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Feeling laterality
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AdamTill
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 Posted: Fri Oct 9th, 2009 04:24 pm
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Hi Dr Deb,
 
Would you be able to give me a little bit of advice about feeling and manipulating the degree of laterality in gait? In the last month I’ve started to work my Icelandic at speeds quicker then a walk, and have experienced a few moments that I couldn’t quite recognize. 
 
Per the last clinic I did with Josh the only thing I’ve been using the reins for right now above a walk is to ask him to soften. 

We’ve started to connect the rein deliberately to each foot at the walk, and that part is coming nicely.  When moving quicker, however, the reins don’t mean much yet. He’ll usually just rubberneck and veer off (we’re still at the “light not soft” stage that he’s always tended towards), and I know its just a matter of time and developing more “vocabulary” between us.

That’s where the very new part is for me really – the flexibility of gaitedness is adding a few more verb tenses to figure out.

I’ve had good success in the past by walking various movements on the ground (on my own) to feel what the horses feel doing those same movements. “Walking a pace” isn’t something I’ve done before, however.

 I was thinking that it might feel something like walking with my inside arm swinging forward at the same time as my inside leg, since I found that I naturally swing that arm backwards when the same side leg goes forwards (transitioning to that form of walking sort of messes with my mind unless done from halt). Does that sound about right? 

 Thanks!

Adam

Val
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 Posted: Fri Oct 9th, 2009 06:33 pm
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AdamTill wrote: I’ve had good success in the past by walking various movements on the ground (on my own) to feel what the horses feel doing those same movements. “Walking a pace” isn’t something I’ve done before, however.

I never thought of doing that.  What a great idea.  I've been experimenting with connecting the reins to the feet and ended up feeling like the centipede who counted his feet: paralysis by analysis.  This looks like a good way to work past it.

Regards,

Val

AdamTill
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 Posted: Fri Oct 9th, 2009 07:15 pm
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Val wrote:
I never thought of doing that.  What a great idea.  I've been experimenting with connecting the reins to the feet and ended up feeling like the centipede who counted his feet: paralysis by analysis.  This looks like a good way to work past it.

Regards,

Val

Not my idea - I've done that with a few instructors. Works very well, however, since our hips and their hips work the same way for the most part. You rapidly see how counter canter looking to the inside twists you internally etc, and by feeling it in your own body, it's much easier to set the horses up to succeed.


ozgaitedhorses
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 Posted: Fri Oct 9th, 2009 09:29 pm
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Adam,
walking (as in doing a normal upright human walk) would correspond to a horse's trot: your left arm swings forward the moment your right leg is brought forward.
If you want to 'experience' transitions involving 4-beat gaits, it might be easier to do it on all four.

When simulating the walk (or an isochronal 4-beat gait, since the footfall sequence and timing are the same), your right knee would touch down first, then your right hand, followed by your left knee and left hand - all in equal time intervals. If you now make the intervals between touch down of your lateral pairs (right knee/right hand and left knee/left hand) shorter and shorter, you'll be progressing through a stepping pace to a true pace, i.e. a lateral two beat, when right knee and right hand would touch down at the same moment, and left knee and left hand would touch down at the same moment.

On the other hand, if, starting from a walk again, you make the intervals between your diagonal pairs (right knee/left hand and left knee/right hand) shorter and shorter, you'll go through a foxtrot to a trot (diagonal two beat).
Interestingly, I find this transition more challenging than the transition from isochronal to pace, although 'normal human crawling' is more of a diagonal gait....

Always keep the footfall sequence, i.e. right knee (1) - right hand (2) - left knee (3) - left hand (4), until you 'arrive' in the two beat gait. If you count your beats, walk/isochronal 4-beat gait should be 1-2-3-4-1, stepping pace 1-2--3-4--1, pace 1+2-3+4-1+2, foxtrot 1--2-3--4-1 and trot 1+4-2+3-1+4.

Don't try a fast tölt - your knees won't like it ;-)

Have fun!
Manu

KevinLnds
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 Posted: Sat Oct 10th, 2009 02:18 am
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Remember, if you pace or trot, you need a period of suspension between strides. That's hard on the knees. If you want to have fun, try galloping. I tried and tried to gallop without success until one day when I was playing with my cat. She took off, I went after her, and found myself in a right lead gallop. Luckily, we have carpeting with a thick pad.

Kevin

AdamTill
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 Posted: Tue Oct 13th, 2009 01:13 pm
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Thanks folks, but I'm okay with understanding what the footfall sequence is for my horse...more looking for what I'd be feeling when he's doing what he would. I suppose the two are related.

As of late, I've been working on my own body awareness quite a bit, and that's been having great results in my riding. For example, if my shoulders are really free, then thinking about sliding my inside shoulder blade to the inside of a circle will bring my horse's forehand inside. If I'm tight, then nothing.

Same with the backup. If I ask with loose shoulders, he'll pick up before stepping back, since that brings his balance over his hind legs. If my shoulders are braced, then he's much more on the forehand, and its harder to step back.

So where do I need to bring my body awareness, for example, to bring a tolty-trot back into balance?

Thanks!

Adam

Apples
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 Posted: Tue Oct 13th, 2009 11:58 pm
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HI Adam - Do you want to bring the tolty-trot, to a balanced trot? or a balanced tolt? By 'tolty trot' do you mean a more lateral (towards pace) movement?

If you want to go to a balanced tolt, I would suggest trying to slow down. The tolt at higher speeds is a developed skill and strength on the part of the icelandic. The tolt is best got if you just allow the walk to go faster, into tolt, but not beyond what the horse can do.

If you want to go to a balanced trot, I would suggest allowing him to lengthen and lower his head.

I have a video of me riding my icelandic, practicing going from tolt to trot and back to tolt. It's of me learning the aids and what the horse needs in terms of position to be able to do it - I'll PM the link to you as it was taken at a Icelandic clinic and you can hear the clinician instructing me.

ozgaitedhorses
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 Posted: Thu Oct 15th, 2009 12:21 am
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Hi again!
Sorry Adam, completely misunderstood your question...
... but let me add: the footfall SEQUENCE is the same in walk, tölt, running walk, stepping pace, foxtrot, you name it - the difference lies in the TIMING. It's a continuum all the way from a stepping pace where you can just distinguish 4 beats, to a foxtrot that is almost but not quite a two beat, with the isochronal gait(s) smack bang in the middle. You have to understand timing to understand this four beat continuum.

As for feeling laterality, I'd say that most horses brace their backs and become more and more strung out the more they approach a pace. I can usually first feel that bracing of the back, and sometimes it feels like the horse becomes 'lower', a bit like it's 'ducking' under you (note the highly scientific description here!). On the other hand, when the horse slips from an isochronal gait into something more diagonal, it feels to me like the forehand is coming up and there is more of an 'up and down' to the movement, as if 'suspension is starting to develop'. It depends a bit on what isochronal gait you start off with, though. A transition from flat walk to foxtrot will be a lot easier to feel than a transition from tölt to foxtrot.
The other thing you could feel is a canter roll, like a bunny hop of the forehand. It usually means that the horse was asked for more (in speed or duration) than it can handle and is starting to slip into a canter. And finally, there's 'tribulieren', which feels like the horse is throwing all four legs into the air, sorting them out on the fly before returning to a 'normal rhythm'.

Since gaited horses can feel quite different from each other, I find it easiest to HEAR whether a gait is isochronal or not (i.e. ride the horse on a reasonably hard surface or a sounding board), and link that to what I feel in the saddle at that moment. Most horses will shift towards trotty when going up a slope, but pacey when going down a slope - so you can get a feel for foxtrot and stepping pace, too.

Shoulder fore works wonders to bring a slightly pacey gait back to isochronal. If that's not enough, then shoulder in, leg yielding or serpentines.
I find it more challenging to bring a trotty horse back to isochronal, since I don't want to go down the 'nose in the air, lower neck bulging' route. Sometimes playing around with the tension in your core muscles and tilt of you pelvis can make a difference. Or slowing down and starting again, as Apples said.

All the best,
Manu

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Oct 15th, 2009 08:59 pm
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Hi, Adam -- sorry it's taken me a little while to get back to you. I was in Massachusetts to do the clinic at Jineen & Willy Walker's over the weekend of the 10th, and am only now getting caught up with office work again.

As to your query: remember that there is no such thing, really, as "gait". All "gait" is a form of walk. The footfall sequence is identical to that of a walk -- no matter whether you call it tolt, running-walk, foxtrot, or a "four beat" canter. They are all forms of walk.

The one and only one factor that distinguishes "gait" from walk is the total energy output of the horse. In gait, a horse is walking but he does so with noticeably greater energy than in walk. This is why old walking horse trainers refer to what dressage calls a "working walk" as a "dog walk" -- i.e. only an old tired dog would walk that slow. Similarly, in Spanish we have the term "brio", which translates "brilliance", and brilliance is indeed a feature of any energetic walk. The German term (surprising that German has a term for this, but it does) is "erhaben".

It is possible for a working walk to have or show "erhaben" and still be a walk, and this fact is absolutely crucial for you to keep in mind -- you are the sole individual in this thread who actually understands what "keeping the softness" or "using the reins to obtain softness" means, and how supremely important this is. Another person who does understand this is Eyjolfur Isolfsson, one of the reasons why I highly recommend him to anyone -- go spectate his clinics if you can find him in the U.S.

For in the beginning, Adam, you are not going to be schooling your horse in gait. Instead, you are going to be exploring the walk in its upper zone of energy, where it is still walk but nevertheless it is more walk than most horses would ever be asked to do (because their riders do not understand the extreme power to positively affect everything else the horse does that is in this). If you want to see a horse walking like what I am talking about, go get your copy of Ray Hunt's "Turning Loose" and there is that clip in there where he is walking his horse up a crowded driveway between two pens. He has a flag in one hand and is talking to people to either side as he rides the bay horse. To most people, this would just be a clip they wouldn't get much out of. There's no godlike narrator there to declare that you ought to pay any special attention. But you should, nonetheless. You'll see the reins are swinging. Ray's body swings along with the horse without either pushing the horse or "trying" to do anything; he's just going along for the ride, as he would have said. But that mare is walking with 100% full life in the body. She's right up on her toes. And she's 100% soft too. Well -- you know from being with Josh that no horse can show that erhaben or that brilliance anyway, unless it is FIRST 100% soft, 100% OK on the inside, 100% with the rider in unity of purpose.

So this is what you practice. Practice the stepping long and stepping short exercise, over and over again, in every variety, in every situation. You ask the horse to go fifty or more steps with as long a step as he can make. Then (picturing that his front legs are evening gloves that you're wearing over your arms, all the way up to the shoulders -- in other words, your body is his body), you step short....the goal being to step so short that it would be like you are in a herd of calves, cutting one out without choussing any of the others. You hold the short step for ten steps or less.

Then you go from short to long, and you see how soft you can do that. You see how soon you can do it. You see how much difference you can produce. You see how little it would take to do that. And when next you shorten, you see how little rein it would have to take to do that part.

This is the fundamental practice of transitions. A "transition" from walk to gait is a transition in two parameters: one, energy level; and two, POTENTIALLY it is a transition from one footfall timing to another. This part also has to be thought about carefully.

For we want to retain, at all times, the isochronality of the footfalls. This means -- absolutely no "paceyness" (and also no "trottyness"). All horses -- so-called gaited or not so-called gaited -- have a preference for one or the other of these. So, retaining isochronality is analogous to retaining the left-right balance; it's easy to knock the horse off balance, and it is also easy to knock him out of isochronality. These two factors, I say, are analogous; but more than that, as loss of lateral balance also induces "paceyness" as any experienced gaited horse rider will know. But it's a cheap and incorrect way to obtain "gait" -- it is not really gait but an ersatz of gait which passes for gait at literally every class of every gaited-horse show in North America. Sad.

Therefore, you are forewarned that as soon as you encourage any energy level beyond what the horse is capable of executing CORRECTLY TODAY, will result in either pushing the horse into paceyness or trottyness, depending upon his inclination. The fundamental challenge here is to do ONLY ONE transition -- that of increasing the energy -- WITHOUT the horse doing the other, i.e. changing from isochronality to any other rhythm. The one and only way to do this is, as you already realize, to retain the softness first and always; and then to develop the horse's strength and balance by playing, over and over again, upon the fringe or boundary at the upper end of walk energy, shortening and lengthening the steps, with the "high point" of any given ride being to see whether you can maintain the highest energy-longest stepping walk for longer and longer periods in absolute isochronal rhythm.

As to any confusion you may have as to which gait is which, I wouldn't trouble yourself about it at this time. Your horse will show you which "exact" gait he'll prefer, and that is the gait or set of gaits you should be happy with. I recommend that you get Eyjolfur's set of training tapes/DVD's; they are excellent, and I regularly show portions of the first one to my students, gaited or not, as they show excellent horsemanship and a fully informed grasp of the principles and practice of classical horsemanship.

I wouldn't give two cents for the advice, either, of anyone outside of Eyjolfur and his small circle of close students, as to the training of the Icelandic horse. I had literally zero respect for this breed and its adherents UNTIL I went to Holar College in Iceland, where what I saw astonished me -- so very different it was than the disorganized, frantic, uncomfortable, and compelled Icelandic horses that one commonly sees in "expos" in the U.S. I had to laugh when I found out that once an Icelandic horse has been exported from Iceland, it is never permitted to return; I thought to myself, "yeah, well, I wouldn't let 'em come back, either."

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

AdamTill
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 Posted: Sun Oct 18th, 2009 06:08 am
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Hi folks,

Thanks SO much for the replies, and my apologies for the delay in responding. My Dad is getting married at Spruce Meadows tomorrow, and the week has been crazy entertaining all our guests from out of town (England mainly). For those that might be familiar with Spruce, here's a nice image I was able to take from a model airplane today after the rehearsal (hosted on my server). The ring on the right is the famous "International" ring, and the building with the CN in front is the British House where the ceremony will be tomorrow.



Apples - thanks for the video links, I'll be sure to take a look at them when things get a bit quieter!

I misspoke before - I had meant "trotty tolt", as my guy has a tendency to trot due to his conformation.

When I do more then walk nowadays I don't use any contact at all beyond asking him to avoid objects or people. I mainly use the reins to ask for him to soften his neck or back, and so he can carry it where he'd like to.

You're right to say that he'll trot if he gets moving too fast in gait, and as he's slowly getting stronger he's able to hold either for longer.

Manu - thanks for the thoughts as well! I'm still learning the gait continuum myself, so it's helpful to hear from others who have walked the path before.

Good thought on hearing isochronicity especially - I use that a fair amount when I'm doing hoof work, and it would make just as much sense here.

Dr Deb - thanks as well! Not a worry on any delay, I understand that you're very busy.

>As to your query: remember that there is no such thing, really, as "gait". All "gait" is a >form of walk.

Thank you and Manu for this reminder again. I should be be a bit more careful with my vocabulary.

>The one and only one factor that distinguishes "gait" from walk is the total energy output of the horse.

That's a very helpful way to remember this, thanks. That also explains why there seems like less of a transition "seam" from dog walk to gait then there is from gait to trot (or dog walk to trot).

>It is possible for a working walk to have or show "erhaben" and still be a walk, and this fact is absolutely crucial for you to keep in mind -- you are the sole individual in this thread who actually understands what "keeping the softness" or "using the reins to obtain softness" means, and how supremely important this is.

It's been one of our big focuses in this first year together. He'll tend to go light before he goes soft, too, so it's been a bit of a challenge. Good learning experience, however.

>Another person who does understand this is Eyjolfur Isolfsson, one of the reasons why I highly recommend him to anyone -- go spectate his clinics if you can find him in the U.S.

I'll keep my eyes open. I'd like to get to Iceland at some point, but that may be a long-term goal.

>If you want to see a horse walking like what I am talking about, go get your copy of Ray Hunt's "Turning Loose" and there is that clip in there where he is walking his horse up a crowded driveway between two pens.

Not one I have, but I'll track a copy down.

> Ray's body swings along with the horse without either pushing the horse or "trying" to do anything; he's just going along for the ride, as he would have said.

That's been another thing I've been learning this year...how to encourage life without nagging. It's been very enlightening to learn how to get out of my horse's way to let him come forward, while still making it his responsiblity not to die out. Fine line sometimes.

>So this is what you practice. Practice the stepping long and stepping short exercise, over and over again, in every variety, in every situation.

I had been doing that of late, which is encouraging. He's getting to understand working off seat cues much better, and I had been playing with transitions within the "normal" walk.

He'll lengthen his stride length quite nicely already while still keeping the same tempo, so I'll concentrate more on bringing the steps shorter without losing the life in them (which seems trickier).

>Therefore, you are forewarned that as soon as you encourage any energy level beyond what the horse is capable of executing CORRECTLY TODAY, will result in either pushing the horse into paceyness or trottyness, depending upon his inclination.

I'll take your thoughts to heart, for sure. Right now I do most of my schooling at the walk, where we're both learning to mobilize each of our respective body parts to stay in balance.

I use gait and trot work to keep an aerobic component to our sessions, since I need to get more weight off him. It's in little bursts spaced out along the way - just enough to be useful, but not so much that it takes hours to dry him out afterwards.

>As to any confusion you may have as to which gait is which, I wouldn't trouble yourself about it at this time. Your horse will show you which "exact" gait he'll prefer, and that is the gait or set of gaits you should be happy with.

That's really just an intellectual exercise for me...I couldn't really be bothered which gait if any he'll actually perform. That's not where my main interests lie - I much prefer playing around with lateral work and things of that nature.

Even still, it's nice to to have a few different ways to keep things interesting. Messing with people's minds a bit is fun as well, I secretly admit, since I board at a fairly heavy-duty dressage barn.

>I recommend that you get Eyjolfur's set of training tapes/DVD's; they are excellent, and I regularly show portions of the first one to my students, gaited or not, as they show excellent horsemanship and a fully informed grasp of the principles and practice of classical horsemanship.

I have the first of the two, but not the second. I'll give the tape another watch, since there were a few things that stuck out a bit the first time that made me hesitant to buy the second.

>I wouldn't give two cents for the advice, either, of anyone outside of Eyjolfur and his small circle of close students, as to the training of the Icelandic horse. I had literally zero respect for this breed and its adherents UNTIL I went to Holar College in Iceland, where what I saw astonished me -- so very different it was than the disorganized, frantic, uncomfortable, and compelled Icelandic horses that one commonly sees in "expos" in the U.S.

Funny enough, I didn't know much of anything about the breed when I started looking for a new horse last year. I knew what I liked in terms of conformation, and wanted a shorter, more compact horse to be able to eventually get out into the Rockies a few years down the line while still being nimble enough to have fun with high-school work. I knew I didn't much care for what I saw in breed competition videos, but I don't care for much in the way of competition in general.

What hooked me was their temperaments - very sensible critters for the most part. My youngster is already brave enough to spook in place if he ever gets excited, and isn't phased by much.

Plus I get a kick out of how Icelandics feel like "big" horses to ride without actually being big.

>I had to laugh when I found out that once an Icelandic horse has been exported from Iceland, it is never permitted to return; I thought to myself, "yeah, well, I wouldn't let 'em come back, either."

It's made for an interestingly different breed, at the minimum. A bit of an equine time capsule in a lot of ways.

Thanks again - I'll play a bit more and will write back later.
Adam


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