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Recommendations for books on horse riding
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kimbo
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 Posted: Tue Jun 28th, 2011 10:13 am
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I have gone through Dr Deb's list of recommended reading and there appears to be only one book about how to actually ride a horse; Sally Swift, Centered Riding.

I own and have read this book.

Can anyone suggest other books on the art of riding. I am interested in reading about correct position of the rider and how to achieve it.

Thanks
Kim

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jun 28th, 2011 07:03 pm
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Oh, Kim, I think you didn't really look seriously at the list. Beginning with the European classisists of the 17th and 18th century, there must be 100 books in that list on the subject of "how to ride a horse."

Your query must relate either to your not having looked carefully at the list, or to your not realizing that most of the books on the list have to do with "how to ride" in one form or another. There is ONE form you will not find, however: anyone who is looking for a "how-to" in the sense of that the book tells you "first you do this, then you do that" is, I think, very silly. There are gazillions of such books but I don't include them on the list. The sort of book that will REALLY teach you to ride is the one written by the man or woman who has real experience in some working context or other. You read the book and you glean the information, putting two and two together for yourself. If there are photographs, you study them. You go to bed thinking about it and you wake up thinking about it -- as Ray Hunt used to say -- and indeed there is no other way. If you are looking for a "step by step how-to" you wind up with a mere ersatz, a cardboard imitation.

This all reminds me of the great old poem quoted by Tom Dorrance on the Larry Mahan TV show segment:

"They say among the riding schools

They have a reg'lar book o' rules

The man who wrote the book explains

Just how to sit and hold the reins.

And other lessons facts reveals

About your elbows and your heels.

The cowman doesn't give a care

How you sit, just so you're there

Or how you hold your hands or feet

The main thing is, to hold your seat!

You read and practice -- then decide

Who has REALLY learned to ride.

You can learn more from a buckin' hoss

Than any school you come across

For you and him must soon decide

What's underneath each other's hide." -- Dr. Deb

kimbo
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 Posted: Wed Jun 29th, 2011 10:11 am
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Thank you for the quick reply Dr Deb.   I have never really had riding lessons only horsemanship lessons. My skills in influencing a horse are developing however sometimes I am concerned that my posture in the saddle is inhibiting my horse.   Since I am always concerned with my horses posture I feel I need to concentrate on my own.   Your article "Who's Built Best to Ride" is on the lines of what I am after.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jun 29th, 2011 06:55 pm
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OK, Kim, you can't go wrong with Sally Swift if body dynamics is what you want more insight on.

However -- I will also ask you to think about the following. I knew Bill Dorrance as well as Tom. Bill was a taller man and in youth was lithe and strong. He was famous in his part of the world as someone that no horse, not the worst bronc you could possibly imagine, could buck off. He could stick on anything no matter what it did.

You will commonly look out and see what in Kiwiland is called a "Southerner" or in the American West a working cowboy, and you will see these guys light out after a stray cow or bunch of ewes across an unlevel, hilly, rutted pasture. These guys have no more had riding lessons than you have, and yet they get the job done, and their horses are none the worse for it. You can watch them as they go across the pasture, and you see the horse is going fast and with determination, and the ground goes up and down; but you watch them go across there, and the line their hat follows does not go up and down. Somehow, these guys are managing to ride rather well. You would be very hard put to it to find any dressage competitor or "schooled" Pony Clubber who could perform half as well.

So back to Bill. This is what he was like too, when he was younger. But as an old man in his 90's, when I knew him, he was all crippled up. He walked bent right over 90 degrees, using a staff to support himself. He got on his horse slowly and carefully. He couldn't rope anymore really, because he couldn't raise his arm over his head. His upper back was all bent, so when he sat on his horse he sat way back with his butt tucked under himself, and his knees kind of out ahead; that way, his eyes could look pretty well forward. He stuck his neck out so his hat sort of tipped back all the time. You probably have a picture of what I'm describing. Bill had one tin hip joint and one that hadn't been replaced, and he sort of favored the tin hip because that was the one, he said, that didn't hurt him so much. So obviously he didn't sit quite straight on his horse, either.

Nonetheless, Bill had the straightest and most totally OK-within-itself horse I ever saw in my life, bar absolutely none. And he had trained her himself, or I should say RE-trained her, because when he got her she was a horse so far gone that she trusted no rider and indeed did her best to kill him. Bill was 90 years old when he got this mare, and 92 the last time I saw him riding her before he died. In two years, he changed her from being a rogue and a killer to being OK. And he rode her at all gaits and paces, and she was just fine, moving straight and comfortably.

Now, this is what I want you to think about, Kim: how could that possibly be?

You think about this and then I want you to write back and give a thoughtful answer, because this is very important for all students to get. -- Dr. Deb

kimbo
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 Posted: Sat Jul 2nd, 2011 08:50 am
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Two things come to mind.

Firstly even though Bill was not technically "centre" when he rode, he had trained his horse that this was centre. Therefore his horse was straight.

Secondly there must have been no tension in Bill's body because there was no tension in his horses body.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Jul 2nd, 2011 08:54 am
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OK, Kimbo, very good. These answers show that you have indeed spent some quality time thinking about how a rider with a crooked body could have a horse that is both physically straight and deeply OK.

Now, please tell me what you mean by "he had trained his horse that this was center." Exactly how did Bill do that? This is the crucial part that you and other students who think they ought to be interested in "riding mechanics" need to get. -- Dr. Deb

Ola
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 Posted: Sat Jul 2nd, 2011 11:19 am
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May I jump in here with my thoughts? If not, feel free to omit it…
 
Dr Deb, your post is just amazing. I decided to review Bill’s book and the pictures.. There is one showing how Bill had to experiment in order to put the saddle on his horse – he used the system of strings and pulleys to make it easier. It is astonishing how crooked he rode (just as you describe – bent forward almost 90 degrees, with his pelvis tucked under) and how deeply OK his horses were! Kim, I don’t believe there was no tension in his body (although I may be wrong). As long as there is something troublesome for your organism, you have bone misalignments, problems with your joints etc. , it will create tension in your muscles. I have problems with two vertebrae, and although I don’t look like totally crooked, every step hurts. And horses react to it.
What Bill’s riding teaches me, is that physical body is not the most important part of our interaction with horses. When you look at his pictures you can almost see the energy that emanates from his person  - the feelings of love, trust and security. DrDeb wrote in another thread about that energy – that it should flow not only through our hands, but also from our seat, from our sight and the way we move, and from our legs that ought to caress horse’s body.
I have no idea how Bill could train his horse to be straight; but he truly cared for the animal, and spoke directly to its mind. The horse feeling taken care of and secure was totally OK within himself and his rider. This is the point when true straightness can develop.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Jul 2nd, 2011 07:13 pm
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No, Ola, not that you are reading the photos of Bill entirely wrong, because you do get the part about him having a good heart and a lot of love toward the horses. But in other important ways you have it backwards -- you are too much in awe, and this prevents you from being sensible. What Tom and Bill had, and what they offered to other people, is accessible to all human beings. So, for example, nobody -- not one single pearson in the whole wide world -- can talk directly to the horse's mind. You are making that part up entirely out of your being in awe, which makes you lazy or it makes you give up, because you think that communicating with animals in the way that Bill was actually doing it is not something you could possibly do. It is the same idiocy that people commonly exhibit when they meet someone who is a genius in any field; they never seem to think they could have whatever it is themselves -- if they would only be willing go to bed thinking about it and get up thinking about it. Or, as Ray used to say, if they would only be willing to think, to get in the habit of THINKING.

When Tom would hear people talk like you are talking, Ola, about "ESP" or psychic powers, he would turn his back and simply walk away. So you remember that he did that, and take it as a strong hint that you need to think about this some more.

The most important thing for you to get is HOW did Bill "train" his horse to go straight, even though he himself was old and crippled and had to sit crookedly. How is it that this did not negatively affect the horse?

How do you train a horse to carry itself and its rider straight?  When any student can answer this, that student has passed beyond the stage where they are just mouthing words, into where they begin to be able to be truly and consistently effective -- a real help to their horse. -- Dr. Deb

CarolineTwoPonies
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 Posted: Sat Jul 2nd, 2011 11:17 pm
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These are things I have been thinking a lot about so I am grateful to be able to learn more from you Dr. Deb.

If straightness is both halves of the body working evenly, and if this cannot happen without a de-contracted topline, then is relaxation key to equilibrium?

Does relaxation require a degree of freedom of movement and a suppleness of the mind also?

Is the condition that is necessary for the horse to not reflect the rider crookedness is that the horse is able to independently find his balance from the rider so that it is has the body freedom to organize itself to compensate for the rider's different weight distribution by himself? The rider has to not be a yoke, act like a straightjacket. Give clear directions to the horse, and then let the horse do the work without locking the horse between the rider's hands and legs and sucking the looseness, suppleness, elasticity out of the whole body horizontally, vertically and side to side. It makes the rider stiff to work that hard and the horse as well.

Does the horse's body have an innate ability to protect itself left to its own device without a rider trying to super-impose its own body on the horse?

And is what Mister Dorrance do is be responsible for himself, and let the horse be responsible for himself and thus treat the horse as a full parter in the ride by "getting out of the way" after giving clear aids?

If I carry a child and he is asleep and therefore unaware, he is very heavy. If I carry a child and he grips me tensely, I have to adapt my body to carry him and its harder but if I carry a child and he is present and relaxed, then he feels lighter, he can follow my cues and we can adapt to each other's bodies, then its easier to carry him without cramping or getting sore. And, its much more pleasant for both of us.

I cannot "make " the child light, I have to create the condition that will make him relaxed, and engaged in a way that is body is lighter, suppler. The lightness, the balance has to come from within him - and then both our balances can work together.

Last edited on Sat Jul 2nd, 2011 11:58 pm by CarolineTwoPonies

ruth
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 Posted: Sun Jul 3rd, 2011 10:10 am
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This is indeed an incredibly important concept for us to grasp and therefore be able to carry out. My Mum, also, is 90 and incredibly bent and frail, but she gardens, like no-one I ever knew, gardens just grow for her, such colourful abundance of flowers, such masses of vegetables throughout the year. We recently moved her to a smaller, more manageable place, but despite being frail she is so focused, so devoted to gardening, she, amazingly, is digging up turfs, digging up old tree roots like you can't believe, to get her new garden into shape, starting from the ground up. So, she does have strength at 90, she also has such focus, such dedication, such knowledge, such love for plants, they just grow for her. So what did Bill do, despite his bent frame, his pain? No good just flippantly answering 'they don't make 'em like that any more', I think he thoroughly prepared the ground and watched every move and cultivated it. Until he got the birdie in the right place. Attention all the time to detail, to watching and observing the horse so it 'grew' like my Mum's plants. I know I still haven't answered the question...

Tammy 2
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 Posted: Sun Jul 3rd, 2011 04:58 pm
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I have been working on straightness more than ever before in my riding. I can feel if my horse is bulging out a bit this way, the hindquarter is off a bit that way, which is a tension in him. So I give him a bit of a bump with my calf or a signal with one side of my seat and try to get him to get that tension out and kind of re-align. When I get him to do this, he goes softly on. I pratice this out trail riding alot. It has really been helping both of us and I think that even a rider that sits crooked, especially a rider with exceptional feel and experience, can totally feel this.

Softness and straightness definately go hand in hand.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jul 3rd, 2011 07:06 pm
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Caroline and Tammy, you are starting to get down to cases here.

Caroline said:

"....Is the condition that is necessary for the horse to not reflect the rider crookedness is that the horse is able to independently find his balance from the rider so that it is has the body freedom to organize itself to compensate for the rider's different weight distribution by himself? The rider has to not be a yoke, act like a straightjacket. Give clear directions to the horse, and then let the horse do the work without locking the horse between the rider's hands and legs and sucking the looseness, suppleness, elasticity out of the whole body horizontally, vertically and side to side. It makes the rider stiff to work that hard and the horse as well."

Reply: right. The horse must be allowed to find its balance. A rider who tries to "hold" the horse straight is barking up a way wrong tree.

And Tammy said:

"....I can feel if my horse is bulging out a bit this way, the hindquarter is off a bit that way, which is a tension in him. So I give him a bit of a bump with my calf or a signal with one side of my seat and try to get him to get that tension out and kind of re-align."

Reply: This is getting very close -- Tammy's answer is about HOW instead of being a description, a discussion of philosophical principles, or going off into wierd fluffyheaded ESP stuff. We ALL have access to "how" -- but most riders talk and talk and talk -- they are just mouthing words because they have heard concepts like 'softness' or 'feel'. Softness and feel most certainly do exist but they happen AFTER you start getting the horse straight, which is to say comfortable physically. Softness and moving-in-balance are almost synonyms, you see.

So again, I want to hear back from you guys more clearly: WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU DO to help the horse to go straight? Tammy ALMOST says it: she says 'first I FEEL him bulge out, and then I bump him with my leg."

Note that Tammy does not say "I kick the snot out of him with my leg." This would be to provoke tension. So the rider doesn't do any more than it takes.

However, the rider like Bill Dorrance IS committed to doing all that it would need to take, and to doing that every single time it is needed. This is where "focus" or, better said, "awareness" comes in. I am sure Ruth's grandma does not leave little weedlets sprouting in her garden very long before she plucks them out.

I have in an earlier discussion somewhere mentioned Wendy Murdoch's article of last year that appeared in The Eclectic Horseman. There she talks about the "feel-think" rider vs. the "feel-do" rider. It is the "feel-do" rider who will succeed, and no other. What Wendy means by this is that the successful rider first feels the horse get out of alignment or start teetering off balance, and then DOES something in response to that. The "feel-think" rider, by contrast, equally feels the horse (all people have 'feel' and never let anyone tell you otherwise) -- but the feel-think rider lives a life of continually dulling their feel, continually making themselves unaware of what their body actually does feel, by the process which they live. The process which they live is first they feel it, and then they think about it or philosophize about it or they jabber on and on or they occupy the entire lesson time with questions that begin with "well the instructor I took a lesson from last week didn't say to do it that way." This is what I mean by 'mouthing words'.

So, I need you guys to come back and tell me how you 'train' a horse to go straight, and why it does not HAVE TO matter if you're 90 years old and all crippled up and sit crooked. You're doing pretty good so far on this, so let's take it right out to completion for everybody's benefit. -- Dr. Deb


Tammy 2
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 Posted: Sun Jul 3rd, 2011 07:57 pm
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Well I feel that I need to start catching my horse as the thought of tension arises in him instead of waiting till it appears physically in him. Just like the lesson you taught us Dr. Deb about a horse that tries to bite. You have to get down to the thought of the bite, not the bite itself or you are late.

So, if the tension comes out rather than just being a thought, your horse is not moving straight at that time therefore, I am too late in training him to not move that way. I am training him how to deal with the tension but not fully. Like not allowing them to never, ever move hollow. Don't allow it at all. Tell your horse that is the wrong answer, ask him to soften to your feel, then move off caring that softness with him. The more you stop the mind from the thought of getting crooked, the more they will stay straight. They are what they live.

Even if Bill was crooked, he was soft in his feel and asked his horse to be soft to his feel absolutely all the time, no ifs, ands or buts. I think that is key to starting to train them to move straight.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jul 3rd, 2011 09:48 pm
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Tammy, you're right about catching the animal between the idea and the action. However, otherwise your answer is wandering off the beam again. You need to be very, very careful of how you use the words "softness" and "feel", Tammy, lest you begin to use them as incantations or jargon. We can have another thread where we talk about what those things are, and where we encourage you to use those words properly. Right here in this thread, I am not primarily interested in softness or feel, but instead I am asking you about "process", the practical "how".

So I repeat: EXACTLY WHAT DO YOU DO to "train" your horse to carry himself and you straight? I want you to get on your horse in your mind's eye, and start to go for a ride on him. I want you to think about every little thing you DO to help him carry himself straight.

EXACTLY WHAT ACTION DO YOU TAKE and WHEN do you take it. Tell us explicitly. Here is a form that may help you:

(1) When I (fill in the blank) my horse go crooked,

(2) I respond by performing (blank) action.

-- Dr. Deb

Tammy 2
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 Posted: Sun Jul 3rd, 2011 10:55 pm
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When I start to feel my horse go crooked, I apply a small nudge with my rein to say there is something he needs to change then I bump my calf on the side of him that I feel bulging to induce him to step under with his hindquarter to line it back straight to his poll. Once he re-aligns and balances his body, I release asking and let him move out again. My release says "yes" that is good.


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