The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 10:07 pm 
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:kiss: :f: :sun: :coffee: :^:

I love you all. I have a much clearer idea in my head now, instead of the slightly-guilty leave-his-head-free-you-dope feeling I had before, even when I could feel he wanted some contact I still was very ambivalent about it. Sigh.

Thank-you all so much.
:D :love:

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:17 am 
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That was so helpful Donald. I'm working with my young mare and have struggled with exactly how much "control" or choice I should have over our rides from even before I joined this forum. What you wrote in your last post was extremely helpful and gave me some stuff to think about.

Quote:
Now it's time to get back to our mutual fun with riding on paying attention to each other. That is also part of a relationship, the healthy ones at any rate.


This line in particular really made me think so thank you :D

Actually you are all giving me things to think about!


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:36 am 
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Leigh wrote:
I actually have to go back and read the whole thing, but Donald, this is priceless and I'm having it engraved -- maybe on my forehead. (Backwards, so I can read it every single day.)

[...]

:love:


:blush:

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:44 am 
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piccolopony wrote:
That was so helpful Donald. I'm working with my young mare and have struggled with exactly how much "control" or choice I should have over our rides from even before I joined this forum. What you wrote in your last post was extremely helpful and gave me some stuff to think about.

Quote:
Now it's time to get back to our mutual fun with riding on paying attention to each other. That is also part of a relationship, the healthy ones at any rate.


This line in particular really made me think so thank you :D

Actually you are all giving me things to think about!


In all my relationships I have learned to ask much of the other, and yet give generously myself.

Something nice, even magical, comes into those relationships.

We both feel that we are attended to. It works with horses too.

When it doesn't work (rare with horses, but more often with humans) then something is probably wrong with one of us. It's best to leave. Truly.

Donald

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Love is Trust, trust is All
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So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:26 am 
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Fabulous topic, all, thanks.

Wanted to capture this image, too:

Quote:
We can laugh together up and down the reins if I have my head on straight, and am listening as well as talking.


Donald, you are on fire these days! I will think of reins and how to communicate with them differently from now on.

Thank you!
:applause:
:friends:
Leigh

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:05 am 

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I just made it all the way through this topic and love it. What Donald describes in the first part sounds a lot like a very nice video on Vaquero horsemanship by Ty Heth that a friend let me borrow. I will never forget it because the progression in teaching was so gentle (although with a snaffle bit), many tiny baby steps. Teaching the horse to give very softly was taught before teaching the horse to turn or move it's body.
I've been struggling a bit with the question that Josepha addressed. Can I hurt a horse with a bitless bridle, in my case, a stable-halter type bridle with a rolled noseband, which is a little stronger effect on her nose than a flat noseband would be. When I was riding with a bit I was ever so careful to only pick up contact very lightly and release as quickly as I could. Now with the bitless Blue will push a little harder when I pick up a rein but the principle of asking slowly and releasing quickly should still work the same. It seems harder for me to release as quickly because of the increased pressure that Blue puts on the reins forces me to hold on tighter. Does that make sense? In any case, I guess it will just take a while to get the lightness back.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:04 am 
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Birgit, you can work, both in hand and on the horse, on simply giving softly to a feel on the rein. So I think absolutely you can teach your horse to be as soft as the feel you remember with the bit. You can teach Blue not to push into the noseband quite so much.

Here is a video I like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUNxUAT2etY

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:20 pm 
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Hi Birgit,

The fact that it is harder to ‘hold a horse’s head position’ so to speak with a bitless bridle is actually the whole point of the bitless bridle or riding bitless.
I understand therefore what you mean :)
However what I don’t understand is what the meaning is of the increased pressure rider’s say they have to take with a bitless bridle.
Or in other words, why would a rider need to put pressure on a horse’s head? The only thing I can think of is that the rider somehow sees to correct the position of the horse’s head.

But is there ever a reason to do so, and if there is, is it to be corrected with the reins or in an other way and why?

First of all, from the horse’s point of view, if a horse wants to put his head in a certain place, he or she always have a good (biomechanical) reason for doing so.

For instance if a horse I am riding keeps his head long and low constant he does so probably for not trying to carry with his whole body out of lacking experience at all (young horse new to having a rider) or having no other experience (always have carried rider on forehand because rider pulled reins and never used seat and legs correctly).
What I do then is nothing with my reins, but I use my body differently by asking an exercise like transition up or down, circle, contra-bend (with my legs), lateral work etc. This is the whole point of the gymnasium exercises in the first place. If a horse is asked to do that with a free head, he shall not loose balance (because he needs to use his head as a balance instrument as do we humans, cats etc.) he shall have to tilt his pelvis, lift his back and as a result the head will come up (by the pulling of the nuchal ligament).

Say I were to ‘pull’ the head up with the reins, the head would come up, but the back would come down. Pulling the head will result that the horse will loose balance and therefore fall onto the forehand. A feeling much like running down hill.

So, back to my example horse, carrying his head low, the horse’s head is down for a reason, mostly weakness or bad conformation. The gymnasium both in groundwork and riding is there to make the horse stronger and more flexible and straight. The horse will with time start carrying from behind and with that the head will come up because the pelvis tilts, starting to move the body from it’s center.

The only part the reins – to my experience so far the last 20 years – can do in the gymnasium is the outside reins for contra-bend, helping to cure crookedness, often a result from a fixed head set in the first place as a crooked horse can not bend his head and neck without the back dropping etc.

Back to the contact, like I said before, I have nothing against contact. Some (young) horses ask for it even. But the rider needs to understand that the horse needs his balance first in order to start carrying a rider in a healthy manor. This means that when applying contact rein, the horse’s head must be able to move to same way as with loose reins.
And that, takes lot’s of experience, which is why I never advice contact rein.
But again, when your horse asks for it, go for it.

@ all interested: Shall I explain how best to come to be a correct contact rein follower? Or is that not necessary.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 3:23 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:02 pm
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Quote:
@ all interested: Shall I explain how best to come to be a correct contact rein follower? Or is that not necessary.


Yes please, anything you can offer is always of interest.

Daniel is young, inexperienced and rides with loops of rein, yet his self carriage seems good to me.
The few times I have sat on Arthur is without tack or in his headcollar, so he adjusts himself however he feels best.
The need to know more is for future riding when out amongst traffic - which is necessary to reach off road trails.
There may be times when being able to pick up a rein, make a statement that I am decision maker and horses will be safe if they follow instructions whilst on the road, then they can have input and opinion on the trails.

Great topic. xx

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:54 pm 
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:twisted: :funny: Yes, Josepha. Please explain - unless it is already something you have written here on the forum in a different thread and then you can just send us to that link. :D

:blonde: I expect I only "learned" a small part of what you were trying to teach me when you were here ... :f:

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:31 pm 
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Oh yes please do :yeah:


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:23 am 

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Hi Josepha, you made me think through some things here.
Quote:
However what I don’t understand is what the meaning is of the increased pressure rider’s say they have to take with a bitless bridle.
Or in other words, why would a rider need to put pressure on a horse’s head? The only thing I can think of is that the rider somehow sees to correct the position of the horse’s head.

But is there ever a reason to do so, and if there is, is it to be corrected with the reins or in an other way and why?

The most common situation for me is to ask for a turn with an opening rein when my other turn cues all get ignored, which happens more in the spring after a long riding break in the winter. I will pick up one rein until I make very light contact and Blue will sometimes push against the pressure. Occasionally the same would happen with asking for a backup. I will ask with my seat and legs and then shorten the reins enough to barely make contact. Sometimes she will briefly brace against the pressure, but never longer than for a second or two.

Quote:
Some (young) horses ask for it even. But the rider needs to understand that the horse needs his balance first in order to start carrying a rider in a healthy manor. This means that when applying contact rein, the horse’s head must be able to move to same way as with loose reins.
And that, takes lot’s of experience, which is why I never advice contact rein.


It sounds like a very advanced skill to me to always have a following hand so I'd rather not ride with contact.

Quote:
But again, when your horse asks for it, go for it.

I'm wondering if horses who seem to be asking for (continuous) contact would be experiencing a similar soothing effect from contact as from other forms of touch. Still it seems too difficult for me to have it be consistent enough that I'd want to try. Maybe the situation is different for more advanced riders who are in the saddle lots every day.

Karen,
That's a nice video. Shaping a soft feel is a great way to speed up the learning process. I know I'm terrible with my timing of R+ in the saddle so will go back to working on this from the ground first until I'm on a variable schedule of reinforcement. That way I can hopefully avoid the bending around of the neck for treats while I'm riding which bothers me. Along with that I'm hoping to use R+ for teaching a softer, more consistent neckrein then we've had in the past, I guess it's a lot like using a cordeo for cuing.
Birgit


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 3:39 am 

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Just found this thread from last year.
viewtopic.php?f=9&t=2297


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:39 am 
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And another thread that might be interesting when thinking about contact: The history of bridleless dressage


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:52 am 

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I had the opportunity today to watch an advanced (german-style) dressage lesson. After this I decided that I might be convinced in certain situations to ride with a relatively mild bit (if the horse likes it better than anything bitless) without contact, or to ride with a bitless bridle with contact, but definitely never with a bit and contact.


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