The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:27 pm 

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


Yes I'm talking strictly about dressage. :)

I'm also talking about more than just a few steps of collection, which means the horse is still working toward stregthening and toward collection, which means he still isn't doing a true collection. He's got the balance but not the collection, but working toward the collection.

I need to know what the horses are suppose to look like so I know when it's time to go to High School.

Nevzorov, I don't believe is collecting his horses. The rythm is off. You can especially see this when his horses stop, because the horse's hindlegs arent' stopping him, the forelegs are. Watch, and you'll see the forelegs go bump bump bump to a stop, which means the weight is on the forehand not back on the hindlegs. It's not a fluid stop at all.

You can also watch the hindlegs, and see how stiff they are, there's no swing in their bodies, but when they are loose and playing, you can see the swinging in the body, but when back into work, they become very stiff. Collection requires relaxation, rthym, swinging throughout the whole body. Also, engagement of the hindquarters. I see a lot of action in the front, but the hindlegs are behind on the motion. The front and the back ends are working seperatly instead of together. AT least that's what I'm seeing.

You can really see this in his piaffe, they aren't timed together and in the Spanish Walk. The hind feet are dragging. In Nuno Oleveira's pictures, his horse's hind feet aren't dragging.

This is at least what I've learned so far through Zettl and the other people that I've mentioned in my last post.

And the poll has to be the highest point not the neck at least that's what the master's have stated.

Again, I'm wanting to discuss what collection is for horses that can go to haute ecole. I know confirmation plays a lot into this, so if I can understand really what collection is suppose to be then I'll have a better eye for my own horses and hopfully know when we've hit their limit, which means for them this is the best collection that they will have, which means it might not be true collection, because maybe their back is too long, or they do have true collection and can continue on with their training and go to haute ecole. It does depend.

So back to the topic of the gaits. I need this to be a deep discussion and on topic otherwise I won't gain an eye for this.


:)
April

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:32 pm 
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Quote:
So back to the topic of the gaits. I need this to be a deep discussion and on topic otherwise I won't gain an eye for this.


Ok...well, I feel like I've just been excused. So I'll go now! :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:04 am 
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April wrote:
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.


Image

I can't think of anything more suited to your definition that the picture of Beau and Barbara in collected canter. This seems to sum up everything that you want to see, and this (and other similar) picture has been referred to several times already by various members in this topic. Then why isn't this collection according to your standards?

Because if you still call this 'just balance', then I guess you've just lost me. Then I can continue to pour my heart out in replies to your questions, trying to answer your questions of what collection looks like to me and why, but if this ultimate picture according to you is still a failure, then maybe we just never will understand each other.

I'm trying to be optimistic, but that would really be sad. :(

For the rest I agree totally with Karen. To collect a horse is a verb, collection is a work in progress. In theory you can use the word 'collection' to label only the extremely collected, superbly done moments after decades of training. But in practice you can't. Read the books of the old masters or watch them on videos (the younger ones 8) ) and you hear over and over again 'he's starting to collect more', 'I'm teachin him to collect himself more', 'His trot is getting more collected when I use the half halt' etc. etc. etc. What you see, according to your very strict definition, is still uncollected horses. What you see in reality though, is that the horse is starting to collect more and more. Of course it would be nice if AND was a mold that you could stick your horse in for a night, take him out again the next morning et voila, he would be collected. But AND is not like fairy-dust, as Classical dressage is. It's a work in progress. You start adding more and more collection to what you ask from your horse.

Some time ago we had a similar discussion about the shoulder-in: when I adviced someone that you could use the shoulder-in to stretch and relax your horse, you stated that shoulder-in is a collected exercise. But there is not such thing as a 'collected exercise'. Horses can do every single movement uncollected too, even unbalanced and even plain stiff. It's the same discussion we have now: you teach your horse the movements, and then teach your horse through those movements how to collect himself more and more, untill he can sustain that collection for longer periods of time.

When I see Beau above, I see real collection. I also know that after a minute he probably will be walking with his nose down or up again, being just balanced. But in this moment he is collected, and over-all he is getting more and more collected in his training sessions. Because to me collection isn't a brick or a rock, it's clay, it's a process. If you train a horse well, he will collect more and more and more. And yes, you can see it from a negative point of view, and state that only the last seconds of his life he was collected, but you can also see it in the positive way that classical dressage teachers has used over the centuries: seeing that the horse and the rider are collecting themselves more and more and more, praising them for that and using the current achievements as stepping stones for the next level.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:24 am 
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Karen wrote:
April wrote:
So back to the topic of the gaits. I need this to be a deep discussion and on topic otherwise I won't gain an eye for this.


Ok...well, I feel like I've just been excused. So I'll go now! :wink:


Don't feel excused, you've added so much to this topic! :D

In general: over here we don't 'own' topics, so we can't dictact how people should answer either. :wink:

If you do want very specific answers however, a polite and specific question usually works like magic: you'll get more than you've ever wished for! But as Karen's response politely made clear, just as with horses, demands and restictions don't really work on AND-people either. 8)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:53 am 

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I'm trying not to dictate this topic, but I am trying to understand this topic by putting this into smaller steps and it seems I have a big problem with understanding what is collection and what is balance.

And no Karen, I need you right now, so please stick around. The more opinions about this the better.

We need this to be a group discussion.

My question is, is what Zettl stated about the definition right or partially right? What is missing and what should we add?

I'm just breaking this down into smaller steps so that I can understand this collection better. And the stages toward collection; understanding it better that is. This is a discussion not an arguement.

If I'm wrong about Nevzorov, then I want to know. I've stated what I see, because I want to know if I'm seeing this correctly or not?

April

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 1:03 am 

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Wouldn't even matter to know the different walks, trot, canters since we're doing all of this offline?

April

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:55 am 
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April, I will tip toe back in. :)

This is my opinion, and please understand that I'm on the same road you are. But I do think I'm getting a handle on it. I was and am in the same position as you are, struggling to understand what I was aiming for.

Of course, you aim for what is right for the horse. So what I aim for with Cisco is not the same as what I aim for with Tam, because they are very different horses. Not just in build, which will dictate how easily they can collect (given they are both healthy, fit and relaxed) but also in their own desire to be collected.

Because we are working without force, without bits, and sometimes with nothing on the head at all, "desire" becomes all the more important. Natural ability is important. Many horses here have it...from ponies to drafts. They show it in play, so you know they have the ability. The desire, is not only the desire to express themselves, but to do so at the behest of a human. That is, how much they enjoy the interaction with people.

With that out of the way, then you have to look at horses that are collected. Which ones are collected? Nevzorov's horses are collected for Haute Ecole work. Personally, I don't think they bend as well as they could, but for strictly Haute Ecole work, they don't have to (I'm guessing here) in the same way as a horse who must do a lot of circles. Most of the movements require them to be fairly straight. Competitive dressage horses are collected for the modern version of dressage. My personal opinion NOW, is that they suck at it, but it's still better than I can get right now! So anyway, they are collected to a degree. In the minds of their riders, there is no question. They are collected.

So it comes down to who you ask. Nevzorov's horses are collected. Walter Zettl's horses are collected (the higher level ones). Nuno's horses are collected. There is a different degree of collection required for dressage movements (the kind we know today), than for Haute Ecole horses. But both, if properly trained, are collected.

The higher level horses you see on the Walter Zettl videos are slightly better collected that you will see at the Olympics IN MY OPINION. But most of them are also in training. The horse you see in the fourth part, just learning to piaffe (? I think?) is about the best in the whole series. He gets under himself more than you will likely ever see at the olympics. But again. Ask MR. Zettl, and he'll say the horse is collected. Well, he's right. The horse is. Again, in modern dressage terms, but with a bit more influence from "classical" dressage because that is Mr. Zettl's aim.

So if your goal is Haute Ecole, then you have to ask yourself if you prefer to just aim for the top and work toward Haute Ecole movements, or if you are more like me and just wish to see if you can have it all...the forward movements, the wonderful bend, the loose back and hips - dressage (only done better than Olympians! LOL! ...THEN Haute Ecole movements later on when the horse is his strongest and of an age to be able to take "to the air". I don't want much. :D Oh, maybe to be able to do Garrocha bridleless too. And Spanish reining (without the reins) or spanish dressage. :D

Breeds or build of horses? I don't suppose it's a coincidence that most of the horses you see doing Haute Ecole are Spanish, or similarly built. But I've seen other breeds do it as well in books and videos. Again, it comes down to the horse's suitablity (physically and mentally), and that suitablity is determined by people who have generations more experience than I do.

But my point is, that the answer to "what is collection" is dependent entirely on who you ask. So this is what I have done: I have depended a great deal on photographs or videos of horses doing what I want to do. Then I ask myself if I can figure out how to duplicate it without any direct instruction. My biggest question concerned the poll. Somewhere here is a discussion a bout it. Not just the level of the poll, but the release of it. I couldn't wrap my head around whether or not a poll could be relaxed without a bridle supporting the horse's head. Now I know. Yes, it can. I have a friend/trainer who helps me with these types of questions, who is kind enough to wrap his head around the topic from a bridleless perspective, and patiently explain it fifteen different ways until I finally understand.

But I am comfortable in "learning as I go". I know a little now, and by the time I get further along in Tam's training, I hope to know enough to help him go that much farther. Maybe then I'll be a bit more qualified to hold an opinion.

But I don't think you will find a pat answer. Pick your favorite horseman and study the photos. That is basically what I do. I think this is rather like asking someone "what is beauty".


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:40 am 
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April wrote:
About the gaits, the easiest way to help me would be to talk about each gait seperately. So I'll start with the walk...


I don't see a definition on collection in his writings, so how to say if his is 'right'?

He does write a lot of specifics on how long the steps should be in each kind of walk - I personally feel that they aren't that useful if you work with a non-sporthorse breed, because they move in different ways and for example won't step two hooves over with the hindleg, because their back is relatively longer or the legs are shorter/angled in a different way.

His explanation of the collected walk sounds just like common sense to me, nothing wrong with that! ;)

What you should ask yourself tough, is that in his quote 'collected walk' is a seperate exercise - does that mean that all the other dressage-walk varieties are uncollected according to him? I personally don't think he means it like that. For a good extended trot the horse needs certain kind of collection too, in order not to jut barge forwards with sticky legs, but to spring upwards so that the horse has more time to bring those legs forwards.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 1:55 pm 

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I have Zettl's book and I copied it word for word except I left out about the reins.

According to him, yes, we aren't seeing collection even in the Grand Prix or very seldom do we see it. There is a lot of pulling on the head and a lot of pushing that causes the horse not to swing. Even Podhajsky has stated this also. And yes have his book also.

Zettl says that the extended walk and the trot is a balance. The weight is balanced between the back and the front, that's why it's called an extended walk and not a collection.

He states that when you loose the collection, you can use the extended walk or trot to bring him back to the collection, because the extended helps him to reach and relax and supple the muscles and then slowly bring his hindquarters back under himself to collect without pulling on his head. If you pull on his head or there is no give at the poll or jaw then it's not a collection.

He also says warming-up using the free walk is best and it helps to stretch and supple the muscles not only in the young horses but in the well trained horses too.

April

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 4:09 pm 
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One of things I adore about Walter Zettl, is that he advocates taking things slowly...that there are no shortcuts, although of course some horses will move along faster than some others, but there are many reasons for that...not just the horse, but the rider as well influences how well a horse will do. But he says in one of his dvds, that at times it is necessary to stay at the "long and low" stage for a year if necessary. Whatever it takes to establish trust and relaxation with the horse. Then of course (not exactly stated but implied), one does not break that trust. Hands are light...a cue is "taking but IMMEDIATELY giving".

He explains very well the benefits that transitions have in the development of collection, and I have seen this first hand with Cisco.

Now April, if I ever get some video up of Cisco, he would undoubtedly be one of those horses you will say is not collected (and I would agree for the most part) But, he is vastly better now, than he was a year ago, and there is a lot to be said for balance....because this he is doing very well and getting better all the time. He does have his moments of self collection, but it is difficult for him. So within the trainsitions, either from one gait to another, or varying speed or extension within a single gait, he does, in fact collect more and more. But the changes are tiny and I think it will take years for Cisco. It is all good for him physically and mentally the way we are doing it, and he simply is more comfortable with gradual change. In this way, dressage is wonderful for him. Thus I did a lot of reading and studying and the clearest I have found for me, is Walter Zettl.

Tam is different. Very different. For him I can look more to the classical trainers, the "old masters" for guidance. Almost a straight line to haute ecole (with or without the "airs") but certainly a higher degree of collection much faster. Because Tam WANTS to. He loves the expression and he offers it all the time. He tries so hard, in fact, that he can work up a little sweat at a standstill doing ab crunches without moving his feet. He puts everything he has into it.

Does the Walter Zettl book show the little black and white silhouettes of the various stages of collection? He shows it in one of the videos, and its a wonderful visual. It clearly shows that balance is the key to building collection. Balance can be maintained for a very long time - high collection can't be.

So if your horse hasn't yet reached a stage of collection, how do you know you are on the right track? Well, for one, you will see the development of the ab muscles in your horse. As those become more defined, you know your horse is lifting his back and tilting the pelvis enough to reach further under with the hind legs. You will have to train your eye very well with some horses (like Cisco) to see if the back is lifting by watching the back alone. But if those muscles in the tummy become more defined during a working session, you know yoru horse is building the foundation of collection.

As Miriam has pointed out, the best training for those muscles, for encouraging balance and for encouraging the horse's over all physical condition, is the slow lateral work on the ground that encourages the hind legs to step under the horse's body. It seems like such a little thing...but it gives the horse so much. Most horses (if not all horses) need to keep the head low in the beginning in order to balance themselves while engaging those muscles...only later can they be gently encouraged to raise the head, and only gradually over time. If you sit in a chair and tighten your tummy muscles, you tend to bring your head forward/down and curve your back, yes? Horses are the same. So once you see good balance, and good extension of the hind legs, in both directions, you can start to figure out ways to ask the horse to try it with the head a little higher. This goes on until the horse can move easily in all directions with fluidity and balance, with the head held up in a correct position. What I really like about working in the cordeo is that I am not micromanaging Tam's head. If he feels he must be in front of the vertical to do a certain movement, then that is fine. If he feels he must drop the level of his head, that is fine. I click and treat for what I "think" is ideal...but only Tam really knows what is ideal for Tam, and that is going to change with time as well.

Again...there are some horses who will start this process with a lot of this ability already in place - but they nevertheless need to go through the basics as well to develop stamina.

Now I think I'm drifting...probably off topic by now. What were we talking about? :lol: :lol: :lol:

Oh ya (read your post again). Also about the poll. Ramener is a great start and should be encouraged every chance you get, but of course you likely know that already.

Did you read the poll discussion? I went through a great deal of headaches trying to figure that one out.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 2:40 pm 
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Nicely put Karen. :D (Pretty clever for a cowgirl!) :D

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I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,
But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:20 pm 
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Regarding horse suitability for Haute Ecole:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joYCpYFRKgo

This is very short, and very cool. Short legged pony doing a very correct capriole!

That pony is built like Cisco (well, kinda). Maybe there is hope for him yet :wink:


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 10:37 am 
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Great video!

I found another one of her, riding a lusitano (?) in sidesaddle with a neckrope only - in sidesaddle! :shock: :D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0ieWj2-jmE


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:47 am 

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I totally agree with you Karen, that everything has a step and that eventually the head will come up as the hindlegs develop along with a stronger back.

I agree with Miriam and you that the lateral work will increase the strength in the back and hindquarters in order to carry the rider.

So the question is when is it really collection and when is it really just balance or is there no balance, but just call it all collection?

So is the free walk, the natural gait of the horse, is it collection or is it balance?



Like Miriam has stated earlier the different tempo's and rythm of the walk (I'm talking about Zettl's difinitions that I posted earlier, I was calling balance, working toward collection and Miriam asked why can't I just call all stages working within the collection?

I answered with Zettl's difinition to Miriam's
question.

Quote:
Karen Stated:
Does the Walter Zettl book show the little black and white silhouettes of the various stages of collection? He shows it in one of the videos, and its a wonderful visual. It clearly shows that balance is the key to building collection. Balance can be maintained for a very long time - high collection can't be.


I might have not put it so well as you, Karen, but this is exactly what I've been trying to say. So is this what I've been seeing, then little tiny collection but overall balance?

Thank-you for the inputs everyone...

April

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:57 am 

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Karen,

The video of the pony, is well collected, correct? But the beginning of the take-off still needs work, but is impressive. You did say very correct but both hindlegs should kick out together and be equal in the kick out, or am I wrong about that?

Miriam,

The sidesaddle lady is very well balanced, but not in a true collection, right? She's very fluid and she's very easy to watch.

April

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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