The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:35 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:00 pm
Posts: 1681
Location: Belgium/Tielt-Winge
I have been practicing for a while now, and Beau is stiffer on the right hand than on the left hand. He bends nicely on the left hand, but when I ride on the right hand he tends to put his head to the outside on a straight line, he will look out just a bit, but enough for him to be bend to the left. How can I help him bend the right way? The woman at whom I ride with the icelandig horses told me that if you drive with your outside leg he should make a bigger step, but if I try that Beau will bend more to the outside and will even yield away, when I use my inside leg he will bend for just a second and then put his head out again. I don't know how to get trough this little issue, Beau does not seem to understand.
Any ideas???

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 8:21 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
I have the exact same thing with Morgan and at times he will anticipate the right rein and brace even before I ask. Here is some thinking for you that may be relevent or not!!! :D
First (Glens discoveries) of muscle development. As we know all horses are left or right depending on how they sat in the womb. Most are left liking and of course we do everything from the left which compounds the issue. So if this is the case (take a good long look at butt muscles and direction the barrel swings to from the back both straight and at a bend). To fix it....lots of work in hand bending and making sure the horse is really stepping through....but this is going to take time, possibly months of dedicated gym work until the muscles are even.
Second. Psychological reasons. A bad something happening on this side and now releuctant to bend this way.
Physical pain. There may be a block or old injury which is now carrying stress in the neck or back which the horse is trying to avoid. To fix have a good look at muscle damage/tight ness and get massaging/work the tension out so the horse is able to bend freely. You may find poll tightness (sometimes horses have been dragged into boxes etc with rope halters and have had extreme pressure put on their polls) and this can affect how a horse will brace on one rein.

Also look at how you ask for that bend. I know for sure I am much lighter with my left hand and whole side than I am with my right being right handed.
I am also quite stiff on my right side (I have the odd flare up in my shoulder) so it may be the horse is mirroring my stiffness?

So I am also working out which of the above might apply in my case and I can see very clearly that Morgan has much more muscle on the left than right hand side so I am going to start right there and then also look at exactly (minutely) what I am doing different between asking for a left bend and then asking for a right bend and see if I can improve that too.......

So let me know what you discover, but I think nearly all horses I have worked with are much smoother in everything they do left! :funny:
When I worked with this problem a few months ago I just worked with him bending around my leg to the right and click and treat. He had no problem with that but I did not follow through and continue. So maybe you could start with baby steps and go back to asking for a bend on the ground by using your hand where your leg would be and asking him to bend into you?

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:28 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:05 pm
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Location: Natal, South Africa
:D :funny:

You know, even though I eventually (after a whole year) got Freckle's muscles to be as near as dammit to the same size and shape on both sides of him, he STILL counter-bends. If I just wait and encourage him he will frequently correct his bend, but he ALWAYS starts any RHS work in a counter-bent posture, even if I "pose" him correctly before movement. He is fluid and comfortable, even when he is not correctly bent.

I am finding that, in groundwork, he tends to correct himself within 2 or 3 strides, but he only stays in the "proper" bend for a few strides at a time. He appears to bend nicely for a few strides and then counter-bend for a few strides. Slowly, slowly as I reward those strides where he bends correctly, he is managing to hold the correct RHS bend for longer and longer. He is also choosing to counter-bend some of the time to the LHS as well. I think that both "correct" bend and "counter" bend have value in the exercising of the horse. At least, Freckles seems to be telling me that what is most important is the ability to transition between them rather than the ability to sustain one or the other.

Under saddle I have to be extremely careful about how I ask to get a "correct" RHS bend from him. It seems that using "weight-shift" is not good for Freckles. I have to shift my center-of-gravity just the teeniest, tiniest little bit to the outside to get it right. Sometimes I have to "tap" his inside shoulder in front of my knee to remind him to stay upright. If I can keep him upright then he bends properly. If I allow him to lean even the teeniest little bit he counter-bends. If my head and/or shoulders are "out-of-position" by the smallest fraction you can imagine then we don't get it right.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:35 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:05 pm
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Location: Natal, South Africa
Oh, what started to help Freckles be able to bend correctly was me doing small little "rein-flexions" with him, where I am asking him to look to the inside or outside or straight-ahead as we are moving. NOT asking him to move to where we are looking, just to keep moving the same but look in this or that direction. I started at a halt and slowly built up to doing it in movement. It seems to have strengthened his neck and shoulders a lot.

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Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled. Anon


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:42 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:00 pm
Posts: 1681
Location: Belgium/Tielt-Winge
We have been training a lot on the ground and still do, I know he is bend to the left, but on the ground he corrects himself nicely, not perfect, but it is already rather good. He has been checked all over and was in perfect health, but of course he has been lame for 6 months on his left front foot. Before that we were doing rather well, now he tends to say no much easier.
I will surely practice some more on the ground and try to get him to understand the look in the right direction thing, so that might work when I'm riding.
And yes, I am bend to the left, my hips are twisted to the left, I was told that by some chiropractors and other fysiotherapists, but that should not stand in the way, I hope I can compensate for it or become looser. When i ride in the lessons with the icelandics the problem is there too, I can compensate for it then if my horse is straight.

I hope time will help me and thank you for the ideas already, I will try to keep going and be slow and repeat, repeat, repeat...

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:11 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 15, 2007 2:40 pm
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Location: Belgium
You already answered your own question:
Ask with your long inside leg the moment the inside the hind leg comes forward (thus when the belly contracts away from your leg).
He shall then bend as much as he is able to, for a moment.

Of course, the bend will not stay as his body is not in the right shape for the bend, probably because if the injury.

That is normal, just keep asking and ask him every step again to bend correctly. Make sure you maintain a contact on the outside and use your corners like I let you do during our lessons.

Do not forget to use your own body in the correct way to enable correct bend for Beau.

So, keep a contact on the outside rein, lift you inside rein but keep it loose. You may give a small aid with the inside rein after you asked with your inside leg, if needed, but release within seconds. Keeping contact on the inside rein will result into the horse leaning on his inside shoulder. The outside rein and your inside leg is to prevent that.

Repeat the use of the inside leg (a light sqeeze or tickle or tap) with every step for as long as needed untill the horse is straight again. This may take months!
And remember to relax your leg aid after you give it, very important.

For the rest, the circles, corners, serpentines, shoulder for, yielding and shoulder in both in riding and groundwork are all the exercises of the gymnasium to straighten our horse.
That is why we do them in the first place.

The order is this: relax your horse, then straighten and then collect.

Relaxed Beau is enough :) on with the straigthening before you can do anything else.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:21 am 
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Joined: Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:00 pm
Posts: 1681
Location: Belgium/Tielt-Winge
thank you Josepha, I'm glad you answered, I have been remembering your lessons very well ;)
I was just worried I was doing things wrong or being annoying to my horse, so I am happy to have an idea i'm not doing that bad. I want Beau to understand me and be happy :)
thank you very much for the answers, I'm at a time in my life I'm searching again what I'm doing with my life and whether I'm happy or not, and this is part of my insecurity at the moment, but after the little downhill part I am happy I will go upwards again soon...

big hugs to you all, I'm so glad I know you guys!!!

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