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Draping Reins?
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Annie F
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 Posted: Tue Jan 10th, 2012 10:46 pm
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Hi everyone,
 

In a recent post someone asked what was meant by “draping reins.” Here is a link to a video Mike Schaffer put up recently—just a short bit of an ordinary ride that  demonstrates steady tempo in a fun way. I don't know if his reins are "draped" the way Dr. Deb means (maybe she can comment) but they certainly allow the horse to go out to a comfortable frame and carry an ongoing "conversation" between the two of them. 

Best,  

Annie F (p.s. turn up the sound and enjoy the music :-)

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLqnZT3y4QA&feature=youtu.be

Last edited on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 10:48 pm by Annie F

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jan 11th, 2012 03:08 am
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Annie, yes, Mike rides with draping reins.

Now, the student of which this question was asked -- that is, the repentant but still entirely muddled Sonoma -- never answered the question. This is because Sonoma thinks entirely in terms.

Note that I did not forget to finish the above sentence. I said Sonoma thinks entirely in terms.

Terms of which she does not know the meaning.

They are terms which we find in the FEI Handbook, and in many other books, and certainly in the popular magazines. They are just, however, terms; in other words, words. And they will remain mere words until Sonoma and all others like her get down to being able to live the things they talk ABOUT.

So, again I ask: lightness, collection, draping reins, self-carriage -- what do they MEAN?

We've discussed this several other times before in this Forum, and anyone willing to take the trouble can look up (by using the Google advanced search function) what has previously been said, can pull out quotes to further the discussion here.

Other points for those of you who take Annie's suggestion and click on the link and watch Mike ride:

(1) The horse is being re-schooled. He is a horse that I expect had previously been "doing dressage", i.e. in the manner commonly practiced, which went quite a long way towards ruining him. He therefore now for his recovery, requires to be ridden with intelligence and feel, and that is what we see Mike doing (why I recommend Mike).

(2) Note that Mike rides the horse a bit "under tempo" at all times. There is no push and no hustle. Therefore also, the horse is never pushed off his balance from back to front.

(3) Mike is quite unconcerned with whether the horse "tracks up". He is VERY concerned that the animal untrack, however, so you see him slip in a little leg-yield anytime the horse initiates a turn.

(4) Because of this, we also have the pleasure of watching a rider who can effectively cause a horse to carry itself straight.

(5) Note the clock-like rhythm: unvarying as it must be, which helps the horse find its balance, untangle its feet when making transitions from straightaway to lateral movement, and remain untroubled on the inside and focused.

(6) Note how many times Mike sharply LIFTS his hands. You never see him prying downward. You never see him prying backward, or exerting continuous backward traction on the reins. There is a bend in Mike's elbows at all moments. The sharp upward lifts occur when the horse (previously badly-schooled and wrongly-ridden as we have already noted) tries to brace its neck and dive onto the forehand, or else curl up the neck and duck behind the true feel. Mike instantly notices this when the horse tries it and takes immediate steps to induce the animal to put itself back into balance, where the reins can be draping, i.e. the feel flowing in both directions through the reins as should be.

This is exactly, by the way, how I ride and school Oliver; a little more progress with Mike's horse and he will stop dinking around trying to get out of balance, because he will have gained strength and confidence. This will occur simply by riding him in the manner that the film shows, and nothing else. And when that happens, it will be for that horse under Mike as it is for Ollie under me, that anytime Mike cares to ask for it, the horse will raise its back and neck just that little bit higher and he will then go in soft passage, which is delightful for all parties, including the onlooker, and a still more strengthening exercise. -- Dr. Deb

Kay
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 Posted: Wed Jan 11th, 2012 04:02 pm
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I follow along with this forum almost daily.  And I am currently studying back issues of the Eclectic Horseman.  I am learning a lot.  I also practice yoga and I have an observation to add to your 'under tempo' observation.  With yoga; to strengthen your body you slow down the movement - I practice personally this way and have seen improvements in fitness.  I also apply this to my riding and have noticed huge improvements in our 'fitness' - better communication, better connection, better attitude, balance - on and on.  No other way.  So fruitless to go bombing around top speed in a blur -

Evermore
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 Posted: Wed Jan 11th, 2012 04:16 pm
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Dr. Deb – I haven’t yet watched the video. (Recently purchased Mike’s book “Right From the Start.”)

 

But I have a question that I have been pondering about posting for some time: I have it in my head that ‘draping reins’ come from the horse carrying the bit. My perception is a collective study of the Baucher translation from the Inner Horseman, the Bitting DVD and the great number of threads I have studied on this forum.

 

We start with contact – being able to feel the horse’s tongue in our hand. The horse, through education and correct muscle strength, learns to coil his loins and lift the base of his neck. In addition, he comes to carry the bit. It doesn’t just hang in his mouth, but he picks it up and carries it as a useful piece of equipment and communication.

 

As he grows into collection, the reins then drape but the ‘connection’ is still there because he is carrying the bit.

 

In a nutshell, and please, please, correct/teach me as needed, I want the horse to learn to carry his bit himself. Off base or on the right track?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jan 11th, 2012 05:24 pm
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Off base, Evermore. What would you be expecting or wanting him to do inside his mouth in order to "carry" it? Make a wrinkle in his tongue, or purse his lips, or what?

No -- the feel of the bit is always there to the horse, and we want all parts of the mouth to be completely relaxed. The bit is always in contact with the tongue, and would be no matter what the rider did with the reins. The only time this might not be true is if the horse retracted his tongue, or else opened his mouth and ducked his head, so that the bit swung forward off the tongue and toward the palate.

What you're not getting is that draping reins is the sign of energy flow through the reins that goes both ways. Once again, to quote Bill Dorrance:

"You feel FOR your horse, you feel OF your horse, and you let your horse FEEL BACK to you." This says it all.

But so also does any image of Nuno Oliveira, or the video of Mike; at different degrees of accomplishment, which is especially valuable since most readers here are more where Mike is with that horse than where Nuno is with most of the horses that we have pictures of him on. This should save everybody from getting any idea that 'draping reins' are something that happens only after long training. No indeed, they happen for a rider who rides right, just as soon as the horse shows any sign of self-carriage. What the reins do is a side effect of how the horse carries himself, as is clearly explained in "The Eclectic Horseman" installment where I discuss this. --Dr. Deb

 

Jamsession
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 Posted: Wed Jan 11th, 2012 05:30 pm
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What a great video.

I have a question about the horse's tail: in this video, the horse appears to be swishing his tail quite frequently. Since I can gather that it's fairly cool out so flies are probably not the reason, what can be deduced about the horse from looking at the activity in his tail? I was always taught that a constantly swishing tail, or an "overly-active" tail was often a sign of pain, annoyance or anxiety. Now, I don't see any other signs of those things in this horse. He looks very pleased and content, even in his tempo, ears in a V, back lifted, etc. The tail seems to be the most active when Mike is asking the horse for what looks like a leg yield down the long side. I have experienced horses swishing their tails when performing moves that are harder or require more strength....is this the case here?

Sonoma
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 Posted: Wed Jan 11th, 2012 06:02 pm
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Dr. Deb. In my defense I dont think in terms. I like dressage for its pure factor and not for the entirely arificial specatator sport it has become. Which can be said pretty much of any equine sport outside of trail riding. Before ever starting my young horses I have studied entire libraries by Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt, and Tom Dorrance. I have read countless books (and no NOT dressage books-I only have two of those, one being by Alois Podhaisky, of the spanish riding school in Vienna, and passage and piaffer, being the other one, obviously I am not working on passage or piaffe) I have read others, including books by XXX [totally fake guy] which were educational and entertaining. I have studied XXX [the biggest nobody of them all] which is more entertaining then anything else, although he does offer good points thoughout his studies. I have studied [XXX and XXX and XXX and on and on, not one of whom Dr. Deb recommends] to name a few, who I watched and learned from. I CAN tell a difference and feel the difference. But that feel can be dissected into "tiny" feels, and inch by inch feels, all that is still ahead of me. To me being with horses is about a mutual acceptance and respect and YES communication through feel. I may not understand new "terms" like draping reins vs slack vs taut in speech, but that doesnt mean I dont practice such when on the horse. Sometimes people are not eloquent in expressing their skills or lack thereof. I can admit freely that I have much to learn, and I will forever be learning. I am here to do that and I appreciate your forum so much Dr. Deb, it gives recovering horse riders an arena of knowldge and elightment in eliminating the dark corners of their training.

Last edited on Thu Jan 12th, 2012 02:42 am by DrDeb

Evermore
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 Posted: Wed Jan 11th, 2012 06:54 pm
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Thank you, Dr. Deb. I am sooo glad I asked! I am still ridding myself of the remnants of 'dressage training.'

I will watch the Bitting DVD again with new insight and the image of the bit just 'there' in a totally relaxed mouth.

 

Evermore
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 Posted: Wed Jan 11th, 2012 08:03 pm
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Dr Deb – because I have learned a great deal from your material and this forum I am going to raise my hand and ask these questions about contact.

 

When I pick up a feel of the horse’s mouth, I do so relatively slowly, inch by inch, left then right, on and on until I have a feel of the outside rein touching the horse’s tongue. I think of the outside rein as sort of elastic that the horse can fill out as he bends. The inside rein is used as needed then ‘released’ just enough so it is not equal in contact as the outside rein. Correct?

 

When I twirl the head I use one rein, then the other, releasing the opposite side a bit as I ask with the other rein. Am I ok with not always lengthening the reins as he lowers his head? At times I let him take the reins with each ‘twirl’ and stretch all the way to the ground, other times I just want him to relax into the length they are.

 

When I look at the pictures you have posted of people ‘waiting at the same pressure’ when riding their greenies, I find myself wondering if they are ‘waiting’ with just the outside rein or both reins?

 

Is a 'square feel' both reins held at the same amount of contact?

 

When dropping the reins to the buckle…does one do just that? Just release them to the buckle? Is there a way to do this, or just do it?

 

Thank you. There, got my questions asked. I will look forward to your insight and help. 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Jan 12th, 2012 03:01 am
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Sonoma, you will discern from my editing of your post that:

(1) It is forbidden here to name most of the names you have named;

(2) I have no respect whatsoever for, and do not recommend, most of the so-called "teachers" or "authorities" you have studied. Would have been MUCH better if you had not seen anything of any one of them, but, there it is -- too late once again.

(3) You need to be quiet now, Sonoma, and give up your mere prattling, as I keep telling you that you know nothing, and everything you post only makes that more obvious. You've been in all the wrong places, and that does help account for much of your near-fatal muddlement. But if you will now just give up trying to "explain yourself" or "defend yourself" -- it isn't worth it because it isn't possible -- and instead go and do what you have been told. You need to begin with Lesson One, which is to start understanding Birdie and Untracking. Do not come back here again with another post until you have studied the required material, and then you may post with whatever questions about THAT AND ONLY THAT which you may have at that time.

Evermore -- As to your queries:

(1) Just pick up the feel like you would take someone's hand.

(2) It is OK to not always lengthen the reins when you have twirled and the horse seems to want to stretch. Indeed you must take care that, through your releases being a bit too fast or a bit too early, that you do not to teach him to 'snatch' or lean. So you lengthen only when he is soft, but even when he is soft, sometimes you'll have a little modification on it and ask him to turn or stop or make a down or an up transition instead, doing that while he is soft. Remember: the whole, entire purpose for twirling the head is to provoke release, i.e. in other words to help obtain softness, and it is in softness that we make all transitions. So this is what you would be schooling on or clarifying to the animal, that he CAN up the energy or bend the energy without stiffening any muscle anywhere, and that he CAN (eventually) maintain ideal balance through any maneuver.

(3) You never offer a horse a square feel, i.e. the same feel with both hands at the same time. Each hand ALWAYS, at all moments, has its own unique job; which is because the hands are connected directly to the feet of the same side, and unless the horse is in one of a very few positions or moments when the feet are square (such as at a halt, or setting for a jump), the hands are not square either. Plus, not only are the feet not usually square, sometimes the hands have something to SAY, above and beyond or different than what the flow has been up to that time; and then they must move, at least the fingers close or open, if not the whole arm move out or in or forward or back from its pin-hinge at your shoulder joint.

(4) Review the head twirling article in "Eclectic Horseman" for what Ray Hunt said about the square feel, and the relationship between twirling and softness.

(5) Dropping to the buckle: well, don't surprise the horse if he's out of balance, so that he falls over to one side or down onto his knees all of a sudden. Drop to the buckle normally happens at the end of a rein-back -- it's fairly fast, but not faster than than making sure you have allowed the horse to commit to the last movement in that particular rein-back, i.e. to tell you that he's going to move that last hind foot. You can also do up transitions on the buckle, which is a good thing to throw in every once in a while, especially if you ride 'English' or else are schooling a 'Western' horse in the snaffle or are riding on bosal/sidepull; and especially from walk to canter.

Hope this clarifies -- sounds like you're doing some nice work, Evermore. -- Dr. Deb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Jan 12th, 2012 03:37 am
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Jamsession -- Yes, the horse swishes his tail, and swishing the tail is certainly a sign of irritation.

Now, what could possibly be irritating this horse?

Could it be that Mike is telling him through the mutual feel that the horse can no longer run the show (which many horses are quite used to doing)?

Could it be that Mike is also telling him that he must not fall on his forehand every time he takes a forward step (which is why, on the physical level, the animal is being re-schooled)?

Could it also be that every time the animal does fall forward, Mike aborts it by sharply lifting his hands? In short: the animal is not being allowed to take over, the animal is not being allowed to move in wrong balance. And this is DAMNED irritating to the animal, I am sure.

The kind of tail-swish matters altogether. There is a kind that is jerky and continual, which signals that it is the rider that is making the mistakes. We could also find that out by looking at what the rider might be doing. There is also the kind that we see in Mike's video: the tail swishes in response to what Mike does, it swishes once at that time, and then it's quiet again until the animal once again tries to take over or else falls back into its old habit of trying to move by first falling forward, bracing its neck, leaning on the rider's hands, and thereby trying to push the bit out of the way. Under these circumstances, I'm happy to see a swishing tail, just as I am happy to see a tantrumy four year old cry after he gets a sharp smack on the bottom. -- Dr. Deb

 

Jamsession
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 Posted: Thu Jan 12th, 2012 11:46 pm
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Ah, OK. So, as with many things I'm finding, the horse often times, when being reschooled or beginning to be brought to a place where has to learn to work in conjunction with the rider rather than against him, as so many do, will insert his own opinions in the form of things like swishing of the tail etc?

I have a question pertaining to this very topic, reschooling and horse reactions: I got on my mare today for the first time in over a month, as I felt prepared to do so after spending a lot of time on my own, with my counselor, and doing some groundwork with her to begin to convince her to place trust in me. One of the issues I've always had is teaching her how to direct the abundance of energy she possess. I have previously lunged her before I got on the let her get some bucks out, but I don't think this is terribly productive anymore. It shows me that when we go in the arena, she has no interest in paying attention to me, only in running around at a mad dash and bucking...

So today I didn't let her buck or run. When she bolted I had her come back to the walk. When she demonstrated that she was fairly calm, I got on. Another horse entered the arena, and the opening of the door was enough of an invitation to her to bolt and try and run off. She reared, then bucked, and it was enough to unseat me. I caught her and got back on, and after a few minutes she tried again.

I was quiet and I didn't have any expectations when I went into the arena: only to create an atmosphere where she felt comfortable and could start to settle. She did after she dumped me and then tried again, when I believe she realized that I was staying up there, and that she may want to listen to what I have to say. All I was doing for the duration of the ride was asking for her attention, watching her ears and her inside eye, asking for light bend and asking her to step over with her inside leg (which is when I realized she really has no idea how to do this...something I will need to work on). We ended our ride with many deep sighs, chewing and the kind of headshaking you'd see from a horse who just got up from a nice roll in the dirt.

I'm assuming this response, based on your answer about Mike's horse's tail, is a similar response in which my mare is saying to me "I don't feel comfortable, I want to do it my way"...and in the end, she understood and chose to listen. Is this on the right path?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jan 13th, 2012 08:45 am
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Jam, if your schooling sessions or time with your horse are often as you describe here, I wouldn't trust you, either.

What are you THINKING of in trying to ride a horse that might by any stretch either bolt, or buck, or rear?

Our elderly teacher used to say: "Do you see that little kink in the horse's tail? That little kink in the tail tells me to keep my feet -- on the ground."

You are correct in thinking that you have been working in the wrong direction. By what you describe, you have indeed been doing nothing but teaching the horse to buck, run, and rear.

I have a little secret to tell you, Jam; it's a quote from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, and if you share it with your counsellor I'll bet the two of you will share a good laugh over it.

Lewis says: "Anyone who complains that they don't have any friends, and who sets out to 'find some friends', will never find any. But someone who dispassionately and wholeheartedly devotes himself to excellence in any area of life, will soon find others with the same interest, and it is from this that true friendship grows. We picture friends as people with faces in parallel, both looking forward to something of mutual interest."

The exact same thing can be said about "working to get the horse to trust you." So long as this is your objective, you will never have any horse that trusts you.

Plus, you're also as I mentioned at the top, going to have to change everything that you do during your session with this horse or any horse.

You need a good long run through the Birdie Book, I think Jam; especially the parts about the FIRST step being to get the horse to focus on you because it wants to be with you more than it wants to be anywhere else. This is the first requirement not only for training but even for safety. As soon as the horse wants to be with you more than it wants to be anywhere else, why then, it will stop running off.

I want you to think hard about this, Jam: it has been more than thirty years since I was bucked off or unseated from any horse. True, I can sit; but it isn't mainly because I can sit a hard shy that I haven't been unseated. It's mainly because first, I don't get on horses that still have any type of kink in their tail, and second because, once I do get on, I've certainly got a plan to help the horse return immediately to a state of OK-ness should he begin to spiral out of control.

A basic problem with riders who keep getting dumped is that they do not read the horse well enough to know what a horse is going to do before he does it. You need to get so that you can see, feel, and sense the 'build-up' that ALWAYS precedes a bolt, a shy, a rear, or a spate of bucking. Then when you can do that (and not before you can do it), you can step in and abort the bad situation before it ever manifests. Let's hear next post from you that you've gotten a Birdie Book and are studying it. -- Dr. Deb

Evermore
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 Posted: Fri Jan 13th, 2012 01:55 pm
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Dr. Deb, thank you so much for your answer to my questions on the reins. As always, I come away with a deeper understanding, clarity and homework! I should put homework first because, as I have found, it’s a cycle of reading then implementing and improving, then reading again with more understanding, doing a bit better, ad infinitum.

 

Jam, if I might add my personal thoughts, read again and again what Dr. Deb wrote about ‘making’ the horse do something. I wrote in under the Eye Dominance thread about one of my guys who would not turn his eyes to me. What I learned in that thread about the horse has changed so much in how I handle my horses. It wasn’t the horse that had to change; it was me.

 

This horse that wouldn’t even acknowledge me with his focus now comes to me in the pasture. I think I am no longer lower than a pile of poop!

 

 

Jamsession
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 Posted: Fri Jan 13th, 2012 05:39 pm
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Thank you Dr. Deb and Evermore. I guess sometimes it takes a kick in the butt (literally...my tailbone is pretty sore) to make something apparent.

I will be purchasing the Birdie Book asap. And as a side note, I chuckled as soon as I read the C.S Lewis quote...it rings so many bells.

Dr. Deb, if I may, would the best thing to do at this point be to start reading and un-learning what I think I know, and leave my mare alone? I am in a co-op barn situation so I am responsible for all my own chores and horse care. It's impossible for me not to see my mare on a daily basis, but I am correct in thinking that, for the time being, I should leave her alone in terms of asking anything from her other than to stand every once in a while and enjoy a grooming?

I will write back once I have had a long sit with the Birdie Book.


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