The Art of Natural Dressage

Raising the base of the neck
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Author:  Lothmorwel [ Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Raising the base of the neck

Hello everyone.

I am starting over Classically with my Traditional Cob (15 years old) and have been told I need to raise her neck by using gentle demi arettes (not half halt) to get her to lift her head, free up her shoulders to therefore enable her hind legs to step further under. The instructor I had a lesson with is excellent and highly knowledgeable. However, I have noticed that a fair amount of their horses have a pronounced dip in front of the withers - something I've heard is caused by not working through and not being connected hind legs to poll.

I really want to start off on the right foot and am worried that by asking my horse to lift her head I am going about things 'front to back' rather than 'back to front'.

Should I follow the advice or work on other ways to get her working through from behind? We're just working on this in halt/walk/trot, and also am starting lateral flexion in walk on a circle to teach her to bend through turns and weight the outside shoulder rather than falling in.

I would appreciate any advice.

Thank you,

Author:  Romy [ Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

Welcome, Hazel! :)

We have recently had a discussion about controlling head posture, maybe it's helpful for you. Also, you could check out the thread about training the neck-back band, where some great advice for how to progress with the training is given. And them we have different threads about collection, reins, head posture control and all these things here.

All the best for you and your horse! :f:

Author:  Volker [ Tue Dec 10, 2013 5:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

It's a very interesting topic for certain, which we have touched already in other threads. Have a look around, if you haven't already - maybe you want to re-connect to some older thread and revive the discussion there. We can also start a new discussion here about the specific topic of raising the base of the neck, if you want.
For me personally, it is not really a separate topic and as such and I wouldn't want to work on it as was suggested by your riding instructor. But that is just my opinion and I'm no professional...

The way I see it, raising the base of the neck has no purpose in itself, but instead is the consequence of many other things, such as shifting weight to the hindquarters, stepping under, throughness, and generally a good self carriage. So I don't see a direct manipulation of the head to achieve a lift of the neck as useful, because it will probably just result in an artificial posture. It may work with an horse that's already capable of assuming a good self carriage, but not to teach a good self carriage to a novice horse.

Instead of directly manipulating the head, I'd go for the prerequisites that constitute self carriage. Strengthening the hindlegs and working towards a supple and straight horse, while always keeping the interaction light and playful, so that it becomes a natural, pleasant and casual thing to work on self carriage.
It is, in fact, the very reason this forum exists, because it is possible to teach (or improve) self carriage via playful and respectful interaction and not via manipulation.

Author:  Lothmorwel [ Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

Thank you for the replies.

I had a good read of your links Romy, thank you. My brain was frazzled at the end of last night! I shall keep rifling about to find more info here.

Volker, thank you for your opinions. That's where I'm coming from with how I think equitation should go - get all the basics done and the horse should offer roundness and suchlike because it CAN rather it has been MADE to. I think I need to go back to my instructor and have a good discussion as she is NOT the sort to force a horse or 'shape' it. I think that what I'm being taught is part of the Philipe Karl school and I may need to either get my head round it all or decide on a different path. I think PK stuff is excellent IF you can do it well. I don't think I can - I need WAY more lessons on my seat in order to sit as quietly as needed with the stable hands that are also needed.

Hmmmm, so much thinking to do! It really is true that the more you learn, the more you realise there is to learn!

Author:  Zuzana [ Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

Hi Hazel,
just a few thoughts on this ;)

you don't have to feel like you have to do things only one way. If you work with your instructor and try her way, at the same time, on your own, you could explore working your horse with a free neck, asking her to change her balance through your body language and the various exercises.

Personally, I believe that setting the horse's head/neck posture is the most harmful mistake people make. Mostly because it seems to be the beginning point in their training.... when the horse is not yet absolutely clear about the go/stop/turn signals... And if you train the body/mind of the horse first, you may just find that at the stage of your training when you would be comfortable with changing the horse's head carriage... well, there may just be nothing to change :)

having said that... if you pursue the PK way of position before movement - you would do well to study the origins of the work (Baucher) and also Karl's books, as they stress the release and self-carriage, something I found missing from some of the PK instructors... hopefully not yours ;)

Good luck on your journey and keep us posted! :smile:

Author:  Zuzana [ Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

oh and one more thought :)

to clearly see what the "raising the base of the neck" (as I understand it) looks like:

stand next to your horse and apply pressure on the front of her sternum, front of chest. You may have to play with how much pressure and explain that it doesn't mean "back up" etc. - you will see your horse lift the wither/ribcage/base of neck, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, depending on the horse... try with a few different ones if you can, to get an idea of what's possible.

Another great thing is to get someone to do it to your horse while you sit on her (the horse, not your friend :D )
You have to be able to see and feel what you are searching for!

Author:  Lothmorwel [ Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

Hello Zuzana, thank you for your thoughts.

My instructor does follow the PK way of doing things, but also draws from other sources. She is an amazing teacher, multi-talented and I respect her hugely.

I believe PK is fantastic and that you can achieve amazing things if you do your reading (like you say) and know your stuff. I don't, and without regular lessons (which I can't afford) I don't want to go down that route as I'm worried I'll get things wrong. I find it a bit too easy to confuse my horse, and I don't want to end up with resistance through my own doing.

I have always been of the 'set up the back end & wait for the front end' way of thinking so I shall stay on track with that. I have so much more to learn, a huge pile of books to read (one of PK's is in that pile) and many more lessons on my own riding to be getting on with. I will book some more lunge lessons with my instructor to work on my seat and continue with my gentle bumbling with my horse at home.

Thank you everyone. :)

Author:  Josepha [ Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

You can not lift the base of the neck higher than the horse's muscles are capable. The front should in fact lift because the quarters bend, not the other way around. Therefore I never ask lifts in front, only shoulder lifts by means of Stellung and Shoulder in. Hope that helps :)

Author:  Zuzana [ Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

Hi Josepha,
can you elaborate on what you mean by shoulder lift?
with base of neck lift, I assume we talk of the spine (neck/wither/ribcage) lifting relative to the ground and also relative to the bones of the front legs including the shoulder joints

by shoulder lift- do you mean the joint? or? does it lift relative to the ground or the spine/ribcage?

Author:  Josepha [ Thu Jan 09, 2014 7:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

I mean that the shoulder lifts litturally because of the sideways effect. That is in fact what the shoulder in is for. When the horse moves in shoulder in, he needs to lift the shoulders to be able to make the sideways movement. That is why shoulder in is the mother of all exercises and the way to teach the hind quarters to bend underneath the body.

The base of the neck lifts because the quarters bend. If the topline is developed enough it will appear to grow because of the activated muscles in the top line. The shoulders will lift and become free, because they do no longer carry weight, or need to carry weight. The result might be piaffe or levade or parade rasembler.

In the old days, when Owen was on the forehand, he would spook by means of bucking and running and I would fall of. Now he spooks like this and it is a rather pleasant experience :)

When I ask him to back and then halt before he really backs he quite naturally goes towards parade rasembler:

You can see how the bending of the hind quarters results in the lifting of the forehand. To teach the hind quarters to bend and the shoulders to lift, starts with Stellung and Shoulder in. We call it a shoulder lift, when we ask the horse to take the shoulder sideways a little, away from the side of the Stellung. Then the horse lifts the shoulder, because he is not longer able to lean on them. That is why one should always move the shoulders between the reins, never pull on reins to turn the horse, but I do not have to explain that to you, I know. It is just in general for every body interested :)

also maybe interesting: ... l-ligament

Anyways... not bad for a almost 21 year old horse that was diagnosed with severe artritis amongst other things in 2003, ey? :)

Author:  Zuzana [ Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

Thank you Josepha, beautiful pictures - and nice work!

There is likely less separation/difference between forehand lift and shoulder lift then what I think people mean when they talk about this... ;)

I really focused on this yesterday, especially in the School Halts. I am a bit too close to the horse to see what I was looking for, but I will video soon and take a look. I put the horse next to a horizontal marker as I ask him to transfer weight back and flex hindquarters. It looked like the withers moved back and up and the croup dropped. Of course this is what I trained for and have been aware of, but I would like to see it in slow motion now, thanks to the new questions I now have :)

The idea of the bend moving the shoulder is interesting and not something I was conscious of before, thanks :giveflower: . As the ribcage bend comes from rotation, this makes perfect sense - in the halt. As the horse moves, the joints of the forelegs move... this I will have to figure out yet... I have always just payed more attention to the ribcage/neck unit as "the forehand", not so much the shoulder/scapula part of the forelegs... again, I will begin to watch what happens there as well...

Author:  Josepha [ Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Raising the base of the neck

Thank you :smile:

:) good luck!

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