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Extension and "real" Collection
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danee
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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2007 03:12 am
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Last edited on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 02:52 am by danee

Ben Tyndall
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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2007 06:49 am
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I haven't heard this ("if you cannot extend then the collection isn't real") a million times - not sure if I have ever heard that.

Collection is collection, regardless of stride length.

Here's my theory why an extended gait while collected might be worth more points to some people than a short strided version of the same gait while collected:

As we all know, one popular method of attempting to obtain collection is to shorten the horse's frame by driving the horse forward with long spurs while simultaneously holding them back with the reins. This is one effective method (if not the best or recommended method) for producing energetic, forward movement with a short stride all at the same time. It also passes for collection in some circles, including my circle of hunter/jumper, where in our equitation classes, a "collected trot" or "collected canter" refers to a shortened stride, and has no consideration for which way the horse's back is swinging or if the base of the neck is raised. So anyway, it follows that to get a horse to extend their stride while being held in a frame this way is a pretty good trick indeed.

Also, I think its important to remember the purpose of collection and the purpose of extension are totally different and essentially unrelated. The purpose of teaching a horse to move collected is so that they will be able to carry a rider comfortably and with the least effort and the least amount of wear and tear on their bodies. The purpose of extension is simply to cover more ground per stride. Teaching a horse to shorten and lengthen their stride on command is part of basic training for hunter/jumpers (where it has some important practical applications), but I suspect it is for most other riding disciplines as well.

So while I don't think that your trouble with obtaining extension while collected means there is anything wrong with your efforts to teach collection, I would be tempted to say that you may be missing the tools for teaching extension. However, after reading many of your posts and peeking at your website, I find it hard to believe that you don't know how to teach a horse to shorten and lengthen its stride and furthermore that you don't teach this to your students every day.

I know in my own personal riding experience, transitions between gaits and between stride lengths are a real challenge in terms of maintaining consistent energy, rhythm and (ta-da!) collection. I just chalk this up to the fact that I basically don't know what I'm doing on the back of a horse, and I hope that some day I'll "get it".

It will be interesting to hear what others have to say...

...Ben

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2007 06:55 am
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Danee, once again -- maybe it's just the way you have of putting things, so that I don't understand quite what you mean. However, from what you have WRITTEN, you have the saying backwards. It is not that you can't collect if you can't extend (the stride); it is most definitely that you cannot extend the stride if your horse has not first been very thoroughly strengthened, softened, and balanced by extensive time spent in real -- not false -- collection.

As to the history of "extension": Danee, if you would take the trouble to actually read what is available through the Equine Studies Institute resources, you would find that the "Inner Horseman" issues for Year 2005 go into this question rather thoroughly. The fact is that "extensions" as they are currently practiced have no history at all prior to the invention of dressage as an Olympic sport, i.e. between 1890 and 1917. Podhajsky, who was quite the Otto Lorke enthusiast, forced this harmful and unclassical movement upon the Vienna school when he was its director -- it had never been practiced there until then -- and the School is only now, sixty years and several human generations later, beginning to shake off this unfortunate influence in order to get back to the classical repertory which is their true heritage and mission. Danee, let me repeat this: not only "extensions" but dressage itself -- by which I mean the sport, the form of equestrian competition so called, the thing that has a rule book -- has no history prior to 1890. There is no such thing as "classical" dressage, and it would be greatly to your profit and benefit if you could get this through your head.

One of the great educational efforts that I have made over the last decade, and which I continue to make right here, is to get you to SEPARATE dressage, the sport, from haute ecole, the art and science. This is necessary because if you do not SEPARATE these two very different forms of riding, you will continue to muddle them together not only in your speech and writing, but in your practice. One form is "classical" in every sense of the word, and beyond that, physiotherapeutically beneficial to the horse; while dressage is merely another form of competition which has LESS depth of knowledge, expertise, and history than reining, Paso horsemanship, or Saddle Seat, all of which, like dressage, are derivatives of of haute ecole.

How old is the really "classical" haute ecole? Again, if you had actually read what is available, Danee, you would find that my book "Conquerors" spends many pages demonstrating that a form of haute ecole, that is, riding in high collection with production of such movements as passage and Spanish Walk, and the pirouette/rollback, dates back to ancient Persia more than 2500 years ago. The European history of high school riding is much shorter, going back only to the time of Marco Polo, who brought the news of this kind of riding, indeed the whole concept, back with him from the Far East and then wrote about it in the memoirs/encyclopedia he dictated after his return.

Now, the last thing here is to clear up a technical point. You speak, Danee, of "extensions". Extensions, precisely, of what? I have said "of stride" above. Would you be so kind, then, to explain back to me, in your own words, what an "extension of stride" would mean -- in other words, how you define the term. That will then stand as proof that you do not suffer from muddlement at least at that level. For indeed, we have photographs of many dressage "prizewinners" who are certainly kicking those front feet out but which are, in fact, not extending the stride at all. This implies that not only the competitors, but the judges in this sport, are muddled.

Thanks for the help -- Dr. Deb

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2007 07:10 am
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Ben, you are muddled also, to wit:

a) Collection and extension are, in fact, very highly related. The latter is not possible in the ridden horse without the former.

b) There is no such thing as a frame. "Frame" is a false concept introduced to the teaching vocabulary by Violet Hopkins, who was the first to get the bright idea of drawing a box around the famous collection images in Museler. But there is no box; in other words, you are absolutely not to conceive of 'pushing the horse forward into a fixed hand' or 'shortening the frame.' There is to be nothing whatsoever on the OUTSIDE of the horse that either pushes his hindquarters or holds the front end -- nothing which boxes him in. If you are boxing your horse in, you are preventing him from collecting.

The horse's fore-aft measurement does indeed become shorter with increasing degrees of collection; but PLEASE look at True Collection or almost any other piece of my work to see that this shortening is 100% the product of change of posture on the INSIDE of the horse. "Posture" = shape of the vertebral chain. When you ride by means of the 'frame', the reins will be continuously tight. When you allow the horse to collect himself by effort of the muscles which invest and power the 'ring', the horse will feed, or hand, the reins back to you. This is Baucher's 'descente de main' -- the horse's part in it. It is also Oliveira's meaning when he speaks of the reins as 'semi tendue' -- draping. You need to find this in your feel, Ben.

c) Finding it in your feel will depend, in part, upon washing clean your consciousness, including cleaning up your vocabulary. 'Frame' is a very dirty word. In class, I forbid my students to even use the term. The word needs to be completely washed out of the consciousness of anyone who wishes to make progress in their riding.

This is one necessary part in your path toward "getting it". The reason you haven't "gotten" it is -- muddy speech implies muddy thinking! -- Dr. Deb

Ben Tyndall
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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2007 06:37 pm
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Dr Deb,

You wrote "Collection and extension are, in fact, very highly related. The latter is not possible in the ridden horse without the former."

That's a new one for me. But when I think about the one horse I had who was very easy to obtain a lengthened stride from (13 feet or so), he would indeed do so with collection.

...Ben

Ben Tyndall
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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2007 06:45 pm
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Regarding my comments on "forcing a frame" in my post yesterday, if anyone interpreted my comments as endorsing or recommending this style of achieving collection, I apologize. I've re-read my post a couple of time, and I don't see how it could be interpreted that way. That certainly was not my intention.

danee
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 Posted: Mon Nov 19th, 2007 03:51 pm
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Last edited on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 02:52 am by danee

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Nov 19th, 2007 08:55 pm
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Danee, if it isn't "reasonable" for you to read the available materials, then it also isn't reasonable for me to have to repeat myself to you here. I'm happy to give a few pointers, but again, I am not interested in talk for talk's sake. Much of your muddlement stems from the fact that you have NOT read or understood what I have told you to study. When you have not understood, then the solution is 'MORE STUDY'.

Much of the material that I have suggested that you read is free. The rest is made available at low cost -- at much lower cost, for example, than what private riding lessons would cost.

If you can afford to own a horse, then you can afford to purchase the necessary materials. If you can afford to own a horse, then you can also afford to make ALL the effort necessary to obtain the understanding you seek.

And by the way, Danee -- you do not have to obtain your understanding from me. There are hundreds or even thousands of "riding teachers" out there. I would encourage you to seek out any that appeal to you.

However -- this is a warning -- you CANNOT have it all ways. Specifically, you CANNOT "reconcile" what most dressage instructors or western pleasure instructors or saddle seat instructors or Pony Club instructors say with what I am saying. You cannot reconcile these things; you will have to choose one or the other.

If you want the understanding that I am offering -- in other words, if you want to ask questions of me -- then you will have to abide by my answer, because from me there will be no OTHER answer. You are abusing my time if you merely "keep asking" -- go and read the material, and then you may come back with any specific question that directly relates to what I have told you to read. -- Dr. Deb

Pam
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 Posted: Mon Nov 19th, 2007 10:39 pm
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DrDeb wrote:
The horse's fore-aft measurement does indeed become shorter with increasing degrees of collection; but PLEASE look at True Collection or almost any other piece of my work to see that this shortening is 100% the product of change of posture on the INSIDE of the horse. "Posture" = shape of the vertebral chain. When you ride by means of the 'frame', the reins will be continuously tight. When you allow the horse to collect himself by effort of the muscles which invest and power the 'ring', the horse will feed, or hand, the reins back to you. This is Baucher's 'descente de main' -- the horse's part in it. It is also Oliveira's meaning when he speaks of the reins as 'semi tendue' -- draping. You need to find this in your feel, Ben.


I think this is so important, what has been said here! I had this experience yesterday with my horse.  I told a friend of mine it felt like my horse was handing the reins to me towards the end of the ride because he could, not because I was taking them.  It was a distinctly different feel with the reins than I have ever had.  I ride with draping reins now and I don't think this could have happened on short taught reins.......  Pam 

Annie F
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 Posted: Tue Nov 20th, 2007 03:04 am
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Dr. Deb and Danee,

I am always thrilled when my horse has a breakthrough--when something we have been working on seems to "click" and things become much easier and fun.  I think I've had a breakthrough myself from this exchange. 

Like Danee, I often feel that there is so much information about horses, riding, and training, that I can never afford the time or the money to try and take it all in, so I have to take a little from here and there, wherever I can find it. 

But Dr. Deb is saying that I will learn more and do much more good for myself and my horse if I select one or a few people I can respect as real teachers, and focus on truly listening to them, absorbing and trying to understanding what they have to teach me, rather than looking here and there for snippents of information that seem useful or sensible at the time, but might not be based on anything more than old lore and stale formulas.  Moreover I see that to take full advantage of the knowledge she has to offer, and also in order to contribute in any meaningful way to others here, I have to become part of the ESI learning community--not just a member of the audience seeking confirmation of what I think I already know.  That means not being afraid to be wrong, but also holding my opinions and theories back until I have enough understanding to formulate a useful question, and not using the forum as a way to get answers spoon fed to me as a way to save time (I'm not saying this is what Danee has been doing).

I learned this lesson with Mike Schaffer.  I read his book over and over, I view the videos on his website again and again, and I read and re-read the beginnings of his new book there.   I'm also fortunate enough to be close by, so he is training my horse for a little while, as well as helping me learn to ride (I thought I was at least a "novice" rider, but I now realize that in 30 years of lessons I learned nothing!).  Yet I still have absorbed only a thimbleful of what he knows and what he explains in his book! 

Given her knowledge, reputation, and experience, Dr. Deb's work deserves (and requires!) the same attention and focus.  Even though I have a demanding job and demands on my financial resources too, she is right that if I can afford to have my horse, I can figure out a way to do this, if I give it the proper priority.  I see that this is really what this forum is for, not just for chatting with knowledgable people who have a certain appealing perspective.  

When I was a little girl I loved horses and wanted one (until I was 5 years old, I thought I WAS a horse!), but could never afford to indulge in my dreams.  Now I am an adult with many fewer years still ahead of me to be with horses and to learn about and enjoy them.  But the tradeoff is that what I am learning and experiencing with my mare is even more precious to me than it could possibly have been when I was a child--and I can choose to study and understand as much (or as little) as I want.  Thanks for making such good and important information so available and accessible; I'll work harder at doing my part to contribute!

Annie

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Nov 20th, 2007 05:56 am
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Yes, Annie, absolutely; I learned the same lessons also, and am now engaged in the task of passing them on to others. And I thank you for the compliments. We do our best to help the blind to see and the deaf to hear. Nevertheless, the only thing on that level that can really be "done" is to wait for the movement on the inside of the troubled person -- the movement that will either come, or not come, according to a will that is greater than ours. For we none of us are equipped to open that door.

Great old George MacDonald really gave a superb image when he spoke about Lilith -- I always think of this image when I am engaged with a student who is having difficulty seeing and hearing herself. MacDonald's image was of Lilith being offered the opportunity for true greatness and true freedom, but instead choosing to hold the kernel of her own ego so tightly clenched in her fist that the fingers of her hand melted into the palm. It then indeed required "cutting off her right hand" in order to set her back onto the path to clarity and light.

Such indeed is the essence of teaching. But let us hope that nothing so drastic will be required in the present case. -- Dr. Deb

Jacquie
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 Posted: Sat Nov 24th, 2007 08:07 pm
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A very interesting topic.

Very relevant to a lovely little horse I am now re training. He has been trained for about the last 5 years by the 'kick and pull' method and I am trying to show him there is a softer way. He is os tense and cant believe I dont want to kick and pull him and is slowly learning how to stretch down and go softly onto the contact. I am gently asking him and then giving the inside rein as a reward (in a rather exaggerated manner) now to show him he wont have to be pulled at any more if he can be softer and more relaxed in his neck. He is suh a quick learner, but he has had many years of abuse and it will take many months to make him understand fully. It is lovely to watch him though grow more confidnet and less anxious as he learns.

I would not contemplate asking him at this stage to attempt any extension of his trot or canter as he would definitely lose his balance and either contract upwards and become tense again (this is his preferred way of going currently if pressed too much)or other horses might fall on their forehand and run instead of stretch.

I understood that the necessity to collect a horse was to balance the horse and teach him to cary himself and you with his hind legs under his body better to be better able to propel you and him lightly along in balance and rythm. If you try to rush a horse into an extended trot  before it understood ciollection fully I have been taught it would just make it run and take shorter but faster strides instead of longer more reaching strides. this is what Dr. Deb means I think.

I have lessons with classical riding instructors and do not compete currently, though I am not agaisnt competition. I see competion horses doing all kinds of things which do not look soft or loose or relaxed, but not all competitors are this way.

For me the competition is with myself - to test my ability to teach horses, but to assess the progress one is making it is sometimes good to compare yourself to others at your level and this is where competitions are useful. They show you riding and training that is good and bad but you dont have to copy the bad stuff you see!

Helen
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 Posted: Sun Nov 25th, 2007 07:19 am
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Jacqui, that sounds very familiar. At my weekly riding lesson last week they put me on one of their newer horses, who I was warned was very sensitive to leg and liked to go 'peacock-necked' (not a term I had heard before). My instructor has high practical knowledge and is a wonderful teacher, but not so interested in the hows and whys - one reason why I adore the ESI so much.
Anyway, she was right - when I got on he walked off immediately with very short, quick steps and his neck held high and tight with what I now recognize as the splenius bulging. He was very touchy to my leg and broke into trot several times. At my instructors suggestion, I asked him to stretch his neck out long rather than hold him up - I suppose a sort of head-twirling but not as effective. It took a while (and he was even worse at trot) but about halfway through the hour-long lesson he was realising that I wasn't going to hold my reins incredibly short and kick him into them. His trot was better and he was completely relaxed in walk and seeking the long contact that we were aiming for. I could move my legs around and lift them on and off how I liked, but he wasn't deadened - he responded nicely when I actually asked him to move off. Obviously I wasn't the first to work with him in this way, hence the fast results - but it was very interesting for someone like me (being taught all these wonderful things but with little chance to see them in action) to see and feel him move from completely false collection to something a little truer. It was clear that his old owner had tried to push him into a 'frame' by holding very tight reins and pushing him forward.

Last edited on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 07:19 am by Helen


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