The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:09 pm 
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May I ask what the benefit of a bit would be to the horse?

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:17 pm 
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Josepha wrote:
May I ask what the benefit of a bit would be to the horse?


1 - Teething Ring for foals cutting teeth. I've seen them frequently find a rock and mumble it about in their mouth to help teeth break through gums. If I were to use a bit for this I think one of the nice thick rubber covered mouthpiece jointed snaffles would work well.

2 - Wall decoration in it's stall. Probably an antique convoluted spade bit would look interesting.

3 - Toss toy, rubber covered again.

4 - Weight braided into errant tuft of mane hair to train it over to the primary fall of the mane. Say, Bonnie has this situation, a split mane about two-thirds of the way down from her ears. I might have a rusty old bit laying about somewhere in my stored tack.

5 - Kick target when humans come to close with them.

8)

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:52 pm 

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:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
Thanks, Donald, that was great.
Josepha,
if your question was directed at me about what I shared yesterday:
I would be more than happy to show someone who claims that their horse likes the bit that even if a horse is comfortable holding a bit in his/her mouth that it is not as comfortable with contact as it is without contact. This is what I wish I could have done yesterday. Then in a second step it is much easier to realize if contact is not necessary for the horse to learn then a bit is not either, because a cue is a cue and communication is communication, no matter how it happens. From there all that needs to be said is that even if a horse likes something does not mean that it is beneficial or harmless. I put lots of things in my mouth that aren't good for me, and I sure wish I could get rid of all the metal fillings in my mouth. ;)


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:57 pm 
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Donald Redux wrote:
4 - Weight braided into errant tuft of mane hair to train it over to the primary fall of the mane. Say, Bonnie has this situation, a split mane about two-thirds of the way down from her ears. I might have a rusty old bit laying about somewhere in my stored tack.


hey Donald, Beau has this too, I read somewhere that it means that there is a part of his body stuck, that he has something that doesn't move as loosely as it should, I think it was Linda Parelli who wrote something about it, saying that if her horses manes did not lie at one side it meant she would have to train the part of his body that is the mirror image taken from the withers. So the front part of the manes is the back of his back and so further untill you are at the withers.

I thought that was interesting, it has gone from his neck further back to his withers with Beau, so I am wondering what will happen in time..., he does have trouble with being loose in his hips so it sounds logical.

Does anybody have a view on this (sorry for borrowing the topic)

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2010 1:45 am 
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Barbara wrote:
Donald Redux wrote:
4 - Weight braided into errant tuft of mane hair to train it over to the primary fall of the mane. Say, Bonnie has this situation, a split mane about two-thirds of the way down from her ears. I might have a rusty old bit laying about somewhere in my stored tack.


hey Donald, Beau has this too, I read somewhere that it means that there is a part of his body stuck, that he has something that doesn't move as loosely as it should, I think it was Linda Parelli who wrote something about it, saying that if her horses manes did not lie at one side it meant she would have to train the part of his body that is the mirror image taken from the withers. So the front part of the manes is the back of his back and so further untill you are at the withers.

I thought that was interesting, it has gone from his neck further back to his withers with Beau, so I am wondering what will happen in time..., he does have trouble with being loose in his hips so it sounds logical.

Does anybody have a view on this (sorry for borrowing the topic)


It may still be on topic. If there is a relationship to pressure that translates into a problem with the body ... which I believe has a very good chance of being a fact, then the topic continues.

If a horse has experienced head blockage vie bit, halter, bosal, anything, there is a possibility they have tensed other body parts to compensate. An example is the "ewe," or upside down neck that is muscular along the bottom half, and weak and dipped along the topline of the neck, right in front of the withers particularly.

While poor fitting saddles, and unbalanced riding can have some effect like this, the poor use of bit or reins and any head fastening is usually the culprit.

I am anti bit for this as well as other reasons. Not only can problems with the mouth occur but terrible effects in other parts of the body can occur as well. My own view is that the less we use the reins, and instead use other means that reduce or even completely avoid pressure as a tool the more likely the horse will have a healthy sound and properly conditioned body.

The point that we are at the moment in this though is if split manes equate with some problem. I've never heard that before in any context that I felt had credibility. Claims yes, proof, or sound logic, no.

There are enough split manes out there on horses that of course there will be some ailments, but that does not prove the split mane is any part of that. Horses with perfectly flat all on one side of the neck manes have their share of ailments of various kinds from various causes.

I'm open to proof otherwise, but so far haven't seen any.

Donald

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2010 11:52 am 
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Hi Birgit, rein contact may be neccessary in some cases. But contact and a bit are two completely different things.
Contact means only just that, contact:

con·tact (kntkt)
n.
1.
a. A coming together or touching, as of objects or surfaces.
b. The state or condition of touching or of immediate proximity: Litmus paper turns red on contact with an acid.
2.
a. Connection or interaction; communication: still in contact with my former employer.
b. Visual observation: The pilot made contact with the ship.
c. Association; relationship: came into contact with new ideas at college.
3. A person who might be of use; a connection: The reporter met with her contact at the mayor's office.
4.
a. A connection between two conductors that permits a flow of current or heat.
b. A part or device that makes or breaks such a connection.
5. Medicine A person recently exposed to a contagious disease, usually through close association with an infected individual.
6. A contact lens.


I have found that people will have 100's of reasons for using a bit, shoes, a draw rein, spurs, cigarettes, meat, alcohol..... the list is endless.
The thing is that these are not so much reasons, but actually 'excuses' to find 'a need' for things. If when commons sense is applied, there is never a good reason for any of those things other then some sort of selfish need, mostly out of some sort of fear of 'being denied something'. Also I found that using things that are in fact not beneficial in any way to one self or an other, goes a lot with trying to avoid responsibility with phrases such as : 'everybody does it', 'it's how it's always done', 'it's tradition', 'if it was bad it would be forbidden' and 'many people get very old doing it' etc.

And last, if something is done to an other, the fact that the other simply allows it to happen is 'proof' to the one that does it that he has the right to do so. As the other 'does not object', apart from the fact if it is in any way benefical to the other.

I am no psychologist, so it's nothing more then my observation. I have acted accordingly myself for many years. Glad to be free of it :)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 6:12 am 

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Hi Josepha, I'm not quite sure if I understand you correctly here:
Quote:
Hi Birgit, rein contact may be necessary in some cases. But contact and a bit are two completely different things.
Contact means only just that, contact:

I assume that you mean continuous rein contact as opposed to brief contact to give a cue? If that is what you mean I would be interested to hear your opinion what kind of situations you are thinking of. I only have experience with two or three horses and have never ridden one myself that seemed to need rein contact although I have heard people say that their horses need rein contact.
This is an interesting question to me because I know that there are pressure points on the head that will produce endorphin release which will help animals to calm down. I use this in dogs by putting them in a head halter rather than a collar sometimes.
Your definition of contact seems to me to be the same one that I had been using. Contact can happen in many different ways and it usually refers to something that will allow communication and/or connection to happen. Are you saying that you don't think that contact, although a negative kind, happens through a bit?
Now here is my other question: Given that we agree that bits are never beneficial to the horse, are all bits equally damaging and are all ways of using bits equally damaging? My answer to this is no, there are various shades of gray. So if someone is not convinced that all bit use is harmful to the horse (and they may never be convinced or maybe they will be in a couple of years) then how could I minimize the suffering that is inflicted on their horse? The only answers I have is to try to find the least harmful bit for that particular horse and put the rider in a position where he will use as little pressure on the horse with it as possible, realizing that some significant damage may be done even on a loose rein. So my focus is to help the horse as much as I can, knowing that I may not be able to convince the owner to change because they have all their 100's of reasons, as you said.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:46 pm 
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Quote:
I assume that you mean continuous rein contact as opposed to brief contact to give a cue?

I mean in fact the rein contact common in german/English style riding, yes.

Quote:
I only have experience with two or three horses and have never ridden one myself that seemed to need rein contact although I have heard people say that their horses need rein contact.

I myself never use or need it. It depends so much on how one uses his body and inspired the horse for using it. With some pupils and their horses however, we sometimes use it as both rider and/or horse get anxious without the contact. Some horses walk very hollow, for some riders the only way to help the horse to move forward down is asking by rein contact and handle the reins as if they were sticks attached to the horse’s head and try to push the horse’s head forward down with the stick. (Pushing a horse into a forward down position). What you see mostly is incorrect at all times from a horse beneficial point of view; riders not pushing but pulling. The latter is often mistaken for correct contact, or in any case a contact that is supposed to be of benefit to the horse.

Quote:
This is an interesting question to me because I know that there are pressure points on the head that will produce endorphin release which will help animals to calm down. I use this in dogs by putting them in a head halter rather than a collar sometimes.

I myself cue the ‘head down please’ with horses, instead of doing anything with their head. It is my believe that a prey animal will sooner get anxious then calm when he feels his movement in any way restricted.
However, I do believe some horses after going from bit to Dr. Cook crossover calm down much faster when the rider pulls the reins as opposed to when they pull the bit. The adrenaline which the bit pulling produces will thus not occur, or so is my believe.

(btw I never use a dog halter nor collar but only dog harnesses as I believe halters and collars can produce severe stress to the neck, that's why I designed a dog harness with the same philosophy as my bitless bridles).

Quote:
Your definition of contact seems to me to be the same one that I had been using.

It’s the definition from the dictionary :)

Quote:
Given that we agree that bits are never beneficial to the horse, are all bits equally damaging and are all ways of using bits equally damaging?

That all depends on the horse, his shape of mouth, past experiences with a bit and the way his rider rides and handles the reins.
Some horse are able to cope with a bit if ridden correct. In the past, the old masters selected the horses for conformation, temperament, character and the right shape mouth to carry a bit. A bit was then made especially and for that specific horse. They acknowledge that not all horses are suitable for a bit with this way of working, according to me.

Quote:
then how could I minimize the suffering that is inflicted on their horse?

I assume now that you are an instructor?
In that case I can only speak for myself; by teaching riders the correct gymnasium and therefore correct biomechanical way of riding. That is the whole point of AND, this forum, the gymnasium in general. Whether or not a rider uses a bit is in fact irrelevant. When being taught the correct gymnasium, most riders shall find that this is much more easy to accomplish without bit (and spurs) as it only gets in the way.
It is possible with some horses to do this with bit, but that takes a rider who has been training for many years, 8 hours a day.
Also, this is about the goal of the rider. Is it the horse’s welfare what counts most for the rider? Then a rider will toss the bit out as soon as he learns about proper equine biomechanics. Is his goal something different, then chances are he will continue using a bit. But then this rider might be better of in search of an other teacher who has the same goal as the rider.

If you are interested in the reasons behind the bit and why not, I made a website (which I am currently updating) www.bitlessdressage.com

Warm regards,

Josepha

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 6:52 pm 

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Josepha,
thanks for the explanation.
Quote:
I myself cue the ‘head down please’ with horses, instead of doing anything with their head. It is my believe that a prey animal will sooner get anxious then calm when he feels his movement in any way restricted.
However, I do believe some horses after going from bit to Dr. Cook crossover calm down much faster when the rider pulls the reins as opposed to when they pull the bit. The adrenaline which the bit pulling produces will thus not occur, or so is my believe.

Yes, that is my experience also. It only takes very little pressure on the poll to teach a head down cue or food will work too, of course, and either will work without the adrenaline response of the bit.
Quote:
(btw I never use a dog halter nor collar but only dog harnesses as I believe halters and collars can produce severe stress to the neck, that's why I designed a dog harness with the same philosophy as my bitless bridles).

Yes, the potential for unintentional abuse here is very great. I always encourage people to use collars that are very wide to cover as many vertrebrae as possible (2-4 inches) and to use leashes that are relatively short so dogs can't run into them at high speed. With halters there is leverage to deal with as well requiring an even shorter leash, meaning they don't work at all to give a dog sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. With many dogs I wouldn't use a halter.
I have only found one harness that works reasonably well so far in keeping strong dogs from pulling their owners (who often have bad timing and balance) off their feet, it's the front-clip harness by Premier pet products, and even this one I'm not too happy with because it works by restricting shoulder movement . I'll take a look at yours, I assume it's on your website.
Quote:
I assume now that you are an instructor?
In that case I can only speak for myself; by teaching riders the correct gymnasium and therefore correct biomechanical way of riding. That is the whole point of AND, this forum, the gymnasium in general. Whether or not a rider uses a bit is in fact irrelevant. When being taught the correct gymnasium, most riders shall find that this is much more easy to accomplish without bit (and spurs) as it only gets in the way.

I suspect that most people who come to AND are to the point where they are at least wondering if that might be the case even though almost everyone else around them will tell them otherwise.
I don't think I'll ever be an instructor (other than for my daughter and a few beginner kids maybe) when it comes to riding and horses, I just started much too late in life. I'm happy if I can share my experiences (learned from AND and a few other places) with friends and encourage them to seek out any method, philosophy and tool that is kinder to the horse than what they are currently using. Sometimes the process of seeing them get there slowly (too slowly for me) is painful to watch, other times it's very rewarding. :)
There is a discussion going on on another forum right now about what changes motivation in people. Sometimes it seems that if I can give someone a reason to try something that is kinder to their horse, even if they only use it because it is easier (or maybe less expensive) at first, over time their motivation to use it can be that it is kinder to the horse. Sometimes a behavior change leads to a motivation change, sometimes the other way around.

Quote:
If you are interested in the reasons behind the bit and why not, I made a website (which I am currently updating) www.bitlessdressage.com

I think this is a great summary for people who don't have the time or ability to read in detail all the research on this subject.
Is this in a sticky somewhere?

Birgit


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:37 pm 
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@ Donald, thank you for your view, I really will keep watching it evolve and if I find some proof for or against it, I will let you know ;)


life is so great when you can keep learning and discussing and trying things out ;)

thank you for this topic, it's really interesting!

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 5:57 pm 
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interesting article on the subject:

http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/saferide/133 ... eins.shtml

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 6:03 pm 
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Very nice article Josepha....thank you!

:f: :f: :f: :f: :f:

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 7:57 pm 
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:) wish I wrote it, but I did not, the almight Klaus did. But it sort of sums up what I said or tried to say anyway :funny:

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 5:22 pm 

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Thank you Josepha, this article and his video clip is very helpful.
The question that remains unanswered for me is whether there are general rules about what is good for each horse when it comes to balancing weight. Could it be that the conformation of some horses allows them to carry more or less weight on their front or their haunches in a healthy manner. Is it really better for all horses to carry more weight on their haunches when ridden?
I know this is questioning all established dressage wisdom and may have many off you laughing at my ignorance. :funny:
But I can only look at my own horse, who has mild arthritis in her hocks but no arthritis in her front at all. It makes more sense to me to teach a horse to rock their weight back and elevate their front (head and shoulders) on cue, just so they know how to do it, and then let the horse decide how they are most comfortable carrying weight at any moment.
Now if I understand this right, Hempfling is arguing that it is impossible for horses to do this on their own at will unless they have the conformation of a Camargue pony or Welsh Cob?
Assuming a horse has been educated and conditioned over a long enough period of time through AND methods to use all the muscles needed for collection well. If this horse then still chooses to be on the forehand, is that something I would want to discourage in all cases, even through gentlest of methods?


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:31 pm 
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Birgit wrote:
Thank you Josepha, this article and his video clip is very helpful.
The question that remains unanswered for me is whether there are general rules about what is good for each horse when it comes to balancing weight.
[...]
It makes more sense to me to teach a horse to rock their weight back and elevate their front (head and shoulders) on cue, just so they know how to do it, and then let the horse decide how they are most comfortable carrying weight at any moment.
Now if I understand this right, Hempfling is arguing that it is impossible for horses to do this on their own at will unless they have the conformation of a Camargue pony or Welsh Cob?

[...]


I have to wonder at the context in which he'd make such a statement. Certainly he can't be referring to a horse at liberty - as they often show just such behaviors, including holding in a particular gait and running through many degrees of extension (onto the forehand heavily at one end) to little levades, extreme collection even including piaffe and passage on their own.

I took a few minutes to read the article and Klaus VK being quoted from his book, I believe. He is discussing differing conformations ... my Altea for instance has the physique for collection, heavily muscled, short coupled, shorter heavier neck, and I have seen her pick her front up and come fully half around without touching down in front, and quite slowly at that - not a leap or thrust around but clearly lifting herself over her quarters in a controlled manner.

She is utterly green, never any training other than being backed a bit of low pressure riding by me for exercise, and still she can do this, even with me on her back, loose reins, no prompting from me. Though I admit I have to be careful now that I have shown her the leg yield - she will attempt, instead of walking the forehand around simply lifting and turning.

I am puzzled at his claim. It's not my experience that there are kinds of horses that cannot collect without the use of reins. Thee is, in my experience though, a number of riders and trainers that cannot do it without reins.

And I can think of at least one horse that disproves the proper build for natural collection which would be the Fresian. They have a very collected, true collection, way of going yet that terribly long body. I'd add the American Saddlebred too that short list as well, and the have very long necks.

We see on AND some folks with horses not built like ponies, longer bodied, etc. that in fact do collected movements at liberty with the encouragement of their human companions.

These same horses mounted, being ridden with no reins, possibly a cordeo, certainly do collected movements.

My attention was caught by his remarks re guarding the relationship between horse and rider being critical. I agree. I never had the opportunity to see Nuno Oliveira ride but in the videos I've watched, on loose reins at collected gaits I've not see the "collapse," that Klaus points out. "Sometimes you see people in the baroque way of riding without reins, like Nuno Oliveira - who sometimes did it to show that it is possible for a horse to perform piaffe and passage, etc, without reins, but you can see that the horse is then "collapsing."

I'll have to look closer. And I don't recall Nuno riding other than those very horse types, Spanish for the most part, that had the close coupled build, short neck, etc. that goes with natural dressage.

I guess I'd want to know more what Klaus meant when he said "collapse."

I would agree, for instance, with "collapse," when it comes to the slow collected circle that western reining horses are asked to perform as part of the pattern for judging. I've always considered it more of a shuffle at the lope, not a collected canter in the dressage sense, certainly not the classical one at any rate.

In fact the same horses doing a so called collected trot aren't doing it, but too, shuffling with little short slow strides.

Now THAT is "collapse."

This is not what I saw in videos of Nuno riding the piaffe or passage on a loose rein.

And it may all be more a matter of semantics than anything else.

Remember the subject, I have to remind myself, is "contact," in the way Josepha points out. Not simply the use of the reins. What Klaus refers to, I believe, is the use of the reins, as he clearly says, to give signals to the horse.

It's something I spend a good deal of time trying to find the words that students will understand for themselves, the light touch, the "discussion," I have with the horse through my hands. Little reminders, little calls to attention to notify the horse that I'm about to ask for something, little suggestions, and sometimes too, to feel what comes back to my hands - feeling chewing, or downright irritation with me by tugging, or dropping the nose, etc.

I think the thing that disturbs me most about "contact," is that for me at least, it removes the fine subtleties of communication ... though I'm sure some modern dressage riders would disagree.

But I see it like this. If I am pressing hard against your shoulder a small movement on my part may be missed in the larger pressure, where as if my touch is so light you can barely feel it you will notice the slightest touch, and releases will be almost subliminal - just the way I wish to communicate with my dance partner - and that means human or horse.

I have never been able to see a partnership in modern dressage riding, whereas in the ancient classical methods I do.

To each his own.

Donald

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