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What exercises on the ground for collection?
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DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Mar 17th, 2010 07:03 am
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Adam, geez, I'm teasing old bean. You're always really modest, I think.

Pauline -- yes, yes, yes. I've seen the same thing too: an ASB I was called to consult on once some years ago, for example: they had had him in a training device (locally called a 'developer') which is an overcheck, to train him to hold his head up. The trainer began by breaking the horse back at the root of the neck -- they check them back and first longe them, then ride them that way, and the bit is typically something pretty sharp, like a twisted wire or metal twist, so the horse is not inclined to lean on it. By the end of the treatment or course of training six months or so later, the horse will have learnt to hold its own head up and back all the time, so that the 'developer' can be dispensed with. As a physical consequence, the rhomboideus and trapezius muscles will be tremendously hypertrophied.

This particular horse was what is called a 'high tail', an animal bred and intended for three-gaited competition. Typically these are tall, narrow, very long-necked and rubbery-bodied horses, often to the point of insubstantiality. So they are not well defended in their physique to resist the treatment described above.

I was called in by the owner and her daughter, who had been trying to show this horse in the three-gaited competition. While always in the ribbons, they were never the class winner and this was bothering them. The main reasons the judges wouldn't use the horse was he would only take one lead, and, more serious to the way of thinking in that region, at the trot (which is the supremely important gait in that class), the horse would raise one knee noticeably higher than the other.

Now, we here all know exactly why this horse was doing this, so let me hear it in chorus. But, there was another factor also: so tight had the long dorsal muscles become in this horse, not only the rhomboideus and trapezius but the entire longissimus dorsi complex, that the entire thorax, as well as the base of the neck, were bowed downward to such an extent that the withers -- typically quite high in the ASB, as high as the highest found among TB's -- were completely sunken between the scapular cartilages. In fact, you could put your hand in an actual tunnel formed by the tops of the cartilages touching above the withers, and you could have poured a quart of water in there and it wouldn't have spilled.

The owners disconnected me, by the way, when I informed them that a good deal more would be required to help the horse than simply altering the weighting of the shoes (which is what they wanted me to tell them). This is the best example I have ever encountered of ignorance equating to blindness.

Let me suggest a way for Patricia, and anyone else in or out of the clicker/behaviorist crowd, who may be confused about the difference between releasing the horse's axial body so that it can rise BETWEEN the shoulders, vs. opening the angle between shoulder and humerus. And again, this is to dispel blindness: just look at a horse on those rare occasions when one may, in his happiness at seeing his owner, plie-bow and then, upon rising from the bow, stretch upward, arching his neck as he does so. Or occasionally you will see a horse "stretch up" if you rouse him from his afternoon snooze. A person needs to have their videocam-eyes always ready for stuff like this, because although dogs do the whole bow-stretch sequence fairly often, horses don't. But anyone who can see a horse stretch up, and remember the specifics of what composed it, could never again be confused concerning how Arthur Konyot's ASB in the above photo gets his poll so high, his face so vertical, and his neck so arched.

And yes Leigh! Great that you remembered about the link between passage and galope (not so much 'gallop', the racing gait, but galope, the manege/school gait). Galope goes: left hind, right hind, left fore, right fore. And why it goes this way is because the horse is SO sat-down behind as the result of coiled loins and flexed hind joints, and pushing SO firmly against the ground with each successive hind leg, that the fore part of the body is cantilevered elastically up. And it is up, floating almost, and it takes kind of a beat and a half to float back down there to where the left fore is finally going to touch. Now, if it were not floating so much, right hind and left fore would touch simultaneously; and then you would say, 'well it is a trot'. The canter contains the trot, just as the walk does; that's why the trot is really the least important of all the gaits, and all students who want to reach perfection need to be practicing mostly at these two gaits, and teaching their horse to walk with vigor but canter as slow as possible.

Just a great set of posts, everyone....a lot of good thinking going down here. -- Dr. Deb

 

Dorothy
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 Posted: Wed Mar 17th, 2010 06:45 pm
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Hi Dr Deb, Ivy and readers,

I am really enjoying reading this thread!

I have had an interesting experience this winter which has been particularly hard here in England, and I had 3 or 4 weeks when I couldn't ride my horse due to the snow and ice. During this time I deliberately worked on exercises to help him with collection from the ground.

The exercises took 3 forms:

- Variations on the 'carrot stretches'. I used these more to get Solo to use his core muscles than to stretch him. The variations included taking his nose between his front legs at chest height, knee height and ground level, and also encouraging him to plie bow at the same time. I asked him to take a treat while reaching round to the side at girth level and further back and lower down. I also asked him to reach for a treat while I asked him to hold up the hind leg on the same side - this really made him use his tummy muscles, and those around the supporting hind limb hip joint.

- Sternal and belly lifts, holding for a count of 5, to activate the muscles that lift the withers and root of the neck. Loin coiling lift by scratching the muscles in his quarters or pressing on the sacro-coccygeal junctional area. I would also combine both these lifts, asking him to coil the loin first, and then reaching forward to lift from the sternum. I would also do a sternal lift while holding up a front leg. Solo has the most amazing range of movement in these exercise, I will try to get some photos.

- Head twirling at a standstill and while walking. Loin twirling and untracking. Turns about the forehand, turns about the haunches, and combining the two to get a 'leg yield' type movement. It got to the stage where we could do shoulder-in, then change the bend to renvers, all with him in good self-carriage and neck telescoping.

When I came to ride him again after the snow had gone, the difference in him was remarkable, even after only working on this every 2-3 days for 3-4 weeks. It has made a breakthrough in his lateral work under saddle, and his ability to collect in canter. Solo is about as ewe-necked as you can get, and has other conformational challenges, but he feels awesome under saddle - I am always so disappointed when I see photos or video of him, as he feels soooo much better than he looks!

I have recently talked with a lady who put this well: it is not about the conformation so much as the posture. A well conformed horse will find the posture of collection easier than a poorly conformed horse, but this horse may still have a better posture than a badly trained or ridden horse with perfect conformation.

Dorothy

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Mar 17th, 2010 07:04 pm
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Yes, this is great, Dorothy: normal results really, but so few people -- even among those who read the literature -- seem to put the few simple essentials into practice. This is the science of training horses, and there is no other way whatsoever (because the horse's body is no other way whatsoever).

As to posture and structure: I have said for years (if you look in the old Principles of Conformation Books), and continue to say in the current conformation series in Equus Magazine: it is necessary to separate posture from structure. The conformation 'analyst' is literally never simply or only looking at structure, because the structure is alive, muscles and the balance of tonus are always mediating how that structure stands up there. If a person doubts this, then just look at all the bad museum mounts of skeletons: completely impossible that the animal's bones ever were arranged like that in life, but now that he's dead and there's just an armature holding his structure up, well, then it will be the armature that dictates the posture. There is always posture.

I'd love it if you'd send me a photo of your ewe-necked horse's conformation -- standard 'flat' shot from the side -- I've just turned in all of the neck articles, so it's too late to include him in that, but there'll be a book hereafter so I am always on the scout for great exmples of bad structure ESPECIALLY where the owner reports good results in training despite the structure. When the weather's a little better, I'd also love to have somebody take a photo of you riding him, catching the horse in 1st beat canter and also at the trot -- the 1st beat canter will flatter him, the trot will not, but those two shots will let us know where he is really at as to rounding up and raising the base of his neck. Thanks! -- Dr. Deb

Jeannie
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 Posted: Wed Mar 17th, 2010 08:09 pm
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Dr Deb , I looked up the horse Oxidado, whom Patricia mentioned, and assumed you approved since it remained on the post. He was performing a working equitation speed test Beja 2008 on a youtube video. He seemed so coiled I thought of a rabbit at times ( the galope?), and when he backed up quickly, he almost sat down.

       My horse's dam was a Belgium Draft horse, and I was told they tend to be pigeon toed because they were bred to be " row walkers". He has always been toed in, more on the left than the right, but since he has been doing the plie bow it seems less pronounced. Could that be a consequence, even at age 19?
                      
                                                               Jeannie

Jeannie
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 Posted: Wed Mar 17th, 2010 11:50 pm
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Here is the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5895K-Xjupk

Seglawy Jedran
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 Posted: Thu Mar 18th, 2010 02:30 am
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Dear Jeanie: Hooray for you, wonderful , " test" so to speak! Watching that ride you can see why the guns and germs and steel author, maintaned how terrifying it would have to have been for the native american armies to go up against the spanish conquistadors....
Also if Joe from Texas ( another cavlary buff) can get a chance to look at the video i would like his opinion on how much more suitable the speed test would have been for working meduim and heavy cavalry than the three day event test stuff that a lot of us were exposed to.. Am thinking that the three day stuff was as Mairinger said, essentially based on chase and pursuit of messengers and order carriers over difficult terrain..
Also Dorothy from Bath, how are you doing your sternal and belly lifts? I had been trying finger tucks and ticklish stroking..
Thanks
Bruce Peek

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Mar 18th, 2010 07:00 am
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Jeannie, anything that affects the horse's spinal posture will affect the posture of the limbs as a side effect or consequence.

The explanation you have received as to 'why' Belgian draft horses often toe in, is a good example of the spurious explanations-after-the-fact that we get so much of around the training barn. People are always after explaining why things are the way they are, so they make something up out of thin air which seems reasonable to them, but for which there is no basis whatsoever.

The reason Belgian draft horses, or big-bodied horses of any breed, will often toe in is because their thorax is wide and more cylindrical than that of other horses.

When the fore part of the ribcage is wide, it angles the rear aspect of the scapula more outward, and also tends to diminish the armpit and push the elbow out.

When the elbow is pushed (rotated) out, the carpus, ankle, and hoof will be rotated in.

This is because horses cannot supinate the manus; in other words, because their radius and ulna bones are fused together, they cannot leave their elbow in one orientation and rotate the distal part of the forelimb independently of that. In a horse, if the elbow is carried inward, the entire forelimb below that point (consider it as a vertical cylinder) must rotate out. And vice-versa for the horse that toes in; if the elbow is carried outward, the whole of the limb below that point must rotate inward.

If this is not clear, I invite you to get the "Conformation Biomechanics" video and study it, for in that I devote a very clear explanation to it. And one thing that I say in there is that I devote several segments to teaching this concept, because since I am the first person in history to have realized/clarified this point, I do not expect people who have been looking at the wrong/inadequate/misleading illustrations that are present in all currently existing books other than my own, to immediately understand it.

I have posted the crucial illustrations also in this Forum previously -- here's the link: http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/forum1/10.html

As to the effect of the plie bow in diminishing the amount of toeing in -- horses that actually 'bulldog' -- which is beyond that amount of outward rotation of the elbow which can be attributed to the shape of the anterior thorax -- have an imbalance in tonus of the pectoral muscles, the opposite of the horse who toes out. The horse that toes in/elbows out markedly, like a bulldog, has too low tonus; the one that toes out has too high. The plie bow helps either type, by assisting the horse to stretch the pectorals and all the 'bridging' muscles that attach the scapula and humerus to the body wall, and thus optimize the tonus.

A horse that toes out (or toes in) more on one side than the other reveals that in him there is also a crookedness component. In the horse that toes in, he will be leaning toward (bowing his ribcage outward more toward) the elbow of the limb that toes in more. It is the opposite with the horse that toes out -- this horse is leaning away from the limb that toes out more.

So, bottom line, I encourage you to keep on bowing the horse, a couple of times every day you're around him if you can do that and not wear out the horse's enjoyment of it. Other exercises that will help the horse toe-in less is lots of leg-yield or little half-turns at a walk over the haunches, either of which asks him to fairly strongly adduct and then abduct the individual forelimbs. -- Dr. Deb

Jeannie
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 Posted: Fri Mar 19th, 2010 03:03 am
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Thank you, Dr Deb, for the correct information on toeing in. It makes sense,especially after looking at the illustrations in the 2007 post. There are so many beliefs and myths that are trotted out as facts in the horse world, you would think science would catch up a little faster. That's why we're all here!

At different talks of yours that I've been to over the years you advised people to go home and train their animal themselves and teach them tricks. I thought," well I'm already doing that, so I'll just keep on". I think I took you a little too literally, or I would have found the forum earlier.

The toeing in has improved over the years with ground work exercises, but adding the plie bow made the most noticeable change in less than a year.
                                Jeannie

Sam
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 Posted: Fri Mar 19th, 2010 07:08 am
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This is a great thread!  Yes please Dorothy, can you please tell us how to do the sternal lifts.  I have heard of the belly lifts or are the sternal/belly lifts the same thing?  I am learning so much as usual.  I have a couple of images of a horse doing the dog stretch, while getting treated  by a horse massage therapist and a small pony doing the big streatch when they first get up, raise the base of the neck and sometimes lift a hind leg then stretch it out behind them like a ballet dancer.  If any one would find the images useful I will have a go at posting them.  The image of the horse doing the bow in the paddock is great, can really see the 'bow' in its back and how good this must be for them.  Thanks.

Regards Sam.

Dorothy
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 Posted: Sun Mar 21st, 2010 09:44 am
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Hi Sam,

I think that the sternal lift and the belly lift are variations on a theme. I know of people who link them together by stroking or scratching along the sternum from between the front legs backwards, and the horse gradually lifts further backwards.

I tend to keep my fingers still at a specific point when I ask for a lift, so I can ask further forwards, which will tend to encourage root of the neck / thoracic sling lifting or further backwards, which will tend to encourage abdominal muscle activation.

I also ask the horse to lift from the very front of the sternum, so, low on the chest in front of the front legs, and aim the lift to just behind the withers. This is quite a subtle lift, but I think most accurately isolates the root of the neck muscles from the thoracic sling muscles.

I will try to get some pics when I can grab a photographer!

I hope this is helpful.

I'd love to see your pics of the bow and the stretch - I have seen my horse stretch like that, first really raising the base of the neck and flexing the poll, usually with a big yawn, followed by flattening the back and stretching out a hind leg while reaching forwards with a telescoped neck, usually followed by a good shake! Its fab to see.

Dorothy

 

Last edited on Sun Mar 21st, 2010 09:47 am by Dorothy

kindredspirit
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 Posted: Mon Mar 22nd, 2010 12:57 pm
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I agree with Dorothy, watching a horse stretch is very enjoyable for me.  They have so many variations and I will watch closely whenever I chance to see this, ususally after a morning snooze standing in the sun.  All very cat and dog like.

I have a question about what takes place in the body (specifically geldings, that is all I own) when asking them to yield laterally from the ground.  If I ask my main horse to step over equally front and back, untracking the hinds midline with a slight bend right say if I am asking to the left. Often, OFTEN this horse will drop his penis fully and I have also had him become erect.  Now I have read where this is a reflection of where his birdie is and it is not necessarily a good thing (and it seems the full erection is more that) but it also seems he is more relaxed after the movement when he is just fully dropped.  I can't quite figure out why, but I have had a massage person say it is an indication of his happy meter and you are on the right track in what you are doing massage wise.  So I think some of this is good but the extreme end of it (belly slapping, sorry for explicitness of this) may not be.    This also will happen when asking for some lifting of the shoulders and fore arm in learning Spanish walk.

Thanks for any insight,

Kathy  

 

Dorothy
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 Posted: Mon Mar 22nd, 2010 01:37 pm
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Hello Kathy,

How interesting that you have experienced this with your geldings. I have noticed that when I do the in hand exercises, in particular the loin coiling, belly lifting, sternal lifting and carrot stretches, that Solo will frequently let down his penis in a very relaxed way. He never becomes erect or excited. I feel that he is in a calm, relaxed and OK state when we are doing these exercises, and seems very 'grounded' afterwards. I have never noticed him 'letting down' in any other situation in particular, but this has happened regularly.

I have no idea what to read into it, I had just thought 'how interesting'. Maybe Dr Deb can throw some light onto why this happens.

Dorothy

Jeannie
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 Posted: Mon Mar 22nd, 2010 06:09 pm
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Hi Kathy and Dorothy,
        Yes, my horse has done this for years, any time he is being groomed with my hands, or doing ground work. I think it is a sign of relaxation and pleasure on their part, just seeing me coming across the pasture will elicit dropping, I think because he is already anticipating me running my hands over him, which is usually what I do after I ask him to come to me from a few steps away.

I have even noticed other geldings who didn't do it before learn to do it by watching him. Other geldings who do not get much attention from their owners will stand on the other side of the fence while I am doing something with him, and seem to get a vicarious enjoyment out of my horse getting touched gently. I was thinking about this the other day.

 I think horses enjoy doing things with us next to them. I can sense a shift in his attention and attitude as soon as I send him away, it takes a few seconds to get it back, and I notice he will try harder to give me what he thinks I want him to do if he knows that I will release him as soon as he does it and let him come back.

 I just can't understand what people who chase their horse around a pen with a whip before they ride so the horse will be tired and "safer "for them to get on think they are accomplishing. I used to clean stalls at a dressage barn to support my horse, and I would see this all the time. Of course the horses were always looking out over the fence, going crooked. No one wanted my opinion. I was just the manual labor.

                                                Jeannie

Sam
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 Posted: Tue Mar 23rd, 2010 08:09 am
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Thank you Dorothy, that will be very helpful, will have a play.  Once I get a bit more time I will have a go at posting the photos.

Best Wishes

Sam

 

 

Jeannie
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 Posted: Fri Mar 26th, 2010 05:16 pm
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Hi Folks,
  Well, I had the image of those horses being run around the pen stuck in my head, so decided to think about what the people were really doing. They were trying to tire the horse's body out, thus hoping he would be safe to ride, rather than working with the whole horse. What Tom Dorrance and Dr Deb would call "surface workers". So in this case the pen was a piece of equipment just the same as a gimmick you would put on the horse was a piece of equipment to get the horse to comply without teaching him anything in a way he could understand.

          There was always lots of barn drama there, who got bucked off, dragged, kicked in the head. They would say, " oh but the horse didn't mean it", which I thought was hilarious, because who heard of a horse doing something it didn't mean?
                                  Jeannie


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