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The aids for untracking/lateral work
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A.S.
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 Posted: Fri Nov 12th, 2010 10:46 pm
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Hi all,

Just a very brief bit of background, the horse I work with is a 20 year old TB gelding, possibly raced at the beginning of his life, and did a bit of everything - dressage, jumping, possibly even some stock work. Currently he is owned by a young girl in year 11, and I am riding him for her as well as helping her to ride him better. When I started riding him, he was quite stiff and had a hard time bending, particularly to the left, preferring to fall in and lean instead (clearly, 20 years of ordinary riding has been wasted time in terms of helping him balance under a rider!).

I've been working quite a bit on untracking, and asking him to put more weight on his outside legs to go around corners at the walk, which has been helping him quite a bit. However, I keep catching myself moving my inside leg back - obviously, I want to be sure that my aid is clear in that I don't want him to move his whole body sideways in a leg yield, I just want him to step under with that inside hind. Of course, over a decade of typical riding lessons has taught me that on a turn, my inside leg should be on the girth and my outside leg behind the girth to help him bend through his whole body.

So, my question is, am I wrong in moving my inside leg behind the girth for untracking? Or am I wrong in trying to go around corners with the outside leg behind the girth? Is there a difference in my untracking aids whether I'm on a circle or on the straight?

On a more general note, I'd love to get some guidelines on what the aids should be, in order to communicate to him most clearly what I'd like - untracking/shoulder in/leg yielding/half pass or travers. Obviously, he's nowhere near ready for half pass and I'm only asking for soft, unbraced shoulder fore at the moment, but if I know what the goal is, in the future if I do ask for it he won't be confused by my potentially overlapping aids asking for other things right now!

I'd also like to know where body weight comes into this - so many different people say different things. I can see merit in shifting my body weight in the direction of the movement, to encourage him to step under me and be more clear which way I want him to go; a bit less so in having weight opposite to the movement (claimed to allow him to lift the legs in the right direction - but then wouldn't the legs which are untracking/pushing off be stifled?). Of course, I also see the merit in sitting still and not shifting weight at all, so that you are always simply moving with him, although it makes me wonder if even a tiniest shift in body weight will help to differentiate between requests of different movements.

Whew, that was longer to type out than it was in my head! Thanks in advance to anyone who could help me.

Alisa

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Nov 12th, 2010 11:13 pm
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Dear A.S.: Welcome to the Forum. I'm hoping that this will be of some help to you.

Too bad you seem to have missed my last tour through Australia; the theme for the lecture/concept portion of our horsemanship clinics in both Oz and NZ last April was "understanding lateral work", covering all three 'families' or possible types of lateral work (Class I = leg yields, Class II = shoulders-in, Class III = traversing movements).

It will be helpful to me if, when you reply to this, you tell me what YOU think the differences are between these three types of lateral movement. I will then be able to see where you are at, conceptually, and be able to clarify if needed. It may be true that the TB you're currently riding is not ready for anything more demanding of his energy, coordination, and suppleness than leg-yields and the transition from leg-yield to shoulder-in, but nonetheless, it will help quite a bit if you will be willing and able to tell me what you think that all-important transition consists of, and what you think the most appropriate exercises would be in clarifying this to the horse.

As to the position of your legs: it is probably not advisable to move your inside leg back very far if what you want the animal to do is leg-yield. If you position your inside leg back more than a couple of inches behind the girth, the animal is going to think you want him to traverse. We had another correspondent here recently who was also confused about this; she had actually attended one of my clinics, and let me tell you, it's hell to pay for me when I find a student has misunderstood something so fundamental, and something I repeat and demonstrate so many times, and yet they have still managed to mis-hear. It's hell to pay FOR ME -- because it just tells me that I as the teacher am not getting through. Part of the reason for that, though perhaps not the whole reason, is that people tend to only hear what they came in expecting to hear.

This is why I want YOU to tell me what you think the difference is between a traverse/half-pass and a leg-yield. Precisely:

1. Assuming that you are on the left hand, which bend should the horse be in if you want a leg-yield? Which side of him will be concave, and which convex? Is this bend to be maintained throughout the movement?

2. Assuming you want left-to-right leg yield, in which direction will the horse be moving once he initiates lateral movement? Would it be (a) straight sideways (b) obliquely forward from left to right (c) straight forward but with a bend.

3. In a leg-yield, which hind leg crosses in front? Is it (a) the inside hind leg crossing in front of the outside hind leg, or (b) the outside hind leg crossing in front of the inside hind leg?

4. How is untracking similar to or different from a leg-yield, especially in terms of the adduction of the inside hind leg?

5. What is the name of the smallest-diameter member of the leg-yield 'family'?

6. What do you think is the most useful exercise to transition or 'move a horse along' from knowing how/being able to leg yield, to knowing how/being able to perform shoulder-in?

7. Is it clear to you, now that you have thought through the answers to these questions, WHY I have said above that 'it is inadvisable to move your inside leg very far back'?

Once we get through this initial set of questions, we can then go on to discuss other aspects, including how the rider's weight is to be used and why. My belief from your initial post is that you are somewhat unclear not only on the above points, but that it has not dawned on you yet how very little in the way of aids that it takes to obtain leg-yielding, which every normal horse in the universe does from the first day of its life onward.

Let me close by suggesting also that you obtain either a paper or an online subscription to "The Eclectic Horseman" magazine, where in my current series I have been discussing aspects of this very question. They will gladly start your subscription with the no. 1 installment of this series, which deals with "twirling the head", and goes on immediately in nos. 2 and 3 to talk about untracking and leg-yielding. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

A.S.
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 Posted: Sat Nov 13th, 2010 12:28 am
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DrDeb wrote:
Dear A.S.: Welcome to the Forum. I'm hoping that this will be of some help to you.

Too bad you seem to have missed my last tour through Australia; the theme for the lecture/concept portion of our horsemanship clinics in both Oz and NZ last April was "understanding lateral work", covering all three 'families' or possible types of lateral work (Class I = leg yields, Class II = shoulders-in, Class III = traversing movements).

It is indeed frustrating to me - I have been in Canberra all year, but with no money to pay for regular lessons I wasn't thinking at all about looking online to improve my riding, sad to say. I only got the opportunity to ride this horse for free in July/August (which I'm very grateful for).

It will be helpful to me if, when you reply to this, you tell me what YOU think the differences are between these three types of lateral movement. I will then be able to see where you are at, conceptually, and be able to clarify if needed. It may be true that the TB you're currently riding is not ready for anything more demanding of his energy, coordination, and suppleness than leg-yields and the transition from leg-yield to shoulder-in, but nonetheless, it will help quite a bit if you will be willing and able to tell me what you think that all-important transition consists of, and what you think the most appropriate exercises would be in clarifying this to the horse.
Here is my understanding:
1. A leg yield involves the horse carrying his body mostly straight. There is some (very little) bend, just enough to be able to see his eye as he turns his head, AWAY from the direction of the movement. So, if leg-yielding left, his head will be facing slightly to the right, and moving away from my right leg. The cross over of his legs is not strong - in my head, when leg yielding he places the legs on the inside of the bend (furthest from movement direction) under his midline, and puts weight on them in order to be able to step wide with the outside legs.

2. A shoulder-in involves the horse being bent evenly throughout his body and neck, moving in the direction of his outside shoulder (away from the bend). The cross-over of his legs is moderate - although when on a straight line the hind legs are travelling straight ahead, because of the bend the inside hind ends up stepping under the body shadow. He places the inside legs under the body, weights them and pushes off from them in order to move the outside legs forward. Because he is bent away from the movement, this is closer to leg-yielding than traversing.

3. Half-pass/travers/renvers are all the same movement, the only difference is how you're moving in relation to the arena walls. The horse has an even bend in his body, just like shoulder in, but this time he travels in the SAME direction as the bend. This is the hardest movement, because in order for him to lift his legs in the same direction as the bend he needs to have raised the base of his neck? (The exact mechanics of half-pass I'm obviously unclear about, I need to go back and re-read that thread where you were explaining this in the depths of the forum). In this case, the legs on the outside of the bend are crossing over most strongly, and take on the weight in order for the inside legs to be placed wide.

As to the position of your legs: it is probably not advisable to move your inside leg back very far if what you want the animal to do is leg-yield. If you position your inside leg back more than a couple of inches behind the girth, the animal is going to think you want him to traverse. We had another correspondent here recently who was also confused about this; she had actually attended one of my clinics, and let me tell you, it's hell to pay for me when I find a student has misunderstood something so fundamental, and something I repeat and demonstrate so many times, and yet they have still managed to mis-hear. It's hell to pay FOR ME -- because it just tells me that I as the teacher am not getting through. Part of the reason for that, though perhaps not the whole reason, is that people tend to only hear what they came in expecting to hear.

This is why I want YOU to tell me what you think the difference is between a traverse/half-pass and a leg-yield. Precisely:

1. Assuming that you are on the left hand, which bend should the horse be in if you want a leg-yield? Which side of him will be concave, and which convex? Is this bend to be maintained throughout the movement?
I'm a bit unsure what you mean by 'on the left hand'. Let me say that I am travelling on the left rein, I turn down the three-quarter line and I want to leg yield out to the arena wall on my right, so I will then continue travelling on the same left rein (is that the same thing?). In this case, his left side needs to be slightly concave, his right convex. The bend is not maintained throughout the movement - I am thinking that the bend is there to help him step under with the inside hind, and then when he needs to step out with the outside legs he needs to be straight.

2. Assuming you want left-to-right leg yield, in which direction will the horse be moving once he initiates lateral movement? Would it be (a) straight sideways (b) obliquely forward from left to right (c) straight forward but with a bend.It would be (b), obliquely forward.

3. In a leg-yield, which hind leg crosses in front? Is it (a) the inside hind leg crossing in front of the outside hind leg, or (b) the outside hind leg crossing in front of the inside hind leg? It would be (a), the hind leg on the inside of the bend is the one that crosses over.
EDIT: That is to say, that is the hind leg that crosses towards the midline - I must say I think this was a trick question! My initial thought was that "in leg yield there is no crossover", but after reading down to this question I erased that sentence from my description of leg yield above. But, the more I think about it, the more I think I should revert to there being no cross over in the legs, because that would impede the forward movement.

4. How is untracking similar to or different from a leg-yield, especially in terms of the adduction of the inside hind leg?Untracking is similar because the inside hind steps under the body shadow in a similar way, however 1) in untracking, the inside hind only comes in towards the midline, while in leg yield it crosses in front of the other leg, and 2)leg yielding continues with an oblique movement of the whole body, while in untracking we essentially only want the hind quarters to do a small leg yield while the shoulders continue moving straight ahead.

5. What is the name of the smallest-diameter member of the leg-yield 'family'?I am just trying to think, because most of my riding education here in Australia did not do any small turns at all. Pirouettes that I've seen are definitely in the half pass family, while the half-pirouettes in walk I was told to do during a few lessons in Russia felt more like leg yielding (although that seems to me to be incorrect instruction, am I right? Half-pirouettes should be just like full ones...) Then, logically, a turn on the haunches should be a leg yield with the smallest diameter on the hind legs, and a turn on the forehand should be a leg yield with the smallest diameter under the poll.

6. What do you think is the most useful exercise to transition or 'move a horse along' from knowing how/being able to leg yield, to knowing how/being able to perform shoulder-in?It seems to me that the half-way point between leg yield and shoulder in would be to leg yield at an angle to the wall. This way, instead of the horses's body being parallel to the wall, instead the direction of movement is parallel. This would be a natural precursor to shoulder in - all you would have to do is ask him to bend more and put more weight on his inside legs to carry that bend.

7. Is it clear to you, now that you have thought through the answers to these questions, WHY I have said above that 'it is inadvisable to move your inside leg very far back'?It makes sense that if I move my leg too far back, he won't just untrack, but he will also bend his hindquarters away from the pressure - so he will bend his body away, in the direction of movement, and my inside leg now becomes my outside for the new bend direction. Of course, if I don't catch this and am still asking him to bend in the original way, he may spin, or brace, or in some other way become confused as to what I'm trying to ask.
Perhaps I should have asked instead - does my inside leg have to be behind the girth to untrack, or can it be on the girth in order to be as slight as possible? And what effect, if any, will the position of my outside leg have if it is just there and not actively touching him?

Once we get through this initial set of questions, we can then go on to discuss other aspects, including how the rider's weight is to be used and why. My belief from your initial post is that you are somewhat unclear not only on the above points, but that it has not dawned on you yet how very little in the way of aids that it takes to obtain leg-yielding, which every normal horse in the universe does from the first day of its life onward.

Let me close by suggesting also that you obtain either a paper or an online subscription to "The Eclectic Horseman" magazine, where in my current series I have been discussing aspects of this very question. They will gladly start your subscription with the no. 1 installment of this series, which deals with "twirling the head", and goes on immediately in nos. 2 and 3 to talk about untracking and leg-yielding. -- Dr. Deb
Thank you for your lengthy reply, I really appreciate you taking the time to help with this! I will certainly look into the subscription.

Last edited on Sat Nov 13th, 2010 01:17 am by A.S.

Helen
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 Posted: Sat Nov 13th, 2010 08:01 am
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This thread is fantastic, thanks AS & DD. I've worked with leg yielding quite a lot and attempted shoulder in occasionally, but always been confused about where the borders lie between them and also the distinction between them and other lateral movements. So clearly put! Thank you.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Nov 13th, 2010 09:41 pm
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Helen, I'm afraid you've jumped the gun a bit with  your reply. Just because the questions were asked, and answered, does not mean they were answered correctly. The reason I start certain discussions this way is so that I can get a feel for how mixed up the questioner actually is.

So, A.S., you have some things right. A lot of what you're saying is word-for-word repetition of my own words, which you have learned or imported from other threads -- just as you mention. This is fine; sometimes repeating what the teacher said can help you get clarified. In other cases, though, you have it bassackwards.

To begin with, "to go on the left hand" means to be on the arena track, or else on a circle, which puts your left hand toward the center of the arena or the circle. "To go on the left hand" = to go on the left rein = to go to the left of the arena = to go anticlockwise.

Movements of the Leg Yield Family have the following characteristics:

*There is a small to moderate bend, which is to be maintained so long as the horse continues to leg yield.

*By convention, the concave side of the horse is the "inside" and the convex side the "outside", no matter what position rider and horse may occupy within the arena.

*The horse moves from the rider's inside leg obliquely forward, so that if you are going on the left hand, the sense of the movement would be obliquely from left to right.

*None of the horse's legs are to cross at any time during a leg-yield. This was not intended to be a trick question. The adducting leg can come as far as the midline. If it goes any farther, you will tangle his legs up, which can be done if what you intended was to lay him over rather than leg-yield. In a leg-yield, adduction and abduction rhythmically alternates from the front to the hind pair of legs, which, depending upon the angle you view the horse from, may make it look like legs are crossing; but no adducting leg should ever cross the midline.

The leg yield is developed from circles and corners correctly ridden. And for any circular figure to be correctly ridden, indeed for the horse to bend at all, he must weight the OUTSIDE pair of legs. Your confusion about this is the root reason why you ask about how the rider is to use her own weight.

I usually explain this to students in terms of pitching and catching. When the horse is moving obliquely forward from left to right, it is true that the thrust for this comes primarily from the inside hind leg, secondarily from the inside fore leg. The leg is adducted toward the midline, so that it steps under the body shadow. When it touches down, it is 'weighted' in the sense that the animal uses the muscles of his haunch and legs to PUSH THE HOOF DOWN against the ground. Frictional contact of the hoof with the ground, plus the continuing effort of the muscles, creates thrust.

The inside or thrusting legs cause the body to move obliquely forward, from left to right when on the left hand, because they push down but there is also an abducting effort. This is precisely similar to the Venetian gondolier who poles his boat. If he wants the boat to go obliquely forward from left to right, the gondolier pushes his pole down into the mud, then uses his muscles to make the pole go backwards and to the left. It is very simply the principle of "equal and opposite reaction".

Where you are making your mistake is to confuse this -- which is 'pitching' or thrusting -- with 'catching', which is what I term 'weighting'. For when the horse pitches or thrusts his body forward-and-right, it is the OUTSIDE pair of legs that catch or receive the weight. These are, therefore, properly termed the 'weighted' legs.

Thrust from behind and to the left causes weight to flow from the left side of the horse's body forward and to the right side. Additionally, the horse is bent, which means his belly and chest, which are quite heavy, are displaced to the right -- toward the convex side -- the OUTSIDE.

Notice that it is the horse's body that is doing all of this. Even a 600-pound pony outweighs you by hundreds of pounds, and a full sized horse by upwards of a thousand pounds. You could no more lift or drag this much weight than fly, and you are no more to the animal than a fly on a fence rail, unless you up and start wiggling or jerking around up there -- and then you make yourself into an interference and a hindrance. ALL you have to do is JUST SIT -- sit quietly, sit in rhythm, sit with a nice elasticity, but sit all the time right over the middle of the spine as it curves beneath you. You just fix it up so he knows what you want him to do, and then you go along for the ride.

Now, once the weight has been pitched to the outside and received there, the outside legs are going to touch down, and while they are in contact with the ground, that is the time when the thrusting inside legs become completely unweighted and can be picked up and once again adducted. The inside pair of legs 'steps under', then the outside pair of legs 'steps out'.

The most physically difficult part of leg-yielding is the stepping-out of the outside forelimb. The reason for this is that the abductor muscles of the forelimb in the horse are small, weak, and are not advantageously located to create leverage. So the anatomy is a good reason not to use heavy aids -- you do not need to shove -- if you do shove, you'll shove him so far to the outside that you'll make it impossible for him to get the outside limbs picked up, and that's when any lateral movement will get 'crabby' -- the more the rider shoves, the crabbier it will get. But of course, you would not shove your good friend if you were dancing with him either, would you? No, of course not; you would trust that a touch would be enough to indicate to him what you want HIM TO DO, and you're not going to step in there and, by some kind of pushing and shoving, TRY TO DO HIS JOB FOR HIM. Touch him -- and then let the horse carry you!

The smallest-diameter manifestation of the leg-yield family is the turn on the forehand. In it, the inside hind leg adducts largely, while the inside foreleg adducts minimally. In the classical era of European horsemanship, the turn on the forehand was also called 'going large behind'.

The 'formal' turn on the forehand is pictured in but one modern book that I know of, other than Mike Schaffer's, and that is Bengt Ljundquist's 'Manual of Dressage'. Considering how crucial this movement is, it is amazing to me that it is not emphasized in the dressage literature more. Nuno Oliveira also understood perfectly where the stepping-under of the inside hind leg fits in, but he (quite rightly) objects to long-line leg-yields; I will explain this further below.

Where it IS appropriately emphasized is in the pages of the 'Eclectic Horseman' magazine, where we see the 'loose' form of the turn on the forehand continually used and taught. And you will also see it on any DVD or videotape featuring Ray Hunt or Buck Brannaman. And again you will see it in Mike Schaffer's books and DVD clips. The 'loose' turn on the forehand differs from the 'formal' version only in that the horse is permitted to adduct enough in front that, instead of circling over a single point located beneath the animal's breast, the horse's body drifts somewhat, so that while the hindquarters still go larger than the forequarters, the forequarters describe a circle of more than a meter's diameter.

This leads directly to the correct answer to another question, which is that the exercise most useful in helping a horse to transition from knowing how/being able to perform leg yields to knowing how/being able to perform shoulder-in is the one known as 'expanding the circle'. To expand the circle, you first set the horse up on a circle of the smallest diameter he can comfortably make at whatever gait, i.e. perhaps 8 meters at a walk, perhaps 15 meters at a trot. You go around this circle twice, being careful to ride with precision; and when you get to 'noon' the second time, you then touch the horse with your inside leg in time with the swing of his inside hind leg, and you direct your eyes out over his OUTSIDE ear, and he will then, while maintaining the exact-same bend he had on the circle to begin with, move obliquely forward-and-outward until he arrives on a circle of some larger diameter, say 15 meters at a walk or 20 meters at a trot.

When the leg-yield is done on a circle, it is only a hair's-breadth from being a shoulder-in. When the horse has learned that it is possible to move without holding any brace -- neither in the poll or jaws, nor in the neck, nor in the lumbar back, nor in the haunches or in the muscles of the hind legs -- in other words, when you have suppled the front end and the back end -- then it becomes possible for the brace that is always in the center of the horse to also let go. And in the moment when the horse yields in the ribcage, in that moment the leg-yield transmutates into a shoulder-in.

This 'giving up of the ribcage' is something that the rider can definitely feel. It is especially promoted by the correct riding of circles, followed by correct and THOROUGHGOING change of bend. Read Mike Schaffer's book where he's talking about changing the bend by 'drifting' from one bend to the other. Or read my own series in EH magazine where I confess also that this is one of my very favorite exercises, to combine circle-drift-change bend-circle. The 'drift' is leg-yielding.

The 'drift' is also untracking. There is no difference between untracking and leg-yielding. Untracking is a form of leg-yielding. This is the main point I make in the 2nd installment of the EH series.

Nuno Oliveira never talks about leg-yielding because to him, the leg-yield exercise meant causing the horse to go on long straight tracks, i.e. on the long or short diagonals of the arena, as particularly practiced by the Germans. Oliveira astutely points out that there is a reason why it's called the 'turn ON THE FOREHAND': because leg-yielding on long straight tracks does tend to teach the horse to carry himself on the forehand.

Oliveira thinks of each and every corner of the arena as being crucially important. He is absolutely right about this, because every corner is one-fourth of a circle. No circle can be ridden without a bend (because to be 'on a circle' the horse must be bent). To bend, and to maintain the bend, the horse must step under the body-shadow with the inside hind leg; he cannot bend unless he does this. And as soon as he does this, he is untracking/leg-yielding; but if he does this upon a circle, or upon any part of a circle, he is, as soon as he has gone past the most elementary degree of suppleness, actually performing (as Oliveira says) 'a small moment of shoulder-in'.

Thus, the commonest way to ride shoulder-in is on circles or in corners in which the horse is properly weighted to the outside. This is what it means to go straight on a circle -- please review the Woody paper under 'knowledge base' if you're not clear on this.

Later, one rides the shoulder-in on the track, and still later, on the center line and quarter-lines -- this primarily because in the beginning the wall is very helpful in maintaining the RIDER'S orientation and precision. For in a shoulder-in on the track, the horse's inside hind leg must step into the track, while his outside hind leg is either in, or slightly to the outside of the track; the primary effect of the understepping is to cause him (as laGueriniere said) 'to track more narrowly behind' . The inside hind leg steps straight forward while the body is curved; because of the curvature, the inside hind leg steps straight toward the heels of the outside foreleg, while the inside foreleg tracks slightly to the inside of the track.

The turn on the haunches has nothing to do with leg-yielding, but belongs instead to the traverse family of lateral work. 'Turn over the haunches' is merely the term used to describe the zero-diameter traverse when executed at a walk; 'pirouette' is the term used when the animal does the same thing at a canter.

A.S., you are correct in figuring out that the reason why you shouldn't move your inside leg very far back if you want the horse to leg-yield -- because you would be liable to cause him to invert the bend and in that moment, of course, he will no longer be leg-yielding but traversing. But I also suspect that you're thinking of using way too much force -- please let us not have any pushing or shoving. For a leg-yield, you just leave your foot right at the girth, in the normal place, and TOUCH him IN TIME with the rhythm of the hind legs. And look out over the outside ear.

The thing that makes me suspect that you've been into using way too much force is your question, 'And what effect, if any, will the position of my outside leg have if it is just there and not actively touching him?' My dear -- it is ALWAYS 'just there', and it is ALWAYS touching him. You caress the horse as you sit on him. There is to be a 100% 'seal' between your butt, crotch area, inner thigh, and calves and his body. You are so close to him you couldn't get any closer. But there is also absolutely no tension; no muscular activity AT ALL in your buttocks, the small muscles up at the top of your legs, the big adductor muscles of your legs, the muscles that lift your toes, or any effort whatsoever to turn your toes in or to lower your heels. Your knees should be flexed with no 'stomping down' into the stirrups. No tension at all! Reiner Klimke used to say 'like a wet towel thrown up against a tile wall'. I usually say, 'like an old pair of chaps thrown over a peg'.

Only when the normal activity of your legs and seat is the absolute minimum will tiny touches, light taps, or little movements of your calves or feet have any meaning to your horse. Such small, light aids cannot even be heard if they are 'drowned out' by a stiff back, rigid waist, knees that clamp into the saddle or are rigid with the effort to stomp down into the stirrups in wrongheaded effort to lower the heels. And especially, if the rider continually pushes and shoves -- what Buck Brannaman likens to using a crowbar to move the horse -- then the rider needs to make major revisions in their thinking and in their actions. For horses are both very sensitive and very intelligent, and this is the idea we BEGIN from.

These are things I want you to think about, in terms of what the first change you intend to make might be. I cannot assess your riding without actually seeing it, but YOU can self-coach from this I think. Every normal horse in the universe has been leg-yielding since it was a foal; they all know how to do it without needing much 'help' from people and their so-called 'aids'. Just show your horse what you want him to do, and then let him carry you; and don't get suckered into the idea that if the horse does not respond, that the best response on your part would be to increase the force of your aids. -- Dr. Deb

A.S.
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 Posted: Sun Nov 14th, 2010 01:22 am
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Thank you very much, you've certainly helped me solidify some things!

Of course, it makes complete sense that the expanding the circle exercise is useful for shoulder in - we did this exercise many times at our riding school (first spiraling into the centre, then slow leg yielding out), I'm ashamed to not have realised. Looks like this exercise needs to be incorporated into my work a lot more often than it currently is.

I hope I have not been using too much force, being still and not using any leg muscles is exactly what I've been focusing on in my riding these past few weeks! I really did mean by 'not actively touching' that my leg is, of course, on him but not constantly nagging or pressing.

I do get suckered into using more force than necessary if he doesn't respond, but not at the walk. At the walk he's been doing well with shifting his weight to the outside, all I do is repeat the same light touch, and as soon as I feel he does it I take the pressure off. No, rather I have issues doing corners in the trot and canter - the lean inwards is so much more pronounced, and he just doesn't seem to notice my inside leg at all. I've been forced to ask him to stop and walk if he leans at all, to prevent him speeding up and acting like a motorcycle, but I would like to be able to just have him respond in the trot and canter. In fact, it almost seems like his leaning issues have become worse at the trot, since I've started working on his walk so much more.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Nov 14th, 2010 01:38 am
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Dear A.S.: Lighten your hands, especially your outside hand. Let the horse show you how his inside hind leg, which bends him and also sends weight and energy to the outside, will SEND it into your outside hand. You need not and should not 'take' anything with your outside hand. It's just out there, at the right distance that you know is 'right' from your feel of the whole horse, and it WAITS FOR THE ARRIVAL of what the horse sends.

Too heavy an outside hand will certainly throw the horse back onto his inside shoulder, and of course can even counterflex him. -- Dr. Deb

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 Posted: Sun Dec 3rd, 2017 01:29 pm
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Enjoying reading this. I am starting to ride my green paso fino mare more frequently. I am riding in a harvested soybean field with nice footing. I have a riding buddy with me and my mare was offering a perfect turn on the forehand. It was lovely and I wish I had set her up for it. We were resting our mares facing the woodsy edge of the field and my mare spontaneously did the turn. I asked her to stop then because I did not ask her to move. After a short bit we walked off and turned away from the magnetic force of the barn and got some nice calm walking. We reached the end of the field and turned back and my mare sped up a bit so we worked on some serpentines and she was great for them. My friend wanted to canter some so i gaited and she cantered some and we circled around and slowed to a stop. My mare wanted to go toward home so I let her do some small circles hoping to get the start of a turn around or a canter pirouette. She hit my foot with her front leg a few times. I have never had a horse do that before. She is 14.1 hh and I am long legged my sturrips hang an inch below her belly. She seems really willing to turn and I had a lot of fun with her doing a lot of transitions in this field. She offered a half pass for a very long way across the field in her gait and I was just amazed. I just wish I had asked. It was such fun but should I stop her from doing what I haven't asked for? She has been reluctant to canter but has did a few strides of canter for me going uphill on two different rides. I'm just concerned about letting her do things I haven't asked for,especially when it involves going toward the barn. When she is playing in the pasture I have seen her run backwards and sideways and turnaround beautifully and easily and it was neat to feel a little bit of that under saddle. I just wonder if it is a bit too soon to let her do these moves with me on her because I didn't ask. I don't want to discourage her but I don't want her to get dangerous habits either since she is green. Around 50 rides.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Dec 3rd, 2017 11:58 pm
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Lil, I am assuming that you have read and studied the "Lessons from Woody" free downloadable .pdf that you go pick up by going to http://www.equinestudies.org, clicking on "Knowledge Base", and then clicking the button on the righthand side of the page that has that title.

This reply is not about straightness or straightening your horse, but it is about seeing an analogy or parallel. Just as we consider it "crookedness" anytime the horse uses himself in a one-sided manner, we also consider it "disobedience" anytime the horse continues to try to use escape maneuvers in order to go back to the barn. What I want you to notice is that the very same thing that makes a horse "go crooked", i.e. the fact that he brings one hind leg always up under the body-shadow (his choice as to the preferred hind leg), we CURE the crookedness and cause the horse to carry himself straight and use himself equally by taking over who gets to dictate which hind leg it is. The maneuver that causes the horse to go crooked -- when he's running the show -- is THE SAME as the maneuver that causes him to go straight when we are running the show! Likewise, we CURE disobedience and cause the horse to FORGET HIS OWN IDEAS AND ADOPT OUR IDEAS by taking over when and how he performs anything whatsoever.

So the message you need to get over to your horse is that, when you are around, he is not the one in control; he does not get to choose to do anything whatsoever without asking you FIRST. And politely.

All the "lateral work" you have described is false, and must be considered to be false, because it is performed out of tension, that tension being the conflict that you describe that is going on within the horse, i.e. the tension between his wanting to go back to the barn and his expressing that desire by various squirmings in a sideways direction, vs. your desire to have him COMPLETELY WITH YOU when out on a trailride.

Ray Hunt used to say -- "if they'll mind you in the barn, they'll mind you in the field." The converse is also true: if they don't mind you in the barn, they won't mind you in the field. Therefore, we conclude that since your horse is not minding you in the field, he is also not minding you in the barn. And this tells you WHERE you need to be working; because only when you perfect his obedience when near the barn do you have any license or business whatsoever riding the horse someplace far from the barn. You have, in short, committed the classic "Birdie Theory" error of riding the horse's body away from the barn, without having the horse's mind accompany you 100% of the way, which means, EVERY SINGLE STEP of the way.

Many horses, but gaited ones in particular, will cast themselves onto the forehand while being ridden. This is because of stiffness, or maybe I should say, the animal being stiff through the neck and back makes it all the easier for him to cast his weight forward. When the weight is cast forward, that is to say, more even than the normal 60 to 65% being borne by the forelimbs, then it is extremely easy for the horse to do "turns on the forehand", because by golly, he's flat-out on the forehand anyway.

And likewise, some horses will cast their bodies into a twist which can pass for the posture required to perform a half-pass. Again, this arises out of tension, because one very common expression of tension due to wanting to go back to the barn or "Birdie not being with the horse" is that the horse is unable to TURN THE DRIVE OFF through the hindquarters. The speeding-up is also evidence of this. You tried to slow him down by blocking the mouth, head, and foreparts with the reins and bit; but because of the tension, it has no effect, it does not have its PROPER effect, on the hindquarters -- they just keep pushing. This causes the horse to want to raise the head and neck so that its forefeet can find space to "walk out from under" the base of its neck; and it also causes the rear end of the horse to slew off to one side, just the same as a semi-trailer will slew off to one side if the driver locks up the brakes in front.

So, now you know what to do -- you need to go back to the barn and perfect your ability to get, and keep, the horse's Birdie with you. If your arena is near your horse's stall or pen, or wherever he feeds, you can begin in the arena. Ride from the entry gate that is nearest to where the horse feeds directly in the opposite direction. When you feel the SLIGHTEST change for the worse, which will be that you will at some point hear his breathing because it will stop being silent at the exact point where you have begun to hit the end of his thread -- at that point you turn aside and circle back toward the in-gate. Do this several times and see if you can encourage the point where the breathing changes to move farther away from the in-gate. If it does, reward the horse by walking back halfway to the in-gate and halting. But turn about before you halt; the horse must not be allowed to face or look at the barn/stall/feeding area while resting/being rewarded. You see, you must take care of all the details.

You will know when the horse has understood what you're telling him and acquiesced, or at least resigned himself to it, when you hear him sigh and when you notice that when, in going away from the in-gate, you feel that finally the brakes are off -- the horse moves freely. You have complete control of this, deep psychological control, so have some mercy with it; you are telling him 'look buddy you don't get to run anything', but you also don't demand every single time that he go to the very end of his thread. You need to find out where the end of the thread is, but you don't taunt him with it and you don't bully him; instead, you're teaching him RESPONSE WITH RESPECT and that RESPONSE WITH RESPECT equals reward, every single time. Like you're not going to fail to notice.

When you can FREELY go anywhere in the arena, then you can begin going outside of the arena but still on the stable property. At my boarding barn, you can exit the arena and go down the driveway to the entrance-gate, where the cars come in. I often take Ollie down there as a REWARD for good performance in the arena or for some other good performance -- note that in doing this we are going even farther away from the barn! But what is down at the end of the driveway is a nice patch of sweet moist green grass, and he knows that when we get down there he will be allowed to drop his head and graze with the bit in. And graze long enough that he grunts and sighs and almost says to me, 'OK, that's enough, that was real good.'

As a side note, I want to mention that I have been doing this latter thing with Ollie since Day One of our arrival at this particular stable. The first three to five days at any new place, I make a policy of riding the dickens out of the horse. I come back every two to four hours and ride him again, so that I ride for those days two or three times per day. I never otherwise do this. The purpose is, that during the first three to five days at a new place, the horse has no friends at the new place. He has not gotten married to his stall or pen or to any of the other horses. By riding him very often, I am telling him, "Look, buddy, it's me you depend on, it's me you go with". And as I said, I make a point of riding the horse at that time to every point on the periphery of the property that the roads or layout permit me to access. If there is no grass at a certain point that I intend to go to, I will have gone out there and brought a hay-net or a flake of hay with me and planted it there, before I go mount and ride out to it. This in my experience totally eliminates barn-sourness.

Once you've done all this, you can think about trail riding. Make your first trailrides someplace so far from home that the horse can't possibly even smell the barn. You will find that under these circumstances he reacts exactly as above described for the first three to five days at a new place: the only one he has to rely on for protection and comfort is YOU, and you set it up so that is the case. You can then go for a trailride at that location three to five times, and then you need to find another place to go for a trailride. Switching every three to five rides, you will cycle among the several trailride places that are probably within reasonable hauling distance, and you will do this for a period of at least two years. To get them perfect at trailriding you'll need to load up and haul out as frequently as possible; more than once per week would be ideal but if weekends are all that you can manage, then do that.

You will know when you have succeeded completely when the horse no longer is looking for something to shy at; goes with softness and no tension; listens and obeys whatever you ask; and this last one's the biggie -- OFFERS TO OBEY FURTHER by taking whatever you had just asked and expanding on it. This is the one and only way that we can accept an idea that comes from the horse, and when that starts to happen Lil, you can consider that you have achieved all the training your horse will ever need -- because from there on out, it's just relationship, just two friends who understand each other perfectly, having a conversation about something they both enjoy. -- Dr. Deb

Darling lil
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 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2017 10:07 pm
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Thank you. I will make sure she does everything I ask her to close to the barn. She will go down the path when I touch her sides lightly with my heels. She does seem very eager to go. I have read everything several times or more. When she does something I didn't ask her to should I stop her or ask something of my own. It's getting cold out now and the horses are full of energy. Trying to speed up and choosing their own path. I kept turning her when she sped up and doing serpentines. Seemed to calm her down. She always did everthing I asked but also tried to do lots of things on her own. We do stop to relax and eat grass. I bring carrots in the saddlebags too.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Dec 6th, 2017 10:49 pm
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Lil, think less about WHAT you are doing and more about WHEN and WHY you do it. Rewards must strictly follow good performance and must not be given in any form at any other time.

Anytime the horse feels like it wants to go back to the barn, it is a sign that you need to still be in the arena. If the horse feels OK in the arena and yet as soon as you leave the arena then they don't feel OK or start doing stuff, the reason is you're missing the smaller signs of not really being OK which the horse IS CONSTANTLY giving you in the arena.

You are to turn back not "sometimes" when the horse offers to speed up, but EVERY time. There is NO time when you get to say, "aww....that was good enough." Until it is perfect, and the horse is completely relaxed and 100% OK, it is not good enough. The reason for this is not because we have really high standards, but because unless you hang in there until you get TOTALLY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE ROT, you still have infection in the tooth. Your dentist will absolutely refuse to put a filling in a cavity until he has drilled deep enough to completely clean the infection out first. Then, and only then, can he go on to the next step. Your dentist's insistence on getting the rot completely out, getting all the way to the bottom of the trouble, does not make him "mean" but professional. Neither are you being "mean" when you hang in there. Hanging in there means STAYING on the small tight circle ("winding down") until the horse gives in completely, you hear him sigh, and you feel him completely relax. Then, you wait two full heartbeats after you feel that, and THEN you release the aids and permit the horse to proceed in some straight line. When and if the horse offers to speed up again, you tighten the inside rein and compel the horse to be on the small tight circle again, until it finds its way out of this bind by releasing itself to you completely. And you commit to repeating this whenever necessary, each and every time, now and forever so long as you both shall live. This is what I meant above about "when". It's "when" you apply the bind, and it's also very importantly about "when" you release to the horse's release.

People say of Harry Whitney, "Harry always gets closure." This is one of the things that makes him qualify as a master horseman. But you also need to have the ambition to become a master horsewoman. Anything less is cheating yourself, cheating your horse, and cheating everyone else that you are around (because your horse will be a danger to their horses). -- Dr. Deb



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