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loin coupling
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kmcranch
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 Posted: Sun Feb 20th, 2011 11:15 pm
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I was wondering if my geldings loins show any evidence of injury, or are they just

weak?  He's never been sore that I'm aware of, or lame.

When he runs and plays with my other horses on slippery footing, they can keep

their balance but I've seen him fall several times.

His gait of choice is a pace, but he will also trot when he's excited, and he can lope

for several strides before it turns into a pace.  When I watch him move, he looks

stiff and heavy on the forehand.  Can the condition of his loin be the reason he

moves so poorly?  

 

Thank you

Melinda

 


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Last edited on Sun Feb 20th, 2011 11:17 pm by kmcranch

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Feb 21st, 2011 08:14 pm
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Dear Melinda: How 'bout posting a photo of the whole horse? That would help to put the loin conformation into its proper perspective.

You are right, however, in thinking that the animal is not very well coupled. The coupling is in fact weak. Did you come to this realization through reading my column on conformation in Equus Magazine, where we have talked about this fairly extensively? That will also help for me to know, as it will tell me how up on the subject you are.

We'll look for that whole-body photo before talking further. When you take the photo, make sure that the sun is at your back instead of in front of you or on the opposite side of the horse. Try to have him out in the sunshine, rather than inside or in the shadow of trees or buildings. That will help everything to stand out properly. -- Dr. Deb

kmcranch
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 Posted: Mon Feb 21st, 2011 10:51 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb,

Yes, I've read your conformation books, the Equus articles and I've watched your

video.  Of course, reading the material and retaining the information might be two

different things.  I should probably review them again.

This gelding is actually the reason I became interested in the study of conformation.

I was trying to figure out why he paces and seems clumsy.  Other people have told

me he just needs to mature and build muscle, but that didn't really make sense since

I've seen other young horses that are very agile and move just fine.

Thank you

Melinda

 

 

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DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 05:13 am
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OK, Melinda, much better. I realize now that you're the "Melinda" I've been working with on taking photos of the young filly, so that when she gets to be past two years old we'll start reporting on that as a special feature in Equus Magazine.

From this I am guessing that this horse is also a Tennessee Walker, or part-TWH, since that's your interest otherwise? Is he purebred? And how old is he?

Also: what have you been doing with him, in terms of the type of riding? How often and how hard do you ride him? Do you ride him across country/trailrides, and what is the level of difficulty if you do that?And if we lived in an ideal world, what was it that you were originally hoping he would do or perform for you when you bought him, or bred him?

Has he had any significant injuries? If you bred him and saw him born, was the birthing traumatic, difficult, or "dystotic"? And if you bred him, or knew the breeder, what was the condition of the broodmare during her pregnancy?

All of this matters because it might potentially have a bearing upon the clumsiness you report.

I do absolutely believe what you tell me about the type of clumsiness he exhibits: that he is stiff (laterally) and, when others in the herd are galloping and wheeling, he can't get himself turned around as easily as they can. Also, that he seems heavy on the forehand. For these things, there are solutions which you will find it easy to implement (although you WILL have to do as I suggest -- and not only do it once, but carry through the long term with it -- despite very likely objections or even derisive comments from other TWH folks who will not be used to seeing people do these things with the so-called 'gaited' horses).

However, before we get started on talking about the specific things I'll want you to do, I do need to know for sure that this horse was "supposed" to have been gaited and/or that you ride him in gait or are trying to get him to gait (whereas instead he paces or tries to pace instead of gait).

I also have some homework for you: I want you to take a subscription to The Eclectic Horseman, and start studying each issue in detail -- not my articles only, but all of them. Go to http://www.eclectichorseman.com and request that they start your subscription with the first issue in which my "How Horses Work" series appeared. This is now more than a year ago, so your subscription is going to have to cost probably double, because really you'll be getting a whole year's worth of back issues (there are 6 issues of this magazine per year), plus whatever is coming in the second year. They'll let you know the cost -- even so it will probably be less than $50.

The "How Horses Work" series teaches (1) what the fundamental therapeutic movements are, i.e. those that will benefit your gelding; (2) what is going on with the animal's body when he performs those maneuvers, i.e. flexing the loins or twirling the head and so forth; and (3) quite a few hints on how to induce the horse to take the particular steps with his feet that he must take in order to perform the maneuver you are asking him to perform.

There are also some fairly strong words in there of caution, even prohibition: you will see this quite extensively in the upcoming issue, probably coming out sometime in March or April: the article is on tiedowns and other so-called "training" devices, and it explains in detail why these are extremely destructive, both to the horse and to the rider.

Give us a note back meanwhile concerning the gelding's age, breed, and the use you make of him. Thanks -- Dr. Deb

hurleycane
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 Posted: Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 03:04 pm
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And close ups of the feet?  Particularly the back feet?

 

 

 

Last edited on Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 03:06 pm by hurleycane

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 07:13 pm
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What's your concern with the back feet, Hurleycane?

kmcranch
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 Posted: Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 08:14 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb,
Yes, I'm the one sending you the pictures of my filly.
I already have a subscription to Eclectic Horseman, I just forgot to mention it in my last post. Tucson is also a purebred Tennessee Walking horse, and he'll be 6 years old in April. I know his breeder and she didn't witness his birth.  She came home and he was already up nursing. He was really small, but seemed healthy.  His dam wasn't thin, but she didn't look pregnant either.  He was her first foal.  He was weaned at 5 months old and sent to Montana where he was turned out over the winter to fend for himself.  When I got him at 10 months old, he was very thin and full of worms.  He had the longest coat of any horse I've ever seen.  The vet said he needed it to stay warm because he was so thin.
He's never been sick or lame since I've had him, and he's never seemed sore after any of his falls.  He was a cryptorchid and was gelded at 2 years old and healed without incident. I bought him to be a trail horse and maybe work some cattle for fun.  I don't have plans to show or compete in anything.  I started him under saddle at a Bryan Neubert home clinic when he was 3 1/2.  I didn't have a saddle that fit him, so didn't ride again until he was 4 and I was able to buy one that I thought would fit.  He's only been ridden lightly and never at any speed because I don't want him to pace.  He's been on some easy trail rides, and I've worked with him in the arena.  I use a snaffle bit and no tie downs or anything like that.
He naturally carries his head low and I don't try to force a headset.  He will give to the bit for an instant but can't hold it except when he's backing.  That, and walking over ground poles are the only times I can really feel him raise his back.  I only rode him a few times last year, and just started back up again.  I had to buy some shims so my saddle fits him better.  As far as I can tell, he seems comfortable with it.  He's a calm, curious horse with a good mind, and he tries hard to do what I ask.  I'm the one that could use some help to make sure I'm asking for the right things. I've been working on having him bend on a circle, sidepassing, turning on the hindquarters and forehand, stopping, backing, ground poles and different speed of walk.  I've been asking more often for a soft feel and trying the head twirling.  I think he's starting to do it right.

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hurleycane
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 Posted: Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 05:08 am
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The toes on the hinds appeared dubbed off in the full body picture (as if they were worn off). 

kmcranch
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 Posted: Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 06:56 am
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I don't think his toes are as short as they appear.  They have wet sand on them,

which makes them blend in with the sand on the ground.  It's the same with the

full body shot of him.  I didn't clean his feet off and let them dry before taking the

picture.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 04:45 pm
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Yes, Hurleycane -- there is no problem whatsoever with the hind feet on Melinda's horse. The trim and the hoof shape are both exceptionally good.

This is a great example of how people in our current culture are so absolutely unfamiliar with what a NORMAL hoof looks like, that they do not identify a normal hoof as normal when they see one.

Melinda, and everyone: it'll be a day or two before I can get back to you on this, because the ol' computer has to go in for service today and may be there a day or two, so I'll be off line. I will reply as soon as I am able. -- Dr. Deb

hurleycane
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 Posted: Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 06:38 pm
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Kmcranch - Though my response to Dr Deb followed your close up pictures of the feet, the full body picture was the one I questioned.  I think the "dark wet sand" explains what I thought was a shortened toe.  My first thought was whether the horse was dubbing the toe in travel.  I did not mean to infer any "trimmer" problems.  The second set of photos do show a nice foot.  My apologies.

Dr Deb - My apologies to you as well for not being more precise as to the why of my question.  A better look at the hind feet made sense for following this thread.  Specially feet that at first appeared dubbed to me.  And not so much that the feet would be causal - but they might be reflective of the conformation weakness.  And if there was dubbing, I considered the feet would be a good marker to watch as the horse improved its carriage.

And I will venture one foddered step more and wonder if each trim finds any need to correct any asymmetric growth of the foot on this horse?

Thank you for the explanations and lessons as always.


kmcranch
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 Posted: Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 08:08 pm
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Hi Hurleycane,

The wear on his hind feet between trims is very even.  I have more of an issue

keeping his front feet balanced because of his conformation and posture, I think. 

He has a narrow chest, stands base wide and toes out.  If I understand Dr. Deb's

conformation books correctly, it might be that he has tight pectoral muscles and

clamps his elbows in?  He also seems to lean a little to the left when standing.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Feb 27th, 2011 06:26 am
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OK, Melinda, sorry it's taken me a day or two to get back on line. Our office computers hadn't had a thorough "cleaning" and upgrade in several years, so we scrubbed and re-installed DOS, and of course that also meant having to re-install all our software and back up all our files. Much better now though: lots faster. We aren't going to "upgrade" to Windows7 at all....but instead wait 'til Bill Gates gets the next one beta-tested before buying into it.

Anyway -- to your situation now. Yes, I agree that this gelding does have a weak coupling -- structurally not broad, and also developmentally not deep vertically from loin to groin. And clinically, showing some signs of strain, i.e. planar surface to the saddling part of the back, like the outside surface of a pup tent; and going along with that, lump-hollow-lump contour from the lumbar back, through the loin coupling area that directly overlies the L-S joint, and then into the gluteal part of the pelvis.

Lump-hollow-lump is very well illustrated in the current issue of Equus Magazine, in I think it was the 2nd article in the mini-series of three dealing with the general subject of "pelvis". The animal in the Equus article has more of a "lump" contour in the lumbar back than your gelding does, and a more pronounced hollow over the L-S joint. But your gelding does equal or even exceed him in the compensatory overdevelopment of the superficial gluteal (the forwardmost of the gluteal muscles).

Anytime we can observe lump-hollow-lump contours through this part of the back, it is a sign of "strain". I would pay attention to this sign even where the undulating contour seems fairly slight -- it will only get more pronounced as the strain continues, so we might as well use the sign to remove whatever is causing the strain as early as possible.

Our next job is to try to figure out where the strain is most likely coming from. One thing already queried is the hind feet: we know it is not that, as they are of normal shape and the animal stands on his feet with evident perfect comfort. His feet are therefore not hurting him, and they show no external signs of current or past pathology.

Another thing we can eliminate is some type of "bind up" or contraction involving the tissues that form the stay apparatus of the hind limb. As explained in the "locking stifle" or "awkward stumble" threads, the stay apparatus is a tensionally co-adjusted set of elastic "bands" and sheets that parallel the bones of the hind limb all the way down from the lumbar back to the sole of the hind hoof. I am currently working on the mini-series of three articles for Equus that concern conformational analysis of the hind limb, so as it happens this subject is on my mind. It is possible, if one has a good photograph such as the ones you have provided, to discern from the way the animal stands whether it is likely that there is contraction in the elastic bands that go down the flexor side (the rear aspect) of a horse's hind limbs. If that is the case, the animal will consistently choose to stand more or less "sickle hocked" or with what is called a "closed" stance. Your horse, however, shows no such tendency, and I think it is safe to conclude that there is nothing in the hind limb that is causing a strain to his lower back.

This leaves us with but one possibility, and that is something having to do with the back itself. And the very first and most obvious factor will be the fit of the saddle. I consider this likely to be at least part of the cause, by the fact that "tentlike" or planar surfaces develop in a horse's back 99% of the time because the saddle tree does not fit the horse. Of course, this begs the question of WHY the given saddle tree might not fit.

Beyond a mis-fitting saddle, there are two other possibilities -- one is rider technique, and the other is congenital malformation of the back. By "rider technique" I am thinking of stuff like whether the rider bounces instead of being able to sit to a trot or canter, has been taught to sit with her butt upon or slap-back against the cantle, rides with her feet on the dashboard or "behind her leg", or holds the horse's head up all the time with the reins. Absolutely without question, these types of things will make the saddle hurt the horse even when (if standing still, unmounted) Dave Genadek himself has inspected the fit and told you it was perfect. In other words, you can have a perfectly-fitting saddle and by poor riding philosophy or poor practices, you can still use that saddle as a tool with which to bludgeon a horse's back.

As to congenital malformation: well, I don't know of any saddle manufacturer or saddle craftsman anywhere who purposely produces trees that are off-square. Therefore, if a horse is made crookedly, there is no normal type of saddle that will fit him. A special saddle could be made, but first we'd need to know the state of things with the horse's back.

To see whether crookedness (congenital or habitual) is a factor -- and I think there is a fairly good chance that it is a factor for this horse -- we need another photo. Your long-suffering husband Ken will get the job of standing the gelding up so that his butt is facing toward, and as close as safely possible to, your pickup truck. You, Melinda, climb up into the bed and have the tailgate open. Stand on the tailgate and get the camera all ready to go, while Ken gets the horse fixed. It is absolutely imperative that all four of the gelding's feet be absolutely "square" for this picture. When Ken sees the feet are square, then very gently (so as not to get him to move any foot!) use both hands to "place" his head square in front of the centerline of his chest. When all this falls into place and Ken says "shoot now!", then you be all ready and pre-focused standing above and directly behind the gelding's butt. Zoom out so that the photo takes in everything from the ears all the way back to the top part of the tail. This will probably take you longer to do than any shot so far with the filly -- because if it's true what you report, that the gelding seems to want to lean toward one side, it will be a while, and will take very small, gentle urgings from Ken, to get him to stand square. Nonetheless your patient work will be well worth it, because from such a photo we can really know.

If it turns out that the gelding is scoliotic, i.e. has one or more congenital twists in his spine, we will have found the root-cause of all difficulties. It may also be that he is habitually crooked, i.e. in the sense explained in the Woody paper; this will also show up. I predict that one or the other or both forms of crookedness is what we will find, and the reason that I'm willing to bet on it is that when we view the side-shot of this animal's conformation, the first thing we notice is that he seems to "diminish" from front to back. The head, neck, shoulder, and chest seem full-formed, but somehow the rear half of the horse is like the Creator ran short on clay. This is the classic manifestation of a runt, more familiar to us with cats and dogs than horses. With horses, there are two common causes for it: (1) the animal is one of a pair of twins, or (2) there was some nutritional deficiency during the dam's pregnancy.

I say this without prejudice. In other words, it is not meant to discourage but to inform. If the gelding is runty, then we just treat him like as if he were a "special needs" kid, and give him whatever therapy he will require.

So....first order of business then is to get the top shot taken. If he turns out to be straight through the spine, well and good; we will then go on to investigate your saddle in some detail, with photos of that too. You see why I asked you to do all this through the Forum, Melinda: look how many other people it is already going to help -- because your horse is far from unique, there's nothing too much new under the sun in horsemanship, but people living on farms and ranches far apart can get to thinking they're the first ones ever to have whatever particular type of trouble. So be of good cheer, thanks for your continuing effort to learn, and let's see that next photo. -- Dr. Deb

kmcranch
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 Posted: Sun Feb 27th, 2011 09:49 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb,

Here is the picture you requested.  I found a picture of him at 2 or 3 days old that his breeder sent me.  If you think it might be helpful I can send it also.

Thank you

Melinda

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DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Mar 3rd, 2011 08:55 am
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Well, well -- we can all see from this that there is less of a problem than I had been thinking there might be. All you have in the way of non-straightness of the vertebral chain is some very mild leftward displacement from the base of the withers forward into the lower part of the neck. This has been caused by you (1) mounting from the ground and (2) usually, or always, mounting from the left side. So to make this part better, all you have to do is commit to mounting from the right side for one year, from either a block or a fence. Thereafter you will mount equally often from the left and right sides, again always from a block, fence, or (if on a trailride) by parking the horse in a ditch, or from a log or stump or rock. These things fall into the category of basic good horsemanship practices anyway, so I know you'll want to do 'em.

As I believe you have studied the 'Woody' paper, you will be cognizant that the apparently larger left shoulder area of this horse is due not to muscular overdevelopment but simply to the displacement of the body, with its covering of soft tissues, which occurs whenever the animal leans left through the forequarter. If we could shoot a picture of the horse when you were up on him, and we could catch you in a leg-yield from off your left leg (i.e. the horse moving obliquely forward from left to right), we would see that it was the right shoulder that looked bigger or thicker. And if we could shoot a picture of the horse when you were leg-yielding from off your right leg (i.e. the horse moving obliquely from right to left), we could realize that it was due to this action that his left shoulder would then appear bigger.

This is the key to understanding straightness: that to make a horse that habitually travels crooked straight, you have to displace the haunches (the technique for doing this is untracking). Untracking, which is the oblique stepping under the body-shadow of the inside hind leg, in turn displaces both the ribcage and the shoulders, in such manner that if the untracking hind leg be the left, then the ribcage and the shoulders will be pushed to the right.

The second most important exercise to master is twirling the head. You learn to twirl the head, and after you learn this, there is no moment whatsoever in the arena, nor either on a trailride, in which you do not expect the "headlight" in the center of your horse's forehead to predict his path of travel. If his "headlight" is lighting up something, his body should be stepping directly into that light. It is exactly the same for a freight train: if the train is going around a curve, does not the second car follow directly behind the first? The train will derail if the first car, the locomotive, gets angled off.

Typically the crooked horse will angle his headlight off toward the outside. You understand that the whole purpose of untracking, which is twirling the loins, and of twirling the head, is to "work the ends in order to get to the middle". Most horses cannot free up their ribcage when saddled and when sat on; the saddling and the sitting on cause them to hold their midsection in a clamp. And if they had any tendency to begin with to prefer one side, then they will clamp into that position, which will tend to make whatever "lean" they had at liberty increase in degree.

So the horse that goes, let us say (as I think your horse does) on a left-hand (counter-clockwise) circle with his headlight aiming out, but his body or shoulders tracking around nonetheless on the lefthand circle, is by definition "stiff". This is what "to be stiff" means, i.e. when they do that. Stiffness and crookedness go hand in hand. When a horse is stiff and crooked, it MATTERS to him which way he works, because one way will be a lot more comfortable than the other -- even when neither direction is really very comfortable.

Our object is to make both directions (1) very comfortable, in fact so comfortable that the horse finds it a joy to have you on top of him, and (2) to make the left direction and the right direction equally comfortable.

This is done by pecking at it. You peck at twirling the head. You peck at untracking. This is another way to say, you do it one step at a time -- literally. So he takes one or two good untracking steps, and when that's done you drop to the buckle and you pet him and you encourage him to step forward for twenty steps before you untrack him one or two steps to the opposite side the next time. And you spend an hour a day, three or four days a week, doing this.

Of course during that hour per day, you will also twirl his head. You do this at a halt to begin with and then you do it while he's walking forward. This is how you come to understand what the corners in an arena are for -- they are very powerful tools.

Once you can twirl the head, you then can and should also address each and every other joint in his neck (except C1-C2, which joint cannot bend laterally). And you aim your plasma leg so it goes right through each of the joints. You work your leg gently against your rein on that side, so the rein bends him right -- mainly it actually just BLOCKS him from turning away to the left -- while your leg encourages him to let go at the joint you're aiming at. And when you feel him let go, then you drop to the buckle and you pet him and you encourage him to walk forward twenty or fifty steps, before you do the same thing again going to the opposite side.

You can also do all of this from the ground, as you can see Mike Schaffer doing it in the video clips and photographs in his EBook entitled "Riding in the Moment". Or as you can see Buck Brannaman doing it in almost any issue of "The Eclectic Horseman". Or as you can see Ray Hunt doing it on any of his videotapes. Or as you can see Harry Whitney or Josh Nichol or Buck or any of our other recommended people doing at any clinic you might care to attend.

One thing you must STOP doing, and that is permitting the animal to gait. Quality gait is not innate. If you let any so-called "gaited" horse "just do his natural thing", I 100% guarantee you that he will soon become just as stiff as you are complaining of this horse being. Gaiting is never physiotherapeutic, no more than the extended trot practiced by dressage competitors is physiotherapeutic or good for the horse. It is not good for the horse. It is, rather, a fruit: when it is of good quality, it is the fruit that ripens from correct prior practice of those things which tend to build it, but NOT of the thing itself. Repeating the thing itself only degrades it.

So you practice lateral flexions, and out of that will come quality gait. But if you insist on permitting the horse to gait, you will not only not have quality gait, you won't have lateral flexibility either. This is the meaning of the Scriptural saying, "To those who have, more shall be given; to those who have not, even those things they think they have will be taken away."

Instead of permitting the horse to gait, you need to learn how to short-walk and long-walk. This is another whole lesson, which it would be best if you learned live from either me or one of our recommended clinicians, rather than having me try to write it down here. It is an important and fundamental skill.

You will, in looking through Mike Schaffer's book, find excellent suggestions of how to take untracking into further, and more highly precise, forms. One form will be the old classic exercise "expanding the circle". Another is "drifting" from one circle to the opposite circle, i.e. circle-expand-change bend-drift-circle. There is no difference between these exercises that Mike so clearly explains and pictures, and what Buck or Harry or I would have you do if we had you on this horse down in the sand.

Now, it will likely be a couple of weeks before you start feeling some changes in the horse. You should re-evaluate your progress about every two weeks, with an important milestone at about six weeks. I sympathize because I know how unsure many people are when they "hear about" these things but they have never really seen anybody do 'em. The student may feel like she is fumbling in the dark, because there is a big difference between knowing intellectually what "should" happen and that first time when the horse really responds or really turns loose of the brace he's been holding. There is no real cure for this except to go to the clinic, if only as a spectator, and ask questions until you feel more sure.

The other thing is for you to attend Dave Genadek's next West-coast saddle fitting clinic. Dave is out here fairly often actually. It is much harder for a horse to let go of a brace he's holding through the ribcage section of himself if the saddle tree does not fit him.

Meanwhile, go ahead and start practicing, and write back as often as you feel any need, because I'd not only like to hear your questions as they arise, I'd like to hear progress reports in your own words. -- Dr. Deb


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