ESI Q and A Forums Home

 Moderated by: DrDeb  
AuthorPost
JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
It looks to me like my mare is toe-first striking. Would you agree? if so, I read in your Equus column about using padded boots to correct the problem, but I have many related questions...first of all, why is she doing it? is it the way I'm riding? is it her reaction to having sore heels from thrush maybe? For treatment, should she be trimmed in a special way? do I put boots on all four feet? what do I pad the boots with and how much padding? how long does it typically take to correct this? should I stop riding until she's "cured"? I also have pictures of her feet that I can post if they would be helpful to review. THANKS!

Attachment: macie_trot.jpg (Downloaded 1127 times)

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, all of your questions are good questions. First we do need to see your photos of your horse's feet. Then we need a description (you can post that when you reply to this) of "how" you ride, i.e. to begin with whether so-called Western or so-called English. You might also let us know whether you show or not, or are otherwise in some manner using this horse to chase after a prize, and if so, what prize.

It's good that you're using the series in Equus to ramp up your ability to see what the realities are with your horse, and what you can do to turn those realities into the best possible outcomes. -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Thanks Dr. Deb, I'm attaching recent photos -- if they're inadequate, let me know and I'll reshoot. I ride "so-called" english. My horse and I are working on fundamentals: suppleness, straightness, tempo, but always on our overall relationship and communication. I don't show; my only goal is to have a solid and satisfying partnership with my horse--no matter what we do together. I also do a lot of liberty work with her such as liberty lunging, companion movements and "tricks" such as mirroring my movements (bowing, spanish walking, putting front feet on the mounting block). I work with her about an hour a day, about 4 or 5 times a week. Thanks in advance for your reply.

Attachment: macie2013_hindfeet.jpg (Downloaded 1072 times)

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
OK, Juliet, I've copied out and marked the sole views of both the forefeet -- as you can see, a line connecting the buttresses does pass through the widest part of the frog, so you can feel happy and confident that your farrier is doing a good job of maintaining Macie's feet in A-P balance. This is also evident from the relatively erect orientation of the tubules at the heels and quarters.

Your idea that the horse might be having some pain in its heels is the next thing to consider. Pain in the rear part of the foot could come from thrush -- does the horse actually have thrush? It doesn't look like it -- is she kept in a stall on wood shavings or sawdust, and does the stall tend to get rather wet? We don't know where you live and that will also make a difference, i.e. South Carolina vs. Arizona.

Apart from thrush, heel pain is commonly caused by corns -- none of those evident either. It could come from abscesses in the bars or the quarters -- has there been any evidence of that?

Do you ride the horse on stony ground, real hard ground, or lime/gravel roads, as are so common in rural Kansas and Missouri? In a barefoot horse, this could easily cause bruising, and there is in the photos actually some evidence of that. If that's what's going on, there's a simple solution -- you need to get shoes on the horse.

Apart from these suggestions, there is also navicular disease that certainly does cause heel pain. Have you had XRays of the feet taken at any time? Helpful to have a comparative set, i.e. images taken several  years apart.

Now as you work through all these possibilities, I also need to ask you to post a couple more photos: 1. Of the horse, taken from the side, wearing the saddle you usually ride in; and 2. Of yourself, riding the horse at a trot. That will allow us to get down to cases in evaluating whether Macie is toe-striking because either your saddle, or your riding technique, or both, is causing her to stiffen her back. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Macie Fore Hoofs Sole View Forum cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 1063 times)

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Thank you so much. I'll respond to your questions now and post the photos you requested as soon as I can. We live in Western Massachusetts (please come and do a clinic sometime!!!). Macie lives in a stall that has equifoam flooring (cushy) with wood shavings in half of it for her toilet area. She's turned out about 9 hours a day in a 1/2 acre paddock. It's been a very wet spring and early summer, but her paddock drains pretty well and she's almost never standing around in mud. She's never had any evidence of abscesses -- nothing that has come out in a visible way. The only thing I see is that the last few trims, when the hoof wall at the toe is trimmed away, there's a visible but thin line of bruise between the wall and the sole. I ride her almost exclusively in an arena with a sand footing. When we ride outside, we're almost always at a walk or a slow trot and it's never for very long. I've never had her feet x-rayed, but will do that--all four? or just the front? Thanks again and I'll post those pictures soon.

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
more photos... still working on the x-rays.

Attachment: macie_ride41.jpg (Downloaded 1028 times)

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, this is excellent that you care enough to be willing to go to the trouble to get the right pictures taken, and then stand up to whatever needs to be said just as you would if this were one of my riding clinics (which are, like this Forum, also open to public view).

First thing is that I doubt your problems stem from the saddle, which looks to fit your horse well. If you can report back to me that you've never seen evidence of dry spots or rubs on either the withers end or the loin end, or the hairs rubbed crisscross-wise over the loin, and no girth galls, then you pass on this.

As to your riding: the first thing is that in the world where I would like to invite you to function, there are no such things as 'levels'. Therefore, it will not be allowable for you to say 'well I can't do what you're telling me to do because I'm not at that level yet.' Such a statement can only be made by a lunatic or an indoctrinee....when you think about it. And none of MY students is ever going to be either of those, if I can do anything about it.

I am pleased to see you riding in what looks like a Josh Nichols sidepull; if it wasn't made by Josh, that's not the point, only that it is designed like his are and therefore is of good quality and fits and functions well.

So you pass on tack except for one question -- do you ever feel when riding in this saddle that you're in a continual battle to get your feet underneath your butt? Do you catch your legs swinging forward, or does anyone ever mention to you that you're sitting with your feet out in front of yourself? This is not a giant problem necessarily -- we can work around it if necessary -- but I need to hear what your own observations are.

Then beyond that, I am going to approach this dialogue with you by asking you to make just ONE change at a time. And the first change I want you to make is this: I want you to carry your hands correctly, which is to say, that unless you are actually using your hand to indicate a turn -- i.e. using the 'first position' or opening rein of the French school, or doing something else momentarily with one of your hands that would necessitate a rather big gesture -- then I want both of your hands to be in the 'home' position. The 'home' position is an imaginary 'batter's box' which lies directly in front of your natural waist.

You will probably need a friend to help you with this at first, so ingrained is the habit in most people of carrying their hands wrong. When I was with George Morris at the USET event this past January he was even mentioning that carrying the hands low is now a fad in some circles. But I would challenge you to find even one single picture of any great rider -- other than Henriquet, who is a goofball who is all mixed up about what Baucher said and meant, and not a great rider anyway -- but you find me one single photo of Nuno Oliveira or Angel or Rafael Peralta or Alvaro Domecq or Ray Hunt or Buck Brannaman or Harry Whitney or Etienne Beaudant or Tom Bass or Arthur Konyot or Lendon Gray, where they do not have their hands in the position I'm asking you to get used to carrying them in.

Your friend, then, will accompany you to the riding area and he or she will be under orders to bark at you EVERY SINGLE TIME they catch you with your hands other than in the correct position, except as noted above, when you need to open the hand briefly in order to more strongly indicate a turn.

The report I want to hear back from you as a result of this -- let us say you give it a week to get yourself into the new habit -- will be what effect this ONE little change seems to be having upon your seat, your balance, and your ability to give aids cogently in general; and if there are any noticeable changes in your horse.

As to your good mare, you will notice that the photo catches her in the act not only of toe-striking, but also of going crooked; she's throwing her quarters to the left. Well, be comforted my dear: most horses do both of these things, and the cure for it will mostly lie in improving the way you ride. The mare, herself, has a lot of good things going for her. So much is contained in that little word 'way'. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
First I need to say how amazed and grateful I am that you do this! what a boon! Okay, to work: I've never seen any evidence of saddle rubs. I looked long and hard and paid way more than I intended to for this saddle and I believe it fits her well. The bridle is a Buckaroo sidepull and I've been using it for about a year. As to my legs being out in front of me, I have to admit that I wasn't aware of this until I looked at these pictures and my coach/trainer hasn't commented about it, but I'll try to be more aware of this. Now, my hands--I totally see what you mean and I'll look for a friend to perform the role of "barker." I'm eager to see what changes this adjustment might bring. The idea that something this simple might have noticeable impact is pretty exciting. I'll report back after a week or so. ps. do you still think I should do the x-rays?

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, having a reference set of XRays for any horse you intend to keep for the long haul is always a good idea. The front feet would be more necessary than the back feet, because most lamenesses affect either all four feet or else only the front feet.

I was only asking about your feelings on having your legs out in front of you, because this is one thing that a still photograph sometimes cannot convey. If your coach/riding friend has not mentioned to you that your legs swing, we can leave that alone for the moment.

So your sole concern right now would be to gain the habit of carrying your hands at the level of your natural waist, and to notice what effect this may have on (1) your position and your feeling of ease of balance, and on (2) your horse, especially with regards to the level at which she offers to carry her head.

If you want a little leg up on this, use the Google advanced search function to scan this Forum content with the keyword "waterfall". -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello again. I've been working on my hands and doing some reading on this website, both in the forum and the knowledge base. ( so much to learn--it's thrilling). I have to confess that I've tried to do more than just hands-- I've also tried to eliminate using both reins to slow and have instead focused on turning using one rein to make slowing, balancing circles. Carrying my hands at waist level has seemed to cause Macie to carry her head lower and be more relaxed in her neck. For me, it helps me somehow feel more tall and centered-- more able to... I'm not sure how to describe it. Maybe just "more able" sort of says it. Tempo is a big issue for us. At the trot it's really difficult to get her to slow and when I can ( by making small circles) she only maintains this nice pace for a few strides and then breaks to a walk. What next? And what about toe-striking? Should I not worry about that (maybe I have bigger fish to fry)? Thanks!

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, you've been learning quite a lot, obviously, by simply doing ONE thing which I have suggested. The connection you've made is that carrying your hands properly causes your horse to (a) relax through the neck and (b) carry her head lower.

These are indeed the usual effects which occur when the student does as the coach asks her in this area.

Now your reading has also led you to realize that pulling back with both hands at the same time is the wrong thing to do, and this goes along with what happens when you carry your hands low, i.e., both of these bad habits provoke your horse to brace the muscles of its neck and carry its head higher and with the nose stiffly poked out to the front.

Your reading, and then your own subsequent experiment with actually trying it out, has shown you that pulling back with ONE hand at a time, i.e. causing your horse to go in a circle, has three effects: (a) it causes her to slow down, (b) it causes her to relax her neck muscles and thereby to be able to flex and curve her neck, and (c) it helps her to regain her balance.

Horses rush BECAUSE they have lost their balance. And when they lose their balance, they also stiffen their neck and their torso and their limbs, indeed, exactly what you also would do if you were walking along a balance beam like Nadia Comenici, and you felt yourself beginning to lose your balance: you would stiffen your arms and your neck as part of a reflex that protects you in case you do actually fall.

Now, when YOU ride out of balance you also throw your horse out of balance. And to carry your hands too low is exactly to ride out of balance. This is I believe what you are trying to express when you describe how it makes you feel when you carry your hands correctly: it makes you feel like you are in better balance.

Now it is time for you to work on the next ONE thing. I want you to spend the next several rides "counting cadence". Again, you'll need your friend to help you out, not this time because your body isn't going to want to do it -- there's no problem on that with this usually -- but because you'll be rather bad at it at first and you need your friend, therefore, to be a "talking mirror" because YOU are not to be allowed to look down. Not at all, not even one little glance down. Where your eyes belong is aimed out over your horse's outside ear, with soft focus, but you still see the ear in the bottom of your field of vision.

So you go out and set the horse into a walk and you start calling out when you feel the front feet hit. You call, "left, right, left, right" and so on, and KEEP IT UP LOUD enough so that your friend can clearly hear you. If you call "left" when it really is your horse's left forefoot hitting down, and if you call correctly several times in a row, your friend is to tell you so. If you call wrong, then your friend should "take over" and call "left, right, left, right" correctly while you are silent and you listen to your friend. If you've been wrong several times, you'll use your friend's calling out to try to relate how your horse's body feels under you with when she says "left" or "right".

You are to call cadence for two minutes at a time. If your friend has been calling, she should call for perhaps thirty steps, and then she will say, "now you take over and call". You then call for another two minutes. And you keep alternating with your friend until you get to where you are 100% correct a time or two. After that, you will call cadence for one minute running, every five minutes and you have your friend time this out on her watch. You do this for the entirety of a one-half hour ride, i.e. after you get your shit together so that you are 100% correct a couple of times, you will then have the opportunity to call cadence for one running minute perhaps ten other times in that ride.

After the first ride, you will call cadence at the walk for the rest of your life for not less than two minutes per ride.

Remember that I waste nobody's time. Therefore, you are not to forget to carry your hands correctly, and if you need to pull backward at any time, you do it with only ONE hand at a time -- these being the earlier lessons, they are not to be wasted or forgotten, but instead you are building upon them.

And yes, dear, you are getting the idea that you DO have a number of other "bigger fish to fry". Your initial question is not being ignored, however; you will remember in the article that you read, it said "most horses toe-strike worse when mounted." There is a reason for this, and that is, that most riders in fact do not ride very well. That's what we're attempting to change in your case, because you are open to it. -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
thank you thank you thank you! I'm on it! will report back in a week or so. -- Juliet

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
I'm ready to report earlier than expected because I aced this! I'm right 100% of the time right from the start. Am I ready for my next assignment or should I do more practice calling cadence first?

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
OK, that's great Juliet. Now, what you do with your newfound "good feel" or "accurate feel" is this: you are going to learn how to do "down" transitions properly.

Set your horse into a good, marching-type walk. A horse of your horse's height should proceed forward at not less than 5 1/2 mph. If you permit the horse to just laze along or dog along, then there won't be the quantum of energy that you need to both keep the animal's attention and produce a quality transition. At too low an energy output, the transition will be much less meaningful and of much less training or athletic benefit.

So you march forward, for let us say half the distance around the arena assuming you are riding on the track.

Then, when the horse seems happy and is marching along well but contentedly, you "warn" her that you are going to ask her to halt. You do this by (1) checking to see that your hands are up where they belong; and (2) moving ONE arm back, or even closing just the fingers; enough to tell the horse that "something is about to change -- pay attention."

When she flicks her ears or you otherwise know that she has "heard" this, you then move your left arm back/close the fingers of your left hand with the picture in your mind that you are not using that one hand to slow the horse down, you are not using that one hand to stop the horse; what you are to picture is that the rein in that hand has a loop on the far end, and that loop goes around your horse's left knee. So what your hand is doing is inhibiting the ability of that left knee to swing forward.

Now, you haven't wasted your time counting cadence either, because you'll be stopping the left knee with your left hand on the count of "left" or "one", and then you'll totally switch over -- so that there is NO pressure in your left hand -- and then on the count of "right" or "two" you will inhibit the right knee.

You will then alternate this, left and right, in time with the forward swing or attempted forward swing of the knees, until you have inhibited each knee one to three times, which is usually enough to cause the horse to come to a complete stop.

This is how a HORSE stops. Notice that it is absolutely not the way a CAR stops. With a car, you apply the brakes to both front wheels at once. If you do that with a horse, who progresses by stepping not rolling, then you are the one who is to blame for provoking your horse to brace its neck, because what you are really doing when you address the horse's head in a down transition is telling the horse to stiffen up just the same as if it were a car made of steel and iron.

Now you practice three or four of these one-two, one-two kind of stops, and then I would have you add one additional thing: just as you will know when you are warning your horse that  you are about to ask her feet to stop that the horse has "heard" the warning, you also know when you are actually stopping her when the moment comes when she commits to stopping. Because no sensible person can possibly believe that it is the reins that stop the horse, or the bit; not even when they are used properly, as described here. What stops the horse is the horse deciding to stop or willing to stop. The reins and bit are merely tools of communication.

So you will be communicating and your horse will hear you and she will tell you and you will know it when she means to stop. And at the very moment that you know that she means to stop and has committed to stopping, in that moment you are to push both of your hands forward so that the horse stops on reins that you have already made to be slack. She will stop within the slack.

Note, again, how different this is from operating a CAR: there, you had better keep your foot on the brake all the time had you not! But absolutely NOT to do this with a horse.

So you practice this another three or four times until it works every time, and you will then, I think, notice some differences in the hindquarter or how the hind feet and the horse's neck and back feel to you. Please report what these observations are, and then we'll have the next lesson pretty soon again I think, after that. Have fun. Cheers -- Dr. Deb  PS I hope some of the rest of you, who also want to learn how to ride, are paying attention to this. -- DB

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Thanks! I'm excited to try this. Getting Macie to slow or stop has always been an issue and I know I've made things worse by pulling back on both reins. It's amazing (maybe the right word is "shocking") how pervasive this "technique" for stopping a horse is and how badly it works! I'll report back soon. --Juliet

kcooper
Member
 

Joined: Mon May 23rd, 2011
Location: High River, Alberta Canada
Posts: 68
Status:  Offline
Yes,
Thank you Dr Deb. I'm glad to see a really detailed description of how you would go about counting cadence in a session as well as the description for a proper stop.
Nice work on this Juliet!

Jill
Member
 

Joined: Sat Nov 20th, 2010
Location: Idaho USA
Posts: 16
Status:  Offline
I am also getting much out of this thread. Thank you both - Juliet for starting it and Dr. Deb for the very clear explanation/directions! 

Jill

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Dr. Deb-- we've been working on this stopping technique since your last post. It's taken us longer to get it than I expected, and I'm not sure we totally have it even now. It seems Macie is listening, but not really sure what I'm asking. It got clearer when, in addition to the action with the reins and the visualizing her front legs, I added my seat stopping. I find that when I count cadence I rely (sort of semi-consciously) on my seat telling me where her front legs are--my seat bones move with her. When I stop my seat bones moving in synch to what I'm doing with the reins, it works better. It still takes us several steps to come to a full stop though. Is this right? or should she be stopping more immediately?

That said, I've interestingly noticed some big changes in how our downward transitions from trot to walk. The counting cadence at the walk has really increased my awareness of what's going on with her front legs at the trot. I used to pick up the correct diagonal about 65% of the time and now it's more like 90%. When I ask her to transition to the walk from the trot I feel like she's really using her back and hind end more. The transition feels much less jarring than it used to. Is this a related effect from the walk-stop exercise or is this due to her trotting in better balance (something we've also been working on with my teacher and from reading "Right from the Start"). Or both?

thanks! -- Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Yes, Juliet, one of the purposes for working on "down" transitions to get them done correctly, instead of by you pulling back against the "hood" which is what you have always done before this, is to improve your "up" transitions. In other words, the quality of "up" transitions is dependent upon the quality of "down" transitions.

Stop trying to use your seat. Do not brace your back, your diaphragm, your upper thighs, any part of your thighs, or any other part of your body. Do absolutely nothing, not one thing, "actively" with your seat.

This is different from saying "stop following". To simply cease following is fine. But this cessation must be entirely passive. DO NOT BRACE YOUR LOWER BACK, because that will cause the horse to brace its lower back, which is fatal. Your back remains softly flexible....her back remains softly flexible. Unless her back remains flexible, she cannot coil her loins, and her stops will then become "hind limb jams".

I never told you, not even the least suggestion, that the stop must or should be very quick. You are not looking for a military-style "halt", much less a slidestop or stockhorse type stop.

You simply INHIBIT and I believe this is the word I used -- you inhibit the given knee.

If the horse's response seems sluggish to you, that's because it certainly is. Your horse (vis., the photo you posted originally) braces its neck and PULLS all the time. This is what you had taught it through all your time together before. What we are now doing is getting you out of that. So your "inhibition" will probably, at first, need to be quite firm. Whenever you are not firm enough, the animal will, because that is what you had previously taught it, it will not understand this firmness -- because it does not at all understand what a bit is for, which again is because you yourself do not -- so in not understanding that the bit is the absolute authority of the universe, which is what a bit is -- in not understanding this, the animal will try to PUSH THROUGH YOUR HAND AND THE BIT, and it will push harder and harder until it gets you to give and let it push through, like a person pushing with all their might to get through a room packed full of heavy medicine balls. Or in other words the horse, the best it knows from all its prior history, treats the bit as if it were the handle of a push-lawnmower. It holds the handle in the "grip" of the bars of its mouth, and it leans against the mower, bracing its neck as you would brace your arms in order to push the mower through high, thick, wet grass. This is what 99% of the dressage world mistakes for "firm contact". It really is a tragedy, so that when I saw the photo you originally submitted, I thought -- let's change this.

So you do all that it takes, but no more than it takes. That is the commitment. If the horse is pushing through your hand, you must -- there is no choice -- you must firm up to that exact degree. If the horse is pushing with 150 lbs. (and they can easily do that), you must meet that with 150 lbs.

Mind, you do NOT meet it with 151 lbs. or with 150 lbs., 1 oz. YOu meet it with 150 lbs.

On the other hand, you do not meet it either with 149 lbs. or 149 lbs. 7 ozs. This is the error that I suepect you have been making.

So you feel of her and find out how bad she's leaning on you, and then you meet that exact amount. Our teacher Ray Hunt used to ask, "how much does it take to get a stick that's balanced across a wire to teeter off?" This is the same question I'm asking you to find out. Because in the end, that's all it will be -- after the horse begins to realize and you begin to realize what the power in that snaffle bit actually is. It will be a stick teetering on a wire, whereas right now it's a lawnmower in thick grass. -- Dr. Deb

 

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Okay, back to it! But first one point of clarification: I'm using a side pull bitless bridle. Should I switch to a snaffle? Thanks. --J

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
There is no difference whatsoever. You will be teaching the horse to respond exactly the same way -- that is, with exactly the same understanding that the thing which is the extension of your hands feeling of and communicating with its head, is the greatest and final authority in the universe, against which it is about as stupid and futile to push or try to push it out of the way or stiff-arm it as it would be if the animal had its head up against a cement block wall.

The sidepull/jumping hackamore and the snaffle bit are to be interchanged on about a five-to-one ratio in the beginning, with the sidepull being the five and the snaffle being the one, i.e. one ride in the snaffle for every five rides in the sidepull. So yes, you should obtain a snaffle bit that fits the horse and have that in your tackroom.

Have fun -- I shall not be available for a few days after Tuesday the 30th, as I will be driving back to California from Kansas. So you'll have a few days to practice before reporting again. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello -- I think we're getting this finally. We still don't usually stop very promptly, but I think she's listening and understanding the reins in a new way so that the ideas around this specific exercise are popping up in other aspects of our ride--backing most apparently. I have a question about my hand position: if my hands are at waist-level then the line from elbow to bit is often broken. Is that old adage to be tossed away? In the last couple of weeks she's been dropping her head down when we're trotting circles. It doesn't stay down for long, but she's doing it more and more often. Is this relaxation and better balance? what's next!?! Thank you as always!

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Yes, Juliet, the old adage about having a straight line from elbow to bit was never more than a rule of thumb, and is essentially worthless or totally inappropriate for a lot of situations. So yes indeed -- forget about that totally.

We have now reached the point -- given the progress you report -- that it is time for you to begin understanding how to twirl the horse's head. This will build upon the response you report that your horse has been giving, i.e., she wants to soften and she wants to drop her head. Our objective here is to go from this response 'flickering' -- so that it is there briefly but then she stiffens/raises her head again, to where she is soft almost all the time. Also, so that you have a tool whereby you can ask her to soften and she will respond to that reliably.

Twirling the head has been discussed in this Forum many times, so you can go look up old threads using the Google advanced search function. Its history as well as illustrations and discussion of how to practice it are also set forth in my book "Conquerors" -- indeed, the history of the hackamore is the 'backbone theme' of that book.

You do not need a hackamore in order to practice head-twirling -- or the exercise by its name in 19th century Europe was 'jaw flexions', as taught by Francois Baucher. It is therefore also time for you to start reading the essential materials by Baucher and his best-informed followers:

(1) My translation of Baucher, which is found in the 2004 "Inner Horseman" back issues disk;

(2) Also go get a copy of Captain E. Beaudant's "Horsemanship Outdoor and High School" (sometimes goes by other titles, just go to Amazon.com -- this authority wrote only one book so you can't go wrong).

There are others also, but begin with these two -- so much for reading homework at the moment.

Now, as to what you are to practice: The first thing to realize is that riding arenas ought to be built as rectangles or squares, not ovals or circles, because in order to train a horse properly, you need all the tools and one of them is corners. Most people do not know how to use an arena corner -- do not even know that the corner IS a tool. Roundpens are great -- much later in your education you will also need to know how to use a roundpen properly -- but the roundpen has one drawback (which is also its greatest advantage), in that it has no corners.

So if there's junk in the corners of your arena, you need to remove the junk or barrier or pile of hay or jump equipment stored there, so that you can ride through the corner.

Now the arena 'track' obviously does not go all the way down the long side of the arena until it actually bumps into the fence on the short side, then making a 90-degree turn. The track accommodates the average body size of the horse -- and the average abilities of riders -- and 'cuts the corner' in some kind of rounded way, so that while the arena is a rectangle with 90-degree corners, the track inside of it is a rectangle with rounded corners.

Now obviously, you can 'cut the corner' more -- or less. Inexperienced riders on stiff, bracey horses -- such as yours has been -- will habitually cut the corner more, because the horse literally cannot bend in the lateral plane with enough fluidity to negotiate a tighter curve. This is exactly what we are out to fix at this stage of your progress.

You will therefore practice riding down the long side of the arena at a walk, and simply follow the track when you get to the corner. When you get to the corner, notice how much "hollow space" there is between your outside boot and the actual corner where the fences meet. Up to twenty feet there will be!

Now I want you to ride through this corner five times, and each time, I want you to use your inside leg and your inside hand to ask the horse to flex through the corner more deeply. You do this very gently; you are not trying to crush the horse in any manner. But you will readily see how the fencelines act as a kind of vice; they 'hold' the horse's forequarter and its hindquarter. They 'hold' the ends of the horse steady, allowing you to work on the midsection, the ribcage, the part you're sitting over. This is the part of its body that the horse actually stiffens the most, and it is for the simple reason that you are in fact sitting on it and the animal then has to figure out how to deal with that. Most of them -- like yours -- figure it out wrong, and need therefore to be shown the right way. The wrong way is to stiffen up; the right way is to totally relax through this section of the body.

Now I said we were going to learn to twirl the head. You are also going to learn to untrack. Twirling the head provokes, or induces, the fore part of the horse's body to let go, unlax, or "turn loose" as Ray Hunt used to say. Untracking does the same for the rear quarters. The best source of information about untracking is found in the back issues of "The Eclectic Horseman" magazine where my articles on that appeared a couple of years ago; get ahold of the editor, Emily Kitching, via http://www.eclectichorseman.com and obtain the back issues, and read them. More reading homework.

The upshot is that you are working on both ENDS of the horse -- by twirling the head in front and by untracking in the rear -- with the object of getting the animal to turn loose through the middle.

After you've ridden through the corner in the first direction five times, repeat it five times in the opposite direction, noting particularly any differences: which way does it seem the horse is more reluctant to "turn loose"? You will need this information at all later stages.

After learning this little bit about the arena corners and getting the first beginnings of an idea of their enormous power and usefulness, you will then get away from the corners altogether, go out into the center of the arena away from the influence of the railings, and halt and pet the horse. Then address the reins and ask her to twirl her head at a halt. The sign you should be looking for visually is NOT to be able to see the inside eye -- this is a true sign but I find that it induces riders to lean over in their anxiety to look. Instead, I want you to tuck the horse's inside jowl under its throat. Do this with ABSOLUTELY ZERO vibration of the rein; DO NOT vibrate the rein. Do not tug, pound, yank, rap, or tap the mouth; there is to be ABSOLUTELY ZERO variation in the feel. You take up a feel and you remain at that exact same feel. You will have to guess, at first, what this feel is going to need to be. It must not be too light or tentative; the horse has to know you're asking something. You take up the feel ONLY on the inside rein; the outside rein is totally, completely slack. If you take up a given feel and the horse just stands there frozen, or freezes or braces up even more, then you increase the feel just as you would have when blocking the knees for a halt, until you exactly meet whatever degree of stiffness or heaviness the horse offers, and there you WAIT. If 'waiting' gets beyond one minute, then you increase again by some small amount. Eventually -- or very soon it may be -- the horse will 'give' or turn loose a little bit through its jaws and/or poll, the head will incline a little bit in the direction you're indicating, and the horse will also probably try to drop its head. When you see these signs, drop all pressure and immediately lean forward and with both hands rub the horse's neck, up and down, many times, from withers up toward the poll and back again. Spend as long petting the horse in this manner as you did in waiting for it to yield. Then repeat again. Each time you repeat, you will find the horse complies by yielding or turning loose of the braces in its neck sooner.

Getting the initial yielding will probably take four or five tries. Once it's happening pretty soon -- and likely the magnitude of the yielding will increase also -- then you can ride the horse on a 15-meter circle at a walk. While on this circle, you'll twirl the head to the inside. Go two rounds, then change through the circle and go two rounds the opposite way. Then again stop and pet the horse as above described -- not some pitsy-poo cheapass little patty-pat, but a great big bunch of neck rubs that the horse finds pleasurable.

Mix this in now, with your other work on stopping, and report back again in a few days or as soon as you need to, if the directions on head-twirling aren't clear. You'll need time to get the reading materials together, too. Good work so far, you're making real progress. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello again. Thank you for your lengthy, informative and inspiring response. It being too late here to go to the barn, I went right to google to find the reading material. I bought the Inner Horseman disk, I emailed Eclectic Horseman to figure out which back issues to buy and I spent about 45 minutes looking for the Beudant book. (His name is Etienne Beudant, by the way). I can't find it anywhere except in the NY Public Library and a handful of university libraries. Any leads on where to find this? Thanks again! Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
H'm, I was pretty sure it was available for purchase. See if they have it at Eclectic Horseman Mercantile. However, if not, since it is long out of copyright and therefore in the public domain, perhaps the Institute could begin making it available as a PDF-on-request, like Pauline Moore's magnesium paper. I will look into this & get back to you. -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
I did a search for "Beudant" at Eclectic Horseman and came up with nothing. In the meantime, I have plenty of reading material! --Juliet

RachelZ
Member
 

Joined: Fri May 22nd, 2009
Location: Quebec Canada
Posts: 5
Status:  Offline
So you pass on tack except for one question -- do you ever feel when riding in this saddle that you're in a continual battle to get your feet underneath your butt? Do you catch your legs swinging forward, or does anyone ever mention to you that you're sitting with your feet out in front of yourself? This is not a giant problem necessarily -- we can work around it if necessary -- but I need to hear what your own observations are.

Hi there Dr. Deb I have a question about what you mentioned pertaining to the fact that there is a feeling that the feet keep wanting to move forward instead of staying underneath the butt.  Is that because the area where the fenders are placed on the
saddle are too far forward or is it a matter of horsemanship or is it about bad saddle fit?

thank you in advance

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Can be any of the above, Rachel. The most common, however, is that the point from which the leathers or fenders are hung is more than four inches in front of the deepest part of the seat.

So, go put your saddle on your horse in the normal manner. Then, while a friend holds the lead rope, you back away so that you're looking at him from the side about ten or fifteen feet back. Identify where the lowest (deepest) part of the seat is, and then walk up to this point and put your hand on it.

Then lift up the little leather flap that covers the "root" of the fender, and find the center-point of the top of the fender. This is the point from which the fender is hung.

Then measure the back-to-front distance between these two points. If it is greater than four inches -- i.e. if it is greater than the distance between the notch where the heel of your boot extends downward and the ball of your foot -- then you will certainly find yourself trying to "scrape" the stirrups back all the time, because your saddle is forcing you into a "chair seat". -- Dr. Deb

RachelZ
Member
 

Joined: Fri May 22nd, 2009
Location: Quebec Canada
Posts: 5
Status:  Offline
Thanks so very much for the information.  I will measure the next time I'm at the stables. My saddle is very worn,  parts are missing and I did buy it as a used second- hand years ago. I'm thinking of getting Dave Genadek's saddle dvd soon.  My next equine investment is of purchasing another saddle, that is after I finish paying the huge vet bill for the bad founder episodes my horse experienced this spring.  

Thanks again

Rachel

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello! So, this head twirling is proving to be a little tricky for us. Before I get the practical description of our efforts, let me report on the reading (I guess I'm a better student than horsewoman!) I've downloaded and read the first three parts of the series from "Eclectic Horseman" (for future reference these are in issues #51-58). Being able to visualize the skeleton at the poll and top of the neck was extremely helpful and made me realize that I was initially looking for too much "twirl". I also read the first half (still reading) of the Conquerors book -- also fascinating! I have the Baucher translation from "Inner Horseman" but haven't gotten to that yet. The reading is really, really helpful. The first day the corners went better than I expected. I'd say there was about 8 feet from my outside foot to the corner when we went to the left and about 5 going to the right. There was very noticeable difference between her head position going right and going left. To the right I saw the jaw tuck and she felt pretty soft and flexible; going left she was stiff and braced in her head and neck. When we worked in the middle of the arena at the halt, at first she was pretty confused as to what I was asking. She alternated between moving her feet--walking either forward or backing up, bracing herself against my hand and not doing anything and then bending her head all the way around. At the beginning, as I mentioned, I think I was looking for too much to happen so I was probably not releasing/rewarding on her correct tries. By the second session, we did a little better--she stood still at least but was still bending her neck around or bracing and not moving and then bending her whole neck. (This isn't twirling, right?) Then I read the Eclectic Horseman articles and by the third and fourth sessions we started getting better at it. It's a small thing, isn't it? The left is still unreliable and "sticky" but the right is pretty consistent. This plays out in our corner work as well-- the left is somewhat better, not great (she's still stiffish in the front end) and the right is pretty nice. When we walk and trot on a circle the right is coming along--much more softness and that elastic, yielding feel, but again to the left she still braces--almost always braced when trotting. It's as if the "lesson" hasn't clicked for her on the left. I'm a bit concerned that I'm asking too hard and she's tensing up on the left. Should I be more patient and more focussed on her relaxing? I get a little frustrated because I think she understands what I'm looking for since she'll twirl left at the halt and at the walk. Advice? Thanks in advance -- as always!

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Yes, just about everybody has to do quite a bit of exploring for the right feel when first learning to twirl the horse's head. And yes indeed -- it is a small thing and subtle; and therefore, one of the greatest and most powerful of all techniques. It is also, as you now know from reading "Conquerors", one of the most ancient; Baucher merely revived it in his day. That most of Europe and the "conventional" riders of America have utterly forgotten it is quite tragic.

Remember that the ONE AND ONLY purpose for twirling the head is to provoke or induce the horse to release whatever braces it may be holding with the tongue, throat, jaws, and poll area. Generally when they brace in one of these areas, they brace in all.

One of Baucher's greatest insights was that a brace in the poll area, jaws, throat, or tongue "locks" the animal's loins. In other words, until and unless you get rid of -- in Baucher's words "annihilate" -- braces in this area, you will not be getting control of, you will not be able to govern, you will not be able to condition or teach, the horse's hindquarters.

So long as the horse braces in front, he will not be ABLE to sit down behind. This is not only because the loins will be braced just as the neck is braced; it is also because the loins govern the stifles, and the stifles govern the hocks. Whatever the loins do -- i.e. brace or elastically release -- the stifles will also do; and whatever the stifles do, the hocks MUST do. This is straight out of the facts of equine anatomy, so that there is absolutely no alternative.

Twirling the head therefore addresses not only the front end of the horse but also the loins and hindquarters. The direct way to address the loins and hindquarters is to untrack the horse. You mention nothing about this in your post, but I told you about it in the previous directions because you can't do the one really without the other. You have to "ride the whole horse" as my teacher used to say, and that's only cutting the surface of what he meant by "whole". But at the very least, we work the ENDS of the horse in order to get to the MIDDLE.

If you have the Eclectic Horseman series, then you'll also be reading about untracking. Please look in those issues, and many older issues before I contributed to that magazine, and see Buck Brannaman untracking horses -- over and over, many times, with many different horses, on the ground and under saddle. This is essential, that you learn what untracking means and learn to use it with no shoving or pushing with your inside leg.

I am pleased with the quality of your observations regarding the crookedness of your horse. She is very crooked, isn't she? A difference of 8 vs. 5 ft. in the corner is pretty considerable. This is something we will gently work on her to get rid of. You will not have to expect it to take very long. As your ability to twirl and untrack gets better, you will find that she begins to even up rather rapidly, in a matter of only a few weeks, a couple of dozen rides.

How you work on the horse to get rid of the crookedness is you untrack her first one way, and then the other way. This helps to break up whatever braces there are, wherever they are. You combine this with twirling the head at the same time in the appropriate direction, i.e. a right twirl for stepping under the body shadow with the right hind leg, and the opposite for stepping under with the left hind leg.

Note please that it is very likely that your mare has some degree of soreness -- an actual lesion -- in the left front leg or hoof. Note this, but do not worry about it, and do not use it as a reason not to work her to the same degree on both sides. The lesion is there BECAUSE she has been allowed to go crooked over many years. In other words, the asymmetry of movement -- the LAMENESS -- preceded, and was the cause for, the development of whatever lesion. Straightening her by this process of suppling can therefore be the cause for the reduction and even the eventual disappearance of the lesion.

It is because her forelimb gives her some pain that you find her continuing to want to brace on that side. Just gently work her through it. You have no business whatsoever trotting, as far as beneficial schooling. You can trot if you like, but there can be no possibility of the horse moving without first bracing up through the transition and then wanting to hold the brace while trotting. So no matter what gait you are in, the very INSTANT you feel a brace developing anywhere, you are to return immediately to the walk and "annihilate" the brace at either the walk or the halt.

I think I don't need to go into explicit detail at this point as to figures you might ride that will make it easy and natural for you to twirl the head and/or untrack. The classics are figures of 8 made as two perfectly round circles tangent at a single point; circles with change of direction through the circle; 10M circles; and corners ridden properly.

I do want you to contemplate the following saying of Nuno Oliviera, who did not approve of leg-yielding in the manner practiced by the Germans, i.e. big booming traverses executed on long lines in the center of the arena. To Nuno this is what a "leg yield" is, but what you do when you untrack on a 10M circle in such a manner that the circle expands -- the no. 1 most basic and essential exercise of the entire school -- in Nuno's terminology this is a shoulder-fore, and he is absolutely right. And so I want you to practice this exercise, which is right on the borderline between "straight" untracking, which would be a leg-yield, and the shoulder-in. Nuno said:

"Please remember, every corner of the arena when properly ridden is a small moment of shoulder-in".

This is why I told you in my previous to use the arena corners to gently encourage the mare to bend a little more deeply than she feels like she wants to every single time you pass through a corner. Do this, and then go out in the center, plant a 10M circle, and leg-yield/untrack/expand the circle from 10M to 20M, encouraging the animal to step obliquely sideways-and-forward by tapping her NOT PRESSING HER with your inside calf in rhythm with her steps (why we count cadence every time we ride -- don't forget).

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

seminolewind
Member
 

Joined: Sat Mar 23rd, 2013
Location:  
Posts: 3
Status:  Offline
Wow. It's been a very long time since I've heard correct instruction as to Juliet. Years. I'm enjoying all this and refreshing the little things that matter. Thankyou!
Karen

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello again--I was away on vacation for a several days and have only ridden two or three times since your last post but wanted to report our progress...because there's definitely been progress! I think I'm beginning to get a glimmer of what things are supposed to feel like, which is very exciting! Twirling at a halt is happening more readily and more reliably and seems to be getting clearer to both of us. She's still more hesitant to twirl left. She almost always combines a twirl with a head drop--this is okay, isn't it?

Our corners are still a work in progress, mostly on my part. I'm still somewhat clumsy about holding the inside rein still and steady while counting cadence and bumping her gently with my inside calf when her inside hind begins to swing forward. (for me, it's akin to rubbing my belly while patting my head!) Just to make sure I'm doing it right: when tracking left, I bump with my left leg when she's stepping forward with her right front, is this right? This reminds me of a question: in reading the Baucher piece, he seems to present a different approach to this. In Part 2, under the section titled "Changes of Direction" he says (paraphrasing) to press with the outside leg and to move the inside hand toward the outside hind. Am I misunderstanding?


The circles are coming along. I've been doing the 10m circle that expands to 20m and then changing direction to the other circle of a figure eight. The left tracking circles are not much in the way of actual circles but I'm focussing instead on staying flexy and relaxed and hoping things will get more circular as we get more straight (ironically). Overall, it seems like together we're lighter and more elastic. We've almost eliminated all pulling and urging and grumpiness. Things don't always go just so but I feel like some of what we're learning is to be okay with that. This feels good.

oh, one other question: can you tell me more about the "lesion" you suspect she has! where might this be? what do I look for?

thanks in advance for your reply and future suggestions!
--Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Yes, Juliet, it is normal and indeed usual for the horse to want to drop its head along with, or just after, you twirl. Remember that the ONE AND ONLY PURPOSE for twirling the head is to provoke release of the muscles that run along the back of the neck, from the poll downwards toward the withers. What -- apart from tension in these very same muscles -- could possibly hold the horse's head UP? Therefore, when those muscles release, the head drops.

As an aside on this: it is a very clear illustration of how erroneous people are when they speak of 'overdeveloped muscles on the underside of the horse's neck' functioning to PUSH the head up. MUSCLES CANNOT PUSH. But that's another thread, which you can look up by using the Google Advanced Search function.

As to what it says in Baucher: I'm afraid, my dear, that he's quite a few lessons ahead of you. For one thing....isn't it quite plain to you that what I am telling you to do (i.e. use only your inside hand and inside leg) is not at all like what Baucher is describing (i.e. to use the outside hand and leg) --? You, along with all other beginners, have no business whatsoever even touching the outside rein UNLESS we detect in your animal a tendency to take advantage of you or even to take dangerous advantage of you by running through its outside shoulder.

Your mare does no such thing, by anything I can see in the original photo or by anything you have described -- so therefore, you stay with inside aids for the moment, until we begin to succeed a little better with the corners, and until the mare begins to be a little more even going on the right vs. the left hand. Why then, you may ask, do I suggest that you read Baucher? Of course, so that you will have a shot at getting the bigger picture, some idea of what is to come, and of where you are ultimately going. Also, because he is the European originator of head-twirling and we owe him a read for that if for nothing else.

If you pick up the outside rein to the point where there is any feel on it or any tension in it whatsoever, you will simply push your horse back onto its inside shoulder. I want your horse to be carrying -- to your feel anyway -- 5% to 15% MORE weight on its OUTSIDE pair of feet than on its inside pair, at all times when you are on a curving track (which means, at all times whatsoever when you are riding in an arena, even when you "think" you are on a straight line -- because in fact there are no straight lines in any arena. You are always either on the right hand, on the left hand, or preparing to change from one hand to the other, even if it takes you most of the length of the long diagonal to effect the change of hand).

A horse cannot execute any curve AS a curve unless he has more weight, as above specified, on his outside pair of feet. You are therefore, frankly, using your inside aids to get the horse to shift its weight from the inside to the outside.

You have gotten a very good insight about this already, for you correctly surmise that FIGURES HAVE NO EXISTENCE WHATSOEVER when they exist only on paper or only as a picture in your head. Let me repeat that: FIGURES HAVE NO EXISTENCE WHATSOEVER WHEN THEY'RE IN YOUR HEAD.

Therefore it is an enormous mistake to think that you can improve your ability to ride figures accurately by painting a circle on the ground and then trying to steer the horse (it wouldn't matter whether you steered mainly with your hands or mainly with your legs) so that he would go exactly over this painted figure. If you try doing that, you will find that your horse goes right back to the most horrible bracing, holding, and overall bodily stiffness.

Figures can only be produced when the horse is (as the Germans say) "durchlassigkeit" (umlauts over the "u" and the "a") -- the English translation of which has been offered to us brilliantly by my teacher Ray Hunt as "turned loose". Figures can only be produced when the horse is turned loose.

What does "turned loose" mean to you? Does it mean that the horse is given freedom through the reins and bit by the rider? Does it mean that the rider does not clamp on, or try to push or shove, with her legs? Does it mean that the rider has twirled the head and untracked the inside hind leg repeatedly in both directions, and expanded the circle to both directions, so that the horse has "turned loose" of its physical braces? Or does it, rather, mean that BECAUSE YOU DID ALL THESE THINGS you are not bothering or frightening or trapping your horse, but are helping her through a difficulty she herself knows that she has, so that she can achieve a degree of inner equanimity and thus "turn loose" of her worries and confusions? What do you think?

As a suggestion....go to http://www.eclectichorseman.com and see if they are selling copies of Ray Hunt's old classic film, "Turning Loose". If not there, you can probably find it at http://www.rayhunt.com. As you watch it, see about the above meanings and MORE.

But to return to figures: so you cannot ride a round circle or any arc of a circle, which is what a corner properly ridden is, unless the horse comes into that figure already "turned loose". This is because THE FIGURE HAS NO EXISTENCE WHATSOEVER UNTIL THE HORSE "PAINTS" IT ONTO THE GROUND.

And whatever state his vertebral chain is in -- braced, that is, vs. turned loose -- will absolutely govern the shape the figure you are trying to create will have. The more turned loose the horse is, the more accurate and the more beautiful and expressive the figure will be. FIGURES ARISE OUT OF WHAT THE HORSE IS AND OUT OF WHAT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE RIDER AND THE HORSE IS.

It follows, therefore, that if your horse produces -- that is to say, he "paints" or "stamps into the ground" -- a "circle" that is really a polygon, it is because he is on his inside shoulder; he has more weight on his inside pair of feet than on his outside pair of feet; and he is, for that reason, braced up. He is crooked by definition, and polygons rather than circles are what crooked horses naturally produce. As soon as you make him straight, that is, as soon as he turns loose of his neck, ribcage, and loins enough that those bodyparts can easily and fluidly bend into an arc that's of just a little bit smaller diameter than the curve of the figure you intended to ride -- until this is the case, you will never actually produce the figure you intended to ride.

If you're confused about making straight, go back to "Knowledge Base" and read the "Lessons from Woody" homework.

If you'll go back also and review more carefully what I said in my previous post, you'll see that I said there that I don't know where or what the lesion your horse has, or may have, is. If she moves and there is an asymmetry to the movement, that is what all crooked horses do; and all stiff horses are crooked. Since your horse came into this set of lessons bracing like a freight-train, we know thereby that she is also crooked; and we know that also because you and she are still struggling with corners. If this has been going on for years, and I have no reason to think that it has not been, the accumulated stress of always putting more weight on the preferred pair of legs is LIKELY to have worn the system out, or worn it more, in some spot or in several spots. I was telling you that if this is the case and it creates some twinges of pain, the mare will try harder for that reason to maintain her wrong habits. You must ask her to work through any small pains that going straight, which means weighting the non-preferred pair of limbs equally, may entail.

I still want to hear from you more concerning untracking. I need to make sure that you understand this correctly before we go on to the next "exercise" -- which means in reality another, little bit different, way to play with controlling her feet from the saddle. "Through the mind through the mouth through the back to the feet," as Ray used to say. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hi, this is an interim reply as I'm still working on learning about and getting a better feel for untracking and turning loose. I've re-read Woody and the sections about untracking from the Eclectic Horseman series and have gotten some more understanding from studying these again (amazing how much I miss just reading something once.) I've been looking online for a copy of "Turning Loose" and have come up empty handed. Any advice on how to view this? (I've sent emails to both the Ray Hunt website and the E.H. website but haven't heard back yet. WorldCat shows there's a copy in Iowa City and one in Utah! I guess I can pursue some sort of long-distance interlibrary loan, but that will be a last resort as I'd prefer to buy a copy.)

Anyhoo, in the saddle I've been trying to visualize the inside leg stepping under and I've been trying to feel the outside of the rib cage expanding and rising slightly as you show in the illustrations from the E.H. series. I'm still working on this and have more learning/feeling to go. You ask what turning loose means to me but I have to say that I don't really have a first-hand experience of this and am searching for how to allow/encourage it to happen so I can feel it. I'm hoping that the elusive Ray Hunt video might help as well as more time riding, counting cadence and working on untracking and head-twirling and no square reins.

thanks--Juliet

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hi Dr. Deb, I think I might have fallen down a rabbit hole of uncertainty. Here’s what’s going on: in order to better understand the phrase “turning loose” I’ve been google searching through the forum and reading any thread that contains the phrase. In doing this, the meaning of turning loose has become much clearer to me in its many senses: the anatomical/bio-mechanical sense (the phrase “twirling the loins” considered in conjunction with the illustration of the skeleton in the EH article was helpful for this), the how-to or riding technique way to acheive turning loose and how that should feel to the rider, and lastly, the spiritual/emotional/relationship sense of the term. I’ve been working on the first two senses of the term by riding but it is the last aspect of the term that has introduced uncertainty into our riding. I’m concerned that my mare is not with me, is not interested in what we’re doing and would rather be elsewhere. In our last few rides, when I give her a break and let her walk around the arena on the buckle she heads for the door as if to say “are we done yet?” Sometimes she just stops in her tracks while we’re working on our untracking circles. I could “get her to go” (which I would have done in the past) but that seems to work totally against the whole idea of her “turning loose” or of us “aligning our desires”. Today, after I read the thread “Draping Reins?” in which you suggest that the poster spend time with her horse at liberty approaching her mare only when the mare invites her in, I went to the barn to do this and had uninspiring results. Typically I tack my horse up in the arena while she’s at liberty. This sometimes can take a little while because while she usually stands quietly for saddling (which took us a long time to acheive) there are days lately when, as I pick up the bridle, she’ll turn and walk away. I respond by first waiting a minute to see where she goes and if she looks back at me, then I’ll approach her and if she continues to travel, I walk along with her. Then I’ll stop and usually she’ll stop too and then she’ll usually stand and let me bridle her. So, my question is: given the behavior I describe I’m uncertain as to how much to assert myself--how to lead without pushing. I was reading another thread in which the person posted referred to a short video of Mike Shaffer schooling the chestnut horse Indeed at the trot. Someone asked about the horse swishing his tail and you explained that the horse was responding to Mike reminding him to not fall onto his forehand--that the horse’s reaction was mild annoyance at being asked to change his accostomed way of going and to put forth an effort but that this annoyance was understandable and acceptable and to be acknowledged and moved past. So I guess my question is how can I guage what is an acceptable “I’d rather not but okay I guess it’s good for me” reaction from an “I’m not with you nor have I any interest in being with you” reaction? am I getting ahead of myself? or losing myself in an area of doubt that’s unproductive? or do I need to go back to a more basic level with my horse and address what I guess might be called the birdie issues before more riding? or can these issues be addressed as we work through these riding fundamental/un-stiffening exercises. Thanks as usual for any advice, suggestions and insight. --Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, next time you go out, put yourself and the horse either in a roundpen or in some kind of smallish enclosure -- the shape doesn't matter; what is helpful is that it isn't too large -- half the size of a standard dressage court would be great. But if all you have is a fenced arena, then use that.

Then go through your usual thing with approaching the mare, but you be carrying a "mild" flag with you as you come along. A "mild" flag would be a whipstock the length of a riding crop, with a soft rag tied to the end -- something like a bandana would work fine. We don't want too much noise, i.e. as a plastic sack or a chunk of tarp would make.

You approach with the flag held unobtrusively. I don't mean for you to exactly hide it; let the mare know you have it, but you're just packing it quietly.

Then approach her. If she stands, fine; pet her and also pet her with the flag, as if it were a grooming rag.

If she stands and permits you to go all the way through saddling, great.

Then come back next day and see if she stands. If at any time she does not stand, but instead looks back at you but walks off, DO NOT FOLLOW HER but instead flag the livin' crap out of her. As soon as she goes to leave, you make GIANT gestures with the flag and all the noise that this particular type of flag can make. To this end, be double-sure before you start that the rag is firmly tied to the end of the crop so it doesn't come off -- you're going to be flagging that hard.

This will probably surprise the mare and cause her to leave. That's what we want. You are saying to her: honey, you're too disgusting to believe and I'm kissin' your sorry be-hind good-BYE."

Flag her off, then, and then if she shows signs of slowing down or stopping, then you come right at her and flag her off again. And you keep doing this several times.

Then you find a moment when you can walk crosswise the horse's nose. This means that you are to wait until she's stopped and is definitely looking at you. From a distance of about ten feet in front of her nose, you then walk on a diagonal line, angling slightly from rear forwards, so that the line crosses her midline. This will cause her to turn her head toward you as she tracks your movement.

It may by itself also cause her to want to come to you. Be very alert for this, and if she turns, faces you, and starts to step toward you, make very sure you're ready to softly step back just one or two steps -- you see, both the crosswise her nose and the stepping back are invitations to her to come to you.

However, this may not be enough, and if it isn't and all you get is the turn of the head, then go ahead and set it up again and get another turn of the head. As you go from, say, the horse's left side to its right side -- and her head turns to the right to track you -- you then alter your track so that the energy of your aura or the energy projected from your leading arm and/or your chest push against her inside (right) hind leg. You are using your body-bubble to push on her hindquarter, and you are telling her to untrack with that inside hind leg. This is the key to all roundpenning. Once the mare untracks, she will PERFORCE turn to face you and will be highly likely to take at least one or two steps toward you. Again, be very alert and forewarned that this is going to happen, and when you see her THINK of coming forward -- even before she does come forward -- then you soften your middle and you take that one or two soft steps backward which say to her "OK with me if you come to me now."

Now, understand that when the horse does come at call like this, it can be a very emotional moment. People find it very satisfying. The Queen Mother found it moving when that Hollywood Nobody demonstrated it for her. He's a Nobody because he confuses the sacred act of hooking on with something HE did. Did you know that the Knights Templar order of Spain conducts a form of the Mass based on hooking on? Hardly something that a person of any feeling or taste would go "ta-da, look what I did" over.

My point is that the act of hooking on is indeed sacred, a sacred mystery: for who can plumb the actual workings of the animal mind? For this reason, I warn you as I warn all who read here: there is no such thing as a 'behavior'. There is only intention, communication, and love.

So you're going to learn how to hook the horse on. But once you've done that, you ALSO have to go back to the first part of this lesson: because the lesson -- the life lesson -- is not complete or whole or healthy unless you do both parts. So once the horse has come to you, and you stand there for as long as it took to get her to come in of her own volition, and you pet her and make much of her for that amount of time -- but when that time is done, then you must drive her away again. When you do this, you will not do it with the kind of force you used the first time, when she LEFT you of her own volition -- you're not disgusted with her now, you're not offended at her attitude; you're just 'the boss' and that is something horses both understand and like, because it begins to show them where the boundaries are, in other words, they get clear what it is that's expected of them, they don't have to go about guessing, which is what your description of your mare is telling me.

The bottom line is this: that whether she comes, or whether she goes, is not up to her -- and that is the lesson from you to her. The lesson for YOU is that you MUST be in control of both halves of this, you must be willing to execute both halves; you must, in short, be willing to govern your horse.

I am pleased that you have come now, by your own work and thought process, to discover that the physical aspects of riding are hardly the most important parts. Notice how we got here: we began with the physical, and I chose that because it is for most people the easiest and least scary approach. You may now be able to understand another saying of our elderly teacher: "When a horse is uncomfortable physically, he'll pretty soon be uncomfortable mentally and emotionally."

Go at it, and let me know your observations and results. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

Jill
Member
 

Joined: Sat Nov 20th, 2010
Location: Idaho USA
Posts: 16
Status:  Offline
Juliet - I just want to thank you again for this thread. I am getting much out of your posts; it seems that you are having all the experiences and thoughts that I am, plus, you display the additional talent of being able to articulate them!

Thanks again also to you, Dr. Deb, for your teaching on all of this. I've been doing the exercises as you describe them to Juliet and feel like I'm making progress. Improving my hand position alone has made a significant difference. Your comments regarding figures and the necessity of the horse being turned loose in order to execute (create) a circular figure produced a real light bulb moment for me as well. I'm embarrassed to admit I had been trying to "steer" circles, unsuccessfully of course! Since I quit steering and started focusing on encouraging the correct bend from head twirl in front to stepping under behind as we move along, the circles appear like magic. Its quite humbling to realize how blind I've been to such a simple concept but at least I'm beginning to see a bit now.

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hi Dr. Deb

First of all, thank you! This exercise is exactly what we needed at this juncture. We tried it this afternoon and here's my best reconstruction of what happened. Since there's no round pen at the barn where Macie lives, we did the exercise in the indoor arena. I let her into the arena at liberty. She walked toward the center of the arena and stopped. As I approached her holding my flag, she turned and walked away. I flagged like crazy and she cantered off (as you predicted my hanky flew off the stick!). She stopped about halfway across the arena and turned to look at me and I flagged wildly again. This happened a couple more times. Then she stopped and gave me a sweet, quizzical look and even though I had read your instructions THREE TIMES, I flubbed it at this point and walked right up to her petted and praised her. Oops. After a couple of minutes of petting, I sent her on her way with the flag again, which she responded to very quickly. At this point I went back to my printed instructions and read it for a 4th time and realized my error. She was standing in the center of the arena now and I approached again. When I got about 10 feet away, she turned her head away from me so I flagged her away. She soon stopped and turned to look at me and this time I walked over to the side of her about 15 feet away and then turned to walk crosswise in front of her. She watched me but when I paused and invited her in she just looked at me. At this point I was standing about 10 feet from her and I walked toward her hindquarters to have her step her back end away from me which she did (we do this at liberty quite a bit so she's used to that maneuver) and then I sent her away. She didn't go far before turning and slowly approaching me and then stopping and looking at me. I invited her in with the "come to me" posture and she came! I petted her and ran the flag over her which didn't bother her at all. After a few minutes of this loving I sent her on her way again and started to walk back to where I left the tack. She followed me quietly and stood very calmly while I saddled her. However, after she was saddled and I picked up her bridle, she turned and walked away again. So we did the same sort of sequence again -- sending and approaching, her turning away again and me resending -- a few times before she once again came to me like the first time and stood to be bridled. After that we did our mounted exercises: corners, head twirling at a halt, one step at a time backing, serpentines and expanding circles. She was very quiet and willing. Each time we do these exercises I try to do less with my hands and legs and more with my attitude, posture, and intention. She's still softer and more flexy to the right than the left but I think we're slowly improving. Did I do the flag exercise correctly enough? Any suggestions? What does her behavior reveal? And how often do you suggest I do this with her? Thank you as always!

--Juliet

ps. Jill, thank you for your kind words!

DCA
Member
 

Joined: Wed Nov 28th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 38
Status:  Offline
I (and my horse) just want to thank you, Dr Deb, for taking the time to so thoroughly explain this entire process. And you, Juliet, for asking the initial question and reporting your progress! It came at such a perfect time, as I feel I am finally at a point where I can understand and use this invaluable information!

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, sorry it has taken me some time to get back to you on this....I've been in England and we were in the last week of work at the dig at Vindolanda, which is always a big push.

You did pretty well on this, particularly so since really your only guide has been printed instructions. It is always MUCH better to learn the art of roundpenning -- which is the art of gentle calling and sending, which alters the horse's mind -- in the live company of an expert teacher. There are, incidentally, very few expert teachers of this art.

The main mistake you made is not the mistake you think you made. That mistake was minor. The main mistake was this, quoting from your post:

"....She watched me but when I paused and invited her in she just looked at me. At this point I was standing about 10 feet from her and I walked toward her hindquarters to have her step her back end away from me which she did (we do this at liberty quite a bit so she's used to that maneuver) and then I sent her away."

It is the last thing (underlined) that is the mistake, which reveals that you don't fully understand what we're doing here. The amazing thing is that, according to your report, in the next twenty seconds the horse filled in for you and came. In other words, the horse understood what would be most fitting and did that, despite your garbled version of "horse".

The purpose, in a roundpenning context, of causing the horse to step under the body-shadow with the inside hind leg, in other words to untrack, is to very strongly induce them to come to the handler. This is HOW you get 99% of horses to come to the handler; as I said in the printed instructions (which you read four times), it is the essential key to all roundpenning, just as it is the essential key to obedience of all kinds, whether on the ground or under saddle. To be able to untrack the horse, or to cause it to untrack itself I should more properly say, is to be able to control the horse, both "internally" in terms of its thoughts, intentions, attitudes, and feelings, and "externally" in the ordinary sense of being able to govern where the animal goes and at what rate.

Therefore, whenever you cause the horse to untrack, your very next action and expectation should be that it will come to you, and you must yield enough "space" for the animal to feel comfortable doing that. What you would NOT do is drive the animal away; this is like saying "come to me -- no wait! Don't come!"

For the present, you will be calling the horse all the way in to you, so that it can be petted and stroked. Later, you will discover how to refine this so that a "little" turn-and-come -- i.e. a "little" untracking -- can be morphed into a soft turn, thereby teaching you how to guide the horse or "steer" him by means of the Birdie rather than by means of the reins -- the reins, which although they are how beginners must first learn, are rather crude.

Working with the horse on the ground gives you a great opportunity to observe exactly how your horse untracks. If she's softer and more flexy to the right, this may be because Juliet herself is more right than left-handed, and if that's the case, we'll be teaching you to throw a ball with your left hand until you can throw a ball with that left hand better than you can throw it with your right hand. However, it may also be, or may additionally be, due to a side preference of the horse itself. So you should observe whether the horse untracks as deeply on the left side as upon the right; and if less deeply, then it is likely that the animal doesn't really want to come to you when you are on its left side at all.

You will therefore put special emphasis -- i.e. more repeats -- on getting the animal to turn left in order to come to you. At this stage you probably don't have to grossly walk across the nose anymore in order to get her to hook on, and if that's where you're at, then you can just send the horse off to the left hand and drive it at a gentle trot around a curve or two. Then aim your eyes at its left stifle, step back slightly and to your right to induce a slowdown and turn in, and then let the animal come to you.

Now here's an additional, and more important, bit of observation to do: when you get the horse to come in, and it is coming in, does it stay curved to the left the whole time it is coming in from having been on the left hand? Or instead does it, about ten or fifteen feet away from you, overturn its head so that by the time it reaches you, you are in the scan of the right eye rather than the left -- or indeed so that by the time the horse gets up to you, it has actually "placed you" on its right side? This is the root of the problem -- or one root of the problem -- in many cases; so that you then have to watch the horse very carefully as it comes in toward you, and be ready to step off to the right, if it tries to "beat you" to the right.

If the horse makes a hard effort to keep you in the right eye, so that you feel like you have to jump fast to the right like a flea in order to be quicker than the horse, then certainly you must not jump or hurry or get hard in any way yourself. Instead, put the animal on a halter and work on calling just the eye. At first, stand in the scan of the left eye, untrack the horse's left hind leg, then when she softens and lowers her neck and blinks, approach, pet, and praise.  Do it on the "bad" side five times as often as on the "good" side. If she tries to overturn, then drive her forward and work it out while you're longeing her like this, that you drop back pretty far so that you are at the level of her flank. Then you stop and see if you can get her to stop WITHOUT turning back to you so much, so that she must maintain you in her left eye.

After a "set" of this -- let's say five left, one right -- then go do something else for a few minutes, and then come back and do another set.

Then go get your flag and stand with it in front of the horse. You need to be back all the way to the end of the tail of the leadrope, so that you and the horse are fully six or seven feet apart, and you need to be able to get the horse to stop and stand back away from you as described (if you don't know how to do this, then that's a separate lesson -- let me know).

Get the horse looking at you "square" with both eyes with you standing plumb on the midline directly to the front. Then (assuming the flag is in your right hand), point the shaft out to your right and slowly raise the cloth upward to about the height of the horse's right eye, then lower it again. Then change the flag into your other hand and do the same to the left eye. If the horse is snorty about this, repeat until she's confident -- you make her confident by stopping and lowering the flag every time she stands -- and you will soon find that she'll stand calmly and totally OK with it even when you raise it right over your head.

When this is going well, then move the flag faster and, while holding it in your right hand, cross the cloth part over the midline so that it goes from the scan of the right eye to the scan of the left eye -- like a navy signaller doing semaphore. Then put the flag in your left hand and do the same from the left side. Repeat this many times during the course of any ground session, finding a moment to work it in every few times you call her in, for example (eventually she won't need the halter to stand still  for this -- she will learn to differentiate you doing semaphore from you telling her to leave or driving her with the flag). The whole purpose of this is to "exercise" the less-competent eye, so as to even up the life in the body.

Let me know how things are going when you have some news to report. -- Dr. Deb

nejc
Member
 

Joined: Tue Sep 30th, 2008
Location: Slovenia
Posts: 31
Status:  Offline
Dr. Deb this thread is wonderful. I am carefully studying your Bride Book and simultaneously working with my horse. We spent almost a whole year just walking and doing most of the exercises that you suggest. We are doing also a lot of mannering and other ground working. Last three months we began trotting and occasionally doing some canter departures. He becomes entirely new horse; much more calm, obedient and willing on psychological level and much suppler, strait and collected on physical level.
I have a question about my eye dominance. When we are doing curves I try to follow the advice and look and aim with my inside eye over his outside ear. There is no problem when my inside eye is my dominant eye but when my inside eye is left (not dominant) eye I have to close my right eye to do the curve right. Is there any eye exercise to train my left eye to do the job without closing my right eye?
Your explanation about the horse’s eye dominance and how to handle it is amazing and I shall immediately put it in practice.
I notice that untracking applies on my own walk too. When I put my left foot slightly ahead and inward my turns on the left side (and vice versa) becomes much more friendly for my knees and when  at the same time I use my inside left eye as a leading eye my walk becomes more balanced on the strait lines  and pain in  my left knee is relieved. Obviously I am crooked too. The same position and action of my legs for turning me, I applied as an aid for turning a horse while riding and for now it works great.
Igor

Katherine
Member
 

Joined: Thu Mar 29th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 28
Status:  Offline
This thread may have been written just for me too... I have a green and crooked mare (who sold herself to me last year) but the improvement since following the instruction here has been immense and significant.

Getting back to the hooking on piece - I remember you mentioning "Fundamentals of Free Lungeing" by Stephen Mackenzie some years ago Dr. Deb, I think when at one of your classes in Haddington, Scotland. I just remembered this book and pulled it out of the bookcase, and will re-read. It's been some time since I did much with horses since having family, and I have forgotten quite a bit. Perhaps this book would be useful to other readers.

This mare I have has many similarities with Juliet's but additional "holes" in the foundation also, which I know need full closure. She would be one that hangs by the wall and doesn't draw fully in to you. Also unequal with the eyes. We have plenty to improve, and I am sure I will have questions.

With thanks for your continued teaching,

Katherine

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Katherine, I mentioned Mackenzie's book because it is nearly the only one out there -- in response to the question of someone who was present at that seminar many years ago. You may remember the questioner: it was the equine version of Rita Skeeter. Mackenzie is a behaviorist and, as I have said many times before, there is no single person more dangerous to any horse, or to any animal for that matter, than an academic behaviorist. In short -- he understands some of the mechanics; he does not tell us, or show us, that he comprehends the deeper meanings.

You can try to go find video footage of Freddy Knie, Jr.; he was a master. You find the footage and you watch it over and over and over.

You can also try to go find video footage of Angel and Rafael Peralta; they too are masters. This footage will show them on horseback; understand, it is the same on horseback as on the ground, once you know the art at all. There's a YouTube clip showing the two brothers talking about their farm, teaching, and breeding operation. It doesn't matter whether you understand Castiliano; watch how the 92-year-old Angel 'talks' to his horse, which is trying to push on him while Rafael talks. Just watch and hear what the horse is saying, and see that little smile on Angel's face as he tells him 'that's enough for just now'.

In short I would prefer you go elsewhere than Mackenzie: especially to go visit with Harry Whitney or Josh Nichol in person, or come attend my anatomy class as a full five-day enrollee. If you do that, we'll see whether there is anyone else interested; if there is, then it wouldn't kill me to do a sixth day on roundpenning for you & other students. Not this year though; we're full (there is a waiting list). -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello!

thanks for your lengthy, informative and as usual, extremely helpful reply. I understand what I did wrong with the "come/don't come" and understanding this mistake has made the process and purpose of untracking more clear to me.

I've only had one full session to try these new "eye" exercises but wanted to report sooner rather than later because I'm a little unsure of the results I got.

First I did the sending/coming in/untracking exercise at liberty and carefully observed how she came in to me when traveling to the left vs to the right. As you predicted, to the left, she would come in and as she got near she would either swing her hindquarters around to the right so that she was facing me squarely or she would bend her neck around to a degree that enabled her to face me. Sometimes she would go all the way to have her right eye on me, but usually she would just maneuver herself so that both eyes were on me. Once she was facing me, she would stop.

Next, I put her lead rope on her and and tried the "calling just the eye" exercise. I don't think I fully understood this one though. I asked her to walk around me and then, by pointing at her inside hind and taking a step toward her, I asked her to step under with her inside hind and move her quarters away from me. (is this what you meant?) To the left she did the same thing as at liberty: either swinging her hind end to the right or bending her neck so that she could face me squarely. It was very hard to get her to hold me in her left eye--it seemed to me that she would either not look at me at all (head not twirled, neck stiff) or she'd do the turning to face me maneuver. We tried it several times (5-6) and I think she only held me in her left eye once and only very briefly. I felt like I wasn't doing it correctly. I often ended up positioned in line with her hip -- it this right? This exercise felt sort of difficult and unclear to me.

After this, we did the semaphore exercise. This went unexpectedly well! she stood facing me quietly, watching me. I moved the flag up slowly with first my left hand (so that it would be in her right eye) and then with my right hand. She didn't flinch or react in any way on either side. I did it again, this time going slowly all the way up overhead and then switching hands and back down the other side. Again, no big deal to her, she just stood and watched. I did it again a little faster and she was still fine. So, I'm a little confused as to why this last exercise seemed to contradict the first two.

By the way, I'm very right-handed/right-sided. Another similarity I sort of share with Macie is that I clench my jaw (I have to wear a guard on my teeth at night because I grind) and often have a stiff neck! (coincidence?)

One more question, when you write "observe whether the horse untracks as deeply on the left side as on the right" I take you to mean for me to see if she's more flexed throughout her whole length, not just her inside hind stepping under more deeply. Is this correct?

One other observation: when I'm lunging her at liberty, she's lately (past few weeks) started dropping her head and bending softly when she's going to the right but today, for the first time, she did this going left. That seems like a significant improvement! yes?

Thanks as always for this invaluable information. It really means so much to me!

--Juliet

Katherine
Member
 

Joined: Thu Mar 29th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 28
Status:  Offline
Dr. Deb,

Yes, agreed, I have had a look at the MacKenzie book, and it was originally aimed at supporting a "program" and was also based around "behaviours". So, down on two counts. At least by mentioning it now I have perhaps saved others wasting their time and money on it. I don't even like the pictures hugely, and I often keep books just for pictures even if the text isn't great, but maybe not this one.


I have never done any round-pen work before but have seen it done very badly by guys who do arena tours, so have read and re-read the thread here for the deeper meaning.

I took my mare into a small area this afternoon and just stood in the middle,  and my presence alone was enough to send her round as if going by clockwork. It looked like she had been there before which is possible, as I don't know her history. It took me near an hour to untrack her softly and a step at a time on the right rein, and eventually have her come to me, using almost zero aura/bubble force, and I also now understand why she is harder to turn by the birdie to the left when ridden. She does not hook on at all with the left eye. It was an enlightening hour, by no means a conclusion, and I will follow up with all the other exercises discussed in this thread and I am sure will see improvement in time. Personal instruction would I accept be best, and I will need to look into how I could arrange this, perhaps if you return to Vindolanda next year you may be interested in a few days in Scotland!

With thanks,

Katherine

 

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello again-- we've done these eye exercised a few more times now and we're making progress. I think I get it a little better now and have figured out where to put myself in relation to her head and quarters to do the exercise more successfully. She'll keep me in her left eye for a few moments now while untracking before overbending or swinging her hind end around. When she has me in her left eye, she has a soft round posture and seems okay but then she sort of gets a little rushy and tight as she tries to get both eyes on me again. I'm still confused however as to why this eye dominance doesn't show up in the semiphore exercise. Thanks again, Juliet

Katherine
Member
 

Joined: Thu Mar 29th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 28
Status:  Offline
Since my initial experiment two days ago we have had a total change. Yesterday I went into the field to do general feeding and mucking out and so on, and my mare came over immediately, asking to hook on. She also looked as if it was all such a big relief! She did this off the right eye. We did a few manoeuvres untracking and hooking on and her following me around, and I left her at that.

Today I took her into the yard, haltered her, and did a little work off the left eye as per this thread. We also did a few minutes with the flag (both eyes) and she was OK enough to leave and put back to the field.

Later when I went to the field do the general tidy up and feeding, she came over once more and presented herself for hooking on. This mare has been unreliable to catch since I bought her, so it is a big change. She also hinted she could work off the left eye tonight, so we did a few slow step-by-step untracks and she willingly came in to call off the more difficult eye.

Learning horsemanship is like peeling off the layers of an onion to get right to the heart - maybe now I have started at the first layer

Katherine

 

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Yes, Katherine: you're finding out how horses REALLY work -- instead of how the Olympic Team and the Pony Club says they work.

Our elderly teacher used to talk about the majority of people who were "surface workers -- just working on the surface." This is the onion thing, as another way of putting it.

And Juliet: very good. I did not reply before because I figured you'd just need a little more time and a few more tries.

It DOES "work" by the way, when you are doing the semaphore thing; you just don't see it. Go very slow with this; you may be coming on a little too strong and that will blow the Birdie right back down into their eyes.

Did you all see the article in Equus Magazine this month -- a nice University study that demonstrated that horses that do not APPEAR to be stressing when tied up to be body-clipped are in fact (by measured physiological markers such as cortisol release and heart rate) stressing just as much as those that give obvious physical signs such as tail-swishing or weaving back and forth on the end of the tie.

This is exactly why Juliet is not seeing that she is in fact having an effect with the semaphore exercise: many horses are rather stoic, and often the stoic ones are the most stressed. They just 'hold it in' -- and then spook or explode when they get enough of a build-up.

Notice also the wisdom of our elderly teacher in showing us that it would be good to learn to groom our horses without tying them up. Remember that a horse is defined psychologically as "the kind of animal that survives by making adjustments". When the horse's ability to "adjust" -- which means move away or move its legs -- is reduced or totally cut off (as it is with cross-ties), its internal stress level will go up the most -- and may become an external expression, as I said, with enough of a build-up of pressure. Remember that it is the HANDLER or GROOMER who brings on the pressure. How sadly amusing that this is then said to be "the horse's resistance" by most people.

So Juliet, the application of this to you is to just take it slow when working from the front. Try alternating a kind of oblique semaphore, where you play with trying to get the horse to untrack with its left hind leg from a position diagaonally out from its shoulder -- not all the way around to the side but not all the way in front either. Loosen her up this way, both sides, a few times, and then show her the flag again directly from the front. The purpose of doing it from the front is to 'wake up' the weaker eye; not to get her to do anything, necessarily. The more directly in front you stand, the more you're addressing the eye and the less you're addressing any hind leg that might untrack. -- Dr. Deb

Sharon Adley
Member
 

Joined: Fri Aug 5th, 2011
Location: Indiana USA
Posts: 74
Status:  Offline
Dr Deb said:

"Notice also the wisdom of our elderly teacher in showing us that it would be good to learn to groom our horses without tying them up. Remember that a horse is defined psychologically as "the kind of animal that survives by making adjustments". When the horse's ability to "adjust" -- which means move away or move its legs -- is reduced or totally cut off (as it is with cross-ties), its internal stress level will go up the most -- and may become an external expression, as I said, with enough of a build-up of pressure. Remember that it is the HANDLER or GROOMER who brings on the pressure. How sadly amusing that this is then said to be "the horse's resistance" by most people."

On that note, I think I'll go back to grooming the horses loose in their stalls (and tacking them up there too) as I used to do.  See if it helps the mare who was tied in high, tight cross ties for all grooming for years before she came to me.   She has improved with time (I don't cross tie) but still does fidget when grooming and tacking up.

Sharon

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
I wouldn't do it in the confines of a stall, Sharon; the animal could swap around and catch you against a wall and get you pinned or kicked. If you do it in a stall, halter her and have the end of the halter-line draped over the crook of your left arm when you're on the horse's left side, and vice-versa.

Better, however, would be to learn to do it out in the arena or in an outdoor pen larger than a stall. You begin, even there, with the halter on; only when it becomes obvious that the horse has no intention of swapping its butt around to face you, or of leaving, and when they have quit fidgeting altogether -- only then do you do it totally loose. The handler must ALWAYS be thinking ahead so that you leave yourself a way out. -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello Dr. Deb, We’ve been working on exercising Macie’s left eye and things are coming along. It’s interesting just to be aware of this eye preference when we’re together--leading or hand grazing or just watching her at liberty. It’s eye-opening (ha) to see how much eye preference affects overall movement and posture. When we do the untracking on line exercise she’ll now keep me in her left eye for longer and with less overall tension. She’s able/willing to look at me with her left eye while untracking and will halt without swinging around to put me in both eyes. She’s still noticeabley less consistant with this to the left as to the right, but I’ve definitely seen progress with the left. When we do the semaphore exercise, it’s kinda hard for me to be sure, but she seems to “watch” with her left a little more than before. It’s all very subtle because overall she seems to simply stand and not really react to either side, but when I watch carefully I think I can see her track the flag with her right eye and right ear and when I switch to the left, I now see her watching in the same way. She doesn’t watch for as long on the left as on the right and sometimes will swing her head to left to see the flag with both eyes. When I stand obliquely in front and to the side, (which I’ve only tried a couple of times) she’ll step away on the right side, but on the left, she first tries to step forward and when I set her up again, she was able to step away to the left once or twice. It’s like it’s harder for her to “understand” on the left side. I’m still doing circles and corners and feel some progress here as well. In our corners, she consistantly drops and twirls her head in both directions. In the circles to the left, she alternates between bracing and softening/flexing. I’m in the dark as to what I’m doing (if anything) to cause this or what I can do (if anything) to make the relaxed/flexy posture more consistant. Oh, also our circles are more and more circular. Thanks for any further advice! --Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
OK, you're doing fine, so here's a couple more suggestions:

(1) Now that you've begun to be able to see your horse's more subtle responses to "waking up" her left eye, it's time to try a little test. Set the mare up so that she's facing you dead-on, either at the opposite end of the lead rope or at liberty. When she's settled on her feet, call BOTH her eyes at the same time, so that she looks at you out of BOTH of them. At this point, take note: if you stand still but relaxed for, say, a count of twenty....how long does it take before she moves her head off to the left in order to get you more into the right eye? If she'll hold you in BOTH eyes for a count of at least eight, you've achieved a benchmark.

Now if she will hold you in her regard with both eyes for at least a count of eight, then you may try this further test. Have her at liberty and find a moment where you set each other up square-on, but if possible with more distance separating you than you could have with the lead-rope. From this somewhat greater distance, you walk in a relaxed manner (but yet not overly slowly) straight in toward the midline of her head, right square between her eyes. The question is, will she let you come all the way up to her so that you can pet her forehead without turning her head? Will she hold you in the regard of both eyes all the way in? Or, how far away will you be when she turns her head?

These two tests can be tried periodically, and you should see improvement as you continue to work with the flag as you have been.

(2) As to turning under saddle: I have previously told you to look at the outside ear, or keep the outside ear in the scan of your outside eye. You are not to really stare at the ear, but just keep it in your vision, somewhat as you would use a gunsight. Note how different this is from what is commonly taught to people wanting to jump -- they are told (very sensibly) to look around the turn to their next fence. You will eventually actually be able to do this, but not before the mare turns better.

So telling you to look at the outside ear is a coaching trick which prevents you from tilting your head to the inside. Since your head weighs as much, or nearly as much, as your butt, to tilt the head to the inside (or worse, to "zoom" by lowering your inside shoulder and tilting your whole torso in, like as if your arms were the wings of an airplane "zooming" around a curve) will force your horse to put weight on its inside shoulder and inside hind limb, right where you don't want her to. If you tilt in, your upper body is telling the horse to "fall in", even though your inside leg may be telling her to arc her body outward.

Now here is a second "trick" which will cure the other half of the problem that people usually have and that you probably have, too, which is that you are inadvertently blocking the horse from arcing its body outward and from putting enough of its weight on the outside pair of limbs. The inadvertent blocking comes from two things, one, that instructors influenced by German competitive dressage are always yapping that the student "must" hold the outside rein. No, no, no, no, no. You are going to be allowed, and taught properly, how to USE the outside rein WHEN the horse shows us that it is appropriate. In the beginning, with a stiff, green horse, you ride the horse almost 100% by means of the inside rein. So the first part of this is to check to be sure that, through the turn, beginning at least three horse-lengths before each corner, you have ZERO "contact" on the outside rein.

The second source of blocking is more subtle, and it comes from the inner thigh of your outside leg. You are almost certainly carrying more tension or hardness through this bodypart than you should, and your horse is exquisitely sensitive to it. Therefore, let me give you a visualization that will make you aware of it and also take the pressure off your horse.

Let us say that you're planning to pass through a corner on the right hand. That makes your left hip the outside hip. I want you to visualize how your leg on that side articulates with your pelvis. Then I want you to pretend that a giant pair of hands (very gentle hands) have come down from heaven, taken ahold of your outside thigh, and pulled your leg out of the socket so that it is now floating along about one foot straight out to the side. The giant hands have pulled your leg away from the saddle like you would pull out a drawer -- straight out to the side.

Notice that this is a visualization and I have not told you to move or change your leg in its physical manifestation in any way. But next time you go ride, try this visualization the first time you go out intending to "expand the circle" and see what happens. Then do it in the corners, both directions, and let me know how the mare's ability to "flex" seems when you do that vs. if you do not do it. -- Dr. Deb

Sharon Adley
Member
 

Joined: Fri Aug 5th, 2011
Location: Indiana USA
Posts: 74
Status:  Offline
DrDeb wrote: I wouldn't do it in the confines of a stall, Sharon; the animal could swap around and catch you against a wall and get you pinned or kicked. If you do it in a stall, halter her and have the end of the halter-line draped over the crook of your left arm when you're on the horse's left side, and vice-versa.

Better, however, would be to learn to do it out in the arena or in an outdoor pen larger than a stall. You begin, even there, with the halter on; only when it becomes obvious that the horse has no intention of swapping its butt around to face you, or of leaving, and when they have quit fidgeting altogether -- only then do you do it totally loose. The handler must ALWAYS be thinking ahead so that you leave yourself a way out. -- Dr. Deb

The work in a larger area had been done some time ago and was working well, so I went back to tying her or holding the lead in the barn aisle (quite wide aisle, horse can see well to her front, back, and sides without being crowded) but on the lead, she had gone back to fussing.  The stall I am using is a very large foaling stall, plenty of room for me to position myself so that she can't pin me.  The first time I put her in the stall for grooming and tacking up, she moved away twice (compared with moving up and back, shifting her hind left and right several times when tied); at which point I paused and waited for her to take up a position that showed she was relaxed again, approached again, resumed grooming, she stood quietly.  The process took less time than in the aisle and the horse and I were both more relaxed with it.

On the lead, she has objected to being girthed by swinging her head around at the first touch of the girth.  Using a saddle that fits correctly reduced this reaction to 90%; she appears to have learned that the new saddle will not pinch when girthed like the old one did.  But she was still tensing up a bit when I began to girth her.  Loose in the stall, she seemed relaxed throughout the process.  I say process because I start by buckling the girth only snug enough to take the slack out.  Then I do something else, like fetch the bridle.  Then I take up the girth another notch.  Then bridle, then take up slack in the girth.  We go on like this with a gradual girthing process and a final check is made before I mount.  My first horse taught me this method 50 years ago.  Girth him up tight right from the get-go and climb on his back, he was uncomfortable and braced and the rider was in for a rodeo ride.  Take your time getting the girth tight enough to hold the saddle in place for mounting and he was fine.  I am amazed at the tolerant horses that I see girthed up in a rude manner but they don't explode.  Looking at their facial expressions and braced necks, though, I see their more subtle reaction.

Last edited on Sat Oct 5th, 2013 01:41 pm by Sharon Adley

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hi Dr Deb,
here's my report on our progress since your last post...

Holding eye contact -- she does this really well! I’ve now tried it several times and other than the one time she got distracted by another horse and looked away soon after we started, she happily holds my gaze for a slow count of twenty. During the count, I could see her regard me a little more in one eye and then the other--this was subtle, she didn’t really turn her head. When she finally did turn her head, it was to look away entirely, not to put me in one eye or the other. This exercise was enjoyable to do as it was pleasant to just stand and look at each other. When we did the second eye contact exercise in which I walk toward her, every time I could walk right up to her and pet her forehead without her looking away. Does this tell us more about her eye dominance?

We continue to do the untracking on lead with me trying to stay in her left eye. She's getting better with this. Usually when I ask her to halt after she’s put me in her left eye and untracked around a small circle, she’ll swing around and only halt once when she’s facing me. Is this an eye dominance action or something else? I’ve been noticing it more in general--she generally wants to stand facing me head on. The last couple of times we did the this untracking exercise, I tried to have her stop with only her left eye on me by softly holding the lead so her head doesn’t swing toward me. She’ll do this, but it’s clearly not her preference. Is this something I should be asking for?

The semaphore exercise is so subtle that usually I think she’s just looking at me and not at the flag at all...sometimes I gently shake the flag around and then she’ll flick an ear at it. I’m still working at getting aware enough to see what’s going on...

The standing obliquely in front of her and asking her to untrack is also a work in progress... usually she just walks forward and doesn’t seem to understand what I’m asking. Today I got more definitive and actually took my flag and waved it a little at her hind quarters, but she still didn’t get what I was asking and really would only move her quarters when I went right up to her and touched her. I’m sure I’m doing something wrong, but I don’t know what it is.

Under saddle the separated hip socket visualization is really effective! I imagine I can feel air under the inner thigh of my outside leg and it feels like she bends to fill in that air! Sometimes she drifts out making the circle larger and larger. When this happens should I change something or just let her drift? I’m still working on looking at her outside ear--it’s very tempting to look at her head as I’m always wanting to monitor whether she’s twirling or not. She is more consistantly dropping her head now when circling to either direction and in the corners. Thanks in advance for your thoughts and suggestions. --Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet --

(1) None of the exercises involving the horse's eyes is, or should be made into being, about eye CONTACT. I have never said this, but it appears to be what you heard. You are not at any time to stare into the horse's eyes. To have the horse "hold you in ITS regard" (which is what I said) means that the horse looks at YOU, while you observe the manner in which it looks at you. Your actions, whatever they are, are to induce the horse to look at you -- you do not, however, look back "particularly" at their eye or eyes. Your gaze should take in a broader focus; you should see the animal's eyes only as part of a broader scan that takes in the whole horse, from the head to the hindquarter. If you don't soften up in this manner, you will eventually teach the horse not to look at you at all, because when you are hard with your eyes, THEIR gaze bounces off.

(2) The object of all eye exercises is to get the horse to where it does not feel a need to deflect its head to one side or the other as it approaches an object or a person, nor either as a person or another animal may approach the horse. If your horse does not "change eyes" or show a strong preference for one eye as you approach, you can quit doing this sort of work for the time being. The fact that you report that "she generally wants to stop facing me head-on" is a good sign that you can move on to something else now.

(3) Along the same lines, the only reason we were working specifically with the left eye was that it was weaker; the horse did not want to hold you in the regard of the left eye. We therefore got out the soft flag, using it like a semaphore, in order to "wake up" that eye, which really means wake up the connection between that eye and the opposite side of the animal's brain, to which that eye is connected. If the animal will hold you in equal regard, as per above, there is no particular reason to insist that she hold you in the scan of the left eye.

(4) The reason she does not move the hindquarters over when you are standing obliquely in front of her is that you are unable to project enough energy to the hindquarters. I could suggest that you get a longer whipstock, but since we are not, again, doing this for the purpose of moving the hindquarters, nor either is this exercise particularly adapted to lightening the horse's response, you can leave it also alone for now. Remember the purpose of doing this one was once again to give you an excuse to be in the left eye and/or to bridge the difficulty for the horse in holding you in the regard of both eyes simultaneously.

(5) Yes, the usual effect of the hip-separation visualization is that suddenly the "brakes" come off when the student is trying to do elementary lateral work. It is intended to make you realize how much your sitting wrong had been inhibiting, or making it difficult or impossible, for your mare to bend; thus, when you use the visualization suddenly she bends a lot more deeply and fluidly, and/or she will expand the circle (drift outward) much more readily. Should you allow her to drift outward? Depends what you had intended to do: there are times when what you want is "just" a circle; there are times when what you want is a CORRECT corner (hopefully you never want an incorrect corner), and a CORRECT corner, you recall, is "a small moment of shoulder-in" and as such implies a certain amount of outward drift while traversing the corner. Still other times, your intention is to perform the expanding-the-circle exercise and then, I would think it would be silly not to permit the mare to expand the circle!

(6) So at this point you have several ridden exercises that you have been practicing for some time, to wit, correct corners, correct circles, and expanding-the-circle. You can now expand that repertory to include drifting from a circle on the left hand to a circle on the right hand; this is explained in one of the articles you got from the Eclectic Horseman series. You will readily be able to modify this so that you alternate riding straightforward, i.e. bend-only serpentines (say, of four loops, length of the arena; center them on the quarter-lines and that way you can go down in four loops, come across the short end, and then come back up in another four loops). Alternate this, as I say, with bend-and-drift serpentines and see if you can get the same number of loops into the same distance even though you are drifting as well as bending.

(7) The six-corner exercise would also be good at this point: ride a 10m circle in each corner -- CORRECTLY, remember -- and then put one in also at E and B, so that you have six circles built into one circuit of the arena. Ride the six, then come across the diagonal and ride the same six going the other way.

I can remember a time, long ago, before I knew many arena exercises, when I wondered "how in the world does anybody fill an hour of time in an arena?" You're beginning to get to the point where you realize that this question either cannot be answered, or else must be answered at the length of an encyclopedia. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello agin,
We’ve been doing our bending and circling at the walk as you suggested in your last post. I haven’t reported back in awhile because these exercises can be done forever with increasing awareness and refinement, and as a result, there never seemed to be a point when I could say “there, we’ve finished and it’s now time to report back!” So all I can say is that Macie slowly continues to get more bendable, more relaxed along her topline as evidenced by her not holding her head so stiffly and so high and more flexible in her temperment and willingness to respond to me. I feel more equivalency in her corners to the left and to the right. She’s more responsive to my leg with less and less pressure. Of course there’s still much room for improvement; things we’re working on: when we’re on a circle I feel the need to make “adjustments” fairly often to keep us on a somewhat circular track and not either drift out or fall in. I make these adjustments with my seat and legs mostly, but use the inside rein at times too. I find myself wanting to communicate more specifically to parts of her--either her shoulder or her hind end. Is this appropriate or should I be seeking more of a “less is more” approach and if so, how?

In addition to riding our serpentines, corners and circles I’ve been doing a lot of liberty ground work with her: walking and trotting cavaletti and very small cross-rails, sending and drawing, backing over a pole on the ground, backing through a walkway formed by parallel poles, liberty lunging at the trot and canter. Overall I feel like our connection and trust is slowing growing but we’re still a ways away from your recent statement: “You want them to want to be with you more than they want to be anywhere else in the universe.” That sounds nice; my dog and cat feel that way, but I don’t think my horse quite does.

Is it a good time to check back in about toe-first striking? should I post an updated picture of her at the trot? I haven’t been able to detect any difference in her strides by watching.

Thanks as always.
Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Hello, Juliet, and thank you for holding off on asking me until after we had got finished with the October anatomy class. When that's going on, I don't have much time to think of anything else.

Yes, that's just how it is: suppleness takes time to develop and what you report is entirely encouraging. Try to "mix and match" your exercises so that nothing gets boring or like it's becoming a drill; but otherwise, continue.

As to "adjustments": yes, you are simply describing "how to ride". The horse will fairly frequently fall out of balance, and this will manifest as undue pressure, usually either from one of her four quarters or else because she is leaning forward. The proper response is to try to be as early as possible with your reply, which should come in the form of support rather than with any intention of "correction". The horse cannot help but fall out of balance, until the day comes when her balance is more perfect, and I long ago learned that punishing the animal for losing its balance is totally nonproductive. So, if she falls through her outside shoulder, you block that by tightening your fingers on the outside rein while at the same time imagining that the outside rein is not a thin strip of leather but instead a great big sheet of plywood.

If she falls through her inside shoulder, she must by definition be counterflexed. You counter this by saying, "OK sweetheart, you wanted to turn right when I had planned on turning left. So we'll turn right for 180 degrees, and then I will change hind legs, so that instead of untracking with the right hind leg like you want to, we'll switch and untrack with the left hind leg, and that will carry you into a lefthand 180." Then you make this into either a figure eight or a serpentine, which is just a figure-eight that has been split in two lengthwise and flopped open.

The important part here being to understand that turning comes from untracking, and that to change directions means, primarily, to change hind legs. All failures of balance arise from the horse's reluctance or avoidance of using one of its hind hocks, whereas straightness arises from your insistence that she use them equally. But your insistence takes the form of repeated short bouts, in the recognition that having avoided the use of one of her hocks for years, then as a result of that every time she puts weight on the unfavored hock it hurts her a little. The hurt or twinge gets less as she uses the hock more, but it will take many little twinges, as it might in yoga class, for her to not feel any twinge anymore.

As to toe-first striking: no, she'll very likely still be striking about the same as before; it might be a little better, because, as you likely have already guessed, her propensity to strike wrong with the feet is a direct result of the way she uses her back. So she's better than she was, and certainly it would not hurt to take some photos about now, just as a checkup, and I'd like to see them for sure too. However, the big changes in foot strike won't come until collection starts to develop. That is not too far off now.

I'm pleased to hear about your groundwork and liberty work. That adds a lot to the variation within the variety, and keeps everything fun and interesting as well as being another way to increase the horse's attentiveness and suppleness. Since you're going to be doing some of that, this will be a good time to add in backing one step at a time. Do this by hooking one single finger in the halter, under her chin. Using the lightest possible pressure, "aim" the pressure at whichever of her forefeet is parked farthest forward, while at the same time lean your upper body just slightly into the opposite direction: i.e. if it's the right forelimb, then (because you are facing her) you would lean right. This hints to her to unweight that limb, while the "aim" of your intention tells her that's the foot you want her to move. At the very moment when you know that she has understood and has committed to moving the foot -- i.e. before she actually moves it or completes the movement -- you reduce your finger-pressure to zero, although you don't take your finger off the halter.

If she starts to pick up the designated foot but then sets it down again without moving it back, just ask again until she does move it back. Who is responsible for moving it back, in other words, is THE HORSE NOT YOU.

When you've had one step, then pet her on the forehead softly, briefly. Then after this little pause, put your finger back on the halter and aim at the other front foot and get her to step that one back. Then pet again.

In a couple of days, you will be able to aim not at a forefoot but at the more advanced hind foot. Be aware that when working with a hind foot, you sometimes actually have to step the horse forward a little before they can free up the hind foot in order to move it.

I want you to work up to where you can go one-settle completely-two-settle completely-three-settle completely-rest. Do this several times at different times during your session, in different places in the arena.

As soon as this is working on the ground, then go right ahead and do it from under saddle. You've been counting cadence, so that when you halt you ought to know which forefoot is the one farthest ahead, i.e. the one she would find on her own that it would be easiest to move. From the saddle, you feel of her feet through her mouth, and, knowing which forefoot is the correct one, you "aim" at that foot, maintaining the lightest possible but continuous pressure on the rein of the same side until you feel her commit to moving that foot backwards. As before, if she sort of lifts it but then sets it back down, or if she kind of shuffles it but doesn't really take a full step, then you let her settle and just ask again on whichever side comes up easiest. As with groundwork, peck away at it until she will easily back one-settle-two-settle-three-settle.

This is the beginning of the exercises which supple the horse in the up-down plane -- all of your work to this point has been to supple her in the left-right plane. It is not possible to supple a horse in the up-down plane until the animal is already about as far along as yours is in the left-right plane; in short, lateral suppling has to come before longitudinal suppling.

Looking forward to photos -- I think there are quite a few people who have been following this thread who would also like to see; we'll see how the work you have done so far has affected her physical appearance as well as style of movement. -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hi-- thank you so much for your quick and, as usual, info-packed reply! I'm excited to get started on the new exercises and to continue working on the old ones with a little new insight. In the meantime here are two pictures of Macie that I took this past weekend. The indoor one is pretty fuzzy but you can see her basic form and posture. Let me know if there are other "poses" that you'd like to see.

I'll report back on the exercises soon.
--Juliet


Last edited on Mon Nov 4th, 2013 11:02 am by JulietMacie

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, would you try posting the photos again -- they don't seem to have uploaded correctly -- I'm getting red "X's". Thanks -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
sorry about that. I was trying to be clever and get two photos in one post. Is there a way to do that?? anyway, here's photo 1.

Attachment: nov2013_macetrot_left.jpg (Downloaded 736 times)

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
and here's photo 2:

Attachment: nov2013_macetrot_right.jpg (Downloaded 721 times)

Last edited on Mon Nov 4th, 2013 04:59 pm by JulietMacie

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello Dr. Deb,

The "back-one-step-settle-repeat" exercise is proving to be a challenge for us! At first, Macie would jerk her head away from my holding her halter under her chin, so we spent the first couple of days just getting her comfortable with that. Then, when I asked her to step back one step, she would take three or four hurried steps backward. I tried doing this at liberty by standing facing her and asking her to step her foot back by pointing at the foot -- this worked perfectly, but I thought it would be best to teach her to feel comfortable with me directing her from her halter. I’m thinking that her reaction to having me direct her from the halter is probably cropping up in other, seemingly unrelated situations on line and under saddle so we’d be better off mastering that. Anyway, after several days of working on this for brief periods during our time together, she became pretty accepting of it and we were able to successfully step back one foot at a time. Settling is a still not fully reliable and she often doesn’t want to stand quietly and relaxed while I’m holding her halter, but she’s getting more okay about it each day.

I was a little unclear about moving the back feet--what exactly to do with her head to move the back foot. So I resorted again to asking by pointing at a back foot while standing at her head with my finger hooked in her halter under her chin. Under saddle, your instructions for backing referred to speaking to the front foot by using the rein on the same side (right rein moves right front foot) so I was wondering if, from the ground, I wanted her to move her left hind if I should achieve this by asking her to move her front right? or is it okay to ask for her hind foot to move by pointing at it directly?

Under saddle, again she’s fairly inconsistent about backing willingly. Some days she’s fine with it and good at it and other days she really gets stuck and doesn’t want to budge. I don’t know if it’s my faulty technique or her mood or who knows what. For now, if she’s stuck, we sometimes walk forward or walk a circle and then try again or sometimes just move on to something else and try again much later. Sometimes I get insistent and press her to keep at it until she steps back. This is still an area of uncertainty for me: when to keep at something and when to let it go and change the subject.

Our circles and bending etc continue and I’m working on increasing my awareness of what precisely is happening underneath me and how to promptly and subtlely respond in a supportive way. I feel like I’m slowly getting more sensitive and have more confidence about how to react in the moment. Your advice that I respond to unbalance “in the form of support rather than with any intention of "correction".” is very helpful and I’m working on that as well. One thing I’ve noticed that sort of surprises me is that she’s more often falling in when making circles to the right. She actually feels stiffer and less yielding on this side now and our left circles are often rounder than our right ones. Could this be because she’s reluctant to weight her outside (left) legs?

thank you. I'm grateful for your continued help.
--Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, it is quite common for horses to appear to be "broke" that are not. When a horse is reluctant to have its face handled, it is not broke, and so we owe it to the animal to cure that out of them until they are mellow and totally OK about it.

Now that your mare has shown reluctance to have its face handled, you must apply the technique of "air raiding". In an "air raid", you think of the horse's skin as a map (pretty easy to do in the case of a tobiano-patterned horse anyway). You identify, or the horse has helped you to identify, certain areas on that map that it doesn't want your hand to fly into. So you don't just fly there, like a pilot who doesn't know not to overfly Iran or Red China, because if you do that you're going to arouse resistance, which is to say, you're going to cause the natives to feel like they need to defend themselves.

Instead, you make like a real smart spy plane, and you do overfly the forbidden territory, but you do it only at the edge and only briefly. You pet into those areas just that one beat short of how long it would take for the "enemy" below to become aware of you. So you fly in there, and then you are already out of there, before you arouse a negative response.

Now most horses that object to having their face handled object to the lower part of the face, or else the ears. Where they usually like having their head touched is on the center of the forehead and over the eyes. So you do a lot of that. If you're standing to the horse's left, you have her nose over the crook of your left arm, and you have your right elbow under her chin, so that you can pet her on the right jowl with the palm and fingers of your right hand. Then you put your left hand up, moving at the horseman's half-speed, and pet and rub the center of her forehead.

Then you lightly cup your left hand and pet her over the left eye. While you're there, you can gently remove the gookies from around the lower eyelid.

If your horse makes no objection to having its ears handled, you can then reach up and rub her ears. Rub from the base upward, and press inward on the ear cartilage fairly firmly so that it flattens the external canal somewhat. Do that two or three times with your left hand, your right hand being still on the right side of the head.

Then turn and face her forehead square-on. Put your right hand up on her poll and gently grasp the left ear, and get the base of the left ear in between your right thumb and forefinger, and stroke outward from base to tip. This will often cause a horse to lower its head. If she lowers her head, then do the same with your left hand to the left ear, alternating ears left and right, pulling them gently outward as you slowly stroke them.

Now after these things to which the mare does not object, you can then handle her muzzle and lips that she does not enjoy so much. Go back to your stance on the left side of her and gently rub the area between the nostril and the lip on the left side with your left hand. Do not grab the place where you would put a twitch on, at the center front. Rub the same area on the right side with your right hand, being extended once again under her chin. Then with your right hand rub up between the branches of the jaw. This is where you will apply the "fly over" technique the most: rub, but then leave, and go back to the forehead, eyes, or ears: something she likes better. Do that thing a while, but then go back to the muzzle again. Finally you can place your left hand over the top of her muzzle, and with the fingers of that hand you pull the horse's head around to you, around to the left, get it to stay a beat or two, and then fly out of there.

If your mare objects to having her face handled, it is not surprising that twirling the head has only been marginally successful. She has NOT got to tolerate it; she has got to positively love having her head handled, and you must teach her to love it. Then twirling the head will penetrate as we need it to, because no technique can really work until the horse is totally OK about having whatever body part you're working on handled; instead it is always still thinking about defending itself, it has that all the time at the back of its mind. Those thoughts have to totally go out of there before any horse can even obey a single command, let alone become finished.

So within that same thought, it cannot be possible for her to back up one step at a time, or to settle, until there is no tension in her when you begin. Ray Hunt used to say, very wisely, "you cannot go through something bad and expect to come out good on the other side." In the common parlance of the dressage instructor, this is exactly what they're telling you to do: to "push through", and it is extremely bad advice. You cannot succeed, you will never succeed, by "pushing" anything "through".

Instead, you recognize that there is a mistake at the bottom of the column of figures you've been trying to add, and you realize that in order to get the right total you have to GO BACK to the place where the mistake was first made, and fix that mistake; you can never by any possible means get the right total by simply going on, by trying to "push through" to the correct total, for you will search for sixteen lifetimes that way, and never find it!

This is also the reason why you ask about how to direct the hind leg: because she does not give you the front leg. Get the front leg right first; then you will already see how to get the hind leg, because inevitably (I mean, unless the horse was going to split apart) what it does with its front leg must relate SOMEHOW to what it does with its back leg. And of course, though, what we're saying here is that what it does with its neck and jaws -- whether it braces them -- governs what it does with its loins, which in turn governs what it can do with its legs. The only way that a horse that stiffens or jerks away when you try to handle its head could possibly back up is by stiff-legging it, dragging the feet through the sand, "making 11's".

I had the opportunity at a meeting out East this past weekend to put my hands on a couple of horses that had been ridden across country by people who are very competent riders but who nonetheless are not expecting or requiring the same feel from a horse that I would. And it was distressing to feel of these horses which are so very stiff and where their general muscle tonus is far too high. The horse hangs, the rider hangs, and this they call "normal". I wouldn't have it in my barn, and if one of those horses were to be given to me tomorrow, I would immediately put him on a remedial program whose object would be to restore suppleness and softness.

So yes, I do believe that you've made some progress since we began, but, having now looked at the more recent photos you've posted, and hearing your last report, I see that your mare is still pretty stiff. And this can only be for one reason, because really you have tried hard to do all I've suggested: but the one thing I cannot teach you over the Internet is how soft "soft" is. For this, you need to go find Josh or Harry and get one-on-one instruction. Do whatever it is going to take, Juliet, to make those arrangements, for the love of your mare: no matter what it "seems like" it's going to cost you in terms of time, inconvenience, or money. You go and do that and it will pay you back a thousand times over.

I will still be willing to give you some instruction here but we are now at an insoluble impasse, because feel cannot be awakened at a distance. Note that I do not say "feel cannot be taught at a distance". No one can teach feel, because no one can teach to someone else that which the other person already has: so the Wizard also said to the Tin Man. The standard and the expectation which you have among your neighbors, which is common in English riding, is simply crude and heavy; now it is time to open the doors to what softness and lightness mean, what they feel like, and the power that they have, which is ten thousand times greater than what your neighbors know.

When you find this, and you are certainly welcome to practice getting the mare OK about having her head handled, you will be able to back her up by the lightest touch of one finger hooked in the halter, or one finger on the bridge of her nose. The twirling of the head is merely the lateral expression of this same feel, so that you twirl the head manually on one ounce of pressure, which nonetheless is in no manner tentative, but rather clear and precise. It is lightness that allows precision. When she is soft and light and attentive, you will find that when you are touching her on the halter or on the bridge of the nose, you are in fact also actually touching the foot that you intended for her to move. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello,

Thank you for your reply. I understand your comment about her not being “broke” and appreciate your suggested exercises for handling her face. I’ll start working on these right away. While it is difficult for me to accept/admit your comments about not knowing how soft “soft is and that we're at an impasse, I know that this is true. In fact it’s been a thought that has been nagging at me just below the surface for awhile now. I’ve been feeling uncertain as to what the feeling I’m searching for feels like. I’ve also been worrying that that we’re really not getting where we want to get to. I am committed to having this experience and gaining this knowledge and so I need to ask you a couple of practical questions about how to go about it. First of all, until I’m able to spend some time with one of your suggested people, should I focus only on handling, groundwork and mannering? in other words, will I be doing my mare or myself a disservice by continuing our mounted work? Secondly, when you say “go find Josh or Harry and get one-on-one instruction” I assume you mean mounted work because how else can I feel that which I need to feel, right? Does this work need to be on my mare or could I possibly attend a faraway clinic and rent a horse? Can you suggest anyone who might be right for us and is closer to New England? I’ve learned a tremendous amount from your instruction over these past few months and while we may not have gotten as far as we’d like due to my lack of experience, my eyes have been opened and my standards raised. Thank you again.

Sincerely, Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, this all is not to get you discouraged. It's just a fact that written communication has definite limitations. You have certainly come a certain distance and along that path, it's been in the right direction.

No, you'll not be likely to be either riding your mare or riding any other horse when you go find Josh or Harry. Josh might be able to mount you; perhaps; Harry, probably not. Plus, the waiting list to ride in Harry's clinics is usually rather long, so you might not be able to get a riding spot anyway. Josh may also already be full.

So I wasn't counting on having you ride. Instead, what I want you to do is go and observe and take good notes. And ask lots of questions. I am recommending Josh or Harry for you rather than Buck or Tom Curtin, because of the format: J. and H. do one-on-ones primarily, the attendance is smaller, the atmosphere very conducive to asking questions the moment they need to be asked. B. & T.'s clinics are usually bigger affairs, especially Buck's; not that I don't want you to go see them too, though; but to begin with, let's do the smaller format thing.

Now you will be surprised at this, but the news is you ARE going to learn to get the right feel from just observing -- you will begin on it. You see: you are leaving the subculture that tolerates toleration; that tolerates crudity and heaviness and calls that desirable, prizeworthy, and normal. You are leaving that set of standards, and it is the new set of standards that you're going to J. or H. in order to absorb.

As to what you should be doing with your mare: same as you have been, dear. You're doing fine and have been. So you're now going to make arrangements to have an increase in knowledge and skill, but you're going to build that on what you already have.

Here's a thought for your mounted work, although I think I've said this before: I want you to be playing a game every time you approach a corner in the arena, or every time you set the mare onto a curving track anywhere -- you fix it up first: you 'set' her into the bend; you aid her, and in doing that you tell her clearly that you expect her to bend. Then -- you let HER complete the corner or the quarter-arc or half-arc. The game is (1) to see how perfectly you can set it up, so that what you want becomes as easy and as obvious as possible for the horse; and (2) to see how many steps she will 'carry' in relaxed balance, with whatever degree of curve in her body, without you having to steer at all.

Keep me posted as to when you're going to which clinic where, and also with any further questions. We are not done here; I am just calling on you to help me out some by going to see Josh or Harry. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

kcooper
Member
 

Joined: Mon May 23rd, 2011
Location: High River, Alberta Canada
Posts: 68
Status:  Offline
Hi Juliet

I sent you a pm with some information regarding Josh clinics such as proximity to the international airport, where to stay ect.
The clinics held at their place are the easiest to get into.
I don't want to take away from the importance of first going to observe by saying this... but Josh does have horses there specifically for people who fly in or who don't own their own. They are suitable for helping someone identify that feel. There are back to back clinics at their home ranch through out the summer so it would be possible to spectate the first one and participate in the next.

kim

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Well, it’s been quite awhile since I posted to this thread and I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. One thing I need to report on is a lesson I had from Dr. Deb and Oliver. Between Christmas and New Year’s I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Deb as I happened to be in California for the holidays visiting family and she graciously agreed to give me a lesson. For all that I had learned in this thread, I wanted to be able to *feel* some of the things she was describing in words and a lesson in person seemed like a great opportunity to do that. I wanted to share some of what happened in my lesson. Since I’ve waited so long to write this up, my memory is little spotty but I’ll write up all that I can remember.

First we had a long talking session. Dr. Deb shared some of her knowledge that was relevant to my situation. She talked about Quarter Horse breeding and how my horse wasn’t really bred to be, and therefore isn’t conformed to be, a riding horse. She’s a little downhill which makes it harder for her to learn to collect herself and carry a rider. But Dr. Deb reassured me that while more of a challenge, it was possible and definitely worthwhile. We also talked about energy flow through the horse and through the rider and she told me about how the reins are channels or tubes through which this energy flows between the two entities--horse and person.This idea is very compelling and mysterious to me and I have to admit that while I understand the idea conceptually, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this or if I have, I didn’t recognize it. We talked about other things as well, such as how it’s never the horse’s fault and some of Dr. Deb’s early teachers and a little about her elderly teacher.

We then drove to the ranch where Oliver lives and walked out to meet him. He and Dr. Deb were clearly happy to see each other. As Dr. Deb lead Oliver to the arena she paused and lifted up her hand (I think that was her cue) which is Oliver’s signal to pee. He stopped and obliged! wow, talk about cooperation! Once in the arena, Dr. Deb told me to feel Oliver’s muscle tone by running my thumb and the heel of my hand firmly across his shoulder, along his back and over his hind quarters. This was really enlightening as he felt very different from my horse--much softer, still firm, but sort of yielding. My horse feels like she’s carved out of stone usually, although lately I’ve been giving her massages and she relaxes and feels more like Oliver then. Dr. Deb showed me how she sends and draws Oliver and did some other ground work at liberty with him including some spanish walk. Their connection is very obvious and is expressed in every interaction between them. One of the striking things about their connection is how reciprocal it is--they seem equally interested in and in love with each other. This was very inspiring to me and something I’m really hoping to attain with my horse.

Then she tacked him up and got on. She asked him to walk briskly in circles and showed me his prompt and soft responses to her requests. His posture and attitude clearly expressed how relaxed and contented he was and how eager to cooperate. After warming him up--trotting, changing direction, leg yielding, she got off and I got on. The biggest difference I felt throughout my ride was just how willing and soft he was. I felt like I could shape him with my posture and position. With Oliver I could merely suggest a movement or tempo change and he would respond. Again, so, so different from my horse. It was challenging to ride him as I had to really dial down my communication with him to a subtler or quieter vocabulary. We rode circles, figure 8s, spirals in and out at the walk and the trot. He was as soft and round and quiet as you could ask for. Dr. Deb watched and gave advice and graciously said it was nice to see someone else ride Ollie so she could observe him under saddle.

After our ride, we walked Oliver over to another arena that had obstacles and pedestals and other “props” and Dr. Deb asked Oliver to show me his pedestal work. He hopped right up and was happy to stand there while we talked.

Overall, Dr. Deb was super generous (as she is) with her time and expertise and of course very generous to let me ride her Oliver. The lesson helped me really feel what’s possible, what it can hopefully someday be like with my horse. I guess the trick is figuring out how to get from here to there! I’m sure I’m leaving a ton of stuff out of this write up so if anyone has any questions I’d be more than happy to try and answer them.

--Juliet

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
It’s been a long time since I reported on our progress. I’ll try to write up where we are and what we’re learning and hopefully this will help us (and maybe some others) continue to move in a good direction.

A few of weeks ago I audited a Buck Brannaman clinic in Maine. It was fascinating and amazingly helpful. I got a lot of new ideas and exercises to try and it really helped me clear up some more areas of confusion. I feel like I'm finally ready to report back after many months of working, thinking, reading and now, at last, feeling like some things are starting to gel and make sense -- to both of us! Since I last posted in this thread (7 months ago) I've been a regular visitor to the forum, but my silence has been due to a general uncertainty as to whether I was going about things correctly and not being sure about our progress. After going to the Buck Brannaman clinic, I think I’m gaining a clearer understanding of what I've been doing right, what I've been doing wrong and how my mare has been understanding and reacting to my actions. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I feel like ever since I came back from the clinic, my mare has turned a corner and is noticeably softer and more happily compliant than before. (can I have already acquired a new, more confident attitude that she's perceiving?)

First to report on our progress and our lack of progress. But even before I do that, I want to disclose that before I ever came to this forum or started working with my current instructor, my mare and I had a very rough time of it. In my well-intentioned, but ignorant and misguided ways, I gave her countless reasons to distrust and disrespect me. I’m writing this to provide context and also because I hope it might help explain where we are now. For the past two years, I’ve been working with her to rebuild our relationship and I feel like we’ve made tremendous progress, but we still have a ways to go before she reaches that holy grail of 100% okay-ness with me.

So, that said, I’ve reviewed the exercises you gave throughout this thread and here’s where we stand:

• my hands are at waist level pretty consistently and my awareness and accuracy of knowing where her feet are is pretty good.
• she’s fine now with me handling her head and positioning her feet using my hand lightly on her halter
• she stands to be saddled and bridled at liberty
• she backs up softly one step at a time with my hand on her halter or at liberty using gestures/energy
• she is fine with me touching her anywhere on her body (no swishing of tail or twitching of skin)
• she leads willingly with slack in the rope but still has lapses of occasionally diving for grass or stopping her feet if she doesn’t want to go somewhere, so I’d say in this area there is a lot of progress but we’re still not all the way there yet and that we also experience the expected parallels to this under saddle.
• she stands quietly for mounting (there was a time when she would knock me off the mounting block with her head (don’t laugh! this is how bad things were!))
• head twirling -- standing still she’s mostly good at this but still gets stuck sometimes: at the walk she’ll twirl usually when we’re turning on a small circle or serpentine, and at the trot almost never--still stiff. At the Brannaman clinic I got a little perspective on this and what it might take to really make it solid: he said he’ll do this exercise (asking for a soft feel) hundreds and hundreds of times on a colt, adding that “you can’t do this too often”. I think we just need to keep working this in all situations.
• believing that the bit is the absolute authority in the universe...well, I guess I’d have to say we’re not doing so great on this one yet. If she truly believed this, I would expect there would be no diving for grass and more softness in her head and neck under saddle, right? In regards to our use of and reaction to the bridle and bit (sidepull in our case), this has always been an area of confusion for me. My mare has always leaned on my hands and carried her head with her nose poked out on a stiff, braced neck and my reaction has been to not put any pressure on her face with my hands -- to not set up or participate in that “war”. I never understood how to connect the exercise that we do standing still to get her to release her poll (taking up the reins and waiting for her to release at the poll) to get the same response while in motion. While at the clinic though, I started to see how on the ground, on a lead line we ask the horse to maintain the slack in the rope and to follow our feel. When the horse doesn’t do this and the line gets taut, then you drive them forward with the flag, you don’t try to pull them to a soft place. When under saddle, do you do the same thing? but rather than drive her forward you set up the request and ask her to step under with her inside hind and this flexing of the hind end causes her to release at the front end and the tension goes out of the reins. Is this correct? I’m embarrassed that this is so hard for me to figure out...
• backing under saddle: she’s often sticky about getting started--I ask for a soft feel and sometimes have to wait for a while, when she tips her nose in, first I just release and pet her, then I ask again and the next time she flexes I continue to ask softly with my hands and bump gently with my legs and she’ll back up with her nose down and her neck arched and a loop in the reins and it feels very nice. However, when I look at a video of this, her hind feet are usually “making 11s”! We also work on this a lot in hand and at liberty. How do I encourage her to pick up her hind feet? I imagine it’s a question of getting her to coil and flex all those hind end joints, but I don’t know how to facilitate this other than working on backing and using cavalleti to help practice and strengthen those muscles and joints.

• walking under saddle is overall much better, rounder circles, much less falling in against my leg, less bracing up against my hand -- all in all a more harmonious and fluid experience. We’re still really working on head twirling while walking as I said above. Your recent article in Eclectic Horseman about transitions was very useful and I’m focussing more on trying to acheive and carry through softness during transitions between halt, back and walk forward.


We also still do a lot of liberty work/play and cavaletti at liberty and under saddle.

On a related note, if you remember, my initial thread was about toe-first striking and I'm still concerned about this; in fact now her heels are starting to contract so I’m even more concerned! She has no heel pain or thrush (the vet checked for these last week) so I'm guessing that the cause is the way she's moving due to her stiffness and my riding, which is better than before but I guess not better enough. The farrier came three days ago and he said he was trimming her a little differently in order to bring her heels down in better contact with the ground. She seems to be moving somewhat better now but I haven’t yet made another video so I can really study her hoof hitting the ground. I’m still wondering about whether I should try boots with pads. Although she's MUCH more relaxed and secure, she's still not 100% okay 100% of the time and I don't know to what degree this could be contributing.

Dr. Deb, you wrote “you ARE going to learn to get the right feel from just observing” and seeing Buck riding his 3 year old with such lightness and harmony helped me understand what I’m working toward. Of course none of the students’ horses had anywhere near the degree of lightness, responsiveness, suppleness and out-n-out happiness that his horses had, so I suppose one needs to temper one’s vision with some realism and of course, lots of patience. But seeing him also made me realize that I’ve been accepting less than what should be acceptable and how, when working on a specific exercise, I’ve been quitting too soon. This is really the hardest part for me: knowing when to be firm vs knowing when to release, to back off, and understanding in the moment the difference between supporting and rewarding the least try vs. asking for a better outcome without getting to a place of insistence or nagging.

I have to apologize for the rambling and lengthy presentation here. Any points and questions you’re able to address will be gratefully appreciated.

Thanks, Juliet

Attachment: trot_right_july2014.jpg (Downloaded 402 times)

Last edited on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 11:09 pm by JulietMacie

Jeannie
Member


Joined: Thu May 7th, 2009
Location:  
Posts: 169
Status:  Offline
Hi Juliet, in regards to the head twirling/releasing through the poll and neck, Macie is going to have to learn to do this every time you ask with one rein whether she is standing or moving. It might be easier for her while she is untracking and bent correctly at the beginning, but eventually she should respond anywhere, anytime. It is the first thing I ask for after I mount, and of course you have to give every time they give. While I'm riding I have to notice when he has lost it, then ask for it again, this is something you will learn to be aware of. So you will be riding either in release, or on a long rein.

When I was teaching my horse to collect at the trot in hand, I would try to see what happened first, the loins coiling, the base of the neck raising, or the straightening, and it just seemed to me that it happened altogether, or at least faster than the eye could separate. I don't think a horse can release it's neck without coiling it's loins, so Macie will have to be taught how to move her body in that manner.

This can take a long time, as they have to build up their own awareness of their bodies,as well as their strength, and it requires the person to notice the first shaping up of it, so they can release at the right time. I think the hardest part is when they start to get it, your inclination is to ask for longer/more, right when you should be releasing and rewarding them for the try. Human nature I guess. Hope that helps.

                                    Jeannie
 

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, my apologies for not having been able to get back to you sooner. I am in the midst of having what my office assistant Wendy calls "having a book-ectomy" -- actually in this case it's a research-paper-ectomy. Seven years of work on 2,000 year old dog bones about to come to fruition, and of course there are a million details to take care of, i.e. checking bibliography references, double-checking all the tables of measurements, final corrections and labels on figures, and so forth. It's exciting and fun but a lot of time-consuming work, too.

 But, this hallowe'en evening I've managed to corral a little time and so we can discuss what you've recently posted. First off to say that I was grateful to Julie because she filled in for me a couple of days ago with some good advice -- subtle advice. It is just as well, I think, when the subtlety is such that you really have to chew it over and think it through.

Now, for some reason my screen isn’t reproducing the first photo that you posted the other day -- maybe it’s just coming up real slow. Nonetheless I remember it well enough to say two things about it. One, it shows the horse with its neck breaking at the wrong place. This has probably been a factor with this horse actually right from the day you bought her, but did not come to be observable really until you started to learn how to use your hands properly, which means that there will be moments of real firmness and that you are not to be afraid of having those moments. I well remember when I was afraid of them; my dressage instructor kept telling me, “you have to ‘take contact’.” Unfortunately her idea of what constitutes “contact” was all wrong, and it was not until I began riding with Ray – and IMITATING the way he sat, the way he held his arms, the way he held the reins, and most important of all, when to hold, waiting at the same pressure, vs. when to release. What this all adds up to is that you must not pull. “Pulling” means exerting even the eensiest, teensiest bit of backward traction upon the reins, so that the energy flowing within the reins goes from the horse’s mouth toward you. This must never be the case. The energy in the reins can be still, like a deep, still pool; or it can be flowing from you to the horse.

 

We need to note here that the horse gets the habit of breaking its neck because it has a brace around the poll joint. This is what Julie is telling you, Juliet, when she suggests twirling the head before even stepping off. You have to get that brace out of there before you can do much else. If you wanted a (totally tongue-in-cheek, of course) protocol for breaking a horse’s neck, you would follow these steps: (1) Take ahold of the reins too fast and with too much firmness, so that you put the horse on the defensive right from the first moment; (2) Pull back slowly but continuously and wait for the horse to reply to this by clamping his jaw and lips and prying down and forward against your hand; (3) When that feel is there, then gradually exert more and more backward traction, until you pull the nose into a vertical position. You see, if the horse has braced its poll, the poll joint will be locked, and therefore to get the nose into the vertical orientation, the flexion will not be able to occur at the poll joint. It will have to occur somewhere else, and that place will be the joint between the 2nd and 3rd neck vertebrae, just as we see in the photo of your mare.

 

Now, Juliet, you are not to get discouraged about this because a horse that has been TAUGHT THIS EARLY ON will continue to offer it even when the current owner/rider is doing their best not to follow the above protocol. And by the way, that would be 85% of all the horses you’ll ever buy “used”. The horse will do it almost no matter how you try to use your hands. You can be as delicate and as feeling and as caring as you like, and the horse will still do it. So I am telling you this again, that I told you when you came out and we discussed this with Ollie – “fixing” a broken neck is one of the most difficult of all horsemanship projects. You will either need to be an expert to accomplish it, or you will need to become an expert.

 

The key to being able to fix it is the coordination of the leg and the hand. Your leg has got to be there, and that’s the second thing I remember about the photo: you are now sitting way too much on your crotch. Relax, kiddo: slouch, please. Particularly important is to get your lower back flat. You will have to tell yourself over and over to monitor the muscles in the small of your back, to see that they are not tense; and when they (almost inevitably) are, then you have to be able to tell them to let go, relax, soften up. One thing that will help you will also to be to monitor the muscles in your buttcheeks – they must be absolutely flaccid, totally floppy, altogether turned “off”, all the time. When your buttcheeks are totally relaxed, only then can your lower back also start to let go.

 

Because you aren’t sitting right, your leg can’t work right either. The way a person’s legs should feel against the horse’s barrel is (as Reiner Klimke used to say) “like a wet gym towel thrown up against a tile wall”: i.e. it sticks of its own accord, without any type of effort to grip. I sometimes say “like an old pair of chaps hanging off a peg.”

 

There is also an ‘orientation feel’ in the leg that needs to be there. You should feel like your horse is a triangle, like you’re sitting on a triangle – bigger in front and diminishing to the rear. Sit a little BACK into this triangle and imagine that the horse has a magnificently wide chest. He’s very WIDE in front and he’s also GOING UPHILL all the time. So the triangle is triangular both side to side and vertically. This is what it means “to have the horse in front of the leg.” The opposite feel will cause you to tilt forward, look down, and have your legs swinging to the back all the time. To have your horse behind your leg is a “diminishing, shrivelling” feel. To have your horse in front of your leg is an expanding feel, all the way.

 

Now, when your back and your legs are working right, then you can coordinate the effect of your leg with your hand. How you do this is you use your legs to ‘inflate’ your horse. You touch him with your leg – you caress him with your legs – it is a soft, warm feel. You communicate to him that you expect him to balance himself in such a manner that you get that sensation that you’re going uphill all the time. You SIT AS IF YOU EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN AS A MATTER ‘OF COURSE’. If you sit right, the horse will at least try to rise to your expectations; he can feel the way you want him to position and balance himself. But, beyond getting that ‘triangular’ feeling, you’re also telling him to coil his loins and raise the part of his back that is directly beneath your seat. ‘Inflation’ also causes him to want to raise the base of his neck.

 

When he rounds his back and makes an effort to raise the base of the neck, the rest of his neck will inflate, too – like somebody blowing up one of those long circus balloons that the clown makes animals out of. The horse’s neck inflates from the base going forward. This will obviously cause the horse’s head, and therefore its mouth and the corners of its lips where your bit plays, to move forward. So when you inflate him, you are EXPECTING this with your hands and you obviously would do nothing to block it, i.e. you expect that HE WILL CARRY YOUR HANDS FORWARD.

 

The other thing that inflating the neck does is blow that kink right out of the wrong joint. It blows the neck into its proper anatomical alignment, and it actually makes it a little more difficult for the horse to kink or break his neck at that favorite spot.

 

Now, when he inflates, that moment is a good time to twirl. Remember that twirling happens ANY TIME you turn. So if you’re standing still then you do what we might call a ‘formal twirl’. But if you’re moving, then you use your inside rein and you tell him to turn. Not too sharp; that will just knock him off balance. A good exercise here is ‘snake trail’, i.e. what in English riding is called a ‘shallow serpentine.’ Go at a fairly slow trot, and play around with deeper and shallower cuts, and more vs. fewer cuts built into the length of the arena. Notice that there will be one side that never seems as good as the other. Once you find out which that is, then take it into some 10 or 15-m WALK circles, then once it starts feeling a little freer, go to 15-m trot circles and/or figures of 8.

 

This brings me to the last thing – Juliet, you’re still in too much of a hurry, and you’re still hustling your horse. Notice that in the second photo that she is going crooked as she trots on the circle there. She is NOT CURRENTLY CAPABLE of trotting with that much vigor on that small of a circle; to please you, she tries, but she has to ‘handle the demand’ by offsetting her hindquarters to the left, which is what makes the right hind fall to the left of the right fore. SLOW DOWN. Much better to do like Mike Shaffer with this horse and do some head-twirling, followed by some leg-yielding in hand, then mount and do the same under saddle. It does absolutely no good to practice, or to cause the horse to practice, the wrong things.

 

You have had the opportunity to ride Ollie, and so you know what it feels like to have a horse inflated underneath you. Ollie inflates for anybody, just as soon as asked. He feels much bigger underneath you, as you will recall, than he actually is. Nobody ever thinks of the Spanish Riding School’s Lipizzans as ‘small’ either, when they view them on show, even though most of them are not even 15 hands high. Any horse that moves correctly looks and feels big and powerful, high and grand in front, broad through the chest, and strong yet flexible through the hindquarters.

 

I certainly am glad that you got so much out of going to see Buck. This stuff takes time to learn and the questions you ask about when to hold or wait at the same pressure vs. when to give or when to make some other change stem from only one thing, and that is inexperience. Inexperience is overcome by not giving up, by keeping on trying, but also by being willing to be creative. This is a lifetime thing that is between your mare and you. I encourage you to play around with your seat, your balance, and her flexibility and balance. Never be afraid to try something, so long as it seems sensible; you cannot make a mistake, and you’re highly unlikely to hurt the horse.

 

As to the toe-first striking, it is evident from the photos that although your farrier is backing the heels up properly, he is not, like most of them, taking enough toe. If you keep backing the heels up and you don’t take enough toe, you will eventually make the coffin bone go negative-plane. As the horse approaches negative-plane, the forefeet will become more and more U-shaped, and the horse will be more and more ouchy, grumpy, and eventually lame. I’d advise you to go get a consult with your vet and possibly a set of reference X-rays – a good farrier will find looking at those very helpful. You need to maintain the angle, i.e. shorten the toe so that you raise the angle.

 

Second, examine the thickness of the digital cushions. Do this by pinching the DC where it is exposed at the back of the hoof, between the bulbs of heel, between thumb and forefinger (lightly). Look up our previous threads with Pauline Moore talking about and posting pictures of DC examination. If your horse’s DC’s are thin, you may need to do some re-educating as Pauline instructs, by using foam pads and well-fitting hoof boots. Sometimes even when the feet are in perfect balance, if the horse has been toe-striking for a long time because his DC’s are thin and ouchy, he’ll be in the habit of doing that and it’s a whole movement pattern. I have seen several horses treated with boots and pads who were able to break the habit and of course, that reciprocates on the neck and back and haunches. It works both ways: your way of riding does influence the feet; but the feet also influence what is possible to accomplish through riding.

 

Let us know sooner next time, if you will, how things seem to be going. When you do finally get all the little things that it takes going right, your horse will make some big changes I am sure. Cheers – Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Thank you Jeannie and Thank you Dr. Deb. I'm off to the barn now but will be back in touch soon. Grateful as always for the help!

cheers,
Juliet

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
here's one of the pictures that disappeared from my earlier post.

Attachment: backing-oct2014.jpg (Downloaded 243 times)

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
and here's another...

Attachment: turning-right-oct2014.jpg (Downloaded 249 times)

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello Dr. Deb,
A lot has been going on in the past few weeks and I’ve been trying to sort it all out and get a little clarity before reporting. In an effort to eliminate health-related causes of toe-striking I had the vet check her feet; he found no pain or tenderness in her feet but agreed that her front heels looked contracted and said that I should be careful to clean out all the deep grooves daily to avoid thrush. Then I had a chiropractor see her; he reported that she was tight and stiff in her right sacroiliac joint and also in her jaw and did some adjustments. Two days after the chiropractor’s visit, I could see a definite difference in her movement while she trotted at liberty in the arena. Her front legs not only swung further: a noticeable increase in the range or arc of motion, and her overall posture seemed more upright or uphill; she also seemed to be flexing her joints more deeply--less stiff looking overall. Interestingly though this didn’t seem to really last and now she appears to pretty much be moving as before...maybe a little looser and less stiff, but not as marked as that day. I’ve also been experimenting with hoof boots with pads in them but am still working on getting the right size/fit so the jury's out on this front.

For my part, I’ve been trying to sit on my whole butt and fill out (flatten) my lower back. Now that I’m aware of this, I’ve noticed the same posture in all my activities, the slightly arched, tight lower back and clenched butt: while working at the computer, standing at the sink doing dishes, walking, etc. I’ve tried to keep my eye on this and relax but it’s a very hard habit to break and one that seems to require my abs to do more so my back can do less. When riding I’ve tried to keep butt and back relaxed and let my legs hang. It feels better and more settled to me but I’m not sure how it affects the movement or the posture of my horse.

We’re still practicing the head twirling. I believe it’s getting quite consistent and good at a stand still, okay at the walk, still pretty bad but not impossible at the trot--just rare. I hate to admit this, but I’m really still working on understanding holding vs. pulling. I’ve stopped consciously pulling but it seems to me that when two beings are in constant motion connected by two pieces of leather it’s very hard to never exert any backward traction on the reins. So, I still have more to learn about this aspect of your last lesson. Today, though perhaps I had an insight on this front. I tried to hold my hands in a relaxed but consistent relationship to her face so that when she leaned forward, the reins were taut and she was heavy to me, but when she picked up her head and felt more centered underneath me (for lack of a better description) the reins became loose. I’m not sure she felt inflated, but she did feel more, as I said, underneath me.

As for inflating, I think this has happened two or three times. These are fleeting moments but they feel very lovely and inspiring. The downside is that I’m not at all confident that I’m the cause of these moments! These moments have happened when my horse has some extra energy and impulsion: a day when the wind was gusting against the walls of the arena or an unfamiliar horse was in the arena with us. Does this mean that typically I’m not asking for enough energy output from her?

One other question: my mare is really reluctant to back up. I ask and I wait at steady pressure and when she slightly shifts her weight back, I release. However, it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier or more immediate--I still ask and then wait...suggestions or interpretation?

thanks as always,
Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet -- The reason I asked you to post the two photos just above is that they are MUCH better than any posted before. You need to be aware of what you are doing right as much as of what you need to change.

The photo showing the forward walk-and-bend shows a bend passing through the horse's entire body, from nose to tail. It shows the horse stepping u nder the body-shadow with the inside hind foot. It shows a nice expression about the ears, nostrils, eyes, mouth, and tail. This is what good, correct walk work looks like.

The photo showing you asking her to back up shows the horse and you together on draping reins. The mare is in the act of organizing to pick up one of the hind feet. She is raising the base of her neck and flexing through the loins so her butt tucks and her back rises. This is what that should look like.

The revelation you report -- quote -- "I tried to hold my hands in a relaxed but consistent relationship to her face so that when she leaned forward, the reins were taut and she was heavy to me, but when she picked up her head and felt more centered underneath me (for lack of a better description) the reins became loose" -- is a good description of the correct technique. You fix it up and wait. You fix it up and let HER find it. You wait at the same pressure until the horse gets her body organized underneath you to be able to pick up whichever foot you're asking her to pick up. This is what it means to control the feet.

If the mare feels like she "gets stuck" trying to step back, remember that you're asking for one step, then one step, then one step. You are not at any time trying to "go" anywhere, either when moving in a forward direction or in a backward direction. You are simply fixing it up so that it would be as easy as possible for her to get her own body organized underneath you, to pick up whichever foot it would be necessary for her to pick up.

Many times, horses that are stiff through the hindquarters -- and your chiro. was of good help to you here in identifying that -- will also be stiff through the neck and/or poll and jaws. The two work together, so that if the one is stiff the other will be, too. This is why we twirl the head: not just to get the head 'loose', but to get the lower back loose so that the butt can tuck and also swing or orient obliquely to the sides for bends and lateral work.

When a horse has been stiff, they will often be reluctant to back up. This is because the action of backing to a degree stretches the hamstring muscles that lie along the backs of the thighs, and it stretches the Achilles tendons which those muscles tie into below. In order to avoid the full degree of stretch, the horse may lean back too much before it picks up the hind foot. This is where for the rider to not pull at all is very important; if you pull, especially if you pull equally with both reins, what is liable to happen is the horse will not pick up either hind foot, but will instead lean backwards so that its big heavy butt gets over or even behind its hocks. When that happens, we say the butt 'traps' the hind legs. There are two easy ways out of this for the horse: one would be to try to lean forward to get the weight off its hind legs, and the other will be to rear. You definitely do not want that, so what you do the next time that she feels stuck is you walk forward and try again.

When you try again, just TOUCH the tongue and wait. You convey through that touch that her front knees are not to be bent -- and that is ALL you tell her, that she can't move her FRONT legs forward, you're going to block that. You then add enough in the way of wiggling your feet in the stirrups or tapping with the calf of your leg that she knows she will have to move SOMEPLACE, but you absolutely disallow her to pick up the front knees. If she leans forward, I don't care if it is 500 lbs., you meet that -- but you do not pull into it.

The usual response is for the horse to squirrel around -- she will maybe throw her head up and down, crank it to the side, or else she'll swing her butt way over to left or right. All of this is just fine. You wait it out, but you still sit there and tell her, you can't move your front legs forward, you can't pick your knees up. Finally, she will make an attempt to pick up one or the other hind feet WITHOUT leaning her body backwards on her legs. When she discovers this, that is when you drop the reins, pet her bigtime, and then walk forward with the reins laid upon her neck.

You see what I am describing here is the same as the revelation that you had. There is a vast difference between pulling and blocking. The horse will get 'trapped' when backing up when the rider pulls.

Now, here is the further revelation, and it is another reason and a bigger revelation as to why we practice backing one step at a time. The revelation is, that there is zero difference in going backwards and in going forwards. For when you drive the horse forward, what is liable to happen is that the horse will lean FORWARD on its legs -- and this is when it stiffens its neck so as to lean on your hands, because it is moving out of balance. This is 'dynamic imbalance', and it traps the FRONT legs just the same as moving backward in 'dynamic imbalance' traps the hind legs.

What you want instead is that the horse should PICK UP the forefoot that is necessary. The forefoot is to be picked up, while all of the 'forward' energy comes from the push from the hindquarters. There is a vast difference between the horse continuously falling forward and depending upon continuous backward traction in the reins in order to maintain its balance, vs. moving correctly in EITHER a forward or backward direction.

Thus you should be working on getting enough feel of the feet that you can begin producing Spanish Walk-type steps. The horse should pick up the one front foot as you remember Ollie doing, whenever you ask. Then he should pick up the other front foot -- one and one and one and one and one. This is moving forward literally exactly like moving backward.

When the energy level comes up, i.e. there's a little excitement in the horse -- not panic or fear or any bad type of tension, but just a bit more than usual life -- then what that does is add to the horse's 'bounce'. This is what we want -- longer period of suspension in trot without increase in speed; and a kind of bounciness or 'greater swing' even in the walk. This is where the true student must divest herself of all the habitual phraseology that one hears from dressage instructors: you must NOT 'go more forward'! What you need to do is go more UP.

More UP cannot happen unless there is more DOWN, i.e., when the basketball player jumps up, he does that by first bending his knees -- in other words, his joints must not be stiff but rather bendable -- and then he pushes DOWN so that the equal and opposite reaction is for his body to spring UP. His feet, in short, must press DOWN against the ground for any upward flight or 'suspension' of the whole body to occur.

This is why you ask your horse not to speed up at the trot and canter but rather to slow down. You should always be working to see, like a game you play between you, how slow your horse can go and still maintain lively energy and elastic bounce. So you set her up into a trot and then you bend to the right, to the left, to the right, to the left through every figure and combination of figures you can think of. You find the diameter of bend that helps her the most and then ride that. You transition trot-walk-trot many times during any given ride and you play with her, to see how little it might take to get the hind feet to stop. You transition trot-walk-halt-back many times without pulling. You transition back-walk-trot to see how little leg you'll have to use, and how promptly, she can go from backup to trot.

And when you do this, you keep your lower back full and soft because that's how her lower back needs to be. You keep your buttcheeks totally relaxed so that your lower back can work correctly and so that your legs can hang down softly around her, which gives you the ability to touch her very softly and yet in a way that she cannot ignore.

I am pleased to see that you're making great progress. Your horse is better and your thinking is now in much better directions. I encourage you to work on the transitions and to make your rides as varied and interesting as possible. Keep arena sessions short, because (I assure you) work like this is very demanding -- far more demanding of the horse than all that the rough and crude and abrupt and unfeeling rider whom you may see shoving her horse forward all the time. I have to chuckle when I hear people say 'yeah but Dr. Deb never works Ollie very hard.' Oh really? Why then is his back double and his butt covered with muscle? I can work a horse harder in forty minutes -- and I regularly do -- than most people can manage in three hours.

So you meter what you do, because the way we ride in this school, we are asking more in the way of transitions than you generally would see, and transitions are the most physically demanding and developing of all maneuvers. After warming up at a walk, I will typically pick a figure and ride it through twice (whether at walk or trot), then transition to walk if I'm not already in the walk, drop the reins on the neck, pet the horse, and walk forward. Then I stay in a vigorous, lively walk for as long as it took me to ride through the figure once; sometimes longer. Then I pick up the reins again, ask for some kind of flexion, transition to trot, get the horse on a figure, and again ride it through once or twice only, then rest again. When doing transitions it is the same: I might walk-trot-flex/figure left - straighten - walk - halt - walk - trot - flex/figure right - straighten - walk - halt and then drop reins and pet, then walk forward.

The number of transitions that you can pack into forty to sixty minutes in the arena is an exact measure of the training/development value of your time in the arena.

The other thing I will add before signing off, is that it is now time for you to have built a drum (see threads in this Forum -- many designs and blueprints), and to be working on learning how to teach the horse to step up on the drum with you helping her from the ground. This will teach you more about body balance, not leaning forward or backwards while being able to pick up one foot at a time, than any other exercise. It will greatly clarify what you're to be doing under saddle, and it will feed directly into the horse's ability to achieve the correct 'upwards' dynamic balance. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

darlinglil from a new phone
Guest
 

Joined: 
Location:  
Posts: 
Status:  Offline
On toe first landing, check out the Rockley Farm blog. It is a rehab farm in Exmoor. They post numerous photos and videos of toe first landings. It is a delight to see, and they share how they achieve the improvements. Darlinglil from a new phone.

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Dr. Deb,

thank you for the very encouraging post--I've been feeling great about it ever since reading it! I'll keep working and report back soon, but in the meantime, here's a photo of Macie on the drum my husband built for me for my birthday last June. It took her about 30 seconds to get right up there!

Also, DarlinLil, thanks for the suggestion, I'll check it out.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Juliet

Attachment: mace_on_drum.jpg (Downloaded 285 times)

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Things are going quite well for us here. I feel like I'm FINALLY really getting it. Not that there isn't endless room for improvement and so much to learn, but I finally, after working and learning for two years, feel like I'm beginning to understand what needs to be happening underneath me and how I might go about making it possible. It's so interesting to me that as my confidence and knowledge increase, my horse's confidence in me and willingness increase. I guess this makes perfect sense and looking back, it also makes perfect sense that when I was so ignorant and ineffectual, my horse was expressing her distrust and disrespect of me (she's the type that doesn't suffer fools gladly!) Finding my current instructor and this forum are what made this all possible.

So, here's the ironic part. Way back when I first started this thread, the issue that got me here was toe-first striking and I think this is still happening. Should I send a new set of pictures? (if so, what would be the best to show? trot at liberty? trot under saddle? walking?) After reading some of the posts on the blog from Rockley Farm that DarlinLil suggested, I'm concerned that if my mare continues to move like this it's going to result in damage to her feet and legs. I also see that her front feet are, over the past several months, narrowing and contracting some at the heel and that her sulcus is quite deep (3/4" in some places). Farrier and Vet say they see no thrush, instructor says she thinks it IS thrush so I've been treating her for the past few weeks. Anyway, this toe-first striking is my only remaining area of worry and confusion. Any tips?

thank you as always! and happy new year!
--Juliet

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
Juliet, as a suggestion on this, use the Google Advanced Search technique (directions in thread near top of Forum home page) to search out Pauline Moore's contributions on digital cushion (DC) thickness. There were a couple of threads on that as I recall, and some photos showing how to measure your horse's DC thickness.

I want you to do that and take pictures if possible....post them in one of the old threads you find....and on that -- we'll go from there.

As to the changes in the shape of your horse's feet -- ask your vet and farrier whether she's "negative plane" or getting that way. This can easily happen when the farrier has been conscientious about keeping the heels moved back, but less conscientious (or sometimes, due to the foot) less able to keep the toes moved back. If this is part of the picture -- but in fact even if it isn't -- I suggest at least rolling the toes, or, more preferably, rockering them; or alternatively, have the shoe set back on the foot as far as possible; apply the shoe backwards; or get Gene Ovnicek's custom set-back shoes (http://www.hopeforsoundness.com) and try them.

Pauline in the old threads explains how to use boots as well as trim to increase DC thickness, and the tendency of everything I've suggested in the above paragraph is also in the same direction: the more you speed up the breakover, the more likely the horse will be to strike on the heel properly. However, in a horse that hasn't been doing that for a long time, as Pauline says and as confirmed by my experience with other students also, you have to "teach" the horse to heel-strike, or re-teach him, which is a kind of "patterning". For this the special shoeing or boots are crucially helpful.

And one last note....I am pleased to hear you're feeling more confident and so is your horse. But there's still lots to do in this arena also, not to make a bad pun. The way your horse moves and the heel strike/toe strike are still linked; and you are right to be concerned that continued toe-striking is likely to result in longterm damage. Your open and pro-active approach do nothing but help your horse. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Pauline Moore
Member
 

Joined: Fri Mar 23rd, 2007
Location: Crows Nest, Australia
Posts: 273
Status:  Offline
Juliet
There is a lot more information, and better photos, on the various pages of my website (http://www.gravelproofhoof.org). Have a look at the Hoof page for comparative photos of strong and weak feet, and information about the importance of the digital cushion. There is some discussion on the Movement page about heel-first landing, and there is a long article on the subpage about Low Plantar Angle that's under the Therapy main heading.

If you are going to post photos, could you also please do one of your horse standing on level, firm ground (e.g. concrete), taken from mid-flank area so the whole side view of the horse can be seen. Don't worry about getting her to 'stand-up', just whatever is her normal chosen posture. It is sometimes possible to get some clues about likely low plantar angle from how the horse stands.

Happy to help if I can.

Pauline

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Thank you both for your replies! I have to go out of town for a couple of days but as soon as I return I'll get to work on this and report back as soon as I can.

--Juliet

JulietMacie
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 25th, 2013
Location: Ashfield, Massachusetts USA
Posts: 96
Status:  Offline
Hello, I've followed up on the suggestions in your (Dr Deb's and Pauline's) last comments and am about to post my photos and findings on the Digital Cushion thread as Dr. Deb requests.
( http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/forum1/572.html )

see you over in the Digital Cushion thread!

--Juliet

JTB
Member
 

Joined: Thu Aug 11th, 2011
Location:  
Posts: 30
Status:  Offline
Bumping this so I can find it again. Great thread! :-)
Belated Happy New Year to all and Thank You Dr Deb for this resource.
Kind Regards Judy

DrDeb
Super Moderator
 

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 3075
Status:  Offline
And a Happy New Year to you, too -- and to all our NZ friends. Jenny's arranging clinics for 2018 so I hope to see you in April. Cheers -- Dr. Deb




Powered by WowBB 1.7 - Copyright © 2003-2006 Aycan Gulez