The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 6:40 am 
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I am very curious how things will turn out... if at the time when you will be ready for it you will still be interested in competing at all... or if Freckles alone will give you all you need. But even if you do compete, this has a good aspect as well: you can show people what is possible. :)

By the way, what about your new bridle? How is it going?


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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 6:59 am 
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He's going well in that LG test-bridle. I took him on an outride on Thursday. He's only shaking his head now if he wants to go left and I'm asking to go right, or if he wants to go faster and I don't. In the snaffle he was shaking his head almost all the time. I knew it was because my hands are not as stable as they should be! He can "hear" my legs and seat much better now, and even did some leg-yielding! I posted a video of our 1st ride in it in the Videos section, and there is a link in my diary. I am having a lesson in it this morning ...

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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 5:22 pm 

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Here is the Northwest U.S. I have competed bitless. It was only schooling shows, which is all I'm willing to spend on someones opinion anyway. They are schooling shows and I just ask the show organizer in advance if bitless is Ok. I will continue with my filly maybe even this year, I go because I feel like it's my new found duty to show bitless/bridless riding to all disciplines. I get a lot of interest from the people that really put the horse before their own ambitions. Every horse that is saved from metal in the mouth is a good deed indeed. Jane Savoie I think it was, said that "we have no right to ruin this horses day to further our own ambitions".
Another venue that I am very excited about is showing on line. Karina at http://www.interdressage.com/ is celebrating their one year anniversary of on line showing. Think about it, it is really the "green" way to get scored. No hauling horses an hour and a half one way to ride for a total of 8 mins. The gals at Interdressage are so helpful and encouraging. They have bitless classes tooooooo!!!!! The newsletter has horse tales from around the EU that are really very funny. And you can brag to the unwitting that you have competed internationally!!!
Geraldine


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 4:32 pm 
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Hey everyone:

Glen and I got into a conversation on her new (soon to arrive) LG bridle on PeasnLove's diary (oops! diary hogs!) :blah: :blah: :blah:

:-)

(My fault...I'd missed this thread and just glommed, shamelessly...)

So I thought I'd move it over here...

She mentioned the bridle and I wrote:


Quote:
Uh oh, I'm stealing your diary! Sorry!

But, ooh, ooh, I find I have questions for you, Glen!

You wrote:

Quote:
I have recently tested a bitless (LG Bridle) that appears to be the only bitless in the world that retains the "half-halt for tempo regulation" that is so important in dressage tests, and have ordered one. It will get here in 4 to 6 weeks.


Really? That's not been my experience... I've been using Cook's on Stardust for about three years and we half halt with it...

The LG looks like an intriguing design, and I'll be really interested to hear what you think about it -- especially whether you find it's gentle on the nose with the pressure on the noseband and with the curb chain. (I have a morbid fear of curb chains, as they were a part of Stardust's torment in his earlier life -- not necessarily a rational one!)

I can see how it could offer more finesse than Cook's, because of that communication with the lower part of the head, but even though getting Stardust collected without the nose pressure has been a longer journey, I like the idea of poll pressure rather than nose pressure.

Am totally looking forward to hearing what you think when you've played with it!

Quote:
I also find (and have learned through various friends) that a horse is generally slightly "heavier" in a bitless, while being generally happier.


This caught my interest, too...do you mean heavier on the forehand or heavier in hand in general?

In my experience with Stardust, I don't feel a general heaviness with him that I didn't feel in a bit, with a couple of caveats. First, if he's off balance or his back is sore, he does push through the bitless bridle to stretch out low (he fought to do this in the bit, but then would suck back, trying to avoid pressure from the bit) -- it's definitely easier for him to do that without anything in his mouth. (Which I'd actually rather have!) On the other hand, he's also a lot less inclined now to trot out hollow backed, with his nose in the air -- he'll do a bit of that as we start but warms out of it quickly -- this was something we were constantly fighting when I was using a bit. I think part of this was learned behavior from trying to avoid the very harsh bits that were used on him when he was jumping grand prix -- and they didn't really care how high-headed he was, providing he'd go over the jumps, and part pain avoidance.

But, in terms of responsiveness, I've found it's generally much quicker in the bitless than in a bit -- could be, in his case, that he's not having to go through the pressure/pain-remembered pain--resist--respond process he went through when I was riding him bitted.

As for heavier on the forehand, yeah, I have found that to be true in Cook's. I can't muscle him back into collection at all (which, in spite of all of the language about riding back to front, I see most dressage riders in my world doing -- starting the collection with the bit). And it's not as easy to drive him into the bridle as it is to drive him into the bit -- which is a gentler version of the same thing, I think.

Which is one of the major things that initially brought me to AND... First, that I thought there had to be a way to help build collection and cue for it without this front-end pressure, because while we find it occasionally, it was coming really slowly. As I mentioned somewhere before, all of the traditional dressage trainers I talked to insisted that the only way I could rectify this would be to put a bit in his mouth (preferably a double), train him into collection that way, and then could back off and go bitless. This would undo him! And, as I thought about it, I felt that there had to be another way to build his mental/physical abilities to collect -- it couldn't be about the metal in his mouth. (And if it was, I wasn't going to go there! But, I can see how much better he feels when he is working in a gentle collection, building his body correctly as he uses his muscles well, so I really wanted to find a solution, even if my fantasies of passage weren't ever going to happen on him...)

I really struggled with this for a while, because I was thinking about dressage competition, too. I've pretty much lost interest in it at this point, for a variety of reasons, but did want to mention, as an option in case you weren't aware of it, that you can ride hors concours without a bit -- can ride and show and get graded/judges comments, but won't be in the running for competition ribbons. (If you decide that bitless is the way you want to go.)

If Stardust hadn't been such a basket case about tack, I never would have discovered any of this!

Anyway, I've babbled on, as usual, and this time on someone else's turf! Sorry about that! But please, Glen, let me know what you think of the LG -- I'd really like to hear your reactions to it!

Best,
Leigh


Then she responded:


Quote:
I'm going to "take over" your diary for a bit, as well - to answer Leigh! I hope you don't mind! If it does bother you, we will apply to Miriam to move these posts to my LG Bridle thread, OK?

Quote:
Really? That's not been my experience... I've been using Cook's on Stardust for about three years and we half halt with it...


Ah, but there's the whole "swing head like a gate" in a bitless as opposed to "tilt the nose slightly" with a bit, which is what the LG preserves!

Quote:
I have a morbid fear of curb chains


As do I! The LG is "fully adjustable." Do you see it has "wagon-wheel pie-slices" to attach the cheek-straps, nose-band, curb and reins to? Move those around and you change the immediacy, position and amount of pressure applied! You can have no pressure applied by one of the 3 places (nose, chin, poll) as well as "ranking" which one gets pressure 1st, 2nd and 3rd! You can vary the amount of "leverage" you can apply as well, so you can even adjust it to function like a straight side-pull!

Also, I will most definately have a sheepskin band under the entire noseband - wheels and all!

Yes, collection comes from behind. I suppose you could "drive" a horse into this bridle as you could with any headstall, but I won't! Freckles will learn AND fashion.

Quote:
This caught my interest, too...do you mean heavier on the forehand or heavier in hand in general?


Heavier in hand in general - "leaning" on the hands, etc. The horse is as heavy or light on the forehand as his training, mental and muscular development allows? I won't "interfere" with that - except through encouragement!

Freckles has been labelled "hyper-sensitive: in his mouth by some people here! I love it! I think I could concievably ride him with sewing-thread for reins in his snaffle! Which is an idea Donald Redux put in my head. Suits me! In fact, I have created it! I'm not sure how, but there you go. There was a short period in late Feb that he started "leaning on the inside" so I largely stopped using the reins except for tempo!

Do you find you need to handle your reins a litttle differently in a bitless? I did - but not with the LG. I like that.

Hahaha, I believe in SA (as of last month) we can ride competitive dressage bitless in the 2 lowest levels. ?They're acknowledging the fact that most of the horses in these early levels are young and probably still teething? Love it! Haven't confirmed it yet, though!


(That's weird...for some reason when I copy and paste I love the HTML formatting and emoticons...ah well, at least the base of what we wrote is here...)

Whew! I'm going to respond in the next post so this isn't seven miles long...

:-)

Leigh


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:02 pm 
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Okay, that's over!

:-)

First, thanks, Glen, for being willing to talk this through with me! :-)

Reading over this thread, I find that I have a lot of the same concerns that have been voiced about this bridle (pressure on the nose, particularly -- and yes, I think you most definitely could drive a horse into this bridle) -- but, I also totally understand your wanting to work towards helping Freckles figure out that he can go in collection and see how the LG looks like it could help with that.

Here are some thoughts in response to yours -- in the spirit of sharing what I've been learning about the process of getting a horse whose body isn't naturally ready for collection headed in that direction. (Ahhh, for one of those little Spanish horses who live in roundness!) :-) This is absolutely not meant as a critique about what you're doing, just some thoughts about what I'm doing! (Because, after all, I'm so very, very interesting to myself!) :lol:

Glen wrote:

Quote:
Ah, but there's the whole "swing head like a gate" in a bitless as opposed to "tilt the nose slightly" with a bit, which is what the LG preserves!


Ya know, I've heard this mentioned (maybe here?), but I've never understood it -- is this swinging side to side?

I've not felt this with Stardust at all, if this is what that means. What I've found with Cooks BB is, even though I can't demand an instant collection in the way that I could (sometimes, when he wasn't frantically fighting it and trying pretty much every evasive move in the book) with a bit, he's moving through his whole body in better alignment with this bridle than he did in a bit. For example, a little squeezing on the inside rein and he is moving straight (he had that bad jumper habit of bending against the circle big time when we first started working together), add leg cues, and he's working in a pretty good shoulder in. (Took us a good while to get him from instantly popping his shoulder out, but he's much, much better about that now.) I've never had the sense that he's overswinging his head one way or the other laterally.

(I'm wondering if this as a critique of a bitless bridle is coming from dressage riders who use bits? While I've not run into this particular critique, I've run into variations about the loss of subtlety of communication without the bit -- which, on one hand, I suppose is true -- if I had something painful on my mouth, I'd say "yes ma'am!" in a way that I wouldn't be inclined to with something that was just essentially guiding my head. On the other hand, I truly believe that there are other ways to build subtlety. I don't know if this is the case here, but I do know I've run into LOTS of resistance from dressage riders/trainers who basically don't believe you can ever find collection without a bit, and sometimes their reasons for why get pretty amazing!) :-)

Maundering on as an aside for a moment...this keys into my frustrations about the insistence in much of the dressage community that salivation equals submission to the bit and is what is desirable. Much loved piece of thinking! When I ask what the physiology is behind it (I don't salivate when I'm submissive!) I can't get an answer...and I've been a pest about it! :twisted: Which then keys into my whole frustration about that submission being the point of dressage, which a lot of people say either directly or indirectly, which makes me completely crazy...there we are, right back at that control/mastery thing again...I can make my horse do all of this! He is submissive! See what I've done! Grrr, grrr, grumble, grumble...

:lol:

What I can't do in this bridle is get him to tuck his nose instantly, because there isn't a lot of pressure on the nose or mouth. But I really couldn't do that in a bitted bridle either -- we'd get a few steps in ramener, and then he'd be fighting it. What I've found as we've used this bridle is that we do find moments of collection, but we've had trouble sustaining it. He can get heavy on the forehand, but he also did that while bitted. When we find balance now, it's absolutely coming from the hind -- he's still figuring out if he can maintain it. (It's a lot of work and he prefers eating potato chips and watching TV!) :-)

As I mentioned before, this was a major impetus to send me out searching for alternatives in training that brought me to AND -- my frustration and impatience about what felt like it was taking farrrrr too long getting his hind end working since I truly couldn't ask for it from the front end. (And discovering this whole community that came at the process from the other way around than control has been a HUGE gift -- it's supported my thinking and opened up whole worlds for me -- but my original impulse was about getting a better training solution, not anything nearly as noble!)

However, interestingly, I just rode a horse that's at about the same level of training as Stardust in a bit this week, and found that we spent about the same amount of time collected as Stardust and I do, fighting for it every step of the way. This was an eye opener to me! Even though I'd made a commitment to never go back to a bit with Stardust, I must admit that I've thought longingly about having that head control as a quicker way to collection nirvana. This riding experience was a revelation -- she wasn't going any better than Stardust goes. (And, actually, in my mind, there were issues that were bit related, but that's the owner's bailiwick, not mine.) But this ride reaffirmed my suspicions that it really is about building hind end strength and balance.

For me, the answer for Stardust lies in body building and micro shaping from the ground, building his strength and balance that way so that we can connect the dots when I'm riding (when he gets over his anti-riding revolution!). :lol: It may take longer (though, with this ride this week, I'm not so sure about that any more), but for us it feels like more fun. Part of this is absolutely due to my looking for ways to define moving as something that's fun rather than work for Stardust -- this is something we're always wrestling with since moving was SO painful for him for much of his life. We used to fight a lot under saddle, which was exhausting and miserable for both of us. (One of our "show" names for him, in addition to Trebuchet, since he bucks like a catapult, was "French Resistance"!) :-)

There's no fighting going on now, and I can see the difference when we've done focused ground work, even at the baby steps we're at now -- for example, in his bucky gambol 1400 pound lamb moves last night, where he wasn't over reaching and striking -- this is a major shift in how he's moving.) I'm very interested to see how all of this plays out with Circe, who hasn't ever had a bit in her mouth, and won't, and doesn't have the physical or emotional issues he does. And she's starting to get a nice muscling in her neck just from the ground ramener work we're doing! How cool is that?! She's not built like a classical dressage horse in some ways, as like most Haflingers she's straight/a little low in the withers, but she's finding a roundness for herself as she's moving that's really fun to see develop. Some of this is because she's evening out (five months ago she looked ridiculous -- croup over an inch higher than her withers, this little short neck and a huge head! Her canter was horribly downhill, and her trot disjointed, with that big head stuck way out as a cantilever, but the pieces do seem to be coming together into one horse!). :-)

(Oh -- and I don't find that I have to use the reins particularly differently with the BB than with a bit. The first couple of rides we had a little adjusting to do, but it got very quickly to the point where I'd forget that I didn't have a bit in his mouth and that we were doing anything different -- actually would get startled when people gasped at the site of this tank with no bit, thinking, what are you staring at?!?) :-)

I love Donald's idea of sewing thread as a bit! :-)

And how TOTALLY cool that SA has opened up lower level shows to bitless riding -- that's utterly fabulous! Would that the US were this enlightened!

Thanks, Glen, and good luck with the LG -- I'll be looking for your reports on how it feels as you two get used to it!

Best,
Leigh


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:05 pm 
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I'm moseying on over here to comment on the ideas in Peasnlove's diary, because my experience is so vastly different than what you're saying, Glen, on the differences in control, finess and handling of a bitless bridle vs a bit or an lg.

Quote:
Ah, but there's the whole "swing head like a gate" in a bitless as opposed to "tilt the nose slightly" with a bit, which is what the LG preserves!


We always have to be very mindful and careful of what we present as fact. Or that we word things that come across as fact when in reality they are personal experience only.

My horses have no heads swinging like gates. They both very easily relax and release the poll, which is the key to the ability to tip the nose. Equally important though, is how one handles the reins, and themselves in the saddle. Tam, who has very little riding under his belt, understands and easily tips his nose with a slight upward movement of the inside rein - with a light caveson on, and no previous idea of what it should mean to him.

And what does it mean? That nose tipping is the result of the hand telling the horse to raise his inside shoulder and rebalance himself. You can do this easily with any head gear, because the action is not within the rein alone, but it is within our own balance and posture. Our whole body speaks this request to the horse. I hope one day to have communication so finely tuend with Tam to be able to make this same request with no reins at all.

Having the opportunity this spring to learn a more classical approach to rein handling, and even more about how to help a horse relax, has altered my brain yet again in how I think about the "gear" we put on our horses. The "gear" doesn't matter at all. You can get a "classical" response with a plain old halter as easily as you can with a double bridle. Better, in fact, in my estimation because without the double bridle, you know the horse is responding from a desire to, rather than being compelled to by the feel or action of the iron on his tongue, teeth and jaw. In other words, through the ground work and careful approach to educating the horse that AND promotes, the horse learns to trust in our requests and complies easily because it's pleasant and rewarding to do so. In other words, our riding can make the horse feel good, rather than be a constant battle wherein we must then take firmer and firmer control and find different ways to compensate for what we have yet to learn.

If you pull backward to tip the nose, then yes, you require some kind of gear in the horse's mouth, or some kind of mechanical aid in order to convey the idea to the horse of tipping the nose, lifting the inside shoulder and balance. Or you can simply lift upward gently on the inside rein (we're back to "waltzing" with the horse here) , and if you horse is relaxed at the poll, you will get the same beautiful result with no special gear at all.

Quote:
I have recently tested a bitless (LG Bridle) that appears to be the only bitless in the world that retains the "half-halt for tempo regulation" that is so important in dressage tests, and have ordered one.


My most earnest advice is to purchase and watch the series of videos or dvds from Walter Zettl, "A Matter of Trust". If you want to put a bit on your horse, or if you want to learn how someone who really cares about having a relaxed horse and stresses that it takes a long time to develop a horse for dressage, then he is the one to listen to and learn from. The series emphasizes the proper aids and proper use of hands and seat and does a decen tjob of describing them. In itself, although it claims not to be able to teach people all there is to know about training for dressage, it is certainly a wonderful stand-alone educational series.

Why? Well, about year and a half ago I had to ask someone what a half halt was. I was told to by a book "Cross-training your horse" by Jane Savoie. That explained many things to me, but it was Walter Zettl that showed me the true meaning of the half halt and it's application. He also showed me the magic within transitions and how they lead to collection in dressage.

So simply put, a request to back up, a request to halt, and a request to half halt are all basically the same action of your body, delivered in varying forms of strength. None of them require any more or any less contact on the rein. It comes from your seat and legs. Up until recently, I wasn't even sure what that meant (seat and legs to halt). But now I do.

By riding in the way that my own Tamarack has taught me, (with the help of Sue and Donald Redux), I have found that using my seat and legs in a way that is more instinctively understandable to my horses, completely changed how I asked for halt, back up, and half halt. My hands do play a role in this, but the choice of gear on my horses's heads is almost factorless. It plays only a minor role. Interestingly enough, it turns out that this more natural way is really, the more "classical" way as well. Go figure! Wow...Tam is smarter than I am.

But you know, of course that this is all my own person experience as well :wink: . The nice thing is, that I am now confident enough and able to hop on other people's horses and while getting the joyful opportunity of showing them this magic, I get to see how their horses respond to the way I am now riding. So far, it is always positive.

Now as you know, I use a bitless (cross under) with Cisco (leather one), and I use an extremely light and spare jumping cavesson with Tam. In both cases the actions of the reins are connected in one way or another at the side of the head and not under the chin, and I do think that is important for my style of riding. But to say that LG has the corner on the bitless half halt market would be incorrect. It is how the gear is handled, not the gear itself.

In my humble opinion, the head of the horse should never be the focus of controlling any action. The action on the head of the horse by the bridle is not the key to the half halt. That is the same as saying that collection comes from holding the horse in a frame. We all agree THAT is incorrect. Since a half halt is a cue to the horse to collect the gait, then we should also be able to agree that this should come from behind, through our seat and legs, and not rely on the action of the bridle.

I am not one to say I don't rely on reins for control. I still feel that need much of the time, but as I learn to ride with less and less emphasis on the reins and more and more on my seat and legs and more and more on helping the horse find his own natural balance, I find that reins, really, are a vestige of my own unconfidence in my own ability.

That is changing.

Just please don't let anyone tell you that rein control is necessary for a half halt.

Ultimately, it's not. I wish I had some immediate way to prove this to you.

Please come and ride Cisco. My plain brown Quarter Horse who didn't want to be a cow pony, would change your outlook on so many things. He changed mine. :lol:

I really wish I could give everyone all that I have had come to me in the last year and a half. My trainer friend Paul, my Walter Zettl videos, my horses...all of it. I would gladly share it if I could.

I have also had the confidence lately to allow others to ride Cisco...and they glow when they ride him. He and I have come a long way.

I think I'm starting to sound quite zealous about this.... :oops: but I wish everyone could feel what I'm now experiening because it IS nirvana!


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:24 pm 
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:D Wonderfully said, Karen!! I just agree with everything that you have written. :D

In fact I could never understand some traditional riders who were telling me that the reins were the least important tools for a rider and that all collection came from behind, but at the same time emphasized that it was impossible to get collection without a bit and higher lessons without a curb bit... is there some kind if dissonance maybe? ;)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:26 pm 
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I need to add too, that along with in-hand exercises to develop the haunches physically, once one can help the horse rebalance and carry themselves naturally, and one begins to work not only in the lateral work (in balance) but also the transitions, one will see the "heavier on the forehand" disappear. Because in natural balance a physically capable horse is not heavy on the forehand. We make them that way with low hands, dropping the inside shoulder and our own mistakes as we learn and grow.

Transitions are as magical as the rein handling and can change the way we percieve so many things.

Again, I just humbly disagree that it has anything to do with the style of bitless bridle.

I too wish you a lovely journey Glen, because it IS coming along at a rapid pace, isn't it? Almost as fast as we can suck in the knowledge, new knowledge is drawn to us like honey bees to a beautiful flower. Our desire to learn, the energy of that, somehow beckons the knowledge to find us.

Dr. Cook, LG, halter, bit...doesn't matter. What matters is our own journey of knowledge, because that changes everything joyously as we progress. I know your joy Glen (and the passion and the energy and the enthusiasm)...I see it and feel it in your posts!

Hugs!


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:54 pm 
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Karen,

Magnificent posting! I also wish you could share! Sorry, I can't read or see Walter Zettl. NOT AVAILABLE in SA. As most of the "really good stuff" is not available in SA. I have no doubt that my finesse would benefit from such resources, as would Freckle's understanding!

Quote:
We always have to be very mindful and careful of what we present as fact. Or that we word things that come across as fact when in reality they are personal experience only.


:lol: :lol: One thing that was not copied over was a sentence that preceded my mentioning the LG - which basically said that I'm choosing it because it easily mimics the action of a snaffle, and I am currently "keeping" Freckles familiar with a snaffle, because of my "vague desire to ride competition dressage," which may lead to my needing him to tolerate a bit.

:oops: Yes, Karen, you are 100% correct - I meant FOR FRECKLES AND ME it easily mimics ... etc. and was not careful to make that clear. I apologise. Humbly.

Also, earlier in this thread, or a previous thread where I was asking for info on a hackamore I was given (which you wouldn't have seen) I talk about how Freckles shakes his head more in a rope halter than in a snaffle, and how he "swings his head like a gate" in a side-pull. By this I mean that his neck stays uncurved and all the bend is happening at the shoulder/neck junction and the neck/cheek junction.

Which suggests to me that he "feels" these headstalls differently to how he "feels" the snaffle. My big point is that FRECKLES feels the LG the same as he feels a snaffle - except that it doesn't hurt him and he doesn't shake his head or lean on my hands and he can "hear" my seat and legs more clearly without that snaffle in his mouth.

:oops: Again, I did fail to make clear that what I was saying was specific to Freckles and me!

I have only recently discovered the "lifted hand" thang, and have only had opportunity to "test" it once before I succumbed to the "dreaded lurgy" and will only be riding again after I can breathe properly. Absolutely, Karen, Freckles responded to this fantastically, and quite possibly would repeat that response in a side-pull style headstall.

:oops: Absolutely correct, Karen, that seat and legs are way more significant the headgear. Again I failed to specify FOR FRECKLES AND ME I wish to retain his knowledge of "traditional" riding cues and therefore ... again I apologise!

I forget that what is in my head is not neccessarily available to whoever's listening!

If I do end up competing as I think I want to, then my Freckles WILL be ridden by Judges, and must therefore understand and respond "correctly" to the traditional stuff. So I work my way around that most of the time. And I forget that most of you other AND'ers are probably not aware of that, because it has become (over the last few months) as normal to me as breathing!

If I created any false impressions, I am truly sorry. If I mislead anyone, I am truly sorry!

Karen, thank you so much for pointing out to me that my enthusiasm for where I was, was causing me to bias my posting in a way VERY unfair to anyone reading it! Thank goodness you caught it and corrected it! I would be devastated if I misdirected someone!

:kiss:

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:07 pm 
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Romy wrote:
:) Wonderfully said, Karen!! I just agree with everything that you have written. :)

In fact I could never understand some traditional riders who were telling me that the reins were the least important tools for a rider and that all collection came from behind, but at the same time emphasized that it was impossible to get collection without a bit and higher lessons without a curb bit... is there some kind if dissonance maybe? ;)


Truly! Karen, that was a fabulous description -- and you are describing where I hope to arrive some day...both in terms of your riding and your understanding of this. (And I will die a happy woman if I can find a ride with Stardust that is balanced and collected in the cordeo -- to me, this feels like it would be bliss, as it would mean that we finally had found a way to bring him fully back into his body!)

And, Romy, I agree with you, too -- I think there is a cognitive dissonance in the "collection doesn't come from the head but we must use multiple bits to get real dressage" thinking. It's not logical!

I think it's in part because of the explosion of competitive dressage -- it takes time and money to "make" a dressage horse, and shortcuts can become really appealing. I also think it's in part because of what I mentioned before, that there are some huge control desires in a lot of the dressage community -- I actually think this is part of the move towards the big warmbloods (like my guy, who just isn't built for this stuff in the way that a Spanish horse or Arab is) -- but it's oh, so impressive to see a 17hh heavy boned horse moving in this way, and it's impressive to be able to control him.

I took a couple of lessons a few months ago from a Portuguese style dressage trainer. He's very good at what he does (trained with the masters in Portugal) and has gorgeous Spanish high schooled stallions. He's a nice guy, obviously cares enormously for his horses, and I learned some very important things from him about my seat and hands. And it was pretty darn cool to ride a passage and piaffe for the first time -- a truly amazing feeling!

However, these horses lived in pretty much constant confinement -- they had quite small covered box stalls and we worked in a very small manege with the stallions in rassembler the entire time. Even his warm up longe was slow and collected. It was all very beautiful, but by the second lesson I felt like I couldn't breathe, the whole experience was so claustrophobic. He may have a larger arena for turnout that I didn't see, but he certainly wasn't thinking about that as his horse's daily experience. The stallion I rode went from his small box to the small manege and back again when we were done riding.

And I found myself thinking, if this is what dressage is, I don't know that I want it! His control was, in many ways, very gentle and very thoughtful. He has exceedingly light hands, and used micro movements on the curb to cue. But everything about these horses was controlled!

And I found that the stallion I was riding, while he had exquisite collection, was also very hard sided and when going under a rider who was inclined to leave his head alone (I was so spooked about yanking on the curb I barely held the reins) he instantly went into the wrong bend.

So, it didn't feel like this horse were naturally moving this way to me at all -- this was heavy duty training with a kind but also very strong rider. It all felt, somehow, very ascetic to me -- almost like this group of men (he has 7 or 8 stallions) had moved into some strange monastic tradition.

And I left thinking that all of them, trainer included, needed a wild Dionysian party where they could kick up their heels, drink too much, chase a few pretty girls and tell embarrassed stories about themselves the next morning!

:lol: :lol: :lol:

Freedom!!!!

:-)

Best,
Leigh


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 12:43 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 10:57 am
Posts: 16
Location: South Africa
I have only come across this topic now and would just like to make a few remarks regarding the LG-Bridle and Monika Lehmenkuehler who invented it.
After reading her book and watching her DVD (available only in German at present), I can honestly say that I think she has the best interest of the horse at heart.

She is very much against the use of bits and describes in a long chapter all the adverse effect of its use and the consequences for the horse in a very illustrative way. Her main reference is Dr Cook, but she recites and has researched many authors, also historical, regarding the use of bits in dressage.
In a very objective way she describes all the pros and cons of the various bitless headgear that is available (sidepull, bosal, knot halter, Dr Cooks bridle etc), all of which she has tried herself. She doesn't dismiss any, just pointing out why they haven't worked that well for her in her situation, and in which situations they might be very useful.
She does Haute Ecole dressage, pointing out the importance of the Spanish step and having good success with airs above the ground with her gorgeous Andalusian gelding Galeno. She is strictly classical in her approach, and emphasizes that legs and seat are the predominant aids and that rein aids should be phased out over time. She can ride Galeno in a neckstring or without anything at all with him still performing in self-carriage all those dressage maneuvers. She advocates and demonstrates self-carriage as the main goal and reins should never be used to keep a horse's head and body in a certain position. In her book she also describes how to ride with her LG-Bridle - to give short impulses and immediate release as soon as the horse reacts. Longer contact will make the horse lean into the pressure and become'' heavy''.

I admit I find her sometimes a bit too much of an alpha- leader in her relationship with her horses and I don't agree with all her groundwork and ridden work. But all in all I really think she has the best interest of the horse at heart.

The LG bridle might look at first glance a bit ''aggressive''. But the curb chain is not necessary, you can order it with a normal and quite broad leather strap instead of it.

@Glen - the bridle is not put entirely correct on Freckle's head. There is only supposed to be one ''triangle'' between the one where the noseband sits and the one where the curb chain is (does that make sense to you - practically speaking it's noseband, then rein, then curb, with no empty triangle in between - talking of the lower half of the wheel now. The cheek strap sits in the middle triangle of the upper half of the wheel) you'll see the leverage becomes much less then. Or you can use it entirely without leverage.

I have tried it a couple of times on Sultan, who was ridden with a bit before we got him and he responded and understood it very well.

I have also tried Dr Cooks bitless bridle, which also worked well, but my horses didn't seem to like the crossover straps under the chin and it sometimes didn't seem to release the pressure quickly enough.
I have used and still am using on and off a rope halter, but that can also be very severe with the knots being concentrated pressure points on a sensitive part on the horses face.

The advantage of the LG- bridle seems to be a good lateral influence on the horses face when doing dressage exercises and that it causes uncomfortable pressure rather than pain, much like other bitless bridles (this is obviously debatable, where do you draw the line between discomfort and pain, and also depends how much leverage you use). But I personally think used in the right way it is not as harsh as a hackamore, the lever being much smaller (if used at all) and is pretty much in line with other bitless bridles.
The' scary" metal wheel also distributes the pressure over a big area, much like a hand pushing against the horses face, rather than a concentrated pressure point.


I personally do not use the LG, but rather her noseband now, which she has also created and which you can see on my boy Sultan.
That works really well. No leverage and it gives only fine pressure points along the nose through the plaited soft leather band. This makes it also sit snug and gives it more stability than an ordinary halter (and it looks pretty :wink:).
Image

I am sorry I am babbling so long. I am really not trying to promote any of these bridles, but I just want to give my personal opinion and experience and point out some things so that you can create a more informed opinion for yourselves.

Also I respect Monika Lehmenkueheler in what she is doing to promote bitless riding .
I believe through her very classical and oh so German approach :wink: , she comes across as very professional and many conservative bitted riders might find some common ground with her, which in turn makes it perhaps easier for them to accept this alternative way of riding in such a stuck up riding discipline.

Ultimately riding in a cordeo or with nothing on your horse is the dream of dreams, but until then, compromises must be made and through her work, much like Dr Cooks, many horses in the world will have, if not a perfect, at least the start of a better life.

Her German web page is also much better than the English one www.molekuer.de

Greetings
Kerstin


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:26 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:21 am
Posts: 133
Location: Midrand, South Africa
Hi Glen,

Just have to tell you. You can soon soon compete bitless in the lower classes in South Africa. It is approved for an initial trial period of a year and who knows - if all goes well they surely will continue with it. Sounds like it will be in separate classes though, but it's a start!! So after all you might not need a bit at competitions. Keeping our fingers crossed :)

If you are interested in competing or wanting more info just mail bitlessdressage@webafrica.org.za. The guys have worked tirelessly to get this approved and I think it's an amazing step forward.

Hope this is any help for your future plans.

Thumbs up to you!!

Suzie


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 6:28 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:05 pm
Posts: 2888
Location: Natal, South Africa
Hi, Kerstin.

Yeah, I know about that adjustment thing, but the test set I used was already at maximum size and it wouldn't fit properly the way it should have been adjusted! That's why I needed to order the draft size! So I fiddled it until I had as little leverage as I could get with the size of noseband I borrowed for testing!

_________________
Glen Grobler



Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled. Anon


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 Post subject: LG Bridle
PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 4:33 am 

Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:02 pm
Posts: 102
Location: Cadet, Missouri USA
I tried a similar design with no luck with dakota. I fouund to small matal rings and put to latigo straps on it and dakots did not listen and even fought it and reared etc! But one thing I have been learning is don't listen to people when it comes to your horse. You are the one who knows him and knows what he likes and what he doesn't! Take there advice and thank them for trying to help but just focus on what your horse seems to like! Dakota has and always responts with a very mild curb with chain. I have tried hackamores sidepulls a better version of the LG etc abd the curb is the only thing that he responds to and doesn't fight! I ride him with loose reins (Western)and only do short periods of collected work of which he responds willings and softly to the bit. But I am in the process of making a custom curb bit though It is going to be made of soft apple rubber. Or now you can buy the rubber to wrap around the bits! I also have found a mechanical hackamore that I like and want to try on him. It will work similar to a curb but will put pressure on the nose instead of the mouth and under the chin.
Honey just use what your horse likes!


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 7:32 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:05 pm
Posts: 2888
Location: Natal, South Africa
Yeah, I hear you!

Freckles sometimes gets "heavy in the hands" without the bit, but we're working on that and it'll come. He's very young and still green, so I am using the LG, but mostly working an "leg, seat and voice" aids. He can get a bit strong when he's having fun, but he does respond after a few moments, so I think we're on the right track.

:lol: At the moment I'm just "avoiding" the potential arguments - if I say turn left and he say turn right, we go right but 360 degrees and fairly tight. I'm hoping he will realise it's actually easier to accept my request!

The LG feels right for us, and he has stopped chucking his head in the sky when he sees his bridle, so I think that says it all!

_________________
Glen Grobler



Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled. Anon


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