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The Long and Low Position
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hurkusdurkus
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 Posted: Fri Sep 7th, 2018 02:53 am
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I also have a particular interest in this thread, following a question to Buck Brannaman about four years ago at a clinic.
I told Buck that I spent time studying Dr. Deb's writings from Eclectic Horseman and online. Then, I asked Buck if he had anything in his usual riding practices and development of a young horse, to address "Long and Low" in particular.
Buck told me that no, he was not trying to directly address "Long and Low" in particular in his riding of a young horse. And that I should go ask Dr. Deb when, how and why I would do that.
So, I am understanding a few things:
First, that it is easier for a horse to raise the base of his neck from a long and low position. (From the 2015 thread)
And second, that the important thing we are asking of the horse is to turn loose, to give over, to release any brace in his body but over his back in particular.
And Buck absolutely teaches his horses to raise the base of their necks, and he is All The Time asking his horse to give, to release, to turn loose.
In my own riding, my horses tend to volunteer a nice neck telescoping gesture when we are long-trotting for a few miles.

devvie
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 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2018 07:24 am
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At this point it's time for more homework:

1. Please go to http://www.equinestudies.org, click on "knowledge base", and then click on the button that says "The Ring of Muscles". Read this paper and particularly, study the illustrations.

2. One of the major points made by this paper is that when a horse coils its loins, that is the essential basis for collection. In order to coil the loins, muscles on WHICH SIDE of the spine are activated (i.e. muscles that root above the vertebrae, or muscles that root below the vertebrae)?

3. Muscles located WHERE must actively contract in order for a horse to arch the freespan of its back?

4. Muscles located WHERE must totally shut off in order for a horse to arch the freespan of its back?

5. What will happen if the correct muscles do not completely shut off, i.e. completely relax?

This should lead you right up to major insight as to why the original photo you posted, of the bay-colored horse "going long and low" is a picture of remarkable ugliness. The poor horse! But not for the reasons you originally thought, or the reasons you heard on the Internet! Cheers -- Dr. Deb


Since no one has attempted to answer your questions, Dr. Deb, I will:

3. Muscles below the vertebral chain are active.

4. Muscles above the vertebral chain are passive.

5. The horse will be hollow/will be unable to round

And thus the horse is the picture is in the unfortunate place of being "on the forehand," and unable to round.

iwanttolearn
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 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2018 04:36 pm
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This horse is not on the forehand (positive diagonal disassociation). Nor can it be definitely said which muscles he is contracting vs relaxing from a single picture.

It should be noted that this horse *is* flexing the thoracic spine. Distance between the spinal processes increase when the head is down. So speaking strictly about the curvature of the spine, this horse's spine is "rounded".

Last edited on Wed Dec 5th, 2018 04:41 pm by iwanttolearn

Aloha
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 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2018 07:01 pm
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I probably shouldn't be the one asking questions here, BUT, I have a couple of questions. I know the answers by the way since I have studied with Dr. Deb. I also have recently had the pleasure of watching Buck teach and ride for 6 days.

iwanttolearn wrote: Distance between the spinal processes increase when the head is down.
WHAT has to happen in order for that to happen?

In your first post you asked Dr. Deb:
I'm curious as to whether or not you think that this relaxation should be mechanically induced with the 'long and low' position
MY question is what do you mean by "mechanical"?

I see a braced horse in the first photo. Holding itself in a frame.
The photo of the foal is just the opposite. Soft, light, no tension, and definitely lifting from the base of the neck. The whole body of the foal looks soft, whereas the first horse looks hard. Our challenge is to keep that as we bring them along. I wish you all the best with your young foal.

Aloha!

iwanttolearn
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 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2018 07:05 pm
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What has to happen? Tension in the nuchal ligament increases, lifting the spinal processes.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Dec 6th, 2018 05:47 pm
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Everything here depends upon what is meant by 'tension'. I will present this as a multiple-choice question:

1. Do you mean 'tension' as in -- psychological or mental tension, i.e., anxiety or fear and whatever physical results may follow or be induced by that.

2. Do you mean 'tension' as in -- "tensing" a muscle, i.e., contraction of a muscle or muscles.

3. Do you mean 'tension' as in -- "tautness", i.e., the result of a tissue being stretched.

Which of these three acts to lift the spinal processes (and with them, of course, since they are part of the same bones) the vertebrae of the freespan of the horse's back?

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Mike Zimmerman
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 Posted: Fri Dec 7th, 2018 04:06 pm
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I talked to Harry about this very subject the last time I saw him this past summer. The two things he said were that he doesn't particularly work on long and low because he's always working at relaxation. But he said the folks who advocate long and low typically ride their horses compressed and under tension so they need to give their horses a break, so that 's probably a good thing. His final comment was, "You know it's pretty hard to strain a relaxed muscle."

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Dec 7th, 2018 06:53 pm
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Mike, that's correct on all counts, and especially where you notice that when many competitors practice their version of 'long and low', the horse's body shows considerable tension. This is what we pointed out about 'Iwanttolearn's photo example posted near the top of this thread.

I've been meaning to do this for some time -- just haven't had time to get back to doing it, but here is a photo taken of me and my gelding Oliver. This is what 'long and low' should look like, with the horse remaining on the aids yet working within what we like to call 'the envelope of release.'

It was a very hot summer day in the San Joaquin Valley of California when this photo was taken, and we had been at it for some time. I mention this because the horse not being tense does not mean that he's not working. This is a fundamental confusion that Harry and I have both seen in students. Back in the days when I used to co-teach with Harry, we had a guy come to us whose whole life was dedicated to becoming U.S. National Champion in competitive trailriding. He had decent skills and, obviously, lots of ambition; and he had managed to win the runner-up prize several times at bigger events. But he never could win 'best conditioned horse', which at that time was the most prestigious prize and necessary to winning the national championship.

So he listened to us explain about how the horse has to be 100% "OK on the inside" -- we want him that way before we ask him to work, because he can't learn very efficiently if he's not 100% OK during the training/learning process; and we want him that way ALL the time, during his work, because that equates to "the envelope of release," i.e. mental tension fosters physical tension meaning tight muscles, which in turn fosters more mental tension. We want our horses "100% OK 100% of the time."

So, as I said, he listened to this and thought about it, and then replied to us that he wanted his horse only 80% OK, because his belief was that "you need that tension in order to give the competitive edge".

This tells you all you will ever need to know about this man's childhood and upbringing. I think you would not want him as a boss. He is very mixed-up, in that he confuses "try" with "tension", or he equates them. Our point of view is that tension is always detrimental, always a drain on what could potentially have been achieved -- like a thief who gets access to your bank account and takes money out without  you knowing it. Tension not only leads to injured muscles, it prevents the full athletic use of any muscle or other bodypart. But the competitive trail wannabee champion is by no means alone in the industry; his equivalents are in every discipline; and "Iwanttolearn"'s own teachers are among those confused, and have evidently conveyed this same confusion to her, as witnessed by her selection of an example of "long and low" which is a horse so full of tension that it is ugly.

So, again, here's the photo of me & Ollie for you to study. At the moment the camera snapped, I was asking him to raise the center of his back; and as I felt his back come up under my seat, I was directing his head downward. That's all there is to it, but then again, it's a thing that has to be learned: the coordination of the leg and the hand to induce the horse to make this response, so that he knows you mean for him to round up more and stretch forward and downward with his head and neck, and not respond to the urging of the calves by merely speeding up. You and the horse have to work this out so that he has those meanings separated.

For those who would like "extra credit" on this, please tell me what very unusual thing Ollie is doing in this photo (which proves that so-called "gaited horses" are just as capable of rounding up as "trotters"). Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 


Attachment: Oliver Long and Low Paradigm.jpg (Downloaded 87 times)

devvie
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 Posted: Fri Dec 7th, 2018 09:28 pm
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Your horse is not trotting -- he is pacing.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Dec 7th, 2018 10:56 pm
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Yes! And you know what, when I showed this image to George Morris' class of junior riders at one of the seminars I taught at his invitation, not one person present "saw" the difference. In all fairness, though, most of them have never been around so-called "gaited" horses, being jumper riders and all.

Bottom line on this is: a horse is a horse biomechanically or in terms of his innate physical structure and the mechanism by which movement of all types is produced. Oliver absolutely hates trotting and never offers to trot unless right over a grid of ground poles; but as soon as he's off the poles, he switches right back to his favorite limb coordination. Studies have shown that the aptitude for gaitedness lies primarily in different neurological hookups in the ganglion that underlies the lumbar vertebrae. Some horses have the option for both coordinations. The modern (post-Napoleonic) cavalry exclusively promoted trotters and pretty much dissed pacers. The harness racing industry has promoted pacers.

Indeed, the latter to such an extent that they will often take a "natural" trotter and hopple him, so as to teach and habituate the pace coordination. When you acquire a horse that has had this done to him, without question there will be some degree of pathology. Oliver, by contrast, is a "natural" pacer who has never been hoppled. Therefore, he required no rehabilitation for back or hindlimb pathology, and when he goes as the photo shows, if I had put you up on my horse's back and not told you that he paces, you would not know it by feel. Oliver does not sway from side to side when he moves, like a camel because he is not stiff as so many hoppled horses are -- indeed he has almost catlike flexibility despite being rather thick through the midsection, and he can flex and coil the loins in the up-down direction very easily also.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that, given a pathology-free horse, he'll train up exactly the same whether he's inclined to trot or inclined to pace, or does both, or something in-between. Only when stiffness and/or tension creeps in do we have a problem. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

snowdenfarm
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 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2018 05:32 pm
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There are a number of well-respected trainers who train "deep", going a step beyond long and low. But, they are doing it for the same reasons -- to raise the back and base of the neck and to release any brace. It is low and BTV, but they differentiate it from rollkur/LDR. The explanation is that as long as the horse is not forcibly pulled behind the vertical, the throatlatch is open, and it is only done in collection, it is not rollkur/LDR and it is the best way to create relaxation and collection.

I have attached an outline of a photo of a famous international trainer, known as one of the more "biomechanically-enlightened" dressage trainers/riders, using the technique and the horse does indeed seem to relaxed and in self carriage. I have seen videos of another well-respected trainer where the horse is a little deeper than this, especially at the canter, but is also soft, round and reaching under behind.

My limited understanding of equine biomechanics is that when the nuchal ligament is stretched over a longer distance than it was designed for it can be damaged at the attachment point at the back of the skull. My trainer wants me to put my horse in this deep position as the best way to get my horse loose and round. So far I have resisted, but I am making that decision with no real knowledge of how far is too far. I have been told that if it were uncomfortable or damaging, it would not make the horse more loose, supple and round as I am told that it does. I have seen photos and videos of famous trainers using it with what appear to be good results.

I have read the knowledge base and your conformation book, I have audited a clinic with you and searched the forums. If the information is there, I cannot seem to piece it together to answer my questions:

Does this position called "deep" create enough tension on the nuchal ligament to cause damage even when it is done with a relaxed, correctly-collected horse and the nose is not forcibly pulled BTV?

If the position does not cause physical damage, is this truly the best technique to accomplish relaxation and collection?

Thank you for any help in pointing me in the right direction to answer my questions.

Attachment: Deep Outline.png (Downloaded 54 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2018 10:18 pm
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Dear Snow: I hear your concerns but I want to direct your thinking along different lines. There is objection to be made to ANY training technique that either requires or provokes tension. When you do stuff in the "envelope of release", it hardly matters what you do. So the objection is not to "long and low"; it is to "long and low" practiced in a destructive manner. Rollkur is nothing other, or more, than one particular way to do "long and low" wrong, and then they try to justify it by some pseudo-biomechanical reasoning. You will not damage any muscle, ligament, tendon, or organ when you ride your horse in the envelope of release.

How do you know when you're in the envelope of release, which is to say, your horse is giving and receiving a soft feel? You know by feel, and there is no other way. Of course, there is no other way to ride in any case.

You will be much more likely to be able to obtain and maintain softness, and thus stay within the envelope of release, if you make that the first and primary goal of training. This means that the first thing you do, and the main purpose of doing anything that you may choose to do or any exercise you may choose to perform, is to get the horse to turn loose. Then, you make it your FIRST PRIORITY to feel that turned-loose feel, and when it starts to get lost, that is when the horse begins to lose its physical and/or emotional balance and thus tense up, that you STOP doing whatever "performance" you thought you wanted to do, and RETURN IMMEDIATELY to doing whatever it may take to get him back to softness. ONLY THEN can you try once again to begin doing whatever performance or exercise you had originally wanted to do. You must live by this rule as an absolute.

The problem with your dressage teacher, and all the other dressage teachers, is that they are trying to have their cake and eat it too: they want to perform because they feel watched all the time, so they don't make softness their first priority and therefore they never perform anything correctly or with beauty. See my thread elsewhere on the first page of this Forum to get a little whipping on the subject of having the cake and eating it too. We are grownups here, no? So that means we are willing to clean the hair out of the drain, plunge the toilet, and clean up the dog puke. Happily, you will find that seeking to live all the time within the envelope of release is a LOT more pleasant than other grownups' tasks.

So you re-orient your life, is what I'm asking, from this moment on, and you stop listening to dressage people, because they are fundamentally mixed up. Your horse will perform everything you ever dreamed of if you will only be willing to begin at the beginning, take care of every step, and not buy the dressage bullshit that it's going to take forever (significant breakthroughs with a skillful rider who has committed to this often take under five minutes). And by the way -- the only skillful riders that there are ARE those who have committed to this. Others are merely ambitious, and variously rough and crude as a result.

I attach a couple more photos of me and Ollie. There is commentary on these two shots -- please read what the captions say. Cheers -- Dr. Deb




Attachment: Showing way to ground walk FORUM1 SM.jpg (Downloaded 52 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2018 10:36 pm
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Oh, sorry Snow and everybody else -- After posting the images I realized that the text is too tiny to read, even if you copy the image and print it out or run it up into Photoshop. So here's the text:

Top photo, the "before" shot: Just walking in an ordinary manner. "Ordinary" -- and yet, the reins are draping. Note "draping reins" means the horse and rider are in reciprocal contact -- there is communication, and there is support and direction from the rider. The horse feels of the bit and the hand and shapes himself to work within the "space" between hand and leg.

Bottom photo, the "after" shot: Now I am urging him with the calves of my legs, not to "go forward" but telling him to raise the center of his back. This is the "fountain of collection"; you picture a fountain coming up under your seat, not some kind of locomotive driving forward. When the fountain turns on, i.e. when the horse flexes UPWARD in the middle, that is when he can raise the base of his neck, as Ollie is doing very beautifully here. As the base of the neck rises, the neck as a whole will lengthen ("telescope") and the rider will feel that as the horse gently pressing against her hand. My response is to release the reins and verbally praise: "Gooooood" I am saying. Of course, as the center of the back rises, it makes it easy for the horse to coil the loins even more; compare the apparent steepness of Ollie's pelvis, point of hip to point of buttock, in this shot vs. the previous. This is what collection is, this is what it looks like; it has nothing to do with ramming the horse "forward", it is the very antithesis of tension, and it is most importantly and effectively practiced at the WALK.

* * * * * * * *
Now here I post another pair of photos from the same session, this set to show the most effective techniques for helping the horse to turn loose:

(1) Lateral bending, bend immediately upon feeling loss of balance or tension rise;
(2) Twirling the head
(3) Untracking behind

The top photo in this set is a front-on shot showing Ollie beautifully "stretching the rein" and my allowiing it to be played through my fingers as he stretches "down and round". When you do this, raise your hands slightly higher above the pommel but do not pull back and do not block the horse by fixing the hand.

The bottom photo shows him three-quarters from the rear, on the outside of the bend; note how much Ollie's ribcage bulges outward -- this horse is really flexible through the middle, and I have made it that way in the teeth of the fact that there might have been every reason for him to move like a wooden block (i.e., he's gaited, fairly short through the back, and built rather wide). In the bottom photo you get all three of the abovementioned points. Hopefully your study of these images will bear fruit fairly quickly in your riding. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Showing way to ground walk FORUM2 SM.jpg (Downloaded 53 times)

snowdenfarm
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 Posted: Wed Dec 19th, 2018 12:12 am
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Thank you so much for the extremely helpful pictures and information. I think you have finally gotten through to me -- relaxation and roundness can be achieved through bending, untracking, and twirling, mainly at the walk. All techniques I have known about and experimented with separately for years, but I didn't really understand how together they allowed the horse to offer collection. I am on a break from lessons and I have been doing some experimenting. I have noticed that when I ask for a lateral movement that required her to bend, untrack and twirl, she did lift her back and lift and reach her neck. However, I still didn't put it together that this is what you have been saying all along until your previous post. This is how they offer collection. Eureka.


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