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iwanttolearn
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Hi there,

There seems to be rather a lot of debate about the'long and low' head neck position (poll below the withers, nose in front of the vertical). Some say it elongates the neck and spine, stretches the topline, helps the horse step under itself (perhaps better 'coil the loins' and close the angle of the hip), and lifts the base of the neck (it is this last thing which I have doubts about). It is this line of reasoning that would suggest that the 'long and low' position is paramount to a young horse's education under saddle, and that the horse must be worked 'long and low' before it can come up with the poll above the withers.
There are others that say it does not belong in ridden work at all. In particular, Jean Luc Cornille argues that the 'long and low' position can a) increase the concussive forces that travel through the forelimbs and b) is detrimental to a horse's ability to absorb these (increased) concussive forces in the forelimbs.

I have also heard that the increased amplitude of oscillation in the spine that is associated with the 'long and low' position is negative because it indicates that the muscles in the horse's back are inactive and thus not doing their job to a) stabilize the spine and b) absorb/translate the force of the hind end.

I do have a good understanding of ring theory, and I know that you state that 'stretching' and 'relaxation' of the muscles above the spinal vertebrae are paramount to a rounding of the back, so as to support the rider's weight, but I'm curious as to whether or not you think that this relaxation should be mechanically induced with the 'long and low' position.



Thank you so much, I hope that this post is comprehensible to you.

Sincerely,

Anne-Marie Robinson
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Age 16

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DrDeb
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Well, Anne-Marie, the single most encouraging thing about your post is your online moniker: "I wanna learn." That's good. Much better than if you'd said "I want you to spoon-feed me the answers." In short it implies that you might be willing to take some initiative in solving your quandaries.

The most humorous thing about your post is your closing. I got a real laugh out of that. My dear, what did you think? That I might have difficulty understanding current standard English? I'm only too happy to have a sixteen year old come in here who isn't doing newspeak or newspell, i.e. like people do when texting. Nice to have a person your age who is actually literate.

That having been said, however, I now need to ask you what your favorite subject(s) in school are. Particularly, how much does biology figure among your interests? Because as a teacher, at this point in order to help you, I need to find out what sort of language I need to use in order to teach you.

Not to make too great a mystery out of it, but finding out how interested in biology you have been, and how much reading in basic physiology and anatomy you might have done, is important because much of the answer to your query will involve your gaining an understanding of the true nature of tendon tissue. This is a lecture segment which I regularly give in the context of my anatomy classes; but another one of those will probably not be scheduled for a goodly while, and so we'll have to handle it here rather than insist that you come attend a class. This will be the class. And those reading here besides yourself, anyone who has wondered about this so-called controversy about 'long and low,' well, you can follow along and kibbutz as you feel like.

But first let's let Anne-Marie tell us a little about her interests outside of the stable. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

iwanttolearn
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Hi Dr Deb,

Not the answer I was expecting, but if I am surprised it is pleasantly so.

I am glad on principle that you would not have me attend your lecture in order to get the answer to my question... But actually I would like to attend a class of yours at some point! In fact I think you are coming to Kamloops BC on another but equally interesting topic. I will try to make it!

Anyways, about me (I get to talk about myself, how gratifying!). I do very much like biology although I am actually more fascinated by evolution/adaption than by anatomy. I guess I would rather know why than how. A lot of equine biomechanics is about the 'how', but it answers 'why' I should use one training method over another.

I'm also surprised that you mentioned tendons and not ligaments. Seeing as it is the dorso-ligament system that acts as a bungee cord across the horse's back. And then you talked about it a little bit in the paper on the Ring Model. Words that come to mind are the ligamentous livestiture and the 'freespan of the back'

But I guess it makes sense that we would be looking at tendons because tendons are the middle man between muscle and bone, and I suppose it is this relationship that we concern ourselves in examining the long and low conundrum.

My understanding: I do understand some about tendons and a little bit about collagen fibers. I know that they store elastic energy, and from what I understand, tendons play a pretty significant role in the abduction of the leg, ei pulling the leg forwards after the hoof has left the ground.

And I have Sara Wyche's book entitled The Horse's Muscles In Motion although I confess a lot of it goes over my head.

Hopefully I'm on the right track. Please excuse any typos, I am rushing off to work now!

DrDeb
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OK, Anne-Marie, you've given me enough information so that I know where it would be useful to begin with you.

So, your first homework:

1. Define the word "tendon".

2. Define the word "ligament".

3. State three differences -- structural or functional -- between tendon and ligament.

There are a number of anatomical dictionaries online which you can use to answer this. DO NOT use the Pony Club manual.

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

iwanttolearn
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1. Tendon: a flexible but inelastic cord of strong fibrous collagen tissue attaching a muscle to a bone
2. Ligament: a short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint.
3.
a) Tendons attach muscle to bone, whereas ligaments articulate bone to bone
b) Ligaments have much less give than tendons. Ligaments need to hold bones or cartilages relatively close together while still allowing for a certain degree of movement. Tendons afford more elasticity (presumably) because muscles are quite a bit more dynamic than bone.
c) Functionally they serve different purposes. Tendons transmit force from muscle to bone. Ligaments support and stabilize joints between bones.

DrDeb
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OK, very good, copied from the textbook. This is, as the old saying goes, what the 'B' student does. Now let us proceed to doing what the 'A' student does:

Please define 'attach', as in 'tendon attaches muscle to bone.' What sort of attachment is it, exactly? This will be much harder for you to research, so Anne-Marie, do not get discouraged and do not feel that you've failed if it should be necessary for you to simply say, 'I don't know, and I can't find that answer in any textbook.' Cheers -- Dr. Deb

iwanttolearn
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I feel you are being a bit condescending.

I respect your work but having read through the forums, I don't like the way you go about answering people's questions.

You obviously feel quite superior to us mere mortals. I don't know if you're aware but you can be incredibly condescending.

I applaud you for spending the time.

I will continue my research on my own.


Best of luck,

Anne-Marie

Last edited on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 03:29 am by iwanttolearn

DrDeb
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Ahh yes! How quickly they do give up when they can't be "right" 100% of the time!

Condescending I am not -- that's YOUR projection, Anne-Marie -- but I AM a teacher and, as you wrote in here asking to be taught and declaring that you would be willing to take initiative in learning basics yourself, then I have begun by asking you to catch up on those very basics, without which you will continue merely to repeat without really understanding what they mean, some words and phrases which you have read in books, which are current on the 'net or at the stable, or which you think "important" people have said. With a little more experience, you will -- or might have if you had been willing to hang in here instead of wimping out -- learned that many people in the horse industry, who are considered 'authorities', know no more about those same words and phrases than you do. In other words, one says it and the other repeats it, but the meaning is not clear to any of them.

So Anne-Marie, when you get over your little snit, you will be welcome to come back here but at that point, I will definitely require that you stop reading any sort of negativity into my efforts to help you. Many people, yes even adults, are prone to doing this, but it's totally unnecessary, quite unjust toward me, and leaves you with the same questions (unanswered) that you came in with. As Dr. Phil would say: how's that working out for you?

When you stop trying to tell the teacher how you would like to be taught, and when you stop demanding that the teacher be some way you had imagined, but simply and quietly resolve to BE taught by the teacher, whoever she is, just as she is -- and when you resolve to make the necessary effort to look up and/or think up the correct answers, one after another, over a long period of schooling -- then your days of teenaged hubris will be over, and you will have shown me and everyone else that you've achieved a higher degree of maturity.

In just a very few years, Anne-Marie, you're going to have a boss. How do you think it's going to go down when you tell the boss how you'd like HER to be, or what she can ask of you???? A little poverty, a little worry over whether the mortgage payment is going to get paid, or where the next meal is coming from, might not hurt you and many other teenaged children! I'd prefer to see all teenagers grow up to be successess in life, and my resolution has always been to help them when I can, just as I am helping you at this moment. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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I actually work 25 hours a week on top of school to pay for a horse that I bought without ant financial support from my parents. I do have a boss and I do respect my boss, and I do pay bills and I am constantly worrying about money. I want the best for my horse. I want to bring him up in a way that will teach him to use his body correctly so that he may be free of pain.
At any rate, this isn't about me being right. If you'd like to discuss it further, and I'm not sure you do, this is about how you responded to my comment about Hilary Clayton's study, which was a valid study with valid results. I have a scientific mind. I like to look at all evidence and formulate a conclusion. The way you responded was not productive. You basically said it's my way or the highway. Anyways, I don't know how else you expect me to gain preliminary information on the topic if not by looking at textbooks. After all, I've not done dissections nor gone to university. I don't have a PHD. How else am I supposed to get this information?

And finally, yes there are many so called authorities in this field and, as far as I'm concerned, you are only one of them.

This is my horse. I love him to death and I will do right by him. If that means reading every functional equine biomechanics textbook there is, so be it. I'll read Hilary Clinton's and Jean Luc Conrnille's and Sara Wyche's and Thomas Ritter's. I'll take lessons and clinics and I can be wrong and humble as long as my teachers can do the same, because you do not seem to even want to entertain the idea that there has been scientific research done that contradicts your own conclusions regarding bitting.

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DrDeb
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Anne-Marie, all fine and I'm glad to hear you're a working girl. My first boss, when I was your age, was very tolerant of me as well.

However, you're wrong about 'what this correspondence with Dr. Deb is about'. Whether you like, or dislike, my teaching style is not going to make a single iota of difference, just as whether you like, or dislike your boss isn't going to make an iota of difference to her either. So I am tolerating you, and forgiving you for being young, inexperienced, and full of shit -- just as your boss also is.

The bottom line is that if you want an answer from me, then you will have to work with me, whether you like me, or think that you like me, or not. If that doesn't suit you, there are as you say, others you can go to (who will undoubtedly teach you in other ways, and give you other kinds of answers).

So as I said to you in the other thread -- you can quit whining, and you can quit psychoanalyzing, and when you do that, and you come back here ready for business -- then we can do some business, which will primarily be "about" teaching you how to reason your own way through the question you've asked, rather than relying for answers upon any "authority", including my own. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

iwanttolearn
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You are wrong on so many levels.

Liking your boss makes a world of difference.

And I am not whining or psychoanalyzing.

Fortunately you are neither my boss, nor my mother.

Again, thank you for your time, but I will go elsewhere. It is not your 'teaching methods' I take issue with, but you seem incapable of understanding this.

I wish you the best of luck, really I do. For we are two strangers on separate sides of the world. You do not know me, and I do not know you. Perhaps you are a lovely person at heart.

DrDeb
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....but it doesn't, of course, as you now know from the other thread, Anne-Marie. You don't have to read everything written on horsemanship, and you couldn't even if you tried, because the subject is more than 3,000 years old, has writings in languages such as Japanese or Persian that you can't read. After the Bible, since the adoption of the movable-type press in Europe (ca. A.D. 1500), more books have been written about horses than about any other single topic. If you want to be an hippologist (I am one, it's a rare breed) then yes indeed, you will collect a large library of books on all aspects relating to horses, but it'll never be fully comprehensive.

But this is the labor of years, and it is also a labor that relates to having been called by God to do that, i.e., it evolves as your "calling in life." I imagine in reality you will have a different calling. So don't take anything to extremes; what you came in here for was to ask a question about 'long and low', and our focus ought to be on that.

I still need you to answer the last questions I asked before we can proceed further. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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Very well, onwards and upwards. I have been advised by a friendly stranger to continue with my inquiry, so I will.


So last you said: Please define 'attach', as in 'tendon attaches muscle to bone.' What sort of attachment is it, exactly?
(I will ignore the thing you said after it, although it did hurt my feelings)

I googled the answer. Anyway, I think you're talking about entheses, defined by good ol' Wikipedia as "the connective tissue between tendon or ligament and bone". There are apparently two types, fibrous entheses and fibrocartilaginous entheses. Evidently fibrous enthesis is a direct connection, connective tissue against bone, black and white.
Fibrocartilaginous entheses is more like a gradual transformation, with layers that are not quite tendon and not quite bone.

Anyways, I'm thinking that we are now getting to the relevant information. Which is: you can look for damage at in entheses to "to infer repetitive loading" patterns. At least that is my understanding.

So I'm guessing that, other variables and technicalities aside: if long and low caused damage, we would see anomalies at enthesis sites of the front legs and in the backs of horses worked this way, and osteoarthritis of the bones themselves.

But just thinking about it right now, I think it would be hard to know if it was specifically 'long and low' that caused any of these changes, versus conformation or even just the presence of the rider's weight above the forehand in ridden work. Unless there is a specific pattern that you could look for.

There does appear to be some criticism towards this area of research, I think mostly in the context of trying to guess the occupations of ancient societies by looking for entheseal changes. It seems like a very complicated thing to study with a lot of different factors that should be weighed.

That's all I found. I think I fell of the trail of the easter egg hunt. I don't know where to go from here to find the answer to my question.

iwanttolearn
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Very well, onwards and upwards. I have been advised by a friendly stranger to continue with my inquiry, so I will.


So last you said: Please define 'attach', as in 'tendon attaches muscle to bone.' What sort of attachment is it, exactly?
(I will ignore the thing you said after it, although it did hurt my feelings)

I googled the answer. Anyway, I think you're talking about entheses, defined by good ol' Wikipedia as "the connective tissue between tendon or ligament and bone". There are apparently two types, fibrous entheses and fibrocartilaginous entheses. Evidently fibrous enthesis is a direct connection, connective tissue against bone, black and white.
Fibrocartilaginous entheses is more like a gradual transformation, with layers that are not quite tendon and not quite bone.

Anyways, I'm thinking that we are now getting to the relevant information. Which is: you can look for damage at in entheses to "to infer repetitive loading" patterns. At least that is my understanding.

So I'm guessing that, other variables and technicalities aside: if long and low caused damage, we would see anomalies at enthesis sites of the front legs and in the backs of horses worked this way, and osteoarthritis of the bones themselves.

But just thinking about it right now, I think it would be hard to know if it was specifically 'long and low' that caused any of these changes, versus conformation or even just the presence of the rider's weight above the forehand in ridden work. Unless there is a specific pattern that you could look for.

There does appear to be some criticism towards this area of research, I think mostly in the context of trying to guess the occupations of ancient societies by looking for entheseal changes. It seems like a very complicated thing to study with a lot of different factors that should be weighed.

That's all I found. I think I fell of the trail of the easter egg hunt. I don't know where to go from here to find the answer to my question.

iwanttolearn
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Very well, onwards and upwards. I have been advised by a friendly stranger to continue with my inquiry, so I will.


So last you said: Please define 'attach', as in 'tendon attaches muscle to bone.' What sort of attachment is it, exactly?
(I will ignore the thing you said after it, although it did hurt my feelings)

I googled the answer. Anyway, I think you're talking about entheses, defined by good ol' Wikipedia as "the connective tissue between tendon or ligament and bone". There are apparently two types, fibrous entheses and fibrocartilaginous entheses. Evidently fibrous enthesis is a direct connection, connective tissue against bone, black and white.
Fibrocartilaginous entheses is more like a gradual transformation, with layers that are not quite tendon and not quite bone.

Anyways, I'm thinking that we are now getting to the relevant information. Which is: you can look for damage at in entheses to "to infer repetitive loading" patterns. At least that is my understanding.

So I'm guessing that, other variables and technicalities aside: if long and low caused damage, we would see anomalies at enthesis sites of the front legs and in the backs of horses worked this way, and osteoarthritis of the bones themselves.

But just thinking about it right now, I think it would be hard to know if it was specifically 'long and low' that caused any of these changes, versus conformation or even just the presence of the rider's weight above the forehand in ridden work. Unless there is a specific pattern that you could look for.

There does appear to be some criticism towards this area of research, I think mostly in the context of trying to guess the occupations of ancient societies by looking for entheseal changes. It seems like a very complicated thing to study with a lot of different factors that should be weighed.

That's all I found. I think I fell of the trail of the easter egg hunt. I don't know where to go from here to find the answer to my question.

DrDeb
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Yes, 'enthesis' is the $10 word for 'connection' in the anatomical sense. And the description given by the Wikipedia authors is helpful, especially where they mention that there is a gradual transition from one tissue composition to the other, i.e. for example from tendon to periosteum or from tendon to bone.

But they don't go into much specifics about the other end of the tendon, i.e. where it "attaches" to the muscle, and the reason for this is that it does not "attach" in any sense that you could attach to the word "attach". An "attachment" implies that two things are being joined -- stitched together or riveted or glued in some way. It implies that there is some sort of abrupt boundary. But that is not at all what happens as we go from muscle belly to tendon, and this is the crux of the matter that I am after having you realize.

Muscles in the gross are hierarchical in structure. In other words, if you pick a muscle that has a name, say the biceps brachii in your arm, the anatomy book is going to tell you that it has 'x' attachments (called origins) at the top, where it comes off the scapula, and 'y' attachments (called insertions) at the bottom, where it goes into the radius. So between the scapula and the radius, lying upon the humerus, we have the belly of the biceps brachii. That's the gross structure.

Always when you see skeletal muscles pictured in an anatomy text, and this is quite real also if you were to be in the actual dissection lab and see the real muscle exposed, it has a striped or striated look. This is because every skeletal muscle is in reality a bundle of muscle fibers; and each of those fibers is itself a bundle of muscle cells. And this is the hierarchical structure -- bundle of muscle cells, bundled into a muscle fiber; bundle of muscle fibers makes up the muscle in gross.

Now each muscle cell is a long, spindle-shaped affair if you were to dissect it out separately. And what you would notice if you did that would be, that the ends of the spindle looked pale or whitish in color, while the thicker middle or 'belly' of the cell had a pinkish or red color, which is due to the location within the middle part of the cell, of the mechanism which makes it possible for the muscle to contract when stimulated. The contractile mechanism is invested by an incredibly dense network of tiny blood vessels which bring the sugars and oxygen which the cells require in order to do their work of contracting.

The contractile mechanism and its investment of blood vessels fill almost 100% of the space within the 'belly' of the muscle cell. And, of course, like all other cells, the contents of any given muscle cell are held together -- 'bagged' -- by the cell membrane, which is said to be 'intelligent' in that it has the ability to allow certain substances to enter the cell while barring others. Enwrapping the cell membrane and supporting it, external to it, is an outer 'bag' formed of collagen and elastin fibers which is called the endomysium.

If you look in Wikipedia you'll encounter three similar terms around this aspect -- endomysium, epimysium, and perimysium, but in reality they're all the same in terms of their chemical composition and their physical structure. The different names are applied because each hierarchical level of the gross muscle has its own 'external bag' wrapping. The names thus don't matter terribly much, but what does matter crucially to the question being asked here about 'long and low' is that there isn't any substance in the body more stretchy than endomysium (or perimysium, or epimysium, whatever level of wrapping you're looking at).

In short: the structural walls of muscle cells are incredibly stretchy. This is obviously necessary to permit the muscle, in gross, to bulge up in the center when fully contracted. But the opposite applies too: the muscle must be stretchy enough to be capable of being lengthened, because almost all skeletal muscles are opposed by some other skeletal muscle which, when it contracts, acts to stretch the given muscle. In short, every flexor muscle has opposed to it an extensor muscle which acts upon the same joint.

But this still isn't as far as we need to go just to get to Square One with your question. Let us perform a mental experiment and say that we have dissected out a single muscle cell and it is lying on the lab table before us. Now we take an aspiration needle or a very fine pipette, and we puncture into the 'belly' of the cell, right in its middle, and we use our needle to carefully suction out all the contents of the muscle cell. This will leave us with the empty cell membrane and its external investiture of endomysium -- a long, spindle-shaped empty bag made mostly of endomysium.

What color is the endomysium? Grocery-store plastic-bag white. Where does the endomysium end? It doesn't end anywhere; once the reddish cell contents are sucked out, it becomes clear that they only filled the center part of the long, spindle-shaped cell. The ends of the cell are what people call 'tendons' or 'tendon fibers', but there is no such thing as a tendon, or a tendon fiber, existing on its own independent of or separate or disconnected from the endomysium that forms the whole rest of the cellular 'bag'. It is all one continuous whole, from the upper tendon or tendon of origin, through the center length of the cell, all the way down to the lower tendon or tendon of insertion. It is all one, single, continuous, tough, stretchy bag.

So, in this sense, there is "no such thing" as a tendon. The horse's forelimbs below the knees do not have "tendons". The Achilles band above the hock is not a "tendon". And so on for everything in a horse that horse people and horse magazines of the common sort call "tendons": they do not exist. What DOES exist is muscles, which are hierarchical in structure i.e. they are bundles of cells, whose ends are flatter or skinnier than the bellies of the muscles because they do not contain the red cellular juice. Thousands of muscle cells which compose even the smaller skeletal muscles are bundled together so that the bundled upper ends comprise tendons of origin and whose bundled lower ends comprise tendons of insertion. Every
"tendon" is, thus, properly called and most usefully thought of, as the tendon OF A MUSCLE. So the correct name of one of the structures on the back of a horse's cannon bone is "the tendon of insertion of the superficial digital flexor MUSCLE."

Now we are halfway there as far as realizing why I asked you to define the word "attach" in the anatomical sense. What we have found out is there is no "attachment" but instead, total continuity from one end of the muscle cell to the other.

The second half, then, is this, and it's your new question to answer: what is a muscle -- I mean in terms of its function -- that is completely at rest, not contracting at all but just quietly resting? What function can a muscle in this state potentially perform that it ABSOLUTELY CANNOT perform when it is contracting?

As always when I ask a question -- don't overthink this and don't make it more complicated than it is. The answer should be obvious from the foregoing discussion. Cheers -- Dr. Deb


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"What is a muscle -- I mean in terms of its function -- that is completely at rest, not contracting at all but just quietly resting? What function can a muscle in this state potentially perform that it ABSOLUTELY CANNOT perform when it is contracting?"

Hm... this is tough. I'm afraid I don't really know. I mean, I do understand a little. The tendons do not exist on their own, not unless viewed as extensions and structural supports of the muscles. What we call tendons are "one continuous whole, from the upper tendon or tendon of origin, through the center length of the cell [muscle], all the way down to the lower tendon or tendon of insertion. It is all one, single, continuous, tough, stretchy bag".

So I think to myself, perhaps the function of the muscle at rest is to stretch this 'bag'. But the muscle stretches the bag when it is contracting, too, because the endomysium needs to accommodate the bulging shape, so that is not the answer. But now I realize I am thinking of the endomysium and tendon as much the same thing.

Maybe the function of the muscle at rest has to do with force dissipation. But this is not something you mentioned, and you said, "the answer should be obvious from the foregoing discussion". So again I think I'm on the wrong track, even though I do have a somewhat amusing image in my head of the Newton's cradle thingy, those metal balls on strings that knock into each other back and forth. That's how I imagine the output and input of energy dissipation between the tendons and the muscles.

Put otherwise: for all the information you have presented me with, I do not know the correct answer. If anyone else who is reading can answer, I'd be very much obliged.

Last edited on Tue Aug 28th, 2018 10:09 pm by DrDeb

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In terms of the muscle hierarchy, should I be thinking on the cellular level or the gross structure? Or does the concept you're trying to get me to understand apply to both?

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Once again, you're overtrying and overthinking. It's a bad habit of students who are worried that they'll be punished in some way for failing, that they give a scattershot answer -- just try anything and maybe they'll get "credit" for partial-correct. The image you posted is not relevant to our discussion, nor either to the question. Since it takes server space, I have deleted it.

The answer is much simpler and is a direct conclusion of the lecture which I gave above.

Again: What is a muscle IN TERMS OF ITS FUNCTION when it is not contracting? In other words: HOW DOES A MUSCLE FUNCTION when it is not contracting? It functions -- like a WHAT? -- Dr. Deb

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Like a tendon?

DrDeb
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Yes! Correct. A muscle which is not contracting is simply a stretchy bag. Is a muscle "all tendon" or is a tendon "all muscle"? Moot point when contraction is not happening.

This leads us to several new insights. In terms of teminology, we speak of a muscle that is contracting as "active", but we speak of tendons and/or muscles that are not contracting as "passive." Muscles coordinate in various areas of the body to form functional systems, and therefore, each of those systems (because it contains muscle in addition to sometimes also having bone, ligament, periosteum, or other connective tissue) can be "active" at one moment but "passive" at the next.

Second, it causes us to notice an error that is in every single existing published equine anatomy textbook, and an error that has been repeated by every secondary source (i.e. the common sort of magazines and all the books that I know of that have been recently published that purport to explain equine biomechanics or physiology). The error is this: that the anatomy book talks about "ligament" as if it were one single kind of tissue. And its author will do this despite, in some cases, also telling the reader that for example the suspensory ligament is likely to once have been -- in animals ancestral to Eohippus -- muscle tissue. This likelihood is raised to a certainty not only by detailed study of the bones of the forelimb in phenacodontid condylarths and an array of fossil equines from the earlier half of the Tertiary Period, but also by histological and chemical examination of the suspensory ligament tissue from modern horses. "Histology" studies the microstructure of a given tissue, and this type of analysis shows that suspensory ligament tissue is very different from a sample taken from an annular or collateral ligament. Likewise, chemical analysis which is done by grinding up the sample, macerating it, and then using electrophoroesis to discover its molecular makeup, shows gross differences between suspensory ligament tissue and annular or collateral ligament tissue.

In short, the error in the anatomy books is that they conflate what are really two categories of tissue into one, and they do this because they are beguiled by that rotten Pony Club definition that says, 'a ligament connects bone to bone.' Now, it should already be obvious that this is not a useful definition because that is exactly what almost every muscle does, too.

Now I am going to lead you through the same thought-experiment that we did before, but to a new purpose. Remember pipetting the red cell contents out of the muscle cell. Now think of doing that for every cell in a muscle. What you are left with  is tissue that is identical to the suspensory ligament, and which should properly be termed "yellow ligament." Every yellow ligament in the body was once a muscle; yellow ligaments are muscles that have lost the ability to develop sarcomeres/contractile apparatus. Yellow ligaments are the empty, highly stretchy, epimyseal bags which perform the function in the body of rubber sheets and of stretchy bungee-cords.

Thus, a proper and correct classification of the tissues we are discussing would be:

1. Muscle tissue, which includes "tendon", which are the "empty bundled ends" of muscles;

2. White ligament tissue, which has almost zero content of the molecule elastin but has a high content of collagen; which is not at all stretchy but can be very strong if pulled parallel to its fiber structure; however it is liable to tearing if it experiences forces at an angle to the fiber structure. The manufactured functional analogue to white ligament is fiber-tape. The function of this kind of tissue is primarily to hold one bone to the next.

3. Yellow ligament tissue, which has a high content of elastin although also structured (as all connective tissue is) by collagen. Yellow ligament is highly stretchy and can stand not only direct but crosswise or twisting pulls. What it can't stand is overstretching. Whereas white ligament is usually sheetlike, yellow ligament tends to be thicker even when formed as a sheet; otherwise it looks like a rubber trucker's tiedown or bungee cord with a circular cross-section.

At this point it's time for more homework:

1. Please go to http://www.equinestudies.org, click on "knowledge base", and then click on the button that says "The Ring of Muscles". Read this paper and particularly, study the illustrations.

2. One of the major points made by this paper is that when a horse coils its loins, that is the essential basis for collection. In order to coil the loins, muscles on WHICH SIDE of the spine are activated (i.e. muscles that root above the vertebrae, or muscles that root below the vertebrae)?

3. Muscles located WHERE must actively contract in order for a horse to arch the freespan of its back?

4. Muscles located WHERE must totally shut off in order for a horse to arch the freespan of its back?

5. What will happen if the correct muscles do not completely shut off, i.e. completely relax?

This should lead you right up to major insight as to why the original photo you posted, of the bay-colored horse "going long and low" is a picture of remarkable ugliness. The poor horse! But not for the reasons you originally thought, or the reasons you heard on the Internet! Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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Thanks for starting this thread, Anne-Marie. It has been a great reminder and I am watching the next bit of the discussion with interest. I have only just logged in to see the picture you posted to start with and as I am always in a hurry I just looked at it and thought that looks yuk but didn't really sit and look at it as to why it looks yuk. I am now processing the why. Your youngster is beautiful.
Kind Regards
Judy

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Yes, Judy, I have been waiting not only for "I want to learn" to ask the obvious question, but also for anybody else to ask the obvious question. Let's get on to WHY I said the bay horse posted as an example of 'long and low' is 'remarkably ugly.' And remember: it has totally got to do with what was said in the foregoing posts. The horse is not innately ugly, but there's certainly a problem with his VERSION of 'long and low'. Cheers to everybody who has their thinking cap on around this. -- Dr. Deb

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When I look at this picture I see tension all through the horse's body, it looks like the muscles below the spine are being used as he has a line in his belly but it also looks like the muscles above the spine are not released, especially in his neck. The flow of energy doesn't come out of his withers like a fountain and his expression is not mellow and okay.
Cheers Judy

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Yes. Absolutely, Judy. 100% correct.

The ugliness equates to a high level of tension: emotional and psychological tension (on the inside) and visible, palpable muscular tension on the outside.

Going 'long and low' in this manner is worthless to training, and destructive of both the inner life and the physical life of the horse.

Anything we do with a horse that is NOT done from the softness, that is NOT the result or aftermath or side effect of FIRST having obtained the softness, is ugly and worthless and destructive.

This is an essential point that can so easily get lost anytime someone has the ambition to compete. Fulfilling the goals of the competition -- whatever they are, whether it's on the particular level of fulfilling the requirements of a test or class, or whether it's on the more general level of 'point chasing' -- can so very easily overwhelm the real goals that brought us to horses in the first place, which are enjoyment, pleasure, joy, 'flow', mutual understanding, and athleticism expressed within the envelope of release.

So. In shorter and less romantic language, or if you like in more 'scientific' language, what the bay horse is doing is 'clashing his own aids', or clashing or mis-using the Ring of Muscles biomechanical system which is what creates and modulates collection in the physical body.

What our young questioner, Anne-Marie, needs to learn is to stop hanging out with people who don't make this distinction, for it will be fatal to her career as a horsewoman, i.e., a woman that knows about, lives for, and manifests horsemanship rather than competitorship, which is the desire to use horses to make oneself look good or feel good by winning prizes or social approbation from the dominant culture. One of my main aims as a teacher, particularly where young learners are concerned, is to teach them not to idolize what the world calls 'success', but rather to teach them what real success means.

So now, I am hoping that all of those who are reading this thread -- and there are quite a number of you, I know, who understand what has been said here very deeply through having decided to live it yourselves -- if you would like to do Anne-Marie a great favor and give her a great gift, do please post your favorite photo of 'long and low' or a horse stretching into the bridle while moving on with good life in the body, so that Anne-Marie can see what it should look like.

For what she has learned here, or one thing anyway, is that 'long and low' is not always the same thing; so we cannot either object to it, or approve of it, when somebody wants to engage us in an argument such as might go on in some other board -- a silly argument, an argument that just goes round and round to no purpose, because the terms have not been carefully defined. We have to actually see the horse to know whether he's moving right and feeling right.

And I know you guys have got pictures of that, and what a great thing to share! So please post away, with my thanks. -- Dr. Deb

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I thought this would have been easy but it was interesting to Google 'long and low' and see what images appeared. Yikes!!!
I will now turn to my own collection of images and see what I have got, there must be a picture somewhere. :-)

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This is all I have, just a cell phone picture under low light conditions, not sure whether it qualifies exactly. I never get tired watching Buck ride, and that session was particularly beautiful.

Isabel

Attachment: Guapo walk cows 2017small.jpg (Downloaded 86 times)

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One can never get tired of watching Buck ride! :-)
From my collection I have a few pics. How many can I post!?

Attachment: IMG_9278.jpg (Downloaded 78 times)

Last edited on Thu Sep 6th, 2018 09:02 am by JTB

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Pony 2

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This is not strictly 'long and low', but I remember the feeling as my horse was traveling downhill.

He is taking an extra large, giant step behind because he is stepping over a big rock.
His thought was following my intention as we went winding left and right through the sagebrush down the hill. I didn't much have to steer with the reins, and it seemed like his head was easily twirling as I would ask him to change direction.

Attachment: Downhill 2.jpg (Downloaded 68 times)

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I also have a particular interest in this thread, following a question to Buck Brannaman about four years ago at a clinic.
I told Buck that I spent time studying Dr. Deb's writings from Eclectic Horseman and online. Then, I asked Buck if he had anything in his usual riding practices and development of a young horse, to address "Long and Low" in particular.
Buck told me that no, he was not trying to directly address "Long and Low" in particular in his riding of a young horse. And that I should go ask Dr. Deb when, how and why I would do that.
So, I am understanding a few things:
First, that it is easier for a horse to raise the base of his neck from a long and low position. (From the 2015 thread)
And second, that the important thing we are asking of the horse is to turn loose, to give over, to release any brace in his body but over his back in particular.
And Buck absolutely teaches his horses to raise the base of their necks, and he is All The Time asking his horse to give, to release, to turn loose.
In my own riding, my horses tend to volunteer a nice neck telescoping gesture when we are long-trotting for a few miles.

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At this point it's time for more homework:

1. Please go to http://www.equinestudies.org, click on "knowledge base", and then click on the button that says "The Ring of Muscles". Read this paper and particularly, study the illustrations.

2. One of the major points made by this paper is that when a horse coils its loins, that is the essential basis for collection. In order to coil the loins, muscles on WHICH SIDE of the spine are activated (i.e. muscles that root above the vertebrae, or muscles that root below the vertebrae)?

3. Muscles located WHERE must actively contract in order for a horse to arch the freespan of its back?

4. Muscles located WHERE must totally shut off in order for a horse to arch the freespan of its back?

5. What will happen if the correct muscles do not completely shut off, i.e. completely relax?

This should lead you right up to major insight as to why the original photo you posted, of the bay-colored horse "going long and low" is a picture of remarkable ugliness. The poor horse! But not for the reasons you originally thought, or the reasons you heard on the Internet! Cheers -- Dr. Deb


Since no one has attempted to answer your questions, Dr. Deb, I will:

3. Muscles below the vertebral chain are active.

4. Muscles above the vertebral chain are passive.

5. The horse will be hollow/will be unable to round

And thus the horse is the picture is in the unfortunate place of being "on the forehand," and unable to round.

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This horse is not on the forehand (positive diagonal disassociation). Nor can it be definitely said which muscles he is contracting vs relaxing from a single picture.

It should be noted that this horse *is* flexing the thoracic spine. Distance between the spinal processes increase when the head is down. So speaking strictly about the curvature of the spine, this horse's spine is "rounded".

Last edited on Wed Dec 5th, 2018 04:41 pm by iwanttolearn

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I probably shouldn't be the one asking questions here, BUT, I have a couple of questions. I know the answers by the way since I have studied with Dr. Deb. I also have recently had the pleasure of watching Buck teach and ride for 6 days.

iwanttolearn wrote: Distance between the spinal processes increase when the head is down.
WHAT has to happen in order for that to happen?

In your first post you asked Dr. Deb:
I'm curious as to whether or not you think that this relaxation should be mechanically induced with the 'long and low' position
MY question is what do you mean by "mechanical"?

I see a braced horse in the first photo. Holding itself in a frame.
The photo of the foal is just the opposite. Soft, light, no tension, and definitely lifting from the base of the neck. The whole body of the foal looks soft, whereas the first horse looks hard. Our challenge is to keep that as we bring them along. I wish you all the best with your young foal.

Aloha!

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What has to happen? Tension in the nuchal ligament increases, lifting the spinal processes.

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Everything here depends upon what is meant by 'tension'. I will present this as a multiple-choice question:

1. Do you mean 'tension' as in -- psychological or mental tension, i.e., anxiety or fear and whatever physical results may follow or be induced by that.

2. Do you mean 'tension' as in -- "tensing" a muscle, i.e., contraction of a muscle or muscles.

3. Do you mean 'tension' as in -- "tautness", i.e., the result of a tissue being stretched.

Which of these three acts to lift the spinal processes (and with them, of course, since they are part of the same bones) the vertebrae of the freespan of the horse's back?

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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I talked to Harry about this very subject the last time I saw him this past summer. The two things he said were that he doesn't particularly work on long and low because he's always working at relaxation. But he said the folks who advocate long and low typically ride their horses compressed and under tension so they need to give their horses a break, so that 's probably a good thing. His final comment was, "You know it's pretty hard to strain a relaxed muscle."

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Mike, that's correct on all counts, and especially where you notice that when many competitors practice their version of 'long and low', the horse's body shows considerable tension. This is what we pointed out about 'Iwanttolearn's photo example posted near the top of this thread.

I've been meaning to do this for some time -- just haven't had time to get back to doing it, but here is a photo taken of me and my gelding Oliver. This is what 'long and low' should look like, with the horse remaining on the aids yet working within what we like to call 'the envelope of release.'

It was a very hot summer day in the San Joaquin Valley of California when this photo was taken, and we had been at it for some time. I mention this because the horse not being tense does not mean that he's not working. This is a fundamental confusion that Harry and I have both seen in students. Back in the days when I used to co-teach with Harry, we had a guy come to us whose whole life was dedicated to becoming U.S. National Champion in competitive trailriding. He had decent skills and, obviously, lots of ambition; and he had managed to win the runner-up prize several times at bigger events. But he never could win 'best conditioned horse', which at that time was the most prestigious prize and necessary to winning the national championship.

So he listened to us explain about how the horse has to be 100% "OK on the inside" -- we want him that way before we ask him to work, because he can't learn very efficiently if he's not 100% OK during the training/learning process; and we want him that way ALL the time, during his work, because that equates to "the envelope of release," i.e. mental tension fosters physical tension meaning tight muscles, which in turn fosters more mental tension. We want our horses "100% OK 100% of the time."

So, as I said, he listened to this and thought about it, and then replied to us that he wanted his horse only 80% OK, because his belief was that "you need that tension in order to give the competitive edge".

This tells you all you will ever need to know about this man's childhood and upbringing. I think you would not want him as a boss. He is very mixed-up, in that he confuses "try" with "tension", or he equates them. Our point of view is that tension is always detrimental, always a drain on what could potentially have been achieved -- like a thief who gets access to your bank account and takes money out without  you knowing it. Tension not only leads to injured muscles, it prevents the full athletic use of any muscle or other bodypart. But the competitive trail wannabee champion is by no means alone in the industry; his equivalents are in every discipline; and "Iwanttolearn"'s own teachers are among those confused, and have evidently conveyed this same confusion to her, as witnessed by her selection of an example of "long and low" which is a horse so full of tension that it is ugly.

So, again, here's the photo of me & Ollie for you to study. At the moment the camera snapped, I was asking him to raise the center of his back; and as I felt his back come up under my seat, I was directing his head downward. That's all there is to it, but then again, it's a thing that has to be learned: the coordination of the leg and the hand to induce the horse to make this response, so that he knows you mean for him to round up more and stretch forward and downward with his head and neck, and not respond to the urging of the calves by merely speeding up. You and the horse have to work this out so that he has those meanings separated.

For those who would like "extra credit" on this, please tell me what very unusual thing Ollie is doing in this photo (which proves that so-called "gaited horses" are just as capable of rounding up as "trotters"). Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 


Attachment: Oliver Long and Low Paradigm.jpg (Downloaded 26 times)

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Your horse is not trotting -- he is pacing.

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Yes! And you know what, when I showed this image to George Morris' class of junior riders at one of the seminars I taught at his invitation, not one person present "saw" the difference. In all fairness, though, most of them have never been around so-called "gaited" horses, being jumper riders and all.

Bottom line on this is: a horse is a horse biomechanically or in terms of his innate physical structure and the mechanism by which movement of all types is produced. Oliver absolutely hates trotting and never offers to trot unless right over a grid of ground poles; but as soon as he's off the poles, he switches right back to his favorite limb coordination. Studies have shown that the aptitude for gaitedness lies primarily in different neurological hookups in the ganglion that underlies the lumbar vertebrae. Some horses have the option for both coordinations. The modern (post-Napoleonic) cavalry exclusively promoted trotters and pretty much dissed pacers. The harness racing industry has promoted pacers.

Indeed, the latter to such an extent that they will often take a "natural" trotter and hopple him, so as to teach and habituate the pace coordination. When you acquire a horse that has had this done to him, without question there will be some degree of pathology. Oliver, by contrast, is a "natural" pacer who has never been hoppled. Therefore, he required no rehabilitation for back or hindlimb pathology, and when he goes as the photo shows, if I had put you up on my horse's back and not told you that he paces, you would not know it by feel. Oliver does not sway from side to side when he moves, like a camel because he is not stiff as so many hoppled horses are -- indeed he has almost catlike flexibility despite being rather thick through the midsection, and he can flex and coil the loins in the up-down direction very easily also.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that, given a pathology-free horse, he'll train up exactly the same whether he's inclined to trot or inclined to pace, or does both, or something in-between. Only when stiffness and/or tension creeps in do we have a problem. Cheers -- Dr. Deb




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