The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 5:02 pm 
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When riding, where do you have to put your weight to go backwards?

In dressage, they say you have to put your weigth slightly in front of the lead line. In order to push the horse backwards and open the side in the direction the horse has to go.

Hempfling and some western trainers also say that when you want to stop the horse you should lean slightly forwards and when asking a back-up, you should lean forward.

However, other western trainers and Parelli say that you should put your weight on the hindquarters to stop and to go backwards.

Now I'm confused. What is right? Where should you put your weight when asking for a stop or for going backwards?

What is more easy for the horse to understand? What is more in respect with it's nature?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 5:20 pm 
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To stop the horse from a gymnastic point of view I teach my pupils to simply stop moving with the horse, sit on the horse, breath out firmly and slightly put the legs for the point of gravity.

This works 99% of the time.

when a horse for some reason does not oblige, you can bring your upperbody in front of the point of gravity and therefore your inbalance will stop most horses, except those who have been forced to work with an imbalanced rider all the time and have been driven forwards eventhough a rider made it quite impossible.

When your horse then stands still and you want him to move backwards, raise your reins or cordeo a little, enlighten your seat just a bit so the horse understands movement is coming.
Put your legs a bit backwards and squeeze or touch (whichever makes your horse respond better) and say, 'back' or whatever voice 'command' you use on the ground.

when the horse moves back, use your pelvis and buttocks the way you would in walk but backwards, meaning simply follow the backwards movement untill you think it is enough. Then simply stop moving, breath out and sit on your horse.

If any more questions... just ask :)

Josepha

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 5:28 pm 
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If I had to choose between leaning forwards and backwards, I think that I would prefer leaning forwards a little bit. Leaning backwards just feels like pushing the horse forwards to me and not like opening into the direction where the horse is supposed to go, but I am no expert in riding at all, so maybe this is only my imagination.

I have never really consciously watched where I put my weight. The cue for going backwards with my horses that we have developed together is to tense my body (especially the legs) a little bit and focus backwards. It´s the next step, so to say, after my cue for stopping, which is just breathing out and sitting calmly. If they don´t react at once, I don´t increase the tension, but slowly build it up and down rhythmically. I think that I am sitting straight while doing that.

But why don´t you just ask your horse? He will surely show you what he prefers. Or you can also let a friend sit on your back and let him try different things so that you find out what feels most logical.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:02 pm 
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The first few times I sat on Freckles, he would go backwards when my shoulders were a little back, and forwards when my shoulders were a little forwards. My one instructor said that it was "natural" for a horse to try to "move in" under our weight, but that IS the opposite of the "aids" that are usually taught to ask for "forward" or "backward." So I took what he understood and now we have "reversed" cues - but he also understands traditional "legs," and of course voice!

I absolutely agree with both Romy and Josepha - different horses and people will do better with different aids. Let your horse tell what it means to him when you shift your weight, and go with that!

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:17 pm 
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Glen Grobler wrote:
My one instructor said that it was "natural" for a horse to try to "move in" under our weight, but that IS the opposite of the "aids" that are usually taught to ask for "forward" or "backward." So I took what he understood and now we have "reversed" cues


That is interesting, Glen. It made me think of a similar question I had for turning -- some say to put your weight on the inside of the turn (so horse moves under your weight) and others say to push the turn. Which is it?

I was reading a book by Gincy Self Bucklin and she said something very interesting: that an untrained horse WILL naturally turn under your weight to "catch" you if you lean in, but it will be somewhat unbalanced, because they are turning because they feel you as unbalanced and in need of being "caught". Gincy suggested that slightly pushing the turn was better, although it was a touch less "natural" and did need to be taught to the horse; however, in the end it made for a more balanced turn because both horse and rider had their weight in the same spot -- the horse wasn't trying to "catch up".

That was interesting to me, because looking at it that way, both schools of thought are right in their way, both will "work".

(I guess I've found that the happy medium between the two, neither pushing nor leaning, is what Caspian likes.)

As far as stopping/slowing, Caspian never seemed to understand the tipping of the hips back (a la Parelli). He'd just march along happily without taking the slightest notice that I could tell. :) Tipping slightly forward (but not as far forward as Hempfling suggests in the beginning, what he calls a "stomach cramp") seems to work for him.

Anyway, great question, Lanthano.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:36 pm 
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I sit up straight and then move my hips/buttocks backwards like I'm walking backwards and automatically that brings my shoulders a bit forward. And stopping still isn't my best exercise :) Josepha knows that, I just sigh and Beau knows what to do :) but that's just trained behavior


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 8:27 pm 
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ha ha ! no, you stopped just fine (after half an hour of crazy running ahum).
:lol:

When turning (which would be a different subject actually) stay straight in the saddle (you can feel that when you can feel both your seatbones evenly in the saddle)

Rotate your pelvis forward a bit and then turn your upper body and pelvis into the direction you want to go, looking over the ears of your horse on to the spot of ground you want to end up in a few paces.

Make sure your breathing is low and relaxed so your body stays soft and your pelvis open.

When you do this, the ribcage of the horse gets a gentle bent.
Second, your horse's balance is somewhat disturbed.

Prey animals want to keep perfect balance at all cost.

the only thing they would have to do in this case to restore balance is turn their body with the riders pelvis, after which both horse and rider's shoulders will follow a straight line again and the balance is restored.

Turning this will enhance a turn from the inner hind leg which will ensure correct bending and thus correct gymnastics.

You do not have to do anything with your legs as they will fall right into the right place.

If the horse does not oblige you can give some pressure or a light squeeze or nodge with your inside leg or outside leg (depends on which way the horse is moving, to much in or out)

If the horse does not want to turn, then you can indeed put some pressure in your inside stirrup, but that indeed can cause more inbalance and weight to the inside shoulder so use it only in small doses.

Turning by the head like most riders do these days(with the inner rein even) will of course make all balance lost as the balance key is the head of the horse.
The horse will then turn on the inside shoulder which makes the circle harmful for the body.

Regards,

Josepha
ps have someone on all fours and try it out (and visa versa), you'll see what I mean and see how it works ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 9:55 pm 
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Josepha wrote:
ha ha ! no, you stopped just fine (after half an hour of crazy running ahum).
:lol:

When turning (which would be a different subject actually) stay straight in the saddle (you can feel that when you can feel both your seatbones evenly in the saddle)

Rotate your pelvis forward a bit and then turn your upper body and pelvis into the direction you want to go, looking over the ears of your horse on to the spot of ground you want to end up in a few paces.

Make sure your breathing is low and relaxed so your body stays soft and your pelvis open.

When you do this, the ribcage of the horse gets a gentle bent.
Second, your horse's balance is somewhat disturbed.

Prey animals want to keep perfect balance at all cost.

the only thing they would have to do in this case to restore balance is turn their body with the riders pelvis, after which both horse and rider's shoulders will follow a straight line again and the balance is restored.

Turning this will enhance a turn from the inner hind leg which will ensure correct bending and thus correct gymnastics.

You do not have to do anything with your legs as they will fall right into the right place.

If the horse does not oblige you can give some pressure or a light squeeze or nodge with your inside leg or outside leg (depends on which way the horse is moving, to much in or out)

If the horse does not want to turn, then you can indeed put some pressure in your inside stirrup, but that indeed can cause more inbalance and weight to the inside shoulder so use it only in small doses.

Turning by the head like most riders do these days(with the inner rein even) will of course make all balance lost as the balance key is the head of the horse.
The horse will then turn on the inside shoulder which makes the circle harmful for the body.

Regards,

Josepha
ps have someone on all fours and try it out (and visa versa), you'll see what I mean and see how it works ;)


The different schools of thought on weight bearing in the turn give us great pause for thought, as it should.

I think an important consideration should be what to do determined by the speed of the turn, and of course the radius of the turn.

I've experienced problem and the solution for one of my horse "sports," in the past. The reining stock horse in western competition.

Being square in body through all turns is part of the discipline when the turns are large, and even small while following a curving track, but in two 'turns,' the rollback, and the spin, things change rather dramatically.

And how one responds in training determines how one uses their body in competition, where the turns actually are done differently.

For example, as one rides (while training) at an angle toward a fence, just as one reaches the fence (and it's time to turn) the turn cue with the rein is joined to the outside leg pressure to signal the horse to set his hindquarters, and the body makes, from the vertical, a very slight tilt to the outside hind leg.

Originally it was thought that this helped (and I hear some trainers still claim this) lock the horses leg down so he will come under with it and push off with it coming out of the rollback.

In fact, what happens that loads the hindquarters is the freeing of the forehand by that slight release of weight over the forehand.

The horse can come up, effectively collecting much the same as a horse trained in dressage does to pirouette.

The slight tipping back and away from the turn has far more to do with releasing the forehand than loading the hindquarters.

One might feel it at low speed, low energy (not much impulsion) but that would be difficult.

As the horse develops more energy in these turns it is far more easy to feel.

One can see it at its most extreme in the fast changes of direction of the cutting horse, forehand low to the ground, but being lifted, and shifted to the side.

If the rider sat strictly straight up, they would forever be crushing the horse's back and stomach that does the lifting from the fulcrum of the stifle.

And the forehand would have to be "jumped" upward by the horse to move it at all.

The rider, in cutting, and in fast reining work appears almost to be being whipped back and forth.

In my mind, as I look at the biomechanics involved and slow motion it, with multiple frozen images being trailed behind, I think of it as incremental surge.

The horse and the rider's mass is being left a bit behind, then catches up, then passes the theoretical center of mass (that would exist in the still horse and rider) then move beyond and will rebound, both if all motion stops, or if it reverses.

This is what requires a strong core for rider and horse. Flexible strength. The ability to regulate the response of a muscle or group of muscles so that they do not lock up with the movement and attempt to remain fixed in relation to the center of mass.

You know the riders when you see them. Common in beginners and sometimes sticks around when the instructor asks for good form, but can't express clearly this concept of flexible even soft strength.

The aim is to be relaxed, and out of relaxed muscles to respond more gradually and smoothly to movement, and catching up to one's self, and the horse.

I've had a student or two that nearly defeated my instruction, and were terrible stiff trying to hold the "correct form."

Thus I incorporation horseback gymnastics as a way to relax and loosen them.

Easy with children, but more difficult with adults. Some adults, particularly men (both my problem students were men) are too inhibited at first to loosen up and flop about on the horse.

Eventually, with classroom work, and a lot of fun stuff to do they made it, but my goodness it took a long time.

Who would think that a major factor in good training, and conditioning, and in teaching, would be developing a sense of humor in the student rider.

Oddly enough, the horses seem to like it too. You'd think all the displacement of weight would annoy them, or frighten them, but it doesn't. Especially if people are having fun.

Donald Redux.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 11:29 pm 
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Ah, yes. Turning with weight cues. That tok Freckles and me a while to work out, and I struggled. Then I got my Sylvia Loch book.

To paraphrase ( and I hope I do not do her an injustice because this is from my memory which isn't all that good)

"Imagine the horse's body as a river. Your legs are the banks of the river that both contain it and give it direction. Your head and shoulders are like a bridge over the river, which can become a dam wall if rigid and heavy. Your hands are like the slope on which the river runs and can channel the energy of the current."

So to turn: step lightly into the inside stirrup as if you are preparing to turn around that ankle as if you yourself are walking on the ground. Slightly weight the outside hip to allow the inside shoulder to "flow" into the turn. Slightly open the outside knee to allow the "swirl" of the water as it enters the turn. Gently brush the hair on the outside flank to bring that "river-bank" closer.

Anyhow, that works for Freckles, so it works for me! I have not "needed" to open my inside rein for a while now, and his turns are better balanced.

Oh, I nearly forget - on a young horse that is still learning to balance and "falls" onto one shoulder or the other it is better to lightly touch the shoulder in question with a long stick (like a schooling whip) than to correct with the reins or legs in order to teach self-carraige!

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:42 am 
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Interesting description about the rollbacks, Donald. I can see how in that case, the slight push of the turn allows the horse to rock and jump sideways.

I liked Sylvia's/your description of turning, Glen! Especially the part about stepping in your inside stirrup AND weighting the outside seatbone -- I hadn't thought of that combination and am eager to try it.

What are your guys' thoughts on lateral movements, such as leg yield? I have heard similar arguments to turning -- lean into the yield some say, others say push the yield?

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:17 am 
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Makana wrote:
Interesting description about the rollbacks, Donald. I can see how in that case, the slight push of the turn allows the horse to rock and jump sideways.

I liked Sylvia's/your description of turning, Glen! Especially the part about stepping in your inside stirrup AND weighting the outside seatbone -- I hadn't thought of that combination and am eager to try it.


Actually we are describing, from different perspectives, and ends of the horse, the exact same thing.

When next on your horse, note that if you weight one stirrup while sitting erect, your opposite seatbone is pressed down harder.

In dressage I think one would be inclined to, and to find that others do, describe from the stirrups up for this movement.

Even in western there is talk of loading the stirrups for some maneuvers.

But more likely to simply say, "lean slightly back and outside of the direction of the turn."

Makana wrote:
What are your guys' thoughts on lateral movements, such as leg yield? I have heard similar arguments to turning -- lean into the yield some say, others say push the yield?


My own methods were to think if myself as being suspended by a ring on the top of my head. And I was swinging the horse underneath me in the direction I wished to go.

That would put the outside leg as the one bringing pressure, and the inside, reduction of pressure to 'open' the way to move in the desired direction.

In effect, if you draw a line from the top of the head downward it might appear that the rider is leaning, but in the physics involve, they are not leaning at all.

It's like the concept of "straight," meaning the horse's body bends to follows the curve of the track, not stick straight -- unless of course the horse is traveling in a straight line.

The sense of "leaning," comes from the feeling of the differential pressure of the legs, and the pressure one feels on the seat bones.

Pressing down on the stirrup, as described, would tend to also push it slightly outward, and thus "open" the way for the horse to move.

Let me add a further thought. Something I was working on in about 1967 or so.

I noted that all my lesson horses, about 8 as I recall, would tend to move under beginners that were tipping sideways off them.

The tipping itself tended to put pressure on the outside, as the student tried desperately to hold on with leg pressure.

Thus the horse was actually responding to a lateral leg cue. (Well, that and the fact they were most tractable and comfortable animals that didn't like to have riders fall off them).

Additionally I believe I was seeing the tipping rider also reaching with the "inside" leg (inside in relation to tipping) outward, again cuing.

I made it a practice to school all my young horses, or new to my string of lesson horses, to respond in this way, long before I knew anything at all about Dressage.

That way I reasoned, there would be a tendency for horses to keep attempting to stay under the unsteady rider. Seemed to work.

But then I also had the beginners only in a ring with two feet of wood shavings, very fluffy wood shavings, so a fall was no big thing.

And in all those years we did not have a lame horse among the more docile beginner horses, since they spent nearly all their working time in that wood shaving riding ring.

We did have some large TBs come up lame, that jumped a lot on harder surfaces.

Had I known then what I know now we have done less work at gait on the forehand, and much more collection work than we did.

So, to boil it down, the concept of loading a stirrup and loading the opposing seat bone for a turn makes perfectly good sense and follows my own education and experience.

As cues though, not as pressure. And as assists, not force. It is the relaxed, yet still, though balanced, and flexible rider the horse can carry best. And can more safely give what is asked for.

Gosh shouldn't we all be able to do these simple things? All at once? And carry a full tea tray while doing so?

:lol:

Donald Redux

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 7:45 am 
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You know, I used to be crazy about all these discriptions and read myself silly, when I was still a classical rider.

Now, for myself and for my pupils I keep it simpel.
I teach them 'turn' as I said above and it works brilliant.

For me, less scrutinising and more 'feel'.
All those theory in your brain to my experience, makes people confused, rigid and steps in their way to actually learn to feel what to do as opposed to knowing what to do.

You can know all you want about tennis, but that will not make you Justin Henin.

But if you can just feel how to move like her...

I am not saying we should not read books.
All I am saying is, when you get on your horse, just keep it light, simple and fun.
Keep it especially simple for your own body and mind.
Making it difficult for yourself, is making it difficult for your horse, is my opinion.

So I'm off to the postoffice, and I have a deadline for an article today, so read you all later :)

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 9:48 am 
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For me, less scrutinising and more 'feel'.


I do agree. Sylvia Loch writes a lot about "stand up straight and relaxed with your feet slightly apart. Try to trot" forward. Or walk a smooth turn. Or canter-depart. Etc. The horse's body needs what your body needs to do the same thing. Now try to give this to the horse when you're in the saddle."

This is what has helped me most of all, but the descriptins often tell me which part of my body is "doing the wrong thing."

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:19 am 
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Indeed, Sylvia is one of the greatest, she was my first eye opener.

Oh I wish she would join us here.... aaaah!
Shall I e-mail her ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:41 pm 
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YES! What an excellent idea!

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Glen Grobler



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