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Flat walk gaited TWH
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kindredspirit
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 Posted: Mon Sep 14th, 2009 12:28 am
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Would this photo identify a sequence of footfall in a true flatwalk? Is this pacing or anything similar to pacing?

Thank you,

Kathy

 

 

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kindredspirit
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 Posted: Mon Sep 14th, 2009 02:01 am
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I may have answered my own question.  In reviewing some photos and comments by Liz Graves, it may be that this photo is of what is considered a stepping pace.

Kathy

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Sep 18th, 2009 07:08 pm
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Kathy -- all forms of "gait" whatsoever, no matter what name they may be called by, or no matter if they are called different names by different people, are forms of walk. The walk is an amazing gait, both flexible and mutable. It is defined as follows:

1) It has four sounded beats

2) It has no period of suspension (during which all four of the feet are off the ground at the same time).

You cannot depend upon an idea that there would be some kind of uniform terminology in this area, because there is not and there never will be.

So, to learn about "gait" you must follow the terminology of one teacher or another. I use a terminology that I consider to be functional and clear. That is why I select or create that terminology.

Using terminology that I prefer, we can subdivide the walk into two types, isochronal and non-isochronal (the term and concept 'isochronal walk' was actually first published by Susan Colantuono & Jorge DeMoya). An isochronal walk is defined as one in which the time (milliseconds) between sounded beats is equal. That means all four sounded beats. A non-isochronal walk may have one or more beats equally spaced, but not all four; in other words, at least one (and usually two) of the beats are separated by a number of milliseconds different from the others.

Thinking about the timing of the footfalls thus permits the walk to be thought of as a spectrum, in which perfect isochronality lies in the middle, and a perfect stepping-pace lies at one end. In a perfectly isochronal walk, we might find that each beat was separated from each other beat by an interval of 100 milliseconds. In a perfect stepping-pace, the first beat (left hind-left fore) would be separated by an interval of zero milliseconds (i.e. these two feet strike simultaneously). The second beat (left hind-left fore going over to right hind-right fore) would be separated by an interval of 100 milliseconds. The third beat (right hind-right fore) would, like the first beat, be separated by an interval of 0 milliseconds. The fourth beat would be like the second beat. After the fourth beat, the cycle would repeat, just as it would in the isochronal walk.

You see by this that there are many forms of "gait" or "amble" that lie between these two points on the spectrum, though the most desirable forms lie in a zone that is close to isochronal.

The horse you picture cannot be in an isochronal walk. By the rules of the riding/showing style you present in the picture, the horse should receive a score of zero for the movement, since an isochronal walk -- or at least a "perceptibly isochronal" walk is the only form acceptable to that form of showing. Like other forms of riding/showing, however, in reality this discipline breaks its own rules a goodly portion of the time.

The horse pictured is crammed together between leg and rein. The neck is posturally broken -- a great example of this, which other readers here have recently been asking about. The rider does not understand how to regulate the animal's forward speed by addressing the feet by means of the reins -- she does not understand how to control the feet. This is why this particular horse produces a non-isochronal or "pacey" walk.

This observation, however, does not imply that a fine rider, mounted upon a horse that has the knack for "gait", is producing or inducing that gait by first cranking up the tension in her horse, or by riding in any manner incorrectly. We should be able to deduce this from the first fact I presented here, vis., that all forms of "gait" are forms of walk. If it is possible to produce a beautiful isochronal walk, it should be, and is, equally possible to produce beautiful "gait". If it is possible to produce a walk that is soft and "round", it is equally possible to produce "gait" that is soft and "round".

It is absolutely possible for every and any form of "gait" to be isochronal. In other words, the definition of "gaiting" (i.e. racking, slow-gaiting, tolting, stepping pace, or what have you) is not equal to "non-isochronality". The finest and most desirable "gait" is isochronal, just as the finest and most desirable "working walk" is isochronal.

It is unfortunate that we see very poor work so often in the show arena of all disciplines. Good horsemanship is hard to find at most horse shows. That does not mean that we need to practice poor horsemanship if our interest or calling lies in the competition arena. What it does mean is that if you are practicing for your Fourth Level Test, wherein it calls for half-pirouettes at the walk connected by a short interval of walk, you need to understand how to ride by controlling the feet, and you need to long since have abandoned any approach that remotely resembles the push-and-hold school of Otto Lorke or Alois Podhajsky. If you can go into a competition and retain the horse's softness the entire time, then you don't need to worry about what anybody else and their horse may be doing.

And PS: just to show that you understood what I have said -- would you respond by telling me what the OTHER HALF of the spectrum is -- i.e. if isochronality to the stepping-pace is one half, what lies at the end of the spectrum if we go the opposite direction from isochronality, so that the footfalls become not simultaneous laterally but diagonally?-- Dr. Deb

 

KevinLnds
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 05:05 pm
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This is an interesting topic to me and I don't want to see it wither away from lack of response.

The opposite side on a isochronal spectrum from a stepping pace would, I believe, be a stepping trot, where one diagonal pair of  legs strikes the ground at the exact instant the other pair lifts, so the the horse has either two, or, for the briefest fraction of time, four legs on the ground.

My Paso Fino is pretty close to isochronal, but when he becomes excited, the timing changes, sometimes toward the pace, but usually toward the trot. The ride remains comfortable over a fairly wide range, but I want him to remain isochronal. Not so much because it is correct, but because he changes because he becomes tense.

 

hurleycane
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 07:02 pm
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Wise words: ... changes because he becomes tense.

My question is can a pace ever be loose?  Can a pace be correct, as is a trot?  Maybe not under saddle - but at liberty?  Or in harness? 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 07:34 pm
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Yes, Kevin, exactly: at the opposite end of the spectrum lies the stepping-trot. Like the stepping-pace, the stepping-trot has no period of suspension in which all four feet are off the ground simultaneously. In a stepping-pace, the lateral pairs of legs work simultaneously; in a stepping-trot, it is the diagonal pairs that are coupled.

And yes indeed, tension in the horse is the prime cause of loss of isochronality. This, then, is an instance of the law or maxim which I teach in all horsemanship classes:

'Back dynamics govern limb dynamics' --

In other words, what the horse's back, neck, and croup are already doing, dictates that will come out of the legs, how the legs will move.

Tension in the horse causes him to stiffen the muscles of his topline and underline. This causes loss of mobility or flexibility in all the many joints that make up the axial body. Loss of mobility -- bracing -- at the poll joint, in the hyoid joints, and in the jaws induce bracing in the loin joints. That in turn makes it impossible for the horse to coil its loins, which means that he will not be able to offer the rider collection. The more the rider then tries, with his hands, to TAKE collection, the more the horse is liable to brace up. It is a vicious spiral.

As I just said yesterday in the 'Freedom' thread, anyone who does not understand that a horse's emotions are what run his muscles, has no real control over what his horse may do. Also, the person who ignores this fundamental wisdom will not be likely to make the one commitment that is absolutely necessary to getting a horse educated. That primary commitment is:

Whenever the horse tenses up, you have to STOP trying to do what you thought you were trying to do, and get the tension out of there before you ask anything else of him.

'Tranquiliza a tu caballo antes de pedirle nada.' You have to vow this commitment and live it every moment of every day.

You are not to try to do anything else, ever, until the horse is calm.

Now it often happens that the horse will tense up for reasons that are, at least to a degree, outside the rider's control. Something in the environment appears to be bothering the horse. Because of this, we have a second commitment:

Don't ride your horse right up into trouble.

I have said many times before, you need to not listen to the jackass that inhabits your local barn -- the yahoo or yahee who says 'you have to show him who is boss.' So you ride out from the barn "about so far" and the horse starts telling you that he is bothered and doesn't want to go. The Yahee will tell you, "if you turn back, you're giving in and he'll win." She says this because her world is founded on contest and domination. It isn't founded on brains, timing, feel, or deep perception of anybody else's needs.

So when your horse starts to balk, what you are to do is turn back to face the barn.

You are not to ride back to the barn. Ride back only so far as until you feel the brakes come off, so that his feet are free and his breathing is soundless.

When you hear and feel this, you stop immediately, turn once again about, and stand. In about three seconds, the horse will turn its head and try to look at the barn. Anticipate this and prevent it. Invite the horse to look out in front of him, but do not permit him to either turn around or look at the barn. This should not be a big fight because you are standing in a place where the horse can be OK. So you just prevent him from looking back.

In a couple of minutes, he will try looking out to the front. You anticipate this too, and encourage it. After he looks to the front, he will feel as if he wants to perhaps take a step to the front. Encourage that in the most tactful and soft way that you can. You are telling him, 'you can't turn back, but the door is open if you look down the trail.'

In a few more moments, he will take that step and it will carry him a certain distance. Sometimes it will carry him all day. Sometimes only 50 feet. If he balks a second time, you do the same thing again -- the whole procedure. You are showing him where the comfort and freedom lie, and doing it in a low-energy situation where you can be safe and he does not have to make a big physical move to get his way. You are, in short, removing the idea of disobedience or willfulness from his mind. You are making your idea be his idea. When it becomes his idea to take you on a trailride, why then his muscles will take you on a trailride. And not one moment before.

Now you can figure out how to apply this protocol or way of thinking and acting to your arena situation. Horses spook or become tense at the far end because their desires lie on the opposite side of the in-gate. When spooking regularly occurs in one corner, the horse is not spooking 'at' any actual object. When you feel tension rising in the horse, it is because he feels he cannot do what you are asking him to do: he either cannot do it physically because you have not properly prepared him to do it physically, or else he does not fully understand it, or -- he does understand it but he figures that if he goes into that situation no matter what he does he will be punished.

When your horse tenses up, no matter what the reason is, the immediate response should be to turn him and hold him to the turn until his tension level drops. Then you release the reins. You do this as many times as may be necessary, and you do it EARLY, so that you are not having to fight a very high level of tension. This is as much as to remind you that your commitment must be to STOP DOING WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO DO and fix the internal part of the horse, the first moment you feel any tension whatsoever.

And this should answer your questions also, Hurleycane.  You will have from your horse exactly what you have set it up to have. -- Dr. Deb

hurleycane
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2009 07:58 pm
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You answered many questions, Dr Deb. 

I am still reading this post but wanted to say I had a very nice 'walking' ride with my Holly today - and I now know why.  We followed this very formula. 

Usually any change in speed from him is a ta-do of sorts  - a head toss, up on his toes or a tail swish.  All tension.  Today, when he tensed (head up/hurry) the turns and figure 8's at a walk really helped him relax and let his breath out so we could  resume a very nice willing walk.  

By willing I mean I was then able to speed up or slow his walk with no discernable change in head carriage, tail or breathing. 

   

 

raprhowe
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 Posted: Wed Dec 16th, 2009 03:21 pm
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Bless you all, I think I've found a home.  Coming from the background of gaited horses and surrounded by an industry that is severely lacking in real horsemanship this site may be my saving grace.  I've finally found someone (several someones) speaking my language.  Please forgive me, as I'm certain I will stumble around trying to express myself. 

I've held (and taught) the philosophy for many years that there is nothing that happens with a horse's feet that doesn't start with his back, hips and shoulders.  Again: I am much like a person who has taught them self to play an instrument by ear, and suddenly gets to sit in at Juilliard.  Working primarily with Tennessee Walking Horses I spend many hours every day "working", feeling and focusing on the walks.  Helping the horse achieve softness, "give" and balance.  I constantly teach riders to "never" pull on a horse's face as they will introduce tension and literally unbalance the horse.  Any consistent rein pressure places a crutch under that horse that will inhibit his evolution toward brilliant self-carriage. 

What I find fascinating with this thread is the recognition that the isochronal walk is the foundation gait.  My experience is that when a horse prepares to move away from isochronal, there are identifiable changes that occur in their top line.  These changes tell us what he's altering and gives us a clue how to either promote the change or discourage that change. 

Keep in mind that as a walking horse trainer my goal is the running walk... a faster, extended isochronal walking gait.  I am constantly telling students to be subtle in the way they ask the horse to increase his energy... we want him to rev his engine, not change his gears.  These walking speeds should occur with a released, neutral top line with rolling hips and shoulders that promote a "both hooves on the ground weight transfer moment" both front and back. 

Dr. Bennett is absolutely correct that tension will always move you away from isochronal timing and the more you work the walking "gear" the easier it becomes for the horse to learn to increase his energy and stride while staying in that gear.  Because tension is the "enemy" so is anything that causes that tension. 

Finally my question:  I've found that as a gaited horse engages his abdominal muscles more (tension from underneath) he connects with more diagonal timing, while engaging the dorsal muscles he connects with more lateral step timing.  I used to think this phenomenon was from a skeletal conformation, but now I leaning toward the thought that muscle and soft tissue are more responsible.  In synopsis: the more rounded top line produces timing step movement toward the diagonal, while the more hollow the top line pushes the horse into a more laterally "timed" step.  This is one of those things I understand as fact, but my burning question is "why?"

Anita Howe

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Dec 16th, 2009 06:49 pm
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Dear Anita: Welcome to the Forum. Your cogent and well thought out correspondence is refreshing to hear.

As to your query: don't forget to look at the horse from more than one literal point of view. In other words: it should never be topline vs. underline. The muscles of the underline must work in order for any horse, of any breed or type, doing any gait, to achieve collection. And the muscles of the topline must concomitantly be in enough release to permit the loins to coil, the freespan of the back to arch, and the base of the neck to rise. These three things are what constitute collection; the head position and the folding of the joints of the legs follow from these. If it were a simple matter of "topline vs. underline", reason would lead us to conclude that all trotters move "round" and all pacers move "hollow". But we know that this is by no means the case, for it is perfectly possible -- in fact easier -- for a pacer to achieve collection than a trotter. The trot is, of all gaits, the most difficult for a horse to achieve or maintain collection in.

What is missing, or what is causing the apparent contradiction, is the concept of "bilateral". The horse is in trouble when he fires the long muscles of the torso BILATERALLY, in other words, both left and right sides at once. He is in trouble if the muscles of the underline contract bilaterally just as much as he is in trouble if the muscles of the topline contract bilaterally. Neither set of muscles should ever contract bilaterally when the horse is moving in pace, isochronal gait including walk, trot, or canter. The only time we want bilateral contraction is when we are asking the horse to do something with his legs where the legs would need to be "square": two examples of that would be a sliding stop or sharp halt, and in the last moment before jumping an obstacle. At those times, for the halt we want bilateral contraction of the muscles of the underline, and for the jump we want bilateral contraction of the muscles of the haunch and lower back.

Ordinary gaits "on the flat" all involve a side-to-side as well as an up-and-down component which the rider may readily feel from the saddle or observe when the horse is being longed or at liberty. What the rider is less likely to be able to see is how the horse's body "wiggles" -- all the time, at all gaits -- when seen from the top. But take away that wiggle and you will get paceyness every time. It is not stiffness of the topline vs. release of the underline that causes paceyness, but continuous bilateral contraction of the muscles of BOTH the topline and underline which "freezes" the wiggle that ought to be there.

If you've been around gaited horses a long time, I expect you have seen, or been asked to re-train, horses that appear to have extraordinary development of the underline: their bodies almost get to looking like square blocks. Yet at the same time these animals will also have a marked tendency to stiffen and "harden" their backs and they don't carry their neck right, and they don't feel right in the bit either: they either lean on it as if they had no feeling in their mouth, or else they are above the bit. When you go to ask these animals to turn, they break gait or the gait markedly loses its proper rhythm, and they can't turn at all tight, indeed would lose rhythm on anything less than a 20m circle. They usually also are quite one-sided. What has gone on in these horses is a "war" between the belly and the back: as much as the animal is capable of, and produces, an effort with the underline that causes the pelvis and sacrum to fold down and that brings the hind limbs up under the body, there is equally an opposing tension in the muscles of the topline. It is as if the horse is trying to collect against the resistance of its own body. This style of development is common in all gaited breeds, but you can also not uncommonly find it in Lipizzans, reining horses, and ropers. Especially in ropers, because of the almost universal use of the tie-down, which is a great aid for setting up tension in the topline. And yet, once again, we do not commonly see these horses which have developed tremendously stiff bodies -- stiff torsos, not "just" stiff backs -- showing paceyness as a sequel.

As you begin reading more of this Forum and acquire some of the back issues of "The Inner Horseman", you will have more of an introduction to horsemanship of the past. Of particular interest to me has been the history of classical horsemanship (which is not dressage). For a gaited horse aficionado, this should be of interest because all of our gaited horsemanship here in the U.S. is founded upon Baucherism, which was the last great European school of classical horsemanship. It will therefore be of benefit to you to obtain the 2004 and 2005 "Inner Horseman" back issue disks, for they contain detailed information regarding what really went on in the 18th and earlier centuries, and my own translation of Francois Baucher's book.

Relevant to this discussion is the fact that the whole reason that the classical masters put such interest and time into "figures" is that the horses they were training were, for the most part, supposed to be finished by teaching them some form of amble. In other words, as Mrs. Crabtree used to say, "the horse was to be finished in gait." Most of the horses that the old masters were working with had the knack for ambling -- some more, and some less; and when they got one that had none, sometimes they would try to work with it and then report that it was a horse with no talent. Quite the opposite of the attitude today. So why the emphasis on figures? Because there is less "wiggle" the more the animal moves from diagonal to lateral coordination of the limbs: and again it is the degree of wiggle is what drives this. INNATELY there is less "wiggle" the more pacey the animal becomes. This is what you are feeling -- your observations are right on -- but it is due not merely to "stiffness" of the topline, but BILATERAL contraction of all the muscles of the torso, dorsal and ventral.

And the old masters were very well aware of this, too, and they combatted it with "figures". Figures are physiotherapeutic in intention. Their main purpose is pysiotherapeutic: to "supple": which means to preserve the "wiggle" and if possible, to enhance it. The more tendency a horse has to lap over into pacey coordinations, the more he is telling you that if you don't do something to overcome or counteract it, he is in danger of losing his "wiggle". For what is the "wiggle"? It is the animal's ability to coordinate through the body -- in other words, to contract the right dorsal and ventral muscles simultaneously, while keeping the left pair in release, and vice-versa, which is what is needed in turns. Or to coordinate left dorsal contraction with right ventral contraction -- diagonally through the body -- which is what is needed during normal locomotion on straight lines in any gait whatsoever. And to do any of these coordinations with the least amount of contraction on EITHER side of the long dorsal muscles, so that the effort of the underline to coil the loins is not partly wasted in having to "outmuscle" tension that is in the topline.

As a first approximation, when students are learning about the locations and functions of muscles in the body, and when they are first beginning to grasp what collection really is and how it works, I do not mind oversimplifying the picture a bit in order to get the main ideas across. However, once the main picture is grasped, that collection means coiling the loins, arching the freespan of the back, and raising the base of the neck, and the student understands the "ring of muscles" paradigm, then it is time to move their understanding away from a very simple model and more toward observable reality. In reality, every muscle of the horse contributes at every minute to every motion he makes. The main object of physical training -- which is to get the horse to do whatever it is you want him to do while remaining in an "envelope of release" -- you clearly grasp. So what I am mainly telling you in this reply is look, you are a more experienced student -- so don't oversimplify the real picture that you really can see and feel. The horse has to minutely coordinate torso, neck, and limbs when he gaits. If he is to round up while he gaits, he needs release in the topline relative to whatever effort he is making in the underline. We complicate the picture for the horse when we ask him to gait while he bends and counter-bends circular figures: if you keep him isochronal while doing this, it teaches him how to maintain the necessary release in the topline vs. the underline even while working out the more complicated coordination. Enough of this, and you will have developed a horse, even as the classical masters knew, who can easily maintain beautiful carriage, real collection, when doing anything whatsoever. -- Dr. Deb

 

raprhowe
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 Posted: Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 09:50 pm
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>>>Ordinary gaits "on the flat" all involve a side-to-side as well as an up-and-down component which the rider may readily feel from the saddle<<<

Nothing like having someone shines a light in a new direction…  You’re right that I was thinking always in terms of “vertical” posture and not considering the additional dimensions as a necessity of the movement.  As soon as you mentioned this it was a “smack the forehead” moment for me.  

>>>But take away that wiggle and you will get paceyness every time.<<<

So, if I understand correctly, it’s the stiffness produced from muscles contracting opposite each other, both bilaterally as well as bi-vertically (?)  that contributes to the pace because it is the easiest gait for the horse to execute with a “locked up” body?  I think this is definitely part of it, since as you point out, not all trotters move rounded even if most pacers do seem to generally carry themselves hollow in that gait. 

Here is my point of confusion.  Evidence would seem to indicate that there are physiological reasons for the following common occurrences:  

1.       I see a herd of gaited horses take off (at liberty) on an uphill grade and most all of them pick up a trot, then come back down that same slope at a full pace.   On the flat, some of these horses naturally “tend” more toward a pace while others “tend” more toward a trot, but it is common to see them switch as the level of the ground (possibly their balance and posture?) changes.

2.        I ask a pacey gaited horse to lower their head, soften to the bit and release the topline they will eventually “square up” to isochronal timing, as they “release” into a neutral topline (along with level head and neck carriage) allowing them to utilize both ventral and dorsal muscles alternately as they move.  A soft “give” of the poll is helpful and if I can help them achieve the *lift of the lower neck* the horse has set himself in great balance to increase speed and impulsion without losing form.

3.       I work with trotty gaited horses, asking them to soften to the bit, bending and counter bending to [again] release into gait, only this time the release feels like its from the underline rather than the topline; seeming to indicate that either release or neutral topline (maybe both?) is the key to gait.

4.       I have also ridden trotting breeds and taught them to release their torso and “soften” their trot into gait.  It takes a little more patience, but it can be achieved in many.   

5.       Then, conversely,  I see default pacers moving excitedly in a “flying trot” at liberty, with head and tail high (and what would appear to be hollow topline).   I’m scratching my head at this point.  They seem to be hollow along the back, however the loins appear to be coiled, with the neck very arched and I would imagine the lower neck is strongly lifted. 

When we see gait changes in horses moving at liberty we know it is not rider influenced.  I've previously attributed it to conformation of the gaited breeds and not looked much deeper. It may be unrealistic of me since so many elements effect movement but it has become my “burning question” to understand exactly why the above changes in gait occur.  


>>>but it is due not merely to "stiffness" of the topline, but BILATERAL contraction of all the muscles of the torso, dorsal and ventral.<<<

You’re absolutely correct that I have horses come to me that are completely stiff, heavy on the forehand, traveling hollow with locked jaw, no give at the poll, pushing on the bit … and the list goes on.  During turns their lack of balance is almost dangerous, and if moving with any speed at all care must be taken that they don’t go down.   Slowing these horses to an ordinary walk then teaching them to rebalance and soften to both the bit and leg to step into lateral turns is usually step one in my program.

>>>As you begin reading more of this Forum and acquire some of the back issues of "The Inner Horseman", you will have more of an introduction to horsemanship of the past. Of particular interest to me has been the history of classical horsemanship (which is not dressage). For a gaited horse aficionado, this should be of interest because all of our gaited horsemanship here in the U.S. is founded upon Baucherism, which was the last great European school of classical horsemanship. <<<

I realize every breed and discipline has its difficulties, and I’m still a student myself.  But I’m pretty frustrated that so many of the gaited “professionals” of today seem to be sadly lacking in true horsemanship, andaccepted methods of training usually include “frame, force or fix”.   I find these mechanical methods directly inhibit natural gait, and this has encouraged me to seek as much information as I can from other sources.  I will get the recommended articles.   Thank you.  Gaited horses are first and foremost *horses*.

>>> If he is to round up while he gaits, he needs release in the topline relative to whatever effort he is making in the underline. We complicate the picture for the horse when we ask him to gait while he bends and counter-bends circular figures: if you keep him isochronal while doing this, it teaches him how to maintain the necessary release in the topline vs. the underline even while working out the more complicated coordination<<<

I understand the bending, counter-bending and circular movements encourage the horse to release, allowing him to carry himself in gait, since each quadrant must work independently to produce gait

Please bear with me here: in my mind I’m caught up on the idea of rounding = collection and collection = a more diagonal timing.  Again I keep going back to the changes I see in horses at liberty  going up and down the hill as well as those changes to posture and balance occuring under saddle.  I apologize if I’m being thick headed on this point.  

Please discuss the following a bit further...  

>>>in fact easier -- for a pacer to achieve collection than a trotter. The trot is, of all gaits, the most difficult for a horse to achieve or maintain collection in. <<<

Like everyone, I’m learning in pieces, and trying to fit those pieces into the “big picture” of what I know, what I suspect and what I hope to understand.   Thanks so much for your patience and help.

Anita


RobVSG
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 Posted: Mon Jan 4th, 2010 02:07 pm
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Pullin' up my chair and bowl of popcorn........

kindredspirit
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 Posted: Mon Jan 4th, 2010 02:33 pm
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With Anita's original post, my curiosity was piqued. So I found her web site and reviewed some of the information there as well as video clips.  I live in TN and see a ton of pacey, poorly trained lovely walkers. It can be really sad. I own a retired therapy horse that is a TWH who is a kind and wonderful soul, though any worry brings out the pace in him.  I can only imagine how he was started.

So after looking at the gait videos on Anita's site I was having difficulty with the canter clips. It seemed the head bob that is desired in the walk was really over exaggerated in the canter.  Am I missing something or seeing this wrong?

I agree horses are horses and the proper methods really are the same no matter what the breed or discipline

Happy New Year! Kathy


 

RobVSG
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 Posted: Fri Jan 15th, 2010 03:20 am
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I've got a few moments to share why rapperhowe's observations are interesting to me. Also looking forward to Dr Deb's response and elaboration.

Just a little over a year ago I totally believed that a horse had to be in collection to trot and had to be stiff and hollow to pace and that's the only way it worked-simple as that. It was after the Dr Deb clinic in Texas when I continued trotting my mare over poles and she got softer and softer that I started to realize that her trot before had been hollow. Then I smacked myself in the forehead and said "duhh" "I'm dealing with horses that were bred to trot 30+mph." (standardbreds and 3/4 STB crosses) "Did I really think that they can be in collection at 30 mph???" "THAT's why Dr Deb was screaming "SLOOOW her down !!!!" at me when we rode over the poles.

A couple of months after the clinic, I went to a TWH show and took video of several horses....everything from flat shod to padded, walking and racking horses, the ones with chains, and all that hideous and sickening crap.  I took the vids home and studied them all frame by frame. What I saw led me to a couple of conclusions:

1.) "Weight on the front squares a pacey horse up" is a myth. I saw NOT a single horse that day that was isochronal. Although the rider sat smooth in the saddle.

2.) Horses CAN pace collected. At least I observed that most of the horses that day had their back feet on the ground for more frames of film than their front feet were. I know that's not solely the definition of true collection, but that's how I looked at it. (And I do not here intend to give any credit to the hideous appliances toward collecting a horse either)

3.) I now refer to the show horses as "Tenneessee Pacers" instead of Tenneessee Walkers.

I know I probably have a strange way of looking at things, but I'm trying to educate myself and my eye for things. 

I've always only keg shod or barefoot my own horses and  I had never been to a TWH show before, but I wanted to see some things for myself. I rode my mare in the speedracking class keg shod and solo. The four other speedracking participants scratched because the "feds" showed up.....how sad

I don't know the muscle and muscle groups of a horse either but to me it doesn't stand to reason that everything is simply "braced" or "in release"  and thus the resulting gait is determined. When Dr Deb says "the amount of release is relative", the way I understand it is that it invoves not just turning certain muscles on and certain muscles off, but a coordination of the muscles' efforts to yield either the trot, the pace, or whatever the horses feet end up doing.   

When I was a young'un, I remember the first time I roll tapped the fingers of my right hand on my school desk. The sequence was pinky, ringman, tallman, pointer and it was easy to keep a smooth cadence. Reversing the sequence was next to impossible. Later I asked my cousin if he could roll tap his fingers and he said "I don't know." His first try he went pointer, tallman, ringman, pinky without missing a lick! I said "No your doing it wrong!" He tried starting with pinky and he couldn't do it. I guess he was born a pacer and me a trotter, I don't know. Since then I learned to play the guitar and I can now roll tap either way. But I surley didn't learn it with my whole hand tense, or half of it tense and the other half in release. But to fire one finger at a time and then overlap (coordinate) the movements so that when one finger is coming down, the next in the sequence is on the way up.

I don't how many tens or maybe hundreds of muscles are involved in producing the difference in a trot, a pace, or an isochronal 4 beat lick. Dr Deb, and my horses have taught me that it is very easy to get horse muscles to tense up. The hard part is getting horses muscles to release. You've got to have both to have coordination I would think.

Rapperhowe, I like your style. I hope to ride with you one day.

The thing not clicking for me right now is getting horses that for 150 years or better have been bred to trot or pace 30mph to canter (STBs). I know it's me not doing something right but I can't get the older ones to canter from the ground or the saddle. They just do the big flying trot.  My 2yr 3/4 STB-1/4 TWH stud colt (not yet started under saddle) is having no trouble cantering either direction in the roundpen. I hope we can just take that with us when as he grows and matures. He also does a HUGE flying trot in the pasture. Also I helped a 1/2TWH/MFT that would only canter on one lead under saddle to pick up the other lead, but I can't get my STBs to canter at all.

RobVSG
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 Posted: Fri Jan 15th, 2010 03:24 am
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Oh, I'm still a young 'un.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jan 15th, 2010 09:46 pm
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Rob, your post raises a number of important points.

1. You have never heard me "scream" at a clinic, or at any other time. Please make this explicit to the readership here. I have enough problems with fearful beginners without someone creating in potential students' minds that what they are going to experience, if they were to come ride in one of my events, would be to be screamed at. What you have done by posting this is, very likely, prevent some people getting help who might have needed it.

2. Every horse needs to be in collection, no matter at what speed they are going. They need to be in collection when they speed-rack, they need to be in collection when they trot slow, trot fast, or extend the stride at a trot, and they need to be in collection when they gallop. This was first pointed out by Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere, more than 250 years ago. No extension of stride at any gait is possible without a primary, underlying collection. The DEGREE of collection may vary, but the telltale and characteristic spinal posture must always be there. When you attend my class and you see Albert Ostermayer or Freddie Knie, Sr. perform Spanish Trot -- otherwise called "stretch trot" -- which is to say, a real running walk -- you see horses extend their spines to the maximum AND THEN WITH EVERY STROKE they RECOVER their collection, the arched spinal posture.

The reason I asked you to slow down over cavalletti, and slow down generally, is that collection requires strength as well as straightness. Straightness, or the lack of it, is difficult to feel -- or if you do feel it, almost impossible to correct -- when moving at any speed. And, as to strength: the strongest man in the circus is not the "strongman" who lifts the barbells, but rather the lower man in the acrobatic act where they stand on each other's shoulders, or, especially, the lower man in the act where the very strong man lies on his back, and then another man does handstands upon the stronger man's hands. You will notice that in this act particularly, the acrobats move very slowly. So for example, it takes some strength for a horse to canter; for upon the first beat of even the crappiest canter, the animal must stand, at least for an instant, upon the first hind leg alone. And to canter like old Painty could -- at 4 mph -- as slow as possible -- takes ENORMOUS strength. In similar manner, this is true for all gaits, including gaits where there is never less than two feet upon the ground at one time; the slower you go, the longer the horse must hold himself up on the minimum number of legs. THEREFORE THIS IS WHAT YOU PRACTICE -- and when you have practiced THIS, then there will be no question whether the animal will have the strength to move at the same gait(s) at speed. But if you practice only at speed, you will have neither strength nor balance nor suppleness nor straightness.

3. The faster any horse goes, no matter what his breed, the gait, or his level of training, the more "braced" he will become. The only way to teach a horse THAT HE CAN MOVE WITHOUT BRACING is to go slow -- indeed, to go as slow as possible and still maintain the particular gait without breaking to any other gait. The reason that horses break gait when asked to go slower at the gait you want them to be in, is that they LACK the strength, balance, and straightness to be able to perform that gait slowly; so the horse, being accommodating, substitutes what he CAN do for what you really wanted him to do.

4. As to getting horses to canter who don't offer it under saddle: again, this is a question of strength. It may also, and with horses you did not start yourself, probably will be a question of the horse not really being able to believe that this is what you want him to do. Many ex-harness racers, as well as many "gaited" horses, are beaten for cantering -- this is not something that can be tolerated at the track as it results in disqualification. As it is more difficult to either trot or pace hard and fast than it is to break gait up into a canter or gallop, the trainers use strong methods to create the idea in the horse's mind that he must not do it. So if you are trying to re-train one of these horses, you first have to totally earn his trust in other ways.

Then, on the day when you intend to begin teaching him to canter, you put him in the roundpen where you have set up a rather wide, low jump. The jump should be six to eight inches high, and you might make it two jump-poles wide, i.e. set up two cavalletti end-to-end at this height. Set the outer one butt up against the wall, and set them both at 90 degrees to the wall so they are a radius of the circle. Then set the horse to going at a gentle gait and teach him to hop over the obstacle as he goes around.

When this is no big deal, then you can start asking him to go faster, to where it would be natural for him to canter upon landing over the little jump. If you get no offer whatsoever to do this, raise the height of the jump until you do. It will also help greatly if, when you see him commit to the jump, even at a low height, you at that moment BACK YOURSELF UP a step or two, which will have the effect of drawing the horse toward the center as he lands and i.e. unbalancing him enough so that he lands upon the inside forefoot with a curve in his neck and perhaps in his body too. When you unlevel him he is more likely to take a canter step or two.

If you think the horse was beaten for cantering in an earlier life, then I'd be packing some carrots or other tidbits, and the moment you see any canter-like steps, which will likely be the first one or two as and after he lands, then call him to you and reward him lavishly -- feed him, pet him, and then no more work, no more demands for at least another half-hour and/or take him back to the comfort of his stall. You should be delighted to get even one step upon the first occasion.

You then build upon that. If the horse gets where he canters a step or two and then quits, put another obstacle at the opposite side of the roundpen and keep him pressed up there enough that he will want to canter. Reward often and generously.

Work at the same time on getting him to understand the voice command "can-TER" -- you say the word just as he sets to take off for the jump. Eventually then it will get so you can have him in the roundpen with just a ground pole, or no pole at all, and he will canter when you tell him to. Reward, reward, reward.

Don't be surprised if he makes you chuckle around this: I've had non-canterers who, when they realized that I actually wanted them to canter (after they had previously been beaten for it) who would take up the canter when asked, then shake their heads, stop, turn in to face me with eyes as big as watermelons, and SNORRRRRTTT! This is Horse for "I do NOT believe you really mean this! You're kidding me!!"

With an older horse who has never practiced cantering, it will take a year or two of practice -- you practice every couple of days -- for it to get easy for them to both directions. When it comes time to try it under saddle, it is advisable to have a trusty helper. If the helper is a good rider, they can jockey. All you want them to do is be brave enough to sit up there as quietly as possible no matter what the horse does, and not grab the reins. Then you, as the more experienced ground man, simply ask the horse to do the same thing you've been practicing with him in the roundpen. The horse may need a little extra help from you -- teaching a non-canterer to do it under saddle is similar to teaching a two-year-old -- he will lack balance, and the gait will likely be rather rough. So you help the horse by watching for that little moment at the departure when the inside hind leg "sweeps", or takes a little extra-long step from back to front, which is the sign that he intends to canter. But when weighted under saddle, the horse may have trouble getting the leg up there just enough, so you help him by carrying a VERY SMALL flag made out of a bundle of 8-inch-long binder twine tied to the end of a fairly stiff 3 1/2 or 4-ft. long stick. And when you see the horse trying to canter then, you "sweep" your flag forward as if you were trying to sweep the horse's inside hind leg forward. The motion is similar to bowling. Tell your rider also to be sure NOT to hang to the inside, not even with her head; look out over the horse's outside ear.

Let's hear how it goes with this & any observations you make on it. Cheers -- Dr. Deb


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