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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Old shoulder injury - can we talk about the functional effects on the neck/poll?

Old shoulder injury - can we talk about the functional effects on the neck/poll?
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
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 Posted: Sun May 26th, 2019 07:46 am
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Redmare, seems I'm always apologizing for needing time to get back. Been busy this week with portraits of Quarter Horses that were at the root of the original King Ranch breeding system -- further to the QH/American horse breeding history series in EQUUS.

As to your query, as to whether there is anything one should do to discourage a horse from ducking behind the hand: yes, everything about your legs. But you see, this is where the confusion we've been discussing comes from: it is very easy to get tempted to try to DRIVE the horse into correct carriage, in the vain hope that by "pushing him through" braceyness or loss of balance or having the brakes halfway on, you can bust up the brace, hustle him into balance, and scrape the rust off the brake drums. Note that I said "vain hope" -- really it's worse than that, because any rider that goes down this path will never have a horse without brace, in balance, and fully and willingly "forward".

So you use your legs, each and every time you feel him suck back. Sucking back is not usually just of the neck and head; you'll feel it through his whole body. This is part and parcel of being really clear to him that when the muscles in the calves of your legs so much as twitch, or he feels your heels sink just that little bit further where it snugs the calves of the legs up against his sides -- he had better be ready to move.

But the picture you are to have in your mind when you use your legs is NOT that you are trying to go in any manner forward. How you are trying to go,and to get him to go, is UP. It is all about turning on the fountain (see attached drawing). When you carry this picture, it erases the very faulty and damaging internal image of the "frame". Death to the frame!

When you are riding by the image and ideal of the fountain, you know that the first effect of the application of the calves of the leg is to get the horse to raise its back; and then to coil its loins and raise the base of its neck. I repeat here again what I said in my last post: no horse can, at any time or by any means, raise the base of its neck when it is being held back by the reins or shoved-and-pulled.

Hence, you must not only use your legs but you must abandon your hands altogether whenever you do an "up" transition. COMPLETELY LOOSE REINS. This is also how you cure a posturally "broken" neck -- that, and the horse that ducks behind or sucks back, are the two hardest mistakes or wrong habits of carriage that there are to cure.

So you are in for the long haul: many repeats. Note I said it took Painty a long time to get OK and have that long of a topline with complete softness. Some dressage wonk who visited me at about the time that photo was taken said to me that he was going go go home disappointed; from what it had sounded like to him in talking to me before he met me and my horse, he said,  he had thought I rode and trained better, but now that he saw us "live" he was disappointed to find that Painty was not "more through". This proved to me that the SECOND most difficult thing in horsemanship to cure is the indoctrinated wrong ideas of dressage "experts". The photo I gave you in the last post almost could not BE more "through"; to be more "through" Painty would have to sit down for levade.

What that photo COULD show more of is total energy output by the horse. But this is the very tradeoff: if by asking for greater energy output you cause the horse to stiffen or hurry, then you absolutely must not ask for greater energy output. Horses should be schooled in the manner you see in that photo 99% of the time, in other words -- at a relatively low level of energy output, to where it is easy for them to maintain their balance and thus remain soft. Only when you FIRST have this do you have a license to try short bursts of greater energy output (as increasing tempo at the trot) or else "up" transitions (as trot to canter).

It will likely take a good deal of self-control to have ZERO NONE ZIPPO contact when you make your "up" transition. And the game is: no contact AND see how tactfully you can get it to happen off your legs, so that when the horse changes gait, he does not speed up.

That's what you're trying for. However, he will probably stiffen some and speed up some; and whenever he does that, you use INSIDE REIN ONLY and turn him until he slows down and softens. Then go back to trot or walk, regroup, get the soft trot (during which it is fine to use both reins as needed), set him up for the next "up" transition, abandon the contact while you signal and stimulate him with your legs, so that he jumps up into it and HE FINDS YOUR HANDS not the other way around. The "abandonment" need only be one to six inches, depending on his style of using his neck.

Very helpful I find it to put both reins into my outside hand when abandoning the contact, then pick them apart when/if you need a wide inside rein to turn him to regain balance.

SIT DOWN with great awareness (but no extra pressure) on your outside seatbone during the transition to canter and while cantering. And sit like an old sack of potatoes, kind of heavy, as if you were "expecting" him to have a slow tempo.

Let us know how it goes. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: FORUM Fountain of collection SMSM.jpg (Downloaded 101 times)


Joined: Wed Mar 26th, 2014
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 Posted: Fri Jul 12th, 2019 02:04 pm
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I thought I'd come back and post another update on this gelding's progress. I am happy to say he is coming along very well.

I went and visited with a good friend and longtime student of Bryan Neubert and Tom Curtin's at the beginning of June - at that point I had stopped trying to work on the canter and had focused on the soft transitions up from halt --> walk, walk --> trot, halt --> trot, etc because he was still bucking. He watched me go for a bit and said with a smile (in the way that I've realized all these friends of Ray Hunt do when they are about to point out something simple but major to you) "why don't YOU just canter? Forget about the horse, YOU canter". I had to sit on that for a minute before I realized what he was saying - that I was still, despite my best intentions, hustling the horse and to compound that, I wasn't going WITH him when he did canter. I was slightly behind the motion all the time.

So we worked at it in a round pen setting so I didn't have to worry about steering so much and we just practiced going together. He did kick out a few times initially, but when he realized I was actually with him and really DID want him forward, he started to make much softer and quieter transitions up. It was only then that my friend let me pick up on the reins and start to be a bit pickier about his up transitions.

We've now been working at this a bit over a month - it is still a work in progress but he is no longer bucking or kicking out in the canter and I can reliably get soft upward transitions to canter from the halt and walk. We're still working at trot --> canter. For whatever reason, he finds it harder not to get stiff laterally in that upwards transition. As with most things I've taught this horse about how to use his body, the first few attempts each ride are never quite on the mark - he always takes a couple "reminders" that no, we may not rush off, and you may not get crooked, but you may fuss about as long as you need to before you give me an honest effort to get soft.

I will try and get some photos of our progress in the coming weeks. I am so grateful for this forum and to you, Dr. Deb, for all your help. Seemingly small things really do make HUGE differences to our equine friends.

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 Posted: Sun Mar 7th, 2021 06:11 pm
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