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What exercises on the ground for collection?
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Dorothy
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 Posted: Sun Apr 18th, 2010 04:48 pm
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Thank you Kathy

Jacquie
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 Posted: Sun Apr 18th, 2010 05:29 pm
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Hello Dorothy

I ALWAYS have to stop myself from looking down when I am riding too - trying to bore a hole into the back of the horses brains I think! I also drop my hands too low pretty often too. There are SOOO many things to think about when you ride.

This picture shows me doing both no-nos on a gorgeous Andalucian stallion, but this lovely horse although not a saint, certainly is filling in for me at this point.

Attachment: me looking down while riding Embrujo.JPG (Downloaded 907 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Apr 18th, 2010 07:57 pm
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Dorothy -- I really am sorry that you were unable to get these photos taken sooner. I've already sent in the article to Equus Magazine dealing with ewe-necked horses, but wish I had been able to include yours as being a great example of what it is an example of (which I am going to explain below). Sorry for being so enthused over what most people would consider a 'conformation' flaw, but you must forgive me as I am a lifelong collector of such things.

Now, you like Stumpi in another thread accuse your horse of having a ewe neck, by which I am assuming you mean that his structure is the root-cause of his appearance. What I am first going to tell you is that real structural ewe neck is rather rare. 99% of all the apparent "ewe necks" that you will see are due to rider error, usually rider error that has gone on for years and years.

As with Stumpi's horse, I have extracted your photo Dorothy and run it up into Photoshop so as to be able to mark on it. From this I have produced two images so that we can first discuss the horse's bone structure and then discuss the wrong muscle development which is what actually gives your horse the appearance of being "ewe necked".

The photo attached to this transmission marks out the structure. You can see that there is quite a long distance from the base of your horse's throat -- where the windpipe emerges from his chest -- and the base of the breast. This proves that the animal is not structurally ewe-necked.

He is, however, rather "downhill" in build. This is why I asked you to supply a photo, if possible, of the animal in the first phase of canter. As opposed to third-phase canter, first-phase photos flatter -- because they catch the horse in the most "uphill" part of the gait, rather than in the most "downhill" part. I wanted to see whether, even when the camera catches your animal in the most flattering pose, he still MOVES "downhill". He is BUILT downhill about 7 degrees, which will certainly impose some training challenges (by no means insuperable).

Nonetheless I am actually rather glad to look at the third-phase photos, because this allows us to assess the functioning of the horse's back. In first-phase canter, the long dorsal muscle complex is working to the maximum, and therefore it is not fair to assess the degree of stiffness and strain that may be present in a given horse's back from such a photo. In third-phase canter, however, the long dorsal muscles are the most relaxed that they will be at any time during the canter, so that the photos you have provided give us very fair opportunity to assess.

On the "muscle" photo attached to the next transmission, you will see the big white arrow that points to the long, clearly-defined "dip" over your horse's lumbo-sacral joint. It is bounded by a sharply-peaked "peak of croup" (tuber sacrale), and anteriorly by a visible prominence of the fourth or fifth lumbar dorsal process. You will also note the "dip" in front of the horse's withers, which you have been (wrongly) attributing to structural ewe-neck. What all these things are actually signs of is stiffness and strain.

As a chiropractor, Dorothy, I know that you would be aware of pain or dysfunction or any chiropractically-addressable lesion in the horse's back or neck. However, this tells us nothing about the level of stiffness which would cause you to think that there was something that needed to be addressed. This is the same for inexperienced riders worldwide: they 'just assume' that "X" amount of stiffness is "normal" or "to be expected".

Not in my book. As an "inexperienced" rider is one who has never, by her own efforts, finished a horse, it is not to be expected that anyone who is still willing to submit to "schools" such as the one you depict should have a very high standard. Nonetheless, I will tell you Dorothy, that unless you raise your standards -- which means perfect your basics -- you will NEVER come to be able to finish a horse.

Which brings us back to what IS the deal with this animal, that I am claiming is not really ewe-necked. What gives him the ewe-necked appearance is the unbalanced maldevelopment of many of the muscles of the neck and back. I will mention more about this in the next post, which carries a second copy of the same photo, marked for this purpose. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Forum Dorothy Ewe Neck mark1 cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 906 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Apr 18th, 2010 08:31 pm
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OK, now let's discuss muscle development. I have marked this photo by tracing the outlines of several "key" muscles of the neck. You may rightly regard the development of these muscles as an exact meter of what the horse is actually experiencing when he is being ridden (as opposed to anything the rider THINKS she is doing or not doing. I believe the horse before I believe the rider).

The muscle marked in blue is the trapezius of the neck; that in pink, the rhomboideus of the neck; and that in green is the whole group of 'SEP' muscles that connect from the first and second neck bones forward onto the back of the skull.

All three of these muscle complexes are hypertrophied, overdeveloped. The trapezius pulls the shoulders up and forward into a "shrug", while it also reciprocally and powerfully pushes the base of the neck downward. The rhomboideus acts to hold the head up, and also, when contracted, blocks the base of the neck from rising. The SEP's cause the nose to lift up or push forward. They are large because you, Dorothy, are still riding with 'square' hands. You are trying to get the horse to perform, to do things. You have NOT, however, been spending any time on teaching him the small details (small details are the only things that matter) of HOW to do those things. You and your instructor try to fix problems at much too gross a level to be of any benefit to the horse, or to produce correct development in him.

The total picture from the muscles I've marked, plus the big visible dip over the lumbosacral area, tells me that he is not raising the base of the neck. All that is happening in the canter photos, that correspondents here have complimented you on because they too are unable to see it correctly, is that by holding onto the horse's head most of the time, with equal pressure in both hands, is that you manage to curl his neck up.

This type of horse I label a 'gravy boat': like a gravy boat, on one end it has a sharply-curved handle, while the rest of it presents a long, straight, stiff topline.

You may want to ask at this point why I did not color or mark the apparently bulging muscles that define the front aspect of your horse's neck. The reason is that these muscles (unlike trapezius, rhomboideus, and SEP's) are not hypertrophied. They are merely being warped into a bulging shape by the chain of neck bones pressing against them on the inside. The tightness in the trapezius and rhomboideus muscles, and their propensity to work way too strongly way too much of the time, is what creates the ugly forward bulge in the front of the neck, as well as the ugly dip in the topline of the neck.

So, Dorothy, here's the first day of the rest of your life. The first step I want you to take is to get rid of your present instructor, because the two of you are ruining this horse. You do not need any instructor, Dorothy; you need yourself.

Next, I want you to go buy Mike Schaffer's new book and do everything it says in there. Go to the thread in this Forum where Annie asks me to review the book, and I give a very frank review. Go ahead and read that. But then go buy the book and do everything it says to do in there. If you can possibly locate a copy (they are difficult to find), you should also get Nuno Oliveira's "Classical Principles of the Art of Training Horses." After reading and practicing what it says in Mike's book, you might be able to begin to "hear" Nuno, who is a world-master, and who tells you to do the exact same things.

I am not a master, but it will benefit you also to look in several of the recent threads to see photos I've posted of myself riding Oliver. They illustrate the giant hole that your horse is missing: BEND. You do not understand how untracking and bending are the basis for everything else, including the harmonious development of the physique. At all moments on horseback, because you BEND at all moments, the two hands of necessity have different feels and different jobs. Left and right, inside and outside, are NEVER alike. This is what it means not to ride with "square hands".

A six-weeks' course of just doing the first, most elementary things outlined in Mike's book -- learning how to CORRECTLY ride a circle and how to CORRECTLY pass through the corners of the arena -- will result in the dip in your horse's back disappearing. He will also stop cantering and trotting so very much "downhill", and the stiffness evident in the long dorsal muscles over the loins evident in your canter photos will disappear. When you look at the photos of Oliver, you see a horse untracking, and you see the untracking creating a deep and thoroughgoing bend -- so thoroughgoing that it not only affects the haunch and not only affects the neck, but it penetrates right to the crucial place, the ribcage under the rider.

You need to get to where you spend MOST of your arena time at a walk, consciously bending. You need to get the horse where it can fluidly change from left to right hind leg, which is to say from left to right bend, within one step. This will take some time, as you practice Mike's technique of "drifting" (leg-yielding) from one circle to the other (same technique you would know about if you had more familiarity with Buck Brannaman or a subscription to "The Eclectic Horseman"). Only when this is the case will the long dorsal muscles be able to release, 'breathe', and from that, develop and thicken.

You've heard all this before, Dorothy, but like so many other victims of the Pony Club, you have not properly understood the standards of practice. You have not committed to practicing the right things. Now's your chance; the first day of the rest of your life.

I'll want to see another conformation photo of this horse in about two months, if you can manage that -- it may stop raining, snowing, or precipitating volcanic ash in Britain at some point this summer -- and then you can have your friend out again and take the follow-up photos. Meanwhile, by all means if you have questions continue to write in here. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Forum Dorothy Ewe Neck mark2 cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 893 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Apr 18th, 2010 09:47 pm
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As an afterthought, the following pair of images may also be of some help. They compare my old High School horse, Painty, with your gray horse Dorothy. The comparison is helpful because the horses are in precisely the same phase of the canter, and even more so because Painty also stood about 7 degrees downhill by structure. The horses are on opposite leads; Dorothy's horse is on the left lead, whereas Painty is on the right lead (about to make a flying change to the left, so as to join the rest of this class in the clinic we were participating in, on the great circle to the left).

Specific points of comparison to observe:

1. The relationship of my reins to Painty's head and my hands; i.e. my reins are draping. 'Draping' reins develop because of, and as an exact reflection of, the effort the horse makes to arch its spine.

2. The carriage of Painty's neck -- the WHOLE neck -- including both the turnover area and the base. One long, smooth arch that continually (even in this most unflattering phase of the canter) tries to 'quest' upward and to make itself longer.

3. The carriage of Painty's head -- there is no sense (of course, because the reins are draping, which means the horse is fully 'on contact') of the head being pulled back.

4. The line formed by the back, especially where it turns over into the hindquarters. There are no lumps, tentlike flat areas, or signs of strain in Painty's lumbar area, visible behind the saddle pad. The peak of croup is not prominent.

5. The degree of engagement of the hindquarter -- for being in the same phase of canter, which horse's inside hind limb is farther forward? Which horse's loins are coiling more fully? The loins cannot coil if the long dorsal muscles of the back are stiff.

6. The depth (thickness) and effort being made by the abdominal muscles. Which horse is deeper from loin to groin? Do you see the line of effort, the visible effort, Painty is making with the abdominals?

7. For all that both horses are built 'downhill', which horse's body is angled more downhill -- taking more weight upon the forehand -- in 3rd phase canter?

Now, I have to run....got yard work to do today. But perhaps these images will be of some help. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Forum Dorothy vs Painty canter 3rd beat cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 879 times)

Helen
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 07:59 am
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These posts are fantastic, Dr Deb. I do have one question - what tells you that Dorothy's reins are not draping? Is it simply the fact that the horse's dorsal muscles are stiff? I understand that "draping" doesn't just mean "slightly loose", but I can't see the difference in these photos.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 08:53 am
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Helen, there's a difference between draping reins and slack reins.

Draping reins appear as if from out of nowhere as a side effect of the horse offering true collection. True collection means that he coils the loins, arches the freespan of the back, and raises the base of the neck. When he does these things, when he makes this INTERNAL effort, the distance between his mouth and the rider's hands becomes less and instantly the reins drape.

At the same moment -- and the more sophisticated and skillful the rider -- the rider herself also "yields to the horse's yield". This is not strictly necessary -- since the horse himself has already caused the reins to drape -- except unless you figure on riding your horse for a decade or so. In other words, I consider it vitally necessary for the long-term relationship and for the maintenance of the horse's contentment and motivation. You better believe that he notices this courtesy; he notices that the rider noticed that he made the effort to collect.

Because the reins drape as a result of the dynamic energy of the horse, when they drape the horse is more truly "on the bit", giving his rider a more accurate and intimate feel of all his thoughts and all his movements, than at any time when, by some effort of the rider, the reins are either tight or slack. Thus, when the reins drape, the rider never loses track of the horse's tongue, which is the physical meaning of "contact".

When however the rider merely pushes her hands forward because she knows she's having her photograph taken and she knows that Dr. Deb is a stickler for not hanging on the horse's mouth -- I say when she does this in the absence of the horse first properly collecting itself -- then we have reins that are merely slack. When the reins are slack, the rider has no idea what is going on with either the horse's tongue or its hind feet, because the dynamic connection -- the contact -- has been lost. I have already noted, and you have understood this Helen very well, that when the horse's back and loins are stiff, there is no possibility of him offering or being "in" true collection.

What Dorothy has learned to do is merely pull the horse's head back -- tactfully, I am sure -- until the horse habitually goes behind the bit; which is what each and every picture of them in movement shows. Dorothy is trying to get the horse to PERFORM. She has not previously been helped to an understanding of how to teach the horse to carry itself. When the horse carries itself, there will then be no question of whether it will perform. In fact, every beautiful thing on horseback that she has ever dreamed of will then come true.

In a couple of places in his new book, Mike Schaffer talks about the difference between 'mechanical' and 'cognitive' responses from the horse, and 'mechanical' demands that are made by the rider and mandated by the FEI handbook. They are all going about it backwards, and it is Mike who is correct, who tells you in his own way, and very clearly, what I have also been telling you for years. So go read Mike's book; it is good to hear it said in a little bit different way, by a teacher you have not heard from so much. -- Dr. Deb

Dorothy
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 Posted: Mon Apr 19th, 2010 05:02 pm
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Hello Dr Deb and readers,

Thank you for your insightful comments. I already had it in mind to buy Mike's book, so I will do it sooner rather than later. I am very aware of Solo's physical issues and previous back problems, so I welcome your suggestions, so that I can help him.

I come from a background of the 'hold the horse on a contact' culture, which I have been unhappy with for a long time as I realise that it does not work, but I have been at sea as to what else to do. Last year I had a real culture shock when I stumbled across a Frenchman who teaches the principles of Baucher, and I realised that this was what I had been looking for. Intellectually, I have an understanding of this work, however I am fumbling to put it into practice with no guidance apart from a book and some DVDs. So you are absolutely right in your analysis of this, however, I am not pushing my hands forwards because I am being photographed for you, I am pushing my hands forwards in my (crude) efforts to 'not pull back'. I know that Solo is already appreciative of these efforts.

Having read many of the threads on this forum, I have read what you write about not having a square feel, and I am playing with how to achieve this. Again, I think that I have a mental understanding, but will look forward to getting more instruction from Mike's book.

My second culture shock has been to glimpse the depth of subtlety of this work and how far I have to go.

Dorothy

Seglawy Jedran
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 Posted: Tue Apr 20th, 2010 03:56 am
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I've wndered for sometime now about the famous picture of Geirenier(SP) teaching a student shoulder in. The one in which the horse has his face turned and is smiling at the person looking at the picture- meaning you, the audience. The rider has his inside hand elevated, and the horse is stepping very under his navel. Also the horse is flexing at the poll quite a bit as well... That seems to me to offer visual proof that one of the most revered of the   ," old masters," knew about, practiced and taught his students not to ride with a square feel- or dead level hands if you will.
Also as per your reccomendations i've been studying Mari Zdunics books. She of course teaches the same thing- not to present a square feel. She also of course realizes that the ,'show world,' calls for a square feel... As i undertand her she says you can just fake it easily enough by developing your own feel   in your hands to the degree that you never have the same pressure in them..
Also a history question, again referring to  the Guerinier(SP) engraving. The horse looks like an Iberian bred, but has teeny little ears. Was it in fashion so to speak in those days to physically amputate a horses ears like people do nowadays with puppys tails?
Also it appears in that engraving that Guerinier is having his student twirl the horses head...
Best Wishes
Bruce Peek

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Apr 20th, 2010 07:11 am
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Yes, Bruce. You might find all of this a lot easier if you would purchase the 2005 "Inner Horseman" back issue disk, where I go into all of this. Or if you do already have it, then please go get it and read it again. I'm glad you're looking at La Gueriniere; he is considered the basis for all modern riding. You can purchase his books in facsimile in English translation, as well. Go to Amazon.com or the like and look it up. -- Dr. Deb

Blueskidoo
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 Posted: Tue Apr 20th, 2010 02:57 pm
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You can also get the Captain William Frazer translation of DLG free on Google Books.

I am including the link for convenience, I hope that is ok.

  http://books.google.com/books?id=qusIAAAAQAAJ&dq=william%20frazer%20horsemanship&pg=PP5#v=onepage&q=william%20frazer%20horsemanship&f=false

Dorothy
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 Posted: Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 11:36 am
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Hello Dr Deb and readers,

Dr Deb, I would like to thank you for pushing me in the direction of Mike Schaffer's book. I would recommend everyone to read it, there is a huge amount to like in it. Most of his ideas and exercises are familiar to me from other sources, but they are put in a refreshingly straightforward way, and add to my existing knowledge and 'toolkit' in an extremely helpful way.

Three aspects stand out in particular for me. Firstly, he should be congratulated on recognising and stating that most horse training books and instruction concentrates on the 'What' of training - ie the ideal end product, such as the shoulder-in, or halt, but, in order to actually train a horse, you need to know the 'How', ie the small, bottom-up bite-sized chunks that a horse can actually assimilate. This is a concept very familiar to me from my training as a riding instructor with a lady who is at the forefront of ideas on rider biomechanics, and has done alot of work and research on the psychology of how people learn.

Secondly, I really like his breakdown of the aids into mechanical, cognitive and connected, this makes a tremendous amount of sense, and clarifies the process of teaching the horse the aids for me.

Thirdly, I appreciate his clearly stating that you are not expecting the horse to be able to perform a movement or exercise perfectly the first time, you must accept and reward the slightest approximation, and gradually work closer and closer to the ideal. This really gives me permission to take my time, and not demand too much, too soon.

Unfortunately, Dr Deb, the rest of your comments left me feeling discouraged and demoralised. Were I a horse, and received this response from you for my try, I would be very disinclined to try again. I am sure you would not treat a horse like this.

I am a person who finds understanding concepts, theories and ideas very easy, and putting these into practice much harder, especially if I am working from a source that cannot provide feedback (ie books and DVDs). I appreciate that my horse provides feedback, and so it was particularly upsetting to get your comments that undermined the feedback that my horse has been giving me for the past few months. I know that I am not such an ignorant rider that I cannot recognise the changes in him, and that they are good and going in the right direction.

I started on this journey from being a mechanical rider a year ago, when I had a 'Road to Damascus' moment whilst riding at a clinic with a well known German Veterinarian, whose name shall not be mentioned. My take home message from this was that there should never be backward traction in the reins. Beyond this, he was unable to teach what to do instead. Shortly after, I discovered the DVDs and book of the Frenchman (whose name has been mentioned on this site), whose work gave me the confidence to experiment, and inspired me that I could learn how to ride and train my horse - as opposed to a beautifully conformed and bred 'dressage' horse. This was so exciting for me, as no-one else had ever been positive about training every horse, however ordinary. Later in the year, I rediscovered your website, Dr Deb, and have been further inspired and handed more tools, and for this I thank you.

I have been playing with Mike's exercises for the past few days, and I can report that my horse and I are working mostly with cognitive aids, but that we have not got connected aids yet. The photo of you and Painty shows a finished horse working beautifully with connected aids. The photos of Solo and me show a horse and rider feeling their way into the cognitive, but very much work in progress at an early stage. Mike's words and exercises have been affirmative for me that we are already on the right track. In his words, we are gradually getting our approximations of 'right' closer to the ideal, though I am under no illusion about how much we have to do.

Dorothy

 

Annie F
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 Posted: Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 02:43 pm
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Hi Dorothy,  

Bravo! to you for posting your photos—the discussion that ensued has been quite valuable. My suggestion is to not waste time feeling demoralized--there are probably others reading this forum who will recognize the problems and issues Dr. Deb points out, and they DO need to be shaken up.

And so good to learn more about where you are on your journey—it’s very heartening and encouraging! I’ve been influenced by the same people and books you mention. I have also been working with Mike (and my “ordinary horse”) for two years now, and am only beginning to get moments of “connected” riding—and I mean moments. A few steps, part of a circle, perhaps one 10-meter circle, then we fall apart. For the past 6 months  outside of the lessons I have just ridden strictly cognitively, because every time I tried for connected riding (“big R riding” as Mike calls it) I would get mechanical or pull back. And even in the moments when we’re doing well it’s clear from my mare’s posture and neck muscling that she’s been ridden wrong for some time. If anyone other than Mike watched me or saw a few photos they would think we were a mess!  

At least the others on this forum “get it;” neither you nor I would get a damn bit of support or understanding (let alone useful info) on most regular riding or dressage forums. 

Very best and keep up with your informative posts, 

Annie F

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 Posted: Fri Apr 23rd, 2010 08:23 pm
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Hello Dorothy,
 I concur with Annie, you should not be discouraged by Dr Deb's analysis of your photos. I think one has to be a bit brave to post photos of yourself working with or riding your horse on the internet, but it can be a learning experience for lots of people.

 I thought Dr Deb and Harry meant you were supposed to go home and learn from the horses, and I was always beating myself up when things didn't go so well, but then I'd think about what I could have done differently, and learning does seem to go in plateaus, as discussed in the George Leonard book.

   So here's cheering you on, and looking forward to the next photos.

                                            Jeannie

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sat Apr 24th, 2010 12:49 am
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Hello Dorothy & Everyone

If I hunt back through my old photo box I know there will be photos of myself and my horse that are very similar to yours, Dorothy.  My background is also similar; growing up within a handful of miles to the BHS centre in Stoneleigh, I knew nothing else.  The journey since then has been long and at times painfully frustrating (I'm sure my horses would say 'Amen! to that') as I was led down yet another dead-end by yet another 'teacher'.  Eventually I gave up expecting to find practical help, instead started to learn how horses move, how they function beneath the skin and how that is reflected in what can be seen and felt on the outside, so I would have some way of assessing whether we were progressing or going backwards.  All this was long before I even heard of Dr Deb and long before the overload of information now available on dvd and internet - sometimes helpful, often confusing due to the sheer number of 'experts' with opposing opinions.

For me, the way through this minefield has been to understand structure and movement - that has given me a baseline against which to judge what any rider, clinician or 'expert' might be advocating.  Once that baseline understanding is secure, the horse himself is the only judge or teacher we really need.

If it is of any help, here is an old thread where we discussed in detail how to recognize when a horse is raising the base of his neck, how to see when he is straight.

http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/forum1/116-1.html

(I tried to use the google advanced search to find this thread but it just kept telling me that no links were found - anyone know what I might be doing wrong?)

I have the dvds of the German and French gentlemen referred to in this current discussion, I believe both to be sincere and completely genuine in their efforts to correct some global 'wrongs', within the limitations of their own understanding.  It's an interesting exercise to look closely at those dvds in the earlier parts where there is discussion and diagrams/graphics of muscles, ligaments and bones, and to ask ourselves - is there any mention at all of the muscles that flex and lift the base of the neck?  In later segments where 'good examples' are shown, is there any evidence those horses are raising the base of their necks?  Therefore, are those horses collected in the true sense of the word?

Compare those images with the recent photos of Dr Deb riding Oliver and Painty.  Dr Deb is not asking either horse for a high degree of collection, she is asking for a degree of collection that each horse can comfortably maintain; neither horse has needed to drop his neck base due to fatigue because neither horse is being asked to do something beyond his conditioned strength.

Don't be discouraged, Dorothy - you are aiming for the right things even though the road can be a bit bumpy now and then.

Best wishes - Pauline










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