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Helping a Horse To Carry Itself Straight
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3298
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 Posted: Fri Feb 12th, 2021 11:48 pm
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Dear Forum readers: This inquiry arrived to our office today via private EMail, so we are re-posting it here so that everyone can read and participate.

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Hi there -- I have just read the 3 downloadable pdf’s offered by Dr Deb and have found them of great value. I am struggling with a couple crooked horses and want to help them live a pleasant comfy work life. What else can I read in relation to the “how to’s “ is rehabbing a crooked horse!
 Thanks again -- Kirsten

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Well, Kirsten, you can begin by coming often to this Forum to read. There are many discussions around this topic, going back years, which are posted permanently for you to read and study, and then possibly write back to ask a question.

Go back to the front page of this Forum where you see the announcement threads at the top. One of those gives directions as to how to use the Google Advanced Search engine to read posts in this Forum (don't use the onboard search engine; it was overwhelmed long ago). Use keywords such as "straightening", "crooked", "slow corner", "untracking".

Literally any book you may pick up written by a European instructor during the early half of the 20th century, i.e., up until about 1960, will state somewhere in the text that you must make your horse straight, or you must teach your horse to carry itself straight, before anything else can be accomplished. Straightness comes along hand in hand with the horse being willing to give forth more energy, to put more effort into movement, because it literally hurts him to move with vigor when he is crooked.

There is thus a strong and important relationship between untracking (stepping the inside hind hoof under the body shadow, otherwise called 'rotation of the hindquarters' by an older generation of instructors). Untracking is the primary physical mechanism by which you teach him to carry himself straight, and you help him to find where that balance-point which is straightness actually lies, and what it feels like to you and to him when he does find it.

There is also an important relationship between helping the horse lose tension or to stop "bracing up" in the muscles that invest the axial part of his body, every single one of those muscles including the tongue, the diaphragm, the abdominal and intra-abdominal muscles, the long muscles of the back and the hamstrings -- in other words, all the muscles from the tip of his nose to the soles of his hind feet. Since you have read the articles posted at "Knowledge Base," you know that horses do not move well unless they "use their backs". But no horse can use its back when there is chronic tension or a habit of bracing up through there. And so long as he braces up every time you touch the reins or apply the leg, you will never succeed in getting him to move straight. So you have to, as Francois Baucher said long ago, "annihilate the brace." This is done in part by untracking and in another important part by learning how to twirl the head.

Finally, there is an extremely strong relationship between the horse's mental focus and his ability and willingness to carry himself straight. So long as there is lack of focus, with his attention here there and everywhere as if he had a "checking compulsion," he will brace up and brace up again even if you apply physical techniques.

This is where "The Birdie Book" comes in. This is a book on CD-Rom disk, so to read it you have to have a device that has a CD/DVD drawer. The Birdie Book is called that because 'Birdie' is a metaphor I use to teach you to 'see' a lot better when the horse's focus is not where it should be. So long as you continue to drag the horse's body away from where its focus is -- which is to say, away from where its desires are -- then he will not be able to give up the brace, and you will not be able to straighten him. Yet quite a few people have told us that after reading the Birdie Book, their whole lives changed with regard to their success in educating their horses, having their horse do just what is asked, and in general a great improvement in their relationship as it also tends to put an end to the rider blaming the horse.

You can obtain the Birdie Book by going to our main website at and click on Bookstore, then click the button that takes you to our books on CD-Rom.

In general, there are very few books in the whole history of literate European or American horsemanship -- that would be in the last 600 years or so -- that consider the relationship between the horse's inner life and inner needs and its outer life and way of moving or ability to perform. One would be lucky to find even a single sentence about this. The one exception to this is our school, which follows the teachings of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. If you have not studied Tom's "True Unity" then get a copy from the Eclectic Horseman bookstore. Note that I say "studied" not "read"; Tom's book is not meant to be "read" like a novel or storybook and anybody who tries this will find it impossible to understand. Instead, you study it as you would study the Bible or Torah: just a couple of paragraphs at a time, once in a given day, and then possibly not again for some time until what you have read the first time begins to open itself as to having certain meanings in your mind.

Likewise, from the same bookstore you can get Ray Hunt's "Think Harmony with Horses." Ray was a more straightforward teacher than Tom, and you will find his book full of little gems of practical wisdom.

The other books that I primarily recommend are J. Alan Boone's "Kinship with All Life" (again, at the EH bookstore) and Eugen Herrigel's "Zen in the Art of Archery" (amazon or another online bookstore). These last two titles, like the Birdie Book, have to do with "deep work", bringing the human to a better understanding of what's going on inside the horse (and themselves) that will certainly affect "going straight."

Please feel free to write back again after reviewing these materials, if you have any further questions. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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