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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Old shoulder injury - can we talk about the functional effects on the neck/poll?

Old shoulder injury - can we talk about the functional effects on the neck/poll?
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DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2019 03:01 am
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OK, discussioneers (like "mousketeers" LOL) I've finally had time to put together Redmare's rear-end photos for our educational purposes. I'll post them as I put them together on my screen, but if the text I put on comes out too small to read, I'll post that beneath. Each set of photos has a separate post, so look for two postings, one for the side view and one for the rear view:

Attachment: Redmare weightbearing left hind no1 sm.jpg (Downloaded 154 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2019 03:03 am
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Here's the rear view:

Attachment: Redmare weightbearing left hind rear view no2 sm.jpg (Downloaded 154 times)

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 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2019 03:11 am
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Now -- is it clear to everybody what's going on here?

(1) How does the horse's desire or habit of taking shorter steps with the left hind demonstrate that he'd rather weight-bear on the left hind?

(2) Why does the horse, in halting, so position himself that the left hind is closer to the midline?

(3) Why do the blue hip and stifle lines tilt?

It is real easy to get mixed up on these things and attribute the cause to the wrong factors, so those who are interested in this, it is worth some time and concentration to understand what these photos show. It may help you to make a sketch at your desk as you view the images, and of course you'll want to go out to the barn to do the same experiment with your own horse, won't you! Have a helper lead the horse slowly forward and watch closely how he uses himself behind. Bring him gently to a halt and see how he prefers to arrange his body parts with respect to the centerline of his body and thus with respect to his weight. It will be important in many cases to REPEAT the slow walk and the halt a number of times, not only because you may not be too sure of what you're seeing for a while and thus need to practice to get sure; and also because, some horses are less committed to one-sidedness than this gelding and therefore less consistent -- they may stand or walk one way one time and less so, or evenly, or even the opposite, other times.

Redmare, I can't thank you enough for these photos: they're great help for other people who are trying to learn how to "see" crookedness, leaning, and lameness which is defined as asymmetry of motion (not "soreness"). Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2019 01:16 pm
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You are quite welcome for the photos - I'm so glad I created this thread, it's proving to be extremely helpful.

The longer I think about this, the more muddled/confused I get myself, which is something I tend to do.

1) Dr. Deb, do you mean desire/habit of taking shorter steps with the RIGHT hind? That is what this horse prefers to do, although neither of his steps, left or right, are very long, which tells me this horse is not really coiling through his loins. But if he is short stepping on one side versus another, is it not simply a matter of time spent on the ground? I.e a longer step means more time spent on the ground, which means more weight bearing?

2) As for #2 and #3 I actually got down on my hands and knees for this and played with it, but I can't come up with a "why", only recreate what I functionally know is happening with this gelding, but that doesn't tell me the reason for his choosing this pattern of crookedness...

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 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2019 02:13 pm
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HI, Redmare: Yes, this can get very confusing, as I said, and anybody attempting it, myself included, must really concentrate on keeping the principle or rule in mind that the reason the horse short-steps with one hind limb (i.e. with whatever hindlimb is swinging, that's the one we mean when we say "he takes a step") -- so if he takes a short swing with the left hind, it is because he wants to minimize the time he weight-bears on the right hock. And this is what all the photos you have sent show. If you have been thinking that this horse steps shorter with the right hind, maybe it is because you are not using the word "step" in the same sense that I am, i.e. the "stepping" leg you mean is the one that is weightbearing.

Now you have also noticed that this horse takes rather short steps in fact with both hind limbs and I would agree. However he's coiling his loins just fine. The correct interpretation is exactly the same, or a parallel to the same, that we make with left vs. right hind limbs; here, it is hind limbs vs. forelimbs. What this gelding is doing is not only shifting his weight to the left, but in a major way also forward, to the forehand. He short-steps behind because he does not really want to carry a proper proportion of his weight with either hind leg (though the right hind is shirking its load more than the left).

Why we can easily draw a plumb-line downward from this horse's spine in rear view, and find that it falls noticeably closer to the left hind limb than to the right hind limb, is because the horse deliberately places his left hind limb closer to his midline. This is a kind of inverse way of saying that he is leaning to the left, and it is the offset or leaning which skews the hip and stifle lines -- in other words, in order to achieve and maintain the asymmetrical placement and weighting of his hind limbs, he must twist and roll his hips somewhat. When the horse places his left hind limb closer to the plumbline of his midline, which is where his weight mainly bears, he is shaping himself up to bear most of that weight with the left hind.

Crawling is a great idea for anybody to try, who wants to really understand what the horse's experience and "strategies" to accept or avoid work with one limb or another are. So you can prove to yourself what I just said in the above paragraph by doing some push-ups. That's with your "front legs" rather than your "back legs," but the human arm has joints much more similarly arranged to the horse's hindlimb than does the human leg when we crawl; the joints form a "Z" shape that can collapse or expand down and up. Let us say you desire to do mucho macho pushups with one arm. Where will you place the palm of the hand of the arm you intend to do the pushups with? Will you place it out to one side, or will you not rather place it right beneath your sternum or as close as possible to that point as the size of your boobs allow?! The horse's hindlimb muscles are particularly thick between its hind legs, and this (rather than boobs) is what limits his ability to bring the preferred weightbearing limb fully under the midline, and also causes him to need to twist the pelvis somewhat. Note how the tilted pelvis also causes the dock of the tail to subtly tilt.

Note how when you practice the exercise we suggested above -- the exaggerated leg-yield right to left, we are actually accommodating this horse's preferences by deliberately putting him onto the left hock. However, we're also telling him to unweight or "get off" that right shoulder, which is tantamount to telling him to bear a FULL complement of weight on the left hock, which we have just said he is reluctant to do. But I will play to this horse's strengths initially; I will ask him to do a little more of what he's already best at, rather than "correcting" him. When we exaggerate the leg-yield, we have annihilated the "S" bend in his neck and poll and created a single curvature in his spine from poll to tail. As we continue to ride the horse, we work on evening out that bend so that he stops flexing sideways too much at the base of the neck and too little at every other joint.

Once that's working, then we begin attempting to do a more proper leg-yield, and we do that by subtle --although at moments it may need to be quite firm -- use of the outside rein. Firm, that is, if he insists on leaning forward. So you meet his 50 with exactly 50 until he cuts that out and gets brave enough, even at a halt, to stand a full and proper proportion of his weight upon the left hock. Once he'll halt and stand properly on that hock, then you can use subtle support from both reins to cause him, or assist him, in taking the full and proper amount on the right hock also.

When he will do this, he ought also to be able to properly leg-yield left to right, which is why I suggested already that you begin alternating. Again: remember, the KEY to changes of bend is switching from the old outside (=weightbearing) hock to the new outside (=weightbearing) hock.

Let me know your thoughts. Cheerio -- Dr. Deb


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 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2019 05:58 pm
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So to make sure I understand this right:

- This gelding prefers not to fully weight either hock, and in stepping forward with either hind leg is shifting his weight somewhat to the opposite hind limb but largely forward into his forehand.
- When he does shift weight between his hind limbs, he would strongly prefer to keep it mostly on the left hind, but does not want to take it ALL on the left hind. Essentially, he takes enough so as to take the minimum on the right hind but not so much that his left leg is at 100% weightbearing capacity. (I'm picturing the limb movement at the canter - this horse therefore would, and does, struggle with the phase of the canter where the outside hind limb is the only weightbearing limb, especially if that outside hind limb is the right hind.)
- The horse is able to bring his left hind closer to the midline but not directly under the midline because of the adductor/groin muscle bulk, so he's favoring it as much as he physically can, essentially.

Yes, I was thinking of the stepping leg as the weightbearing leg, hence my confusion.

So in taking this information going forward, I think one of the things I'm realizing is I am not well connected enough to his hind feet via the reins. I've been talking a lot to his front because that's where the louder of his troubles have been, and as you said earlier, I need to be careful not to get sucked into a problem of my own overfocus.
I might need to spend some time with him at the halt just practicing getting him to shift back onto his hind end.

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 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2019 11:43 pm
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Yes, you've got it now. I suspected you were using the word "step" just the opposite of the way I use it, because "to take a step" often is taken to mean "to step down" (to "stomp"), and the stomping down is what is counted as the "step". But in gait analysis, "step" has a defined, technical meaning: it is the distance between the toe of the left hoof and the toe of the right hoof, either fore or hind. "Step" is a measure of how far apart the left and right limbs spread during walking or whatever other gait, or you might say how wide the "V" between the two limbs is. Step is a direct measure of suppleness and a long step, as you note in passing, is a good predictor of how turned-loose (and therefore of how ready to work and learn) the horse is.

This is strictly to differentiate the term "step" from the term "stride", which is defined as the distance from the mark made in the sand by the toe of (let us say) the right hind, and the NEXT mark made in the sand by the SAME hoof. In gaits that have a period of suspension, this measures how far the horse flies forward through the air during each period when no feet are on the ground. Stride length is a direct reflection of power and effort, and is also a very accurate predictor of racing speed. Unfortunately what we almost universally see among dressage competitors is the complete confusion of stride vs. step, so that what is almost always seen in competition winning prizes nowadays is lengthening of step at the trot, not lengthening of stride.

And yes: spending some time with him at the halt just getting him to shift back onto his hind end is exactly what I was suggesting. You can look to Mike Shaffer for some good direction on that -- Mike won't permit even a single forward step from a horse that is laying on his hands/bracing. He'll sit there, waiting at the same pressure exactly as we teach too, and the horse will wriggle, try to move sideways, toss its head, and fuss and grump until at last it tries rising to the leg, which means it arranges its bodyparts underneath the rider so that the two hind limbs carry the proper amount of weight, the freespan of the back and the base of the neck subtly rise, the loins subtly coil, the stifles subtly flex, and there is "feel" and "communication" through the reins but no bracing, pulling, or leaning on them by the horse. Only when this occurs, and I know you know well what I am describing Redmare, does Mike permit them to take even one step forward. I am of exactly like mind and find that this work at the halt is essential and highly beneficial IF IF IF we have a rider who has the correct conceptual grasp, sufficient skill, and is working for the right responses. Also, by the way, this approach was described in detail, practiced, taught, and recommended by Francois Baucher.

It's been criticized, both historically in the 19th century as well as by later riders, almost all from Germany, who contend that this type of work at the halt kills their much-worshipped "impulsion". But there can be no impulsion at all, even in a horse that is moving fast or expending considerable power, if there is the slightest brace anywhere in its body: the brace transforms power (the raw working material) into tension and strain, shoving and pulling, false collection, and ultimately injury; whereas when the turned-loose horse offers the rider his power, it is transformed into impulsion, which means fluid energy and thrust which the rider can distribute to any part of the body where it is needed for the desired work -- and this indeed is the very definition of impulsion. It does absolutely no good, fostering neither a correct understanding in the horse nor correct physical responses, to go on trying to ride "forward" on a horse that is bracing. The brace, as Baucher said, must be annihilated first.

This brings up a basic training protocol which I usually find a way to mention during horsemanship clinics:

1. Position
2. Wait at the same pressure
3. Release to the horse's release.

"Position" means you propose an idea to the horse; you suggest he rearrange his bodyparts. Everybody who reads here I think appreciates that the release is the reward, and that's how the horse learns that he did what was wanted. But the part where most people fall down is Step Two, because that requires near-infinite patience, a willingness to hang in there until the horse gives a full, sincere, no-holds-barred try. Specifically with respect to the above discussion, the rider has to have totally come out of being hypnotized by the trot rhythm and must utterly abandon the concept of "forward" as being a primary goal or even a desirable training approach. Every normal horse will go very freely and delightfully forward, generously placing his great physical power at the rider's disposal, when he finally turns loose, rounds up by rising to the touch of leg and rein, and begins to submit deeply to the rider's direction.

Keep us posted how your work with this horse goes from here on out. At some point you might send us some photos of you & he under saddle.

Also, BTW, somewhere in my files I have some photos of our friend Judy McHerron and her gelding Majic working on this stuff at the halt, which might help you to look at. Will post 'em when I find 'em. Cheers -- Dr. Deb






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 Posted: Wed Jan 16th, 2019 06:25 am
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Thank you Dr Deb and Redmare for this excellent thread. When the weather clears I will be out with the camera to see if the photos show what I feel when I ride.

Looking forward to seeing you in NZ next month Dr Deb. :-)

Regards Judy

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 Posted: Fri Jan 25th, 2019 03:18 pm
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Alrighty, Dr. Deb - we've been playing with the halt work and getting this gelding to committing to shift his weight equally onto his hocks. I have to admit, this has been a tough sell.

I am not sure, however, that I am setting him up well enough, especially given we've discussed how this horse in particular needs really concrete examples. When I set up to ask him to weight his hocks from the halt, I take my hands from neutral to just a little bit elevated to indicate to him that I need him to lighten up in front and unbrace his neck and not lean on the right shoulder (an in essence, shift the weight back some). He obliges nicely but often will get too deep, so I wait until he comes back up with his head instead of down and in with his nose. However, in that timespan, he usually starts backing up. We've backed whole lengths of the arena and thensome, with me just sitting their waiting for him to figure out I'm not actually asking him to MOVE, just shift his weight. Eventually he stops, and when he does and I can feel he's still primed to back up, I ask for a forward step but he immediately gets boggy with his energy and weeble wobbles on his front end. At one point I got more vigorous with my leg to remind him "NO, you may not lean on me or get stuffed up" and he immediately pinned his ears in irritation - which told me either I didn't set him up well enough or he wasn't in a place where his energy could flow forward easily. This is where we have gotten stuck - I have been unable to get a lifted, relaxed, forward step free of brace as he's so quick to try and go back to his front end brace.

Am I getting too focused on what he is doing with his head/neck? I am unsure if I should care less about that when I prepare him to set his weight back on his hocks or if I DO need to pay good attention to that because he is so committed to his brace there and I just need to hang in there longer and let him muddle around until he commits to a real try. I have felt for a long time like I'm dealing with competing issues - the boggy-ness to the leg and the crooked pattern of movement, but I have realized the boggyness to the leg with this horse is largely BECAUSE he's not flowing forward straight.

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 Posted: Fri Jan 25th, 2019 09:17 pm
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You mentioned the horse needing concrete examples. There is an exercise I learned years ago that is not only a concrete example for the horse, but for the rider too. Probably even more so for the rider.

You also mentioned the horse backing the entire length of the arena. So, this exercise STARTS at that place. The other end.

Stand the horse with it's butt in a corner. Now ask for the weight shift back. You will find out how little you need to ask for the horse to begin to shift its weight back and lift from the base of the neck. How subtle your ask needs to be. Probably you will cut your ask in half, then in half again and maybe again.

Be careful with this. Some horses might object to this and feel trapped.

Once you get the feel in the corner, then you can get it away from the corner. And will probably need so make your ask even smaller yet.

And as always, I would wait for Dr. Deb to chime in before trying this. Since this is something I learned from another school. But I have seen Buck do this exercise at a standstill in the middle of the arena. Shifting the weight forward and back without moving the feet. Had the audience laughing, but it is not easy to do if you don't have that feel dialed way down.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Jan 26th, 2019 03:56 am
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Dear Redmare: Yes, a real Gordian knot, this. I think the way out of it is to think of this horse's reluctance to work, and work equally, off the hocks is not a BEHAVIOR issue. In my book, there is no such thing as "behavior." The word "behavior" is merely a catchall phrase, a label, a way of pigeonholing or (sneakily, subtly) blaming the horse, just like the word "resistance" is also a total fallacy. So he is not, in my book, offering you 'a behavior' or 'resistance'; he is instead attempting to communicate.

You got it good and clear when he pinned his ears. This is because we are all taught early, in whatever riding school we went to, that when a horse pins its ears we ought to regard that as his expression of irritation, i.e., a plain attempt to communicate. What makes his reluctance to weight his hocks any less of an attempt to communicate?

So that's where I think the problem actually originates, and it's not at all rare: it actually hurts this horse to weight his hocks. It doesn't necessarily hurt him very much; probably it just gives him twinges; but they are twinges he can feel and doesn't like. So you are going to have to give him time and many repetitions, the repetitions serving to gradually condition his hocks so that weighting them hurts less and less and then finally not at all. This is the same thing we say to ourselves as we age: don't sit in the chair all day. You must get up and move, or your joints will hurt worse and worse!

Remember how TINY a pain gradient a horse will notice and work against: horses are of such a nature that, when offered a choice between two actions -- BOTH of which will be physically painful but one less so -- they will opt for the less painful option and, amazingly, will often not even seek a third choice. Hence we see Walking Horses leaning hard on bits with 11-inch shanks, to the point where they numb their tongues and even may kill part of the flesh of the tongue. And you may, even in this horse's case, remember how easily the previous owner fell into the pattern or was caught in the pattern of teaching this horse to be dull. The rider does that by never coming all the way through -- the horse says, "OK, I'll lean on the bit a little bit," and instead of responding, as she should, by saying, "no buddy, you are not to learn on my hands AT ALL," she instead sighs and says, "Yeah, all right, that's GOOD ENOUGH, I'll hold up that extra 8 pounds you're putting on there, I'll ignore that 8 pounds, just so long as you'll go along pleasantly and not buck or run off with me, I'll TOLERATE your wrong carriage and wrong balance." But the next day, it will be 8.5 pounds, and where will it stop?

So GOOD ENOUGH and TOLERATE are deadly to us, deadly to excellence in horsemanship. Instead what we have is standards, and we live to those standards, and we teach our horses to live to those standards.

Here, then, is the second problem that's operative -- and you mention this one also in your description: we already know that this horse is inclined to shift his weight off the hocks, onto the forehand, while bracing his neck and thereby enabling himself to support himself -- like a guy bracing his arms so that he can push a lawnmower through thick wet grass -- by leaning on 'the handlebar' i.e. the mouthpiece of the bit and hence your hands. This horse not only does this, he also is dull to the leg. He does not 'respond with respect.'

So this having been plainly said, I know you know what to do: you need to execute Tom's way of waking the horse up to the leg. Which is to say, you'll bring him to a halt out in the middle of the arena, where there is plenty of space to all sides. And you will lift your legs, both legs at once, straight out to the sides. While your feet are raised up to the sides, you can even wiggle them or shake them a little -- you want to definitely make sure that the horse sees you're doing this, that he is aware that you're doing this. Then when he sees your feet, lower your legs both simultaneously, softly back down to his sides.

Then repeat this a couple of times, until you hear the horse saying, 'OK, that's wierd and it doesn't really have any meaning to me, but if that's what you want to be doing, it's OK with me.'

When that's occurred, the next time you raise you legs, you bring them in with all the force you can muster: you whump the crap out of him, you bend those ribs, you make snot come out of his nose. If you have a romal or mecate, you simultaneously smack him right behind your leg with that also.

You would think, of course, that any horse would bolt off in response to this. But horses who have been made dull to the leg don't do that. Nor do they buck, although you do have to sit prepared for any type of response. What will 99% sure happen, though, is that he will merely emit a grunt and walk slowly forward two or three steps, and that's all!

When you clobber him the first time, of course you are very careful to give him a slack rein to work into. But in all probability, what he will do is just grunt and stumble forward and then stop.

Now after he stops, you raise your legs again. After you have whumped them only one time, 95% of horses will liven up and start walking, if not immediately trotting, WHEN THEY SEE YOUR LEGS RISE. Pet him bigtime for this. You want him to learn: I will not block you, I will not try to "take contact", I will not hold the outside rein, I will give you a great big wide open space to go into to the front WHEN I TAKE MY LEGS OFF YOUR BODY."

And this is the secret which the previous owner, and which most people who have horses, do not get: they think that the horse 'goes' BECAUSE he has been smacked, or IN RESPONSE TO pressure. This is what got the previous owner into trouble, because when he didn't liven up and get ready to move, and when he didn't move off from VERY LIGHT leg pressure, she SQUEEZED. Never never never squeeze a horse to make him go! In other words, he didn't go so she squeezed a little bit harder each time. Hence most dressage horses -- hugely dull to the leg! And they think it's because the horse is dull because he's a Warmblood or part-Draft!! Ha ha ha ha: it's themselves who are dull. The horse is merely smart; he is laughing at them, and he is mocking them. He does not respond, and he does not respect that the leg can come in there with such force that it will hurt him. We do not want him to fear the leg, but we do want him to respect it.

So the second time when you lift your legs, as I said, normal horses will learn this lesson after only one good whumping. They certainly do not want to be whumped again. They never want to experience that again. So they liven up and get ready to move the moment they see your legs lift up and THIS IS THE PROPER CUE -- the thing you want the horse to learn -- that you expect him to liven up and get ready to move AS SOON AS THE RIDER LIVENS UP. He is not to wait to be kicked or whipped, because if he does not liven up and get ready to move just as soon as you move your leg OFF his body, you will most certainly repeat the lesson by whumping him, which is to say, by bringing your leg ON to his body. To repeat: the cue which tells a properly trained horse to liven up and get ready to move is when you take your leg OFF his body.

I'm willing to bet sitting here blind that the previous owner wore spurs, too, and by mis-using them in the same way she mis-used her legs, compounded the problem. Spurs mis-used as I have described serve merely to harden the horse up.

Riders who are like this horse's previous owner get into this black pit because at root, they are afraid of the power that the horse has; they are afraid of impulsion. And although they said they wanted to go for a ride, they're like the little kid on the swing who says, 'daddy push me higher' but as soon as daddy does that, they say 'oh, daddy, don't do that anymore' or they start crying. A rider has to be a little bit braver than that. There is a fear hump there to get over, for sure; but once you're over it, then you begin learning what riding is supposed to be like. Now, I know you already know this and that fear is not your problem, Redmare; I'm only saying this because I know a couple of thousand other people will be reading it and maybe they need to think about this.

So, let me know how this works out, and yes, don't fuddle yourself too much with unnecessary details. Teach the horse to GO FREELY FORWARD. If after you teach the 'liven up to the leg' lesson, he starts to feel like he wants to canter -- go for a canter and keep him at it until he breathes pretty good. Then hop off him and pet him and put him up for the day, ending the session on a jolly, free, and somewhat playful note. This takes the sting out of the reprimand you had to give him earlier by whumping him, and tell him, "look buddy, I do enjoy your company and that was lots of fun. I enjoy it when you move out!" Cheers -- Dr. Deb


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 Posted: Thu Jan 31st, 2019 02:21 pm
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I thought I'd come back and share what has happened so far - the intense cold in the NE has limited my riding, but I've gotten two rides on this gelding since your last post Dr. Deb. I think hearing the progression may help others understand a prepare for this in this own horses. Apologies for the length, but the details seem very important.

Ride 1 - to put it plainly, I found out EXACTLY how defensive this horse felt he needed to be about just flowing forward, and how many negative feelings he held about it. From the halt, I put my legs out, wiggled my toes and let him see what I was doing. He had no response. When I finally got to giving him a whomp to go forward, he pinned his ears and fumbled up into a hectic trot. I gave him as much rein as a could initially but decided against just setting my hand down and letting him just go without any guidance from me because he was all over the place and a crooked mess (which I think, again, speaks to just how hard it is for him to just GO FORWARD...not to mention it's very difficult and unpleasant to ride). So I just kept my hands forward and gave him lots of slack to work into but gave him some support on WHERE to go forward. His trot was quite frantic, so I waited until he started dropping his head and clearing his nose before I asked him to come down to a walk. I let him walk out for a minute or two and then prepared to ask for him to take up into the trot again. When I rolled my knees open and brought my energy forward...nothing. So I whomped him again. I had to repeat this whole "whomp, hectic forward, relax into forward, back to walk" cycle twice more . By the fourth "whomp" I felt him thinking about cantering and allowed him to proceed. He got in about two canter strides before he pinned his ears and threw the biggest buck I think I've ever sat - not the "I need some air time to keep this canter" buck, as he has done before, but the kind of buck where you swear you hear his heels whistle past the sides of your head. I sat it, but he threw another in quick succession and then ducked low and sideways which pretty thoroughly unseated me.

So I dusted myself off, caught him, got back on and went back to it. We had one more round of him not taking the good deal of feeling for me to roll my knees open to invite him forward and I had to whomp him again, at which point he tried bucking a second time. I remember laughing as a sat and literally said aloud "Kid, this isn't going to work out well for you". He ended up running towards the fence and I let him almost hit it before he stopped short and continued on into a brisk trot. I let him carry that trot for a good five minutes before I asked him to come to a walk. Once he'd been on a loose rein for a few minutes, I halted him and asked for a few halt to walk transitions. He did those splendidly. We did one more transition, this time from halt to trot - this was also quite nice. I let him go forward a round or two and then stopped him, got off and patted him. We ended the day by playing some fetch, a game he quite enjoys.

Ride 2 - I spent a solid 10 minutes just bending him, moving this body part and that body part, asking him to step under with this hind leg and then that hind leg - just figuring out where he was stuck up and loosening those up as best I could before I asked him to flow forward. I believe it was a mistake on my part not to do this the first ride. We halted in the middle of the area and practiced several halt to walk transitions, all of which were lovely and relaxed. I then asked for a walk to trot. He didn't respond to my knees rolling open but he certainly noticed when my calves came off his side and he got forward off before any whomp was needed. His trot was still a bit hectic but better. He still needed some guidance from me as to WHERE to go - for some time I have been uncertain as to how much to support him because he will need to learn to just go forward on a totally slack rein, but knowing him and his unique set of "stuff" I have come to feel it's better to provide him a shorter rein with some slack but offer him more of a feel than to leave him with no guidance from the hand - he isn't educated enough on following the seat and leg yet for me to feel like it is fair to him. When he feels wholly better about just the forward piece, I can start working in the longer rein.

The thing that left me walking away from this ride smiling ear to ear was this: with the second upward transition from walk to trot, I felt him offer up a canter on the right rein, which again I allowed. His transition was fairly straight (especially for him, and especially considering the right lead is his hardest to maintain straight!) and relaxed, but once he was in it I felt him start to hump his back, saw his ears come back to me in a half-flattened, half listening way and say "I'm not sure about this, I might need to buck". I breathed out, sat deeper and set my right hand down, tipped his nose a bit to the inside and said aloud (to him, but probably more to myself!) "I don't think you need to do that". To my absolute delight, he not only "heard" me but believed me - the hump from his back came down, his ears perked up and he carried a lovely, consistent canter for two good-sized circles before his energy came down and he broke to a trot on his own. When I felt him coming down I decided against urging him on in the canter - it was SUCH a huge thing for this horse to accept my suggestion in the way he did that I decided it best to let him end with those really good feelings. We ended our session there. Even when I was taking off his tack, he was much more relaxed than I've seen him previously after a ride.

As a footnote to all of this, Dr. Deb gives me a bit more credit for being over that fear hump than I perhaps deserve. I was certainly not excited about the bucking! However I knew, as I walked over to get him after coming off, that if I did not get back on and commit to sitting through whatever he offered up (and knowing full well he'd probably try bucking again), I would never be able to authentically have the forward conversation with him again and worse, I'd have lied to him. I also knew that if he offered to buck again, I could not interfere - I had to commit to letting him try it, fail at it and take away that bucking wasn't going to solve anything for him. Hence why once I got back on and he proceeded to bucking again, I sat and let him almost run himself into a fence...and I fully admit it took a LOT for me to just sit there are go "OK, buddy, I'm here, but you've got to figure this out on your own".

Never has Tom's phrase "know what happens, before it happens so when it happens, you'll know what happened" carried so much weight for me!

Last edited on Thu Jan 31st, 2019 02:22 pm by Redmare

Obie
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 Posted: Thu Jan 31st, 2019 05:27 pm
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This is so great! Thank you Redmare, for such a detailed discussion. I just pictured myself riding right along with you on this horse. It sounds like your doing the right things with him. Appreciate every one writing in here. It keeps my riding skills sharp in my mind, for when I do get another horse. Love it!
Thanks again,
Linda

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 Posted: Fri Feb 1st, 2019 07:16 am
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I agree with Linda! Thanks heaps Redmare for sharing this journey. Excellent stuff very meaningful to me.
Hope the cold weather goes away and you can get more horse time in.
Best Wishes
Judy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Feb 6th, 2019 07:30 am
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Dear Redmare: Sorry it's taken me a day or two again to get back to you. And mainly what I want to say is:

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

-- For being willing to risk your neck to help the horse;

-- For getting back on in recognition that, IN THIS CASE, not to have done so would indeed have proven to the horse that you had been "lying to him", i.e., that you had reserved a secret zone of comfort, a point past which you would not go, for yourself when at the same time you were demanding that HE not make such a reservation, but instead give his all. You gave your all and meant to give your all: you went into the situation knowing that getting bucked off MIGHT happen, and if it did, you would be willing to totally go to the mat with the horse in order to bring him to a place of clarity so that he did not feel he had to do that anymore.

People who are reading this, and who may sort of not be where we're at in this area, could easily misunderstand that I'm cheering the fact that you got back on because it proved that you were willing to "discipline" him. What you did had nothing whatsoever to do with discipline in the sense of punishing the horse or "showing him who is boss." Instead, it has to do with the true meaning of charity: caritas, which means caring for the other more than one cares for herself.

Those who have not done something purely for love -- maybe they haven't had the chance, maybe they have so far been unable to bring themselves to take all the hits even when the situation isn't their fault -- will not understand this, but Redmare, I know you understand this: caritas gives almost infinite strength. One does not know this until the crucial moment, the moment when the voice inside you says, "by God, I am going to get back on, because that's what is necessary to help the horse." And people who are reading this and, again, just imagining what this is like because they haven't come to their opportunity to do it -- please, if that's you -- don't imagine that your own will has anything to do with it. A strength comes that is entirely from a higher power, and no one has any control over that, or any power to demand it; you can only obey it -- or not.

If this horse had not achieved clarity about the need to GO FREELY FORWARD when asked by the rider, and if you had not come along with the skills and the determination to help him get to that point, his life would not have ended well, and this is the ultimate justification for getting back on. Because horses who have this problem, which we might call "deep balkiness", every one of them, eventually, become rogue buckers that nobody can sit (and nobody should try, because it's gone too far, the horse is no longer innocently confused but has finally become expert, like a bull that has previously been fought and comes into the arena the second time with no intention of allowing himself to be torried, but instead merely waits his chance to kill the matador; they call these "bulls of sentido" which expresses it perfectly -- "sentido" means "he knows too much").

And these horses, like bulls of sentido, wind up hurting people; or else they fall into the hands of some woman who finds out he's dangerous to ride, and she is scared of him. And when it gets to that point, she then turns to nursing rather than horsemanship because she's too guilty to kill him, it's unethical to sell him, and she can't fix him -- which is, as I understood you previously, pretty much a description of the woman you got him from. Because you see -- you've saved her life, too in a sense -- there's nothing worse than starting out with the dream of glorious fun with horseback riding, and winding up spending the rest of your life making excuses for yourself and your horse, which is what "nursing" in the sense I'm speaking of it here amounts to: a kind of hell for the well-meaning.

Now, in advising you to give him the "go forward" lesson, I was of course hoping that he would not buck, because indeed most of the horses that have this problem don't, as I mentioned. And I think we can draw the conclusion from the fact that he did buck, in other words, he more or less strenuously objected, that there is indeed a degree of physical discomfort for this horse when he pushes off his hocks. We had said that previously and this is further indication.

However, I also agree with you that there's another, and probably even more important factor driving his objections, and that factor is mental and emotional confusion: the horse simply was never broke out properly, he was not taught to "go freely forward" from Day One, and then he got into the hands of somebody, or maybe a whole series of people, who clutched up every time the poor beast did try to go freely forward. And there may also have been the very common upside-down approach to training, which comes from the rider's ambition to compete and the instructor's ignorance of what horses are all about -- so that there is too much instruction to hold a firm outside rein, get the nose to tuck, get the horse to bridle, have him in collection -- all, from the horse's point of view, merely thwarting every effort he makes to GO FREELY FORWARD. The old cavalrymen used to say that no horse should be ridden in an arena until he had been thoroughly hunted across country for several seasons, because until going freely forward becomes what they expect to do, collection is not by any means possible. The very first things have to be installed FIRST:"go freely forward when asked", "go straight by pushing equally off the hind legs", and "obedience is always followed by rest and release."

For many horses, any great or deep change in what they're used to -- no matter how bad what they've been used to was -- causes them confusion and some of them, it actually makes them mad. And of course, if what had been going on before more or less allowed the horse to run the situation, to cheat his rider because the rider could be counted on to say "Oh, well, that was good enough, we'll tolerate that" -- and you come along and tell him, "no buddy, that's not the way it's going to be anymore" -- then the poor horse starts bawling like a hungry steer because he thinks he's gone from the frying pan into the fire and can't imagine how what you're telling him could work out for him to be the best deal in the world, in the end.

So -- maybe it's not been possible for you to ride this week, as we look at the weather map and see there's a horrible deep freeze out where you are. But when the ground thaws out some and it dries up enough that the mud isn't slick, and the temperature gets above freezing and you want to work with him some more, I suggest that a very good way to reinforce what you have now taught him, and tell him again in another way that you're no liar, is to start him on longeing over cavalletti with little one to two-foot jumps at odd intervals.

The idea here is to teach him to make a good upward transition, followed by the even more important down transition. Start him up halt to walk, then walk to trot, then trot to walk, reverse at the walk without halting, and then trot again. Many repetitions. You can do it on longe line, on 12-ft. lead, or at liberty in roundpen. Each session, keep him moving long enough to breathe him some, so that he's glad but also somewhat exhilarated when you call him to you for rest and petting. The many reps will serve to condition those achy hocks, while also installing "go freely forward". As he improves (and as the weather and the footing improve!) add trot-canter and canter-trot transitions.

Start him off the cavalletti grid, at the beginning or warmup part of the session. Then move him onto the grid. I'm primarily thinking here of having him on the longe line, since the roundpen is a bit crowded to try to work both on and off the grid, and the 12-ft. lead will cause you to have to run yourself in order to get over the whole grid. Set the grid up with sets of four poles. If you only have four, fine; set them up in an arc up near one end of the arena. If you have eight, put the second four at the other end. Arc them, so that their outer ends are farther apart than their inner ends; that way, when moving himself in an arc because he's on the longe line, the horse will not have to compensate for the poles not being in an arc.

If you have eight poles, put a low jump, beginning at one foot high, in the position of a fifth ground pole at the end of one set of four. Start him on the set that doesn't have the jump.

Remember that ground pole/cavalletti work is harder for the horse than it looks, so build your repetitions gradually. A normal horse can start at four passes over the grid going to the right, followed by four passes to the left. Then add one or two passes each day you practice this. I would do cavalletti with most horses two or three days per week, and on those days I would normally still ride him afterwards but would not make the ride as demanding. Cavalletti work followed by trailride is nice, or you can follow it with some lateral work at the walk in the arena, i.e. stuff that doesn't put too heavy a demand on his "push off" but that does work on straightness. And no matter what I did for groundwork and/or riding, when I get off then it's time to work on bowing, "fetch", or some peace and quiet by stepping up onto the circus drum.

We highly value your correspondence here, Redmare, and I look forward to getting your next report. At this point, a whole lot of things are liable to begin falling into place -- so fundamental and far-reaching is success at teaching "go freely forward." -- Dr. Deb





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