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Long and Low
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jilldpeterson
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 Posted: Thu Nov 26th, 2015 06:20 am
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I see this practice a lot in my area, it is supposed to stretch the neck and back thus strengthening the back muscles. It looks all strange to me as these riders raise and lower their hands to adjust contact on the bit to ask the horse to lower his head. Is this good practice? The horses seem to struggle with it.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Nov 26th, 2015 11:24 am
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Jill, from the very brief and "general" description you give, it would be impossible to say. No, a lot of jiggling and rapping and out-of-form flexing is not helpful. But yes, it is necessary to raise one's hands as, and to the degree, that the horse may try to carry its head too high.

As to 'strengthening the back': this is a confusion, and again, it's a 'yes and no' kind of answer that I'll have to give. No, one should never do anything that directly addresses the muscles of the back in order to 'develop' the back. But yes, the alternation of mild contraction followed by rest, release, and/or stretching is the key to developing -- by which we mean thickening -- the long perivertebral muscles upon which the saddle rests.

How about we do this -- you post some pics here of  your own horse and your own riding, and ask a question about the content that those few photos represent. I want to know what YOUR OWN problems are, not what you think your neighbors are doing 'wrong' or 'right'. This isn't about opinion....it's about helping you make real progress. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

zuzana
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 Posted: Thu Nov 26th, 2015 06:20 pm
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ok, well, I hope the invitation to post a picture extends to others :)
I post this to learn, so please feel free to suggest anything to work towards.
thanks
Zu

Attachment: 21- 36 (2).jpg (Downloaded 482 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Nov 28th, 2015 02:43 pm
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OK, Zusanna -- you have supplied a nice picture of a horse going 'long and low'. It would be better to see you dispense with the white stick/lash combination -- this is a Parelli-ism, incorrect, hard on the horse, and unnecessary, so we don't like to see it. The stick-and-lash is, historically, a misunderstanding of the French chambrier, which was a stick with a silk stocking attached, or a long silk ribbon; in short, a form of flag, very soft by nature, which comes from, and is still sometimes used, in its original context which is the mounted bullfight.

Now, the other girl who wrote in -- the original questioner -- may be able to get something out of your photo; but then again, maybe not, as one of her observations was that she felt 'going long and low' -- that is to say, as she understands the term -- is 'hard on the horse' or 'bothers the horse.'

So although it's OK for you to jump in here, the person I am really interested in seeing photos from is the original questioner. Like a lot of people, she needs to learn to first look to her own doings before criticizing her neighbor's deeds or mis-deeds. If she has real confusions about what 'going long and low' means, the only way we're going to be able to productively examine and discuss them is if she shows us what 'long and low' means to HER.

Meanwhile, however Zusanna, since you've posted a picture -- what would YOUR specific questions be? Are you not happy with how your horse goes, or are you confused about some aspect of the technique, or what? -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

zuzana
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 Posted: Sat Nov 28th, 2015 06:50 pm
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Thank you Dr Deb,

That's not a Parelli stick - eeek, just a stock whip with a short lash.. I have since switched to using a flag, no whips... just another step on my journey, one much inspired by your work, thank you!

My reason for posting this is that I was very happy with the picture, wouldn't change a thing in the horse - except of course developing the horse more physically.

But I have "been there" before, thinking "I got it" - in terms of understanding what I was looking for - and some time later realized the incomplete-ness, or even incorrect bits... so I am trying to shorten my "learning to see this" phase.

specific questions:
is this horse raising the base of his neck?

is he developing carrying power behind?

is he working with a relaxed, upwards moving back?

- in this one moment, of course :)

Thank you so much!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Nov 29th, 2015 10:34 am
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Zuzana, let's take your questions one at a time. And yes, I do understand what you mean by 'in this one moment', i.e. it's a still photo and we have to imagine, from that, what came in the frames prior to this image as well as what's going to happen in the frames subsequent. I am assuming that you and other readers are quite capable of this mental exercise.

Is the horse raising the base of his neck? Yes, to a degree; one reason we encourage green horses to go "long and low" is that when the horse lowers its head, it is far easier for it to raise the base of the neck than if it went with its head elevated. Elevation of the head WITH raising of the base of the neck, i.e. I should say as a result of raising of the base of the neck, comes toward the end of training.

Is he working with a relaxed, upwards-moving back? What do  you mean by "upwards-moving"? Wouldn't a horse's back also  have to work downwards? When during longeing would the back need to move downwards?

Is he developing carrying power behind? From you I need to know first what  you mean by 'carrying power.' In your mind, Zuzana, how would "going long and low" help to develop that? Would there be any negatives or dangers, i.e. could you conceive of any circumstances in which "going long and low" might actually work against a horse developing "carrying power"?

I am most concerned here with your imprecise use of words, and my comments are intended to h elp you think very clearly about what you mean when you use the words in question here. Let's hear your replies back, and then we'll see if, in writing the replies, you don't also acquire some insights as to what is of value in training and what is not. -- Dr. Deb

zuzana
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 Posted: Sun Nov 29th, 2015 08:35 pm
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Thank you Dr Deb,

yes, I would love to find some precision and clarity!

"Is he working with a relaxed, upwards-moving back? What do you mean by "upwards-moving"? Wouldn't a horse's back also have to work downwards? When during longeing would the back need to move downwards?"

-good, I need help with this :)
I am talking about the range of oscillations of the spine in the vertical axis.
It is my understanding (at this time) that a horse's spine (Thoracic, lumbar) would move up/down on this axis with each trot step - but the difference comes in whether it moves (to state as simply as I can) "neutral to down and back to neutral and so on" or "neutral to up to neutral..." -and anywhere on this continuum...

This little guy used to go from semi-hollow to more hollow with each trot step. I watch the line of the back - slow motion video is great for this - and look at the back relative to the croup and the wither. The line becomes less concave at the "up beat" - like in the photo - and I see how much of this upward oscillation is still there on the "down beat". - so it's kind of like 'how much can the horse limit the downward force'

The downward movement is a natural part of the trot stride and is most notable in passage where we get the extreme of movement both in the upward and the downward direction.

*******
"From you I need to know first what you mean by 'carrying power.' In your mind, Zuzana, how would "going long and low" help to develop that? Would there be any negatives or dangers, i.e. could you conceive of any circumstances in which "going long and low" might actually work against a horse developing "carrying power"?"

carrying power - the hind leg (one at a time in trot) spending more time under the horse (towards the front of him) rather then behind him. I look at where the hind hoof touches the ground - relative to the horse's trunk (not the front hoofprint...) - and where the hoof leaves the ground, relative to the horse's pelvis. Also the amount of flexion in the joints of the hind leg upon landing and take-off phase.

I am not sure going long and low develops this directly, but what it does is (like you said):
make it easier for the horse to raise the base of the neck
and it facilitates the release of the top line, and likely a mental release as well. I think putting the head so far away from the body would be a passive stretch (the weight of the head pulling down) and strengthening exercise - but what does it strengthen? the muscles above the cervical spine? or does it reach back into the upper trunk muscles?
is this a place we need a lot of strength in a riding horse? - my guess would be yes :)

I think allowing/encouraging this posture (not faking/forcing) - while maintaining calm forward movement in slow rhythm with the hind legs working under the horse is a very beneficial gymnastic exercise, even essential for some horses. And because it seems the horse needs to feel ok enough on the inside to offer this - it is a great landmark for good work?

The dangers of this: any insistence on "dropping the head" - not the same thing, also forcing the horse to stay in this posture beyond what he can do in beneficial carriage (working the "bottom line") - this would shift the weight on the front legs, drop the base of the neck, likely fixate the lumbar back/pelvis in a extended (hollow) position - with hind legs pushing this whole mess forward... and of course there is a harmful emotional effect on the horse as well.

zuzana
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 Posted: Sun Nov 29th, 2015 08:44 pm
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one more question if I may, Dr Deb.

you said "the horse is raising the base of his neck to a degree"
how do you see this? how do I learn to see the degrees?

I think I see the horse in his normal "stuck, dropped" place most of the time, so then any slight raising looks to me like the maximum possible effort...

I apologise if this has been covered elsewhere.
thank you again so much!
Zuzana

Obie
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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2015 04:44 am
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Is the horse being pushed a little more than would be good for him? I believe he prefers to travel clock wise. Just my observation
Thanks,
Linda

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2015 05:03 am
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Obie, please explain at more length. What do you mean by:

"Pushed more than would be good for him." How would it look, or what would the horse be doing differently, if he were moving in a manner you would consider to be ideal?

"Prefers to move clockwise." Explain to other readers how you come to this conclusion. What are the visual clues that this might be the case?

In your comments we may be getting closer to what was not very clearly expressed, but indeed implied, by the original questioner's observation that horses she had seen being exercised 'long and low' did not seem entirely comfortable or best pleased. -- Dr. Deb

Obie
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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2015 08:41 am
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The reason I say he is being pushed forward more than is good for him is I look at his two left limbs, it looks like his left fore foot is not getting out of the way of the up coming left hind, this causes the horses to be more on the forehand and weight his front end longer. I'm thinking that's why when asked if the horse is lifting the base of his neck ,Dr. Deb, you responded with, "to some degree." If the horse were less on the forehand and weighting his haunches longer then his left fore would have been lifted sooner and that would have allowed the horses front end and base of neck to come up and out and his head to just be like a tear drop. I hope that makes sense. And if the handler was using the whip with a soft flag on it and instead using it to draw the horses attention inward toward her, then maybe the horse would have changed his bend and now be weighting his right limbs more and then the spine would be more anatomically straight to the left circle, As I see it now, the horse looks like he is bent in a circle to the right., that's why I think he might be more comfortable moving to the right ,or clockwise. or it could be he is being driven too hard and he is escaping out to the right. This is what I see in the picture.
Linda

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2015 02:43 pm
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OK, Obie, some good observations but also some confusions in your reply:

1) "....it looks like his left forefoot is not getting out of the way..." Good thing to be checking, for sure; but it IS getting out of the way -- by a fraction, but a fraction (which translates in real time to a fraction of a second) is all that's needed. The horse is not being over-driven so badly that he is forced to throw his quarters to one side like a side-gaiting dog, in order to avoid stepping on himself. Within normal limits, the advancing left hind foot is coming straight forward toward the departing left forefoot, and as you can see, the left forefoot has broken over, so its departure is in sufficient time.

2) So this is not the reason for my saying that the horse has only lifted the base of its neck "to a degree." There are several reasons instead: first, the horse is green and thus only capable, so far as his training has advanced, of making the raising-the-base effort "to a degree", and only for limited periods. Second, there is indeed a certain amount of "tightness" in this horse, again this being a function of his previous life or degree of greenness, which causes him to invert the anterior part of the neck, i.e. he kinks his neck a bit as part of his effort at stretching. This is why you perceive his head as not "hanging like a teardrop". These are normal difficulties faced by all green horses, the latter particularly common with Arabs, and the cure is time and good practice.

3) Obie, the WHOLE PURPOSE of using a flag is to assist the handler in drawing the horse's attention inward towards herself. My objection to stick-and-lash is that this type of driving aid is just that -- a DRIVING aid, and oftentimes at that, a more severe one than the standard longe whip. We definitely want the horse to look in and think in, because that's when he will be paying that degree of attention which we must demand. Only when the handler demands, and obtains, the horse's complete attention/focus do we get the desirable side effects, which is what we're after just as much, vis., calmness and obedience. In other words, to repeat: calmness and obedience are the RESULTS of attention, and the purpose of the flag is to obtain and hold the horse's attention. Its use as a driving aid is entirely secondary -- the result of the fact that it's oftentimes convenient to use whatever happens to be in our hand to indicate to the horse that he is to move forward and/or to stimulate/encourage him to do that. This "multiplex" use of the flag is no different than the multiplex use of the hand or leg: as the relationship between rider/handler and horse develops, the horse comes, more and more, to be able to make very fine distinction between the leg that says 'hop up there now, give me more energy', and the leg that says 'round up more', and the leg that says 'let's have a bit of leg-yield'.

4) I credit you for trying to express that the horse is not weighting its outside pair of legs enough. This is not, as noted above, due to the fact that he isn't attending to the handler; it's due to tension and/or stiffness in his body. This horse is still operating under the assumption that he has to tense up in order to move forward, and like almost all green horses, the degree of tension rises in exact proportion to the amount of energy output demanded. Wheareas, the definition of a trained horse is exactly the opposite: the fully finished horse, the ideal horse, is one from which we can demand 100% of his power, effort, or energy and have him give us that with ZERO accompanying increase in tension, i.e. the horse works at full efficiency, deliberately, out of an almost Zen-like depth of release which paradoxically permits the expression of enormous physical power.

Let us remember why we do what we do: first, as Baucher noted, you cannot get 'into' the horse's hindquarters -- you cannot govern anything behind/below the lumbo-sacral joint -- until there is release at the poll joint. Release at the poll joint provokes/enables release through the loins, which 'opens' the hindquarter, enabling the horse to flex the major joints in order to 'sit' for collection. Second, we also find that in 100% of cases the horse needs to be taught and practiced at untracking, which physically also induces release through the loins, but also provokes/induces submissive/cooperative emotional states. Thus what we do is this: we work both ends of the horse, alternating as seems prudent and necessary.

And the reason we work both ends of the horse, ultimately, is to be able to access the middle. It is in the middle that we sit, it is in the middle that his diaphragm is located, it is in the middle that the mesenteries which support the guts are hung. And because we sit in the middle, the ridden horse is highly likely to get 'stuck' in the middle, holding tension there -- which is what the horse in the photo is doing. So again, Obie, try not to confuse cause and effect: the little gray horse will properly weight his outside pair of feet just as soon as, yea the very moment, he 'lets go' of his ribcage. This is the moment under saddle when leg yield head-to-the-school morphs into shoulder-in, and if you understand this, then you also understand the crucial importance of the practice of the shoulder-in.

5) "....the horse might be being driven too hard...." As pointed out in point 1), the handler is not driving this horse harder than he can handle. BUT she IS driving him harder than would make the fastest and best progress with this particular animal. 99% of horses, but stiff horses in particular, need to be worked UNDER TEMPO ALL THE TIME. Rare is the horse that is a true slug; he has to be given different treatment. But with the usual horse, there's 300% more 'go' there than you'll ever be able to use anyway, so 'go more forward' -- which deprives him of TIME to get his feet into the right places, TIME to relax his ribcage, TIME to think -- is just dumb. You can always call on a horse like this for more energy, more 'go', more so-called 'forward.' What this horse needs instead is to have the handler play the game of 'let's see how slow you can trot without breaking to walk', combined with very frequent changes of direction. Much later in the training can come the time when we play the game, 'let's see if you can go from slow, relaxed collection to a big booming medium across the diagonal.' If you go for that first, though, you'll never arrive at your training goals at all. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

 

zuzana
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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2015 07:07 pm
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Thank you so much for your insights Dr Deb and Linda.

Obie
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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2015 08:52 pm
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Thank you Dr. Deb, for pointing out the things I missed. I do get confused with cause and effect. After looking up the difference I realize that cause is the latter and effect is the former, and finding the cause of something would be asking questions like how or why something happens, and finding the effect of something would be to ask what happened. Something to work on!
Linda

Obie
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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2015 08:58 pm
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Your welcome Zuzana.
Thank you for sending in the photo for observation and discussion. Is this your horse? What breed is he? He is lovely. I have a soft spot in my heart for grey horses.
Linda


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