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ivyschex
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Dr. Deb,

I am brand new to this forum.  I have been lurking around and reading different threads and am so happy that I found it.  I also read your article “True Collection.”  I am very interested in natural dressage and classical dressage. 

I have a few questions:

1)      What exercises can be done on the ground (at liberty?) to coil his loins, lift his back, and lift the base of his neck?  I ask this question, because I do have a “trick” horse and I do a lot of work at liberty.

2)      Is this what you call lifting the base of the neck (see following picture)?  I am unsure, but I thought that is what it is supposed to look like, from reading your article and looking at the pictures. 



Sorry about the quality; it is from a video.
3)      When riding, the times I think he is lifting the base of his neck, with his head lowered, the ride gets much bouncier.  Is this right?  Does this mean that he isn’t strong enough to carry a rider while lifting his back?  Or does it just mean that I don’t have a good enough seat?  Or, that he isn’t lifting his back at all?

Thank you so much!

Ivy

DrDeb
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Hi, Ivy, and welcome. Glad to see you're out there having fun in the snow. I grew up in Illinois and then lived for years in Kansas, so how well I remember it....well, it definitely does not have to put a damper on riding, at least up to the point where your toes freeze.

As to your questions: first off, good, you did your homework by reading 'True Collection' (and presumably 'Lessons from Woody', which is Part One of the whole concept) before formulating a question.

Yes, the picture shows the horse raising the base of his neck. This is the 'elementary form', very appropriate for horses in the earlier stages of their training, and for any horse at any time -- it's the basic form to return to when no greater effort is being demanded.

The ride gets much 'bouncier' depending on what gait you are in, dear. I assume you mean it is 'bouncy' at a trot, although it is also true that if the horse moves 'round', his back will seem to oscillate more also at a walk and at a canter.

If you are having difficulty in sitting the trot, then you need to go visit with a certified Sally Swift/Centered Riding instructor and get that part straightened out. This program was of very material help to me at one point and I recommend no other for this purpose.

If you can sit the trot quite comfortably on another horse, but not on this horse, the indication then is that he is not a big mover but rather a bad mover. People often complain of WB's that they are difficult to sit because they are 'such big movers', when in fact they are really such bad movers. To begin changing a bad mover into a good mover, you need to do the following:

a. Quit leaning over to the inside on turns, which the photo catches you doing. When you do this, you are inviting your horse to fall onto his inside pair of legs and thus to go crooked (review 'Lessons from Woody'). Sit so that you never lose track of the 'kissing' of your outside seatbone with the saddle and ergo with the horse's outside hind leg. To help yourself do this, use his outside ear as a gun-sight: look up and out over the outside ear, and tell yourself to do this every single time you turn.

b. Learn to twirl the head and untrack the horse (twirl the loins) as the primary means of inducing the release of any brace that might be present in the animal's neck, torso, or haunches.

c. Stay off the rail. Go only short distances along the rail before turning.

d. Make frequent turns to both hands.

e. Cut across the arena in every pattern you can think of.

f. Stop and start often.

g. Get the horse to take the first step after a stop 'consciously', so that it feels to you like he is stepping off uphill rather than level. Stop him immediately that you feel him lean forward and/or take ahold of the rein with a brace in his jaw or neck. Then ask him to start again. Read Mike Schaffer's book "Right from the Start".

h. Learn to back one step at a time, with no backward traction in the reins.

i. Alternate turns on the forehand with turns over the haunches at a walk. Make them all quarter-turns, never go more than a half-turn (never for the first five years, anyway).

....and this should wind up answering your first question as well.

One observation: I would like to be sure that the hackamore you have on there is a real hackamore and not one with a cable core. If it has a cable core, go burn it and get yourself something the horse can live with a little better. Also, I warn you that riding in the Mexican equipment, which has the fiador under the chin, and thus the point of pull under the chin, is far from the easiest way to teach the horse the meaning of the reins. Better instead would be for you to ride him in either a well-fitting snaffle bit or a good sidepull. The best sidepull I've ever seen (I ride in it regularly myself) is made by our student Josh Nichol (http://www.joshnichol.com).

Lastly, remember please that there is -- and can be -- NO SUCH THING as 'natural' dressage. The word 'dressage' means 'straightening'. The natural horse (which means the non-domesticated Przewalski horse or non-domesticated former domesticates, such as mustangs) require no straightening. But when man or woman bestrides a horse, we have in that instant left anything natural behind. There is nothing whatsoever natural about riding, and the very act of getting on the horse induces him to make all kinds of wierd compensations, crookedness being primary among them. Training on the physical level very largely consists of overcoming those very same compensations. The way to do this is definitely not to delude yourself by repeating the mantra of 'natural natural natural' -- that's bullshit. What you do instead is you ride consciously. Everything you do, you commit to doing consciously. When you are conscious, and only then, can you take full responsibility for all outcomes with your horse.

So go read 'Woody' if you haven't and you might as well follow that up with 'Ring of Muscles'. Then use the Google advanced search function to look for the many previous threads in this forum where I have spoken in detail about doing many of the exercises or maneuvers which I mention above -- and that should keep you busy until the snow melts and the mud comes.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Allen Pogue
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Hello Ivy, Dr Deb et.al.

 I will share a picture of my Lusitano colt Senior Unico wearing a well-fitting hackamore.

Note that there is very little space between the top wrap of the mecare and the bars under his chin. There is enough of a gap there to create "the release" when you lower your hand, but not so much that "the action" is sloppy. The reins are thus close to his chin. This bosal also hugs the shape of his nose because the pliable core can easily be molded in your hands

If the bosal is too long and has too many wraps then the balance a feel are quite different and when you pull on one rein it causes the bosal to rotate on the horse's nose (something you do not want). This rotational effect also changes up the feel of your signal. If the bosal is too wide or too stiff to be molded so that it fits on the horse's nose like a hat fits on your head then it will be too loose to give you the best feel.

This 1/2" diameter, 16plait bosal (shown below) measures10.5" long ( from inside the nose piece to the top of the heel knot when the branches are 4.5" wide .

 The nose buttons are 8" apart.

Most generic bosals have nose buttons set 10.5 inches wide (or more) .. the 'modern' thinking is that it keeps the hanger from getting close to the horse's eye. But this wide placement has a detrimental effect to the swinging action (the all important release) of the rig.

Many bosals are made way too long and if 'store bought' there is often no choice in lengths.

Really good bosals are hard to find unless you know where to look and are willing to spend the money for custom-made gear.

 My gal has one made in 1940's by Luis Ortega. it cost $40 then and is worth 50 times that now as a collector's piece. It is as usable today as it was 60 years ago. So the investment in excellent equipment was well worth the money, then and now.

Allen

Attachment: hackamore fit.JPG (Downloaded 1513 times)

Seglawy Jedran
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So speaking of twirling the head, and changing the feel down the rein to the bosal, and keeping in mind the recent thread about chiropractic toggling and twirling joints...Is that then what we're doing when we correctly do flexions- fooling the muscles in the poll into releasing, so as to prevent stiffness from the neck traveling down into the back- and up from the loin? Kind of a long question. At a couple of your clinics Dr. Deb I recall you demonstrating head twirling with one hand beside the bridge of the horses nose, and the other pressing the jaw to the inside. Also in one of Buck Brannamans tapes he loops a lead lightly over a fillys nose to get her to flex. Also in the conquerors  on page 60 you have a picture of German Baca asking a horse for flexion, and closeup of  the two reins attached high on the bosal. It seems like the two reins high on the bosal would be the easier to use.
Thanks
 Bruce Peek

Dorothy
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Hi Bruce,

There is one big difference that immediately occurs to me regarding toggling and head twirling.

Toggling and head (joint) twirling are very different things. A 'toggle' is a fast, small, very precise impulse - rather like the action of a spring loaded centre punch (though this is a rather crude analogy, but will give you the idea). It is something that the Chiropractor does to the horse, and this then affects the musculature around the targeted joint to promote normalisation of movement.

Head twirling, is a slow movement, which you ask the horse to do, using a very light touch, and the release of the muscles happens when the horse responds to the ask.

Dr Deb, I would also be interested in understanding the 'knock on' effect of the head twirl - it is something I use on many horses, and notice big changes in the them.

Dorothy

 

 

DrDeb
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Yes, Bruce, that is exactly what I am telling Ivy -- that the Mexican equipment, even when it is of the correctly-made and correctly-fitted type as shown by Allen, is difficult to use because the point of "pull" (even though we aren't really pulling, more like "directing") is under the horse's chin rather than on top of his nose.

If the rider whose horse is tacked up in a Mexican outfit does actually pull on one rein of the mecate, it will obviously tend to turn the horse's head to the opposite direction; in other words, if you pull on the right mecate rein it will turn the horse's forehead to the left. Therefore, this is not the proper way to use Mexican equipment. Mexican equipment cannot be used in any manner by direct pull. To use it, the horse must already have advanced so far as to be entirely guideable first by the Birdie and second by the seat-and-leg. He needs to be very responsive and attentive also.

But this is not where Ivy is at, I think -- rather, if I mistake not, Ivy is like most people who think that you use the Mexican bosal at an early stage in the horse's training or even to start him out. Not so....that's what the snaffle is for, or if you care to, you can substitute a riding cavesson for the snaffle (the Peruvian version of a riding cavesson is what German Baca is using in that photo in Conquerors). In a riding cavesson, the reins are attached at one point over the bridge of the nose, or else at two points to either side of the bridge of the nose. This device is called a 'riding cavesson' in the classical period in northern Europe, but called either a 'cabezon', 'cavezon', or 'bosal' in Spain, Portugal, and all the New World islands and countries where Iberian horses and horsemanship continue to be valued.

What happened in colonial Mexico was that the equipment got turned upside-down on the horse's head, which created new possibilities but also imposed limitations as above outlined.

Most riders who are just beginning to learn how to train horses, or who are trying to bring a horse along, need to stick with either a well-fitted snaffle bit or else a sidepull (which is a riding cavesson) like the one made by Josh Nichol. These make getting the feel of how to twirl the head easy, and they also make it easy for the horse to tell what is wanted of him.

Then later on, if a person wants to raise a horse from a foal and start them themselves and dedicate that horse 100% to riding in the old Buckaroo way, which is one good form of the old Iberian way a la jineta or estradiota, then they can purchase fine 16-plat equipment and a mane-hair mecate and a saddle to match and the whole beautiful outfit of clothing and the silver spurs and gunmetal and silver bit. And if that's what they want to do, then they should certainly go to Buck Brannaman for the specific instruction in how to bring a horse along in the four reins and finish him in the two reins "straight up in the bridle", which would be some form of Chileno or Spade bit. But let's not do some kind of ersatz of this, pretending that it's real, by going down to the local tack shop and buying an 8-plat cable-core and riding the horse in that, because that is just a crummy "costume" that no real horseman would have any respect or use for. 

Besides Mexican equipment, any equipment with shanks will make the task of teaching the horse to twirl its head difficult or impossible. As Allen points out, the crummy cable-core "bosals" sold to the horse-show market always have the lower branches of the nosepiece WAY too long, so they hang down like a big "bit shank". So just as Allen says, the mecate is tied too low, the thing swings around and rubs the nose, and it also acts exactly like a long bitshank. The lower below the mouth the point of attachment of the rein, the more "opposite" the pull is going to be. It is almost impossible to get a horse that does not ALREADY know how to twirl its head to figure out what you want if you are riding in any bit with shanks or with a "shanked" crummy-type Mexican bosal.

And yes, you can certainly teach yourself and your horse how to twirl the head by doing it on the ground using nothing but your hands. I attach photos to remind you how that's to be done....I don't think a photo is as good as being right there with the teacher, but Linda Bertani took these and they're pretty good, so maybe they'll be of some help.

And Dorothy, I just noticed your post -- great point about the chiro doing things TO the horse vs. the horseman doing things WITH the horse. Again and again I repeat: THE ONE AND ONLY REASON TO TWIRL THE HEAD IS TO INDUCE THE HORSE TO RELEASE ANY BRACE.

But I have no idea what you mean by 'knock on'. -- Dr. Deb


Attachment: Head Twirl Demo Dr Deb adj2 copy cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 1480 times)

Last edited on Thu Feb 18th, 2010 08:54 am by DrDeb

Dorothy
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Hi Dr Deb,

I am wondering what wider, indirect consequences there are of head twirling. I appreciate that the head twirl itself eliminates bracyness in the muscles surrounding the OA joint, but what other muscles and areas might it influence?  So, does head twirling lead to decreasing bracyness in the dorsal neck muscles or even the dorsal back muscles for example?

thankyou,

Dorothy

 

DrDeb
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Yes, over time. The effect tends to become more global the more times it is done correctly. Eventually it will percolate not only all the way down the neck and back, but right down to the posterior end of the topline, which is the sole of the hind foot.

With emphasis on "correctly":

-- no pulling, pushing, shoving, cranking, hurry, impatience, anger, ambition, or desire to show anybody else how far around your horse can move his head.

-- note the VERY SMALL amount of pressure or grip being applied by my left hand in the photos -- so little that my fingers are softly curled all the time.

-- learn to wait for the horse. Apply your hands in the correct places, exert 5 ozs. pressure -- enough for him to know that you do want something -- and WAIT. Note how it took the horse I am working on in the photo probably 15 sec. to (a) realize what I wanted (first photo) (b) get to an emotional spot where he could acquiesce to it (this is what he is working on in the middle photo) (c) get himself released (third photo).

This last part is the most important. -- Dr. Deb

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Thank you!

Its really helpful to see the sequence of photos together with your descriptions.

Dorothy

Allen Pogue
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The Californio/Vaquero 'Look'

 Hi Folks,

 I am going to share with you a picture of one of our Lusitano geldings wearing equipment that gives him the look of a horse being trained in the Californio style.

 A slick fork Wade tree saddle, a one-of-a-kind reproduction of an antique Navaho wool saddle blanket,  a two-rein bridle outfit with the horse packin' an inlaid silver Garcia spoon spade and a small bosalito and light horsehair mecate.

 The fun part of this is not having the gear just for a photo opportunity, but using and enjoying it out of respect for the both the horse and the tradition.

Allen

 FYI .. That being said, comin' from Texas I can't quite wrap my head around the flat hats, wild rag and chinks that would complete the look.

Attachment: Uno Feb 2010.JPG (Downloaded 1362 times)

ivyschex
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Dr. Deb and all,

Thanks for the feedback!  I have another quick question.  I read through your other two articles: "Lessons from Woody" and "The Ring of Muscles Revisited".  My question is about the ring of muscles.  You say that we don't want any of the muscles lying above the vertebral chain contracted.  Rather we want those muscles "passive."  If this is the case, wouldn't endotapping be helpful to keeping those muscles relaxed.  By endotapping, I refer to the method which used a whip with a soft foam ball on the end to tap rhythmically on the horse's different muscle groups to relax them.

I know that Allen Pogue uses this method.

Thanks,

Ivy

DrDeb
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Endotapping is a variant of a technique sometimes used by chiropractors and/or muscle therapists. You can do that if you like but I think your time is much better spent simply learning how to ride well. When the well-ridden horse moves through the repertory of exercises, that is all that is necessary to relax/release the muscles that ought to be passive, and all that is necessary to develop muscles that require development for the animal to carry a rider in comfort, beautifully, over the long span of years and miles. I don't do, and I don't need to do, any therapeutic technique other than 'riding the horse sound'.

This is what my concept of 'perjustice' is all about, Ivy. I came up with that idea many years ago -- in the early 1990's -- to express the whole art and science of using the act of riding to improve, rather than to degrade, a horse's soundness. I was surprised and amused when I met Allen and we were sitting in his living room talking, to hear him say he had thought of the same thing. I don't know what Allen calls it, if indeed he ever chose a name, but it is inevitable I believe that thoughtful and skillful horsemen should all eventually arrive at this.

I coined the name 'perjustice' with some care. For one thing, in horseback riding we have already plenty of terminology, so that adding terms should not be done without careful consideration. Once I had decided that a new term was needed, I coined the word thusly:

'per' -- a prefix meaning 'thoroughgoing' -- 'penetrating' or 'soaking through'

'justi--' -- a root meaning 'to straighten or to be straight' -- hence 'justice' the common word, which means to deal 'straight' or fairly; 'to justify' as a ream of paper, meaning to square it up and straighten it out.

Hence the meaning of the whole term 'perjustice' is: 'to make straight in a thoroughgoing manner', and I do intend the secondary meaning also, 'to make straight from the heart'.

One of the main reasons I coined this term was as a replacement for the word 'dressage' used as a noun. The original French word 'dresser' as used in the classical literature is a VERB -- a description of a PROCESS -- and it meant 'to straighten', 'to prepare' -- certainly NOT 'to train' -- to make it mean that, you have to stretch it past where any dictionary would permit you to go.

So that, when William Cavendish/The Duke of Newcastle wrote his horsemanship treatise at the time of the English Civil War, the title was 'Une Nouvelle Methode de Dresser Une Cheval': "A new method for straightening horses" or "A new method for preparing horses". I prefer the former, since the 'nouvelle methode' was actually Newcastle's invention of the draw rein which, as he explicitly and repeatedly instructs, is NEVER to be used with both hands but always on one side at a time only. You will understand then if you have read 'Woody' why this would be important to straightening -- although we today do not need draw reins for this purpose.

'Dressage' used as a noun does not begin until James Fillis comes along in the 1890's. Mashing the old process-word into noun form made of it 'a thing', which greatly helped people to forget that it meant 'to straighten'; they then began to be confused enough to think that 'dressage' meant 'a style of riding'. Using the term in noun form also helped people forget that getting the horse straight is the first step in creating him as a good riding horse, and that no horse can be a good riding horse unless it is first made straight. Indeed it dulled people entirely to the idea that every good riding horse is a work of art that is brought along, like a sculpture, one tap of the hammer at a time -- this is the nature of process. Today they many people are even silly and thoughtless enough to speak of some poor nag as being 'a dressage horse', 'a reining horse', 'a hunter-jumper'. Ask the horse himself about that! He is just a horse, that's all, even if the USDF 'certifies' him at some 'level' that has no existence anywhere other than in their made-up rulebook!

So Ivy, not only am I going to repeat to you the most important thing that I said previously -- which was -- there is no such thing as 'natural' in horsemanship; I am also going to add to that by telling you that there certainly cannot be any such thing as 'natural dressage', for the very reason that 'dressage' is not a thing, 'dressage' in noun form is a mere chimaera.

I have not insisted that my students refer to what they are doing as 'perjustice' or 'perjustifying', and I haven't heavily pushed the term into the industry vocabulary, although you will find it used in certain documents in the Institute main website. I would be just as happy to see you use the term 'buckaroo horsemanship' if that's the outfit you want to ride in, or else if you ride in English tack then 'high school' or 'high schooling'. If you ride in a Portuguese bullfighter's coat or any 18th-century costume and have a Lippy, an Andy, a Portuguese breed, or any horse that looks like one, then you'll probably want to tell people you're doing 'haute ecole'. All these terms mean the same thing: 'perjustice', 'buckaroo horsemanship', 'old Californio horsemanship', 'high school', 'classical high school', and 'haute ecole'. They begin to differ only in detail and only after the installation of an identical set of basics.

They are totally at odds with, and irreconcileable with, 'dressage' or 'competitive dressage', the sport that uses the word 'dressage' as a noun. By saying 'irreconcileable' I mean you can't practice both dressage and perjustice; they are completely incompatible.

So there is no 'natural', Ivy, and I certainly hope there is no 'dressage' in your life, either.

You didn't tell us, after all the information and discussion that you thought so good, whether your bosal has a cable core or not, or whether, if it does, you have plans to replace it either with good equipment or with equipment in some other style. It really is great, I think, when students who write in here actually do take the time to read, study, and try what has been suggested. -- Dr. Deb

Indy
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Does anyone have a good picture of the side pull that Josh Nichol sells? I looked at his website and couldn't find a full picture of what it actually looks like where the reins attach or the underneath part. It looks like it is made from high quality materials and people speak highly of them.
Clara

ivyschex
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Dr. Deb,

>>You didn't tell us, after all the information and discussion that you thought so good, whether your bosal has a cable core or not, or whether, if it does, you have plans to replace it either with good equipment or with equipment in some other style. It really is great, I think, when students who write in here actually do take the time to read, study, and try what has been suggested.

The one I am currently using is a cable core.  I would love nice soft rawhide core or a nice sidepull, however, I do not have the funds right now to get those.  I do take donations though! 

I am reluctant to ride Jackson in a bit now in the winter.  I will probably use one when the weather is much warmer.  When I get the money, I plan on purchasing a sidepull to ride in. 

Thanks,

Ivy

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ivyschex wrote: , I do not have the funds right now to get those.  I do take donations though! 

I am reluctant to ride Jackson in a bit now in the winter.  I will probably use one when the weather is much warmer.  When I get the money, I plan on purchasing a sidepull to ride in. 

Thanks,

Ivy


Ivy thanks for the guffaw, about the funds. I am with you there cowgirl!  To help with the cold weather issues, I take hot water out and put my bit in it, by the time I am done grooming etc the bit is nicely warmed for the horse's mouth.  I have a friend that keeps a blow dryer out in his barn for this purpose.

Best,

Kathy

AdamTill
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Here's a sidepull shot. Nothing is quite snugged up properly, since this was a shot I took for Cathy Nichol back when we were seeing which size was going to fit properly. The crosstie rope is snapped to the "bit ring", or whatever the rein attachment ring is properly called.

Hope that helps.

Attachment: Sidepull.jpg (Downloaded 826 times)

Blueskidoo
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Take an athletic sock and pour some rice or field-corn in it (two cups or so) and tie it off at the top (or sew it closed).  You can microwave this for 2 minutes or so and then put it over your bit to warm it.  It will stay warm for quite a while.  It is also reuseable.  But don't leave it in the barn because it makes a nice snack for mice.

Indy
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Adam,
Thanks for the picture.

Are there 2 buckles on the chin strap? And it looks like the piece that comes down from the top ring and goes forward is stationary. What is the purpose of that piece? At a local tack shop I have seen what they call an english hackamore. It is a nose piece that you would attach to a headstall. It has the same buckle as the side pull and the two rings (one for the reins and one for the adjustment of the chin strap) but it doesn't have that piece that goes forward.

I have experimented with a few bitless options; however my horse always seems to have a fluttering birdie (nervous and distracted) when I ride without the bit. With the bit she seems happy and confident. I ride in a snaffle but keep thinking that bitless would be more comfortable for my horse...maybe she is telling me she is fine.
Clara

DrDeb
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OK, Ivy, if you won't cough up the dough to be able to ride your horse in the minimally courteous way -- that is to say in good equipment -- then you'll have to stop riding.

Think this through, honey. I've been broke too, many times, almost the whole time when I was in school, and that was many years; but nevertheless by the time I bought a horse, I still managed to always have access to good equipment somehow. Or else not ride. There is no middle ground here. What I am telling you is that I cannot accept "no money" as an excuse, because that's just what it is: an excuse. If you have the money to purchase, vet, and feed a horse you have the money to have any type of tack you choose to own.

If you contact Josh and tell him your situation, you MIGHT find that he would be willing to work it out with you. That's not a guarantee, but had the possibility of kindness and courtesy falling on you as if from out of the sky not occurred to you? Well, it doesn't to most people. But it lives, none the less.

"Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you." Sit on your butt making excuses, like the cripple by the Pool of Siloam in the parable, and you'll always be a day late and a dollar short when the angel comes and stirs the waters. -- Dr. Deb

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Hi Clara,

>Are there 2 buckles on the chin strap?

I don't think so, if memory serves. The leather comes across, loops back on itself, and buckles down. Couple of keepers, but not two buckles (I don't *think*).

>And it looks like the piece that comes down from the top ring and goes forward is stationary. What is the purpose of that piece?

There are a couple of pieces of leather that run from the upper ring to the noseband, which act to prevent the twisting motion that can come with riding in a halter. That's also helped by the double ring attachment where the bridle reins get hooked.

>At a local tack shop I have seen what they call an english hackamore. It is a nose piece that you would attach to a headstall. It has the same buckle as the side pull and the two rings (one for the reins and one for the adjustment of the chin strap) but it doesn't have that piece that goes forward.


Sorry, don't know much about those.


>I have experimented with a few bitless options; however my horse always seems to have a fluttering birdie (nervous and distracted) when I ride without the bit. With the bit she seems happy and confident. I ride in a snaffle but keep thinking that bitless would be more comfortable for my horse...maybe she is telling me she is fine.


I would tend to say she's telling you she's fine. If the bit is fitted correctly, then it's not uncomfortable for her to carry.

My horse was very uncomfortable packing a bit due to the heavy handed nature of the trainer who put the first few rides on him before I bought him, and would would chew the bit nervously when I asked him to wear it under the sidepull at first. After our first ride in it however, when I proved I wasn't going to use it for anything but communication, he quit that entirely and is very quiet in the mouth.

I like my sidepull, and I was very grateful to have it for the six months when I restarted my guy, but our communication is much more refined in his snaffle. I'll probably bring it out again before we move to the hackamore, but I don't think the sidepull is more comfortable per say.

Even the best sidepull won't have quite the finesse that a well fitted bit will. Your horse might just be telling you that you that you seem to be "mumbling" when you go back to the bitless rig, and she needs some more direction.

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AdamTill wrote:
>At a local tack shop I have seen what they call an english hackamore. It is a nose piece that you would attach to a headstall. It has the same buckle as the side pull and the two rings (one for the reins and one for the adjustment of the chin strap) but it doesn't have that piece that goes forward.


Sorry, don't know much about those.



I think this is what she is talking about.

Kathy

Attachment: jumping hacka.jpg (Downloaded 800 times)

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Okay, gotcha. Those would be better then a halter, but Josh's rig is still more stable with the double noseband attachment.

Josh's sidepull is a nice piece of kit, really. I'd prefer a single wider poll strap to the double straps that it has, since I was tending to have to shuffle the straps to keep them aligned properly. Still, that's a pretty minor complaint, and doesn't affect the function of the headgear.

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Adam, Thanks for the info.  I would like the sidepull to have one strap over the poll too.

Kathy,  That is the thing I have seen at the tack shop. 
Clara

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The biggest plus to Josh's outfit is not double straps under the chin, but the "Y" fork arrangement where the cheek pieces come down to attach to the noseband. If the rig has but a single ring, like the jumping hackamore shown above, then the noseband will tend to tilt downward, while the chinstrap will tend to tilt upward -- unless adjusted very snugly and/or depending on the shape of the horse's head. Josh's sidepull stays exactly at the angle it should be at.

The biggest problem with all sidepulls, and also with longeing cavessons, is their tendency to ride up into the outside eye. They twist around on the horse's head. This is why on both sidepulls and cavessons, you'll see different placements of chinstraps, multiple chinstraps, jowl straps, double jowl straps.

Josh's sidepull addresses this problem simply by fitting well, so that once it's on and you have adjusted the chinstraps, browband, and throatlatch, it simply does not move. You could MAKE it move by forcefully pulling on one rein, I suppose; but we don't ride that way.

With longeing, it is a different matter -- it is inevitable that the horse is going to ying when you yang sometimes, or that the greener horse or the ruined horse is going to lug outward, or even charge outward, and pull on the longe line. These are the very horses that most need to be schooled in the longeing cavesson, however. The ways to address the problem are:

1) If you know or you reckon he's going to charge, pull, or lug, then attach the line to the lowest ring to the inside, so that the pull comes straight across his head. The ring that will turn the cavesson the easiest is the one at the center-top of his nose. We would eventually prefer to use this ring all the time, with the longe line functioning as a draping rein, but that is longeing as for a finished horse and might have to be worked up to.

2) Design the cavesson with a Y-fork jowl strap. I've never seen one that had this so have been tempted to get my local leather guy to modify one for me. The "Y" branches would face upward. You can tighten a strap that goes across the horse's jowls until it is very snug, and not hurt the horse at all. You can't do this with a chinstrap -- when adjusted, that strap can only be snug enough to slip a finger under. I would place the tips of the "Y" fork so that the front one was a little ahead of the notch where the jowl muscles blend into the horizontal ramus of the jaw. The rear tip of the "Y" fork would lie just at the rear corner of the horse's eye. The rear branch would also have quite a bit of slant to it, so that when the buckle was tightened most of the pull would come on the forward fork. But the rearward fork would still function to hold the cheekpiece down and help prevent it riding up into the horse's outside eye.

3. Design the cavesson with a deformable "memory plastic" inside of the noseband. The stuff should have the working qualities of lead -- without the weight. I want to be able to shape it with my hands so that it will exactly conform to the shape of my horse's nose, but then I want it also not to deform, to keep its shape, even when the horse might lean on it during longeing. Maybe it could be formed of something you had to heat up to shape it, and then when it cooled it would hold its form. If I were doing it this way, I'd go right ahead and have the naked plastic with no padding. Then in the box with the directions, I'd have a roll of padding, not too thick but like moleskin, that you could then Velcro onto the plastic noseband. A lot of padding is not needed, you see, when the noseband fits exactly -- because when it fits exactly, it does not ride around. Goes without saying also that the plastic noseband would have good-quality reinforced terrets with rings at 5 positions: center top nose, directly to either side, and halfway between on both sides.

Well, Adam -- here you go -- maybe you can design us a prototype for something like this! I'd love to try it out and work for its R&D, because such a tool sure is needed.

While we're at it, we could also, by the way, do the 18th-century thing that Eyjolfur Isolfsson does at Holar College in Iceland, and design flat C-plates into the side of the cavesson, so that it would then not interfere with/crowd the bit. This makes it possible to school the horse really properly, i.e. the longeing function then assumes a more minor role, and you are really using it as a riding cavesson. This allows you to bring the horse along in the four reins, just as in the European classical High School and in Buckaroo horsemanship, which is merely an American variant of the Iberian variant -- the two reins, the four reins, and finally straight up in the bridle. Food for thought! -- Dr. Deb

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Hello All,

The noseband with rings pictured above is not what we would call an English hackamore in England!

The photo below shows an English hackamore (fitted a bit low and a bit loose!).

In the UK we have no tradition of riding bitless, so are unfamiliar with bosals, sidepulls and all the other bitless bridles that Dr Deb has mentioned. Until the last decade or so hackamores such as the one pictured would only have been used as a last resort when a horse was so traumatised it couldn't be ridden in any bit! The other type of hackamore commonly found in the Uk is a German hackamore, which has longer shanks (some up to 10"!!) and are often used by show jumpers.

You would be hard pressed to find anything resembling the noseband with rings in any tack shop, and would have to get one specially made if you want one here.

More recently, XXXXX crossunder bridles are becoming more common. The other thing you see frequently now in the UK are people under the influence of a certain XXXX person, riding in knotted halters.

Dorothy

Dorothy, I have edited the content of your post because it is forbidden to mention the names of either of the persons you named in this Forum.

The proper name of the rolled noseband with rings in the illustration above is 'jumping hackamore', not 'English hackamore'. In America, the device you illustrate in this post is called a 'mechanical hackamore', not something we would ever under any circumstances like to see used. The crossunder bridle is also something we would like to never see, because it is no. 1 very badly designed so that it does not promptly release, and no. 2 because it is absolutely a waste of money, since anyone in three minutes can learn to twirl the horse's head in an ordinary snaffle bit and/or in a good sidepull. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: English Hackamore.JPG (Downloaded 755 times)

Last edited on Tue Mar 2nd, 2010 08:07 pm by DrDeb

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Dorothy wrote:
More recently, XXXX crossunder bridles are becoming more common. The other thing you see frequently now in the UK are people under the influence of a certain pp person, riding in knotted halters.

Dorothy


And what about those XXXX devices?  I have not seen one that I like as I don't see where they offer a full release but many people ride in them and seem quite happy with their horse's response.  Dunno....

I am a fan of a good side pull because of the design.  On a brief stint as the equine director at a mountain resort that offered trail rides, I took horses out of mechanical hackamores and put them in side pulls.  I swear those horses breathed a sigh of relief when I did this.  One horse would not stand to have a hackamore put on, (difficult to bridle) when I put him in the sidepull he was a breeze to bridle.  Who says horses can't talk!

Kathy

Last edited on Tue Mar 2nd, 2010 08:08 pm by DrDeb

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Here is a photo of the bridle I ride my horse in.

I made this originally as a crossunder bridle, having got very irritated with a design fault in an early Dr Cook bridle. I may have inadvertantly improved on the function, as the way I have stitched the rings on puts them rather further back on the horse's head, meaning that the crossunder straps make a much less acute turn as they go through the rings, 90 deg or less. The makes them release more easily, and I never felt I had a problem with them releasing quickly enough. If the rings are further forward on the head, the straps make a more acute turn - almost 180 deg, and can get stuck.

In the past year though, I have found that Solo goes better with the reins just attached to the rings as shown. I have also made a sliphead, so that I can add a bit.

I like the Y where the cheeks attach to the noseband on the Josh Nichol bridle, though I do not find that my noseband does twist down, nor does it rotate around his head, inspite of being done up relatively loosely. However, Solo is extremely light and responsive to ride, and I never need to take up enough of a pull to cause this, which could be a problem on a different horse.

Is my bridle what you would call a sidepull? (I call it a Marks pattern bridle!!)

Dorothy

Yes, Dorothy, it is OK to refer to an jumping hackamore as a sidepull. 'Sidepull' is the generic term. The outfit you illustrate here is the other form of jumping hackamore, the type with a flat noseband. The flat noseband can either be just a flat piece of leather or it can be padded. This is the same outfit I rode my old Painty Horse in for years. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Solo Bridle websize.jpg (Downloaded 756 times)

Last edited on Tue Mar 2nd, 2010 08:11 pm by DrDeb

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Dorothy, We have the type you sent a picture of too. I believe they are generally called english jumping hackamores here. We have another contraption called an Arabian S hackamore. It has an S shaped side piece with either a piece of rawhide, leather or biothane over the nose piece, a chin strap which is most often a chain but can be swapped out for something else and a thin wire that holds the 2 sides together so that they don't flip outwards. I have one somewhere in my scrap pile.
Clara

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Hi Kathy,

our post crossed in the ether!

I will find a photo of a XXXX to post, though I know from previous threads that Dr Deb does not rate them, partly due to the slow release, and also because the crossunder straps can cause confusion for the horse when head twirling, the direct pull on the ring on the side you want to twirl to is ok, but the pressure on opposite cheek of the crossunder strap potentially asks the horse to twirl the other way. Not great.


Clara, yes, I too have the one you describe called a 'Little S' which I did buy from the US


Dorothy

Dorothy, please stop mentioning the name of a forbidden person. We do not mention these names here because mention constitutes implicit advertising for a product or person of whom we do not approve. You may discuss in generic terms only, i.e. 'bridles that do such and so'. No product of any type, whether we approve of it or not, can be mentioned here by name, because we are not engaged in advertising. We do mention items made by our own approved clinicians when those items are of high quality and recommendable for the benefit of your horsemanship and the horse's welfare. -- Dr. Deb


Last edited on Tue Mar 2nd, 2010 08:14 pm by DrDeb

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Dorothy wrote:

Is my bridle what you would call a sidepull? (I call it a Marks pattern bridle!!)

Dorothy

Nice job Dorothy.  Here is what I would call a sidepull (from Josh's site, you can't see the rein rings though)

Attachment: sidepull_01.jpg (Downloaded 745 times)

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Take my advice, and don't bother with the crossunder pattern. Year and years ago when I was still smitten with the "bitless is best" thought pattern, I spent a lot of time improving the release of a bridle like this.

Replaced the piece under the chin with yacht cord (new one on left, old on right)



Connection details:



Details of rein side:

Finish:



Know what? Still didn't work worth a darn. Though I know now that a proper sidepull would have been a much better option, when I switched my horse at the time over to a large ring, d-butt, french link bit, you could almost hear him say "oh THAT'S what you were rambling on about!". Communication was much clearer with the bit then in the other rig.
My advice - don't bother.

Adam: The man who makes these is certainly not 'good'. Your contribution here is otherwise of value. -- Dr. Deb

 

Last edited on Tue Mar 2nd, 2010 08:17 pm by DrDeb

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I think that I am re-inventing your wheel, Adam, and coming to the same conclusion!

I believe that the XXXX idea is to spread the pressure from the reins and the hand (!!) over a number of points / areas of the head. The downside of this is that it is not precise, and the horse does not get a clear signal. The best it can do is attenuate misguidedly heavy hand aids. It is not a refined tool.


Dorothy

Not so, Dorothy. The man who makes these bridles has one MAIN object, and that is to have more dough to retire on. They are not suitable for anyone interested in horsemanship -- end of discussion. If you find clients or students using them, tell them that they have the SAME utility as the running martingale: great for firing up the barbecue.

The reason why many people are attracted by or beguiled into buying patent gimmicks of all types is that they are not succeeding with their horses. Their animals brace and pull. The real reason for this is that the person has not learned how to use their own hands. If they read here, they will be taught that -- and they have a chance of learning it and putting it into practice too. But only if they stop larking off after gimmicks, hoping that the gimmick, rather than horsemanship, is what is going to do it for them.

The first step in abandoning gimmicks is to abandon all ambition, all goals, most especially competitive goals. You drop that and then the field becomes open for the horse to start showing you.

The first step in learning to use your hands is to learn to turn whenever he braces. So you need to learn what a braced neck, jaws, and tongue feel like and stop accepting that as 'normal' or even desirable. Unbelievable, but many dressage competitors, for example, and dressage wannabees too who are not good enough to win at a show but who would like to do that, actually believe that 'better contact with the bit' is what happens when the horse braces its neck and then leans forward onto the bit. Harry Whitney calls this 'the horse constantly trying to push the bit out of the way'.

So you turn whenever he braces, the instant he braces, and you stay in that turn, holding the inside rein with enough pressure to have some meaning to the horse, until he slows his pace, relaxes his neck and jaws. And when he does this then, no matter what direction you happen to be facing (assuming you are in an arena), then you drop the reins to slack and let him go.

If he's deep into bracing, it won't be three seconds until he braces again. You just repeat, and keep repeating until the message starts to sink in. It is very difficult for a horse to maintain a brace in neck or jaws if he is in a tight enough turn. How tight the turn needs to be depends upon the horse, the degree of brace, and the gait you are in/speed you are moving at the time.

Turning defeats the loss of balance which bracing implies, too.

Once you get to where you can address the reins -- which means 'take a feel of his tongue' -- without having him instantly brace up, you can begin your real work together. You do 99% of this at the walk, where losses of balance are less frequent and where the total speed and energy do not so much induce the horse to brace.

At the walk, you twirl the head. You invent every pattern in the arena you can possibly think of to do this -- adding where possible objects as well that you might be able to turn around, such as barrels or cones or poles.

You mix this with untracking, which is the master exercise. You untrack a few steps so that his haunches either go around his forehand or else he leg-yields a few steps -- on the lightest rein you can do, that still communicates. No heavy outside contact please; you must permit him to go into the outside rein, the inside hind leg drives him into the outside rein. Let the shoulder bulge out a little; you are really not going to teach him thereby to bolt through his shoulder. Only if he is confirmed in this evasion and you know it beforehand, do you require outside rein at this stage.

You make a quarter-turn on the forehand and then proceed at a walk. You might, for example, go down the track on the left hand, halt, turn on the forehand to the left one-quarter, which will face you to the centerline; then proceed straight forward at a walk until you reach othe opposite track; then turn on forehand one-quarter again to the right, and proceed.

Do zig-zags of two or three steps leg-yield up the centerline. Go two right, two straight, two left, two straight. If you went from 'C', when you get to 'A' drop the reins to the buckle and permit the horse to walk freely for twice as long time as it took you to go from 'C' to 'A'.

Back the horse frequently, one step at a time.

Ask the steps to shorten and lengthen and shorten again at the walk, with the minimum possible address of the reins.

You do this for forty minutes, and there is not a horse alive that will not have forgotten entirely that he needed to brace his neck. Only when you go back to grabbing up with both hands, trying to shove and push him forward, demanding that he 'track up', riding all the time above the tempo the horse can actually handle and stay in balance, and using the outside rein like a screwvise -- when you go back to that, when you go back to not caring or not feeling every tiny loss of balance -- then by golly, he'll need to go back to defending himself.

See to your own riding! -- Dr. Deb


Last edited on Tue Mar 2nd, 2010 08:33 pm by DrDeb

Seglawy Jedran
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Dear Adam: Kudos to you for showing in that picture undeneath the horses jaw, where the reins criss-cross- just where  that design falls apart and becomes icky. With the reins set that way not only do they not release, that is bind, but also they don't twirl the head- they instead twist the jaw to the outside.. Your photo helps me to see just what one doesn't want to do..
Thanks Again
Bruce Peek

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>3. Design the cavesson with a deformable "memory plastic" inside of the noseband. >The stuff should have the working qualities of lead -- without the weight. I want to >be able to shape it with my hands so that it will exactly conform to the shape of my >horse's nose, but then I want it also not to deform, to keep its shape, even when >the horse might lean on it during longeing. Maybe it could be formed of something >you had to heat up to shape it, and then when it cooled it would hold its form. If I >were doing it this way, I'd go right ahead and have the naked plastic with no >padding. Then in the box with the directions, I'd have a roll of padding, not too thick >but like moleskin, that you could then Velcro onto the plastic noseband. A lot of >padding is not needed, you see, when the noseband fits exactly -- because when it >fits exactly, it does not ride around. Goes without saying also that the plastic >noseband would have good-quality reinforced terrets with rings at 5 positions: >center top nose, directly to either side, and halfway between on both sides.

>Well, Adam -- here you go -- maybe you can design us a prototype for something >like this! I'd love to try it out and work for its R&D, because such a tool sure is >needed.

Something like a polypropylene rod bent over and welded back onto itself would work. Poly is thermoformable, so it should be fine (the battery boxes in my electric car conversion will be heat formed poly, for example).

You wouldn't be able to use a material that you could hand form because then when you used it on a sweaty hot horse, it would distort if he leaned on it. With the right thermo-poly you could drop it in a tub of boiling water and then mold it with gloves, or use a $15 paint stripper heat gun with a gentle touch (I used a heat gun to alter the fit of my ski boots - same concept).

Might not need to be bare plastic if you covered it in harness leather, since the added oils in that style of leather should hold up to the occasional dunk in water.

At any rate, while I have a great harnessmakers text, my leatherworking skills aren't quite up to the job yet (after the saddle project they might be). Would be a good project for next winter.

>Adam: The man who makes these is certainly not 'good'. Your contribution here is otherwise of value. -- Dr. Deb

You're quite right. Didn't want to refer to him by name, and I forgot that irony doesn't translate perfectly to the written word.

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Hello Dr Deb,

My apologies for the faux pas in naming that bridle, I'm afraid I got carried away.

Thank you for describing the process of removing braceyness - that is very interesting, and something that I will work with.

When you turn a horse that is bracing, at what height do you hold your hand? - I have seen you point out hands at navel level, is this still the level and direction of the rein aid in this situation?

Thank you, Dorothy

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Dorothy wrote:
When you turn a horse that is bracing, at what height do you hold your hand? - I have seen you point out hands at navel level, is this still the level and direction of the rein aid in this situation?

Thank you, Dorothy


Hi Dorothy, I know you asked Dr Deb this question but in reading her thoughts on braces, she said:  

"So you turn whenever he braces, the instant he braces, and you stay in that turn, holding the inside rein with enough pressure to have some meaning to the horse,"

I think that really does answer your question, you do enough to have meaning to the horse and the hand at navel level might not be enough for a particular horse, so you adjust your presentation until there is meaning and that involves some experimentation.  When I first started working with Harry and he had me working on what Dr Deb described, my hand might have raised up pass my shoulders in order to get a response from the horse who was stuck.   I know mechanics are important and there are certain things you don't want to do with the reins, but I suspect you are savvy enough to play around with this until you find what is meaningful to your horse.

A couple of years ago we coined this process which included untracking the hind and bringing the shoulders through, the "whole rigamarole" because a novice rider was riding her very worried TWH and she asked Harry: do I need to just get the turn or do the "whole rigamarole"?  For a while she did the whole thing because her horse could not let go of his thought and worry and be able to be directed, otherwise the horse wanted to careen around the pen. 

Have fun experimenting, I think you willl find these ideas/tools Dr Deb has offered to be very effective. (As long as you can recognize the change coming through, or your horse's try.)

I have attached a photo of the rider working on getting this horse to let go, so you could see where her hand is at that moment.

Kathy  

 

 

Attachment: the+whole+rigamarole.jpg (Downloaded 959 times)

Last edited on Wed Mar 3rd, 2010 06:53 pm by kindredspirit

DrDeb
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Kindred, the photo you show exemplifies exactly how I DO NOT recommend you use your hands. You are never, ever to do the following things that you can see the rider in that photo doing:

1. Raise the hand so high or pull so hard that you twist the horse's nose off plumb. The nose is NEVER to be allowed or encouraged to rise to the side.

2. Cross the manebed with the inside hand. Your left hand stays absolutely strictly on the left side of the horse, and the right hand stays on the right side. They are NEVER to cross to the other side under any circumstances.

The hands are to be carried at the level of the rider's navel, with a 90-degree or near 90-degree bend in the elbow when at "rest". If you have a horse that is stiff and/or green, you use an opening rein to explain to the horse very clearly what you want. You absolutely NEVER want what the rider in the photo is asking for -- that the horse twist himself up. This is horrible stuff that is characteristic of the very well self-advertised gurus and their schools that we do not recommend. This would be one major reason we don't recommend them: THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING, AND THEY WILL TEACH YOU TO HARM YOUR HORSE.

So you use an opening rein, which means you straighten your inside arm and you pull the rein to the side. Do not deform or leave your seat to do this, and don't lean over; just open your arm and hold it there. As the horse begins to comply, your hand then comes back closer and closer toward the "batter's box" in front of the navel.

As the horse progresses and learns to follow a feel, your hands will almost never need to leave the batter's box; you just turn your wrist or squeeze your fingers and he will follow that feel and even add to it. -- Dr. Deb

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Hi Dr. Deb, I am so glad to be able to exemplify something lol! You are right, this is not a good example. Can you remove the picture?  This is a novice rider who was with Harry at the time the photo was taken. He was guiding her through the exercise.  I have heard Harry ask a participant to bring their hands out to the side as you have described but sometimes in the heat of the moment the rider can only hear so much. I agree with all the points about where the reins and hands should be and I was taught not to cross the mane etc, etc.

Even though this nose is off plumb and the reins are not being used correctly, this horse was pretty stuck in his thoughts and way of going.  He could put himself in a bind pretty fast before letting go of a thought.

>This is horrible stuff that is characteristic of the very well self-advertised gurus and their schools that we do not recommend. This would be one major reason we don't recommend them: THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING, AND THEY WILL TEACH YOU TO HARM YOUR HORSE.<

As previously mentioned this was a rider working with Harry and is one moment of time on a horse that was very braced and mentally stuck. 

Kathy aka Kindredspirit


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No, Kindred, I didn't previously remove the picture because it is such an absolutely perfect image of what NEVER to do, and I want lots of people to see it.

Harry teaches nobody to do what this girl is doing. She IMPORTED this particular brand of ignorance to Harry's clinic, having learned it from someone from the school of riding that we deplore. This particular way of twisting the horse up is quite characteristic of that school.

YOU need to learn to recognize it, and so does everyone else here.

That the horse was having trouble letting go of his ideas is no reason to twist him up, and does not excuse it. Harry, I absolutely understand, had enough to do just to keep the rider on the correct side of the horse at all times (i.e., on his back), and it is very possible for a photo to be taken at a clinic at a point in the process of instruction before Harry would have had a way to begin changing this part of the student's mis-understanding.

Nevertheless, you have hurt nobody by posting the image, since you blacked out the person's face. If she is reading here, very well; she knows who she is, and can take this as her opportunity to hear it loud and clear that she needs to make a change.

When Chery Dodgen says in the thread on 'lessons learned at a clinic' that I told her she was cheating, it was because Cheryl was doing a version of this that I said that to her. For another characteristic of the school that we deplore is that, not only do they teach this misuse of the reins, they build on it and "refine" it so that at a later stage we see them dragging their horses through leg-yields by aiming, or actually crossing, the inside hand over the mane-bed. This is also sometimes taught in 'western' riding lessons, but it is wrong and damaging no matter who the person got it from. So I was having Cheryl ride around the group whose horses were standing bunched up in the middle, because those horses act like a magnet. Then I was asking her to leg-yield out toward the rail, away from them. She responded by trying to DRAG her horse out by means of her inside hand, and I told her 'you are cheating -- use your LEG.' A big problem a lot of riders have is that their legs are dead but they do not realize they are dead.

So another reason that the person in the picture above is having trouble getting her horse to give up its ideas, and pay attention to what she wants him to focus on, and go in that direction and hence toward its birdie, is that she's doing 100% of whatever she is doing -- with her arms. Note how 'stuck' the horse's inside hind leg is. If you watch 'em, you'll see that the followers of the school that we deplore 100% of the time are getting their horse's inside hind leg to step under the body shadow by pulling on the horse's head. They do this in ground school, they do it when they're longeing, and they do it under saddle.

And that's what this girl is trying to do -- and will succeed in doing: for if you pull on a horse's head hard enough, he will indeed eventually have to move that inside hind leg. And when he does move it, he will hop stiffly and then go right back to planting it -- and as a consequence not being able to turn loose of his ideas. TO TURN LOOSE -- DURCHLASSIGKEIT -- covers much more than just the physical. If instead the rider had control of the inside hind leg, the horse would have a LOT less trouble getting his brain loose and moving his ideas to where they should be.

The bottom line here is that we are all apes -- we want to swing off those reins by means of our arms, and our little old legs just hang down there like a chimpanzee, with nothing to do while he hangs off a vine eating a banana. -- Dr. Deb

 

Allen Pogue
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Relaxed, Ready, Willing

Hello Dr. Deb, et.at.

     In carefully re-reading the previous reply on this thread I was reminded by the importance of the following statement.

 "So I was having Cheryl ride around the group whose horses were standing bunched up in the middle, because those horses act like a magnet".

 Years ago I acquired a copy of book about "the finer points of riding" written by Henry Winmalen. It was a fast easy read due to the writer's talent for clarity and succintness, and so I felt I understood what the writer was saying. Six months after much practice I re-read a twelve word sentence and had one of those "Ah-ha" moments. Now I felt I had a much better understanding of the not so hidden meaning. Three years later I re-read the same sentence and sure enough a universe of new implications were obvious.

 In another message Dr Deb has reminded us that the way she learned to use the flag is to create a "vacuum" which the horse chooses to fill with his presence.

So in one instance horses were the magnet (for lack of a better term) in another it was a 'flag' . In a larger sense it can simply be the opportunity to move in a way that has been encouraged by instilling a work ethic.

 The attached picture should show a horse that was relaxed, ready and willing to go to work and when I got out of his way he became round, self-propelled and self-carrying. He seemed to truly enjoy the opportunity to move in a way that had been encouraged little-by-little over the course of the last couple years.

 The picture shows a delicate inward tip of his nose that he appears to be using  as part of his balancing act.

Allen

Attachment: Uno Liberty Pole.JPG (Downloaded 858 times)

DrDeb
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Allen, I always interpret this type of head-tip and the expression accompanying it as being that the horse enjoys seeing, and is positively amazed and delighted to see, his own foot up there. It amuses them, like as if they forgot it was their foot and then suddenly remembered. They chuckle about it and that's part of their motivation for repeating it.

The most important thing you said in this post was 'he began performing freely when I got out of his way.' That's 99% of the challenge -- to figure out how and where and by what we are being in their way, and then get out of it. The horse almost always already knows what we want!

"He would an' only he could" --!

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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I watched a very interesting documentary the other day called The Wild Horse Redemption - about a program in a jail in which the inmates train wild mustangs for both their benefit and the horses. It was taped for me by a friend who knew I was interested in horse training and I watched it expecting to see many inappropriate methods being used - which indeed I did, for although the head trainer seemed to be a rather good horseman, he was not always good at explaining the things he did instinctively to his pupils.

Anyway, just about the most interesting part for me was a man who was openly scared of the horses, but wished to conquer his fear, so he took one on to train. The interesting part was that he had clearly been told to "drive the horse forward" around the roundpen with the whip he had been given. What the head trainer did without realising, though, and what the inmate was completely missing, was the use of body language rather than whip to motivate the horse around the circle. Where the head trainer would confidently step towards the horse, making the whip almost irrelevant, the inmate would wave the whip in the hope that it would move the horse away, while all the while accidentally making himself as small as he possibly could, and even stepping away from the horse. Of course he was surprised - and terrified - when the mustang turned and ran towards him to fill the "vacuum" he was creating with his aura.

I'm not sure if I am explaining this properly, but it was an "aha" moment for me in terms of getting big and small: where many of the inmates were putting too much pressure on the horses and not relieving it enough, this man was doing the opposite - getting confused because he did not realise how important his aura was compared to the whip, which he thought was all-important.

PS - Allen, what a gorgeous photo. You can tell both by the slack in the line and the horse's delighted smile that the head-tip is not indicative of tension at all.

Last edited on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 11:07 pm by Helen

DrDeb
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Yes, Helen, excellent. It's more often with women than men that we see the "shrinking" that you describe but it is possible with anybody.

Next time you go out to free school your horse, pay attention to where your crotch is with respect to your breastbone. If you pull your crotch behind your breastbone, you are creating the vacuum. If you keep it level-plumb on line with the breastbone, that will read neutral-to-positive. If you push the crotch ahead, it says to the horse "you better move and I mean it right now".

The more you push your crotch forward, in most cases the more you will also lift your chest. The picture to have if you want the livestock to move away from you is that of a matador -- look how he stands up there, what posture he has. The matador does not hang the muleta-cape out at the end of his arms and retreat his crotch, hoping that the muleta is going to do the job just as the convict was hoping the whip would do the job. Even when the matador bends at the waist in order to extend his arm and have the bull charge through the cape, you'll see the matador's lower back rounded and his loins coiling.

And this, you notice, shifts us directly into the same terminology we use when describing collection in the horse. When the horse collects from the rear, then he is ready to move with full athletic competence, energy, and spring. You dance the dance you want them to dance -- but first of course, you yourself have to know the dance. Your observations show me that you are learning it very well -- Dr. Deb

Pauline Moore
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. . . and not just horses and people, dogs also will lift and arch their short necks in collection, to express joy and maybe humour.

That's a wonderful photo, Allen, thank you.  I wish I'd had a camera handy many years ago when playing with my TB gelding.  He'd had some feet problems so I was wanting him to stretch out and move as much as possible - I'd found the best way to motivate him to move well was in play.  Free within an arena, I'd run ahead of him for a few paces - he just could not resist the urge to catch up and then overtake me before I darted away to one side or u-turned back the other way.  After 10 or 15 minutes of this (while I was getting my breath back) he would inevitably start circling me, getting ever closer, taking on a posture identical to that I'd seen in my dogs when they play.    One foreleg would be extended straight and at the same time rotated in a small circle - the body was rounded, the neck arched, the nose tilted in towards me exactly as in Allen's photo.    It was easy to interpret this bodyshape as meaning 'this is so much fun, can we do some more?' as my dogs had taught me its meaning.    At the time I had a large dog, a ridgeback/shepherd cross who would take on that exact bodyshape whilst playing with either me or the other dog; his leg was extended and circled, neck raised and arched, snout vertical and tilted in.    It was fun for all of us - horse, dog and me.

Best wishes - Pauline

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I have also observed how very important a role breath plays in the big/small game with horses when working the horse - either from the saddle or from the ground. 

I use the breath and body posture to lunge my horses. Many times only a little breath and posture work is enough to slow a horse down very quickly to a complete halt.

I use a combination of the following:

Projecting energy with strong outward breath, erect proud stance, head and shoulders up and body square to horses body or slightly angled to face in the direction of movement, stepping mostly forwards while horse in movement and having eye gaze up (looking mostly at head/neck/body height) I find moves horses forwards more.

Releasing horse from being 'driven forwards' by softer inward breath, lowered head, shoulders drooped, lowered eye gaze, (looking at knee height) stooping/submissive body posture if necessary held at 45 degree angle to horses body, placing body a little ahead of horses movement and looking in opposite direction of horses movement and stepping  more backwards at times slows my horses down very quickly.

If I need to I do use a sweeping or flicking a lunge whip towards their quarters if they are sluggish, or using a calming voice if they are hyper for some reason, but when things are working well, neither the voice or the whip are necessary at all - and it is lovely and peaceful! The wonderful thing is, all horses seem to totally understand this method without any need to be literally 'taught' -  they pick it up SO quickly - so it must be very clear to them what is being asked! That said, I never lunge without carrying a lunge whip, but I tuck it under my arm or direct it backwards and only use it if I have to.

I am sure many others on this list do these kinds of things too, to work their horses on the ground, but I wonder if there are there any other things like this that I can do to help with the on foot horse/human communications?

Jacquie

Patricia Barlow Irick
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Ivy,
We have been playing with "wither lifting" in a horse video clicker training group I participate in.  I have in mind the type of collection seen in Oxidado belonging to Pedro Torres*, but I am trying to bring it out of my dumpy little hinny, Cracker Joe. To do this we pretty much deconstructed the whole into three basic areas: 1) changes to the poll; 2) changes to the humerus/scapula relationship; and 3) changes to the hindquarters (pelvis bone downwards).  with it defined like this, it can be shaped with positive reinforcement.

What is happening with our efforts is that we are getting to play with how it all works together. Like having a real Woody to play with! The coiling of the loins has been the most difficult to teach for my critter, but he loves this game.

I saw him out practicing on his platform when I wasn't even around!

What got me going on this to start with was exploring how much neck hyperflexion the animal would offer in exchange for a horse cookie. I wanted to understand that so I could think about the welfare issues of rollkur. It was too easy to get behind the vertical with positive reinforcement, but Cracker would not maintain it while moving.

As of yesterday we are at the point of having a consistent but small change in pelvis angle on the hips, an increase in the humerus/scapula angle, and start of a poll bend. He will put his nose behind the vertical, but I am now looking for correct curvature of the poll --- hard for him because he was rather ewe-necked to begin with! I am working on one area at a time in kind of an iterative process, looking for a little improvement. Since he was never the kind of animal to offer a collected posture on his own, I don't know that he will get to the point where it just feels like he should naturally pull it all together in a collected form, but what ever we get is a step up from his strung out normal look.

Anyway, it is very fun and kind of meets your request to find a way to train for collection at liberty. (but it might not translate into under saddle at all).

* google (Oxidado "Pedro Torres") to see this horse.


DrDeb
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Patricia, you should not be separating the actions, and you are asking for the wrong actions in the neck. Review again please what 'raising the base of the neck' means. In a few months, there will be three articles in Equus dealing specifically with this -- a 'mini series' on neck function within the general conformation series.

The reason not to separate the actions is that they are never separate. So if you separate them, then they become separated.

Horses collect their bodies for one reason, and that is that they are feeling joyful. I'm not a fan of clicker training, and this is one major reason why: it succumbs to the deadly idea that there is such a thing as 'behavior'. There is no such thing. There is only bodily expression that is the result of the thoughts or thought-feelings that the horse is having.

To cure a ewe-necked horse from getting behind the vertical, the very last thing you would ever want to do is encourage him to 'curl' his neck. This implies again that you do not understand what 'raising the base of the neck' means. Of course, that's understandable as very few people in all of history have understood it. Nevertheless, it is well understood by those who do understand it, so all you need to do is go get the proper information, vis., in Equus or else in the conformation DVD's; and if you don't care to learn it from me, you can try 'Academic Equitation' by DeCarpentry and read carefully.

To cure a ewe-necked horse from getting behind the vertical, all you need to do is cause the animal to raise the base of his neck. That will instantaneously and simultaneously cause him to have perfect head carriage, as the head carriage is (as I said) not a separate factor and not a factor that should be separated.

Moreover, raising the base of the neck is also a great help to the horse coiling its loins. The way to teach a horse to coil its loins, and to give him enhanced strength to do so, you back him one step at a time, and you perform slow up and down transitions, and you teach him shoulder-in. You can add liberty jump gymnastics using little grids of low cavalletti too.

Be assured, he already has plenty of capability to collect himself, else he could not canter. But riding and even liberty performance require more strength than most horses would need simply to locomote on their own; so as you work with the proper exercises, one objective should be to teach him to depart from a walk or halt directly into the specified lead. When he can do this, he will have enough strength to begin performing pirouettes or half-passes, and will perform them happily and comfortably because at that point they will be no strain.

With your totally unhandled mustangs, Patricia, I concede a utility for the clicker. With a broke horse, I'd rather not hear about clicker training at all, because as an experienced horsewoman, you don't need it, and by using it, you are crippling yourself. Get away from the clicker all you can, because that is the one and only doorway to finding your own true, personal power.

I will need to review the video you mention to see if the fellow's horse is something I could advocate; if not, the link and reference to him will be removed from your post. Remember our rule, please, about mentioning names not on our recommended list. One purpose for this rule is that I would like to have no example here that would not be truly beneficial. You can always check with me privately first to see whether something you think is cool is something I think should be posted. -- Dr. Deb

Patricia Barlow Irick
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We were able to finally figure out how to put something on him that we could totally visualize what we were trying for...... we tied a rod between his tail and his mane and watched the slope on it. That worked good.

The thing with clicker training is that it is addictively fun.  I don't actually use a clicker, just my voice. I think it's good to have both positive and negative reinforcement available as a training tool. It would be one thing if I wanted to get really serious about discipline, but my hinny isn't too demanding, so fun is high value.

Here is our progress today - you can see the little yellow rod:

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Hi Patricia,

I can appreciate the enthusiasm that you see coming from these horses, but I'd really advise staying away from trying to train any actions that are the consequence of collection as active things (the pose and such are good examples).

The horses can readily be taught to adopt the position that looks like collection, but actively placing the head in the position of collection isn't the same as the head adopting that position because the muscles of the topline are in release.

Good examples can be found on the cover of the riding book that the group uses - there are a couple horses there that are trying their guts out, and superficially look like they're collected if you look at their heads, but their backs aren't lifting and the the bases of their necks aren't either. They move softly, but they aren't collected in the sense that Dr Deb defines here.

A lot of these clicker horses are sweet and helpful, but you do have to take a big picture look at what's happening with them. Take a look at the underline of your horse's neck in that photo, for example - he's actively holding his head in position, but doesn't seem to be lifting his neck.

This photo might be good for comparison (Dr Deb pls remove if not), since my horse has a similar general outline. My hands are horrible (video tells no lies), but my horse is lifting up in preparation for stepping his front to the right.




DrDeb
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Adam, this is a very good contribution. Yes Tindur is definitely raising the base of his neck. And your hands are absolutely fine (excessive humility will get you nowhere).

The point you are making to Patricia, which I would not have been able to make since I own zero 'clicker' literature, is excellent. If they are all messing up by training head position, that forms yet another reason I would strongly dis-advise that particular school of thought or 'clique'.

Patricia -- I'll give you a suggestion if you want to keep on with your yellow stick. Train the horse to raise the center of his back so as to touch the stick. This will automatically cause him to do the following actions necessary to REAL collection, of which your hinny is just as capable as the flashiest Olympic horse:

1. It will necessitate his releasing the long dorsal musculature.

2. It will induce him to coil the loins.

3. It will induce him to make the correct effort with the neck, which is to raise the base.

4. It gets entirely away from addressing his head, which is the most vacuous of errors that people commonly make with respect to collection.

Collection has absolutely nothing to do with where their head is -- believe me. Where their head winds up is a SIDE EFFECT. It is 100% of the time an error to train the side effect, especially while ignoring the truly necessary parts. It is not only naive, it is ultimately going to prevent him or at least make it very difficult for the poor animal to find the right responses.

Other naive and damaging confusions of SIDE EFFECT with the core elements that determine true collection, are to think that:

1. The slower a horse moves, the more collected he must be (This is the Western Pleasure error. True, a truly collected horse does move slower mph forward than one less collected, given equal energy output; but the slowness is not the cause of collection).

2. The higher a horse carries its poll, the more collected he must be (This is the Three Gaited and Saddle Seat error. True, a truly collected horse can have quite a high poll but that height must be built upon raising the base of the neck; the poll must be supported by the base of the neck, and that in turn by the coiling of the loins).

3. The higher a horse carries its knees at a trot, and the more sharply it flexes its hocks, the more collected it must be (This is another Saddle Seat error. True, the more collected a horse is, the higher and sharper will be the action at knee and hock, within whatever conformation the horse has to begin with; but forcing the knees and hocks to bend, or individually training them, actually causes a hollow back. Training the SIDE EFFECT instead of the true effect will ruin the horse).

I appreciate all the fun you are having and I sure wouldn't want to diminish even one iota of that, Patricia. But please re-orient and devote your fun training to training the right things. It is clearer and clearer to me that you do not understand what raising the base of the neck means, so, besides Adam's good example given, I attach a couple of the images that will be coming out in the neck conformation-and-function miniseries.

And Adam, Tindur's neck conformation BTW is nothing at all like Patricia's hinny's. Her animal really does have ewe-necked conformation, which means that the base of the neck is set anatomically low. Tindur's neck base is set anatomically high. Tindur's photo did get in the layout -- I have just reviewed the PDF this evening in fact -- so you can look forward to seeing him in there in the May, 2010 issue. One of Natalie Howard's horses is in there too. I'm grateful to everybody who has submitted photos, it is tremendous to have a whole spectrum to choose from for each individual conformation feature. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

The first file, attached to this post, shows an American Saddlebred gelding that has good conformation but poor posture. He exhibits so-called 'elk necked' posture, i.e. he is dropping the base of his neck.

Attachment: Neck no1 Fig 07A Elk Neck Saddlebred.jpg (Downloaded 755 times)

DrDeb
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And this 60 year old photo of the great old Arthur Konyot shows him on the American Saddlebred gelding 'Colonel Washington'. This is just about the highest poll position I ever saw, which is both high and correct, the poll being pushed up from a base which is continually trying to rise.

The horse is passaging, a movement which involves large range of motion of the freespan of the back, and the phase happens to catch him near the bottom of the downward oscillation. As a horse becomes more and more highly trained, and I mean correctly trained, the freespan can elastically flex downward and yet always reliably regain and then go upward past neutral with each half-stride of the trot. You have to remember this when viewing any horse in passage. The error of Saddle Seat is to think that the horse should look like this, or more hollow than this, continuously; and then to pile error on top of erroneous belief, by confusing cause and effect, and thus choosing to first 'break the horse back' at the base of the neck, and pound the back down to ensure that it remain hollow, and by that means get the knees up. Totally and utterly backwards, to the great discomfort and destruction of many a fine horse.

You see why the ASB is my all-time favorite breed; it's tragic that there are so few purebreds around today who can present the substance of this extremely handsome horse. There is no breed in the world that passages as naturally or as effortlessly as the ASB, and yet by their rulebook today, if the horse passage even so much as to go get his ribbon, he is disqualified. Dressage and Saddle Seat, you see, are cosmic twins; and like the Queen of Hearts and the White Queen in the recent wonderful 'Alice' movie, they distrust and hate each other. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Neck no1 Fig 07B High Collection Konyot.jpg (Downloaded 752 times)

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I would like to contribute a useful analogy I read somewhere, which applies to any and all of the symptoms you mentioned. That is, that to ask a horse to curve its neck, or raise its poll, or lift its knees, and then call it collected, is like painting a lump of dough brown and calling it baked.

When I read it I found it very helpful in clarifying what was going on. Loving this thread.

Patricia Barlow Irick
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Next time, I will photo his position with his head lower so you don't all focus on that (or block the head and neck out) , but rather his withers to croup angle. That is what we were reinforcing, he is just doing the head thing on his own. He experiments with it all the time. I notice too that his front end is getting very light... he starts lifting a hoof and putting it near his chest, like he feels the pull to go upwards.  I should try to catch him at the very initiation of a canter and see what that looks like. Of course, I doubt that he actually does "canter". I don't know what that gait is because it cannot be ridden sitting down so getting a video of it would be useful.

Here is the thing about what "should or shouldn't" be done with this guy. Cracker is not a show animal, not a dressage animal, just a fat white mule that will do anything for a horse cookie. He does the Cha-Cha, the Hokey Pokey, jumps barrels on command, kneels to pick me up, and knows what it means when I tell him to stand in the corner. He goes in the house. He is capable of learning by observation. We have quite a few videos on YouTube of playing with Cracker.  It would break his heart if he found out that I wanted him to be a more serious student of humanship.

Last edited on Tue Mar 16th, 2010 07:07 pm by Patricia Barlow Irick

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Patricia,

Does he go out and make certain moves off on his own? In the pasture away from you?

Something you wrote prompted me to think about a gelding I have.  And I am sorry about this being off topic to collection and raising the base of the neck.

I am curious about a move my gelding does out on his own during a ruckus or extra cold days, I have no idea why he does this.  Does it feel good?  Is he frustrated?  He paws and looks like he is going to stand on his forehead.  (I bet Mr. Pogue would have fun training this one.)


I have included a picture.

Kathy

 

Attachment: bow.jpg (Downloaded 724 times)

Jacquie
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My gelding does this too. I think with him it is a frustration behaviour. He sometimes does it if he is tied up and his friends are elsewhere and he is angry about that, but more often he does it if he is frustrated about wanting to be being brought in from the field - he wants to be caught NOW, but I have only one pair of hands and 4 horses to catch and he has had to wait his turn ..... he throws himself into this position and paws madly with both front feet too. He has very little patience and is also closely bonded to my other horses.

Last edited on Tue Mar 16th, 2010 09:11 pm by Jacquie

DrDeb
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Kindred, I don't think your photo post is off topic for collection. Everything a horse does with the chain of spinal vertebrae has to do with collection.

From the photo, we could guess several possible reasons why your horse offers the plie bow -- that's what he's doing is called. To wit:

1. He's rubbing his eye

2. He's stretching his neck, back, and haunches (the primary reason we teach the plie bow), i.e. because it feels good

3. He is expressing submission to you or to a more dominant animal, as a dog will sometimes bow to his owner when the owner enters the room

4. He is goofing off, playing; the bow soon to be followed, or preceded, by buck-fart-run-off-kick-snort.

No matter for what reason he is doing it, on a physical level it comes to the same: it is good for him. The more regularly, and the harder, he is ridden or worked, the better it is for him. Also, if he's built with a low neck attachment, the better it is for him, for it will help him learn Spanish Walk, which will in turn help him to raise the base of his neck. If he has had laminitis, or a bowed tendon, or a pulled suspensory on either front leg, it will help him too, as stretching out the damaged tissues and restoring full range of motion.

So if your horse freely offers this gesture, then I would certainly want to see if he would not offer it also when you were standing right next to him. Because when you are standing right next to him and he does it, there is the opportunity and possibility that you can reward him for doing it. Just don't get greedy and kill it (always a danger, for all of us). If he does it for play, then you be sure that your sessions with him are also play.

Now, as to Patricia's reply: no one is telling you what your horse should do, Patricia. You are the one who submitted the photo; we did not solicit it. You are being so anxious to defend what the horse already knows that it is blocking your ears, I believe; you have missed my point. I think you should take your animal more seriously indeed, because he is absolutely beautiful; I want you to respect him more, and not think that all he's good for is trite little things. Because there is no such thing in all the world as a 'trick', any more than there is any such thing as a 'behavior'. All so-called 'tricks' involve mental work plus physical work; and the physical work that they perform affects the health and good functioning of their bodies into the future. So there is an equally high standard for doing 'tricks' as there is for doing 'movements', because there is no difference between a trick and a movement. They are all just things that horses do.

For your benefit, and maybe this time I'll be able to break through, I attach a photo of a horse rearing incorrectly. We know who trained this pony -- it was a horrible, rough, abusive man with a bad drinking problem, who regularly whipped his sons with a horsewhip. But he had enough talent with horses to get them to do things -- the same way he tried to get his sons to obey -- through fear and coercion, and all of that absolutely shows, not only in the pony's expression but in the very cramped, hollow rear. You see, when the horse is 'wrong' he will be wrong everywhere -- inside and outside. But the outside affects the inside, just as much as the inside affects the outside; this is why it is crucial to only teach physical maneuvers that adduce to collection, rather than to (as Helen so aptly puts it) 'paint the dough' by teaching things that are superficial results of collection rather than those things which lie at its core.

The pony's name is 'Chief', and I photographed him back in the 1990's, when he was at Harry Whitney's old place in Kansas to be re-trained. Harry did very successfully re-train the pony and he is now owned by other people. And to link Patricia's post with Kindered's, one aspect of helping Chief rear better was to always have him do it as a sequence bow-rear-bow, to help stretch out that tight neck and back. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Neck No1 Fig 09A Chief Hollow Back Rear.jpg (Downloaded 721 times)

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DrDeb wrote: Kindred, I don't think your photo post is off topic for collection. Everything a horse does with the chain of spinal vertebrae has to do with collection.

From the photo, we could guess several possible reasons why your horse offers the plie bow -- that's what he's doing is called. To wit:


2. He's stretching his neck, back, and haunches (the primary reason we teach the plie bow), i.e. because it feels good


No matter for what reason he is doing it, on a physical level it comes to the same: it is good for him. The more regularly, and the harder, he is ridden or worked, the better it is for him. Also, if he's built with a low neck attachment, the better it is for him, for it will help him learn Spanish Walk, which will in turn help him to raise the base of his neck.
Thank you Dr. Deb, I pick #2, I think he does it for his back.  He loves to stand on a pedestal as well.  I have another picture, not sure if you can tell from the photo of his neck attachment, but I would say it is on the low side.  In this picture he is struggling to go forward mentally but he trying really hard for Harry.  As a result of him not being freely forward his motion was more up than forward.  (A high lope?)

Attachment: Day 1.jpg (Downloaded 713 times)

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Hello Patricia

Having glanced back over your posts on this thread, I think I see where the confusion lies re increased wither height.  You mentioned a couple of times there was "an increase in the humerus/scapula angle" indicating you believe (if I'm interpreting you correctly) this is part of collection. 

Increasing, or opening, the angle between the scapula and humerus will have the effect of increasing the length of the entire limb which in turn will make the horse 'taller' in front - this is the exact opposite of the hindlimb joints folding to lower the croup thus making the horse 'shorter' behind.   Opening the scapula/humerus angle does not raise the base of the neck or in any way change its orientation from extension to flexion, or its position between the two front limbs.  The end of the rod attached to Cracker's mane will have lifted in relation to the end attached to his tail but this does not mean he has collected or raised his neck base, just that he has stretched up on his front legs - this will also alter the spine/pelvis angle.  Collection does not require any change in scapular/humerus angle.

Lacking clavicles, the withers can move up, down and sideways within the muscular thoracic sling - it's surprising just how much they can move.  I have seen horses whose neck base has dropped down so far between the front limbs that there is a visible and palpable dip between the two protruding scapular cartilages.  Conversely, the withers can rise quite a long way between the scapular cartilages when the neck base is flexed and thus raised.

This same misunderstanding can be seen in the posture of the horses belonging to that deluded Russian man who lives in a medieval time-warp - he believes his horses are collected where in fact all they are doing is stretching up on their front legs with their chins tucked in and their spines still in extension.

Hope this is of some help.

Best wishes - Pauline

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Wow, Dr. Deb, the two ASB photos you posted remind me of the "What's My Gait" threads from last summer that we had so much fun with:  from the Konyot photo, what you said about the passage being considered a form of gallop in centuries past; and the Saddle Seat ASB looks like he is supposed to be racking, but with one of his fores being the only weight-bearing foot, the only gait I can think of where that happens is a gallop also, although this horse isn't galloping or in a true gait.  There's a question in there somewhere, but I don't know where to put the question mark.

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Hi Dr Deb (and all),

There was no false modesty intended with the photo, my apologies - I just meant that it's been tough to cure myself of the need to hold my hands so high. I think it tends to get in my horse's way, and by getting him stuck in the neck a bit it contributes to the fact that he tends to walk his hind end forward a skootch every few steps turning on the hind leg.

I know I need to show him how to step around his outside hind a bit more firmly, and it shows in the photo since his weight is mainly on the LF/RH diagonal.

At any rate, we're working on it.

To bring it relevant to the thread, this turn is much easier to work in hand, since I find it easier to show my horse the weight shifts without my own balance getting in the way. It's been fantastic for freeing up his fore quarters, and Buck's Bridle Horse DVD's have been very helpful in this matter.

Thanks very much also for the opportunity to participate in the Equus column - been very much enjoying it!

Great thread folks by the way...

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Adam, geez, I'm teasing old bean. You're always really modest, I think.

Pauline -- yes, yes, yes. I've seen the same thing too: an ASB I was called to consult on once some years ago, for example: they had had him in a training device (locally called a 'developer') which is an overcheck, to train him to hold his head up. The trainer began by breaking the horse back at the root of the neck -- they check them back and first longe them, then ride them that way, and the bit is typically something pretty sharp, like a twisted wire or metal twist, so the horse is not inclined to lean on it. By the end of the treatment or course of training six months or so later, the horse will have learnt to hold its own head up and back all the time, so that the 'developer' can be dispensed with. As a physical consequence, the rhomboideus and trapezius muscles will be tremendously hypertrophied.

This particular horse was what is called a 'high tail', an animal bred and intended for three-gaited competition. Typically these are tall, narrow, very long-necked and rubbery-bodied horses, often to the point of insubstantiality. So they are not well defended in their physique to resist the treatment described above.

I was called in by the owner and her daughter, who had been trying to show this horse in the three-gaited competition. While always in the ribbons, they were never the class winner and this was bothering them. The main reasons the judges wouldn't use the horse was he would only take one lead, and, more serious to the way of thinking in that region, at the trot (which is the supremely important gait in that class), the horse would raise one knee noticeably higher than the other.

Now, we here all know exactly why this horse was doing this, so let me hear it in chorus. But, there was another factor also: so tight had the long dorsal muscles become in this horse, not only the rhomboideus and trapezius but the entire longissimus dorsi complex, that the entire thorax, as well as the base of the neck, were bowed downward to such an extent that the withers -- typically quite high in the ASB, as high as the highest found among TB's -- were completely sunken between the scapular cartilages. In fact, you could put your hand in an actual tunnel formed by the tops of the cartilages touching above the withers, and you could have poured a quart of water in there and it wouldn't have spilled.

The owners disconnected me, by the way, when I informed them that a good deal more would be required to help the horse than simply altering the weighting of the shoes (which is what they wanted me to tell them). This is the best example I have ever encountered of ignorance equating to blindness.

Let me suggest a way for Patricia, and anyone else in or out of the clicker/behaviorist crowd, who may be confused about the difference between releasing the horse's axial body so that it can rise BETWEEN the shoulders, vs. opening the angle between shoulder and humerus. And again, this is to dispel blindness: just look at a horse on those rare occasions when one may, in his happiness at seeing his owner, plie-bow and then, upon rising from the bow, stretch upward, arching his neck as he does so. Or occasionally you will see a horse "stretch up" if you rouse him from his afternoon snooze. A person needs to have their videocam-eyes always ready for stuff like this, because although dogs do the whole bow-stretch sequence fairly often, horses don't. But anyone who can see a horse stretch up, and remember the specifics of what composed it, could never again be confused concerning how Arthur Konyot's ASB in the above photo gets his poll so high, his face so vertical, and his neck so arched.

And yes Leigh! Great that you remembered about the link between passage and galope (not so much 'gallop', the racing gait, but galope, the manege/school gait). Galope goes: left hind, right hind, left fore, right fore. And why it goes this way is because the horse is SO sat-down behind as the result of coiled loins and flexed hind joints, and pushing SO firmly against the ground with each successive hind leg, that the fore part of the body is cantilevered elastically up. And it is up, floating almost, and it takes kind of a beat and a half to float back down there to where the left fore is finally going to touch. Now, if it were not floating so much, right hind and left fore would touch simultaneously; and then you would say, 'well it is a trot'. The canter contains the trot, just as the walk does; that's why the trot is really the least important of all the gaits, and all students who want to reach perfection need to be practicing mostly at these two gaits, and teaching their horse to walk with vigor but canter as slow as possible.

Just a great set of posts, everyone....a lot of good thinking going down here. -- Dr. Deb

 

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Hi Dr Deb, Ivy and readers,

I am really enjoying reading this thread!

I have had an interesting experience this winter which has been particularly hard here in England, and I had 3 or 4 weeks when I couldn't ride my horse due to the snow and ice. During this time I deliberately worked on exercises to help him with collection from the ground.

The exercises took 3 forms:

- Variations on the 'carrot stretches'. I used these more to get Solo to use his core muscles than to stretch him. The variations included taking his nose between his front legs at chest height, knee height and ground level, and also encouraging him to plie bow at the same time. I asked him to take a treat while reaching round to the side at girth level and further back and lower down. I also asked him to reach for a treat while I asked him to hold up the hind leg on the same side - this really made him use his tummy muscles, and those around the supporting hind limb hip joint.

- Sternal and belly lifts, holding for a count of 5, to activate the muscles that lift the withers and root of the neck. Loin coiling lift by scratching the muscles in his quarters or pressing on the sacro-coccygeal junctional area. I would also combine both these lifts, asking him to coil the loin first, and then reaching forward to lift from the sternum. I would also do a sternal lift while holding up a front leg. Solo has the most amazing range of movement in these exercise, I will try to get some photos.

- Head twirling at a standstill and while walking. Loin twirling and untracking. Turns about the forehand, turns about the haunches, and combining the two to get a 'leg yield' type movement. It got to the stage where we could do shoulder-in, then change the bend to renvers, all with him in good self-carriage and neck telescoping.

When I came to ride him again after the snow had gone, the difference in him was remarkable, even after only working on this every 2-3 days for 3-4 weeks. It has made a breakthrough in his lateral work under saddle, and his ability to collect in canter. Solo is about as ewe-necked as you can get, and has other conformational challenges, but he feels awesome under saddle - I am always so disappointed when I see photos or video of him, as he feels soooo much better than he looks!

I have recently talked with a lady who put this well: it is not about the conformation so much as the posture. A well conformed horse will find the posture of collection easier than a poorly conformed horse, but this horse may still have a better posture than a badly trained or ridden horse with perfect conformation.

Dorothy

 

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Yes, this is great, Dorothy: normal results really, but so few people -- even among those who read the literature -- seem to put the few simple essentials into practice. This is the science of training horses, and there is no other way whatsoever (because the horse's body is no other way whatsoever).

As to posture and structure: I have said for years (if you look in the old Principles of Conformation Books), and continue to say in the current conformation series in Equus Magazine: it is necessary to separate posture from structure. The conformation 'analyst' is literally never simply or only looking at structure, because the structure is alive, muscles and the balance of tonus are always mediating how that structure stands up there. If a person doubts this, then just look at all the bad museum mounts of skeletons: completely impossible that the animal's bones ever were arranged like that in life, but now that he's dead and there's just an armature holding his structure up, well, then it will be the armature that dictates the posture. There is always posture.

I'd love it if you'd send me a photo of your ewe-necked horse's conformation -- standard 'flat' shot from the side -- I've just turned in all of the neck articles, so it's too late to include him in that, but there'll be a book hereafter so I am always on the scout for great exmples of bad structure ESPECIALLY where the owner reports good results in training despite the structure. When the weather's a little better, I'd also love to have somebody take a photo of you riding him, catching the horse in 1st beat canter and also at the trot -- the 1st beat canter will flatter him, the trot will not, but those two shots will let us know where he is really at as to rounding up and raising the base of his neck. Thanks! -- Dr. Deb

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Dr Deb , I looked up the horse Oxidado, whom Patricia mentioned, and assumed you approved since it remained on the post. He was performing a working equitation speed test Beja 2008 on a youtube video. He seemed so coiled I thought of a rabbit at times ( the galope?), and when he backed up quickly, he almost sat down.

       My horse's dam was a Belgium Draft horse, and I was told they tend to be pigeon toed because they were bred to be " row walkers". He has always been toed in, more on the left than the right, but since he has been doing the plie bow it seems less pronounced. Could that be a consequence, even at age 19?
                      
                                                               Jeannie

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Here is the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5895K-Xjupk

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Dear Jeanie: Hooray for you, wonderful , " test" so to speak! Watching that ride you can see why the guns and germs and steel author, maintaned how terrifying it would have to have been for the native american armies to go up against the spanish conquistadors....
Also if Joe from Texas ( another cavlary buff) can get a chance to look at the video i would like his opinion on how much more suitable the speed test would have been for working meduim and heavy cavalry than the three day event test stuff that a lot of us were exposed to.. Am thinking that the three day stuff was as Mairinger said, essentially based on chase and pursuit of messengers and order carriers over difficult terrain..
Also Dorothy from Bath, how are you doing your sternal and belly lifts? I had been trying finger tucks and ticklish stroking..
Thanks
Bruce Peek

DrDeb
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Jeannie, anything that affects the horse's spinal posture will affect the posture of the limbs as a side effect or consequence.

The explanation you have received as to 'why' Belgian draft horses often toe in, is a good example of the spurious explanations-after-the-fact that we get so much of around the training barn. People are always after explaining why things are the way they are, so they make something up out of thin air which seems reasonable to them, but for which there is no basis whatsoever.

The reason Belgian draft horses, or big-bodied horses of any breed, will often toe in is because their thorax is wide and more cylindrical than that of other horses.

When the fore part of the ribcage is wide, it angles the rear aspect of the scapula more outward, and also tends to diminish the armpit and push the elbow out.

When the elbow is pushed (rotated) out, the carpus, ankle, and hoof will be rotated in.

This is because horses cannot supinate the manus; in other words, because their radius and ulna bones are fused together, they cannot leave their elbow in one orientation and rotate the distal part of the forelimb independently of that. In a horse, if the elbow is carried inward, the entire forelimb below that point (consider it as a vertical cylinder) must rotate out. And vice-versa for the horse that toes in; if the elbow is carried outward, the whole of the limb below that point must rotate inward.

If this is not clear, I invite you to get the "Conformation Biomechanics" video and study it, for in that I devote a very clear explanation to it. And one thing that I say in there is that I devote several segments to teaching this concept, because since I am the first person in history to have realized/clarified this point, I do not expect people who have been looking at the wrong/inadequate/misleading illustrations that are present in all currently existing books other than my own, to immediately understand it.

I have posted the crucial illustrations also in this Forum previously -- here's the link: http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/forum1/10.html

As to the effect of the plie bow in diminishing the amount of toeing in -- horses that actually 'bulldog' -- which is beyond that amount of outward rotation of the elbow which can be attributed to the shape of the anterior thorax -- have an imbalance in tonus of the pectoral muscles, the opposite of the horse who toes out. The horse that toes in/elbows out markedly, like a bulldog, has too low tonus; the one that toes out has too high. The plie bow helps either type, by assisting the horse to stretch the pectorals and all the 'bridging' muscles that attach the scapula and humerus to the body wall, and thus optimize the tonus.

A horse that toes out (or toes in) more on one side than the other reveals that in him there is also a crookedness component. In the horse that toes in, he will be leaning toward (bowing his ribcage outward more toward) the elbow of the limb that toes in more. It is the opposite with the horse that toes out -- this horse is leaning away from the limb that toes out more.

So, bottom line, I encourage you to keep on bowing the horse, a couple of times every day you're around him if you can do that and not wear out the horse's enjoyment of it. Other exercises that will help the horse toe-in less is lots of leg-yield or little half-turns at a walk over the haunches, either of which asks him to fairly strongly adduct and then abduct the individual forelimbs. -- Dr. Deb

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Thank you, Dr Deb, for the correct information on toeing in. It makes sense,especially after looking at the illustrations in the 2007 post. There are so many beliefs and myths that are trotted out as facts in the horse world, you would think science would catch up a little faster. That's why we're all here!

At different talks of yours that I've been to over the years you advised people to go home and train their animal themselves and teach them tricks. I thought," well I'm already doing that, so I'll just keep on". I think I took you a little too literally, or I would have found the forum earlier.

The toeing in has improved over the years with ground work exercises, but adding the plie bow made the most noticeable change in less than a year.
                                Jeannie

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This is a great thread!  Yes please Dorothy, can you please tell us how to do the sternal lifts.  I have heard of the belly lifts or are the sternal/belly lifts the same thing?  I am learning so much as usual.  I have a couple of images of a horse doing the dog stretch, while getting treated  by a horse massage therapist and a small pony doing the big streatch when they first get up, raise the base of the neck and sometimes lift a hind leg then stretch it out behind them like a ballet dancer.  If any one would find the images useful I will have a go at posting them.  The image of the horse doing the bow in the paddock is great, can really see the 'bow' in its back and how good this must be for them.  Thanks.

Regards Sam.

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Hi Sam,

I think that the sternal lift and the belly lift are variations on a theme. I know of people who link them together by stroking or scratching along the sternum from between the front legs backwards, and the horse gradually lifts further backwards.

I tend to keep my fingers still at a specific point when I ask for a lift, so I can ask further forwards, which will tend to encourage root of the neck / thoracic sling lifting or further backwards, which will tend to encourage abdominal muscle activation.

I also ask the horse to lift from the very front of the sternum, so, low on the chest in front of the front legs, and aim the lift to just behind the withers. This is quite a subtle lift, but I think most accurately isolates the root of the neck muscles from the thoracic sling muscles.

I will try to get some pics when I can grab a photographer!

I hope this is helpful.

I'd love to see your pics of the bow and the stretch - I have seen my horse stretch like that, first really raising the base of the neck and flexing the poll, usually with a big yawn, followed by flattening the back and stretching out a hind leg while reaching forwards with a telescoped neck, usually followed by a good shake! Its fab to see.

Dorothy

 

Last edited on Sun Mar 21st, 2010 10:47 am by Dorothy

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I agree with Dorothy, watching a horse stretch is very enjoyable for me.  They have so many variations and I will watch closely whenever I chance to see this, ususally after a morning snooze standing in the sun.  All very cat and dog like.

I have a question about what takes place in the body (specifically geldings, that is all I own) when asking them to yield laterally from the ground.  If I ask my main horse to step over equally front and back, untracking the hinds midline with a slight bend right say if I am asking to the left. Often, OFTEN this horse will drop his penis fully and I have also had him become erect.  Now I have read where this is a reflection of where his birdie is and it is not necessarily a good thing (and it seems the full erection is more that) but it also seems he is more relaxed after the movement when he is just fully dropped.  I can't quite figure out why, but I have had a massage person say it is an indication of his happy meter and you are on the right track in what you are doing massage wise.  So I think some of this is good but the extreme end of it (belly slapping, sorry for explicitness of this) may not be.    This also will happen when asking for some lifting of the shoulders and fore arm in learning Spanish walk.

Thanks for any insight,

Kathy  

 

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Hello Kathy,

How interesting that you have experienced this with your geldings. I have noticed that when I do the in hand exercises, in particular the loin coiling, belly lifting, sternal lifting and carrot stretches, that Solo will frequently let down his penis in a very relaxed way. He never becomes erect or excited. I feel that he is in a calm, relaxed and OK state when we are doing these exercises, and seems very 'grounded' afterwards. I have never noticed him 'letting down' in any other situation in particular, but this has happened regularly.

I have no idea what to read into it, I had just thought 'how interesting'. Maybe Dr Deb can throw some light onto why this happens.

Dorothy

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Hi Kathy and Dorothy,
        Yes, my horse has done this for years, any time he is being groomed with my hands, or doing ground work. I think it is a sign of relaxation and pleasure on their part, just seeing me coming across the pasture will elicit dropping, I think because he is already anticipating me running my hands over him, which is usually what I do after I ask him to come to me from a few steps away.

I have even noticed other geldings who didn't do it before learn to do it by watching him. Other geldings who do not get much attention from their owners will stand on the other side of the fence while I am doing something with him, and seem to get a vicarious enjoyment out of my horse getting touched gently. I was thinking about this the other day.

 I think horses enjoy doing things with us next to them. I can sense a shift in his attention and attitude as soon as I send him away, it takes a few seconds to get it back, and I notice he will try harder to give me what he thinks I want him to do if he knows that I will release him as soon as he does it and let him come back.

 I just can't understand what people who chase their horse around a pen with a whip before they ride so the horse will be tired and "safer "for them to get on think they are accomplishing. I used to clean stalls at a dressage barn to support my horse, and I would see this all the time. Of course the horses were always looking out over the fence, going crooked. No one wanted my opinion. I was just the manual labor.

                                                Jeannie

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Thank you Dorothy, that will be very helpful, will have a play.  Once I get a bit more time I will have a go at posting the photos.

Best Wishes

Sam

 

 

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Hi Folks,
  Well, I had the image of those horses being run around the pen stuck in my head, so decided to think about what the people were really doing. They were trying to tire the horse's body out, thus hoping he would be safe to ride, rather than working with the whole horse. What Tom Dorrance and Dr Deb would call "surface workers". So in this case the pen was a piece of equipment just the same as a gimmick you would put on the horse was a piece of equipment to get the horse to comply without teaching him anything in a way he could understand.

          There was always lots of barn drama there, who got bucked off, dragged, kicked in the head. They would say, " oh but the horse didn't mean it", which I thought was hilarious, because who heard of a horse doing something it didn't mean?
                                  Jeannie

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Hello Dr Deb,
In order that I may be better informed I was wondering to whom you were referring when you mentioned 'very well,self advertised gurus and their schools that we do not recommend'. Were these Western orientated 'gurus'or apparently Classical ones? I ask this question in all sincerity,
with thanks,
Sandy.

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Sorry, Sandy -- we absolutely do not name names of people whom we do not recommend. This should be obvious. Also, it is strictly against the rules of this Forum to name anyone not on our recommended list and/or approved by me; or to talk about anyone, recommended or not, in a negative or critical manner. You can sure ask questions, but you cannot be critical or snide. If you go to a clinic led by one of our recommended people and you don't understand something or you think you disagree with something, that's fine -- if you want to talk about it, write in and ASK about it in terms not of the person but of the material itself. So your question would not be "why does clinician X do this" but instead "I was at a clinic recently and the clinician talked about an 'exploding box' and I didn't understand that...."

In short -- if you don't already know the people being referred to in my above post, then it won't hurt you at all to go right on not knowing. If you did already know, why then -- you know whom to stay away from.

To put this the other way around, what I try to do here is name the names of people we DO recommend. I'd like to speak in positive terms. Then you'll have a great idea of exactly where you can go to get the best help.

By "best" I not only mean a level of expertise that is good to excellent, but also that the teachers whom we recommend meet a very high ethical standard. In short: they do not self-promote, they do not tolerate people trying to adulate them or make them into gurus, and they care more about advancing you and your horse as a team than they care about whether they got credit for doing it. We recommend only people who are not involved in pyramid schemes or licensing schemes. We recommend teachers who will not take your money and then walk away; they are here for the long haul, just as I have been.

So my suggestion to you on this is you go over to the main part of our website by clicking on the "home" button above. Then click on "Friends of the Institute" and download the PDF document that gives names, bios, qualifications, interests, and contact details for all the people who have earned our recommendation.

And good luck and have fun; that's what being around real teachers mostly is, because when they tell you to do something and you obey, well, it's just liable to work. -- Dr. Deb

smithywess
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Thank you Dr. Deb. I read the 'Home' site with great interest. I must apologise for not having done so before I asked my question.
Sandy.

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Hello Dr Deb and readers,

A while ago in a post I described some exercises that I do with my ewe necked horse which have improved his ability to coil his loin and lift the root of his neck, and Dr Deb suggested I post some pics of him in trot and canter. I have now managed to get a photographer and a school at the same time, and have some photos. Dr Deb, you suggested the first beat of canter - why is this sooo difficult to catch?!! These canter pics are not the first beat, but are not as unflattering as they could be!

The first is a conformation picture of Solo (10 yo Anglo-Arab)

The second and third show trot and the fourth and fifth, canter.

I am always disappointed when I see photos or videos of Solo as the feel he gives is so much better than how he looks, maybe I am just used to him, but he really does not feel as downhill, especially in canter as the photos would suggest. I would love to be able to 'bottle' the feel he gives and send you that instead!!

I welcome your comments.

Dorothy

Attachment: Solo.JPG (Downloaded 697 times)

Last edited on Sat Apr 17th, 2010 06:56 pm by Dorothy

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Solo in trot

Attachment: S trot 1.JPG (Downloaded 691 times)

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Solo in trot

Attachment: S trot 2.JPG (Downloaded 686 times)

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Solo in canter

Attachment: S canter 1.JPG (Downloaded 685 times)

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Solo in canter

Attachment: S canter 2.JPG (Downloaded 688 times)

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Dorothy, gotta love a dapple gray! I have a question for you. What do you make of your horse's expression in all the photos you posted?  I ask this sincerely and curiously.

Kathy

 

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Hello Kathy,

Yes, I was interested to see the expression on his face, and I am not sure exactly how to interpret it. These photos were taken on a course, and in this lesson we were working with rather more energy and flow than usual. He felt totally 'OK' with this at the time, even though it was stretching him (and me) somewhat. He did find this amount of power in canter harder than in trot, but I got the feeling that he was enjoying the movement, and was offering me more trot than I was asking for.

In the second photo, I think his ears are out sideways in a normal attentive way, in the others, I think he has them turned back a bit more, almost in a way of asking 'is this really what you want?', though I got no sense of any questioning or resistance from him while I was riding. I also think that the flash photography making his eyes shine give a weird effect!!

I am interested in your interpretation as well...  ?

Dorothy

 

Last edited on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 08:21 am by Dorothy

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Hi Dorothy,

I guess when I look at the picture of him standing, his expression is similar.  Perhaps it is the shape of his muzzle that affects the look he gives?  I know a gal who had a horse who recieved bad denistry care and when she finally was able to get him some good care his facial expression (and his hindquarter tightness) immediately softened.  She showed before and after pictures of his eyes and you could certainly see a difference.  I notice you are riding bitless, does your horse have any teeth issues? 

I understand the various looks we can see in a horse's expression when they are focused or thinking.  But I was puzzled that his look seemed the same in the conformation shot as in the others.  There is a look of tension or unease in that standing shot.

Kathy

 

 

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Hello Kathy,

An interesting observation! He had his annual dental check about 2 weeks ago, so in the time between taking the standing photo (about 1month ago) and the ridden ones (last week). He has a small bone cyst on the left upper bar, which is insignificant as long as I ride bitless, and is wearing sharp edges on the backs of his tushes, both of which are going to be attended to next month when I have the vet and dentist coming to deal with them under sedation.

His posture and expression in the standing photo are typical of him when he is not OK, so you are absolutely right there. I get a sense that when he is not OK, his Birdie turns around on its forehead perch, and faces backwards, burying its head. In this state, his eyes glaze over in a very non-seeing way and he freezes.

In the ridden photos, I don't think that this is the same. He felt totally OK, though processing hard. I got the feeling that he really was enjoying the himself in the movement, so I was surprised to see this expression. His expression of not-OK-ness in movement is very different from that when he freezes up, and is more like a 'frightened rabbit' look. He actually felt stronger and more 'available' in his body than ever before - so maybe he was concentrating hard on what we were doing, as it was taking his all. He felt totally with me, and instantly responsive to tiny requests for more or less 'go'.

Dorothy

 

 

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Dorothy, so maybe the riding pictures are reflecting the small amount of discomfort he has in his mouth, but did not reflect anything else.  I am glad you had a solid ride on him and he was trying so hard for you.  Maybe after the dental work is completed his expression will be different under saddle? 

The birdie explanation sure describes it though doesn't it? That going within.  I have a retired horse who is like that.  Those kinds of horses are the hardest for me.  I sure would rather deal with the ones that wear their emotions on their sleeves so to speak and you always can tell how they are feeling.  The ones that stuff it all inside for me take a lot  more to get through to, a really big challenge!

Kathy

 

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Hello Kathy,

It will be interesting to see if his expression does change after his sharp tushes are burred off. The other thing that I am suspicious of with him is whether he has some discomfort in his stomach. He is an anxious type, particularly out hacking, and is pushed about a bit by the others in the herd, which he really does not like, and I am wondering if the chronic stress is causing excess acid production or even ulcers. However the yard and school where the course was is very familiar to him, and one of the places where he is most OK.

I am working on his OK-ness when riding out, and I have a very good Homoeopathic Vet, who is visiting this week to talk about it. For the last 2 weeks I have given him activated charcoal, which is definitely changing how his food is passing through him. I don't think that it is coincidental that he felt stronger on the course, something is different, but he still may well have some stomach discomfort.

Incidentally, his diet is grazing on mixed grass pasture, meadow hay, damped grass nuts, alfalfa nuts and a mixed grass chop, so should not be contributory to stomach issues.

I also have to smile as I am one of the worst about staring at my horse's head and neck while riding, and I am usually very aware of what his ears are doing, but I have no recollection of noticing his ears or head in this lesson, so I must have been looking up more!

Dorothy

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Dorothy back to the originial topic, the base of the neck.  Your horse looks great in that area in all pictures but the standing one, so GOOD JOB!

Kathy

 

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Thank you Kathy

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Hello Dorothy

I ALWAYS have to stop myself from looking down when I am riding too - trying to bore a hole into the back of the horses brains I think! I also drop my hands too low pretty often too. There are SOOO many things to think about when you ride.

This picture shows me doing both no-nos on a gorgeous Andalucian stallion, but this lovely horse although not a saint, certainly is filling in for me at this point.

Attachment: me looking down while riding Embrujo.JPG (Downloaded 907 times)

DrDeb
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Dorothy -- I really am sorry that you were unable to get these photos taken sooner. I've already sent in the article to Equus Magazine dealing with ewe-necked horses, but wish I had been able to include yours as being a great example of what it is an example of (which I am going to explain below). Sorry for being so enthused over what most people would consider a 'conformation' flaw, but you must forgive me as I am a lifelong collector of such things.

Now, you like Stumpi in another thread accuse your horse of having a ewe neck, by which I am assuming you mean that his structure is the root-cause of his appearance. What I am first going to tell you is that real structural ewe neck is rather rare. 99% of all the apparent "ewe necks" that you will see are due to rider error, usually rider error that has gone on for years and years.

As with Stumpi's horse, I have extracted your photo Dorothy and run it up into Photoshop so as to be able to mark on it. From this I have produced two images so that we can first discuss the horse's bone structure and then discuss the wrong muscle development which is what actually gives your horse the appearance of being "ewe necked".

The photo attached to this transmission marks out the structure. You can see that there is quite a long distance from the base of your horse's throat -- where the windpipe emerges from his chest -- and the base of the breast. This proves that the animal is not structurally ewe-necked.

He is, however, rather "downhill" in build. This is why I asked you to supply a photo, if possible, of the animal in the first phase of canter. As opposed to third-phase canter, first-phase photos flatter -- because they catch the horse in the most "uphill" part of the gait, rather than in the most "downhill" part. I wanted to see whether, even when the camera catches your animal in the most flattering pose, he still MOVES "downhill". He is BUILT downhill about 7 degrees, which will certainly impose some training challenges (by no means insuperable).

Nonetheless I am actually rather glad to look at the third-phase photos, because this allows us to assess the functioning of the horse's back. In first-phase canter, the long dorsal muscle complex is working to the maximum, and therefore it is not fair to assess the degree of stiffness and strain that may be present in a given horse's back from such a photo. In third-phase canter, however, the long dorsal muscles are the most relaxed that they will be at any time during the canter, so that the photos you have provided give us very fair opportunity to assess.

On the "muscle" photo attached to the next transmission, you will see the big white arrow that points to the long, clearly-defined "dip" over your horse's lumbo-sacral joint. It is bounded by a sharply-peaked "peak of croup" (tuber sacrale), and anteriorly by a visible prominence of the fourth or fifth lumbar dorsal process. You will also note the "dip" in front of the horse's withers, which you have been (wrongly) attributing to structural ewe-neck. What all these things are actually signs of is stiffness and strain.

As a chiropractor, Dorothy, I know that you would be aware of pain or dysfunction or any chiropractically-addressable lesion in the horse's back or neck. However, this tells us nothing about the level of stiffness which would cause you to think that there was something that needed to be addressed. This is the same for inexperienced riders worldwide: they 'just assume' that "X" amount of stiffness is "normal" or "to be expected".

Not in my book. As an "inexperienced" rider is one who has never, by her own efforts, finished a horse, it is not to be expected that anyone who is still willing to submit to "schools" such as the one you depict should have a very high standard. Nonetheless, I will tell you Dorothy, that unless you raise your standards -- which means perfect your basics -- you will NEVER come to be able to finish a horse.

Which brings us back to what IS the deal with this animal, that I am claiming is not really ewe-necked. What gives him the ewe-necked appearance is the unbalanced maldevelopment of many of the muscles of the neck and back. I will mention more about this in the next post, which carries a second copy of the same photo, marked for this purpose. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Forum Dorothy Ewe Neck mark1 cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 906 times)

DrDeb
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OK, now let's discuss muscle development. I have marked this photo by tracing the outlines of several "key" muscles of the neck. You may rightly regard the development of these muscles as an exact meter of what the horse is actually experiencing when he is being ridden (as opposed to anything the rider THINKS she is doing or not doing. I believe the horse before I believe the rider).

The muscle marked in blue is the trapezius of the neck; that in pink, the rhomboideus of the neck; and that in green is the whole group of 'SEP' muscles that connect from the first and second neck bones forward onto the back of the skull.

All three of these muscle complexes are hypertrophied, overdeveloped. The trapezius pulls the shoulders up and forward into a "shrug", while it also reciprocally and powerfully pushes the base of the neck downward. The rhomboideus acts to hold the head up, and also, when contracted, blocks the base of the neck from rising. The SEP's cause the nose to lift up or push forward. They are large because you, Dorothy, are still riding with 'square' hands. You are trying to get the horse to perform, to do things. You have NOT, however, been spending any time on teaching him the small details (small details are the only things that matter) of HOW to do those things. You and your instructor try to fix problems at much too gross a level to be of any benefit to the horse, or to produce correct development in him.

The total picture from the muscles I've marked, plus the big visible dip over the lumbosacral area, tells me that he is not raising the base of the neck. All that is happening in the canter photos, that correspondents here have complimented you on because they too are unable to see it correctly, is that by holding onto the horse's head most of the time, with equal pressure in both hands, is that you manage to curl his neck up.

This type of horse I label a 'gravy boat': like a gravy boat, on one end it has a sharply-curved handle, while the rest of it presents a long, straight, stiff topline.

You may want to ask at this point why I did not color or mark the apparently bulging muscles that define the front aspect of your horse's neck. The reason is that these muscles (unlike trapezius, rhomboideus, and SEP's) are not hypertrophied. They are merely being warped into a bulging shape by the chain of neck bones pressing against them on the inside. The tightness in the trapezius and rhomboideus muscles, and their propensity to work way too strongly way too much of the time, is what creates the ugly forward bulge in the front of the neck, as well as the ugly dip in the topline of the neck.

So, Dorothy, here's the first day of the rest of your life. The first step I want you to take is to get rid of your present instructor, because the two of you are ruining this horse. You do not need any instructor, Dorothy; you need yourself.

Next, I want you to go buy Mike Schaffer's new book and do everything it says in there. Go to the thread in this Forum where Annie asks me to review the book, and I give a very frank review. Go ahead and read that. But then go buy the book and do everything it says to do in there. If you can possibly locate a copy (they are difficult to find), you should also get Nuno Oliveira's "Classical Principles of the Art of Training Horses." After reading and practicing what it says in Mike's book, you might be able to begin to "hear" Nuno, who is a world-master, and who tells you to do the exact same things.

I am not a master, but it will benefit you also to look in several of the recent threads to see photos I've posted of myself riding Oliver. They illustrate the giant hole that your horse is missing: BEND. You do not understand how untracking and bending are the basis for everything else, including the harmonious development of the physique. At all moments on horseback, because you BEND at all moments, the two hands of necessity have different feels and different jobs. Left and right, inside and outside, are NEVER alike. This is what it means not to ride with "square hands".

A six-weeks' course of just doing the first, most elementary things outlined in Mike's book -- learning how to CORRECTLY ride a circle and how to CORRECTLY pass through the corners of the arena -- will result in the dip in your horse's back disappearing. He will also stop cantering and trotting so very much "downhill", and the stiffness evident in the long dorsal muscles over the loins evident in your canter photos will disappear. When you look at the photos of Oliver, you see a horse untracking, and you see the untracking creating a deep and thoroughgoing bend -- so thoroughgoing that it not only affects the haunch and not only affects the neck, but it penetrates right to the crucial place, the ribcage under the rider.

You need to get to where you spend MOST of your arena time at a walk, consciously bending. You need to get the horse where it can fluidly change from left to right hind leg, which is to say from left to right bend, within one step. This will take some time, as you practice Mike's technique of "drifting" (leg-yielding) from one circle to the other (same technique you would know about if you had more familiarity with Buck Brannaman or a subscription to "The Eclectic Horseman"). Only when this is the case will the long dorsal muscles be able to release, 'breathe', and from that, develop and thicken.

You've heard all this before, Dorothy, but like so many other victims of the Pony Club, you have not properly understood the standards of practice. You have not committed to practicing the right things. Now's your chance; the first day of the rest of your life.

I'll want to see another conformation photo of this horse in about two months, if you can manage that -- it may stop raining, snowing, or precipitating volcanic ash in Britain at some point this summer -- and then you can have your friend out again and take the follow-up photos. Meanwhile, by all means if you have questions continue to write in here. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Forum Dorothy Ewe Neck mark2 cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 893 times)

DrDeb
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As an afterthought, the following pair of images may also be of some help. They compare my old High School horse, Painty, with your gray horse Dorothy. The comparison is helpful because the horses are in precisely the same phase of the canter, and even more so because Painty also stood about 7 degrees downhill by structure. The horses are on opposite leads; Dorothy's horse is on the left lead, whereas Painty is on the right lead (about to make a flying change to the left, so as to join the rest of this class in the clinic we were participating in, on the great circle to the left).

Specific points of comparison to observe:

1. The relationship of my reins to Painty's head and my hands; i.e. my reins are draping. 'Draping' reins develop because of, and as an exact reflection of, the effort the horse makes to arch its spine.

2. The carriage of Painty's neck -- the WHOLE neck -- including both the turnover area and the base. One long, smooth arch that continually (even in this most unflattering phase of the canter) tries to 'quest' upward and to make itself longer.

3. The carriage of Painty's head -- there is no sense (of course, because the reins are draping, which means the horse is fully 'on contact') of the head being pulled back.

4. The line formed by the back, especially where it turns over into the hindquarters. There are no lumps, tentlike flat areas, or signs of strain in Painty's lumbar area, visible behind the saddle pad. The peak of croup is not prominent.

5. The degree of engagement of the hindquarter -- for being in the same phase of canter, which horse's inside hind limb is farther forward? Which horse's loins are coiling more fully? The loins cannot coil if the long dorsal muscles of the back are stiff.

6. The depth (thickness) and effort being made by the abdominal muscles. Which horse is deeper from loin to groin? Do you see the line of effort, the visible effort, Painty is making with the abdominals?

7. For all that both horses are built 'downhill', which horse's body is angled more downhill -- taking more weight upon the forehand -- in 3rd phase canter?

Now, I have to run....got yard work to do today. But perhaps these images will be of some help. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Forum Dorothy vs Painty canter 3rd beat cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 879 times)

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These posts are fantastic, Dr Deb. I do have one question - what tells you that Dorothy's reins are not draping? Is it simply the fact that the horse's dorsal muscles are stiff? I understand that "draping" doesn't just mean "slightly loose", but I can't see the difference in these photos.

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Helen, there's a difference between draping reins and slack reins.

Draping reins appear as if from out of nowhere as a side effect of the horse offering true collection. True collection means that he coils the loins, arches the freespan of the back, and raises the base of the neck. When he does these things, when he makes this INTERNAL effort, the distance between his mouth and the rider's hands becomes less and instantly the reins drape.

At the same moment -- and the more sophisticated and skillful the rider -- the rider herself also "yields to the horse's yield". This is not strictly necessary -- since the horse himself has already caused the reins to drape -- except unless you figure on riding your horse for a decade or so. In other words, I consider it vitally necessary for the long-term relationship and for the maintenance of the horse's contentment and motivation. You better believe that he notices this courtesy; he notices that the rider noticed that he made the effort to collect.

Because the reins drape as a result of the dynamic energy of the horse, when they drape the horse is more truly "on the bit", giving his rider a more accurate and intimate feel of all his thoughts and all his movements, than at any time when, by some effort of the rider, the reins are either tight or slack. Thus, when the reins drape, the rider never loses track of the horse's tongue, which is the physical meaning of "contact".

When however the rider merely pushes her hands forward because she knows she's having her photograph taken and she knows that Dr. Deb is a stickler for not hanging on the horse's mouth -- I say when she does this in the absence of the horse first properly collecting itself -- then we have reins that are merely slack. When the reins are slack, the rider has no idea what is going on with either the horse's tongue or its hind feet, because the dynamic connection -- the contact -- has been lost. I have already noted, and you have understood this Helen very well, that when the horse's back and loins are stiff, there is no possibility of him offering or being "in" true collection.

What Dorothy has learned to do is merely pull the horse's head back -- tactfully, I am sure -- until the horse habitually goes behind the bit; which is what each and every picture of them in movement shows. Dorothy is trying to get the horse to PERFORM. She has not previously been helped to an understanding of how to teach the horse to carry itself. When the horse carries itself, there will then be no question of whether it will perform. In fact, every beautiful thing on horseback that she has ever dreamed of will then come true.

In a couple of places in his new book, Mike Schaffer talks about the difference between 'mechanical' and 'cognitive' responses from the horse, and 'mechanical' demands that are made by the rider and mandated by the FEI handbook. They are all going about it backwards, and it is Mike who is correct, who tells you in his own way, and very clearly, what I have also been telling you for years. So go read Mike's book; it is good to hear it said in a little bit different way, by a teacher you have not heard from so much. -- Dr. Deb

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Hello Dr Deb and readers,

Thank you for your insightful comments. I already had it in mind to buy Mike's book, so I will do it sooner rather than later. I am very aware of Solo's physical issues and previous back problems, so I welcome your suggestions, so that I can help him.

I come from a background of the 'hold the horse on a contact' culture, which I have been unhappy with for a long time as I realise that it does not work, but I have been at sea as to what else to do. Last year I had a real culture shock when I stumbled across a Frenchman who teaches the principles of Baucher, and I realised that this was what I had been looking for. Intellectually, I have an understanding of this work, however I am fumbling to put it into practice with no guidance apart from a book and some DVDs. So you are absolutely right in your analysis of this, however, I am not pushing my hands forwards because I am being photographed for you, I am pushing my hands forwards in my (crude) efforts to 'not pull back'. I know that Solo is already appreciative of these efforts.

Having read many of the threads on this forum, I have read what you write about not having a square feel, and I am playing with how to achieve this. Again, I think that I have a mental understanding, but will look forward to getting more instruction from Mike's book.

My second culture shock has been to glimpse the depth of subtlety of this work and how far I have to go.

Dorothy

Seglawy Jedran
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I've wndered for sometime now about the famous picture of Geirenier(SP) teaching a student shoulder in. The one in which the horse has his face turned and is smiling at the person looking at the picture- meaning you, the audience. The rider has his inside hand elevated, and the horse is stepping very under his navel. Also the horse is flexing at the poll quite a bit as well... That seems to me to offer visual proof that one of the most revered of the   ," old masters," knew about, practiced and taught his students not to ride with a square feel- or dead level hands if you will.
Also as per your reccomendations i've been studying Mari Zdunics books. She of course teaches the same thing- not to present a square feel. She also of course realizes that the ,'show world,' calls for a square feel... As i undertand her she says you can just fake it easily enough by developing your own feel   in your hands to the degree that you never have the same pressure in them..
Also a history question, again referring to  the Guerinier(SP) engraving. The horse looks like an Iberian bred, but has teeny little ears. Was it in fashion so to speak in those days to physically amputate a horses ears like people do nowadays with puppys tails?
Also it appears in that engraving that Guerinier is having his student twirl the horses head...
Best Wishes
Bruce Peek

DrDeb
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Yes, Bruce. You might find all of this a lot easier if you would purchase the 2005 "Inner Horseman" back issue disk, where I go into all of this. Or if you do already have it, then please go get it and read it again. I'm glad you're looking at La Gueriniere; he is considered the basis for all modern riding. You can purchase his books in facsimile in English translation, as well. Go to Amazon.com or the like and look it up. -- Dr. Deb

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You can also get the Captain William Frazer translation of DLG free on Google Books.

I am including the link for convenience, I hope that is ok.

  http://books.google.com/books?id=qusIAAAAQAAJ&dq=william%20frazer%20horsemanship&pg=PP5#v=onepage&q=william%20frazer%20horsemanship&f=false

Dorothy
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Hello Dr Deb and readers,

Dr Deb, I would like to thank you for pushing me in the direction of Mike Schaffer's book. I would recommend everyone to read it, there is a huge amount to like in it. Most of his ideas and exercises are familiar to me from other sources, but they are put in a refreshingly straightforward way, and add to my existing knowledge and 'toolkit' in an extremely helpful way.

Three aspects stand out in particular for me. Firstly, he should be congratulated on recognising and stating that most horse training books and instruction concentrates on the 'What' of training - ie the ideal end product, such as the shoulder-in, or halt, but, in order to actually train a horse, you need to know the 'How', ie the small, bottom-up bite-sized chunks that a horse can actually assimilate. This is a concept very familiar to me from my training as a riding instructor with a lady who is at the forefront of ideas on rider biomechanics, and has done alot of work and research on the psychology of how people learn.

Secondly, I really like his breakdown of the aids into mechanical, cognitive and connected, this makes a tremendous amount of sense, and clarifies the process of teaching the horse the aids for me.

Thirdly, I appreciate his clearly stating that you are not expecting the horse to be able to perform a movement or exercise perfectly the first time, you must accept and reward the slightest approximation, and gradually work closer and closer to the ideal. This really gives me permission to take my time, and not demand too much, too soon.

Unfortunately, Dr Deb, the rest of your comments left me feeling discouraged and demoralised. Were I a horse, and received this response from you for my try, I would be very disinclined to try again. I am sure you would not treat a horse like this.

I am a person who finds understanding concepts, theories and ideas very easy, and putting these into practice much harder, especially if I am working from a source that cannot provide feedback (ie books and DVDs). I appreciate that my horse provides feedback, and so it was particularly upsetting to get your comments that undermined the feedback that my horse has been giving me for the past few months. I know that I am not such an ignorant rider that I cannot recognise the changes in him, and that they are good and going in the right direction.

I started on this journey from being a mechanical rider a year ago, when I had a 'Road to Damascus' moment whilst riding at a clinic with a well known German Veterinarian, whose name shall not be mentioned. My take home message from this was that there should never be backward traction in the reins. Beyond this, he was unable to teach what to do instead. Shortly after, I discovered the DVDs and book of the Frenchman (whose name has been mentioned on this site), whose work gave me the confidence to experiment, and inspired me that I could learn how to ride and train my horse - as opposed to a beautifully conformed and bred 'dressage' horse. This was so exciting for me, as no-one else had ever been positive about training every horse, however ordinary. Later in the year, I rediscovered your website, Dr Deb, and have been further inspired and handed more tools, and for this I thank you.

I have been playing with Mike's exercises for the past few days, and I can report that my horse and I are working mostly with cognitive aids, but that we have not got connected aids yet. The photo of you and Painty shows a finished horse working beautifully with connected aids. The photos of Solo and me show a horse and rider feeling their way into the cognitive, but very much work in progress at an early stage. Mike's words and exercises have been affirmative for me that we are already on the right track. In his words, we are gradually getting our approximations of 'right' closer to the ideal, though I am under no illusion about how much we have to do.

Dorothy

 

Annie F
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Hi Dorothy,  

Bravo! to you for posting your photos—the discussion that ensued has been quite valuable. My suggestion is to not waste time feeling demoralized--there are probably others reading this forum who will recognize the problems and issues Dr. Deb points out, and they DO need to be shaken up.

And so good to learn more about where you are on your journey—it’s very heartening and encouraging! I’ve been influenced by the same people and books you mention. I have also been working with Mike (and my “ordinary horse”) for two years now, and am only beginning to get moments of “connected” riding—and I mean moments. A few steps, part of a circle, perhaps one 10-meter circle, then we fall apart. For the past 6 months  outside of the lessons I have just ridden strictly cognitively, because every time I tried for connected riding (“big R riding” as Mike calls it) I would get mechanical or pull back. And even in the moments when we’re doing well it’s clear from my mare’s posture and neck muscling that she’s been ridden wrong for some time. If anyone other than Mike watched me or saw a few photos they would think we were a mess!  

At least the others on this forum “get it;” neither you nor I would get a damn bit of support or understanding (let alone useful info) on most regular riding or dressage forums. 

Very best and keep up with your informative posts, 

Annie F

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Hello Dorothy,
 I concur with Annie, you should not be discouraged by Dr Deb's analysis of your photos. I think one has to be a bit brave to post photos of yourself working with or riding your horse on the internet, but it can be a learning experience for lots of people.

 I thought Dr Deb and Harry meant you were supposed to go home and learn from the horses, and I was always beating myself up when things didn't go so well, but then I'd think about what I could have done differently, and learning does seem to go in plateaus, as discussed in the George Leonard book.

   So here's cheering you on, and looking forward to the next photos.

                                            Jeannie

Pauline Moore
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Hello Dorothy & Everyone

If I hunt back through my old photo box I know there will be photos of myself and my horse that are very similar to yours, Dorothy.  My background is also similar; growing up within a handful of miles to the BHS centre in Stoneleigh, I knew nothing else.  The journey since then has been long and at times painfully frustrating (I'm sure my horses would say 'Amen! to that') as I was led down yet another dead-end by yet another 'teacher'.  Eventually I gave up expecting to find practical help, instead started to learn how horses move, how they function beneath the skin and how that is reflected in what can be seen and felt on the outside, so I would have some way of assessing whether we were progressing or going backwards.  All this was long before I even heard of Dr Deb and long before the overload of information now available on dvd and internet - sometimes helpful, often confusing due to the sheer number of 'experts' with opposing opinions.

For me, the way through this minefield has been to understand structure and movement - that has given me a baseline against which to judge what any rider, clinician or 'expert' might be advocating.  Once that baseline understanding is secure, the horse himself is the only judge or teacher we really need.

If it is of any help, here is an old thread where we discussed in detail how to recognize when a horse is raising the base of his neck, how to see when he is straight.

http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/forum1/116-1.html

(I tried to use the google advanced search to find this thread but it just kept telling me that no links were found - anyone know what I might be doing wrong?)

I have the dvds of the German and French gentlemen referred to in this current discussion, I believe both to be sincere and completely genuine in their efforts to correct some global 'wrongs', within the limitations of their own understanding.  It's an interesting exercise to look closely at those dvds in the earlier parts where there is discussion and diagrams/graphics of muscles, ligaments and bones, and to ask ourselves - is there any mention at all of the muscles that flex and lift the base of the neck?  In later segments where 'good examples' are shown, is there any evidence those horses are raising the base of their necks?  Therefore, are those horses collected in the true sense of the word?

Compare those images with the recent photos of Dr Deb riding Oliver and Painty.  Dr Deb is not asking either horse for a high degree of collection, she is asking for a degree of collection that each horse can comfortably maintain; neither horse has needed to drop his neck base due to fatigue because neither horse is being asked to do something beyond his conditioned strength.

Don't be discouraged, Dorothy - you are aiming for the right things even though the road can be a bit bumpy now and then.

Best wishes - Pauline









Leah
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Dr Deb I just finished reading this thread from beginning to end. What an excellent discussion.

I actually have a question that goes back a bit in the discussion-regarding the photos you posted showing head twirling.

I can clearly see your left hand the lack of 'pressure' (beyond the 5oz you mention) or making the horse do anything.

My questions is concerning your right hand-is there a significance to your placement of this hand? Do you have the same amount of weight of pressure in this hand as well? Or is it less or more-if so, why.

Thanks!

Charlotte
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Dorothy, like others, I'm very grateful to you for posting your pictures and for your contributions.

Dorothy wrote:

Firstly, he should be congratulated on recognising and stating that most horse training books and instruction concentrates on the 'What' of training - ie the ideal end product, such as the shoulder-in, or halt, but, in order to actually train a horse, you need to know the 'How', ie the small, bottom-up bite-sized chunks that a horse can actually assimilate.

Amen. I picked up a mainstream horse magazine today - a rare occurrence for me as they are generally useless - this was no exception. An article on lateral work contained such helpful statements as 'Work your horse on a square and ensure he is straight on all four sides' and 'Ride a few pirouette steps on the corner'. No doubt the author was paid a lot of money for that.

I am a person who finds understanding concepts, theories and ideas very easy, and putting these into practice much harder
Me too and I suspect that's the case for many of us, especially those who are still trying to disentangle ourselves from years of riding school 'shorten your reins' indoctrination while fending off the modern day horsemanship 'flatterers' who would lead us down many a wrong path. But we dust ourselves off and try again the next day.

I'm generally a reader rather than a talker on this forum but I'm moved to comment here as one of the reasons that this is the only horse forum I now read is that I could no longer bear to participate in forums in which members posted frankly ghastly pictures of their horses being ridden and sat back in expectation of congratulations. Which were of course, freely given. To be somewhere where the truth is spoken is an enormous relief, though it is undoubtedly painful to the recipients! So I am so grateful to Dr Deb, Pauline and others who give their advice freely but also to yourself and all the participants here who ask and post and discuss and publish their photos. And that even includes those who eventually flounce off in a huff :)




Jacquie
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I looked at my horse analytically last night and clearly my riding is not developing his top-line neck muscles in front of his withers very fast, as it is still underdeveloped and looks weak when he is resting/loafing and the neck is still markedly over strong in the lower regions. When he finds something interesting his neck improves immeasurably and looks completely different - and acceptably OK in my opinion. His back is definitely stronger than it was, with no pronounced dip now showing  in front of the hip and his hind legs are looking more muscled, so we must be doing some things less badly (note not claiming anything except ‘less badly’!)

He is a soft and responsive, light ride,  needing little rein and listens to the seat really pleasingly. He is half Irish Draught and is a bit downhill built and he does not find 'lightness' an easy thing  but I think he is showing signs that he does understand how to raise the base of his neck and arch his back in response to my presence and my asking. We have some lovely 'moments' these days which are lasting a little longer all the time.

I wonder why is his neck not showing a greater change though - is this just because he was very sleepy and relaxed and the muscles were slack? Alternatively, I suppose it could be that I am not doing it enough of the right kind of work to alter his muscles -  he is in the field carrying his head how he likes for 23 hours out of every 24 and I don’t always ride every single day – is it just that he is having too little time doing work under saddle or in hand? Or is it - as I supsect -  a clear sign that I am failing him with his training?

Last edited on Sun Apr 25th, 2010 12:13 pm by Jacquie

Pauline Moore
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Hello Jacquie

A couple of thoughts spring to mind in response to your post, but first I would like to clarify that we are not seeking to see a development or enlargement of any of the topline muscles in the neck.  I'm sure you meant to refer to the large muscles that lie along the middle, centre, of the neck.   These are the muscles that lengthen the neck, causing the head to be carried further away from the shoulder.   In some horses, frequently dressage horses, there will be a deep hollow in this area rather than a full look or even a soft bulge.

The amount of visible development of these muscles depends on the amount of effort the horse makes in raising his neck base - this in turn is governed by the conformation of the individual horse.  Horses who are built strongly downhill like my TB gelding, Rory, have to put a lot of effort into flexing their C7/T1 joints in order to raise the base of their necks - it's not easy for them to do this so the amount of effort is reflected in the size of the complexus muscle at rest - when Rory was in regular work I could cup the palm of my hand over his complexus muscles even though I never did ask him for a high degree of collection; he has not done much for the last couple of years so now his complexus is just a faint outline.  Other horses who have a close-to-level body balance do not need to make nearly so much effort when flexing the cervicothoracic joint - this also will be reflected in their muscle development, their necks will not be hollow but neither will they show a bulging complexus until regularly asked to maintain a higher degree of collection.

If your horse has only a slightly downhill build, it is possible that he has not yet been asked to maintain the significant effort that would be needed to raise his neck base higher than simple rounding, and for long enough to make a visible difference to his resting musculature.  It is also possible that he is not yet making the necessary effort at all - only you will know which applies to your horse.

An easy way to check is to glance down at your horse's neck when you are riding to look for the complex muscle pumping in and out with every stride - this is easier to see at trot but will be there at all paces if the horse is raising his neck base.  The 'pumping' results from a shunt opening when the neck base is raised that allows blood to rush into the complexus and then drain out again.  If you can see that your horse's neck gradually widens as it gets closer to the shoulder, and you can see that 'pumping' for most of your ride, then you will know your horse is making an effort to raise the base of his neck. 

If, instead, you see an hour-glass shape when looking down at your horse's neck, ie narrower in the middle than at either head or shoulder, then you will know your horse has not raised the base of his neck.  A common cause for this is that the horse is being asked to carry his head and neck higher than he has the strength for, which will then cause him to drop his neck base, twisting his spine and shifting his weight around despite his rider's best efforts to have him straight. 

A horse does not need daily riding to condition strength - 3 times per week is adequate if the time is used wisely.  Transitions within the pace and between paces create strength, not miles of circles or trail rides, it's not possible to do too many transitions. Cavaletti are another useful tool, as is hill work if done slowly.  Just as important are the releases and breaks in between each request for sustained effort - ask for the effort, 2 strides at most, then total release allowing the horse to stretch down.  Walk on a loose rein for a while, prepare, then ask again.  Amazing how quickly a horse can gain strength and change shape if his body is allowed to work as intended - very soon those 2 strides become 10, then 50 etc.

Hope this is of some help.

Best wishes - Pauline





Jacquie
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Thank you Pauline - that was really helpful.

I think he is raising the base of his neck then for at least some of the time - from what you say - but not all of the time.  When his attention is caught by something, his head is lifted and his back is dropped and we lose it all. He is a very 'looky' horse and likes to keep his eyes on whatever he thinks is about -  he is not spooky at all - but is not very confident either and he definitely likes to be very aware of whats about. His eyes do not bulge outwards much and are rather small relative to his head and I don't think he can see as well behind him as some horses with larger, wider set eyes can, which may make him more inclined to be looking more obviously around.  I imagine that this could  be a contributing factor for the poor looking neck I can see when he is resting - really only at the base of his neck  just in front of the withers - as whenever I lose his attention I also lose his softness.

Last edited on Tue Apr 27th, 2010 03:03 pm by Jacquie

Jacquie
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Sorry I posted same stuff twice by accident!

Last edited on Tue Apr 27th, 2010 03:00 pm by Jacquie

Dorothy
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Hello Dr Deb and readers,

I am really excited by the early results I am getting with Mike Schaffer's exercises and concepts. I have done 3 sessions with Solo in the past week on the small patch of school we have at the yard. I have been experimenting with the exercises, especially the turn-in and move out on corners and circles, working almost entirely in walk. I find making a clear distinction between mechanical and cognitive aids extremely helpful.

Today I took Solo to a friend's normal sized school, and also worked in trot and canter. The feeling he gave me was very different. I do get the feeling that, though the exercises are very good, it is being very clear about using cognitive aids that has made the bigger difference for Solo and me at the moment. I am so pleased to have been introduced to this idea.

I really do recommend everyone read Mike's book.

Progess continues!

Dorothy

Jeannie
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Hello folks,
      I thought this photo was interesting for showing how horses use their necks at play with each other. They have one of those rubber mesh dog balls, and the Quarter horse has to get himself up higher off the ground to stay level with the B boy.
  Also, notice how they go into each others' pressure at play.
                                                   Jeannie

Attachment: B & D.JPG (Downloaded 788 times)

Pauline Moore
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Jeannie, that is just the best photo!  Not only does it show horses raising the base of their necks, especially clear on the QH, but it also shows the mind-set that goes with the posture.  I've been thinking about your last comments, Jacquie, about your horse being 'looky' and how that causes him to lose softness and willingness to be round, and was intending to write a bit more about how posture is a direct reflection of what the horse is thinking and feeling - and here is this perfect photo that's worth more than all the words I can find.

Observations of my own horses over the last couple of years has convinced me that every tiny change in body posture has a distinct meaning, it's a mirror of how the horse sees himself in relation to nearby horses, to us, to everything else within his field of vision.  I can only be certain of the meaning for a couple of body-shapes, wish I had a dictionary, but it's got me thinking about how important it is that the horse is in the right frame of mind for whatever posture we are wanting.  There's no doubt that a highly collected body-shape is a product of the horse feeling joyful, playful, or excited about meeting a new horse - it can also be a sign advertising higher status when two horses are greeting each other - but all are positive emotions free from anxiety, expressed when the horse is feeling safe and confident in his environment.  Therefore it follows that when we ask a horse to arrange his body into a collected posture, even just simple 'roundness' that flexes his C7/T1 joint just a little, he first needs to have the emotions that go with that posture.  Without that, the result is likely to be wooden, robotic - rather like someone trying to sing a happy song while they are feeling miserable, it will not be convincing or beautiful.

Like most of us, I think horses want to feel joyful, want to be free of anxiety, so given the right conditions will readily be so.  When the horse willingly gives us his 'birdie' it is because he wants to, makes him feel safe, contented, then he is free to express the innate joi de vivre that's inside him in the same way he can with his horse friends, his body then easily forming the contours that tell the world what he's feeling.  Dr Deb has been telling us forever that all horses need to feel 100% OK all the time.

My own horses have really spelled this out for me.  Rory, the older gelding is a placid fellow who is always at the bottom of the pecking order in any group of horses, he is very happy for someone else to make the decisions, even an incompetent human (me) will do, so keeping his attention has never been difficult.  The payoff for him is that he is universally liked by other horses, is inevitably selected as 'best friend' by the senior horse in most groups, and therefore is looked-after and protected.

My other two are at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Both are still entire and will not give me their trust without checking to see that I'm worthy.  It's part of a stallion's job description to want to be in charge, to make the decisions, be responsible for the safety of the herd and himself, although a strong-minded mare or gelding would take the same view.  Wanting them to relinquish that job and give it to me is an enormous ask.  Eventually I discovered they have a 'checklist' they use to see if it is safe to trust me on any given day, much the same as I might run through a mental checklist to make sure it is safe for me to ride, i.e. check the stitching on the girth and stirrup buckles, check the leather for cracks or wear, etc.    They do this in a way that is oh-so-subtle for me but blindingly obvious to them.  For example, when working with Sol, within the first 30 seconds, perhaps while picking up a brush to groom, he will touch my hand with a single whisker on his muzzle to see if I have noticed.  Gante's preferred test amongst several is to lower his head and touch my knee/leg with an eyelash.  I tell them that I have noticed by asking them to take a couple of steps back, very calmly and casually, not looking at them - conveying the message 'yes, I did notice even though I wasn't looking at you'.  They may or may not repeat the test one or many times depending on how they are feeling on the day, what has happened overnight that I know nothing of.  If I fail to 'notice' they will respond by not giving me their 'birdie', being distracted by anything and everything, giving me 6 steps of something when I have asked for one only.  Nothing is achieved.  In contrast, when they are convinced I have noticed everything, they are soft, oblivious of their surroundings or other horses, usually for as long as I want.   If they could verbalize, I think the logic would be something along the lines of 'If she hasn't noticed I've touched her when I'm standing right next to her, she won't notice the predator that might be behind that tree over there, I'll have to keep a look-out myself'. 

I've seen people riding stallions who keep their attention by constantly being 'at' them with a dig from a spur, flick of a whip and yank on a rein.  I see this as capturing or 'netting' a distressed birdie rather than receiving a relaxed birdie that is freely given - a world of difference.

Not sure this really conveys what I'm trying to say, but thought that maybe your horse, Jacquie, is just in need of some reassurance that it is safe for him to trust you so he will not need to be 'looky', then he will be able to round with a raised base of the neck for longer periods and thus gain more strength.

Pauline

Jeannie
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Pauline, I think this must be where the saying, " a picture is worth a thousand words" comes from.
   If you look closely at B, you can see his birdie is split between the game and figuring out just what I'm up to over there.There's an interesting story to this game, which shows how horses are pretty resourceful. These two had pulled apart one of the balls with the handles on it, so I had to throw it out. Not ready to give up the fun, B started using a car tire that the property owner had left in the paddock. This worked fine unless the QH " won", leaving him holding the tire, which would promptly pull his head to the ground. B would pick it up, and they would start over. The body worker didn't think this was too good for his neck, so we took the tire away. Well, I was cleaning the stalls soon after that and looked over to see that B had picked up a sturdy stick about 2x2 inches and 20 inches long. They were playing the game with the stick, but B was openly cheating by offering the end with only a few inches sticking out of one side his mouth to the other horse, while the majority of the stick was safely sticking out the other side! They would get so caught up in this, that soon they would look like Harry working a horse from another horse. B would walk a small circle  while the QH trotted around him on the outside. I came up with the dog mesh ball after that.

    Pauline, Nuno Oliveira also talks about how any exercise has to be a pleasure for the horse, and I think that he must have meant that the pleasure will be reflected in the horse's body. Their postures can change in the blink of an eye, I think you could watch horses every day and always be learning something new.
 
Probably we miss more than we think we do. I was thinking about this the other day when I went out to bring them in from the pasture and the new horse decided to ignore the cue to come to me, and started running around instead. I started to follow him, just driving him a bit with my body when I got out of my own program enough to recognize what my horse was doing. He had been watching us, and the new horse had buzzed him in an attempt to get him to run with him. B stepped forward and just stood there, knowing the other horse would not break the thread and go off by himself. I had made one circle around him before I recognized that he had just turned himself into a pen for me. I acknowledged his help, and soon the new horse decided he would like to come over. But it would have been so easy to have missed that, and we think we're the smart ones! Another reason to teach your horse to stay in his room, a portable round pen. I sure wouldn't have thought of it.
                                                Jeannie

ivyschex
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Hi, all,

What a fun discussion!  At the risk of more critism, but in favor of providing insight, here are two pictures of some of the liberty play I have been doing with my horse. 

In this first one, I had been teaching Jackson to do a better, more collected rear.  I know that is front end is still all upside down, but bear with me for a moment.  I really like that his loin is coiling (it is, isn't it?) and that his is lowering his hindend.  That was my goal when doing this with him.  



In this next picture, I was working on training the balancer (or balance').  That is, hopping from one front leg to the other.  I think he is even better.  You can see he is using his stomach and loin muscles. 




Thanks,

Ivy

Jacquie
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I am at last back in cyberspace land after our house move and losing all Internet access for a couple of weeks!

I have looked at my horses way of going and realised some more facts about him. There is some part of him which is 'holding back' when he is ridden - don't know how else to describe it - but he is not releasing sufficiently and letting himself travel truly forwards. He is very polite and reactive to the leg and not lazy at all, he listens to the seat very well indeed too and is not strong in his mouth, but he is definitely holding back and not 'releasing' somehow.

He holds part of his back in a tense way - the loin - and although he is very soft to flex to left and reasonably soft to the right in his neck and poll,  his back is sometimes still  tight behind the saddle. Furthermore, he curls up his neck if he gets a chance, especially if he is getting keen, tucking his chin in to his chest, going behind the bit and dropping his head down. I find it hard to get him to stretch his head and neck out and relax.  It is also hard to get him consistent with his head carriage - he is always dropping or raising his head or looking left or right and needing some small correction every 4 strides - especially when we are out on a hack when there are lots of stimuli's for him to worry about. I just keep patiently correcting him each time with no other reaction, but maybe this is not enough? In the past he has been inclined to become strong - he is a very powerfully built horse -(built like a war horse really!) so maybe I have used too much hand to restrain/control him and made him learn to withdraw from the bit pressure and curl his neck up whenever he feels keen? I wonder too, if I have 'over schooled' him - tried too hard with him in other words?

Any suggestions to help me to help him?

 


 

Last edited on Sun May 16th, 2010 10:43 pm by Jacquie

Jeannie
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Hi Jacquie, it might be helpful to have someone take a few photos of you riding,so you could study them. That way you become more aware of what you are doing and how your horse is reacting in a given moment.

             Is he very soft and paying attention in your leading and groundwork, not weighing anything when you ask him to move? This seems to carry over to riding. Head twirling on the ground seems to carry over to riding as well, helping to keep the brace out.
                          Jeannie

Jacquie
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HI Jeannie

I think you are right - it would be helpful to see some pics of myself on him. This may be possible to do this weekend.

On the ground he is a mostly very attentive but occasionally tries to ignore me in favour of a mouthful of lush grass.  He knows just how strong he is and will often attempt to plunge his head towards a tasty piece of grass if he fancies it, but in the school he watches me like a hawk to know straight away what I want from him and he is very compliant to my requests. He can work nicely on lunge or two long lines or using reins in hand and is happy to shoulder in, half pass, rein back, pirouette an mount a pedestal, and he is very quickly and eagerly learning spanish walk. He moves over very easily for me in the stable and is polite to lead and good to box. He very much likes to learn, and is often an over achiever, frequently offering far more than was asked for. In the saddle this is the same, often over -reacting to the slightest change or corrections I try to make.  I am not sure how much weight to put on the 'rude grass snatch' attempts that he makes maybe I should put more emphasis in chastising him for these attempts.

 He is a big build but is incredibly sensitive and very intelligent - his learning speed is faster than all the other 7 or so horses I have trained. The 3 horses he lives with now are not as bright as he is to pick up a new idea. I think this makes him harder to train as he is  real tryer and gets so stressed if he does not 'get it' straight away and this brings on his snorts and ticks from his headshaking syndrome. He also gets stressed if he is pushed to work in a way that requires him to make an extra effort. In short, I am finding him a hard horse to train. Its definitely not all bad though - some aspects are really lovely about his work now but I really need him to uncurl and let his back go at the moment.

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Hi Jacquie,
       In the post above Pauline talks about how horses express themselves through their bodies, and Dr Deb's mantra is to get them calm first. I think the key lies there.

   I was helping a friend with her horse that had taken over when she tried to lead him to a pasture down the road. We got him going pretty well, and as homework , I told her to find a spot in her barn and teach him to ground tie, and to make him feel good about it. Shortly after that I found the forum, and ordered the cd on mannering. When Dr Deb talked about teaching a horse to stay in his room, I thought, " so all roads lead to Damascus". I think Dr Deb is right, if you keep exploring this horsemanship thing, there is only one good way to go about it.

      So rather than thinking in terms of chastising your horse for grabbing grass, which makes it seem that he is doing something wrong, it would be better to think about keeping his attention with you all the time you are leading him, and therefore teaching him that all the time he is with you, you are directing him. The interesting thing about leading horses at liberty is that you become aware of how often their attention drifts, every few seconds really.When you have an actual physical rope, then it's easy to not pay attention ourselves. So there is no difference between leading a horse and asking him to stand still for as long as you need him to, in the first case you are directing him to move his feet, in the second, you are directing him to keep them still. That is how the horse will perceive it. This focus on their part , which will develop, will help them to calm themselves, and they will start to associate you with that calmness. You can have a horse which has gotten itself worked up, running around in a state, and you can walk in and have him come over, put his head down in front of you and relax, at first momentarily, then you build on it, and the horse will come to see you as a source of calmness.

 You will need to use a halter and lead rope to teach them to stay in their room initially, but that becomes superfluous after a time, because you are addressing the inside of the horse, not the outside.

  I think the smart ones can get themselves worked up when we work with them, because they see a pattern to what we are doing, and are all the time moving on to the next thing that they think we want, so we have to show them there is no rush, and have lots of release time in there.

The calmness will carry over to riding, and you can always have that in your toolbox where you can get off and help them with something out on the trail, whereas if you don't have it, you are in worse trouble if you get off. One person I know who has a very busy life and a caretaker for her horses was out on the trail when her horse became scared of the cows over the fence. After he started bucking, she got off, and he simply used that opportunity to get out of there. She was no help to him on the ground, he had to help himself. Course, what a bad horse, yadda yadda.

   Hope that helps, Jacquie.
                      Jeannie

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Hi Jeannie

I think that the problem just now with Fox is to do with your statement 'Dr Deb's mantra is to get them calm first'. Inwardly he is far from calm just now. I moved house only 3 weeks ago, and the horses are now at home with us (hurray for that!) and I had to move the horses to a new yard just after Christmas, where they never really were settled. They hated the barn where they were stabled (we all loved it and the people were lovely, but all four of mine were not relaxed at all there) and their grazing field was right next to a very busy road, busy all night long, so probably did not rest much in or out. I think none of them were resting properly or relaxing at all. It is very quiet at my new house and they are really definitely loving it - all of them were lying down regularly in the filed within days of arriving. I think Foxs stress levels have been raised for some time, but I see a huge improvement today when I rode him and yesterday on the lunge so that's very encouraging - he is letting go of his neck and swinging along in his back at last.

His grass snatching is literally only while I am opening or closing the gate to get him into or out of the field - of course he knows very well that my attention is on the gate and so his goes down to the grass! At other times he is not a problem at all.

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Jeannie - thank you, a timely reminder about the importance of the basics.We had a 'cows over the fence' moment yesterday. I had a chance to practice 'leading up free' and when we got past the danger he thought of rushing past me but I sent him to his room. He did stay with me but it was definately a 'could-do-better' moment. More practice required at being that 'source of calmness' so I can reassure him sooner than I did.

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Hi Charlotte,  this dovetails with Dr Deb's answer to the topic " What is the anatomy of relaxation?". The head down cue she mentioned is a good way to help the horse calm themselves in a moment of unease, and you can practice it when you put on or take off their halter and when they are staying in their room. It occurred to me recently that part of the reason things keep working out better the more we work with our horses is that they also think about what happened after it happened, and that tends to shape the next outcome, as well as us thinking about it. Which is why it's always good to get some kind of closure, as Harry does.

  The late Bill Walsh, coach for the 49's football team when Joe Montana was QB, made what I thought was an interesting observation. Back before they were the team they became, they were losing , but he noticed that even though they were still losing , they were continually playing better, and he built on that, ignoring the losses. The rest, as they say, is history.

                                                  Jeannie

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More good advice, thank you. I enjoy that thread as it's reassuring for those of us on the 'lesser' path!
It occurred to me recently that part of the reason things keep working out better the more we work with our horses is that they also think about what happened after it happened, and that tends to shape the next outcome, as well as us thinking about it.
Oh gosh, how true, I'm also continually amazed by some of the quite complex cognitive leaps he makes when given time to mull. (Mike Schaffer mentions this ability in his new book).

The football story makes me smile; one of the things that keeps me coming back to this forum is the ethos of taking responsibility, not being afraid to make mistakes and then try again, this time a bit better... I will revise the basics of mannering and head lowering and report back. Thanks again, Charlotte.

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So here's the thread where you are talking about Fox, Jacquie, and Pauline talks about the psychology of body posture. What goes around, comes around.
                                                   Jeannie

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So true - what goes around comes around for sure!

Its interesting for me to read where Fox and I were just a few years ago, in comparison to where we are now.

Sometimes it is hard to really appreciate the amount of progress which has been made when you are very closely involved.

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Here is a picture of Fox and I, taken in October 2012. The feeling was sublime, but I think he was still holding back a tiny amount in his neck and jaw.

Reply from Dr. Deb: That would be because you have him enormously over-bitted, Jacquie, and in addition to that you are holding the reins in the most severe configuration (i.e. curb rein lowest). Try getting your horse into the mildest possible snaffle bit. When you can twirl the head in that, and perform shoulder-in and half-pass in that also, he should freely raise the base of his neck, and you will no longer either need or want the long-shanked Weymouth. The more the horse "holds back a bit" -- which you can certainly see this horse doing in the photo -- the less he will ever be able to raise THE BASE of the neck. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Fox and I in true collection.jpg (Downloaded 476 times)

Last edited on Mon May 13th, 2013 05:55 am by DrDeb

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Yes, it must be interesting for you to reflect back, Jacquie. Thanks for posting a photo, I think you are looking good together. I know I find the same thing happens when I am chipping away, as Dr Deb says, and I wonder if there is very much change, but when I look at past photos, I can see a difference, and Dr Deb is good at reinforcing the mental blueprint Pauline mentioned in her learning curve.

 I try to keep in mind what both Dr Deb and Pauline have said about it taking a long time for the horse to develop the strength to carry himself correctly for periods of time. The in-hand work helps him to move correctly without the extra weight of a rider, and seems to accelerate his understanding of what is being asked while ridden.

  The draping reins have become a kinda holy grail for me, Dr Deb talks about them in this thread. You mentioned that Fox might be holding back in his neck and jaw, but that shows you understand that is not the same thing as contact, a concept riders get mixed up about.
                                    Jeannie

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Hi all, I took some photos of animals that I thought were expressing themselves in a way which involved raising their necks. Maybe someone else has some other photos which illustrate this in other animals. They seem to be making a statement with their posture.
                   Jeannie

Attachment: photo(3).JPG (Downloaded 372 times)

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I had just turned around after putting this goat's food down at a ranch where I work when I saw her like this

Attachment: photo(222).JPG (Downloaded 374 times)

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This posture also involved feeding, an older swan was coming over to poach off a younger swan's food when she saw me standing near it

Attachment: photo(s).JPG (Downloaded 373 times)

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Jeannie, the goat analogy comes closest as the animal is, like a horse, a mammal. The snake doesn't work the same way at all -- to begin with, being a reptile, it has but one occipital condyle; and being a rattlesnake, its neck bones are designed to make horizontal rather than vertical "S" shapes. The swan, being a bird, has like mammals two occipital condyles, and it does also have the inbuilt capability to make its neck into a vertical "S" shape. However, it also has many more neck bones than a mammal -- mammals are limited to seven max, whereas a swan has, if I remember right, eighteen neck bones. The more bones, the more joints; and the more joints per running foot of neck, the more flexible the neck. Therefore, the swan's neck is much more flexible than that of any horse. -- Dr. Deb 

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Hi Dr Deb, yes, the analogy falls apart if you compare the different vertebrae. I was looking at how each animal used muscles behind the head to express the inner life it was feeling at that moment. The gopher snake was trying to look like a rattlesnake in an attempt to look fearsome to me as I approached. I was going to move it off the road so it wouldn't get run over by a car, but it saw me as a danger. In raising itself up, it looked bigger and scarier.

 The goat was both happy and protective of her food, and the swan kinda puffed herself up as she headed over to push the other swan off it's food, so I think she was preparing to get what she wanted, and was letting me know.

A while back I was standing by a large water trough that my horse had been using for several months. A bunch of cows had come on the property and were drinking out of the trough when he rounded the corner and saw them there. He stopped for a second, and then I saw him puff himself up, literally getting bigger and taller before trotting down and dispersing the cows. His body reflected the change in his inner life as he prepared to move the cows off "his" water.

In working with horses, I think we have to take into account the fact that different postures mean different things to the animal, and it's not just a "look" we are going after. This affects how we go about teaching a horse to do something, working in a way that the animal can relate to and even want to do on their own.

Conversely, we need to be aware of all the various ways our horses express themselves around us, and not treat them like children that are being silly. I've seen some horses act aggressively around their owners, but the owner doesn't recognize the aggression and respond appropriately until things have gone further than they should have.

So, I think it is interesting to look at various body postures in all animals, to see how they are feeling, as well as the psychology of asking for a particular body posture.

                                         Jeannie

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Jeannie, yes, of course I agree with all of that....when collection is offered by the horse instead of taken from the horse, it is then, as it is when the animal is at liberty, an expression of joy and joie-de-vivre. Ollie positively chuckles sometimes when I ask him for an effort of collection -- I would swear, he thinks it's a kind of playing that he gets to do.

"The greatest secret to success in horse training is finding what motivates your horse" -- Chuck Grant

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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Also a good thread.




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