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What exercises on the ground for collection?
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Patricia Barlow Irick
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 Posted: Mon Mar 15th, 2010 02:20 pm
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Ivy,
We have been playing with "wither lifting" in a horse video clicker training group I participate in.  I have in mind the type of collection seen in Oxidado belonging to Pedro Torres*, but I am trying to bring it out of my dumpy little hinny, Cracker Joe. To do this we pretty much deconstructed the whole into three basic areas: 1) changes to the poll; 2) changes to the humerus/scapula relationship; and 3) changes to the hindquarters (pelvis bone downwards).  with it defined like this, it can be shaped with positive reinforcement.

What is happening with our efforts is that we are getting to play with how it all works together. Like having a real Woody to play with! The coiling of the loins has been the most difficult to teach for my critter, but he loves this game.

I saw him out practicing on his platform when I wasn't even around!

What got me going on this to start with was exploring how much neck hyperflexion the animal would offer in exchange for a horse cookie. I wanted to understand that so I could think about the welfare issues of rollkur. It was too easy to get behind the vertical with positive reinforcement, but Cracker would not maintain it while moving.

As of yesterday we are at the point of having a consistent but small change in pelvis angle on the hips, an increase in the humerus/scapula angle, and start of a poll bend. He will put his nose behind the vertical, but I am now looking for correct curvature of the poll --- hard for him because he was rather ewe-necked to begin with! I am working on one area at a time in kind of an iterative process, looking for a little improvement. Since he was never the kind of animal to offer a collected posture on his own, I don't know that he will get to the point where it just feels like he should naturally pull it all together in a collected form, but what ever we get is a step up from his strung out normal look.

Anyway, it is very fun and kind of meets your request to find a way to train for collection at liberty. (but it might not translate into under saddle at all).

* google (Oxidado "Pedro Torres") to see this horse.


DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Mar 15th, 2010 03:00 pm
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Patricia, you should not be separating the actions, and you are asking for the wrong actions in the neck. Review again please what 'raising the base of the neck' means. In a few months, there will be three articles in Equus dealing specifically with this -- a 'mini series' on neck function within the general conformation series.

The reason not to separate the actions is that they are never separate. So if you separate them, then they become separated.

Horses collect their bodies for one reason, and that is that they are feeling joyful. I'm not a fan of clicker training, and this is one major reason why: it succumbs to the deadly idea that there is such a thing as 'behavior'. There is no such thing. There is only bodily expression that is the result of the thoughts or thought-feelings that the horse is having.

To cure a ewe-necked horse from getting behind the vertical, the very last thing you would ever want to do is encourage him to 'curl' his neck. This implies again that you do not understand what 'raising the base of the neck' means. Of course, that's understandable as very few people in all of history have understood it. Nevertheless, it is well understood by those who do understand it, so all you need to do is go get the proper information, vis., in Equus or else in the conformation DVD's; and if you don't care to learn it from me, you can try 'Academic Equitation' by DeCarpentry and read carefully.

To cure a ewe-necked horse from getting behind the vertical, all you need to do is cause the animal to raise the base of his neck. That will instantaneously and simultaneously cause him to have perfect head carriage, as the head carriage is (as I said) not a separate factor and not a factor that should be separated.

Moreover, raising the base of the neck is also a great help to the horse coiling its loins. The way to teach a horse to coil its loins, and to give him enhanced strength to do so, you back him one step at a time, and you perform slow up and down transitions, and you teach him shoulder-in. You can add liberty jump gymnastics using little grids of low cavalletti too.

Be assured, he already has plenty of capability to collect himself, else he could not canter. But riding and even liberty performance require more strength than most horses would need simply to locomote on their own; so as you work with the proper exercises, one objective should be to teach him to depart from a walk or halt directly into the specified lead. When he can do this, he will have enough strength to begin performing pirouettes or half-passes, and will perform them happily and comfortably because at that point they will be no strain.

With your totally unhandled mustangs, Patricia, I concede a utility for the clicker. With a broke horse, I'd rather not hear about clicker training at all, because as an experienced horsewoman, you don't need it, and by using it, you are crippling yourself. Get away from the clicker all you can, because that is the one and only doorway to finding your own true, personal power.

I will need to review the video you mention to see if the fellow's horse is something I could advocate; if not, the link and reference to him will be removed from your post. Remember our rule, please, about mentioning names not on our recommended list. One purpose for this rule is that I would like to have no example here that would not be truly beneficial. You can always check with me privately first to see whether something you think is cool is something I think should be posted. -- Dr. Deb

Patricia Barlow Irick
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 02:47 am
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We were able to finally figure out how to put something on him that we could totally visualize what we were trying for...... we tied a rod between his tail and his mane and watched the slope on it. That worked good.

The thing with clicker training is that it is addictively fun.  I don't actually use a clicker, just my voice. I think it's good to have both positive and negative reinforcement available as a training tool. It would be one thing if I wanted to get really serious about discipline, but my hinny isn't too demanding, so fun is high value.

Here is our progress today - you can see the little yellow rod:

AdamTill
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 04:22 am
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Hi Patricia,

I can appreciate the enthusiasm that you see coming from these horses, but I'd really advise staying away from trying to train any actions that are the consequence of collection as active things (the pose and such are good examples).

The horses can readily be taught to adopt the position that looks like collection, but actively placing the head in the position of collection isn't the same as the head adopting that position because the muscles of the topline are in release.

Good examples can be found on the cover of the riding book that the group uses - there are a couple horses there that are trying their guts out, and superficially look like they're collected if you look at their heads, but their backs aren't lifting and the the bases of their necks aren't either. They move softly, but they aren't collected in the sense that Dr Deb defines here.

A lot of these clicker horses are sweet and helpful, but you do have to take a big picture look at what's happening with them. Take a look at the underline of your horse's neck in that photo, for example - he's actively holding his head in position, but doesn't seem to be lifting his neck.

This photo might be good for comparison (Dr Deb pls remove if not), since my horse has a similar general outline. My hands are horrible (video tells no lies), but my horse is lifting up in preparation for stepping his front to the right.




DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 09:47 am
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Adam, this is a very good contribution. Yes Tindur is definitely raising the base of his neck. And your hands are absolutely fine (excessive humility will get you nowhere).

The point you are making to Patricia, which I would not have been able to make since I own zero 'clicker' literature, is excellent. If they are all messing up by training head position, that forms yet another reason I would strongly dis-advise that particular school of thought or 'clique'.

Patricia -- I'll give you a suggestion if you want to keep on with your yellow stick. Train the horse to raise the center of his back so as to touch the stick. This will automatically cause him to do the following actions necessary to REAL collection, of which your hinny is just as capable as the flashiest Olympic horse:

1. It will necessitate his releasing the long dorsal musculature.

2. It will induce him to coil the loins.

3. It will induce him to make the correct effort with the neck, which is to raise the base.

4. It gets entirely away from addressing his head, which is the most vacuous of errors that people commonly make with respect to collection.

Collection has absolutely nothing to do with where their head is -- believe me. Where their head winds up is a SIDE EFFECT. It is 100% of the time an error to train the side effect, especially while ignoring the truly necessary parts. It is not only naive, it is ultimately going to prevent him or at least make it very difficult for the poor animal to find the right responses.

Other naive and damaging confusions of SIDE EFFECT with the core elements that determine true collection, are to think that:

1. The slower a horse moves, the more collected he must be (This is the Western Pleasure error. True, a truly collected horse does move slower mph forward than one less collected, given equal energy output; but the slowness is not the cause of collection).

2. The higher a horse carries its poll, the more collected he must be (This is the Three Gaited and Saddle Seat error. True, a truly collected horse can have quite a high poll but that height must be built upon raising the base of the neck; the poll must be supported by the base of the neck, and that in turn by the coiling of the loins).

3. The higher a horse carries its knees at a trot, and the more sharply it flexes its hocks, the more collected it must be (This is another Saddle Seat error. True, the more collected a horse is, the higher and sharper will be the action at knee and hock, within whatever conformation the horse has to begin with; but forcing the knees and hocks to bend, or individually training them, actually causes a hollow back. Training the SIDE EFFECT instead of the true effect will ruin the horse).

I appreciate all the fun you are having and I sure wouldn't want to diminish even one iota of that, Patricia. But please re-orient and devote your fun training to training the right things. It is clearer and clearer to me that you do not understand what raising the base of the neck means, so, besides Adam's good example given, I attach a couple of the images that will be coming out in the neck conformation-and-function miniseries.

And Adam, Tindur's neck conformation BTW is nothing at all like Patricia's hinny's. Her animal really does have ewe-necked conformation, which means that the base of the neck is set anatomically low. Tindur's neck base is set anatomically high. Tindur's photo did get in the layout -- I have just reviewed the PDF this evening in fact -- so you can look forward to seeing him in there in the May, 2010 issue. One of Natalie Howard's horses is in there too. I'm grateful to everybody who has submitted photos, it is tremendous to have a whole spectrum to choose from for each individual conformation feature. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

The first file, attached to this post, shows an American Saddlebred gelding that has good conformation but poor posture. He exhibits so-called 'elk necked' posture, i.e. he is dropping the base of his neck.

Attachment: Neck no1 Fig 07A Elk Neck Saddlebred.jpg (Downloaded 751 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 09:59 am
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And this 60 year old photo of the great old Arthur Konyot shows him on the American Saddlebred gelding 'Colonel Washington'. This is just about the highest poll position I ever saw, which is both high and correct, the poll being pushed up from a base which is continually trying to rise.

The horse is passaging, a movement which involves large range of motion of the freespan of the back, and the phase happens to catch him near the bottom of the downward oscillation. As a horse becomes more and more highly trained, and I mean correctly trained, the freespan can elastically flex downward and yet always reliably regain and then go upward past neutral with each half-stride of the trot. You have to remember this when viewing any horse in passage. The error of Saddle Seat is to think that the horse should look like this, or more hollow than this, continuously; and then to pile error on top of erroneous belief, by confusing cause and effect, and thus choosing to first 'break the horse back' at the base of the neck, and pound the back down to ensure that it remain hollow, and by that means get the knees up. Totally and utterly backwards, to the great discomfort and destruction of many a fine horse.

You see why the ASB is my all-time favorite breed; it's tragic that there are so few purebreds around today who can present the substance of this extremely handsome horse. There is no breed in the world that passages as naturally or as effortlessly as the ASB, and yet by their rulebook today, if the horse passage even so much as to go get his ribbon, he is disqualified. Dressage and Saddle Seat, you see, are cosmic twins; and like the Queen of Hearts and the White Queen in the recent wonderful 'Alice' movie, they distrust and hate each other. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Neck no1 Fig 07B High Collection Konyot.jpg (Downloaded 748 times)

Helen
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 12:14 pm
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I would like to contribute a useful analogy I read somewhere, which applies to any and all of the symptoms you mentioned. That is, that to ask a horse to curve its neck, or raise its poll, or lift its knees, and then call it collected, is like painting a lump of dough brown and calling it baked.

When I read it I found it very helpful in clarifying what was going on. Loving this thread.

Patricia Barlow Irick
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 06:06 pm
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Next time, I will photo his position with his head lower so you don't all focus on that (or block the head and neck out) , but rather his withers to croup angle. That is what we were reinforcing, he is just doing the head thing on his own. He experiments with it all the time. I notice too that his front end is getting very light... he starts lifting a hoof and putting it near his chest, like he feels the pull to go upwards.  I should try to catch him at the very initiation of a canter and see what that looks like. Of course, I doubt that he actually does "canter". I don't know what that gait is because it cannot be ridden sitting down so getting a video of it would be useful.

Here is the thing about what "should or shouldn't" be done with this guy. Cracker is not a show animal, not a dressage animal, just a fat white mule that will do anything for a horse cookie. He does the Cha-Cha, the Hokey Pokey, jumps barrels on command, kneels to pick me up, and knows what it means when I tell him to stand in the corner. He goes in the house. He is capable of learning by observation. We have quite a few videos on YouTube of playing with Cracker.  It would break his heart if he found out that I wanted him to be a more serious student of humanship.

Last edited on Tue Mar 16th, 2010 06:07 pm by Patricia Barlow Irick

kindredspirit
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 06:25 pm
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Patricia,

Does he go out and make certain moves off on his own? In the pasture away from you?

Something you wrote prompted me to think about a gelding I have.  And I am sorry about this being off topic to collection and raising the base of the neck.

I am curious about a move my gelding does out on his own during a ruckus or extra cold days, I have no idea why he does this.  Does it feel good?  Is he frustrated?  He paws and looks like he is going to stand on his forehead.  (I bet Mr. Pogue would have fun training this one.)


I have included a picture.

Kathy

 

Attachment: bow.jpg (Downloaded 720 times)

Jacquie
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 08:09 pm
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My gelding does this too. I think with him it is a frustration behaviour. He sometimes does it if he is tied up and his friends are elsewhere and he is angry about that, but more often he does it if he is frustrated about wanting to be being brought in from the field - he wants to be caught NOW, but I have only one pair of hands and 4 horses to catch and he has had to wait his turn ..... he throws himself into this position and paws madly with both front feet too. He has very little patience and is also closely bonded to my other horses.

Last edited on Tue Mar 16th, 2010 08:11 pm by Jacquie

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 08:23 pm
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Kindred, I don't think your photo post is off topic for collection. Everything a horse does with the chain of spinal vertebrae has to do with collection.

From the photo, we could guess several possible reasons why your horse offers the plie bow -- that's what he's doing is called. To wit:

1. He's rubbing his eye

2. He's stretching his neck, back, and haunches (the primary reason we teach the plie bow), i.e. because it feels good

3. He is expressing submission to you or to a more dominant animal, as a dog will sometimes bow to his owner when the owner enters the room

4. He is goofing off, playing; the bow soon to be followed, or preceded, by buck-fart-run-off-kick-snort.

No matter for what reason he is doing it, on a physical level it comes to the same: it is good for him. The more regularly, and the harder, he is ridden or worked, the better it is for him. Also, if he's built with a low neck attachment, the better it is for him, for it will help him learn Spanish Walk, which will in turn help him to raise the base of his neck. If he has had laminitis, or a bowed tendon, or a pulled suspensory on either front leg, it will help him too, as stretching out the damaged tissues and restoring full range of motion.

So if your horse freely offers this gesture, then I would certainly want to see if he would not offer it also when you were standing right next to him. Because when you are standing right next to him and he does it, there is the opportunity and possibility that you can reward him for doing it. Just don't get greedy and kill it (always a danger, for all of us). If he does it for play, then you be sure that your sessions with him are also play.

Now, as to Patricia's reply: no one is telling you what your horse should do, Patricia. You are the one who submitted the photo; we did not solicit it. You are being so anxious to defend what the horse already knows that it is blocking your ears, I believe; you have missed my point. I think you should take your animal more seriously indeed, because he is absolutely beautiful; I want you to respect him more, and not think that all he's good for is trite little things. Because there is no such thing in all the world as a 'trick', any more than there is any such thing as a 'behavior'. All so-called 'tricks' involve mental work plus physical work; and the physical work that they perform affects the health and good functioning of their bodies into the future. So there is an equally high standard for doing 'tricks' as there is for doing 'movements', because there is no difference between a trick and a movement. They are all just things that horses do.

For your benefit, and maybe this time I'll be able to break through, I attach a photo of a horse rearing incorrectly. We know who trained this pony -- it was a horrible, rough, abusive man with a bad drinking problem, who regularly whipped his sons with a horsewhip. But he had enough talent with horses to get them to do things -- the same way he tried to get his sons to obey -- through fear and coercion, and all of that absolutely shows, not only in the pony's expression but in the very cramped, hollow rear. You see, when the horse is 'wrong' he will be wrong everywhere -- inside and outside. But the outside affects the inside, just as much as the inside affects the outside; this is why it is crucial to only teach physical maneuvers that adduce to collection, rather than to (as Helen so aptly puts it) 'paint the dough' by teaching things that are superficial results of collection rather than those things which lie at its core.

The pony's name is 'Chief', and I photographed him back in the 1990's, when he was at Harry Whitney's old place in Kansas to be re-trained. Harry did very successfully re-train the pony and he is now owned by other people. And to link Patricia's post with Kindered's, one aspect of helping Chief rear better was to always have him do it as a sequence bow-rear-bow, to help stretch out that tight neck and back. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Neck No1 Fig 09A Chief Hollow Back Rear.jpg (Downloaded 717 times)

kindredspirit
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 08:51 pm
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DrDeb wrote: Kindred, I don't think your photo post is off topic for collection. Everything a horse does with the chain of spinal vertebrae has to do with collection.

From the photo, we could guess several possible reasons why your horse offers the plie bow -- that's what he's doing is called. To wit:


2. He's stretching his neck, back, and haunches (the primary reason we teach the plie bow), i.e. because it feels good


No matter for what reason he is doing it, on a physical level it comes to the same: it is good for him. The more regularly, and the harder, he is ridden or worked, the better it is for him. Also, if he's built with a low neck attachment, the better it is for him, for it will help him learn Spanish Walk, which will in turn help him to raise the base of his neck.
Thank you Dr. Deb, I pick #2, I think he does it for his back.  He loves to stand on a pedestal as well.  I have another picture, not sure if you can tell from the photo of his neck attachment, but I would say it is on the low side.  In this picture he is struggling to go forward mentally but he trying really hard for Harry.  As a result of him not being freely forward his motion was more up than forward.  (A high lope?)

Attachment: Day 1.jpg (Downloaded 709 times)

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Tue Mar 16th, 2010 11:52 pm
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Hello Patricia

Having glanced back over your posts on this thread, I think I see where the confusion lies re increased wither height.  You mentioned a couple of times there was "an increase in the humerus/scapula angle" indicating you believe (if I'm interpreting you correctly) this is part of collection. 

Increasing, or opening, the angle between the scapula and humerus will have the effect of increasing the length of the entire limb which in turn will make the horse 'taller' in front - this is the exact opposite of the hindlimb joints folding to lower the croup thus making the horse 'shorter' behind.   Opening the scapula/humerus angle does not raise the base of the neck or in any way change its orientation from extension to flexion, or its position between the two front limbs.  The end of the rod attached to Cracker's mane will have lifted in relation to the end attached to his tail but this does not mean he has collected or raised his neck base, just that he has stretched up on his front legs - this will also alter the spine/pelvis angle.  Collection does not require any change in scapular/humerus angle.

Lacking clavicles, the withers can move up, down and sideways within the muscular thoracic sling - it's surprising just how much they can move.  I have seen horses whose neck base has dropped down so far between the front limbs that there is a visible and palpable dip between the two protruding scapular cartilages.  Conversely, the withers can rise quite a long way between the scapular cartilages when the neck base is flexed and thus raised.

This same misunderstanding can be seen in the posture of the horses belonging to that deluded Russian man who lives in a medieval time-warp - he believes his horses are collected where in fact all they are doing is stretching up on their front legs with their chins tucked in and their spines still in extension.

Hope this is of some help.

Best wishes - Pauline

Leigh in SoCal
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 Posted: Wed Mar 17th, 2010 01:53 am
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Wow, Dr. Deb, the two ASB photos you posted remind me of the "What's My Gait" threads from last summer that we had so much fun with:  from the Konyot photo, what you said about the passage being considered a form of gallop in centuries past; and the Saddle Seat ASB looks like he is supposed to be racking, but with one of his fores being the only weight-bearing foot, the only gait I can think of where that happens is a gallop also, although this horse isn't galloping or in a true gait.  There's a question in there somewhere, but I don't know where to put the question mark.

AdamTill
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 Posted: Wed Mar 17th, 2010 03:29 am
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Hi Dr Deb (and all),

There was no false modesty intended with the photo, my apologies - I just meant that it's been tough to cure myself of the need to hold my hands so high. I think it tends to get in my horse's way, and by getting him stuck in the neck a bit it contributes to the fact that he tends to walk his hind end forward a skootch every few steps turning on the hind leg.

I know I need to show him how to step around his outside hind a bit more firmly, and it shows in the photo since his weight is mainly on the LF/RH diagonal.

At any rate, we're working on it.

To bring it relevant to the thread, this turn is much easier to work in hand, since I find it easier to show my horse the weight shifts without my own balance getting in the way. It's been fantastic for freeing up his fore quarters, and Buck's Bridle Horse DVD's have been very helpful in this matter.

Thanks very much also for the opportunity to participate in the Equus column - been very much enjoying it!

Great thread folks by the way...


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