The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:44 am 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
Posts: 250
Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am just beginning to explore the SW under saddle.

We are past the artificial whip/voice cue for the steps.
I now use an approximation of what I feel when the horse does the SW - as a cue for him to begin it. This is quite simple from the halt - I will weight shift and use my upper thigh to signal which-ever front leg I wish to begin the gait with.
There are some concerns with this already - because I need to limit the sideways weight displacement (onto the grounded front leg) - and instead place it more backwards. This is especially obvious when lifting the LF - as the horse very much leans over his RF.

The other (much bigger, or perhaps very much related?) issue is that my horse doesn't actually do a Spanish Walk, he does a series of halt/step/halt/step etc. - he squares up his hind hooves for each SW step. This is the same in hand - I think I may have spent too much time asking for the individual steps at the halt... and this is a very difficult exercise for this horse too, he was/is extremely restricted in his forehand.

So now I am experimenting with how precisely can I make myself understood - can I influence the rhythm/length of stride?
And when asking for the SW from a walk - what should be my timing for the first step? (and each step following) ? I find that I am about a step late - when I ask for the lift of the LF - he does the RF - next step. But I also figure that asking for the LF first may not be a best idea - it is the one that is much easier for him to lift, but with a weight shift/roll over on the RF. -
my reasoning was: "start with the easier leg" - but now as I think about it, he probably feels like he needs more time - to "roll over" onto the other leg, as I begin to cue this just before the LF lifts from the ground, it may be too quick of a request.... any thoughts?
I am just not sure how I would begin the cue earlier without going too much "against his motion" - all our riding is extremely connected and when I ask for something with my seat, the moment of disconnection (before he "comes along") is definitely less then a second - so my cue for a step with a certain front leg will need to be different if it needs to happen during a different feeling phase of the stride... hope I am making sense here.... perhaps it's more about the SW becoming more a part of our repertoire, and therefore more expected? Actually as I write this (thank you, wonderful forum :giveflower: ) - I might be stumbling on an answer - or a part of it - collect the walk first!

There is a bit of this at the beginning of this video (same clip as I posted in the riding topic)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjjKN4zGfGU



Our last ride I was trying to speed everything up - so we don't dwell over the huge individual steps - and we did begin to actually engage/walk the hind legs, so that may be one strategy? I am not trying for such big steps, that seemed to be the horse's idea - I am sure I just got more excited with the bigger steps at the beginning... and now it's hard to "undo" :)

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! thank you guys...

Zuzana


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:57 pm 
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Location: Alberta
Zuzana, you have it. Collect the walk.

The "School Walk" (very collected walk) can, for some horses like mine, end up looking like a small spanish walk.

As you get it happening (sit up very tall and FEEL your horse's steps), feel the rib cage move from one side to the other. Go with that, with your legs, and you will find that you can influence the amplitude of the step by not just feeling the rib cage move, but by how much you move with it. You can over emphasize a little, what you feel, slow it down, speed it up, etc.

I'm not sure that is well explained, but I just wanted to say that you are on the right track with the walk.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:14 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
Posts: 250
Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Thank you Karen,
I have played with this a few more times since then and yes, the movement that I feel under my seat/thighs is crucial. The nice thing is that it is beginning to be less obvious, less of a disruption of the walk - in fact sometimes I have to look down to see if if he's actually lifting the front legs :). which is great, as before there was no doubt, due to the stopping/rolling the weight over onto the grounded foreleg...

I still don't have a clear answer to my timing of the very first step, but we'll get there, as I am working on my timing, on getting with the horse's feet on everything I do :)

I want to be really careful that the request to collect does not create an artificial lift of the forelegs. Like many "dressage horses" who do not have collected trot once they are introduced to the passage... not what I am looking for. So with the - very good- strategy of collecting before the SW, I still need to be able to give a separate cue for the front leg lift. And to collect without going into SW as well.

can't wait to go play with this again with your great advice in mind, Karen. thank you!


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 6:06 pm 
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Zuzana, each horse will have it's own style of collected walk, some will lift the knees and some will flick the feet forward. I think it's reasonable to assume that training plays a role in that style (training that has preceeded it). So I agree with you there. That said, Tam has his style and I rather like it, so I haven't done anything to alter it. I suppose if I really tried, I could make it look different, but it's kinda cool the way it is.

This isn't Tam of course ;) but this is exactly his style of collected walk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vFei2PG1pQ&feature=plcp

Tam's collected trot (if he is truly collected and round and lifting the base of his neck and using his core) is a bit passagey, but I think of it as a "soft passage". I don't show so I don't know if that would be a problem for someone or not...but when a horse is collected, the trot should not be flat (like a western pleasure horse?). I think that as long as the gaits are pure in terms of correct footfall (beats) then some allowance has to be made for the horse's personal style. If you work on passage at all, then it will flavor the collected trot. If you work on Spanish Walk, the horse may then assimilate some of that style into the collected walk.

I think it's unavoidable in some cases. I train with food and Tam will "offer" things. He puts things together in his own way (but of course I know I have influenced those choices and he does what he is rewarded for). In collected walk, if I sit very quietly and do not influence the rhythm or amplitude, he keeps the elevation down. If I influence it purposely, the amplitude comes up. The cool thing is that he is listening to everything I do and I can influence it to a halt/jambette. Kinda fun to play with.

If I just ask Tam to jog and not collect at all, he can of course do that. It's rather uninspiring though. :funny:

I guess what I'm saying is that there's no one, single, absolute correct version of any gait past the correct footfalls/beats. The flavor and style of it though is open to interpretation (which helps to make it an art). It is fun though, seeing just what comes out of our training, isn't it? The variations are fascinating.

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"Ride reverently, as if each step is the axis on which the earth revolves"


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:13 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
Posts: 250
Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
hmm, interesting... thank you Karen.
I agree, of course we are all free to let our horses express in different ways :)
and really, the "naming" of things - like "collection" or "passage" etc... it's kind of silly, I mean there isn't really a line, a change when we can all agree on - "now it is collection"... it will be very personal...

So I really speak for myself and for what I want to create in my horses. And for Special - the little red horse, any knee lifts are artificial. It's just not something he would do on his own...

Image

...even at his most "stallion-like", it's not something he does.
So I want to be careful not to get to a stage where he would offer that - upon my request to collect. He is also a very enthusiastic horse about trying to please, so this could happen easily I think.

Now having said that, I am going to contradict myself and say that any lifting of his knees in collection is actually a very good thing, in my opinion. ;)
But somehow I want that to come not from a cue - like what I taught him for the SW - but from the real effect of his body changing, the forehand lifting and there being more time for the forearm to travel upwards in each step...

...hey, I never said I was gonna make sense :D
it's great to be able to talk with you about this and get myself to do some thinking on the subject...

By the way, the walk in the video clip is not my idea of collection, but it is a lovely "soft SW" if there is such a thing :smile:


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:43 pm 
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But somehow I want that to come not from a cue - like what I taught him for the SW - but from the real effect of his body changing, the forehand lifting and there being more time for the forearm to travel upwards in each step...


As it should be, always. :yes:

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"Ride reverently, as if each step is the axis on which the earth revolves"


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