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straightness & fascia balancing exercises
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spider
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 Posted: Wed Aug 2nd, 2017 04:03 pm
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Hi Dr. Bennet,
I'm writing to ask for your help with my horse. He's a 6 yr old ottb that I've had for 1 year. When I got him home I realized that he had some pretty serious behavioral issues and decided to start with ground work. I realized right away that he also had alot of sever issues with laterality too. I believe the behavioral and laterality issues are related. He falls in both directions at the walk, but it was especially difficult for him to turn/circle to the right in hand. I've been working on the ground with him nearly every day and he's made alot of progress, but I'm still trying desperately to help him even out his laterality/fascial imbalances. I did Masterson method massage for about 6 months, then started more recently to work more directly on his fascia using massage. And that through all this work, I think I have a better understanding/feel for where the problem lies.

He is strongly left dominant (using his left front as supporting leg) and has very long legs and so his grazing pattern is 100% of the time rt front out front (he never puts left front ahead to graze). His front hooves were not surprisingly very different, and they're getting better and better (but he does still have rt front lower heel/left front higher heel situation). All This of course has carried over to his walking pattern, where he swings rt hind to the centerline underneath himself, which causes his left hip/croup to be higher. I think the key issue is that this right hind coming too far in to the left is causing him to rotate/drop his ribcage on the right side. And that this in turn puts him off balance, making him want to rush forward more and fall out on his right shoulder. So for example if I try to lunge him, he comes in toward me (falling in going both directions). All of this only show up in hand in the arena. I also think there was a very big tension/anxiety issue about the arena. This has improved a lot, but is still lurking. IN other words, if something scares him, the falling in/stiffness in his neck would be more pronounced, and almost gone now if he’s relaxed.

My goal is to try to get a better sense of how to influence his crookedness. He's very willing to work as long as I go really slowly and carefully, and I'd give anything to be able to get him straighter to be able to swing through his back and be confident and sound. (Technically he is sound, but mechanically shorter on that left front). Do you have any techniques that I can try to add in to help him get his fascia more balanced and untwisted? Thank you very much for your time and expertise. It is very, very hard to find!!!

Best regards,
Mindy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Aug 3rd, 2017 04:29 am
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Mindy, have you ever actually seen "fascia" in a carcass? Have you ever stood there as a student and watched the teacher skin a dead horse? If you had done this, you would know that fascia does not get twisted; it does not get 'stuck'; in most cases, it does not develop 'adhesions'. Fascia is just the anatomical name for thin sheets that enwrap and support organs, individual muscles, groups of muscles, tendons, and other internal structures.

I remind you of this because, to begin with, it would be good if you had the right picture of what's going on inside, instead of some fantastical picture promoted by people promoting a patent massage technique.

This does not mean that the particular technique is bad for the horse; nor does it necessarily mean that it lacks effectiveness. But they have pitched it to you in a form designed to frighten you into a kind of compliant enthusiasm. This is an extremely common sales technique used by people who have no ethics and at the same time, no real interest in educating you properly.

The next thing is to point out to you that you're going about the problem, in a way, backwards. The horse is not crooked because of his fascia. His fascia have no more to do with it than his bones, tendons, ligaments, or muscles. The horse is crooked because:

(1) He had a side preference from Day One, at birth.

(2) He may have had a dam who only let him nurse off one teat.

(3) He was given a 'track education', which is to say, no education at all. Stuff was just thrown at him, i.e., saddle, girthing, bridling and accepting the bit: all of which caused him to feel a need to defend himself.

(4) He was employed as a racehorse at American tracks, which all run, all of the time, only to the left. Not even during workouts are horses (at 99% of tracks) allowed to run to the right. They also rarely or never see a hill. So you can multiply the number of years he was at the track as a working athlete X 2, and that'll be how long it will take to teach him to carry himself and his rider straight.

....And even then, it won't be 100%. Almost all horses retain their side preferences no matter what education or therapy is offered to them. What you will be doing, therefore, is helping him FUNCTION -- at first for only a few steps at a time -- straight. He will carry himself straight for one or two steps, then three, then more, with daily or weekly increments of progress. I hear some impatience in your tone and that's why I'm saying this -- impatience will get you nowhere, or else it will get you hurt, so my advice to you would be to give that part up right now.

Now, having heard this, you are ready for the first reading. Go to our main website at http://www.equinestudies.org, click on "Knowledge Base", and then when you get to that page, you'll see three big buttons down the righthand side of the page. Click on the one that says "Lessons from Woody", and study it thoroughly.

This is your homework. Once you've done what I've asked, please do feel free to write back here with whatever questions the reading provokes in your mind.

As to your groundwork, fine, great, so long as you aren't doing it according to the customs and directions of well-self-advertised schools of which we do not approve. If you've been with Buck Brannaman, Tom Curtin, Harry Whitney, Josh Nichols, Melanie Smith-Taylor .... you're far ahead. If you name another name that I have to "X" out when I see it here, then you'll know you've been in the wrong place and will need to start over completely, from the beginning, with your ground work approach also.

Looking forward to hearing your further replies. Happy reading. -- Dr. Deb






Ride A Grey Horse
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 Posted: Sat Aug 5th, 2017 08:13 pm
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Mindy, of the clinicians Dr.Deb named in her post to you, two have materials, discussed in other threads here, that are wonderful for groundwork. 
Just in case you haven't seen these:
Melanie Smith-Taylor's book "Riding with life."
And Buck Brannaman's "Seven clinics" videos -- the first two discs are groundwork. 
These complement each other well; Melanie studied with Buck and with Ray Hunt.  And both are hugely about straightness for balance etc., as you are reading in Dr.Deb's foundational Woody piece.
Available from Eclectic Horseman Mercantile.
Best,
Cynthia

spider
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 Posted: Mon Aug 7th, 2017 01:48 pm
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Cynthia,
Thank you so much! I downloaded all the articles I could from the list Dr. Bennet gave me, which were from Harry Whitney and Josh Nichols. This was very good information, but I was actually looking for exactly what you have suggested. So thank you!

spider
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 Posted: Mon Aug 7th, 2017 07:23 pm
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Dr. Deb,

I can't thank you enough for straightening me out on this. I am so grateful for the information in "Lessons from Woody". I have a few questions. You refer to the "force field" in an arena or enclosed area, and I'm wondering if you can describe more about what horses are actually reacting to. I'm asking because I have absolutely experienced this with this horse. He is very reluctant to travel on the rail, and I don't really know why. I was very happy to hear about the importance of where they are looking, and believe that will help us tremendously. My horse fits your description perfectly for right dominant with the exception of his right hind, which he always puts under his navel, but this is actually a manifestation of his crookedness. But I crawled around my floor and felt that shoulder in both left and right will help him. But have you encountered this, where one of the hind is already coming in and under as the crookedness? So does this mean his left hind is the weaker one? or is he maybe still not hitting the center of gravity with the right hind?
My other question is regarding actual groundwork. I have ordered Melanie Smith's book and Buck Brennaman's dvds, but am wondering if you are familiar with Manolo Mendez' groundwork techniques. He recommends doing a shoulder OUT coming out of a 1/2 circle toward the rail (i.e working on 3 tracks). Do you have any comments on this method for straightness? Or any comments on Marijke jong's methods?

Thank you again very very much!!
Best regards,
Mindy

ilam
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 Posted: Tue Aug 8th, 2017 07:15 pm
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My ultra-sensitive Arab has some big "force field" sensors. Sometimes I assume that it means confinement to him when he sees those rails, but ultimately, the only thing that matters is how to help him deal with it. Every time I ride in an arena of any kind, first order of business is to get him to be able to walk by the rail. One key discovery during Buck's clinics was how important it is to learn to ride that perfect circle. He had us do quite a bit of that in the last 2 clinics, and also learn to drift the hindquarters and forequarters from that circle. I suspect it accomplishes the same thing that you mention about shoulder-out, only you do this from the saddle and you drift both ends. When you start getting it right, you can feel both ends unite and the horse becoming straight. It takes quite a bit of practice and like with any of these so-called basics, there are a lot of details to it. I do keep a visual in my head of that perfect spinal alignment (including your own!), but ultimately you have to feel that change from the tip of his nose all the way down though you and to his hind feet. Every body part has to be aligned. Buck told us you could spend an hour just riding perfect circles. In the beginning it took just about that long to notice and to fix all the parts and do it in a way that wasn't driving my horse nuts. I would find this quite difficult to describe in a written post, as so much of that goes by feel, and I didn't ever get it until I felt it. When you get that horse straight with the reins connected to those feet, the "force field" goes away and the horse turns loose. It feels like a bit of magic. It takes a while to get there, but after a while, the horse understands what you are trying to do and being in balance with you is what he craves.

As for Buck DVDs, I don't know from where you are starting, but his groundwork and snaffle bit DVDs are essential starters, the 7 Clinics are bits and pieces of clinic footage, and I am not sure how much sense they will make to someone that is new to this. Just like Betty Staley says in the 7 clinics, you don't learn the ABCs by starting to write the alphabet, what you first have to learn is to write lines and circles.

Isabel

Last edited on Tue Aug 8th, 2017 07:15 pm by ilam

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Aug 8th, 2017 10:00 pm
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Ilam, there is a lot of insight in what you have written. Here is the picture I give students who are having trouble getting their horse to go to the rail:

To every horse, because his mama told him so, fences are dangerous. Like flowing water, they are also (to the horse) alive; and every living thing to a horse has a 'bubble' or 'aura' or force-field that emanates out from it.

When the horse feels like he doesn't want to go to the rail, it is because he feels himself bumping into the force-field that is emanating from the fence.

The way to get the horse to go close to the rail without objection, in other words, to make the force-field 'melt', is to arrange things so that it is the ribcage of the horse that comes closest to the rail, not his head, shoulder, or hipbones. Indeed, he is most afraid of having his hipbones near the rail, because he thinks they might get hooked or caught. Remember that his hips are indeed quite a bit wider than his shoulders.

Now how you get the ribcage to come over first is by means of all the lateral-work exercises that we use to enable the horse to carry us straight, and to also carry us straight upon a track that is arced, and that finally allow us to add four arcs together to make a perfect circle.

When we twirl the head, and also when we untrack the hindquarters, we are addressing those parts of the horse that are most likely to be holding a brace; so that twirling the head releases the brace that tends to accumulate around the poll joint and upper throat, and untracking releases the brace that tends to accumulate in the zone of the loins.

Only when the braces in these two areas are destroyed, or as Francois Baucher was fond of saying, 'annihilated', can the horse turn loose in the middle. He cannot flex his ribcage, the part over which you sit, until he first turns loose in front and in back. When that moment arrives, in an instant he does turn completely loose, both physically and in a deeper sense.

Don't make the practice of lateral work, or the achievement of perfect circles, more difficult than it needs to be. You get one leg-yield step -- that's drifting in Buck's terminology -- and then you get two or three, and then ten, before he has to brace up again. He braces up because he loses his balance; but he also loses his balance because he begins to brace up. He loses his okayness deep within himself, and then he braces up on the outside; but sometimes it's the other way around too. So you PECK at it, and you learn more complex families of lateral work, i.e. Classes 2 and 3, which are shoulder-ins and traversales or half-passes. And each time you show him another way to step under himself and combine that with whatever bend, you give him the opportunity to turn loose and to find the perfect point of balance. -- Dr. Deb

spider
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 Posted: Tue Sep 19th, 2017 05:18 pm
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Hi again Dr. Deb, I have read Lessons from Woody and the Birdie Book. I found them both to be extremely useful and informative. They have really changed my thinking alot. I have started over with my horse,and am doing the best I can to study as much material that is available from Buck, Ray Hunt,and Josh. I ordered a used version of Buck's 7 clinics, but couldn't actually watch most of the 7 dvds, and so have returned them and will now get the 2 referred to by Ilam (thank you). At the end of the Birdie book you recommended "Food for All" - could you please tell where I can find that?
Also, I've found a few Ray Hunt dvd's. Has anyone watched these, and would you recommend them? I'm looking for dvd's that are showing some work with difficult horses, and where the clinician works through some of the problems himself, or has students do that. (Like in dvd 6 or 7 in Bucks set, called problem solving.

Thank you so much!
Best regards, Mindy

spider
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 Posted: Fri Nov 3rd, 2017 01:18 pm
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Hi all,
I've watched Buck Brennaman's groundwork DVD and found it very helpful. I have a question for anyone who has cliniced with Buck or has worked on his exercises successfully. My question is regarding the exercise "backing a circle". In the DVD Buck says that this is such an important exercise, and I can see why. It looks like it is fully involving the entire horse, the musculature from poll to hind feet, and the brain in a very positive way. He also says that you need to get the horse to come completely through the exercise (i.e. don't stop until the horse is reaching out with the outside hind leg, or in other words, walking the circle with the hind legs) or else you can basically do more harm than good (these weren't his exact words, but that's what I believe he was saying). I have been doing Buck's exercises in small bites so that my horse can digest them and take his time to look for the right answer and this is going very well. So I'd like to start working on the backing exercise but will not likely be able to get right through it the first time. Does anyone have any insight or experience with this particular exercise? It really does look like a very good and essential tool to help the horse straighten (over time). Thank you! Mindy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Nov 3rd, 2017 06:05 pm
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Spider, the backing-in-a-circle exercise is one of the most difficult to perform and most demanding of the horse. Buck practices it regularly and performs it expertly.

You as a beginner will need to take a much slower approach and longer perspective.

Do not expect your horse to go all the way around for at least one year.

Begin by asking for only two or three backwards-and-curving steps.

Take note of the proper use of your hands; NEVER PULL BACK against the head. Visualize that your reins are connected to the hind feet.

Do not even attempt this exercise until your horse can back fluidly and willingly, on very light aids, in a straight line. He should begin by backing two or three steps only in a straight line, and finish a year later by being able to back absolutely straight twenty steps in a straight line.

If when attempting to back in a straight line your horse's butt goes off to one side or the other, you have to solve this problem first before attempting to back in a circle.

Prevent the horse's butt from going off to one side by lifting NOT PULLING BACK with the arm of that side. Visualize your arms as "scissors" that can move straight up and straight down in a plane alongside the horse's neck. If his butt goes off to the right, "scissor" your right arm and hand upward but DO NOT PULL BACK. You merely raise your hand while asking the backup in exactly the same manner as if you had not raised your hand. If his butt goes off to the left, lift the left hand similarly.

When your horse can back straight, on light aids, twenty steps along a straight line, then you may begin doing as Buck shows you in his videotape, and it will be of profit. Begin, as I said, with only one to three steps and very gradually build up to the full circle. Backing in a circle is as physically demanding an exercise as we ever ask, on a par with pirouette/rollback or slidestop.

You ask about this as if it were the primary way to straighten a horse; it isn't. Before considering backing in a circle as a way to straighten, I would have wanted to spend time perfecting the ordinary and easier ways to straighten, vis., leg yield as explained in "Lessons from Woody" which I request all students to study. Find this article in our main website at http://www.equinestudies.org under "Knowledge Base". Click on the button at the righthand side of the page when the computer takes you to Knowledge Base, and it will instantly download it into your computer as a .pdf document.

The techniques explained in "Lessons from Woody" are the physical basis for straightening, and the underlying anatomy is also clearly explained and illustrated. The relationship of untracking and leg-yielding is made clear, as is the very first lesson that I ever gave to you, which is how to longe correctly. You have yet to perfect that from what I have seen, and I have also mentioned that part to you recently.

The other essential understanding is how to straighten the horse spiritually. I say this is absolutely essential, and although Buck may not mention it directly on his videotapes, you may be absolutely 100% certain that it underlies all his work. This is so because Buck knew Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, and this is the essence of their teaching. You straighten the horse "spiritually" when you learn about the Birdie. I have said to you many times that you need to purchase and study "The Birdie Book", which explains all about this. You also need to purchase and listen to my audio CD's entitled "Mannering Your Horse" and "Birdie Basics", which also go into this. The horse is made straight "by the Birdie" when the person becomes able to see/feel and direct the Birdie. Many many other students who read here know about this, because like you, they began by needing it. They succeeded by studying these materials, having lessons or clinics with me, and then conscientiously PRACTICING exactly what they had been told to do. I understand the temptation to jump in at a point far ahead of where you really are with your horse, but I warn you -- no matter how good the instructor, and Buck is very good -- skipping steps will avail you not. -- Dr. Deb


spider
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 Posted: Mon Nov 6th, 2017 01:41 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb,

Thank you for your reply. I'm very glad to have your input on this, as I had not yet started this exercise and did have the sense that it was very advanced. I also wanted to tell you that I have not yet ridden him, I'm really taking my time and working very hard on getting and keeping his birdie with me. Things are going well with this.(I purchased the Birdie Book a few months ago and have read it thoroughly 2 times). I am also glad for your explanation and context about Buck's backing circle exercise. I was watching the groundwork video (none undersaddle yet), and since he referred to this exercise as making a very big difference to the horse, I thought it was something to work towards. I will also purchase the 2 audio lessons you mention, and go back and review lessons from Woody. I do find that I need to re-read several times these materials since they are really packed with information.

I do have a question about the drift/leg yield on the lead working toward straightness and the ability to longe a good even circle. I have been woking on getting the hind end to move away from me from the halt using a light intensional aid. He is now able to do one step, where he's reaching his inside across the outside. This was hard for him in the beginning. So, just to make sure this would be the correct next step, I will continue to build this so he can take several steps from teh halt, but also maybe start to ask for some stepping away while on the circle, correct? My question is what is the difference between "rolling over" and the "drift" is it that the drift is 3 tracks and rolling over 4 tracks? Just hoping to clear this up in my mind. Thank you, Mindy.


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