The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 1:32 pm 

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Miriam


Isn't that interesting. So now I need to rethink everything that I have read, because this way is not the way it's taught or talked about in Walter Zettle's books and videos, nor Podhajsky's book, not even Dr. Deb sees it this way.

I guess I'm in a total lost of how to get to or what I'm seeing when my horses are playing.

:?

April

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 1:34 pm 
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maybe that is the whole point, that no matter what one reads, you always have to make up your own mind?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 4:52 pm 
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I simply think the description of what collection is, is different for everyone. What Miriam describes is NOT unlike what Walter Zettle describes. Walter Zettle describes it like a motor boat. If you rev the engine at the back of the boat, the front of the boat lifts as it's being propelled forward. For Walter Zettle, it is not about rocking the weight back...it's about pushing the front forward. It's about power.

In all of his videos, he does not worry about setting the horse in a frame from the front, or lowering the hind end...he concentrates a great deal on transitions, an in doing so, he gets a horse "revved up" (like you would crank the throttle on an outboard motor), then relaxed (let the throttle go), revved up, then relaxed. The horse comes to anticipate the revving phase, and pushes himself forward better and better, and as he comes into balance with that power, he "engages" his whole body into it....the head comes more vertical and the neck lifts. All of this requires a steady hand to aid the horse in balance, a trusting relationship with the horse (the basis for all his "Matter of Trust" videos), a consistent rider (not me!), and a level of composure from both horse and rider that is built from the trust and the consistency.

The end result is beautiful. But if someone else looks at it, they may not see the incredible strength within the balance of the horse and the rider...they may simply see a level topline and not a lift of the whithers in relation to the haunches...but the horse, doing a beautiful and engaged passage, is no less collected in my mind than a horse doing a wonderful uphill piaffe. As Miriam says, the forward movement may, for many horses mask the "uphill-ness".

My poor Cisco (love him to peices) is developing a passage. As I ride, I click and reward him for loft in his steps. He is a down-hill built Quarter Horse with not a great back, and a neck that comes out the front of his body and not off the top of his shoulders - and he will never, in his or my wildest dreams move uphill. At the very best, I can shoot for level unless he is rearing. That "half-air" movement is the only time he will be uphill.

So all I can do with Cisco is to work toward what is the best he can do with his build. If that means his poll lower than what would be expected from another horse, but if that is where Cisco finds his power to achieve loft in his gaits, so be it.

A good cow-pony, cutting a calf from the herd, will have his neck out forward, his head down and his nose in that calf's face. And yet, his front end end is light and his movements are cat-like. He can spin on a dime and keep spinning! This is beautiful balance, and for a cowboy, it's collection at it's finest.

Cisco is a cow pony who is trying his best to do something like dressage. But his best "loft" and balance, and most engaged and strong movement will never look beautiful to many. But gosh it feels like heaven!

So to me, the sign of collection is the ability for the front legs to dance, unhindered by some of the weight of the horse. Whether that comes from a shifting balance, or from developing muscles doesn't really matter to me. I am drifting farther and farther away, when working with Cisco, from worrying about what the head and neck are doing, or what level the haunches are at, and concentrating on the feel of the front of the horse...the front legs. Are they light and dancing? Then we are balanced toward collection. Or for Cisco, I may say that IS collection. It's all relative.

If we all had horses of similar build, we could likely come up with a set description, but with so many variables in conformation, I think it's pretty hard.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 6:36 pm 
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Thank you for that post Karen, I really understood what you were talking about.

I am so confused over the exact definition of collection. Mainly, I say forget it, and whatever they do they do. :lol:

The best way I have considered collection was like Hempfling's picture of the bull-fighter. Where his weight was on his hindquarters and his front legs can dancce about.

But Brandy can do this with her nose on the ground, and never loose that airy step. Or she can stick her nose straight up in the air and look like she's walking on her back legs only. And then sometimes she actually "looks" correct. :D It's like her head and neck have nothing to do with the rest of her body collecting. But she can
"collect" all these many ways with all these differant movements, and still be stepping under with her hinquarters and keeping her front end light and airy, her back arched perfectly. And she's not put together real well. So is this collection? Or which parts of it are collection? Which parts should I reward?

And then there's Cody. :roll: Who I've been told is cute, but will never accomplish anything. He's put together out of spare parts, and he's just not great. He's down-hill too, QH and Arab mix. He likes to travel (lately since he's been feeling good and proud) with his head up high, back hollow, steeping under wtih his hindquarters, and free and airy with his feet. But his back hollows, so I don't think this is collection?

When he "collects" (totally at liberty) he puts his head waaaayyyy down, almost to the ground, rocks his wieght back, his back arches, his hindlegs step under, and his front end comes up. And his front legs dance all about. But his nose is almost dragging the ground, almost tucked between his front legs. :? I have to laugh because he looks absolutely rediculous! But this is his biggest baddest collected effort. When he starts doing Spanish Walk faster and better, he puts his head way down. And I have never done anything treat or training wise to encourage that. Most horses collect with their heads up. But maybe this is his build, or his tiny little belly muscles, or just that he is a total clown and I laugh when he does a head-stand??

So my (probably rediculous) theroy about him, is he's using his back muscles for his first type of movement, sraining his back to pull his front end up. Which your not supposed to do. And his second "collected" effort he's using his belly muscles, which are pitiful on him. So maybe he is tucking his nose to be able to use his belly muscles? Like when people do crunches for their abs, stronger people will stay with their head relaxed and just use their abs, while weaker people will strain with their necks to try and drag themselves upward, because their abs aren't strong enough to do it. Maybe Cody is a super-wimp and his belly muscles are puny? He has only started offering this "collection" very recently since he has been getting healthier and stronger, and only when he is very wound up and excited, before that he'd never even try.

As far as Pilates for horses, I think that's a great idea! This is pretty similiar, but more stretches and exercises would be great. I know Brandy now "crunches" in the morning when she gets up, which she never did before AND. She also will stretch her front legs up and out. When I teach her a stretch, she will do it on her own later if she likes it. And she looooves doing the stretches, she gets really into it.

I don't think you can work on one particular muscle at a time. Look at the butt crunches Bianca suggested. Stand up and do one, you are balancing on your oposite leg, using the muscles in your calf and thigh to do that, you are using your abs and back muscles to keep upright, you are constantly adjsuting and using all these muscles as you move you leg up and down. It effects all the muscles to move one. And you are balancing the whole time to keep from falling, so it helps develop on that too. A lot of the stuff I learn in Tai Chi is about developing strength through balance. The movements in and of themselves aren't going to do squat for your muscles. But the whole idea is to find your balance, your peace, and then move and find it again. Now move and find it again, now move and find it again. That's what makes it very difficault, the moving. :D And that's where the strengthening and stretching come from. And as your balance improves, even if your strength level doesn't change at all, having better balance allows you to use your muscles better.

I live in the boonies, and it's not at all uncommon to have little stick looking guys who can throw 100 lb. bales of hay 6 feet int he air to another stick guy who grabs it and throws in into a exact hole made for it. They can do this for hours without pause. Then you meet a "gym muscle" guy who looks like the Hulk, and can't carry a bale to his car without wheezing, sweating, and taking a break every 5 feet. He can bench press his body weight, but can't handle a bale of hay. It's the differance in using balanced strength or using forced strength.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 9:42 pm 
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Karen wrote:
I simply think the description of what collection is, is different for everyone. What Miriam describes is NOT unlike what Walter Zettle describes. Walter Zettle describes it like a motor boat. If you rev the engine at the back of the boat, the front of the boat lifts as it's being propelled forward. For Walter Zettle, it is not about rocking the weight back...it's about pushing the front forward. It's about power.


Yep. And each tiny incremental change of balance and body "attitude," forward, backward, either sideways, up, and down, changes not only how the muscles are used but MUCH more importantly, how they are built up with both strength and elasticity.

This is why I balk, like a horse, at the suggestion that collection in 'a frame' is how the horse builds up the capacity to carry himself or herself and a rider.

One needs to consider the issue of wave patterns. Neither the crest alone, nor the trough alone. Both are interesting points in a continuum, only. Movement is the rightful measurement of study of 'collection.'

Before the wave, all points during the wave, and after the wave.

When I described how one in fact shifts weight slightly away from the turn, (the inside leg opening the path into the turn) and then is carried through the turn, there is a bit more.

You've felt it, though I see the turns are as yet small and soft (I think from your vids).

You'll really really feel that wave action as your horse begins to put more energy into the turn. I could show you, as I do with my students, with my hand.

You can't see it, so I'll try words.

On the arc of the turn, first, with beginning momentum, you are a tiny bit behind your own center, then as the momentum decreases, (each stride of the horse that impels the turning movement) and your center of mass begins to follow with slightly more speed than the movement.

You start to catch up, and even slightly pass (you body attitude is critical and changing in a wave pattern) your own center of mass.

Thus a wave is completed. It takes as many waves of movement as strides to complete the turn.

Then there is another wave as the horse continues his turn, if that is in fact what you ask for and he does.

(This, by the way, is true as well with forward movement, and up and down movement).

During this action, of course there is exactly the same thing happening to the horse along with all his muscular changes, tensioning, flexing, softening, etc.

When you and he are in synch, if my visual perceptions as well as my own body messages have recorded, you will always be a split second out of time with him...that is, just behind his movement, but easily catching up because you are NOT trying to anticipate and move ahead of him just a fraction.

Then it starts again. Should you try to anticipate, and get ahead of him you create a dangerous imbalance.

That is what throws horses so badly off that accidents happen. And your body messages to the horse are lost in a kind of yammering cacophony he cannot decipher.

He's either too busy trying to stay under you, or dump you as a nuisance.

Think of a runner, the sprinter, in the starting blocks at a foot race. She does not anticipate the start by moving forward, but in fact by moving BACKWARDS. AS deeply into the crouch as she comfortably can compress some muscles and stretch some others.

If she instead moves as for forward as she can her balance and tension is lost, and she will probably fall on her face when the starter pistol fires.


Karen wrote:
In all of his videos, he does not worry about setting the horse in a frame from the front, or lowering the hind end...he concentrates a great deal on transitions, an in doing so, he gets a horse "revved up" (like you would crank the throttle on an outboard motor), then relaxed (let the throttle go), revved up, then relaxed. The horse comes to anticipate the revving phase, and pushes himself forward better and better, and as he comes into balance with that power, he "engages" his whole body into it....the head comes more vertical and the neck lifts.


Do you know how we train reining horses? Yet they go with their heads quite low? And move forward extended, rather than collected? But must execute spins and turns, slides, in sudden extreme collection?

You just described it above.

Which is the very thing. The wave builds the posture, not the other way around.

Modern motion analysis I would bet would prove my hypothesis as correct. If you run across any (I'm looking) on the horse and rider I'd be very interested.


Karen wrote:
All of this requires a steady hand to aid the horse in balance, a trusting relationship with the horse (the basis for all his "Matter of Trust" videos), a consistent rider (not me!), and a level of composure from both horse and rider that is built from the trust and the consistency.


"(not me!)?"

None of us are 100%, Karen. Consistency is something one keeps capturing as often and for as long as possible, in riding. But fighting for perfection creates a chance for stiffness and overcompensation.

Good riders seem to ride a bit 'lazy,' that is fluid and relaxed so that changes in tension come and go easily ... flowing.

And some have beautiful slim supple bodies, say like Klaus H., and some more dumpy, like me as I age, but the principle is still the same and easily seen.

Of course the dumpy, seem to be wobbling when in fact we are gracefully following the fluid motions....yep, that's it. Hehehe.

You should have seen me rocking my hips to the extended walk the other day on Dakota. Finally able to let go and let his quarters moves me as they rocked, but I bet I sure looked funny.

Hadn't even known I was so stiff until I did really let go.

Karen wrote:
The end result is beautiful. But if someone else looks at it, they may not see the incredible strength within the balance of the horse and the rider...they may simply see a level topline and not a lift of the whithers in relation to the haunches...but the horse, doing a beautiful and engaged passage, is no less collected in my mind than a horse doing a wonderful uphill piaffe. As Miriam says, the forward movement may, for many horses mask the "uphill-ness".


Quite so. Here and there, I've seen some vids, possibly by AND members, that used Slow Motion video. And there one can study the very thing you and Miriam refer to.


Karen wrote:
My poor Cisco (love him to peices) is developing a passage. As I ride, I click and reward him for loft in his steps. He is a down-hill built Quarter Horse with not a great back, and a neck that comes out the front of his body and not off the top of his shoulders - and he will never, in his or my wildest dreams move uphill. At the very best, I can shoot for level unless he is rearing. That "half-air" movement is the only time he will be uphill.

So all I can do with Cisco is to work toward what is the best he can do with his build. If that means his poll lower than what would be expected from another horse, but if that is where Cisco finds his power to achieve loft in his gaits, so be it.

A good cow-pony, cutting a calf from the herd, will have his neck out forward, his head down and his nose in that calf's face. And yet, his front end end is light and his movements are cat-like. He can spin on a dime and keep spinning! This is beautiful balance, and for a cowboy, it's collection at it's finest.


Which brings into question if Cisco is actually 'poor' Cisco in the sense that he has a way of going that does the job beautifully but can't maintain The Frame for collection that is mandated by other's view of colletion.

I'm very fond, since I've owned many of both QH and TB, of crosses of same. Especially if they come out with that lucky shorter back.


Karen wrote:
Cisco is a cow pony who is trying his best to do something like dressage. But his best "loft" and balance, and most engaged and strong movement will never look beautiful to many. But gosh it feels like heaven!


It would look beautiful to me. I can assure you.

Yep.

See Koko. Not quite as downhill as some QHs but enough that I could feel it. Yet when he was going through our reining routine, head down, often very low to the ground in rollbacks and stops, he did feel wonderful. Tremendous power and control and ease of movement.

His sliding stops were like glass, and I could drop the reins and he'd hold in the slide until it ended. And the posture is similar to the Levade. Very. The angle is the same, only the use of the front legs differs, of course.

The hindquarters are bearing the entire weight, as in the Levade, of horse and rider in a correctly done reining horse, or working cow-horse, slide.

I suspect a QH properly schooled could do fantastic airs above the ground, since he is bred to powerful hindquarters, and a lighter front.

Karen wrote:
So to me, the sign of collection is the ability for the front legs to dance, unhindered by some of the weight of the horse. Whether that comes from a shifting balance, or from developing muscles doesn't really matter to me. I am drifting farther and farther away, when working with Cisco, from worrying about what the head and neck are doing, or what level the haunches are at, and concentrating on the feel of the front of the horse...the front legs. Are they light and dancing? Then we are balanced toward collection. Or for Cisco, I may say that IS collection. It's all relative.


The hindquarters are doing their job if the front is light.

As your thinking evolves give weight and consideration to your own words above.

Karen wrote:

If we all had horses of similar build, we could likely come up with a set description, but with so many variables in conformation, I think it's pretty hard.


Impossible, in fact.

And I believe we will have to put more and more emphasis on thinking in both pattern (The Frame), and motion as though they were one thing.

Blessed by The Video, for It Shall Free Us From The Limitations of Thinking In Still Pictures. :wink:

And the horse will, if we let it, teach this too to us. Frame and Motion as one thing.

Donald Redux 1965

Image

................................

If you are curious, you can see my photo and video album at -

http://i236.photobucket.com/albums/ff51/donald_redux/

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:39 am 
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Miriam, your summary of Philippe Karl's ideas on collection really resonated for me. Thanks for posting it.

Okay.. I'm definitely no dressage expert.. but it doesn't seem to me that this definition is at odds with Podhajsky, Zettle or Dr Bennet.
I think it describes very well that extra elusive "something", that differentiates true collection from simply holding a certain frame.

So,by this definition, you can't MAKE a horse collect.. all you can make him do is hold his body in a certain way, which may have certain visual similarities to collection. But to add that extra, that muscular tension of a body coiled and ready to spring, you must find out what will motivate him to WANT to.

Is this the missing bit April? How to provide the motivation to want to sustain and use collection during riding?

Cheers,
Sue


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:32 am 
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Hilary Clayton on collection :)

http://cvm.msu.edu/research/research-ce ... ection.pdf

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 1:01 pm 
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Hmm, can't open it right?

@ April: I would never suggest to toss everything out that you learned from dressage teachers!

However, the science of biomechanics is very young, especially in horses. What old teachersdid was go through the movements, watch them as close as they could, and then made a theory about it.

It think that their exercises and thoughts on how the exercises benefit the horse are very accurate, but the explanations of the biomechanics often are very poor - not because they we're stupid, but because they didn't have the means to really do research on the horse. A macine on which you can let a horse trot and at the same time register every push and weight that is developed by each hoof on the surface is only a couple of year old, not more than ten. That kind of research has really shed new light on the ideas on collection.

And actually it is quite logical that the idea of putting all the weight on the hindlegs is wrong - after all, even the most collected canter has a fase in which the horse stands on only one frontleg, and on two frontlegs and one hindleg. Whenever a horse starts to move forwards or backwards, the frontlimbs are used for forwards propulsion and backwards propulsion, and both mean that they are loaded with bodyweight that then is pushed in a certain direction.

A really good piaffe going into a levade is the only example of really overloading the hindlegs and taking the weight off the frontlegs. As soon as the horse starts moving forwards, he starts using his frontquarters to lift his bodyweight too.

And that actually is very good: there's this myth that the hindlegs are the most capable for carrying bodyweight because they are angled like springs, while the frontlegs are straight. That isn't true: the frontquarters actually are built to deal with a bigger part of the bodyweight, because they have the biggest, heaviest spring-system in the entire body: the muscles that connect the shoulderblades to the ribs.

The frontlegs of the horse are the only parts of his body that aren't connected to the rest of the skeleton. It's the same as with humans: you have hughe range in which you can move your shoulderblades over your back: You can feel it with one hand on your back: if you move your other arm, you will notice that you can move your shoulderblade closer to and further away from your spine, and a couple of centimeters up and down also. The thing with collection is that you first loose all the tensions in the muscles over there, and you do that by strechting and removing every crookedness in your horses body. Then you start to mobilize those shoulderblade-upper arm-lower arm bones and muscles by using lots of transitions, sideways movements and frontleg-lift. In the meantime you do the same in the hindquarter area because you need to be able to rotate the back of the pelvis down in order for the horse to pull any hollowness or stiffness out of the spine.

What you really do, is loosening and strengthening all the major springs so that your horse can start moving more freely and more upwards without hurting his body. Because those movements would damage him if he couldn't use the muscles between his ribs and shoulderblade in order to store the energy of those movements.

This biomechanical research not only changes the view on dressage, but also on jumping for instance: the idea has always been that a horse delivers the major push in order to get over a jump with the hindlegs. Similar research that measure the pushoff of the legs, shows that actually a horse delivers the most important push to get over a jump with the frontlegs: right in front of the jump he lets his body sag between the shoulderblades as far as possible (lengthening all the muscles and tendons, that then get a huge power to contract again = energy to lift off) en then pushes off up to three quarters of his bodyweight into the air, the hindlegs following that movement.

That doesn't mean that you should burn all the training methods, ideas and exercises of previous trainers on jumping. But it does mean that a showjumper will probably benefit more from learning the passage (which also has that exaggerated upwards-downwards movement of the rump between the shoulderblades) than the piaffe. I do think that learning a piaffe is very important in order to strenghten the hindlegs, but whenever you start to move forwards and upwards, then the shoulders start taking up loads of work, and they should be prepared for that.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 4:36 pm 
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Miriam wrote:
Hmm, can't open it right?

@ April: I would never suggest to toss everything out that you learned from dressage teachers!

However, the science of biomechanics is very young, especially in horses. What old teachersdid was go through the movements, watch them as close as they could, and then made a theory about it. ...


Yet your description is elegantly sound and I think accurate.

Riders that have enough hours in the saddle and have given close attention to the mechanics (I count footfalls by a single hoof that hits the ground as a common self discipline -- at the walk, all four) finds what you have described.

Especially your description of jumpers.

Unlike others of my era I taught giving the horse the freedom of head and neck, thus of course of the shoulders as well, to take jumps.

I was, of course, simply following the model of Caprilli and Litauer. All over the world competitors held out against this simple logic that you just stated so clearly.

And sure enough, forty years later, still they do. Humans are so slow.

All we needed was the first high speed camera shutter to discover the truth about horses jump at liberty, or finally, under 'forward seat' conditions.

I certainly resisted (well, my body did) the ways in which I had to change the attitude of my body while mounted on jumpers, but once I got the hang of it my whole sense of safety and security and allowing the horse freedom to balance use himself most powerfully it was something like taking flight, rather than heaving a weight over a bar.

You certainly have a way of describing that makes one see clear pictures of what you mean to say.

Anyone that keeps a horse journal and has the least interest in jumping should print out what you've said and put it in that journal for future reference.

Thanks,

Donald Redux

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:46 pm 

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Well, I'm still confused. I hear that the horse needs to coil which means that he is flexing at his stifle and hips just like you stated about the runner having to go down so the energy will come up, so that is the same for the horse?

The horse coils and gathers up the energy in the hindquarters and because of this the forehand becomes lighter?

I know that there will be some weight on the forehand, but there will still be shifting of the weight to the hindquarters so he can carry the rider better, correct?

The piaffe needs to be in collection to be done correctly, and then the passage comes out of the piaffe which also needs to be collected to be done correctly, right?

Collection is about elevation, right? Anything that isn't elevated isn't collection, right?

Yes, there will be horses that cannot do this level of collection, these horses I'm not talking about. I'm talking about the ones who will go to High School.

Isn't it true that there are many phases within balance. You have the medium walk, the working walk and then the collecting walk, correct?

Same with trotting, you have the working trot, medium trot, extended trot and then the collection trot, correct?

Canter is the same thing; working canter, medium canter, extended canter and then the collected canter, isn't this correct?

And in each one of these levels the feet will land differently. Isn't that correct?

And then each one of these levels will lead to collection.

But we can't have collection unless our horses have rhythm, are relaxed, the hindquartes need to be engaged and they need to be straight, is this correct?

So, even though we have these, if we don't have the elevation and the hindquarters aren't engaged, then we have no collection, is this correct? But even if we don't have elevation, we may have a balanced, fluid, relaxed extended trot, or a medium walk, or a very nice medium canter, is this correct?

April

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 1:04 am 
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NOTE: I must start by apologizing to the person here who I have forgotten the name of as source, who very recently mentioned the powerful thrust of the forehand in the jump. And the suspension elements of the horses spine, and shoulders that come into play.

I use that information to make a point in this post below. Thank you.


April wrote:
Well, I'm still confused. I hear that the horse needs to coil which means that he is flexing at his stifle and hips just like you stated about the runner having to go down so the energy will come up, so that is the same for the horse?


Yes.

April wrote:
The horse coils and gathers up the energy in the hindquarters and because of this the forehand becomes lighter?


Yes, true. There is also though a balancing factor that accompanies this coiling. But it would be trite to go into that, since you and others cover it so well here.

April wrote:
I know that there will be some weight on the forehand, but there will still be shifting of the weight to the hindquarters so he can carry the rider better, correct?


Yes, again. Very much so according to the activity. Yet, in certain postures and actions the horse can better carry the rider over the forehand.

It's so dependent on the kind of activity at the moment in time under discussion.

At take off at a jump, for instance, the weight is more easily lifted by the tremendously more powerful spring and muscles of the shoulder and spine suspension of the forehand, and that maintains through the jump and upon the landing, but as the horse makes his next approach he will, if ridden properly, begin to collect. To coil.

Some think it is to 'rate' the spacing, but I know it to be, more importantly, as I think you are saying, to coil up the power for the drive of the hindquarters finally in front of the jump.

April wrote:
The piaffe needs to be in collection to be done correctly, and then the passage comes out of the piaffe which also needs to be collected to be done correctly, right?


Neither have the same amount of weight shift as say Levade, or for a sliding stop in a western reining horse.

Collection can take place in more than one 'form.'

April wrote:
Collection is about elevation, right? Anything that isn't elevated isn't collection, right?


The only thing you've said so far that I might want to look closer at in question of it. But I would need to know more.

Now this is where close attention must be given by all of us that study this. I would need to understand your definition of "elevation."

Do you mean the horse lifts his body higher from the ground, or that he lifts his limbs (possibly including the head and neck) higher? Or both? Or all?

When I taught I made clear to my students that the horse's neck constitutes yet another 'leg' for the horse in terms of the amount of balancing force the horse does with his neck. Even humans do it in a smaller way ... that is use head position as part of balancing.

April wrote:
Yes, there will be horses that cannot do this level of collection, these horses I'm not talking about. I'm talking about the ones who will go to High School.

Isn't it true that there are many phases within balance. You have the medium walk, the working walk and then the collecting walk, correct?

Same with trotting, you have the working trot, medium trot, extended trot and then the collection trot, correct?


Yes. I love your questions. And I await the "punch line," with gleeful anticipation. I learn so much from you.

April wrote:
Canter is the same thing; working canter, medium canter, extended canter and then the collected canter, isn't this correct?

And in each one of these levels the feet will land differently. Isn't that correct?

And then each one of these levels will lead to collection.


Land differently?

Yes, I think that is certainly given.

In the canter (at least the medium canter) a diagonal pair do land together, so they would be not differently but the same as to this footfall part of the feet.

But differently in that it is a three beat versus a four beat. Or two beat.

I'm unclear about "working" canter.

Generally speaking canter is a three beat gate with a diagonal pair making one of the three beats.

I'm not sure that the sequence you point out as to various cantering is required to reach a collected canter, or that it is required, of you wish collection, to actually work one's way up through them in order, or at all.

Wild horses don't do this, as far as I've been able to tell. Even a foal can exhibit a collected canter.

On the other hand, to carry a human rider I'd be very hard pressed to justify NOT following your logic and working toward collection at the canter by degrees of cantering.

But I do want to look at possibilities.

Imagine, if you will, that AND practitioners, with all the patient ground work, after developing a good range of trot, extended and collected, may be ready for the horse to canter with collection.

Collected walk exercises the very legs that will be used as each of the separate two beats, and the trot exercises the diagonals that will constitute the single beat of the paired diagonals at the canter.

Everything is in place.

The horse begins now with the rider mounted, and the same sequence is used. Trot and walk with collection. And then the canter is asked for from a collected trot, or for that matter, the collected walk.

Is it not conceivable that the horse is not only ready for the collected canter, without the other intervening kinds of canter, and will strike off collected at the canter possibly the first time asked?

April wrote:
But we can't have collection unless our horses have rhythm, are relaxed, the hindquartes need to be engaged and they need to be straight, is this correct?


No. Unless you mean AND collection. I see a lot of collection, and that in competition, at the canter, that is not relaxed, poorly engaged hindquarters, and horses forced into the lead by angling their body with the forehand taking up the first stride of the new lead instead of the hindlegs doing so.

Some actual "collection," is AWFUL, and certainly not up to AND standards.

I'm going to take it that you are not describing poor riding and performance, but good performance.

And there I agree with you vigorously.

April wrote:
So, even though we have these, if we don't have the elevation and the hindquarters aren't engaged, then we have no collection, is this correct?


I guess I'm getting a bit lost.

You listed rhythm, relaxed, hindquarters, engaged and straight as the components of collection.

So then if we do not have, thus have removed, elevation and hindquarters engagement, that would remove the condition we call, "collection."

I would say that is so.

I would add that "collection" is not the only 'frame' of power. And additionally that collection is not a static state, but a dynamic one that comes and goes, just as you describe, between extension and collection, and all points between.

I'm not being redundant to be tiresome or obstinate. I'm hoping to lay some groundwork in our discussion for the next point I wish to make.

April wrote:
But even if we don't have elevation, we may have a balanced, fluid, relaxed extended trot, or a medium walk, or a very nice medium canter, is this correct?

April


We are on the same track as far as I can see. I reviewed my post that you are responding to and it referenced mostly jumping, with mention of both Caprilli and Litauer.

As I followed their work in the nineteen sixties (Litauer following Caprilli's, from Valdimir's exposure to the Italian equestrian team at the Olympics that fateful day in about 1935 or so) what I saw was the most miraculous of eye openers for me in my professional development.

I have mentioned here that my start was with an old racehorse, I was ten, he was probably 20, who you must imagine rarely moved in a collected manner. He knew nothing much but the track.

And then at about 14 I was exposed to the vaquero's on an uncle's ranch, and nearby ranches. And my goodness, they moved their horses with collection. Back then we called it "handy."

And they taught me. So for a time I had a single picture with two extremes in my mind: racehorses (I was also working at a racing stable during that time) and cow horses under vaqueros.

Two extremes. I thought.

Though if I'd watched those cowhorses better I've have learned what I'm going to discuss now much sooner.

When I saw the first moving pictures (no videos back then :wink: ) of Caprilli I had only the year previous heard of him and began to study an employee of mine that had studied under a protege of Litauer.

She was magnificent with jumpers. So I watched every move, and had long discussions with her, and monitored her classes. She was generous with her time and knowledge.

Then I saw that Caprilli movie of the Olympics and the Italian team. In fact, my instructor had gotten the film on loan from her sources where she had schooled, and been schooled.

And then it struck me.

Those horses were extending in the gallop and collecting at the jump, and extending over the jump, collecting for or IN the landing, extending again for the departure etc.

And I had viewed it before in the wild and in the horses I worked with professionally as a teenager, but I had not "seen" it.

Once I did see my thinking and training changed dramatically. I had to completely retrain myself. And start to think much more holistically.

It wasn't enough to get good form of rider and horse over a jump, but in all phases of jumping. Approach, take off, flight, landing, departure.

And it meant even more to me in the western reining work I was studying, and much more in the dressage work I was a complete novice at(and still am).

I was so naive (hadn't seen any movies of Dressage at time) that I assumed as much work was given in performance to the extended work as the collection.

But then I like being naive. It allows me to learn new things.

So you are making me think, and review, and see if there are things I can more closely examine.

Isn't it odd that though I learned how to collect a horse with Bosal under the tutelage of vaqueros, just working cowboys, I learned more about what was happening and so could do it more effectively on jumpers?

Horses who spend only moments in collection, and the rest of the time going extended and on the forehand?

I just wasn't paying attention well enough before ( you know those teen age boys :lol: ) but most certainly did so later when running my own stable for training and instruction. (manager not owner until later).

My learning is still, as then, in fits and starts as I discover more, and mostly by people putting good questions to me, as you have done.

Fascinating. Thank you for the discussion.

I think it's time I put these in chronological order, no? :)

Donald Redux 1965

Image


Donald Redux - now

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:19 am 
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So many questions! :shock:
But maybe I can answer a few. At least I'll give it a try! :wink:

April wrote:
Well, I'm still confused. I hear that the horse needs to coil which means that he is flexing at his stifle and hips just like you stated about the runner having to go down so the energy will come up, so that is the same for the horse?
The horse coils and gathers up the energy in the hindquarters and because of this the forehand becomes lighter?


A horse needs to flex his hips and that does make them lower, but that isn't (just) because then he can shift his weight to the hindlegs (because a hollow, stiff and crooked horse can still do that too, as every horse can rear and piaffe). Like you write it is because then he can start moving more consciously by directing his entire bodyweight upwards too instead of just forwards.

Research shows that a collected horse does put some bodyweight to the back, but only a fraction of the weight of the rider. The question is if that happens because there's a rider on board, or if the same happens at liberty. But shifting the weight back isn't the main thing that happens when a horse collects in movement

Quote:
The piaffe needs to be in collection to be done correctly, and then the passage comes out of the piaffe which also needs to be collected to be done correctly, right?


Not necessarily: even an uncollected horse can piaffe/passage, but in order to do it right and not to hurt his body, he should be collected because then all his major muscles act like springs that can damper the impact of the bodyweight when the horse lands from the more upwards movements. So yes, the horse should be collected, but not in the sense of the word that all his weight should go to the back. Because especially in passage you will see that the hindlegs actually are shoved out behind the body and do not so much carry, but rather push.

And passage does not need to come from a piaffe. It can be right the other way round if your horse offers that. Classical dressage teachers also use very different ways to teach passage: some train it out of the piaffe, others out of walk-trot or trot-extended trot transitions, others out of the Spanish walk and so on.

Quote:
Collection is about elevation, right? Anything that isn't elevated isn't collection, right?


Elevation is only part of the process, and a small part too. The main thing that happens in collection is that all the big shoulder- and hindquarter muscles stretch and contract themselves extremely - giving the horse an enormous upwards push, and also an enormous sagging down when landing again. If you want examples of this actually lowering down in collection, just look at a horse in passage: the bone right above his hoof alone will be sagged heavily down. That same sagging down happens in the entire front- and back end. Or take a look at a truly collected levade: a horse in an extremely collected levade, the ideal levade, will have lowered hindquarter, a horizontal back and a frontquarter that is actually lower than it would be when standing. Half a year ago I saw a beautiful movie of this with a classical trained arabian mare, but I forgot the link. But you can also see in photographs of levade.

Extremely collected, but no elevation - actually a lowering of the body, as all the big muscles are extremely contracted. That is the most important thing about collection.

Quote:
Isn't it true that there are many phases within balance. You have the medium walk, the working walk and then the collecting walk, correct?
(...)
And then each one of these levels will lead to collection.


Why would you call collected walk or trot a phase of balance, and not a phase of collection? The walk/trot/canter gets collected and changes it's footfall because the horse is starting to contract his main muscles out of the balance from the normal walk.
Indeed, in the collected walk/trot/canter you don't see big upwards movement - but that is because the main muscles in these collected varieties of the regular gaits mainly contract, and do not lengthen themselves in the exaggerated upwards movements yet. But if you want physical elevation as sign of collection, then actually you should look at these three collected gaits, because as the horse doesn't push himself up so exaggerated, he won't sink down so deep too (and actually have a negative elevation), so the overall balance might be that the horse is more 'elevated' in these movements than in passeage.

Quote:
But we can't have collection unless our horses have rhythm, are relaxed, the hindquartes need to be engaged and they need to be straight, is this correct?


Correct! The body should be straight, relaxed amd then engage all the big muscles in the hindquarters and fronquarters.

[quote]
So, even though we have these, if we don't have the elevation and the hindquarters aren't engaged, then we have no collection, is this correct?[quote]

Yes: the hindquarters, just as the frontquarters, should get engaged in order for the horse to collect.
No: 'elevation' isn't what collection is about. The horse doesn't need to look 'uphill' in order to be able to call him collected. Even if there's an uphill moment in his collected movement, then there also is a just as big downhill movement, because the muscles don't just contract-contract-contract, they also relax in order to save your horses joints in each landing fase of each movement.

If you mean with elevation that he lifts the base of his neck, gives more upwards movements in his entire body (except in piaffe), or that he looks more elevated at certain phases of the movement because his pelvis is coiled more because he engages his big muscles over there, then I readily agree with you. But if you mean with elevation that the shoulders always are higher than the hips and that the hindlegs now carry all the bodyweight and that that enables the frontlegs to move up more, then I can't - because a horse just can't move like that.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:04 pm 
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Miriam wrote:
So many questions! :shock:
But maybe I can answer a few. At least I'll give it a try! :wink: ...


Thank you Miriam, for your careful examination and revelations on this issue.

And April for your many well considered questions and speculations.

Here's another one to consider, just to add to the mix and the sometimes mess this subject can evoke from horse people.

The low short trot in the western pleasure horse.

I cannot remember ever seeing this particular gait in horses at liberty, domesticated or running wild.

It is a very low, very soft, and short strided trot commonly developed in the Western genre.

It is not elevated, or for that matter, lowered, as a movement or by the entire body of horse and rider.

If you put a marker spot on horse and one of the rider, and measured it from stride to stride, ideally it would barely rise and fall. That is why it is so comfortable to ride.

Yet, and this is critical, it requires great strength and suppleness of joint, tendon, and muscle from the horse.

And here I depart from the more assured statements above, to more speculative thoughts:

Could it also be that the horse is extremely balanced and with the most even weight distribution possible in this soft feeling little trot?

Could we call it, in fact, Trot Petite?

Or better, Trot Petite Collected?

It has, with less action, all the characteristics, I reckon, of the usual collected trot in dressage, just not the height and length of stride.

What, you could ask, makes me think that it is not natural to the horse? She can do this naturally, as I've seen it for a few strides, but not carried on for long periods as is asked for in Western Pleasure riding.

The answer would be that in all the horses I've worked with that had not already acquired this gait by training it had to be both taught and more importantly, conditioned. The horse had to build up the strength for it.

I presume that non-Western riders have experienced and encouraged this same gait, but it has no competitive performance appearance that I know of outside of Western Pleasure riding. Judges look for it there. And mark down if it is not smooth and even and low to the ground.

Your thoughts?

Oh, and Dakota, the horse I'm working with had, when I started, almost no capacity to do this trot. He's finally getting in better condition and can and will do it on request, but I do not keep him in it long.

And he gets double jackpot for treats when he does it.

It's very easy to overdo at first because it feels so comfortable to the rider.

Donald

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:07 pm 

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The elevation that I'm talking about is the poll being at the highest point, the hindquarters completely engaged, the loweing of the croup, because of the flexed hocks, the forehand light, and the horse is very proud and up.

About the gaits, the easiest way to help me would be to talk about each gait seperately. So I'll start with the walk...

This is Zettl's difinitions:

Free Walk (He says on long reins, but I'm going to keep reins out of it).

The natural walk of a horse in freedom we call the "free walk" in dressage. In the free walk the hind hoof should step two or three hoof lengths over the hoof print made by the front hoof, and the frame of the horse should be long and low. The nose of the horse must remain in front of the vertical. The free walk is used as the basis for the work with the young horse, as a warm-up to the schooling of a well-trained horse and as a final loosening after a working session. The quality of the free walk comes from nature.


Working Walk

The overstride should be one to two hoof lengths.

Extended Walk

In the extended walk the hind hoof should step clearly two or three hoof lengths over the hoof print of the front hoof. The frame of the horse should be clearly lengthended, the neck becoming somewhat longer and the face of the horse in silhouette should be somewhat in front of the vertical, and not long and low as in the free walk.

Medium Walk

The medium walk is between the extended and working walk and is performed by more advanced horses, clearly showing some lengthening and overstride of one and a half to two and a half hoof lengths. The neck of the horse should be a little bit longer than in collected walk, but the poll should be the highest point.

Collected Walk

In the collected walk the hind hoof should land slightly behind the hoof print of the front hoof. The hindquarters should carry more weight, andthe forehand is thus lightened and elevated with the poll the highest point. The frame becomes shorter and higher in elevation, looking prouder. The nose comes close to the vertical, but never behind. At the very earliest the horse will be able to do the collected walk after a year's training, and only when he has learned to willingly engage his hindquarters.


Walk Corrections

The majar problems that arise in connection with the walk are:
1.Steps that are too short.
2.Pacing
3.Strides with too long an overstride
4.Jogging
5.Spanish Walk


For right now, I don't want to discuss the Spanish Walk. That topic can come after we discuss the walk, if you don't mind. I have several Masters that have several points of view on that subject and I would want to discuss that a little bit deeper later. So lets stay with the walk topic for now.

Nuno Oliveira call the school walk is the collected walk that Zettl mentioned. He does describe it the same way as Zettl just uses school instead of collected walk. Nuno also states that there are many walks before the school walk can begin.

Waldemar Seunig (another Master) also mentions the free walk, medium walk, extended walk, then the collected walk.

So, now that you can see what I've been reading or at least have an idea, this is why I say that I see balance, but no collection. I don't see the poll being the highest point, or the very engaged hindquarters, sometimes I don't even see balance. The weight still very much on the forehand and pulled by the shoulders and the hindlegs waving behind, but this doesn't mean there hasn't been improvement, because reading the stories I know there has been. It takes time, but to say you're collected or I see collection when there isn't, is very confusing, for me at least.

:?

April

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:32 pm 
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In my mind, you can see collection when the training is still in progress and you know it is not perfected yet.

To me, the finest example of collection I have seen here comes from some of the photos of Ralph Goessens, Nevzorov of course, and from Bettel, and her horse Kabir

http://www.artofnaturaldressage.com/vie ... 75&start=0

In the first video she posted, you will see a fine example of collected walk and collected trot on this video (the horse on a lunge line). It is beautiful, and yet, there is still more perfection yet to go. You will also see the beginning of passage. Still a bit rough, but the potential alone is breathtaking for me.

To me, you must get balance before you get collection. So to cheer and be appreciative when you see a fine balance that will easily become collection with continued training, is a very encouraging thing to do. To only say that you do not see it yet, is discouraging.

Tam has a wonderful natural balance, and he is well on his way to collection - even showing a few steps of it now and again. Miriam is keen to spot this and encourage it. It doesn't mean that what she sees is the epitome of perfection. It is simply potential worth encouraging.

Tam is learning to carry his head a bit higher now. Funny enough, he began to learn this with Spanish Walk. Because I wanted to ask him to raise his head so he would learn to carry himself with the movement and not fall forward into it, I would touch the underside of his neck with the end of my whip, and he would raise his head. Now I can use that same cue (at times only pointing at his neck) to ask him to raise his head and carry himself better. He does it more now with no cue at all.

Perfect? Ha! Not by a long shot. But Ooooo I can feel it, it is so close...

But I have a definite picture in my head that I keep shaping toward, asking a little more here and there. Slowly we get closer.

In riding, well...pah...we've only just begun that, so all I can hope for is balance and we must work back through all the steps only with a weight now on Tam's back. This will take time.

So what, essentially, are you looking for? What we consider the perfect photo? Or why people here say a horse is collected when he really isn't perfectly collected? There are degrees, always, within training. And I would suspect that since a horse cannot be expected to move forever always in collection, that within our little homemade videos, one will always see non-collection as well.

But honestly, I've see collection without the perfect dressage "frame". My reference to cow ponies. It only looks like all the weight is carried on the forehand. It's not. If it was, the front feet would drag around like dragging a dining table across the ground on two legs. A good cow horse can dance lightly on the front end with his head carried amazingly low.

So are you looking for examples strictly in the area of dressage?


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