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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Rider influence on lateral bend through the back by way of weight shift cues?

Rider influence on lateral bend through the back by way of weight shift cues?
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EvanB
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 Posted: Fri Sep 14th, 2018 02:23 am
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This seems to be a topic that's come to light in western riding in the last few years with adherents on both sides. The idea applying to horses either turning requiring bend, or on an arced line of travel. The two camps being; those who state that the rider facilitates lateral bend through the spine by a weight shift to the inside of the arc, and those who say just the opposite, that the rider frees up the spine to bend by a weight shift to the outside of the bend.
Most of the discussion seems to be either personal opinion or demonstrations that appear to be more pseudoscience than anything else. I haven't personally seen an equine biomechanical authority address this directly to give a definitive answer as to whether either position has any weight of truth.
Does anyone have any thoughts on this, or know of any studies that have been done on this issue?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Sep 15th, 2018 05:41 am
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Hi, Evan: Yes, people do talk about just all kinds of things on the Internet. And yes, most of the "science" presented is entirely bogus. Situations on horseback, that is to say almost any type of rider-horse function or biodynamic, are extremely difficult to test, and even when the system or situation is deliberately simplified and then tested, results must be interpreted with great caution. You probably know the old phrase, "garbage in, garbage out."

The one and only TOTALLY RELIABLE way to figure out whether something you're doing on horseback (or not-doing) would be the right thing to do (or not-do) is to ask your horse. This implies, of course, that you would be able to perceive and understand what the horse said back to your question. This ability is universally possible with human beings, but only available to those who acknowledge that horses can think, feel, and communicate; and who have dedicated themselves to learning the horse's own language or ways of communicating, rather than demanding that the horse learn ours.

In my own experience and practice of horsemanship, there are no "aids of the seat" whatsoever. If you were in a riding lesson with me, I would tell you to totally forget about "weight shift". If you do actually shift your weight, all that it will do is disturb the horse. Weight shift to the inside vs. to the outside makes no difference; what you are to do is to JUST SIT QUIETLY IN THE MIDDLE AND FEEL.

What you will feel if you pay attention to feeling rather than doingdoingdoing, is that when a horse who is already 'turned loose' i.e. not bracing up, and which is being asked to arc its body in the direction of a turn, will flex through the middle. Such a horse is one, usually, who has already been brought through a process of what you might call 'de-bracing.' Most horses that have been ridden by people outside of our school come to us with a pretty fair brace through the poll joint area, which includes not only the muscles that span from the atlas and axis vertebrae forward to the poll, but also the muscles that clamp the jaws and that invest the hyoid apparatus and the tongue: all of them may be braced, and as Francois Baucher noticed in the early 19th century, any brace whatsoever in this area, including a brace in the tongue, will utterly prevent you from being able to 'access' or 'get into' or 'influence' the hindquarters. Twirling the horse's head is the technique used to get the animal to turn loose of its brace in front.

We must also, simultaneously, in most cases, address a brace that will be through the loins; and this is done by twirling the haunches, otherwise called stepping under the body-shadow with the inside hind leg, a.k.a. untracking, a.k.a. the 'oblique lateral stepping' of LaGueriniere in the classical era, which, note importantly, he called ENGAGEMENT OF THE HINDQUARTERS, not 'disengagement' as the ignorant often are now heard to say.

Once the rider has assisted the horse by these techniques to turn loose of its brace in the poll area and across the loins, then and only then will it be possible for the animal to flex laterally, as for a turn, through the section of its body which is structured by the ribcage. When the animal can flex the ribcage, it will do so when asked to turn so long as the rider does not knock or shove the animal off balance by doing something unnecessary, like shifting his weight either to the inside or to the outside. JUST SIT QUIETLY IN THE MIDDLE, FEEL, AND LET THE ANIMAL DO WHAT YOU HAVE ASKED IT TO DO.

When the horse who can flex through the ribcage does so, your feel will tell you the following things:

1. His body compresses, like an accordion, becoming concave to the inside of the turn.
2. His body expands, like an accordion, becoming longer and convex (bulging) to the outside of the turn.
3. The top aspect of the ribcage that is to the outside of the bend rises.
4. The top aspect of the ribcage that is to the inside of the bend sinks; in short, 3. and 4. mean that the ribcage 'rolls' toward the inside.

The amount of compression/expansion, and the amount of 'rolling', will vary according to the conformation of the horse and how deeply or completely turned loose it is.

Now before closing I also want to make clear that the rider shifting his weight, i.e. horking his seat over to this or that side of the midline of the horse's spine, or else deliberately crushing down with one seatbone or the other, is different from the rider focusing his feel into one or the other seatbone. Focusing your feel you can also call 'paying special attention to' the one seatbone or the other.

When you ride any curve on any horse of any level of training, you are to focus your feel on your outside seatbone. This ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT imply ANY shift in your weight. But you had better be very aware of whether the outer aspect of the horse's ribcage is COMING UP TO MEET YOUR SEATBONE, because if it isn't, the horse is not really bending, which is probably because he's not really able to bend into an arc as small as the one you're asking. Your seatbones are always to be used to call the horse up to them, which is to say, to make a space for the horse's body, to invite him into that space -- not to impose themselves onto the horse, whose back has enough to do as it is.

Hope this not only solves your dilemma, but (a) encourages you not to waste your time on Internet discussions that go nowhere because they proceed without first carefully defining the terms of the discussion, and (b) sets you on some new thinking as to how to ride your own horse more effectively. Cheers -- Dr. Deb




EvanB
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 Posted: Mon Sep 17th, 2018 02:40 am
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Thank you for taking the time to respond and explain Dr.Deb! Points well taken on all counts. I will be sure to share this information with those in my sphere.
Regards, Evan

Ride A Grey Horse
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 Posted: Sat Sep 22nd, 2018 06:25 pm
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Great to get clear on this, the feel when when horse is indeed bending - thank you Dr.Deb.
Thanks for asking, Evan.


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