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Serious problem... or?
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LynnF
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 Posted: Mon May 3rd, 2010 06:12 pm
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I have had my 11 year old gelding at a trainer's for the past 2 months.  In the last 2 weeks he had gotten increasingly sore in his back and neck and increasingly difficult to ride because of the pain.  The trainer took him to the vet who declared his problem was that his mandible and atlas were so close together that flexing at the poll was pinching and causing him to have pain all the way down to his hocks.  He's never had this problem before, and I am wondering how something like this could just develop over a 2 month period.  I picked him up and brought him home yesterday.  The trainers said they could do nothing further with him.  I'd like to know if this is a real problem or not.  The gelding is a 14 h Arab.  I've had him since birth and have never known him to have trouble flexing at the poll or turning his head.

AdamTill
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 Posted: Mon May 3rd, 2010 06:53 pm
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If I had to guess, I suspect that the problem is more that the horse has trouble being FLEXED at the poll.

Remember that the goal is to have the muscles overlying the topline to release, and have the horse release at the poll. The result of that is that gravity drops the head, and you get the resulting outline as a reward. Too many people try to actively have the horse adopt that position, which requires musclular activity, and could probably lead to the conditions you're describing. Substitute "release" for "flex" and you'll see where I'm coming from.

That would be especially true if your horse is conformationally tight between the mandibles, and that his natural release angle is shallower then the normal "dressage warmblood" picture that some folks have in their minds. If the trainer is trying to get your horse to adopt a posture that his conformation doesn't allow, then it will damage him. That doesn't mean that he can't release at the poll...it means that the resulting posture won't LOOK the same as other horses.

Net result, it sort of sounds like you wouldn't want your horse in training there anyway.

Cheers,

Dorothy
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 Posted: Mon May 3rd, 2010 07:01 pm
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Hi Lynn,

When a horse correctly collects, it will coil the loin, lift the thoracolumbar spine, raise the root of the neck, and reach into a neck telescoping gesture. This results in the top of the neck lengthening away, pushing the poll forwards over the nose, and opening the gap between the mandible and the wing of the atlas.

This can and will happen regardless of the individual horse's conformation, and the proximity of the mandible to the atlas is of little significance.

I wonder how your horse has been ridden?

Dorothy

LynnF
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 Posted: Tue May 4th, 2010 02:53 am
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Well, he hasn't been ridden correctly, but I've discovered that very few horses are.  They started out riding him in a training curb with a dogbone, and when he quit responding to that, they went to a three-piece bit with long shanks.  I've never ridden him in a shanked bit.  He's not crazy about a broken snaffle, so I'm going to try him in a mullen.  I don't believe there is anything wrong with him conformationally.  I suspect they made him sore cranking on him.  I just wanted him RIDDEN for 60 days to dust the cobwebs off.

AdamTill
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 Posted: Tue May 4th, 2010 05:24 am
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Are you talking about one of those Tom Thumb snaffle/curb combo bits? If so, then that's half your problem.

Curb + snaffle = useless

Dorothy
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 Posted: Tue May 4th, 2010 07:49 am
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Hi Lynn,

from your description of the changes in bits as he 'quit responding', I just wonder if he has ever been taught actually how to respond to a bit, ie head twirling, and then using Mike Schaffer's idea about cognitive aids, it sounds as though he was being ridden mechanically. Any self respecting Arab would quit that! It matters less what bit you use as how you use it.

Have you read the True Collection article which you can find from the Home page? I would also really recommend you look at Mike's book - there is a recent thread with a link to his site, its worth reading!

Dorothy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat May 8th, 2010 04:57 am
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Folks -- all of you: horses that go to trainers often get in wrecks, which the trainers in their ignorance themselves create. One of the commonest wrecks is that the horse pulls back hard when tied. My guess is that this is what happened in the present case.

Lynne, I hope you have learned your lesson here. In the US, there is no requirement whatsoever that anyone who hangs out a shingle that says "horse trainer" be observed, educated, trained, or certified by anyone or anything whatsoever. This is why we post a list of recommended people. All the people we list work this way: they take the horse and the rider as a team. They do not hide what they are doing. They encourage or even require you to be there while your horse is being worked. You need to be there.

We also encourage you to take the time to attend clinics and seminars put on by our recommended people. Even if you can't get a horse in the clinic, you can go spectate. When you go spectate, you spend three days to three weeks sitting up there as an ACTIVE participant, and that means taking notes and asking questions in pursuit of the one most important thing, which is that your desire is to extract the principle of whatever is being taught, take that principle home and apply it appropriately and creatively to your own livestock.

In short, we expect you to train your own horse.

You do not need any trainer. You need yourself.

We also make available a huge amount of good training information either for free or for small money. Before trying to work with any young horse or any green horse, you should first qualify yourself by this means as well as by spending all the time you possibly can with our recommended people.

Now that the animal has been damaged, you have a more difficult task than you would have had if you had done it right in the first place. The task is not, however, insuperable if you will at this time commit to this being the first day of the rest of your life and take the first necessary steps in becoming fully responsible for any and all outcomes with your horse. Everything that ever happens to your own horse is, of course, down to you and no one else.

I would like to request that you take a good side photograph of the animal in question, showing the whole of its head and neck, so that I can properly assess what the conformation of the turnover area actually is. Please listen to Dorothy in her post where she explains that when a horse raises the base of the neck, it acts to open the throatlatch area. The only time when the throatlatch area is closed by an attempt to "collect" the horse is when the bit is being pulled back upon, in other words, when the rider lacks a correct understanding of the whole procedure from the git-go. There are indeed horses in the universe that have narrow angle between the mandble and the atlas vertebra in the turnover area, and that indeed have minimal space between these two bones. But there is not one horse alive that cannot be properly put to the bit or collected, IF ONLY THE RIDER KNEW HOW.

Go read "Lessons from Woody", "True Collection", and "The Ring of Muscles" under Knowledge Base, things you should have had well under your belt before ever thinking of beginning the animal's training. -- Dr. Deb

LynnF
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 Posted: Sat May 8th, 2010 07:08 pm
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I have read all the articles on the Home page, and I have been a reader on this forum for many years.  I also attended Dr. Deb's clinic in Texas in 2009.  I hadn't ridden this horse in quite a while and just wanted him to get a refresher and some lessons for myself.  I got some good out of the lessons, but I'm not sure he did.  Here is a picture.

Attachment: CIMG1031.JPG (Downloaded 527 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue May 11th, 2010 11:58 am
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Lynn, was this photo taken before or after the wreck at the trainer's? -- Dr. Deb

LynnF
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 Posted: Tue May 11th, 2010 03:21 pm
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Before.  I have photos of them riding him.  I will take some new photos this evening.

LynnF
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 Posted: Wed May 12th, 2010 01:30 am
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I took several head shots this evening, but will just post one.

Attachment: CIMG1226.JPG (Downloaded 443 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu May 13th, 2010 09:20 am
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Lynn, sorry it's taken me a few days to get back to you on this; I am currently on teaching tour in New Zealand.

I see the most recent photo you posted and have to laugh at what the veterinarian SUPPOSEDLY told your trainer "friends". Lynn, how naive you are being. I highly doubt that any veterinarian actually told them what you reported, vis., that the mandible of this horse is so close to the atlas vertebra that poll flexion would be difficult or impossible. This is so ridiculous as to cast doubt upon the idea that the animal was ever taken to a veterinarian at all.

And Lynn, if you're attempting by posting here to substitute our expertise for that of your own veterinarian, you would be making a bad mistake. The following things need to be determined:

1) Is the horse actually unable to flex or turn its head? Is there any loss of normal mobility?

2) Is the horse currently in any significant degree of pain? Is a pain response elicited when the animal's head is turned?

3) What is the general health and physical status of the horse?

If the answer to either the first or second question is 'yes', you need to call your vet immediately and have them make a diagnosis. This will be of greater value if your veterinarian was already familiar with the animal before it went to the so-called "trainers".

Once again, this should serve as a warning to all of our readers: you don't need any trainer. You never need a trainer. You need yourself. You need to learn how to train and handle your own horse yourself.

Go see 'Alice in Wonderland' and find your Muchness! -- Dr. Deb

LynnF
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 Posted: Thu May 13th, 2010 06:14 pm
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I actually talked to this vet myself.  I know he saw my horse, because I also had his vaccinations and Coggins done, and I paid the bill.  But I did NOT believe his story of the mandible being too close to the atlas.  It sounded ridiculous to me, and so, apparently, it is.  The horse is not in any pain now, and can turn his head and flex with no problem.  I don't know what the trainer did to him.  He was extremely sore while there, and now he's fine.  Now I have reason to doubt the competence and integrity of the vet as well as the trainer.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat May 22nd, 2010 08:17 am
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Lynne, I want to round this discussion up by making a positive suggestion. Look at the most recent issue of Equus Magazine and read the article I have in there that explains "raising the base of the neck".

Every horse owner/rider needs to understand what this is all about. When Dorothy (above) mentioned to you that if your horse would just raise the base of his neck, there would never be a question of lack of space at the throatlatch, she is quoting from old material (the original "Principles of Conformation" books) that I published in the 1980's. In those books, and again in the recent article, I integrate a variety of work both by master-horsemen such as La Gueriniere and Baucher with anatomical studies such as those done by Kellogg and Slijper, along with anatomical work and video study which I have performed. In doing this, you get the benefit of a summary and clarification of how the horse's neck works.

When the horse raises the base of his neck, the throatlatch opens not just a little bit, but hugely. This is crucial not only for the animal's comfort, i.e. no bones grinding on each other and no muscles or other soft tissues getting pinched, but because the pharynx is held wide open when the horse raises the base of the neck. Since inspired air must pass through the pharynx on its way from the nostrils to the larynx at the top of the trachea, the horse that is ridden with the base of the neck raised experiences much less anxiety and worry than the animal ridden with the base of the neck in "neutral" or depressed. It is from the animal in which the base of the neck is dropped that we are going to get cramps in the tongue and pharynx, stentorious breathing sounds, and an unquiet tongue. The tongue will be unquiet because, in an attempt to clear its airway, many horses will continually raise, twist, or extrude the tongue out the side of the lips.

Now, it is quite likely that your trainer is of the common sort who have absolutely no knowledge of the horse's anatomy or biomechanics. The common sort of horse trainer is utterly unqualified, on this basis, to be labelling himself as such; but so indeed are also most of the European trainers who have fancy letters after their names, because although in general they have studied some anatomy, most of what they have been taught is incorrect. So you're not going to do any better either way.

Who has to learn this stuff is you, yourself, the owner/rider. Then you don't need any trainer anymore.

Another thing that it will be easy to see the common trainer doing is obsessing on getting the horse's face vertical. Again, if the trainer knew the first thing about muscle function, pulling back "square" on the reins would never happen, nor either would there be any such thing in the world as tiedowns, running martingales, or draw reins used with more than one hand at a time (as explicitly shown by their inventor, William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, in the 17th century).

No, instead, if the trainer knew anything, he would be trying to access the SIDESLIPPING motion of the poll joint by twirling the head, rather than addressing its FLEXION capabilities by pulling the nose back. If the trainer were really qualified, he would know that, once the head is twirled and the brace goes out of the muscles of the horse's neck, since the function of the most anterior of those muscles is to raise the nose, then when those muscles are rendered inactive by twirling the head would fall vertical all by itself.

Likewise, if the trainer were really qualified, he would know that since the dorsal muscles of the neck, especially the cervical rhomboideus, act to raise the head when they contract, then when the rhomboideus is rendered inactive through twirling and/or correct neck flexions directed at the several joints, the head will drop all by itself.

Now it has been explained in this forum many times how to twirl the head, and also illustrated in detail in the papers that all students here are asked to read, vis., those posted under "Knowledge Base" under the titles "Lessons from Woody", "True Collection", and "The Ring of Muscles". Recently again, I also published detailed anatomy of this in "The Eclectic Horseman" magazine.

What has not so much been addressed as of yet is how the rider is to get the horse to raise the base of its neck. This involves two aspects: one, making sure that there is nothing blocking any effort the horse might make to do this; and two, a certain coordination of the rider's hand and leg.

What can very effectively block a horse's efforts to raise the base of the neck is contraction of the cervical rhomboideus or cervical trapezius muscles, or a more general brace through the other large muscles of the neck, vis., brachiocephalicus or splenius. Likewise, anything that multiplies the back-pulling effect of the reins, including any kind of rig that has straps that run through rings (with the exception of the chambon). But hard, inflexible hands driven by the Otto Lorke/dominant German school philosophy of "driving the horse forward into fixed hands" can work just as well.

The coordination of hand and leg is this: the rider needs to feel the rhythm of the horse, and the horse has to be moving freely and straight. The rider has to have a good enough seat that steady hands are possible. She also has to have LONG SINCE committed to always having a bend in both elbows, the hands held where they belong up in front of her navel, the backs of the hands flat and the thumbs facing skyward. The reins are held in the standard grip, and it is important that the thumb "cap" the rein where it falls forward over the first joint of the index finger. The other fingers should be closed -- softly -- but closed -- so that the body of the rein touches the palm of the hand.

Then use the horse's inside hind leg to bend him upon a circle, say, to the right. This is "untracking" or stepping under the body-shadow with the inside hind leg; it is how to initiate and maintain a curving figure by means of the hindquarters rather than by means of the hands. In sophisticated riding, the horse is not steered by pulling him around by his head, but turns are, rather, initiated from the rear. Thus, to change direction means to change hind legs.

The effect of untracking -- as all other effects in sophisticated riding -- is created by the rider's inner or "plasma" body. The body does not "mechanically" do anything, and no horse has ever gone forward, or done anything else, because he was poked, prodded, whipped, or spurred. You send your plasma "hand" out from the calf of your leg. It swoops around to touch the outside of the horse's hock on the same side (i.e. the right side in this example). The plasma hand gently nudges the hock, telling the horse you'd like him to swing his limb forward-and-under just enough that he untracks himself the right amount for the diameter of the curve you intend to ride.

Once the horse is "turned loose" -- freely moving on the circle you've indicated, with no brace in the neck, loins, or ribcage -- then you can ask him to raise the base of his neck more than he will already be doing just from doing what you're doing already. You do this by touching him in the belly with both of your plasma calves, in time with his stride. You're doing a plasma belly-lift, in fact, every other stride or so. If the horse then starts making little piggy-sounding grunts, you're communicating very well, and he's responding just as he should. At that point, you can try lightening the belly lift -- see how small you can make all your aids, even though they are already invisible, being as they are plasma.

You will definitely feel the horse round up under you. As the effort comes from the horse -- the same effort that you can see in Dave Genadek's excellent slow-motion bucking horse clips in the "dorsal ligament" thread -- as you feel that wave coming up underneath you, you catch it in your hands, and you allow it to go all the way to the front by pushing your hands "up and over". Mike Schaffer describes this as being like having your hands on a bicycle wheel that's mounted in the withers; your hands go forward as if they were touching the rubber tire. I have previously, in "The Birdie Book", described the same sensation as being like a waterfall; a line connecting your paired hands is like the brink over which the flow of the horse's energy falls, spilling down his neck, running off between his ears.

The total exercise that these things produce is called (in Germany) "showing the horse the way to the ground". It is an old exercise, derived from Steinbrecht's teaching in the 1890's. It is the truth of which the "rollkur" is the modern lie.

So please take your beautiful gelding, now that he is not sore, and go learn to ride him yourself, Lynn. You need nobody else. The understanding that you get here will enable you to out-think and out-ride any "trainer". As to the veterinarian -- well, most of them are not horsemen at all. You rely on the vet for shots and medical treatment, and that's his area of expertise, and no reason to disparage him on that level at all. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

Charlotte
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 Posted: Sun May 23rd, 2010 09:41 pm
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If the horse then starts making little piggy-sounding grunts, you're communicating very well, and he's responding just as he should.
You know, I was thinking of raising a question about the 'sound of relaxation' so I'm so pleased you mentioned this. I remember being told as a child that 'snorting means he is happy' of course I know know that this can depend on the TYPE of snorting you hear... (I did some searching and found more on this here http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/forum1/227.html)

When we are working on our untracking, twirling etc and it's going well, my horse makes what I call 'whuffly' contented sounding, snorts. Sometimes - particularly when we untrack stepping through to one side and then change to the other so he swings from one side to the other - he emits a voluptuous, almost musical, groan! I also notice that when he realises that we are going to work like this, he will start to relax and snort in anticipation.

I've lots still to do, but these signs are encouraging. Thank you.


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