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relaxation of the topline
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Ola
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Joined: Fri Mar 28th, 2008
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 Posted: Sun Dec 27th, 2009 03:52 pm
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Hi
 
I ride a half-blooded, 8-year-old gelding (his is not mine). He has been longed for a long time with side reins and ridden with a firm hand. I’ve ridden him a few times with an instructor – he told me to make him more “energetic” with my legs, and then hold him with reins. As the result, horse moves with a rigid headset and a very stiff back. Now I have an opportunity to ride him without instructor (it’s only once or twice a week) and I would like to change my attitude and his posture.
 
The Knowledge Base and discussions on this forum enlightened me so much – now I am aware I did it totally wrong. I went through concepts like head twirling, raising the base of the neck and the others.
 
I want to teach him from the ground to carry his head low (we have already started it), but I wonder if that’s a good idea. I know the outward posture indicates what happens in horse’s mind, so I guess I need to address his inner life first, but I’m not quite sure how to do it. Is there a point in teaching him such an exercise? If his inner state influences bodyposture, can this be opposite? Does bodyposture influence his mind?
I guess horse can be still tense while carrying his head low.
 
Today we did first exercise mentioned in “Horse confidence issue” thread: Beginning Focus. I discovered that tension is also a product of lack of focus and confidence. If the horse sees something interesting or scary in the environment, his Birdie flies away and he becomes high-headed. On the other hand, I think he doesn’t have correct muscles developed for now and just can’t move in the other way. I tried also head twirling today. If he is out of focus and extremely high-headed – it doesn’t work. But there were times, especially at the end of the ride, when he dropped his head a little bit. Then I imagined a flow of a river running through my hands and squeeze one rein, I felt as I was tickling him on the tongue. He dropped his head inch by inch and I praised him immediately (I must work on my timing, too!), but it’s still not the feeling I am looking for. Even a tiny incorrect movement with my hand could destroy it – and it was only during the walk.
 
There is also an Arabian stallion at this stable, that is extremely high-headed, even with no contact with reins. I rode him today for a long long time and I had a terrible feeling of  a cracking bridge. If I have some photos of me riding “my” horse (half-blooded gelding), I will post them (if there is need to do so).
 
Am I on the right track? I would be grateful for all tips and ideas about relaxation of the topline, and for links to other threads that might be helpful. I’m still researching forum, of course.
 
Thanks for your time and patience
Best wishes
Ola

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Dec 27th, 2009 07:31 pm
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Ola, you cannot be doing what you are trying to do here, because you do not own the horses in question. Your actions are therefore subversive, and the most likely outcome will be simply that you make the horses' actual owners angry.

You cannot be the preacher in your barn, Ola, and I don't want anybody doing that. It is not your job to show other people that you know how to ride better than they do. For one thing, because it will be fruitless, and for another thing, as you very well know, it is also a lie. You DON'T ride better than they do. You are, instead, a student of some kind of instructor or trainer at this barn, and so long as that remains the case, then you must ride his horses his way.

Now, you CAN change the situation, but the only way to do that will be for you to leave this barn and go someplace else where the instructor has more enlightened ideas. Or else go buy your own horse and train him yourself. Those are all the choices that there are, Ola, and there are no other choices, no matter where in the world you may live.

Yes, indeed, there are many thousands of horses all over the world who are tense, who are ridden by having somebody "thrust them forward into a fixed hand", and whose rider/owner/trainer has never heard of twirling the head or the importance of having the horse step under the body shadow with the inside hind leg. Yes there are. But it is MOST DECIDEDLY NOT YOUR JOB to fix THOSE horses. The ONE AND ONLY horse that you are licensed to work on is your own horse.

You see? I am not the slightest bit interested in fostering your urge to preach. When you get into it with your own horse, you will have questions enough. So, since you clearly do care about horses, Ola, what I would advise you to do is to stop spending your hard-earned money taking lessons from the individual whom you have described, save up your money, and use it to purchase your own horse. In the meantime, you can also do some travelling within your own country to look for and identify the more enlightened coach with whom you will then work, because even after you buy a horse of your own, you will still need the help of someone more knowledgeable in order to make the project a success.

Yes, it's expensive. Yes, it will take a lot of your time and energy. That's what horsemanship means, and they don't call it "the sport of kings" for nothing. -- Dr. Deb

Ola
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 Posted: Thu Dec 31st, 2009 10:47 am
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I don't have slightest urge to preach. I had spoken to my instructor before - we were just exchanging ideas about this horse's stiffeness. He asked me what I would do to make him more relaxed. I said something about working on lowering the head, suppling on voltes, working without side reins etc - and he agreed.

I am acutely aware I am not a better rider than the others. Thank you for humility lesson. Sometimes I am so enthusiastic about horses that I forget they're not my own ones. I understand and agree with you, Dr.Deb - I am not qualified and knowledgeable enough to work with this horse.

Anyway, I would be grateful if you could answer my questions, as they concern my general confusion, not only with this particular horse.
Is there a point in teaching him such an exercise (lowering the head to achieve relaxation)? If his inner state influences bodyposture, can this be opposite? Does bodyposture influence his mind?
I guess horse can be still tense while carrying his head low.


I am also struggling with another questions about rein contact.
I've read an article recently about the jaw flexion (it was in "Horses For Life" magazine in January 2009, available to everyone, unfortunately I can't find the link).
The actions of reins can be divided in two categories: the "drawer" action (pulling with your arm to open a drawer) and the "lemon" action (squeezing with the fist in order to extract juice). When you pull on a drawer, if it resists, you will very likely be set off balance if it yields all of a sudden, perhaps you will fall. If you squeeze a lemon, whatever the resistance of the lemon, you won't fall when it yields. One has never seen anybody fall by squeezing a lemon.

As a rule, the hand actions should follow the pattern "drawer - lemon." "Drawer" first, that is, a traction from the arms, in order to "feel" the horse's mouth. Then, "lemon," that is a squeezing with the fingers on the reins, to provoke the yielding of the mouth.

The author also mentions about Baucher and La Gueriniere.
As I understood, the "drawer" means a backward traction of the hand. I know that the vector of energy at least one hand should be forwards. Is it necessary to use "drawer" (with one hand at a time, I guess) to achieve jaw relaxation? Or should I use only "squeezing" with one rein, or pattern - at first drawer, then lemon (as the author of an article says)?
 
The primary or worst and most common thing that people do with their hands that prevents the horse from working right, is that the people hang onto the reins all the time. What this means is (a) they offer the horse a "square feel" and (b) they don't release when the horse has complied by softening. A "square feel" means equal pressure in both hands -- there are very few times on horseback when there should be equal pressure in both hands.
It is Dr.Deb’s quote from “Raising the base of the neck, a spinoff” thread.
When should there be equal pressure in both hands?
 
Regards,
Ola

Last edited on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 10:52 am by Ola

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Dec 31st, 2009 08:41 pm
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Ola, as to your questions:

1. Yes, the horse's inner state does influence body posture. His body posture also influences his inner state. Read about this in "The Birdie Book": it is one of the major themes of this book -- the Greater Path and the Lesser Path.

2. As to the "drawer": the hand can move in any direction -- don't forget to the side, which is very important especially for the greener, younger horses. And as to the rest of this question: You need to learn what "twirling the head" means. This is explained with great clarity in the "Anatomy of Bitting" DVD program. If you were to view that program, you would have no questions about "twirling the head" or "jaw flexions" again. Twirling the head is a form of Baucher's jaw flexions appropriate to the modern rider, who is not likely to be working with a horse in a double bridle, but rather with one in a snaffle bit and/or sidepull.

3. When there should be equal pressure in both hands is never. Even over a jump or in setting for a jump, or in any other motion where the feet are nearly square: and the reason for this is that your hands ARE the horse's feet, which are only square for an instant in any action, even if that action appears more or less square to us. Your hands do what you want his feet to do; his feet do what your hands told them to do. If he is halted square, then there should be no pressure, and even then, he and you are thinking about the next step and that is unsquare. The great difficulty for most riders is that they are "freezing" up there, when instead, like the horse, they should always have the left and right halves of their body separated and the one side operating independently of the other.

And Olga -- if the actual owner of the horse is permitting you to influence him, then you have HIM read this Forum. Under those circumstances, perhaps the "riding the horse with a firm hand" can disappear. I think not otherwise, however.

Hope this helps. -- Dr. Deb


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