The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Hello from California
PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 6:46 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:55 pm
Posts: 23
Location: California
HI, this is my intro...

I live in northern california with my critters. Two horses own me, my TB gelding and number one love, Owen (reg. Owen Meany), and my adorable and amazing Friesian girl, "Bella" (Belinda Z.). We also have a few dogs, cats, and other assorted winged animals. :)

This is my boy, Owen. Owen is retired but we may start back to light work this coming year as my husband has expressed an interest in riding him. We'll see. My guy, my love... he is very opinionated and all too happy to tell you all about what he thinks. He is goofy too, my husband calls him our token chocolate Lab.
Image Image

And this is my little mare, "Bella". Bella and I study classical dressage together. I posted already that I am a bit of a chicken, so I haven't yet begun to try to ride her without bridle and bit. Well I have hopped on very briefly while she was nekkid, and she was very good, but... well long story as always. Suffice to say that I don't trust myself if she were to spook, which she is occasionally prone to do. She doesn't have an issue with spooking because first she is protecting me from whatever it is, and second she expects me to go with her, because I do. ;) So I am not sure exactly what may happen bareback and without any real means to semi-control her. That being said when I did hop on recently, she was fine with my just holding her mane to ask for a halt when she didn't respond quick enough off my seat. Silly girl.

Anyway I am so amazed by them both, but especially Bella, she is a very special girl.
Image (Photo by Just Chaos)
This is my favorite photo of us (photo by Shaana Risley)
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I find this site fascinating and hope to learn loads and possibly share information if I can add value to a discussion.
I do have a bit of a different philosophy when it comes to my horses. I actually view everything they do as a positive. I know odd, but I have my reasons. It's made a huge difference in me and in my little mare too. Changing how I 'see' what the horse does changes my personal reality. Because after all our reality is our perception. What's real for me is different for you. Well in many ways at any rate. So a while ago I chose to view everything Bella does as a positive, as her way to trying to take care of me no matter what it is that she does. Yup huge difference.

She is the most amazing horse to ride, she is an awesome school master, matches the rider's ability, never gives away anything that is not truly earned. But wow what a ride she is. She is talented enough to do almost anything asked of her, she will try at any rate. Always asking "what next?" And when faced with something she is unsure of she will ask the rider first before making up her own mind. And she will follow the rider's lead in those situations. She is a sweet mare, not marish at all, not ever, but she is very expressive. Course I encourage that expression, so she is not shy about sharing her opinions on things. ;)

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:16 am 
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Location: Belgium
Welcome!

:)

Well, I can imagine you won't just hop on without bridle, and I would not advise anyone to.
But leaving out the bit can only - to my experience- be more safe in many ways to the both of you.
Juist try it while someone holds the lunge and voila, your convinced :)

Warm regards,

Josepha

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 10:14 am 
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Welcome again, Terrie! :)

Your horses are both gorgeous and it's so great to read that you are finding ways to engage with them which seem to make everyone happy. About seeing everything the horse does as something positive: I find that enourmously helpful in my interaction with horses too. But then I am lucky, because seeing horses, people and the world in general like this seems to come naturally to me, so for me it is rather easy - which hopefully I never cease to be thankful for.

Enjoy your time at AND and please do tell us more about your horses whenever you feel like it, I am sure that it will be interesting and helpful for others, too.

Warm Regards,
Romy


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:11 pm 
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Hi Terrie.

Welcome from me, too!

I'm in CA as well -- at least for another month, before I move back home to the East Coast after 12 years out here.

Very nice to meet you -- and Owen and Bella. Just lovely.

And I'm with Josepha on bits -- one of my horses had a complete meltdown about tack a few years ago and I discovered Cook's Bitless Bridle, which worked really well for us -- he was actually less prone to spook big without a bit in his mouth than with because there was no ouch associated with my reaction. We all make this kind of shift when we're ready, of course, but I just wanted to let you know that I actually have become more confident on horses without bits than with -- I was amazed, actually, at the difference.

My young horse, Circe, is learning about what it means to have a person on her with no bit -- and won't ever have one. And I've been fascinated to see how unnecessary it really is!

Anyhow, welcome, and I'm looking forward to hearing more about all of your adventures!

(And love your description of Owen as a lab...too funny...)
:)

Best,
Leigh

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:25 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
Posts: 1072
Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
Hi and welcome, to you and your lovely 4 legged friends.

Quote:
I do have a bit of a different philosophy when it comes to my horses.


not different here then, it just means you have not yet had time to glean from the diaries.
When you have got through windhorsesue, Romy, etc you will know what I mean.

I backed my youngsters without any tack or halters, because that moment when they say it's okay loose in the field with their friends to gallop away with, and you really do not want to spoil the trust by running for hat, body protector, it is trust and reading the body language, mind messages, ...then because no-one is holding them and there is nothing to restrict them or for them to pull against they tend to stand and accept a wither rub, ear rub, hand held treat if they can work out how to reach it when you are sat up behind them.
That first time may be for a minute but if it is enjoyable, positive, rewarding, your own endorphins are so easily translated and the horse does not read you as a threat.
I have now done exactly that, first time sit at liberty without halter or tack on 5 horses over the last 20 years, where previously I would usually put the saddle on before mounting the first time.

You and Bella are already riding together, the science shows you just how much safer without a bit. If you go to www.artofnaturaldressage.com and click links you will see www.bitlessdressage.com which is a fabulous site Josepha put together and available in many languages. Of course not forgetting www.bitlessbridle.com from Dr. Cook and articles by Dr. Bowker.
You can move to this only when it is clear in your mind that it is safe to do so, otherwise your own tension will be transmitted, so all in your own time, but look at the articles to gain understanding of what the bit actually does and how it works against you.

Really pleased to see you here, looking forward to more of your posts.
Love Susie xx

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:31 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:55 pm
Posts: 23
Location: California
Wow thanks everyone for such a very warm welcome!
I will peruse the site more, I promise!! I joined because I am keenly interested in more comfort for my horse(s) of course.

I do understand a bit, the various kinds, and how they function; what they do in the mouth. I also have experience with bosals, so in a way bitless. I am familiar with the bitless bridles as well. But I also know that for the time being one cannot show in a bitless... not that I do show, but I hope to. Each year I say "this is the year..." but then of course something happens. ;) I never question the universe so I just continue on and each january say "this is the year" haha The only reason I really would like to begin showing a little is so people can see what correct riding is all about. Having a happy, relaxed and able horse is something we just don't see much of at shows these days. Even in the low levels there are tense horses. Course the show environment does add tension... still....

I am not against going bitless, I am just not ready for it myself.

I have ridden alot on longe, and we use only the longe cavesson, no bridle, no bit. I am able to have Bella go from halt up to canter and back to halt; doing a bit of extension in trot, and both sitting and rising; sans stirrups and reins, just asking off my seat. (I don't do quite so well at rising trot without stirrups, but am able to do it for a bit.) I have a couple minor physical issues that hinder me at times. Anyway my point being that she is trained nicely to go off the seat. Still my confidence in myself and my ability isn't where it used to be - yet. It's a journey back, and one I am thoroughly enjoying. I have just borrowed vaulting equipment, and hope to be able to have someone longe me with the vaulting curcingle so I can work more on my balance, etc. I love longe sessions one just cannot get enough of them.
Image

I can talk about my ponies forever. haha way too many stories, that's for sure.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:24 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
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Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Hi Terrie,
The way I transitioned with Morgan was to first introduce a cordeo and to use that instead of the reins. I still left the bit and reins but learnt to let go of using them. He responded well to the cordeo and I used the cordeo as a back up only if he was not respondng to my seat/body/leg. From there it didn't really matter anymore whether the reins were attached to his mouth (bit) or his nose (side pull). Today I have pretty much dropped the cordeo when riding and just use the side pull bridle.
I played with lots of different types of bitless from rope halter to adapted hackamore (without the shanks) but he likes best a simple cavesson noseband which is fitted loose and has a ring on either side where the reins attach to. This noseband came from a similar cross over bitless bridle to the dr cook but I just bought the nose band piece and it attaches to my normal bridle.
I have been riding Morgan now for over a year (or is it 2? :funny: ) bitless and have more control and a calmer horse than when he had a bit in his mouth.
So I guess what I am saying is play around with tack you already have and see what works and what doesn't in a safe environment. My "cordeo" is a soft plaited lead line that is always handy to have anyway on an outride and I simply clip the lead to itself and wind into the lead the excess.

I will be interested to hear if you do decide to play with bitless and how Bella reacts......... :D

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:21 am 
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Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:55 pm
Posts: 23
Location: California
Thanks! I have a nice little lead line I could use, I think it is long enough to go around her neck... will have to try it and see. Appreciate the idea and encouragement. :)
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:07 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
Posts: 1072
Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
If you feel at all insecure, and even if you don't a grab strap on the pommel of a saddle can be brilliant. Often see these on cub saddles for children, but they are fabulous security for me.
http://www.jeffersequine.com/ssc/produc ... id=0026240

If we hold a rein as opposed to the horse's mane it does not attach us to the horse and holding mane tips us forward rather than allowing us to centre, where a hand under a pommel strap is good security on an uneven trail where you want the horse to have free rein to balance or if on an excited, bouncy youngster.
Just plait some string to tie between the D's as added help when trialling bitless the first few times and it will boost your confidence. xx

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 3:32 am 
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Location: California
PiePony wrote:
If you feel at all insecure, and even if you don't a grab strap on the pommel of a saddle can be brilliant.


;) I do have a "panic strap" on the pommel of my saddle(s), I have one on all my saddles, even on my western saddle! Ok, I have technically have two on the western saddle, on on each side of the horn, cause ya never know which hand needs to grab. haha

If you look closely, sorry I know it's a small image, at the photo above where I am being longed, I am actually holding the grab strap. they do help and I do use them - alot. haha Actually while just riding normally if Bella tells me my hands are "too noisy" I will loosen the reins and grab the strap with both hands to "fix them" in one position.
Image Well I thought this would show better :roll: All you can really see is the buckle of the strap on the "D".... black saddle, black grab strap, black saddle pad, black horse... hahaha But isn't she cute? (on full alert here at a show.)

I am keen to try the cordeo idea of using a lead, and if I have time this weekend I may just do so... gotta figure out where I put that "get down" lead I have.....

Thanks again Susie you are very helpful!! Course everyone in here is, has been, and I am sure will continue to be.
Thanks SO much!!

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:04 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
Posts: 1072
Location: UK Worcester/Hereford border
That is a beautiful photo.
Ivychex has some nice ideas in he Jackson training diaries and has learnt much from Josepha's cordeo ex[lanations on this site. Ivy wrote a cordeo article here equestrianharmony.wordpress.com
ThePonyPros youtube videos are interesting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUX33UTeuKU
I prefer to let a youngster learn outside an arena, I do not have access to an arena and would be bored inside one, until visiting for instruction (when I can be given tasks to occupy me rather than sit and work out what I should be asking) and not until after having the horse used to my weight, movement and being generally happy seeing the expanded world through riding out.
I wonder if you have a trusted friend who can just walk and lead Owen out on trails with you and Bella, swap over leading each horse and ride "if it feels right to do so" instead of asking Owen inside an arena which may hold memories of "requests" as "orders"? xx

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:30 pm 
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What a gorgeous horse! :love:

Have to let you know though, that at least in the picture, your saddle is put to far to the front.
It now rests on your horse's shoulders and the girth obstructs the breathing. Also, the horse will now hit the saddle flaps and the girth with his elbow and shoulder blades.
It also looks like the chamber is to narrow, as the middle point of the saddle is not in the center, but towards the back.
I reckon you constantly shift with your buttocks to the back and then, while trying to correct that, you back gets hollow and your legs start flapping?

Just on a side note... :funny:

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 7:04 am 
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Josepha wrote:
What a gorgeous horse! :love:

Have to let you know though, that at least in the picture, your saddle is put to far to the front.
It now rests on your horse's shoulders and the girth obstructs the breathing. Also, the horse will now hit the saddle flaps and the girth with his elbow and shoulder blades.
It also looks like the chamber is to narrow, as the middle point of the saddle is not in the center, but towards the back.
I reckon you constantly shift with your buttocks to the back and then, while trying to correct that, you back gets hollow and your legs start flapping?

Just on a side note... :funny:


Thanks, I think she is kinda pretty. ;)

Actually may look like it in the photo, but the saddle is not too far forward, the shoulder area is designed to sit lined up behind the scapula, with PLENTY of room for it to come back under the flap. There is no padding (the vertical padding saddle have around the tree in front) that impedes the shoulder. She doesn't hit anywhere on it either. I have it fitted an average of twice annually (by Jochen Schleese himself) and he always watches me ride in it, that's part of how he fits. The chamber, if you are referring to the gullet underneath is plenty wide enough so that the panels rest on muscle not on spinal processes or rib heads. It's also perfectly balanced for her and me, the 'center' of the saddle is actually a bit more forward than most, I don't sit toward the back in it at all. And no I don't constantly shift in it, I can sit "still" quite easily enough... well mostly. haha that's a current inside joke, see my diary in a few days after I finish a few more entries.

I appreciate the usual saddle concerns, but I know this saddle fits Bella perfectly and does not impede her movement at all. ;) She MOVES in this one. She tells me when the saddle has an issue, in no uncertain terms, because she has always had a perfectly fitting saddle, so when it's not right she lets me know.

You can look up this saddle, it is a Schleese (schleese.com) and the model is the Link II. It is a mono flap design with shoulder cutout and a made for female tree. This saddle has a 4.5 inch wide gullet (or channel) the entire length of the saddle, his saddles do not get narrower at the rear. The only possible issue is the overall length of it due to the shape of the panels at the cantle. It's "just" at that last rib, Jochen has said twice now that he would like to change the panels and not have them stick out behind, but tuck in more in line with the cantle so it will fit her back that much better. (She is very short backed) The tree points also do not come straight down like most, they are angled backward, so the tree itself does not hit the shoulder on his saddles. They do give horses more shoulder room, freedom. Oh and duh I forgot, the entire tree moves with the horse, its very flexible. So there is no real pressure points from the saddle itself. (just the rider in it)

Using a saddle is harmful to the horse, we all know that. At least I attempt to remove as much harm as is possible. To make her as comfy as possible by using a saddle that is designed to give her shoulder the room to move, and not sit on her spine, and have it checked for perfect fit every 6 months, sometimes more often. He can adjust the tree as needed, it's usually widened each fitting. If there is one thing I know these days, it's saddle fit and construction. haha I have been working with Jochen for 8 years now, or is it 9? Anyway I run fit clinics for him, and we average about 14 horses per day at those. (He is at WEG now, and I am sure he is super busy) So over the years I have helped to measure and fit a few hundred horses. ;) I have learned much about biomechanics between riding and the saddle fittings, and understand where the usual fit issues are. I have even worked the stuffing in my panels to fit Bella better in between having her fitted, Jochen said I did it "perfectly" (and I don't even have the right tools!) The only thing that has prevented me from getting trained and certified as a saddle fitter is having to go to his shop in Canada for a year to train! I have a ranch and critters, and now a normal job, so that's just not gonna happen. But it is something I am keenly interested in. Because if you are going to ride in a saddle, make it fit the horse correctly and give him plenty of freedom to move. It boggles the mind how many people don't even consider that a saddle should fit the horse!

Anyway it's not the best photo of the saddle... Never rode her that day, just slapped it on and we walked around (hand walked), she was higher than a kite that day. (at a show)

These are closer... she wasn't standing square to the camera because I was trying to photo and get her to stand still for me at the same time. She is a camera hog, and kept wanting to walk to me.
Image
Image
her scapula is just under the front of the vertical panel, about half an inch. There is about an inch and a half from the thigh block to the outter edge of the panel. Her elbow sits 4 inches (to 5) from center of this girth. (girth is soft flexible synthetic, not hard leather)

(tired, heading to bed)

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