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Joined: Wed Nov 14th, 2007
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Posted: Sun Nov 25th, 2007 01:41 pm
I would like to also!
rebecca g

Joined: Sun Sep 2nd, 2007
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Posted: Sun Nov 25th, 2007 11:41 pm
Dr. Deb, thank you for your insight. Please post the thread. I am sure that my horse will also thank you. Rebecca

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Posted: Mon Nov 26th, 2007 02:44 am
Here you go, folks. Enjoy. This is one of the great ones. -- Dr. Deb

From John Pyle: Dear Dr. Deb -- I really wnat to thank you for your translation of Baucher in the last "Inner Horseman". I've studied him for sometime, mostly through Racinet's books and some other sources, but your translation into the American terms used commonly by our teachers has sure clarified and sometimes confirmed the meaning I was getting from the others.

"The force puts the weight in motion by causing it to flow from one extreamty to another" is a concept that I began to understand from riding with Ray and Brian and lately, you, but your interpertation has clarified it greatly for me. It is essential to understand the "effect d' ensemble", as you render it,"the combination of effects". At least it was essential for me, because I had previously understood "effect d' ensemble" as a static thing, but you have, once again, opened my eyes to other possibilities. Namley, when you caution us that "to oppose the forces of the hands and legs" means "to use the
forces of the hands and legs to regulate the flow of weight and energy from one part of the combined horse and rider body to another" you have put the "effect d' enseble" into motion. That's brilliant. A part of Baucher's real meaning, which I never got before. Thanks much. This brings me to my question.

You also translate that "the observant rider will notice that in every movement there are brief moments of immobility". Now, in the motion of every limb there comes the time when it slows, and stops in protraction and begins its movement in retraction, I'm assuming that that's the momemt, but perhaps I'm being too literal. I've been experimenting with feeling, and effecting, that moment, and I think it's certainly helped me find the location of the inside hind in the shoulder-in in walk and trot, and to help the horse, so to speak, "find the spot". I'm trying it also, of course, in all movements and gaits. Please, if you can, expand on this, and tell me if I'm close to being on track, or, redirect if necessary. Thanks again.

From Dr. Deb: Dear John -- It is pure pleasure to respond to this query. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed the opportunity in the 2004 "Inner Horseman" to go into Baucher deeply. I too have derived much benefit from this study. Part Two will be coming out in the June, 2004 issue -- I think it's even more informative and stimulating than Part One.

The whole key to understanding Baucher -- and properly translating this greatest equestrian genius of the nineteenth century -- lies in grasping what he means by "the forces of the horse." Peter Mullans will probably chuckle if he ever gets around to reading Baucher in the original, because Peter really is a physicist; but it is abundantly clear from context in Baucher's writings that he is, at very best, an amateur in that field, and uses the term "force" in a highly idiomatic, rather than a technical sense.

So, as you have pointed out, I translate Baucher's phrase "the forces of the horse" either as "the flow of weight" or (especially in Part Two, where he leaves the static exercises and goes on to talk about riding the horse in the various gaits and movements), as "the flow of weight and energy."

This becomes of crucial importance in the most widespread, and worst, mis-translation and mis-understanding of Baucher, vis., that when he says "oppose the forces" he means "drive the horse forward from the leg and seat into a fixed hand." In a hundred small ways, and several times quite explicitly, Baucher says never to do this, and it therefore cannot be what he means -- no matter what the words, taken one by one out of the dictionary, may say. When, however, we follow the rule of translation which I have suggested, we can understand that what Baucher wants us to do is to regulate the flow of weight and energy. Yes: weight flows, and human beings are empowered to both feel this and see it!

I am going to supply a considerable number of illustrations in the June issue, just as I did in the January issue, with the purpose of taking us beyond the not very precisely-drawn images in Baucher's original. I think it's important to know something about what Baucher (writing in the early 19th century) means by "the traditional training methods of our grandfathers' time" -- he complains about certain things the “grandfathers” did, while retaining others, but since readers in our time are generally unfamiliar with 18th century practice, I thought I would present a selection of images from the latter half of that century which show the process of manège training then employed.

I am also going to put in some of my own "head pictures", i.e. the picture that presents itself to my mind's eye when I read certain things in Baucher. So, to get down to your question -- here is a picture I think will be most useful for an American trying to understand what Baucher means by the "effect d'ensemble" or "combination of effects." By "effects" Baucher sometimes means what we call pressures, but also he sometimes means the thing you do when you have your baseball glove on and you catch a ball. When you were a little kid, before your Dad showed you how, maybe when somebody threw to you, you stiff-armed it and got stung and the ball popped out of your mitt. Then Dad explained to you that you have to receive the ball with some "give". How much "give" depends upon how hot the throw is -- the hotter, the more. When you catch a ball with skill, you receive – and regulate -- a flow of weight and energy!

Now, another important picture I get here is of somebody playing with a "Slinky" toy. He's got one end of the slinky in each palm. He pushes upward (= sends energy) with one palm; the energy flows through the slinky, making the coils move like a wave; and the stack of coils and accompanying energy then arrive in the palm of the other hand (= receive the flow of weight and energy).

Baucher actually, repeatedly, refers to the horse's extremities (neck and mouth, the four limbs) as "his springs" and so I think the Slinky picture is more than apt. In riding an actual horse, you have several sets of Slinkies to pay attention to and whose flow you are to regulate, vis., the back-to-front Slinky of the haunches, loins, base of neck, poll/throatlatch, jaws, and tongue; the Slinkies connecting diagonal legs; and the Slinkies connecting lateral pairs of legs. Plus your OWN Slinkies, i.e. head, lower back, arms, seatbones, the calves of your legs. And then, of course, in the end your reins become Slinkies too -- a living part of the connected whole.

I like the Slinky picture not only because this toy makes "the flow of weight and energy" visible, but also because it works like a wave. Several times, Baucher talks about not "clashing" the flow of weight and energy, which gives me a picture of ripples that you might see on a beach -- one set of ripples moving one way, another set at an angle contrary to it, and then when they meet, there is vibration, some kind of bizarre moire pattern leading to stasis, or just plain turmoil. And "freezing up" or "turmoil" is just what Baucher warns you that you are going to get if you cause "clashing"!

As to "brief moments of immobility": these are entirely different from the "freezing up" just mentioned. I agree that by "brief moments of immobility" Baucher means exactly the moment when a baseball, thrown upward, reaches its apex, pauses, and then returns.

But the system he's trying to describe is far more complex than the simple arc of a thrown ball. Baucher is highly concerned with balance -- finding perfect balance is his main objective. Missing this point creates another total mis-understanding of Baucher, because if the reader misses how important perfecting the balance in each and every step is -- what we call "finding the spot" -- then he will be likely to remember only the times when Baucher is talking about position. Again, if you take Baucher too literally, he seems to be saying that position per se is the whole objective. But it clearly isn't, even though in Part One Baucher has to tell the recruits again and again that they must get the horse's head and neck in certain positions.

What most translators seem to have missed is that there is a REASON for positioning the horse -- and Baucher is the first person that I know of in all history to have realized this: that only when you get the horse in the right starting position -- what Ray Hunt has for 30 years been calling "prepare to position" -- only then can he execute the maneuver in balance and therefore with perfect ease.

The first synonym of "ease" in this sense is RELEASE. So if we twirl the head, flex the neck, ask the animal to step under its belly with its inside hind leg, move the inside foreleg more to the inside so as to induce it to "turn equal" -- in all cases, the sole and only purpose for which we position the horse is to obtain REAL EASE.

Let me close by saying again how delighted I am that you, and very likely some of the others, are taking the time to study the January issue of "The Inner Horseman" in some detail....there is a lot to be gained. Happy riding indeed!


From Diane: Hiya - this thread prompted me to look at this article again. Baucher refers to ramener ("Direct Flexons of the head and neck or ramener") and the only other mention of ramener that I've read is by the French rider/author, Jean Froissard in his book "Basic Dressage" 1971 translated by Lily Powell-Forissard.

To share a portion of what is said in Froissard's chapter on "The Ramener"...

"The term 'head carriage' is loosely applied to both a natural and an acquired attitude, but it is incomplete because it does not include the very important participation of the neck. Therefore dressage experts keep using the French term ramener, which has been a part of equestrian terminology for as long as the concept itself has existed in equitation.
This ramener consists of a head position close to the vertical with the poll at the apex and is achieved by driving the body, and the neck, forward, the hands exerting a measure of opposition to this forward movement. This leads to a tightening of the angle formed by the first two cerivcal vertebrae and poll joints. The hand opposition must be so minimal and skilful, however, that it 'filters' rather than blocks and, far from coercing the horse, causes him to yield willingly.

The ramener, let me repeat, must be obained, not by a retreat of the head towards the body, but BY THE ADVANCE OF THE BODY TOWARDS THE HEAD, the neck coiled in strict proportion to the extent to which the head is bent to the rear.

The pitfall for so many is that this near-vertical position of the head can, indeed, be obtained both ways, but the results are not at all alike. And yet it is the result that counts, because the ramener is not an end in itself but a means toward two ends. These are that it allows the bit to act with the greatest effectiveness on the lower jaw and it 'tautens' the top line of the horse.

In obtaining ramener by a retreat of the head we should only be teaching the horse 'to flee the bit', to pass behind it, whereas all training is directed towards teaching him to make contact with it. We want the horse to remain on the bit, even at the halt, yet not allow himself to be carried by it nor to pull against it. ..." (pp 43-44)

There are two sketches accompanying the text. I small chapter but a formidable one I feel, I first read this book around the same time as I read/saw Dr Deb’s works.

From Dr. Deb: Dear Diane -- Froissard's comments are generally useful, although like most modern Europeans, he does not quite understand where raising the base of the horse's neck fits into the picture. Baucher did understand this and so did DeCarpentry. It is not merely a matter of bringing the body FORWARD. It must be “brought forward” in a certain, very specific, way – i.e., things will only work out beautifully if the horse raises the base of its neck. Otherwise, although Froissard is correct in saying that “the results are very different” if the hand is brought back vs. if the body is shoved forward, in both cases, in the absence of raising the base of the neck, they will be ugly results.

In any case, it is generally wiser to go to the original source. Baucher did not, I think, invent the term "ramener", but he says in his text that (at least to him) it means the vertical carriage of the head.

Baucher has been, since the day he first put pen to parchment, one of the most widely-discussed of all equestrian authors. Partly this is due to his highly idiomatic way of putting things. He invented his own terminology wherever he felt it necessary -- so necessarily those words do not appear in any lexicon or dictionary (except Baucher's own, and he wrote one of those too, specifically for horsemanship terms).

The exact equivalent occurs with Tom Dorrance -- this master horseman too had his own, highly idomatic, way of expressing what he had experienced and what he hoped we would be able to learn. Like Baucher, Tom was also extremely careful in his selection of words -- he tried very hard to find exactly the right word or phrase to express each concept, and in some areas he spent years honing the most succinct and appropriate way to answer the student's question. Yet, it was still idomatic, and as a result those who did not know him often have a very difficult time understanding what he was trying to say. Baucher is the same -- even French speakers did not and don't, I think, always understand him correctly. If you turn the picture around, imagine the difficulty in translating Tom Dorrance into French!

But ultimately, with both of these great horsemen, each student and each reader is going to have to decide for himself. "The text says what the text says", and after the author's death there is no further recourse. Froissard is French and an experienced and highly qualified horseman. Racinet is also French, also an expert, and he published a whole book just to "explain" Baucher. There is, likewise, a translation of Baucher into English made by Green, an American language scholar who also rides. And yet here comes Dr. Deb presenting yet another interpretation (for all translations from one language to another are interpretations).

So, you have several choices, and another one besides, which would be for you to read Baucher yourself in the original French. The real object is to find a translation that helps you to put Baucher's ideas and brilliant insights into actual practice -- to make them a part of your daily interaction with your horse. That's when any book about horses becomes really useful.

From Peter Mullans: OK, I realise this post may not be in the spirit of this thread, but here's a view:

A lot of horsemanship involves terminology. (As do many other disciplines). What I notice about horsemanship is that many people use technical terms incorrectly, with the result that nobody really knows what they mean.

Terms like 'force', 'energy', 'momentum', 'weight', 'centre of gravity', etc, etc. have a very specific meaning, and if you don't understand them, you can't really use them correctly. To use them incorrectly simply causes confusion. This is one of the reasons why there is so much difficulty in understanding what people really mean in this area.

Suppose there was a very accomplished farmer who had a reputation for extremely good farm management and husbandry. But he didn't know the names of the animals, so he called them by different names, randomly. For example, he would refer to cows as 'geese' and to horses as 'chickens' and to ducks as 'pigs'. Another time he would call all horses 'pigs', and so on...

If anyone else wanted to learn his skills, they might find it difficult to do so by reading his book. In order to learn how he managed his farm so well, they would really have to go and take a look, and maybe hang out with him for a while, so that they could then interpret his idiosyncratic (or ignorant) use of language and find out if he really did feed hay to the chickens or keep the horses in hen coops.

If the farmer was no longer of this world, then the only recourse would be for someone who understood all these concepts to try to interpret the farmer's wisdom to the rest of us. This is what Dr Deb has, very commendably, attempted to do. She should be thanked for this, because the 'Inner Horseman' is indeed a remarkable work that deserves much study.

In my own (rather limited) experience, I have found that to try to understand these masters, past and present, is simply not possible by reading their words. I read Bill and Tom Dorrance's books a few years ago and came away with nothing. So I worked with my horse for a while, then I tried the books again a couple of years later. This time they made much more sense. In fact they were a joy to read. This was because I was able to apply my own interpretation to their words, so the specific words became less important to me, but more important was the general feel of what they were trying to convey. (I hasten to add that this only applied to about 10% of the books - the other 90% still remains a mystery).

It's more like poetry than science. The meaning is behind the words. Once you have experienced love, or loss, or joy, then you can understand poems about those things, and can gain from the experience and teachings of others.

But I think you need the experience before the words.

From Dr. Deb: Absolutely correct, Peter. More on this later, when I get a minute.


From John Pyle: Peter, I don't know if your post is in the "spirit" of this thread, but it's sure within its scope. You're right on with it, as Dr Deb has said, and I'm looking foward to her comments. As for me, I can only speak from my own experience. I remember clearly a conversation with my Dad some twenty or so years ago, where I was complaining that I couldn't get much from the "experts" published in the popular horse magazines because no one seemed to use the same definitions of their terms, and some of the terms they did use were so subjective that I couldn't, some times, tell just what they were talking about. The Old Man, unlike me, doesn't waste time in futile conversations, he just grumbled, "Why don't your just go ride the damned horse". (He also believes in going straight to the source). He was right, of course.

I worked on that for a long while, and at one time, thought I had a useful ratio of time riding required to understand time reading. Something like 20:1. I realize now that's not nearly high enough, for me, at least. Of course, it would be different for everyone. But, as you point out, horsemanship is more of an art than a science, so the whole idea is silly.

Most of the masters that we like to study, somewhere in their works, point out that trying to convey a feel with a word, or words, is very, very hard. They all have to use the best words that, in their belief, would to just that. The problem, that you have made crystal clear, is that their meanings are from a lot, to just a tiny bit, different from mine, or yours. Now, Dr. Deb, with her interpretations of Baucher, has jogged my deffinitions just enough to open, for me, a whole new meaning to his words that was really close to an epiphany, but it might mean nothing to someone else. The only real Rosetta Stone that we have -- and it's always infallible when interperted correctly -- is the horse.

"There's the rub". Horses, as you know, have their own rich and complex language and we have to be very careful of a mistranslation. Now, it's possible to learn a language by immersion, I'm sure. If we're stuck in a foreign country with no interpreters and no help, eventually we would learn the language. If we're stuck in the middle of a horse herd in those conditions, we damn well better learn the language. It would sure be a lot safer for us if we had an interpreter. To me that means that we need to "go find Harry", or Ray, or Brian, or anyone else, and certainly not necessarly American, who can honestly, and in the deepest sense, be called a "Horseman". We need an expert.

I'll give an example. One of the ground work exercises you may know is, what Dr. Deb calls “twirling”.

With a haltered horse, and this exercise is really valuable for colts, and a long lead, carefully bring the lead along the side of the horse opposite the one you are standing on, all the way back to his hindquarters and around them above the hocks. With some horses you can do this almost in one single motion, with others it will take some slow carefull work untill he can accept it calmly, but when he finally does, slowly tighten the rope untill he realizes to take a step with his inside leg, the one that's away from you, under his belly. Then another step and so on, untill he's gone about 90 degrees. Then, if you’re slow and careful, you can work on getting the front legs to step across. After some time you can move the rope from the hindquarters to the cantle of a saddle, then to the horn, and sometimes just to the neck in front of the withers. When done correctly, the horse learns to first twirl his head, then release through the ribs, then through the quarters, then untrack or  “disengage”.

This can save your life when you're on that colt, because you have a way to "bring him around" that he already understands. Brian Neubert calls this your "emergency brake", Brannaman calls it "doubling", I don't know what Ray calls it, but he's just pretty fair at getting it done. It's not hard to teach, but in my -- literally painful -- experience there is a BIG caveat. Horses can do this real pretty and just glide around, but if they're not gliding ONE - STEP - AT - A - TIME you're not getting it done right and if you need it later, it just might surprise you what you get -- I know it did me! Belive it or not, this can be really hard to tell. Horse can move one step at a time, when they’re actually not moving ONE STEP-AT- A- TIME. Telling which one they're doing takes some fluency in their language. This can't just come from the book masters, or from the just the horses, or from just the real live masters, or really, from all three; it has to come from you, too.

This has gone on too long, I'm sure, but I sometimes have a hard time stopping once I start rolling. At any rate, Peter, I enjoy your posts, and I really appreacate this one. I think it is necessary to this thread. Thanks --

From Peter Mullans: Thanks, John. The movement you describe is one that I do with my horse (it's a standard move in the school of one of the well-self-advertised horsemanship gurus) but I haven't heard it described as 'one step at a time' before. We tend to do it (rather unthinkingly) in one fluid movement - thus avoiding any brief moments of immobility!

I'll try it your way next time...

From Dr. Deb: Yes, Peter, what you are noting here is a basic problem we have seen again and again in people who have been through some of these “schools”: they are not taught to go at it one step at a time, and as a result they are "blurry" in WHY the move ought to be made, and therefore they cause their horses to "blur" through the move. Nothing is accomplished, except to make a performance which is no better or "kinder" than conventional competition. One is not to do any maneuver merely to please the teacher (or a judge), or to show to anyone that they can make the completed motion. The completed motion is to be the composite of iterated smaller motions, i.e., of the horse weighting or unweighting one limb at a time, and being conscious of the fact that this is what he is doing and that it is what the handler is asking him to do. -- Dr. Deb

From Peter Mullans: John, I tried your twirling excercise one step at a time, and it's much harder than doing it in one go! I appreciate Deb's description of the movement as 'blurring'. Taking it one step at a time involves much more feel and sensitivity from both me and my horse! And a much greater willingness to immerse yourself in the moment.

In fact, so far he hasn't managed a single isolated step - he just wants to blur the movement, but today he was trying to understand what I wanted, and we both knew that something new was taking place.

From Barbara: "The completed motion is to be the composite of iterated smaller motions, i.e., of the horse weighting or unweighting one limb at a time, and being conscious of the fact that this is what he is doing and that it is what the handler is asking him to do."

Why? The answer must be in the discussion above, but can someone put it another way? I am feeling a bit lost here.

Maybe, like a dancer or martial artist, who moves always from the center instead of just randomly or going through the motions, without being careful to preserve her balance?


From John Pyle: Peter, Great. I'm glad to hear you're trying this. That is just typical of the usual response. Doing things one step at a time can really show up any weakness in our relationship with our horses, just keep at it. As you know, there is no hurry, if he want's to take over, just start again, eventually it will come through and you and he will have a more sensitive relationship. Of course the concept applies to any movement you want to try.

I have a pretty well trained Arab gelding here who is one of my best friends, I felt we had things pretty straight between us untill I tried to back him in a circle one step at a time. He will just glide around circles and serpentines all day with no trouble at all. I thought this was pretty cool, but if I asked for just one step we were lost. It has taken about six months of steady work to get to the point where I can control each step, one at a time, but the enhancement in our communication is amazing. It has filtered down to all our work together. So, just keep at it, whatever improvement you get will be well worth it.

From Dr. Deb: Barbara, you have hit the nail on the head: yes, it's ultimately about balance. But, I will also say to you, "the answer can only be found in the doing". Nobody can really TELL you this answer, but you can see from Peter's and John's posts that they are certainly getting "something important" out of what they are practicing.

Now John, I also want to say to you -- yes, think about that pretty well trained Arab gelding of yours! Or anyone's horse that they are kind of used to riding. Where is the BIGGEST place that nearly everyone "blurs"? Why -- riding forward in the ordinary manner! So often we miss the very first step, because our "birdie" has flown ahead -- we've got our mind on riding to "point A" and so our birdie is already AT "point A". Some horses, not all but some -- the ones who want to take over and rush -- this is what gets it started. Your birdie and his birdie have to be together EACH step -- as Ray says, "you're going to do some things TOGETHER".

Another common side effect of not being fully conscious of the very first step when starting up in the forward direction from a halt, is what Buck Brannaman calls "wallering off" -- Buck's term which covers both the mental "blurriness" but also the swaying, dis-coordinated, heavy look of a horse that is just being pushed forward to somewhere-or-other and nobody has specified to him which foot he is to start up with or which foot or feet he's supposed to have his weight on.

All of this is why I tell people in nearly every clinic -- "this is why I love to teach you to back up -- because most people have only taken one-onehundredth or one-onethousandth the number of steps backward on their horse as they have taken forward. So if we go backward, I can 'get to you' because you don't have any bad habits!"

I am really quite enjoying this thread.

From Mare’s Tales: I have found the exercise that Ray recommended of slowing your horse down to a very slow walk, then increasing it to an extended walk, then slowing it down again, so valuable. I love teaching this to a horse that wants to rush ahead, not pay attention or is distracted. When you slow the walk down to one step at a time, it gives you a chance to really feel the horse and the horse to wait for you. You start being conscious of where the feet are at what moment. The horse starts waiting for you and if he’s waiting, then he’s not looking at other things. If he`s waiting, then he’s not taking over. You and the horse are then dancing, you are both waltzing together not him fox trotting and you jitterbugging but you’re both walzing together with you leading the dance and him WANTING to follow.

This timing and being with the horse and the horse being with you then transfers to your half halting. When you get to the advanced levels of dressage you can start transfering this to your piaffe work and piaffe becomes no big deal. You have become very conscious of what foot is weighted and which is airborne and what part of the stride you are in and when the best time is to ask for something so you don`t throw the horse off balance and make it impossible for him to follow your request.

This kind of riding establishes a special bond between horse and rider because you are both in balance and not working against one another.

A person is much more likely to be able to bring a distracted horse back who has this foundation laid in them if you just slow down the walk and ask them to wait for you one step at a time. It opens up a whole new line of communication between a horse and a rider. It seems like such a simple exercise but it means so much, just like alot of things that Tom and Bill and Ray taught seem so simple. I get a chuckle when Buck B. will say while working a horse "It`s just a little thing" because you can bet it`s a big thing to the horse and Buck knows it. My ears perk up when he says "its just a little thing" and I start ponderng about how the horse views whatever he`s doing because I know its important.

Looking back, before I knew the importance of this timing, I don`t consider what I was doing riding in harmony. I was just expecting the horse to put up with my ineptness and alot of them did but it wasn`t really riding. I was just lucky enough to have had kind horses that filled in for me.

Just when you think you have gone up a notch in your horsemanship, you peak over the hill to the next horizon and it opens up a whole new vista. I know I will never reach my destination but oh what fun it is to make the little personal discoveries along the way.

From Peter Mullans: I've been trying John's twirling excercise some more, and it's really difficult! It forces you to have a connection with your horse which you don't get if the movement is just 'blurred'. It also exposes the fact that I don't really have a connection at all! This is a bit disappointing for me...

We did the 'slow walk' thing at Deb's clinic in the UK last fall, and I now realise that even when we were going slow, we were STILL blurring. It's not just about going slowly, it’s about feeling each step.

I hope I'll be able to see a few more vistas before I hit that final valley...

From Mare’s Tales: Peter, another interesting thing that happens, you start really feeling the foot falls through your seat and you start learning how to hold them with your seat (shorten stride) and how to let go (lenghten stride). You become very conscious of your seat and many people are too tight in the hips to really follow so if they do this exercise, they learn how to let go. You start being conscious of how flexible you need to be so you don`t block your horse. You start learning how to follow with your seat and the horse learns how to follow YOU and gets hooked on to your seat. Soon you start seat riding instead of hand riding and your movements and your horses movements start to blend. (this is the beginning of harmony) I compare this to the way a school of fish or birds all turn in unison so that they don`t run in to eachother. They have this physical and therefore mental connection to one another, they have to BLEND. They have to work together or what a disaster! Horses do this in a herd too. By learning this little exercise, you become one of them. They know you know.

I have to confess, the first time I watched Ray put a group of riders through this exercise I thought “Well, I can do that. A lot not hard”. Then I started riding a spooky distracted horse that I just couldn’t give confidence to and I remembered the exercise. A whole new relationship with that horse opened up as a result. I started to understand what Ray wanted his students to discover by doing the exercise. Sitting there auditing the clinic and thinking I could already do it was VERY arrogant of me. I did not, in the least, understand the depth of it at the time and probably still have a lot of benefits to discover. Learning this was just another layer of the onion peeled. I still have a lot to go. It really made me listen to and feel of my horse and thus my horse started listening and feeling of me.

”It’s just a little thing”

From Peter Mullans: Mare’s Tales, have you ever thought of becoming a teacher? I think you would be very inspirational!

From Mare’s Tales: Thanks very much for the compliment Peter, but it’s hard deciding when you know enough to pass it on. “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know!” I consider people like Tom, Ray, Bill, Buck, Harry, our own Dr. Deb and our horses to be the true teachers. I`m certainly not in that class but your compliment made me feel very good. Thank you.

Funny thing about this kind of horsemanship, it`s the student who has to really want it. Many people I talk to are like I was at that Ray Hunt clinic saying “I can do that, I not hard” or “I do that all the time” when they really have no idea what it means to the horse and the scope of what level of understanding they COULD have if they just let go and embraced this and started listening to their animal. To quote Ray, “Most people don’t even know what I’m talking about exists.”

The changes in the horses become very significant but it`s the changes in the person that supports and understands the horses that astonishes me.

Looking at the big picture; in these troubled times it wouldn`t hurt for everyone to to take a step on the path of this journey. It would sure help in the understanding of one another.

From Reata: Gosh what a great thread and what a SMALL world too.. LOLOL Peter and I are old friends and Mares Tales is my best friend. You other guys can be my new friends..Thanks for the inspiring thoughts…

From John Pyle: Peter & Mares Tales et al., This is very good stuff indeed. I believe that every thing we do with our bodies, either on the ground, or on the horse, needs to have a MEANING for the horse. When the horse begins to understand the meaning of the slightest shift of weight, the change in tempo of our seat, the change in leg position or pressure etc., etc., then we've increased the value of our horsemanship and the ease and release of our horses.

Since we're getting a little philosophical here I'm going to offer a metaphore that's been in my head for some time now. A few decades ago there was an Englishman, Colin Fletcher by name, who gained some notoriety by walking alone, and at one time, the length of the Grand Canyon. Fletcher was a pretty good word smith and he wrote a book about his trip, called, I think, "The Man Who Walked Through Time". I thought it was a good book. The thing I remember most was that Fletcher said that before he entered the Canyon he studied it's history and geology and understood it intellectually, but after spending three months alone in the bottom of the chasm he came to an understanding of the awesome magnificence and age of the abyss that could not be had in any other way.

 I think that maybe Baucher, and the other masters, either ancient or current, have spent a long time in the Canyon themselves and have come out the other side with a depth of understanding that we all want. But, in order to get it, we have to get into the ditch ourselves. For whatever that's worth, Happy riding.

From Miriam: I like this thread too. I'm registered for a Harry W. clinic this Memorial Day and am really looking forward to it, am hoping to get a better understanding of the equine/human connection.

I seem to be able to GET my horse's attention, but am wondering just how to KEEP my horses attention without having to verbally chatter continuously to do it.
There must be a avenue that is better than the spoken word....

From Kathy: Yes there is, Miriam. Just let your "verbal chatter" run in your head without exiting your mouth! Then become aware of your body language and your horse’s body.Watch your horses eyes. When the eyes start to turn away from you move your body to draw the attention back to you. Experiment. It is fun! Today I turned my free mare into an open pasture gate with just my body and hands. Hard to explain but I raised my hand and made this turning twirling motion with my hands while I was at her hip.She was of course fully attentive to where I was but I was amazed that just by some body moves and the hand signal that she did a 180 and turned into an open gate when she could have gone anywhere else. Just like the time my 6 day old filly tried to climb onto the drum when I did.But beware when you start teaching these things as yesterday one of my 3 year old fillies had one front foot in the hay cart and was seriously thinking about climbing all the way in! And my farrier had a good laugh the other day when we heard this banging and looked up to find yet another 3 year old filly backed up to a large round water tank with her hind leg high in the air scratching the back of her fetlock on the rim of the tank. They are quite resourceful anyway.My farrier laughed and asked me if I teach them these weird things or if it's genetic --!

From John Pyle: Dear Miriam. Yes. Getting and keeping attention is sure a neccesity. Dr. Deb has an audio CD in which she deals with this, and other things too. It's well worth getting. As for myself, I can only offer my own experience, for wahtever that's worth. I'm currently starting a Morgan mare, just coming four, and a very nice horse, but I could say she has a little case of A.D.D. I mean “attention drift disorder”. She has lots of attention, but it's just everywhere but where we need it! Now, if previous experience holds true with her, this will happen: I'll get her attention by whatever means, probably just sending a coil up the lead rope till she looks at me with both eyes and says "What?" Then I'll ask for something pretty easy, like just a step forward, or back, or something. Then we rest for a minute and when her attention goes away, that's ok too. I figure a horse has a right to be aware of his environment, but pretty soon I'll ask for her attention again, and I will do whatever it takes to get it.

This time maybe, we'll do several steps, or a longer backup. We'll continue this process throughout her training untill, in a sense it almost becomes a litany, but we certainly hope, with more and more sublte "cues" on my part. She'll leave me in a couple of month, by then I hope all I will need is a touch of a calf, a change in the seat, a slight lift of a rein, to call her attention (her birdie) back to me and then, maybe, place it out on her forehead, where Dr. Deb says it ought to be. This is the only way I know. The actuall methods will vary with every horse, but I could never find how to "HOLD" a horses attention. I just keep asking untill they GIVE it to me. If anyone knows a better way, please enlighten me. And Miriam, please do get back on here and let me konw what Harry says and how he helps you. I really do waht to konw. Thanks – John Pyle

rebecca g

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Posted: Mon Nov 26th, 2007 11:50 am
Dr. Deb, reading this has really opened my eyes. Sometimes a lesson is right in front of me and I am as blind as a bat.  What came to mind as I read this was an evening about a year ago.  I have a small covered arena (60'x60') with a row of stalls along one side.  In the stalls were a mare and a paso fino stallion.  Nobody was around and all had wound down for the night so I decided to let the stallion out for some exercise.  Well, the mare was in heat and all the stallion wanted to do was stand outside of her stall and and act like a stallion.   He had been taught in the past to walk beside my teacher without a lead so I thought that I would try asking him to walk with me. We could make it about 2 steps(2 of mine, 20 of his) from the mare's stall and his birdie would fly back to her and so would he.  The way that his little paso fino feet would buzz I imagined his birdie to be a humming bird buzzing at a feeder then zipping away. So I would call his birdie back and try for a few more steps.  It took about an hour before he would stay with me for one circle around the arena, but his feet were still buzzing. Then I decided to see if I could slow his feet down. I focused on one foot at a time stepping with mine. By the time another hour or so had passed I could walk anywhere in the arena with his feet in slow motion with mine. By slow motion I mean just that. I could raise my foot very slowly and stop in mid air and he would do the same and then from there decide which direction to place it. We played like this for quite a while and he seemed to enjoy it.  I never did correct him for running away. I would just either go to him or call him back and start again.  In the end I couldn't shake him loose.  In the days that followed he was so much more peaceful. I don't  know what was going on in his mind but he was more content that I had ever seen him.  Eventually he and the mare were turned out on pasture together and his old ways returned. So as I was reading the above thread and recalling that evening I began to wonder. Why, if I could do that with a paso fino stallion, do I "blur" the movements with my own horse? The answer that I arrived at is my agenda. That night I had no agenda other than just to see if this horse and I could do this thing together.  When I am working with my horse always at the back of my mind is a competion or an exhiibition or "what is my teacher (or whoever might be present) thinking",ect.  Basically worrying about everybody else's opinion but my horse's.  What a wonderful, forgiving soul he is! So now I am heading out to my horse to play with one step at a time. I'll let you know how it goes. Rebecca


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Posted: Mon Nov 26th, 2007 06:19 pm
Dear Dr. Deb,

I have been reading and re-reading this thread because I am just beginning this journey with a new horse. I have to say that reading everyone's responses to Danee, particularly yours, have been enlightening. The concept of blurring is huge for me. I had been reading about the horse filling in (yes, yes, I can see that, I said to myself). My revelation came when the thread started discussing the "blur."  Oh, I said to myself - that's exactly what I do!

I have to give my attention to get the attention of the horse. I can't blur, or the horse will look away from me, possibly to himself, for leadership. I have to do this on the ground and most importantly (for me, because I blur more often on the horse) while I am riding.

My mind right now feels wide open. The horse I'm working with has obviously been ridden so his neck has developed somewhat upside down, and without reading this forum, particularly this thread, I don't think I would have put the pieces together: the physical piece of his muscular development PLUS his mental state contribute to his current appearance, and IF I am successful then I will see his muscles develop correctly, in addition to his general expression and posture.

Thank you Dr. Deb, and to everyone who contributes to this forum. All of your stories, examples, anatomy explanations, The Birdie Book, all of it has opened my eyes and my heart.


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Posted: Wed Nov 28th, 2007 04:52 pm
I am so thankful Dr Deb, that you took the time to post this archived thread.

The discussion on "blurring" has literally opened up my world with my horses. I spent today (again) really REALLY focusing on ONE STEP AT A TIME...occasionally I could feel the flow of energy squeezing out the wrong way and at that MOMENT in time-the shift from balance to leading to imbalance the 'blur' was so so clear.

Then I would shift the energy of the slinky to shift from imbalance to imbalance, heading more toward the direction of straightness...doing this ever so slow and helping the horse through each foot fall.

The biggest kick was watching each horse CONNECT to me mentally. It was like the second they felt I was not being critical but rather had pure intention of helping him find the comfy balanced place, each horse put EFFORT in like I have never experienced.

Each one locked onto me-it was like our energy and intention became one energy and one flow.

Does this make any sense?

I have a little analogy that may sound silly but it really helped some of this to make sense. Last night I was watching the "Dancing With The Stars" finale (yes silly, but bear with me).

I was watching the dancers-and the good ones, the ones that had lovely executed dances had total control of EACH footfall-no matter how fast or slow, each step was taken with a strong blurring.

Then when a couple had mistakes in footwork, you could literally see the 'blurring'-the steps did not have strong definition, if that makes sense. It looks even worse when one partner was on and one was off.

So I translated this in my mind to dancing with my horse-when it works, there is a distinct stepping that can be fast or slow...but the steps are still very distinct. When balance gets off it is like the 'beat' of the dance/ride gets off.

This is just our first few days of playing with blurring and slinkies but so far it is brilliant!

Thank you again Dr Deb and to those involved in this thread.

rebecca g

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Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 11:26 pm
I have been playing with "one step at a time" not only with my own horse, but with all the horses that I have to move about the farm.  It is as if I just focus then the horses automatically do too. In just a couple of minutes they stop trying to rush forward outside or trying to push their way out of a stall.  They are content to listen and wait for the next step. This focus has really helped me to relax and put all the other stuff out of my mind and to hear what my horse is saying.  My birdie has stopped fluttering from my horse to other people and back again.  I had a nice experience this evening. I was riding in the arena at a relaxed walk and my horse had a really soft contact. I began to picture each step of the inside hind foot as the vaulter's pole propelling him forward.  I think this analogy is one that Dr. Deb  has used  (perhaps on the audio  tapes).   As I thought of each step coming in and under more to give him more power his back began to really rise.  The feeling is wonderful, but hard to describe.  He was truely "connected" from front to back and so powerful feeling, yet relaxed and attentive.  We went two circles like this. I had only been riding him for about 10 minutes, but I felt like he had given me so much that  I stopped, got off, loved on him, gave him his supper and called it a night.  I have had years and years of lessons to try to get to this point.  Yet all that I had to do was relax, hold the reins and picture that inside foot.  I can't stop smiling.


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Posted: Wed Nov 2nd, 2011 09:55 am
I've been pouring over this old thread and trying to see the external muscular signs that Pauline Moore talks about which indicate correct raising of the base of the neck.  I came across this photo on the Cavalia show website (link below, the photo I'm referencing is #8 of 13)) which appears to me to be examples of both correct and incorrect flexion.  The horse on the right shows the concavity at the base of the neck, the open "U" shape behind the jaw and the softly bulging long muscle running the length of the neck.  In contrast the horse on the left has slight convexity at the base of the neck, a tight "V" shape at the throat and what looks like a bulging splenius (?) muscle. 

Is this right or am I completely confused about what I'm looking at and for?


Pauline Moore

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Posted: Thu Nov 3rd, 2011 08:30 pm
Hello Jill

Photographs such as the one to which you refer are useful for identifying anatomical parts on a static horse but cannot be used to determine if that horse is or is not moving with a collected body posture.

Rather than thinking in terms of 'correct' or 'incorrect' it is more helpful to assess whether a horse's posture is appropriate or inappropriate for what the horse is actually doing at that time.

Collection describes how the horse uses his body in certain situations, eg to send messages to another horse, to carry the weight of a rider efficiently. Whatever the motivation, collection is a complex, constantly moving, changing, fluid interaction of multiple body parts (bones, muscles, nerve impulses, thoughts). It is never rigid as in the 'frame' advocated by some competitive sporting groups.

The shapes of the head & neck of the two horses in the photograph are as you describe, but without seeing the whole horse or knowing the context of the moment when the photo was taken, it is impossible to say whether the posture is appropriate or inappropriate for either horse. If the camera had clicked a split second later, or earlier, the postures of the two horses could have reversed.

There are four separate 'conversations' happening in that photo, each of which will be influencing the posture of the horses. There is an unspoken connection between the two riders, a strong dialogue between the two horses, and an exchange between each horse and rider.

The horse on the right is extending his neck further than the other horse, but is not as relaxed. Note the tension in the jaw and poll area which is not allowing the head to hang softly from the neck bones, and the flatter angle of the ears. It could be speculated that this horse is sending a pecking-order challenge to the other horse, who may be confident enough to just ignore it. Conversely, the horse on the left may be acknowledging his lower status by not extending his upper neck and not raising his lower neck as much as the horse on the right. There is no way to tell which is which without knowing the horses and seeing their full, moving interaction. Neither horse looks as though they are being forced into that posture by the rider so we can assume the horses themselves believe their postures to be entirely appropriate for what they are wanting to convey to each other.

One of the best educational tools anyone can have is a movie camera with a reasonable zoom that can be played back in slow motion on a TV or computer screen. Looking at every external muscle on the body of a moving horse, frame by frame, at various paces, is truly enlightening. Comparing film of a horse moving freely without a rider, with the same horse plus a rider, adds another dimension. A great way to see what collection really looks like is to film horses who have just been added to an existing group or herd, most will likely adopt a highly collected body posture for a few brief moments.

Best wishes


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Posted: Fri Nov 4th, 2011 11:20 am
Pauline - thanks so much for taking the time to reply so thoroughly. I truly appreciate it. I understand your point regarding the language we use and your explanation of "appropriate" vs "correct" makes perfect sense to me.

You mentioned that the shapes of the heads/necks "are as [you] describe". Can I take that to mean that the bulging muscle in the upper neck of the the horse on the left is indeed the splenius and the longer, curving muscle in the righthand horse's neck is the visible part of the muscle that the horse uses to raise the base of the neck? I am working to be able to identify what I'm seeing on the outside in hopes of someday being able to correlate with what is happening on the inside. A labeled drawing or photo in a text is much easier to feel sure about than a live horse or random photo! :)

Your suggestion to use video taping as a learning tool is a good one. I will get one asap. Thanks again.
Super Moderator

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Posted: Fri Nov 4th, 2011 10:33 pm
Jill, you might find it somewhat useful in answering your questions to refer to the many articles that I have published upon the subject. Specifically, "raising the base of tghe neck" has been addressed by 3 recent articles (a mini-series) within the conformation-biomechanics column in Equus Magazine -- this would be within the last year. Or you can read much the same material in The Eclectic Horseman, also published within the last year. Contact either of them online to receive a subscription and/or to buy particular back issues: or -- Dr. Deb

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Posted: Tue Nov 8th, 2011 11:37 am
Thanks Dr. Deb. I do have the "How Horses Work" series - and a subscription to Eclectic Horseman. After multiple readings, I think I have at least a tenuous grasp of the "mechanics" of how a horse raises the base of the neck.
I just don't feel confident that when I look at a living, skin-covered horse, or a photo of one, I am able to identify the muscles involved - or the muscular development that Pauline was describing as evidence of how a horse has been moving. I want to pay attention to that as I continue working with my horse, even though I am nowhere close to the point where I would or could ask for anything like collection! Having been ignorant of this stuff for so long, I feel like I need to make up for lost time & understanding and it would be good to be able to identify changes as we go along.
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Posted: Wed Nov 9th, 2011 12:13 am
Jill, I think this is kind of a question of "balance". You do not really need to know the names of any muscles at all in order to ride well: for example, Ray Hunt did not, and most other good or great horsemen do not.

Neither is making students learn the names of muscles any part of the objectives that I have in mind when I teach my full-body anatomy classes. What I am after is that they learn the architecture -- the "layout" of the muscles so to speak -- and the overall "look" of a horse that is rounding up, raising the base of its neck, and achieving self-carriage and collection.

Pauline is expert in this subject, having been for some time one of our most enthusiastic students, so that she has attended the full-body class numerous times. However, Pauline was well prepared before she ever came the first time and has done nothing since that time but add to that. Plus, she rides very well and has nice horses to work with.

So what Pauline is describing is good and correct and helpful. You can read it and absorb it. What I'm really saying is that you should not let any lack of self-confidence get in the way of your being able to understand either what I write or what Pauline writes.

The sign that you've got your "balance" right is this -- that you realize that collection is something that you, yourself, right now, today, can be achieving and SHOULD be achieving. Collection comes in all degrees, from "rounding up" to the high degree required for rollbacks, pirouettes, passage, or piaffe. It is a fallacy to look at the horse and rider who can passage and say to yourself, "I can't do that". Of course you can't: that is Step Five while you need to work on Step One. The problem comes in when that voice in your head that says you can't do Step Five also cuts you off from even trying Step One.

This is a perfect example of why I reject "levels" -- because a belief in "levels" is, at root, the reason why you say "I can't". What that really might imply is "I don't have permission". From whom will you get permission, Jill?

ONce upon a time, long ago, I was giving a riding clinic in Ohio, and this very nice middle-aged lady rode in for her lesson. She had a very cute Morgan horse, very correct, very intelligent and willing; sweet-tempered as they generally are. The local DQ had already had her lesson, and I am sure you will understand it when I say that the local DQ had pretty good control over all the other ladies. Basically, they had all ceded to the DQ the right to give them "permission" to be at whatever level they thought they were at.

So true for this lady also. She rode in, wearing a pink sweatshirt, and had put matching pink leg-wraps on the horse and braided his thick mane up with pink pom-poms. What this lady was broadcasting by doing this is, "I may not be able to ride, but I sure can sew."

So we proceeded with our lesson, and the lady was doing just fine. There came a point then when I said to her, "well, it's time for us to start with some leg-yields." When she heard this, the lady said, "Oh! No, I can't do leg-yields."

"Why not?" I asked. "We went over the aid sequence for leg-yielding in class this morning. Were you unclear on that?" And I asked the lady to repeat the aids to me and she did so perfectly.

"So...." I said again, "why is it that you can't do leg-yields?"

The lady's expression became incredulous. "Why, Dr. Deb, it's because I'm only at Training Level."

So you don't be at Training Level, Jill, because it's a nonexistent place to be. You just be sure that your horse responds with respect, that there is no brace in his neck, and that if one appears, you twirl the head and/or untrack and get it out of there before going on to anything else. And when the horse is soft, then you ask him to step off on a 15-meter circle, and when he offers to drop his head and move in rhythm, you make sure you're not holding the head up, but instead you feel of his tongue all the way down. And when you do this, your horse will be rounding up, and you will be in the first degree of collection. Cheers -- Dr. Deb


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Posted: Wed Nov 9th, 2011 10:20 am
Dr. Deb,

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond.  I have spent way too long worrying that I couldn't "do it right", that I would make my horse worse or hurt him, etc. and consequently doing nothing for months after abandoning the step-by-step guru program. But I know that, while I am not a great rider, I am certainly competent enough to begin experimenting in the way you and Buck and others are teaching.  

I am, in fact, a much better rider than I am a seamstress! :)



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Posted: Thu Feb 12th, 2015 04:54 pm
Great thread here.

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