The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:47 am 
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April wrote:
Karen,

The video of the pony, is well collected, correct? But the beginning of the take-off still needs work, but is impressive. You did say very correct but both hindlegs should kick out together and be equal in the kick out, or am I wrong about that?

Miriam,

The sidesaddle lady is very well balanced, but not in a true collection, right? She's very fluid and she's very easy to watch.

April


You've certainly brewed up a small storm here, April.

Did you know that currently, and for that matter, as long as I can remember, when a Western horse (style) is said to be "collected," it can and usually does mean that he is moving low and slow in relation to the ground?

Just thought I'd add to the mix.

:lol: :wink:

I'm inspired to move toward the explanation that is more involved with how a horse's physical attitude around his center of mass. The 'balance,' issue.

What is the the body doing around and relation to the center of mass?

One could say, I suppose, that if a horse is not balanced then he is falling down or in a state of falling and catching himself, if he, and the rider, are lucky.

So if balance is being maintained would we assume he is collected? Nope. Obviously.

An extended horse is really falling down if his balance is being maintained.

Or, conversely, could it be that we, and in fact all moving living creatures are in fact falling down and just catching ourself most of the time?

If this view is considered, then the dynamic changes. We would then assume that unless we are standing still we are in a state of constant recovery from falling.

Is your head swimming as mine is? 8)

Working back from the point of very nearly falling and only catching one's self at the last instant could be, I think, (and guess) what extension is about.

And as the horse gradually retracts about it's center of mass, it is in fact becoming "smaller" from front to rear, thus have a more compact package to balance.

And of course we know if we've ever carried heavy things, that bulk is a huge factor in our muscle and ligament, and balance recovery. The same weight item in a small compact space say a box of books tightly packed, is far easier to control (emphasis on control) than the same weight spread out over a larger area of the 'cube.'

So when we compact our horses, that is shorten their length, we are seeking a condition where the horse has both and easier time bearing the load, and more control over the position of the load ... his and our body.

Now this flies in the face of some older theories about the horses capacity to bear weight, and certainly makes me pause to consider some of my own viewpoints on the matter.

Could it be that collection, done in some manner that we as yet struggle to discover, is easier on the horse than extension?

How much is just right for the entire package of horse and rider (or horse alone)?

My feeling about it...and I mean literally how I feel and have felt the horse moving beneath me bearing my weight and his, is that there is such and optimal, or optimum point.

The compression of the neck toward the shoulders, bringing the head with it of course, the degree of angle in flexion at the poll that changes the head center of mass (weight) relationship even more as the nose reaches the perpendicular plane of the face, the tilt of the horse's pelvis not just to engage the muscles and tendons in a new more powerful way, but the pelvis, hindlegs, etc, being repositioned closer to the center of mass of horse and rider, all bear on the question of collection and just what it is.

I like that you have managed to bear down on this and not let it go.

It needs the kind of examination rigor that the scientist with her microscope and other analytical tools can bring to bear on a sample.

You seem to be making the focus clearer just by pressing on, as every is that's now involved with it.

I think the challenges you opened with are the same ones felt by the various experts cited. How DOES one define something that is not static, but in fact continually a dynamic as this is?

Can collection then be defined not as a fixed attitude, but instead a range of attitude of horse around his mass?

It might mean that to say a horse is collecting, and thus collected to a degree, begins at whatever point of extension the horse begins to move to a shorter length, and start the other events that make that happen, even if in a still photo he appears to be extended.

Simply more collected than he was a moment before because of the direction of change of body attitude.

It may seem I'm beating this into a pulp but in fact I've mulled these very things for a great many years, and never really felt resolution.

I'm not sure I, or anyone else ever will completely resolve this.

Take just one item, say circulation ... blood flow. Suppose we could examine how that changes during a phase of collection and how it might effect a muscle group (as blood flow most certainly would) in it's speed and intensity of tension increase?

We focus on building flexibility and muscle capacity for power and surely blood flow would be a factor.

If it's slowed, for some reason, (I'm thinking of Rolkur) or de-oxygenated by lung restriction by blocking airflow, what happens to the capacity to collect?

Is it any wonder in standard current dressage rides we see the horse lose those attitudes we know and value as being true collection?

The back caves in, the rear legs begin to trail behind, the forehand becomes a prop rather than a power stroke for the horse, the stomach drops.

Yet, weirdly enough, and even more confounding, the length of the horse stays nearly the same as when we recognized them to be in collection ... yet he is not.

Could my eyes have been deceiving me?

And coming full circle back to the "collected" western horse: he has not shortened his length and gathered closer in to his center of mass, has he?

Head down and neck extended, hooves almost sliding along, hind legs trailing behind.

I think I'm more confused than ever. But I do have more information to consider and determine, if I can, what I wish to consider collection.

But then, I think that AND has something closer to the ideal in defining collection than any other source I know of.

I just can't tell exactly what that is.

It's sort of like describing an eel. I can tell you that it wiggles, it's kind of longer than wide, but darned if I can give you an idea of it's exactly outline.

It keeps changing right in the middle of definition.

:lol:


Donald Redux

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


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:02 pm 
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April wrote:
So the question is when is it really collection and when is it really just balance or is there no balance, but just call it all collection?

So is the free walk, the natural gait of the horse, is it collection or is it balance?


Interesting questions! :D

For me, when I look at the free, natural walk of the ponies, most of the time it's grossly inverted so I wouldn't call it both collected or balanced in the dressage sense of the word. :roll:

Balance is more something that Sjors does very often: a nice rythmic trot, with his neck stretched horizontal or lower with a nice curve in the neck, and not really bent joints. As soon as he starts bending his joints more and goes towards upwards steps instead of just forwards, I see this as more collection, because he's doing something else than just balancing out a forwards movement. He's adding some upwards spring to it. In collected and a good extended trot a horse does more than just going forwards; he adds more spring in his gaits, so that's what I would call a light collection already. But that's something else than the severely collected piaffe/haute ecole jumps and everything that is more stationary than forwards.

Interesting question indeed! I realise now that I probably see collection and balance as two arrows that you can both stick in the belly of the horse: 8) one is pointing upwards (collection arrow), the other is pointing forewards (balance arrow): on which one the horse is focusing his thoughts and his body, for me determines if he's working more on collection or balance. And balance for me is more going forewards in relaxation, while collecting is more going upwards with more energy. When I see a horse adding something more upwards to a balanced gait - then I see that he is trying to collect himself more - even when the picture still isn't perfect.

For example: Sjors sometimes is moving forewards in a nice trot, and then starts to shorten his steps, round his back and curl his neck with his head more down. I know that then his is thinking about collecting himself, but instead of really collecting, he is mostly going more forewards with his body in a more rounded way. So there is a one mm arrow going up already, but the main arrow is the forewards balance arrow. He is collecting more (because he is thinking about it), but the body doesn't come along yet because it doesn't know how to do that yet. :roll: 8) But Sjors already is giving something extra to the just moving balanced forewards. So he isn't just balancing anymore.

Since a few weeks Sjors is really experimenting with more upwards moments in his trot. I still don't know if it's more passage, or more collected trot, but he isn't just going forwards anymore, but also just as much upwards with bent joints and huge springy movements. He still tends to tighten his back and lift his neck too high, so the look isn't classically collected - but he is wrecking his brains really hard about moving collected and his body is following that thought very well. Both his mental and physical focus are on the upwards movement and putting more energy in the gait, and not at forwards movement and relaxation. So Sjors really is collecting himself quite a bit in that, even when it's not picture perfect yet.

Maybe true classical collection is an equilibrium between collection (thinking upwards and wasting energy 8) ) and balance (thinking forwards and relaxing the body): A classically collected horse should have both things in equal measures: his legs and body should move upwards, but he shouldn't tighten his body while doing so. Sjors does move more upwards, but still tightens his bdoy while doing so. So in his learning process now he is focusing himself too much on the collection, and with that loosing his balance when doing that.

So even the picture isn't yet that of classical collection, I really think he is collecting himself right now - because he himself really thinks about collecting, about that upwards arrow. And he isn't just going balanced, because he is adding much more upwards energy to that movement than he 'should' have in balance. His movements are already in that passage-trot quite collected and he is collecting himself more and more, but in order to give that perfect picture of classical collection, he should get more used to this movement so that he can get more relaxed in it and let the forwards balance have a place in it too.

So maybe I should draw a picture, with one vertical arrow going up for more physical and mental collection, and one horizontal arrow going to the right for balance, and then a third diagonal arrow going from the starting point of both lines to the top right, for classical collection: because the more upwards the horse becomes, the more able he should be to stay in relaxation and balance at the same time to maintain that outline of classical collection.

So that diagonal line you could see as the optimal path to stronger collection: you start with balance and then add slowly more and more collection to that balance. Of course, that the theoretical optimal line. With Sjors you would see a lot of squiggles going up and down around that diagonal. :roll: But I think every horse will do that if you let him: some will overcollect before they realise that they can put the balance back in collection too (Sjors), others will just stay balanced and forwards with a nice curled neck (which isn't the same as collection!) for a long time, but without any further upwards collection - untill one day they realise how to make those joints work more, and then their arrow suddenly rises a lot towards real collection.


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 Post subject: AND and collection
PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 1:49 pm 
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As I visualized Sjors and the movements you described I began to formulate what turned out to be where you went at the end of your post ... classical and real collection.

I assumed that you meant they are two different things, but if that is incorrect that you would tell me so in reply.

This question, for me, boils down to this: Is AND exploring new territory with examining, experimenting, with the horse and the equine-human relationship?

If so, are we pushing the definitions so that we may discover, or be part of the process of discovering new definitions, uncovering new possibilities.

Or are we putting the Classical collection to the test as the singular goal we seek?

Your description, and of course, the many we read in the AND archives from other member posters, puts the bright like on this question.

Which is 'real' collection, and is the Classical simply part of the paradigm of collection throughout it's range of possibilities?

Donald Redux

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


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:37 pm 
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Could it be as a light fedder..
a horse can move in balance but not "light"
and when the horse began to move light as a fedder then he is collected? Like a ballet dancer.
Just for the few for us...

Sometimes i see my horses play and there are some moments that i think they are fully collected and well balanced but i can not discribe it in words.
And i can not film it..i would be happy when i could do that, so i can understand my horses better. To look over and over the film again to see which muscles they use and when they are moving freely.
And then use it by there training.

i think collecting is different by every horse or pony ofcourse :-), when he walks in freedom and with a rider on it. You will see then a different kind of collection and balance. It think because of the weight and movements of the rider.
Even when the rider is as light as it could be.

I was thinking..when i wrote this....
Does a horse have a other collection when it move on differend kind of soil?? Can it be differend when it is a hard ground or soft?
Does he move different with or without ironshoes?
Does this have effects on the horse when he wanted to collect himself?............ :?: ...........


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:24 pm 
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Donald wrote:
Quote:
Or, conversely, could it be that we, and in fact all moving living creatures are in fact falling down and just catching ourself most of the time?


:D :D :D Donald, that's called gravity :D :D :D


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:39 pm 
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Karen wrote:
Donald wrote:
Quote:
Or, conversely, could it be that we, and in fact all moving living creatures are in fact falling down and just catching ourself most of the time?


:D :D :D Donald, that's called gravity :D :D :D


"Gravity?" Hmmmm....what an interesting word. As in serious, or 'grave?'

Personally I don't see the connection. Could you possibly mean that it's like 'gravel,' gravity? Small, hard, and rocky?

Hopefully you aren't referring to the business of the mortician, as in the end product being ... gulp ... the 'grave.'

If so you have a strange idea of things ... goodness me.
:wink:

(So you noticed I was rambling, and babbling, eh?) :lol:

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~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:27 am 
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No! :D Gravity...as in an apple falling from a tree...what goes up, must come down...the force that constantly pushes down on us...the one thing no one can overcome if both (or all four) feet are held up at once for a touch too long. :lol:

So technically we ARE all falling down and catching ourselves most of the time.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 2:54 am 
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:lol: To take that just a step (off the edge) further, in the immortal words of Zaphod Beeblebrox,
"Flying is all in the art of falling and not hitting the ground."

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But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:41 am 
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Karen wrote:
No! :D Gravity...as in an apple falling from a tree...what goes up, must come down...the force that constantly pushes down on us...the one thing no one can overcome if both (or all four) feet are held up at once for a touch too long. :lol:

So technically we ARE all falling down and catching ourselves most of the time.



And so ... what does THIS do to our views on collection, eh?

And I disagree. It's NOT a 'technical' matter as in "it's not practical application to real life circumstances." :)

If that's what you meant.

This is a critical point to always remember when we make statements, speculate, or boldly experiment with our horses and ourselves.

I have had only one instance of a horse falling with me, and sadly, it was also on me.

How?

I pressed her to energetically on two small a volte, and she, good girl that she was, collected to the point she tipped.

That is, tipped over backwards.

We think of it as 'balking' and rearing, but it's just as likely my view from this long distance (that was about 1970) is that she simply obeyed my pressure and sought her release as best she could.

We went into a fence, and I have a little recurring ache in my lower right side to remind me of the insult I did to her.

Gravity got me, not the mare.

The deepest study we can do of a subject is to continue to look at it in as many ways as possible, and hopefully with knew ways we never thought of before.

As I watch both what we write in AND, but especially what we show in AND by our pictures and videos I am stuck by this exploration and trying to see things in a new way.

Not only is it exciting, it is tremendously brave, courageous in fact.

Because of my experience with horses there are moments as I read, or watch videos, that I have to bit my lip and my heart comes up in my throat because of the dangers I see.

On the other hand, I did mine, why shouldn't others have their chance at new discoveries and the risks inherent in seeking them.

Though I do tend to speak up where the horse might be at risk.

Kind of shows you my moral and ethical shortcomings, as regards humans, no?

:wink: :lol: :lol: :lol:

I think I caught that from one of my students. She had attempted a reverse with the horse on the counterlead at the canter.

He fell, hard, and there she lay when I ran up to here, the horse off in a corner looking rather shaken. Debbie ask me, first thing out of her mouth, her with a very neatly broken lower leg too, held together just by her boot, "Is Mr. Mark okay?"

We horse people. Tsk.

8)

Donald Redux

PS Yes, Mr. Mark, a 16.5 hand very ruggedly built TB was just fine. He'd been a bucking horse and was okay with falling. :wink: dr

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~~~~~~~~~
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:48 pm 
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Quote:
And I disagree. It's NOT a 'technical' matter as in "it's not practical application to real life circumstances."


I use the word "technical" to mean "factual".

And you do know I was being facetious...

About falling though...I've had it happen lots. I was a reckless youth. Usually, as in your experience, it was on a too small a turn. Once it was merely on dew laden grass though. Now of course, I'm more cautious and understand that mortality applies to me :wink:

Sue...where DO you come up with these quotes? Zaphod? Is that from the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy? Oh dear, it's been a long time since I read that...

(Ok, I had to google that to see. I am surprised that I even made the connection!)

So back to collection...I suppose, in a way, we can consider both humor AND Haute Ecole to be a way of defying gravity. :wink: Either way, we lighten the hold that the world can have on us.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 12:18 am 
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Yes. The Guide of course. Where DO I come up with these quotes? Hmmm...not sure...but I think I just found another one:

Quote:
I suppose, in a way, we can consider both humor AND Haute Ecole to be a way of defying gravity. Either way, we lighten the hold that the world can have on us.


Wonderful words! Will they hold my wrinkles up? :wink:

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I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,

But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]


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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 4:32 am 

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inge wrote:
Could it be as a light fedder..
a horse can move in balance but not "light"
and when the horse began to move light as a fedder then he is collected? Like a ballet dancer.
Just for the few for us...

Sometimes i see my horses play and there are some moments that i think they are fully collected and well balanced but i can not discribe it in words.
And i can not film it..i would be happy when i could do that, so i can understand my horses better. To look over and over the film again to see which muscles they use and when they are moving freely.
And then use it by there training.

i think collecting is different by every horse or pony ofcourse :-), when he walks in freedom and with a rider on it. You will see then a different kind of collection and balance. It think because of the weight and movements of the rider.
Even when the rider is as light as it could be.

I was thinking..when i wrote this....
Does a horse have a other collection when it move on differend kind of soil?? Can it be differend when it is a hard ground or soft?
Does he move different with or without ironshoes?
Does this have effects on the horse when he wanted to collect himself?............ :?: ...........


Intersting...I do believe that depth of the ground will difinitely affect the collection and the shoes do cause some balance problems. It's how they land...my opinion...

Miriam, Thanks for your input, amatter of fact thanks for everyone's.

It's interesting to read the upper trainers in dressage, classical dressage, that some of what they say is not what they do. They describe it one way, but don't ride that way. It can be very confusing and I need to ask questions.

Miriam stated that the hindquarters will come under more and then her pony's neck will curl. So the next question is just where on the neck should the horse flex from?

From what I understand, the poll must be the highest point and actually the nose should be slightly above the vertical, but again, this is not what I'm seeing.

Donald, has brought up western pleasure... When I see my horses coming for water, I don't see them carrying themselves with very low heads. They carry their heads super low when grazing when searching for the next tidbit. I don't see them carry themselves this way naturally, going from a direct point A to point B. I do see them with super low heads when searching for the next tidbit. Even trail horses don't carry themselves that low. Yes, obviously, we can teach the western pleasure, but does this make it natural even if it's taught with a cordeo?

What we teach is it healthy for them?

Again, this is a discussion and I do want to hear your opinions.

April

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April


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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 5:45 am 
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April wrote:
inge wrote:
Could it be as a light fedder..
a horse can move in balance but not "light"
and when the horse began to move light as a fedder then he is collected? Like a ballet dancer.
Just for the few for us...

Sometimes i see my horses play and there are some moments that i think they are fully collected and well balanced but i can not discribe it in words.
And i can not film it..i would be happy when i could do that, so i can understand my horses better. To look over and over the film again to see which muscles they use and when they are moving freely.
And then use it by there training.

i think collecting is different by every horse or pony ofcourse :-), when he walks in freedom and with a rider on it. You will see then a different kind of collection and balance. It think because of the weight and movements of the rider.
Even when the rider is as light as it could be.

I was thinking..when i wrote this....
Does a horse have a other collection when it move on differend kind of soil?? Can it be differend when it is a hard ground or soft?
Does he move different with or without ironshoes?
Does this have effects on the horse when he wanted to collect himself?............ :?: ...........


Intersting...I do believe that depth of the ground will difinitely affect the collection and the shoes do cause some balance problems. It's how they land...my opinion...

Miriam, Thanks for your input, amatter of fact thanks for everyone's.

It's interesting to read the upper trainers in dressage, classical dressage, that some of what they say is not what they do. They describe it one way, but don't ride that way. It can be very confusing and I need to ask questions.

Miriam stated that the hindquarters will come under more and then her pony's neck will curl. So the next question is just where on the neck should the horse flex from?

From what I understand, the poll must be the highest point and actually the nose should be slightly above the vertical, but again, this is not what I'm seeing.

Donald, has brought up western pleasure... When I see my horses coming for water, I don't see them carrying themselves with very low heads. They carry their heads super low when grazing when searching for the next tidbit. I don't see them carry themselves this way naturally, going from a direct point A to point B. I do see them with super low heads when searching for the next tidbit. Even trail horses don't carry themselves that low. Yes, obviously, we can teach the western pleasure, but does this make it natural even if it's taught with a cordeo?

What we teach is it healthy for them?

Again, this is a discussion and I do want to hear your opinions.

April


When I worked with children, and in fact raising my own children, I was always made uncomfortable when the child was too compliant.

I want the child to challenge me, and this is what I aspire to with the horse.

So your question is well taken for me to ponder.

Is the horse being compliant and doing things still for us that endanger them?

I see in liberty work in AND member videos all kinds of movement. All sorts of "frame."

But, I see playfulness more than grim seriousness, so what is going on likely is not causing hurt in the moment.

Your question about the low head. Obviously there is more weight on the forehand in such a frame. And we know that in the wild, horses rarely, except when going after a predator, go faster than a walk with the head low to the ground.

I'm beginning to attach impulsion to energetic movement rather than simply calling the collected frame energetic and extended more relaxed.

The blasted word is slippery though, and can only really be understood if one studies equine biodynamics with a mind to capture, label the parts of, and understand this energy called impulsion.

You are on to something when you ask us to consider possible harm.

And too, it is important to study different conditions ... barefoot or shod, treeless or rigid treed, and the surfaces we work on. I'd add gradient to that as well.

As in uphill or down hill or on the level.

I believe some universities have done some serious studies on these kinds of issues, and some posters (and moderators) have cited them.

Donald Redux

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


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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 7:55 am 
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Donald Redux wrote:
I see in liberty work in AND member videos all kinds of movement. All sorts of "frame."


I think that this is very important. Even in liberty work, with or without clicker, we can pick one of these "frames" and reward it very often, or rather reinforce it, ignoring any other movement; but I think that all of them are important, not only for collection but also for stretching, warming up, playing, etc. And then we have collection in ramener or piaffe when there is nothing else but collection... but the horse has to do something before that moment and after it, because the horse has to move... and I wouldn't like it if the horse moved every time in the same "frame". That wouldn't be collection even if this frame was perfect, because soon the horse would become stiff.

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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 10:46 am 
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I agree: that difference in frames is what I actually love the most about working at liberty!

Blacky and Sjors are always picking the frame and amount of collection that they need for that exact movement or exercise, and therefore constantly lenghten and shorten their frame. It's not a trick they do or a posture that they move in, it really is working collection, used by the ponies themselves.

When I ask for a shorter, more elevated canter, Blacky will shorten his frame and raise his neck considerately. When I then ask him to go back to a regular canter, he will lengthen his frame again as he lenthens his strides. The same goes for example for shoulder-in at walk. When I just ask a regular shoulder in, the neck is at withers height. When I then ask them to become more active in that movement, the neck is raised as the hindlegs step under more. That's what I love most about AND: not the fact that you can train collection at liberty, but the fact that training collection this way makes so much sense to the horse, that they use that information themselves to adapt their frame on their own to what they are doing.

So if you look at the ponies during training, you won't see them in the highly-collected frame for minutes on end - simply because that's counter-productive in most exercises that are more forwards. When a horse lengthens his movements, he also lengthens his frame, which is also described by the older classical dressage writers. I love to see how the ponies really understood that on their own, and start using collection for their own benefit. Because that was what it was made for in the first place!


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