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What exercises on the ground for collection?
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Leah
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 Posted: Sat Apr 24th, 2010 11:19 am
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Dr Deb I just finished reading this thread from beginning to end. What an excellent discussion.

I actually have a question that goes back a bit in the discussion-regarding the photos you posted showing head twirling.

I can clearly see your left hand the lack of 'pressure' (beyond the 5oz you mention) or making the horse do anything.

My questions is concerning your right hand-is there a significance to your placement of this hand? Do you have the same amount of weight of pressure in this hand as well? Or is it less or more-if so, why.

Thanks!

Charlotte
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 Posted: Sat Apr 24th, 2010 09:51 pm
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Dorothy, like others, I'm very grateful to you for posting your pictures and for your contributions.

Dorothy wrote:

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.

Amen. I picked up a mainstream horse magazine today - a rare occurrence for me as they are generally useless - this was no exception. An article on lateral work contained such helpful statements as 'Work your horse on a square and ensure he is straight on all four sides' and 'Ride a few pirouette steps on the corner'. No doubt the author was paid a lot of money for that.

I am a person who finds understanding concepts, theories and ideas very easy, and putting these into practice much harder
Me too and I suspect that's the case for many of us, especially those who are still trying to disentangle ourselves from years of riding school 'shorten your reins' indoctrination while fending off the modern day horsemanship 'flatterers' who would lead us down many a wrong path. But we dust ourselves off and try again the next day.

I'm generally a reader rather than a talker on this forum but I'm moved to comment here as one of the reasons that this is the only horse forum I now read is that I could no longer bear to participate in forums in which members posted frankly ghastly pictures of their horses being ridden and sat back in expectation of congratulations. Which were of course, freely given. To be somewhere where the truth is spoken is an enormous relief, though it is undoubtedly painful to the recipients! So I am so grateful to Dr Deb, Pauline and others who give their advice freely but also to yourself and all the participants here who ask and post and discuss and publish their photos. And that even includes those who eventually flounce off in a huff :)




Jacquie
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 Posted: Sun Apr 25th, 2010 11:03 am
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I looked at my horse analytically last night and clearly my riding is not developing his top-line neck muscles in front of his withers very fast, as it is still underdeveloped and looks weak when he is resting/loafing and the neck is still markedly over strong in the lower regions. When he finds something interesting his neck improves immeasurably and looks completely different - and acceptably OK in my opinion. His back is definitely stronger than it was, with no pronounced dip now showing  in front of the hip and his hind legs are looking more muscled, so we must be doing some things less badly (note not claiming anything except ‘less badly’!)

He is a soft and responsive, light ride,  needing little rein and listens to the seat really pleasingly. He is half Irish Draught and is a bit downhill built and he does not find 'lightness' an easy thing  but I think he is showing signs that he does understand how to raise the base of his neck and arch his back in response to my presence and my asking. We have some lovely 'moments' these days which are lasting a little longer all the time.

I wonder why is his neck not showing a greater change though - is this just because he was very sleepy and relaxed and the muscles were slack? Alternatively, I suppose it could be that I am not doing it enough of the right kind of work to alter his muscles -  he is in the field carrying his head how he likes for 23 hours out of every 24 and I don’t always ride every single day – is it just that he is having too little time doing work under saddle or in hand? Or is it - as I supsect -  a clear sign that I am failing him with his training?

Last edited on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 11:13 am by Jacquie

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Tue Apr 27th, 2010 11:47 am
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Hello Jacquie

A couple of thoughts spring to mind in response to your post, but first I would like to clarify that we are not seeking to see a development or enlargement of any of the topline muscles in the neck.  I'm sure you meant to refer to the large muscles that lie along the middle, centre, of the neck.   These are the muscles that lengthen the neck, causing the head to be carried further away from the shoulder.   In some horses, frequently dressage horses, there will be a deep hollow in this area rather than a full look or even a soft bulge.

The amount of visible development of these muscles depends on the amount of effort the horse makes in raising his neck base - this in turn is governed by the conformation of the individual horse.  Horses who are built strongly downhill like my TB gelding, Rory, have to put a lot of effort into flexing their C7/T1 joints in order to raise the base of their necks - it's not easy for them to do this so the amount of effort is reflected in the size of the complexus muscle at rest - when Rory was in regular work I could cup the palm of my hand over his complexus muscles even though I never did ask him for a high degree of collection; he has not done much for the last couple of years so now his complexus is just a faint outline.  Other horses who have a close-to-level body balance do not need to make nearly so much effort when flexing the cervicothoracic joint - this also will be reflected in their muscle development, their necks will not be hollow but neither will they show a bulging complexus until regularly asked to maintain a higher degree of collection.

If your horse has only a slightly downhill build, it is possible that he has not yet been asked to maintain the significant effort that would be needed to raise his neck base higher than simple rounding, and for long enough to make a visible difference to his resting musculature.  It is also possible that he is not yet making the necessary effort at all - only you will know which applies to your horse.

An easy way to check is to glance down at your horse's neck when you are riding to look for the complex muscle pumping in and out with every stride - this is easier to see at trot but will be there at all paces if the horse is raising his neck base.  The 'pumping' results from a shunt opening when the neck base is raised that allows blood to rush into the complexus and then drain out again.  If you can see that your horse's neck gradually widens as it gets closer to the shoulder, and you can see that 'pumping' for most of your ride, then you will know your horse is making an effort to raise the base of his neck. 

If, instead, you see an hour-glass shape when looking down at your horse's neck, ie narrower in the middle than at either head or shoulder, then you will know your horse has not raised the base of his neck.  A common cause for this is that the horse is being asked to carry his head and neck higher than he has the strength for, which will then cause him to drop his neck base, twisting his spine and shifting his weight around despite his rider's best efforts to have him straight. 

A horse does not need daily riding to condition strength - 3 times per week is adequate if the time is used wisely.  Transitions within the pace and between paces create strength, not miles of circles or trail rides, it's not possible to do too many transitions. Cavaletti are another useful tool, as is hill work if done slowly.  Just as important are the releases and breaks in between each request for sustained effort - ask for the effort, 2 strides at most, then total release allowing the horse to stretch down.  Walk on a loose rein for a while, prepare, then ask again.  Amazing how quickly a horse can gain strength and change shape if his body is allowed to work as intended - very soon those 2 strides become 10, then 50 etc.

Hope this is of some help.

Best wishes - Pauline





Jacquie
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 Posted: Tue Apr 27th, 2010 01:48 pm
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Thank you Pauline - that was really helpful.

I think he is raising the base of his neck then for at least some of the time - from what you say - but not all of the time.  When his attention is caught by something, his head is lifted and his back is dropped and we lose it all. He is a very 'looky' horse and likes to keep his eyes on whatever he thinks is about -  he is not spooky at all - but is not very confident either and he definitely likes to be very aware of whats about. His eyes do not bulge outwards much and are rather small relative to his head and I don't think he can see as well behind him as some horses with larger, wider set eyes can, which may make him more inclined to be looking more obviously around.  I imagine that this could  be a contributing factor for the poor looking neck I can see when he is resting - really only at the base of his neck  just in front of the withers - as whenever I lose his attention I also lose his softness.

Last edited on Tue Apr 27th, 2010 02:03 pm by Jacquie

Jacquie
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 Posted: Tue Apr 27th, 2010 01:48 pm
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Sorry I posted same stuff twice by accident!

Last edited on Tue Apr 27th, 2010 02:00 pm by Jacquie

Dorothy
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 Posted: Tue Apr 27th, 2010 07:06 pm
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Hello Dr Deb and readers,

I am really excited by the early results I am getting with Mike Schaffer's exercises and concepts. I have done 3 sessions with Solo in the past week on the small patch of school we have at the yard. I have been experimenting with the exercises, especially the turn-in and move out on corners and circles, working almost entirely in walk. I find making a clear distinction between mechanical and cognitive aids extremely helpful.

Today I took Solo to a friend's normal sized school, and also worked in trot and canter. The feeling he gave me was very different. I do get the feeling that, though the exercises are very good, it is being very clear about using cognitive aids that has made the bigger difference for Solo and me at the moment. I am so pleased to have been introduced to this idea.

I really do recommend everyone read Mike's book.

Progess continues!

Dorothy

Jeannie
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 Posted: Thu Apr 29th, 2010 03:11 am
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Hello folks,
      I thought this photo was interesting for showing how horses use their necks at play with each other. They have one of those rubber mesh dog balls, and the Quarter horse has to get himself up higher off the ground to stay level with the B boy.
  Also, notice how they go into each others' pressure at play.
                                                   Jeannie

Attachment: B & D.JPG (Downloaded 788 times)

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Thu Apr 29th, 2010 12:31 pm
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Jeannie, that is just the best photo!  Not only does it show horses raising the base of their necks, especially clear on the QH, but it also shows the mind-set that goes with the posture.  I've been thinking about your last comments, Jacquie, about your horse being 'looky' and how that causes him to lose softness and willingness to be round, and was intending to write a bit more about how posture is a direct reflection of what the horse is thinking and feeling - and here is this perfect photo that's worth more than all the words I can find.

Observations of my own horses over the last couple of years has convinced me that every tiny change in body posture has a distinct meaning, it's a mirror of how the horse sees himself in relation to nearby horses, to us, to everything else within his field of vision.  I can only be certain of the meaning for a couple of body-shapes, wish I had a dictionary, but it's got me thinking about how important it is that the horse is in the right frame of mind for whatever posture we are wanting.  There's no doubt that a highly collected body-shape is a product of the horse feeling joyful, playful, or excited about meeting a new horse - it can also be a sign advertising higher status when two horses are greeting each other - but all are positive emotions free from anxiety, expressed when the horse is feeling safe and confident in his environment.  Therefore it follows that when we ask a horse to arrange his body into a collected posture, even just simple 'roundness' that flexes his C7/T1 joint just a little, he first needs to have the emotions that go with that posture.  Without that, the result is likely to be wooden, robotic - rather like someone trying to sing a happy song while they are feeling miserable, it will not be convincing or beautiful.

Like most of us, I think horses want to feel joyful, want to be free of anxiety, so given the right conditions will readily be so.  When the horse willingly gives us his 'birdie' it is because he wants to, makes him feel safe, contented, then he is free to express the innate joi de vivre that's inside him in the same way he can with his horse friends, his body then easily forming the contours that tell the world what he's feeling.  Dr Deb has been telling us forever that all horses need to feel 100% OK all the time.

My own horses have really spelled this out for me.  Rory, the older gelding is a placid fellow who is always at the bottom of the pecking order in any group of horses, he is very happy for someone else to make the decisions, even an incompetent human (me) will do, so keeping his attention has never been difficult.  The payoff for him is that he is universally liked by other horses, is inevitably selected as 'best friend' by the senior horse in most groups, and therefore is looked-after and protected.

My other two are at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Both are still entire and will not give me their trust without checking to see that I'm worthy.  It's part of a stallion's job description to want to be in charge, to make the decisions, be responsible for the safety of the herd and himself, although a strong-minded mare or gelding would take the same view.  Wanting them to relinquish that job and give it to me is an enormous ask.  Eventually I discovered they have a 'checklist' they use to see if it is safe to trust me on any given day, much the same as I might run through a mental checklist to make sure it is safe for me to ride, i.e. check the stitching on the girth and stirrup buckles, check the leather for cracks or wear, etc.    They do this in a way that is oh-so-subtle for me but blindingly obvious to them.  For example, when working with Sol, within the first 30 seconds, perhaps while picking up a brush to groom, he will touch my hand with a single whisker on his muzzle to see if I have noticed.  Gante's preferred test amongst several is to lower his head and touch my knee/leg with an eyelash.  I tell them that I have noticed by asking them to take a couple of steps back, very calmly and casually, not looking at them - conveying the message 'yes, I did notice even though I wasn't looking at you'.  They may or may not repeat the test one or many times depending on how they are feeling on the day, what has happened overnight that I know nothing of.  If I fail to 'notice' they will respond by not giving me their 'birdie', being distracted by anything and everything, giving me 6 steps of something when I have asked for one only.  Nothing is achieved.  In contrast, when they are convinced I have noticed everything, they are soft, oblivious of their surroundings or other horses, usually for as long as I want.   If they could verbalize, I think the logic would be something along the lines of 'If she hasn't noticed I've touched her when I'm standing right next to her, she won't notice the predator that might be behind that tree over there, I'll have to keep a look-out myself'. 

I've seen people riding stallions who keep their attention by constantly being 'at' them with a dig from a spur, flick of a whip and yank on a rein.  I see this as capturing or 'netting' a distressed birdie rather than receiving a relaxed birdie that is freely given - a world of difference.

Not sure this really conveys what I'm trying to say, but thought that maybe your horse, Jacquie, is just in need of some reassurance that it is safe for him to trust you so he will not need to be 'looky', then he will be able to round with a raised base of the neck for longer periods and thus gain more strength.

Pauline

Jeannie
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 Posted: Thu Apr 29th, 2010 07:18 pm
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Pauline, I think this must be where the saying, " a picture is worth a thousand words" comes from.
   If you look closely at B, you can see his birdie is split between the game and figuring out just what I'm up to over there.There's an interesting story to this game, which shows how horses are pretty resourceful. These two had pulled apart one of the balls with the handles on it, so I had to throw it out. Not ready to give up the fun, B started using a car tire that the property owner had left in the paddock. This worked fine unless the QH " won", leaving him holding the tire, which would promptly pull his head to the ground. B would pick it up, and they would start over. The body worker didn't think this was too good for his neck, so we took the tire away. Well, I was cleaning the stalls soon after that and looked over to see that B had picked up a sturdy stick about 2x2 inches and 20 inches long. They were playing the game with the stick, but B was openly cheating by offering the end with only a few inches sticking out of one side his mouth to the other horse, while the majority of the stick was safely sticking out the other side! They would get so caught up in this, that soon they would look like Harry working a horse from another horse. B would walk a small circle  while the QH trotted around him on the outside. I came up with the dog mesh ball after that.

    Pauline, Nuno Oliveira also talks about how any exercise has to be a pleasure for the horse, and I think that he must have meant that the pleasure will be reflected in the horse's body. Their postures can change in the blink of an eye, I think you could watch horses every day and always be learning something new.
 
Probably we miss more than we think we do. I was thinking about this the other day when I went out to bring them in from the pasture and the new horse decided to ignore the cue to come to me, and started running around instead. I started to follow him, just driving him a bit with my body when I got out of my own program enough to recognize what my horse was doing. He had been watching us, and the new horse had buzzed him in an attempt to get him to run with him. B stepped forward and just stood there, knowing the other horse would not break the thread and go off by himself. I had made one circle around him before I recognized that he had just turned himself into a pen for me. I acknowledged his help, and soon the new horse decided he would like to come over. But it would have been so easy to have missed that, and we think we're the smart ones! Another reason to teach your horse to stay in his room, a portable round pen. I sure wouldn't have thought of it.
                                                Jeannie

ivyschex
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 Posted: Sun May 9th, 2010 12:07 am
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Hi, all,

What a fun discussion!  At the risk of more critism, but in favor of providing insight, here are two pictures of some of the liberty play I have been doing with my horse. 

In this first one, I had been teaching Jackson to do a better, more collected rear.  I know that is front end is still all upside down, but bear with me for a moment.  I really like that his loin is coiling (it is, isn't it?) and that his is lowering his hindend.  That was my goal when doing this with him.  



In this next picture, I was working on training the balancer (or balance').  That is, hopping from one front leg to the other.  I think he is even better.  You can see he is using his stomach and loin muscles. 




Thanks,

Ivy

Jacquie
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 Posted: Sun May 16th, 2010 09:42 pm
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I am at last back in cyberspace land after our house move and losing all Internet access for a couple of weeks!

I have looked at my horses way of going and realised some more facts about him. There is some part of him which is 'holding back' when he is ridden - don't know how else to describe it - but he is not releasing sufficiently and letting himself travel truly forwards. He is very polite and reactive to the leg and not lazy at all, he listens to the seat very well indeed too and is not strong in his mouth, but he is definitely holding back and not 'releasing' somehow.

He holds part of his back in a tense way - the loin - and although he is very soft to flex to left and reasonably soft to the right in his neck and poll,  his back is sometimes still  tight behind the saddle. Furthermore, he curls up his neck if he gets a chance, especially if he is getting keen, tucking his chin in to his chest, going behind the bit and dropping his head down. I find it hard to get him to stretch his head and neck out and relax.  It is also hard to get him consistent with his head carriage - he is always dropping or raising his head or looking left or right and needing some small correction every 4 strides - especially when we are out on a hack when there are lots of stimuli's for him to worry about. I just keep patiently correcting him each time with no other reaction, but maybe this is not enough? In the past he has been inclined to become strong - he is a very powerfully built horse -(built like a war horse really!) so maybe I have used too much hand to restrain/control him and made him learn to withdraw from the bit pressure and curl his neck up whenever he feels keen? I wonder too, if I have 'over schooled' him - tried too hard with him in other words?

Any suggestions to help me to help him?

 


 

Last edited on Sun May 16th, 2010 09:43 pm by Jacquie

Jeannie
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 Posted: Tue May 18th, 2010 10:02 pm
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Hi Jacquie, it might be helpful to have someone take a few photos of you riding,so you could study them. That way you become more aware of what you are doing and how your horse is reacting in a given moment.

             Is he very soft and paying attention in your leading and groundwork, not weighing anything when you ask him to move? This seems to carry over to riding. Head twirling on the ground seems to carry over to riding as well, helping to keep the brace out.
                          Jeannie

Jacquie
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 Posted: Wed May 19th, 2010 09:33 am
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HI Jeannie

I think you are right - it would be helpful to see some pics of myself on him. This may be possible to do this weekend.

On the ground he is a mostly very attentive but occasionally tries to ignore me in favour of a mouthful of lush grass.  He knows just how strong he is and will often attempt to plunge his head towards a tasty piece of grass if he fancies it, but in the school he watches me like a hawk to know straight away what I want from him and he is very compliant to my requests. He can work nicely on lunge or two long lines or using reins in hand and is happy to shoulder in, half pass, rein back, pirouette an mount a pedestal, and he is very quickly and eagerly learning spanish walk. He moves over very easily for me in the stable and is polite to lead and good to box. He very much likes to learn, and is often an over achiever, frequently offering far more than was asked for. In the saddle this is the same, often over -reacting to the slightest change or corrections I try to make.  I am not sure how much weight to put on the 'rude grass snatch' attempts that he makes maybe I should put more emphasis in chastising him for these attempts.

 He is a big build but is incredibly sensitive and very intelligent - his learning speed is faster than all the other 7 or so horses I have trained. The 3 horses he lives with now are not as bright as he is to pick up a new idea. I think this makes him harder to train as he is  real tryer and gets so stressed if he does not 'get it' straight away and this brings on his snorts and ticks from his headshaking syndrome. He also gets stressed if he is pushed to work in a way that requires him to make an extra effort. In short, I am finding him a hard horse to train. Its definitely not all bad though - some aspects are really lovely about his work now but I really need him to uncurl and let his back go at the moment.

Jeannie
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 Posted: Thu May 20th, 2010 04:17 pm
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Hi Jacquie,
       In the post above Pauline talks about how horses express themselves through their bodies, and Dr Deb's mantra is to get them calm first. I think the key lies there.

   I was helping a friend with her horse that had taken over when she tried to lead him to a pasture down the road. We got him going pretty well, and as homework , I told her to find a spot in her barn and teach him to ground tie, and to make him feel good about it. Shortly after that I found the forum, and ordered the cd on mannering. When Dr Deb talked about teaching a horse to stay in his room, I thought, " so all roads lead to Damascus". I think Dr Deb is right, if you keep exploring this horsemanship thing, there is only one good way to go about it.

      So rather than thinking in terms of chastising your horse for grabbing grass, which makes it seem that he is doing something wrong, it would be better to think about keeping his attention with you all the time you are leading him, and therefore teaching him that all the time he is with you, you are directing him. The interesting thing about leading horses at liberty is that you become aware of how often their attention drifts, every few seconds really.When you have an actual physical rope, then it's easy to not pay attention ourselves. So there is no difference between leading a horse and asking him to stand still for as long as you need him to, in the first case you are directing him to move his feet, in the second, you are directing him to keep them still. That is how the horse will perceive it. This focus on their part , which will develop, will help them to calm themselves, and they will start to associate you with that calmness. You can have a horse which has gotten itself worked up, running around in a state, and you can walk in and have him come over, put his head down in front of you and relax, at first momentarily, then you build on it, and the horse will come to see you as a source of calmness.

 You will need to use a halter and lead rope to teach them to stay in their room initially, but that becomes superfluous after a time, because you are addressing the inside of the horse, not the outside.

  I think the smart ones can get themselves worked up when we work with them, because they see a pattern to what we are doing, and are all the time moving on to the next thing that they think we want, so we have to show them there is no rush, and have lots of release time in there.

The calmness will carry over to riding, and you can always have that in your toolbox where you can get off and help them with something out on the trail, whereas if you don't have it, you are in worse trouble if you get off. One person I know who has a very busy life and a caretaker for her horses was out on the trail when her horse became scared of the cows over the fence. After he started bucking, she got off, and he simply used that opportunity to get out of there. She was no help to him on the ground, he had to help himself. Course, what a bad horse, yadda yadda.

   Hope that helps, Jacquie.
                      Jeannie


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