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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Can we please talk about the coiling of the loins and True Collection

Can we please talk about the coiling of the loins and True Collection
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Leah
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 Posted: Wed May 14th, 2008 10:32 pm
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Well....once again I find myself reading True Collection and have a couple of questions to continue to connect the dots. I am still amazed that each time I read it something just JUMPS off of the page.

From True Collection:

A working definition of collection focuses on what happens to the shape of the horse's vertebral column. Through a process of selective muscular contraction and decontraction the horse changes his posture so he is able to move fluidly while carrying weight on his back. In order to attain this posture of collection, this particular shape of the vertebral column, the horse has to do three things:
First and foremost, he coils his loins (the muscles of the topline need to already be in release for this to occur efficiently and comfortably).
Then, the relaxation of the muscles of the topline, from poll to hock, permits him to raise the center of his back.
Finally, collection is complete when the horse raises the base of his neck.


OK...

We use straightness to achieve the release of the muscles of the topline. We achieve straightness with circles and serpentines and lateral moves, correct? Isolating each body part as we FEEL that part leaking or pushing away from straight.

The next step is coiling of the loins...Is this best achieved through the circles, serpentines and lateral moves that engage each hind leg independently and then after using these exercises, we can achieve engagement of the legs together on a straight line.

In other words, we would use circles, serpentines, shoulder-in, counter shoulder-in, haunches- in, etc-focusing on different positions depending on the horse's need for that day. If we do our part properly and the horse ok and without brace, he should then have a relaxed straight horse that is also engaged and coiling?

At first I would think this would be at a slow pace so the horse can find his balance-never PUSHING him along.


Once the horse is straight, then we can use transitions, including reinback to further encourage engagement of the hind end and coiling of the loins?

I am guessing cavaletti will also help coil the loins IF the horse is already straight.


Again from True Collection:

What happens when the rider learns to carry her hands at the level of her navel, wait at the same pressure for the horse to release, and coordinate this with light touches from the calf of the leg: the horse "spills over" as if his neck were a waterfall flowing over a brink formed by a line connecting the rider's left and right hands. It is the raising of the base of the neck that arches it and pushes the poll down.



So, if I am still following this, once we have done the exercises above, we can then ask the horse to step up a little more with the light calf taps (ask for a little more energy), we will have feel in our reins-with whatever weight that horse needs (the lighter the better-so always seeking a lighter touch, eventually seeking for the feel with a drape in the reins) and we should have the waterfall feel  and can use light touches with the calf to encourage it if it falls slightly away-BUT if we lose too much, we would assume some place got crooked and go back to the proper exercise to straighten that part up.

In other words, the increased energy would happen gently and only develop as the above exercises get stronger and more fluid.

If at anytime we feel the horse fall forward on his forehand or rush away, we have lost the feel to the point we need to stop and correct it.

If at anytime it takes too MUCH calf pressure, we would again know we have lost the straightness or coiling and instead of just booting him up or pressing him MORE forward, we would go slower and find straightness and coiling through a circle or lateral move or a transition.

I wanted to explain this in my words as I have learned the way to be sure you understand something is to explain it back to the teacher...this ensures my head is hearing what you have written. :-)

If I have done this correctly, then I think I just had a HUGE CLICK moment. Otherwise, could you please correct me on where I have missed something or become muddled?

As I understand this, then there truly IS never a need to have a strong feel to the mouth(except maybe a very very spoiled horse that has NO understanding of feel)-all of these parts can be achieve with a soft feel or drape of the rein.

My goodness, Dr Deb, I have been reading True Collection and Woody for so long ( and TRUST me I will read them again and again) but I feel this is the first time I started to connect things from step one all the way through.

On a similar note, for the first time I REALLY felt the difference between a totally loose rein (on the buckle) and the feel of LIFE in the rein when it is draped. THAT was the best feel I have ever had!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu May 15th, 2008 04:09 am
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Leah, you're well on track.

No, indeed, as you note -- you never need to get into any heavy feels, unless you are meeting what a previously badly-ridden horse offers.

When you meet a clenched jaw or a braced neck, or when the horse knows no better than to lean his bodyweight forward to push that "lawnmower", then you can either use Mike Schaffer's upward-lifting technique, or you can turn the neck to the side to unsquare it, or you can just wait at the same pressure -- depending on which you think will work best in the particular situation.

The waiting technique is the most subtle and requires the most experience and skill. The rider must know the difference between "freezing", "dying on the vine", "fixing inflexibly", and "waiting". Waiting, when it is done right, is the same as Baucher's idea of causing the flow of weight and energy to eddy. This means that the rider, by small actions of the arms and fingers, continually prevents the horse from bracing or leaning. These "small actions" are SO small that they are smaller than vibrations; they are invisible -- so no one reading this should get any idea that they need to saw, vibrate, jiggle, bump, or strum the reins. Waiting cannot really be done on a horse that braces or leans too hard; the grosser techniques are more appropriate in that case. Waiting is more for a horse whose balance and relationship to the bit is at the stage of becoming refined. But at that stage, "just sitting", and "just waiting for the exactly right feel before asking a transition" are crucially important skills.

The other thing I want you to think about is that insidious little phrase, "....get him to step a little bit more forward." Do not do this. Try to get this picture entirely out of your mind. This is the concept that causes riders to push their horses out of balance from back to front. The size of the horse's hind step is just fine, so long as the animal responds readily by increasing the energy output whenever asked.

Instead of thinking of the horse stepping more "under itself" from back to front, I want you to think of him pushing DOWN. The hind leg that's responsible for thrust needs to contact the ground and then push DOWN. By the very laws of physics, this is the only thing that can cause him to have lively, elastic, well-suspended gaits and movements. A body cannot go UPWARD -- the major training objective -- unless the legs push DOWNWARD. Of the fore vs. hind limbs of the horse, the only ones that can transmit downward thrust are the hind limbs.

Of course, some of the thrust delivered to the ground by the hind limbs will be backwards thrust. This is what makes the arc of travel that occurs in each bound of a suspended gait, and in each cycle of well-executed nonsuspended gaits: an arc is the sum-total of its upward vector plus its forward vector. Note that in green or untrained horses, the arc of travel (for example at a trot) has a much larger forward vector than it has a vertical vector. The object of training is NOT to increase the forward vector, but rather to increase the upward vector and hence the elastic quality, beauty, and showiness of the movement. As training progresses and the horse becomes stronger, the total energy output will also increase, yielding an arc that not only has a larger vertical vector but that may at the same time also have a larger forward vector: the archetypal example of this is medium trot. But note that we never increase the forward vector until the upward vector has already increased.

Note also that this has nothing to do with the horse which is occasionally encountered which can be called God's own slug. It is clearly necessary, with this type of horse, to get the "internal brakes" off if that's the problem, and/or to get him to be more willing and responsive. But note that energy output and forward vector are two quite separate factors; hence the care I take, when teaching, never to say to a student "your horse needs to go more forward". They very rarely need to go more forward! We need to use the words accurately -- and when we do, we find that the horse may need to take the brakes off, or respond better, or recover from an illness or unsoundness, understand the combination of the aids better, or whatever other factor. Note how ADDRESSABLE these various conditions suddenly become when we speak accurately. "Muddy speech implies muddy thinking", as I've often said before; which is why your careful reading of the papers is important, and a good example to all students, who should do the same. -- Dr. Deb

 

Leah
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 Posted: Thu May 15th, 2008 04:02 pm
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OH Dr Deb-you explanation is so VERY helpful!

It is funny when I wrote that sentence I kept trying to rephrase it as I had this feeling saying 'forward' was incorrect on some level but I simply couldn't think of another way to phrase what I was asking.

I have constantly STRUGGLED with the idea of "forward" and I would swing between doing nothing about it and DRIVING him-neither which did much for the vertical aspect.

Your explanation has cleared this up so nicely for me!

I can see the difference when watching a horse from the ground, but I doubt or question myself while riding.

I guess I am still struggling with the words to explain the feel at times. I can feel the waterfall as I mentioned on another thread-but that moment is so infrequent and fleeting!

I can certainly feel OBVIOUS downhill posture, on the forehand...it is that place between ON THE FOREHAND and waterfall that I still struggle to differentiate what is correct or not.

I guess what I am saying is I can feel the difference between totally wrong and totally coiled and engaged-the feel of the grey area still puzzles me on many days.

This is what makes riding so interesting to me again. Working through these puzzles and questions and feeling when it finally is done properly!

Leah
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 Posted: Fri May 30th, 2008 10:10 pm
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Dr Deb, I have thinking about this discussion again and have a question or two.

I now understand we seek to increase the up vector as you describe.

My question is, as the horse gets relaxed, supple through straightness, will he offer the up vector on his own when he is strong enough?

Would this strengthing happen through exercises like shoulder-in to engage each hind leg individually, causing each one to gain strength? As he gets looser and freer it seems he would then offer more up vector-and I think I am seeing this in my horses.

Or is there something more?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat May 31st, 2008 05:25 am
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Leah, yes; it takes strength for a horse to go up, to have "bounce" in his steps.

It also takes soundness, particularly, soundness in the hocks. Many horses have low-grade pains in their hocks -- not enough to make them lame, not enough even to register as a clinical "grade 1", but enough to make them protect themselves a little bit during athletic work. They do this by not pushing DOWN as firmly as they might otherwise have. And once again, there's no way for the body to go UP unless the hindlimbs push DOWN.

One of the great, and right across the board consistent, problems with American horse breeding is that we tend to breed horses with thin hocks, "thin" that is in the transverse dimension. European and Australian breeds, i.e. Welshies and other riding ponies, Andalusians and Lusitanos, WB's, Lippies, Australian Stock Horses, typically have much more breadth across the base of the hock, where it joins the top of the hind cannon bone.

Note also particularly that size and mass greatly diminishes a horse's ability to push itself up, no matter how well-built the limbs may be; hence, big, massive horses are inevitably ponderous movers, sometimes to the point where it makes me want to laugh at the silly people who work at making big horses try to do "airs", when they could just have bought a good Arab, Lippy, Appy, Welshie, Andy, American Saddlebred or TB and had the job done so very much more elegantly, and at much less cost to the animal.

But to get back to your question: yes, horses love to move. A normal, sound horse that has a good relationship with his rider will give his all, and more than his all, whenever he is asked. And of course, shoulder-in and cavalletti produce increases in the strength needed to add bounce to the steps, so long as these exercises are performed correctly.

Note, however, that I said 'assuming a good relationship with his rider.' This is by far the MOST important factor. It would specifically include that the rider does not 'ask' more often, or for more effort at any time, than it would be a pleasure for the animal to give. Our elderly teacher compares this kind of relationship to a child taking a puppy for a walk.

A great mistake committed by many people is that when the horse offers something cool, something they had been hoping he would do, they then feel they need to repeat it "to reinforce the behavior." But there is no such thing as "behavior". The puppy is not "behaving" when he is interacting with the child; his interaction is not to be intellectually flattened into a category, but rather should be viewed as the very matrix by which puppies communicate with humans. The play in which the two engage is a conversation. You do not dog a point made in conversation to death. Once the point has been made, you know it is there; you know the other party knows about it. So then you savor it, you leave it for the time being, and pretty soon, the puppy or the horse will offer to bring up the subject again. When they say, 'would you like me to take a few steps of passage again' or 'would you like me to make a flying change just here, where we did it the other day', THEN you will have the pleasure of saying, 'why yes, I'd be delighted to have you show me that again.'

"....For of such as these is the Kingdom of Heaven". -- Dr. Deb

 

Leah
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 Posted: Sat May 31st, 2008 05:28 pm
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Thank you!

I LOVE the child and puppy analogy! Just LOVE it!

nejc
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 Posted: Fri Oct 17th, 2008 07:18 pm
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About pushing down I found an illustration of this action in address
http://www.sustainabledressage.com/collection/true_collection.php
under the chapter "what really happens" -  second illustration. As I understand the answer and explanation of Dr. Deb it must is correct.                                            Igor

nejc
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 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 05:51 pm
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New site is very good. Especially I enyoj new articles in knowledge base. WOODY, TRUE COLLECTION and THE RING OF MUSCLES and related forums are realy great. Despite great explanations I can not understand the role of the longus colli/scalenus complex in collection. What if longus colli/scalenus complex does not contract during the process of collection ( contraction of rectus abdominis and ilio- psoas complex) but simply stay relaxed (if that is possible). Are this two contractions related or independent and what effect would that have on the movement of the horse,s neck and head and consquently on raiders hand. Is the contraction of the longus colli/scalenus complex and consequently the raise of the base of the neck a unawoidable part of the collection or just something good to add because of the better ratio between the foreward/upward vectors - (more upward) ?            Igor

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 07:17 pm
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Nejc, if you PULL with the reins -- which means specifically if you exert continuous backward traction on the reins -- then you can prevent most horses from being able to raise the base of the neck. The position of the reins, cutting as they do above the deepest part of the lower curve of the neck bones, gives them leverage and thus more power than the longus colli/scaleni. This effect can and does occur even with the SMALLEST degree of pull. The vector of energy within at least one rein must always be going toward the horse.

If the horse is at liberty, it is quite rare not to see the base of the neck rise whenever the animal collects itself. So although the raising of the base of the neck is not absolutely inevitable, it is a NORMAL part of the effort of collection that the animal tries to make.

Horses built with the base of the neck very low will have more difficulty raising the base of the neck, and it will in these animals be more difficult to see or feel. Horses built with very pretty necks, that have a natural arch and are structured so that they are set on higher against the front of the ribcage, have an easy time raising the base of the neck, and they look spectacular whenever they make a collecting effort.

The main part for you, though, is to realize that a "square pull" or firm blocking with BOTH REINS SIMULTANEOUSLY will probably prevent your horse from being able to raise the base of the neck. When you need to regulate his speed, therefore, use ONE rein at a time, holding the one rein until the speed comes back down to where you want it. Then permit the animal to go straight again. The next time the speed gets too high, use the other rein and hold. Using one rein at a time on a green horse will usually mean turning him into some kind of circle. That's just fine, and much better than pulling on or blocking him. -- Dr. Deb

Leah
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 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 09:44 pm
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Dr Deb, I think you just answered a question I never could formulate to ask.

I recently audited a dressage clinic and was confused to see every horse dragging his hind toes.

One horse did not drag during a free walk and loose rein trot...then he did as 'work began.'

I think I now realize the reason. The riders were riding 'on contact' and all appeared to have a square feel on the reins.

Because the this, the neck would be dropped and the belly would not be lifted and the loins could not coil, resulting in dragging toes.

What an extra to see this thread with more information and something I had been wondering!

I assume even a slight 'square feel' can be enough to prevent the raising of the base of the neck?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 10:10 pm
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Yes, Leah, just as I said: even a slight 'square feel' will seriously interfere with the horse's ability to raise the base of the neck.

Now the next thing that someone is going to ask is: "how come then, when I look at SOME dressage riders, they also appear to be using a square feel, and yet their horses seem to have the base of the neck raised."

And on that question, you can equally substitute "SOME reiners".

 And also: "....when I see Ray Hunt ride, he talks about a 'soft feel' but it sure looks square to me."

This latter is the meat of the issue, and this is a story I've told here umpteen times, but once again:

Once upon a time I was down in 29 Palms riding with Ray. It was a small clinic, and Ray was by himself, so after class he sat down at the picnic tables to eat lunch with us. I had gotten there by car, and of course I always have a horse skeleton in the trunk. And some of the people who were at that clinic knew that I had that skeleton in there, and they asked me if I would get some of the bones out and let them look at them. So I put them on the picnic table there while we ate, and showed them some things about the skeleton.

There was a lot of interest around twirling the head. For years, by watching him, I knew that Ray knew all about twirling the head (he doesn't call it that; he calls it 'picking up a soft feel'). But as Ray was watching me manipulate the poll joint with the bones, I believe he saw something there he hadn't seen before. His eyebrows went up far enough to tip his hat back. It is quite a revelation for someone who has known all about that feel, to finally see what it's doing on the inside of the body. It had quite a lot of meaning for Ray, I believe.

So at the end of doing this, I said, "now Ray, I have a question for you....would you tell us please, would there be any time when you would pick up a square feel? I mean, if you had the most perfectly finished horse in the entire world, and you were riding that horse, would you pick up a square feel even then?

And Ray sat there so long in silence I thought I had offended him by asking. Everybody sitting around those picnic tables literally held their breath.

Finally, after several minutes, in that deep baritone of his, Ray said: "no, Debbie, I don't believe I'd do that even then."

So there's your answer: with several things packaged in it, as is usual with Ray:

(1) you don't ever pick up a square feel, at any time.

(2) the difference between the two reins can get to be so small that it is not obvious to the outside observer

(3) it is the difference between the two reins, which causes the horse to twirl its head, which creates the 'release' that is the 'softness' within the soft feel

I have had the amusing experience, more than once, of auditing a clinic with some well-known and top-prize winning dressage rider, and of being permitted to ask them: do you always ride with an even feel in both reins? And of having them answer me: "of course I do!"

They say this because they know not what they themselves do. This is very common. It's amusing to me because I have film of the same rider who denies (because that's the doctrine, you're "supposed" to ride on even reins) that she or he rides with ALL KINDS OF differences in the reins, and the film clearly shows them with all kinds of differences in the reins. They know not what they do.

But another one who knew what he did was Nuno Oliveira. Anyone who knows how to produce draping reins will also know what he does, because another ill effect of maintaining continuous backward traction up on the reins is that it causes the rider to be unable to feel the small changes in the horse's jaws, tongue, poll, and neck that are the very places where release does occur, and must occur, for the horse to go softly and thoroughly onto the bit. -- Dr. Deb

Leah
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 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 10:18 pm
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Thanks for sharing that story for umpteem plus one times! :-)

That is the first time for me and it will now stay in my mind!

I am now on Chapter 8 of the Birdie Book and it is simply thrilling to take the information from it, combined with these threads and have the 'story unfold.'

Sometimes I wish it would unfold faster or more clearly, but realizing the impact when a piece does become clear is a treasure.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 10:28 pm
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And now for some levity! BUT -- levity with a purpose, for it is almost always the case that cross-species comparison will reveal MORE than merely study of the horse alone will.

This YouTube link was sent to me today by an old friend. It is amusing because we biased horse owners usually think that camels are rather ugly or at least ungainly. Nevertheless, they are ungulate (hoofed) animals similar to horses in having long cannon bones and hoofs. The base of the camel's neck is set on REMARKABLY low -- you will probably never see a horse with that bad of a 'ewe' neck!

And look at how far above the lower curve of the neck the camel rider's reins go. He certainly does pull on the reins, and that certainly does fold the camel's neck up and make it more difficult for the animal to raise the base of its neck.

Nevertheless: the 'ring of muscles' operates in camels just as it does in cats, cows, and horses. So when the camel makes the effort to half-pass or canter, you can see it coil its loins, and you can see the loin-coiling 'ripple' pass through its body from back to front, until it reaches the base of the neck; and you may then observe very clearly that the animal still makes an effort, and sometimes even succeeds, in raising the base of its neck relative to the core of its loins.

So this turns out to be a most valuable study video, which I was glad to have pointed out to me. -- Dr. Deb

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=CnsWQ4kNG-w




 

leca
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 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 02:15 am
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that video is remarkable.    Who knew camels could look elegant?  I have also seen vid of a camel (maybe the same one?) doing spanish walk.

nejc
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 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 05:41 pm
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DrDeb, thank you very much for your answers. Their detail works great for me. Probably because of my poor english I found out that I did not understand in detail what "square pull" and "twirling the head" meant. Dictionary is not always a good help. By the way my name is Igor, Nejc is the name of my son. He signed me in to your forum and he occasionaly lend,s me his PC.
Attention and manners exercises are going well. The horse pays attention and is relaxed. I am doing "untracking" from the ground as described in forums and I wonder   if there is any ground method to teach the horse how to do "twirling"  using only halter and leading rope? About slowing down the horse - I occasionaly use a neck strap. Is that OK, is there any room for some kind of combination with the method you described in this forum or  should I drop out the use of neck strap  entirely?  Can a neck strap anyhow effect the collection? Is a neckstrap useful communicaton tool?                                                                                              Igor


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