it is easiest for the observers to study the horse`s footfalls at each gait. Study the sound of the footfalls and how and when the weight of the horse passes over a supporting foot or feet at each gait and start to understand the principles of flight, grounding, propolsion and overall balance. Understand that each gait has it`s own rhythm and each horse has it`s own ideal tempo (regularity) for achieving relaxation. I find this phase of learning to be very relaxing so you can spend a lot of time at it and eventually your body will begin to feel the motion of the horses eventhough you might be sitting in a lawn chair or in the bleechers.

Second, is the mounted lesson when you are actually in the saddle/or bareback and can feel what you observed on the ground.
Start feeling for when a particluar foot is grounded, when the foot is airborne and at what point the foot is in its flight phase and how that effects the motion of the horse; how it feels at that time on your body. I find that riding mirrors in a riding hall are extremely valuable at this phase; you can match up what you feel to what you see in the mirror. Pick a time when you can be quiet in yourself and concentrate, ideally with a horse who has distinct footfalls by nature, not horses that have gaits that scurry like mice. If you practice enough, you will eventually only need to FEEL the footfalls, you will feel them through your whole body and you will not have to look in the mirror.

After you have reasonably accomplished lessons one and two, then you can start using your knowledge to perfect getting with the feet and following..... later asking for simple movements such as turning without getting in your horses way. Later you can ask for simple transitions up and down from each hindleg. Feel the balance of the horse change from when you are synchronising with the horse`s foot movements and when you are off. Be aware and EXPERIMENT. It takes practice but the rewards are soooooo worth it.

You observe, you learn to follow, and then you can perfect your feel enough to influence. Ray Hunt used to say, "My horses feet are MY feet."

Hightening your feel, perfecting your timing, leads to a better balanced ride and a more harmonious partnership with your horse. For when you are WITH your horse, your horse can get WITH you. Motion being so important to a horse`s survival instinct; you are either a helpmate or a hindrance.....which is going to make him more sured and want to be WITH you?

I can tell you this........when your horse feels secure enough in you, that he can "get" with YOUR movement, he will start to wait for you. When I first felt this I thought.......... "THIS ! is RIDING !." Where do you think his attention is going to be THEN?

These are the original instructions that horses are born with and of course we are always wanting to work with the horse`s nature. How synchronised are the movements of a herd of wild horses moving from their winter to summer pastures or trying to escape from a predator? Each one aware of the others? Like the fish in the sea and birds in a flock.....all separate individuals flowing and moving as if one unit. This is how it should be with you and your horse.


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