The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 8:08 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:32 pm
Posts: 10
Hello everyone here on AND! I'm so excited to finally be here. I've been reading and learning for a while now from all of you and just recently gave up "traditional" riding because of several videos/lectures/articles that changed my mind on the typical training and equipment used in equestrian circles. Ummm, a bit of background: I'm from Canada, I've been riding competitive dressage for three years and classical dressage for one. I recently stopped using bits, horseshoes, bridles and other aids that cause damage to the horse. I've stopped riding for a while now and I'm going to lease a horse to form a bond with right from the start with AND! I'm not using any other method because I've seen what you guys have accomplished and I tend to become a little obsessive about mastering things :blush: and so this is something I wish to do. Not for me (heck, if I only cared about me it'd be endurance riding all the way!!!) but for my horse. I considered going on the Nevzorov Haute Ecole forum but it was all too intimidating :ieks: with the big threats and all... Well, that's all! Oh- I also have a friend at the stable who clicker trains who I THINK might be interested so I'm going to tell her about you guys and hopefully she'll join! Yay! Sorry if it's too early to be posting- I can take this down if you want!

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 9:44 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:00 pm
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Location: Belgium/Tielt-Winge
Hey welcome!!!
I really loved reading your introduction, I am sure you will have such a good time trying all this information around here with your horse!!!
I hope you will start a diary soon, have you already leased a horse or are you searching for one??? Because I love pictures ;) and I think a lot of people here do ;)
I wish you a lot of fun here and with your future horse...

Big hug
Barbara

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:17 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:19 pm
Posts: 69
Location: Estonia, Tallinn
Hi!

This is not the place that judges you or says "you don't belong here". You are very much welcomed! Please don't take your post down, but keep posting instead. You seem to be very upfront and sincere person - glad to greet you here!

Have a nice time reading-learning-practicing!

Iida

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 11:06 pm 
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Hi there!

Just left you a note on your post in the thread about therapy and horses and wanted to say again, here, welcome!

There is no such thing as 'too soon' to post here -- everyone is welcome and we are delighted to share with you your ideas, dreams, and experiences.

Don't know where you are in Canada, but one of our moderators, Karen, lives in Canada and is doing marvelous, magical things with her equine buddy Tamarack.

You can check out their diary here: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=42&p=60276#p60276

Glad you're here.

All the best,
Leigh

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 2:32 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:03 am
Posts: 760
Hello from me as well. This place is a great way to explore about all the ways of being with horses that enhance our relationship with them. So many ideas that I've picked up over the last year. Hope you'll enjoy yourself reading and whenever you feel like it sharing from your experience with horses. Many here have a long history with horses, some a much shorter one, like mine, but all of them are great to learn from. :)

Birgit


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 4:37 pm 
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Location: northern, Illinois, USA
Hey, welcome to the group! The people here are absolutely great! I have learned so much in the last 7 months. Karen especially has been wonderful in helping me grasp some of the different things having to do with dressage.

Can't wait to see pictures!

Ivy

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 7:01 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:32 pm
Posts: 10
Thanks everyone! Ok, I feel like a bit of a traitor... See, around here in this entire province there are only four or five stables based in the differing peninsula's. So anyhow, I was talking to the clicker trainer at my stable about the use of bits and other things and she said something I'd heard a lot, "A bit is only as bad as your hands...." Now for the current time I've been training in classical dressage with bits and things and I had a lesson today but I was planning on just lunging a bit and maybe working on my seat without reins :) but after I heard this clicker trainer (and she is a very humane trainer, she does TTouch, some kind of energy work, clicker training and is pretty much up to try anything and is a great mentor for me!) I decided to use a bit. I'm just wondering people's thoughts on bits. Obviously this is a bitless forum so I won't be posting about it often but I mean, is it really that horrible? I went out to catch Rain (my current teacher, a 13.2 hh Quarab pony), brought him in, did some TTouch, rubbed him all over with some massage, tacked up. Lunged a bit, tied my reins in a knot and had a half-an-hour lesson focusing on my classical seat. After I took Rain for a walk through the woods and ran through puddles and let him eat, massaged his mouth, turned him out and played with him for a little bit. He didn't even seem to remember my lesson and was more than sad when I left- watching and whinnying as I left. What do you guys think? I'm very much a non-competitive rider but I am always interested in training classically and doing some local shows to see what I can work on. I said I don't use bits and I meant it but I'm having different thoughts... Hmmmm.... Anyhow, who has an opinion???

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:12 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:10 am
Posts: 3688
Location: Pacific Northwest U.S.
Right off the bat it's clear that you've seen other horse forums that are very "clubby." Not the case here. You are welcome from the first day if you choose, or later if you choose to just observe for a time.

While there is a theme, classical dressage, and liberty work, my own experience here tells me that the lightest touch, the softest asking of the horse, exploration at both a deeper level, and in the end a very higher one seems to open the door to all who are on similar paths.

How nice to have you here. Are you West, East, or Central in Canada?

I ask because as time passes I hope more AND people on this continent, as a few folks have done in Europe, develop AND cells. Times that we can visit face to face are something I'm looking forward to very much.

I'm sure others would agree with me that what you are doing very much interest us.

As for the atmosphere here; the AND foremother founders set the tone in the beginning and through moderation have maintained what I think of as a kind and not over orderly, but safe, place to share our experiences and experience.

Best wishes, and welcome

Donald, Altea, and Bonnie

Image

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:42 am 
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DignityHorse wrote:
Thanks everyone! Ok, I feel like a bit of a traitor...


As I pointed out before, since we are not clubby, or cultish (though others unfamiliar with us might want to claim it) if you read through the forum titled "What Tack" at:
http://www.artofnaturaldressage.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=6&start=0

You'll get both a clearly understanding of varying viewpoints on bits (yes, we don't always agree in everything) and you may see there the logic I hope you'll find in this: It is not a matter of hands and bits. It IS nonetheless a matter of bits versus no bit at all. Even for some, no bridle at all, only a cordeo about the neck, or for some, not even that.

I've ridden and trained with all of the above with the exception of the cordeo.

If you think hard about what the difference to the horse might be from having steel in the mouth, to having nothing in the mouth, and the demands for lightness over force in handling this places upon the rider, trainer, owner, companion or however you see your relationship tot he horse, then statements such as the one quote lose their pseudo-logic and are revealed for what they really are: beliefs the fail the test of facts and actual experience.

Did the person saying it ever train and ride bitless, or bridleless as so many here have done? Some here have done the first ride of the horse, green horse, without a bridle and even without a saddle, just them, their pants and the horse's back to connect.

So now what is the logic of the statement you quote below, "A bit is only as bad as your hands...." mean to you?

And what do you aspire to?

DignityHorse wrote:

See, around here in this entire province there are only four or five stables based in the differing peninsula's. So anyhow, I was talking to the clicker trainer at my stable about the use of bits and other things and she said something I'd heard a lot, "A bit is only as bad as your hands...." Now for the current time I've been training in classical dressage with bits and things and I had a lesson today but I was planning on just lunging a bit and maybe working on my seat without reins :) but after I heard this clicker trainer (and she is a very humane trainer, she does TTouch, some kind of energy work, clicker training and is pretty much up to try anything and is a great mentor for me!) I decided to use a bit. I'm just wondering people's thoughts on bits. Obviously this is a bitless forum so I won't be posting about it often but I mean, is it really that horrible?


The answer to that question lies with you, not us so much - and you must be honest with yourself and live with the results you find. I can give you an opinion, but in it's own way it's as much a "belief," because I am not a horse, as the clicker trainer you quote. It is this. Steel used with any tension on the reins at all over thin flesh over bone is not for me.

I will occasionally do evaluations of horses whose owners use bits with their tack, but I beg them and most give in, to let me use my hackamore. It's traditional enough and they think it can be forceful enough so they most often give in, then are surprised and mystified when the see me in usually under an hour having the respond to cues where I do not ever take the tension out of the reins. I have proven to my satisfaction over 50 years ago, and as recent as last fall, that horses can be ridden well and safely without bits. And for that matter, more so.

DignityHorse wrote:

I went out to catch Rain (my current teacher, a 13.2 hh Quarab pony), brought him in, did some TTouch, rubbed him all over with some massage, tacked up. Lunged a bit, tied my reins in a knot and had a half-an-hour lesson focusing on my classical seat. After I took Rain for a walk through the woods and ran through puddles and let him eat, massaged his mouth, turned him out and played with him for a little bit. He didn't even seem to remember my lesson and was more than sad when I left- watching and whinnying as I left. What do you guys think? I'm very much a non-competitive rider but I am always interested in training classically and doing some local shows to see what I can work on. I said I don't use bits and I meant it but I'm having different thoughts... Hmmmm.... Anyhow, who has an opinion???


You must have very educated hands, and obviously a wonderful horse to ride as well.

The last post I placed here in your intro thread had a picture of my mare Altea. When we acquired her at age 13 she was almost completely green. Backed, but never taught anything. I rode her from the beginning in the halter you see on her, a well worn nylon one, soft, with little side rings (you can see them if you look closely - at least on the side to the camera) for my rein.

I ride her now with my La Jaquima (Hackamore). Her daugher, a yearling, will, as long as we own her, never feel steel in her mouth and I'm hoping, should I live long enough (I won't back her until she is age 4 or no less than 3.5 if she proves sturdy enough I can find a very light rider who will train with me before workon with Bonnie) to train her bridleless entirely.

Even with it three years away I am working on a set of training (a poor word for what I have in mind) to introduce her to a rider and asking her to stop and go and turn etc.) tactics that will be more in the nature of asking rather than demanding.

Thank you for asking for opinions. As you see I have them, but you need also to know that I don't reject those that use bits.

Donald, Altea, and Bonnie

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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 Apr 04, 2010 2:36 am 
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Hi there:

As Donald says, the decision to use a bit is a personal one, and you won't be yelled at or shunned if you use one. I promise! ;)

That said, I personally think that you (and I mean this as a general "you" -- anyone, not you specifically ;) ) will miss much of the beauty of the approach discussed here on this forum if you use a bit. Much of the pedagogy here is built up from the premise that it is possible to ask a horse to find his/her own sense of balance, collection, and confidence that dressage (at its purest) is trying to reach for without ever putting anything in his mouth. It's not about making the horse do anything -- it's about asking and suggesting and inviting. At its heart, it is a very different philosophical approach to interacting with horses.

In my mind, not using a bit is one of the core elements to AND. It's what brought me to AND -- I have a rescue horse who had genuine anxiety attacks when he saw a bit, let alone had one put in his mouth. I was told repeatedly by dressage trainers that it was impossible to find collection with at least one bit in a horse's mouth (preferably two) and I had a horse that I couldn't use a bit on -- he panicked. So I went hunting to see if anyone had every done any dressage work without a bit -- believing that it had to be possible, given all of the talk about collection coming from behind -- why would I need metal in my horse's mouth to get him collected if it's actually starting from his hind end? No one in the mainstream dressage community could answer that question. And no one could answer the question about the actual physiology of why a horse drooling was a good thing -- I'd get the "it's proof he's submitted" or "it's proof he's relaxed" answers, which made me crazy. I wasn't looking for submission and I've never seen a relaxed horse drool... I asked for years and never got any legitimate scientific answer. (This is what Donald is talking about when he talks about beliefs -- this is such gospel in the dressage world that virtually no one has bothered to question it.)

Quote:
Did the person saying it ever train and ride bitless, or bridleless as so many here have done? Some here have done the first ride of the horse, green horse, without a bridle and even without a saddle, just them, their pants and the horse's back to connect.


That's what I have done with my young girl, Circe. And we are just beginning to explore this process of riding with one another -- this is an entirely new way to approach this process for me with no bit in mouth (and even learning to not think about the head as the part of the horse I want to talk to). We are dreaming (truly, both of us are, I think -- she isn't wild about having anything on her head, even without a bit) of the day when we ride with just a cordeo, but we both have a lot to learn before then. Me more than her, really -- I think if I was a master at this, she wouldn't even need a halter. But I'm learning! And because we've spent so much time working together on the ground, she has better balance at five, just being backed, then horses that have been ridden for years.

Bottom line, I want to treat my horses as well as I want to be treated. I spent an afternoon putting pens and silverware into my mouth and it was so uncomfortable (and this without anyone pulling on it), I knew that I could never put a bit in another horse's mouth. And I'd never ride a horse with a bit, even if he or she wasn't mine.

As Donald says so eloquently, most of the beliefs around bit use, whether for good or for bad, are simply beliefs.

For a scientist's perception, here is the abstract on an article on the impacts of bits on horse's mouth by Dr. Cook, who is a vet who refined and sells a crossunder bitless bridle:

Quote:
Prevalence of Bit-induced Dental and Interdental Pathology [2009]
An abstract of an article to be submitted for publication in the Equine Veterinary Journal concerning the effect of bits on the equine mouth and teeth.


The prevalence of bit-induced dental and interdental pathology has not been documented in the veterinary literature. To fill this gap, 66 skulls from domesticated horses in museum collections were studied and compared with 12 skulls from feral or Przewalski horses. 125 hemi-mandibles were evaluated for interdental pathology in the domesticated specimens and 78 (62%) exhibited periostitis. 114 hemi-mandibles were evaluated for dental pathology and 69 (61%) exhibited erosion of the second lower premolar. Both these lesions were caused by the bit. No such lesions were found in any of the 12 skulls from the feral or Przewalski horses. Only 8 (12%) of the domesticated skulls were free of bit-induced injury. 58 of the 66 domesticated skulls exhibited evidence of either dental or interdental pathology or both, a prevalence of 88%. As the author recognizes over 200 clinical signs of bit-induced pain in today's population of domesticated horses and has evidence of bit usage being responsible for 40 or more diseases, he predicts that the prevalence of bit-induced oral pathology in today's horses may also be high. Routine examination of horses' mouths for such evidence is recommended. The mouth is an especially sensitive part of the horse's anatomy. Intra-oral restraint with one or more metal rods inflicts pain, instills fear, and imperils the welfare and safety of horse and rider by triggering flight, fight and freeze reactions. Bit-induced pain also explains a common cause of many so-called idiopathic diseases. These include, negative pressure pulmonary oedema ('bleeding'), dorsal displacement of the soft palate, epiglottal entrapment and trigeminal neuralgia (the headshaking syndrome). As the bit is an oral foreign body that obstructs respiration at exercise, its use is physiologically contraindicated and counterproductive. As the bit inflicts unnecessary pain and injury its use is ethically questionable.


There's lots more information (some science, some anecdote) here:
http://www.bitlessbridle.com/cat/Articles.html

So, in my mind, yes, bits are really that bad. (Again, this is my belief!)

But one of the beauties of AND is that we can agree to disagree on many things.

Would the trainer you're working with be willing to allow you to explore and experiment without a bit? She might be surprised...
(And again, I highly recommend you follow Karen's diary -- she is working with two high end dressage trainers, both of whom use bits, and is working bitless.)

Hope this is helpful!

All the best,
Leigh

(Edit: somehow I originally managed to post this twice -- hence the funny smartypants comment from Glen below... :funny: :funny: :funny: I figured that it really wasn't necessary to say the same thing twice, so I took the first one away...) :)

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 9:35 am 
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Location: Natal, South Africa
:D :D :D

Leigh, is your opinion so well-formed it must be seen twice? :D :D :D Oh, this is classic! I love it!. :clap: :f:

Dignity Horse, first let me say welcome here. It's a happy place, and we try hard to keep it that way with no flaming or disparaging. Grab a cup of coffee and a cookie, put your feet up, and enjoy the conversation with no fear that your opinions or activities will get you some judgement.

Second let me say that I personally have not got particularly strong opinions about bits or no bits. I am working bitless with my riding-horse because he made is super-clear to me that a bit is horrible and if I'm going to insist he wears one then he's going to be a difficult ride, also he's very tall and if he chooses to lift his head way up there I have no chance of forcing a bit into his mouth. :D I accepted his opinion and two rides later he was poking his nose into the bitless bridle I suggested. This tells me all I need to know about bits - the horse who holds my heart hates them. That's all the knowledge I need.

I accept and understand that they are unpleasant for horses, but I won't refuse to ride a horse that wears a bit or anything like that. I am actually still occasionally putting a bit on my little rescue because I feel that I need that security-blanket to work with him, and because he understands what a bit is and what it is used for, and I don't want to add too many new and confusion factors to the process of getting him OK again. It is, however, an apple-flavored soft rubber snaffle. ;)

I have seen many horses change when the bit is removed from the situation, and I have not yet ever seen a change that could be considered a negative thing for the horse or the rider. I have, however, seen it go sour when the rider is so attached to working with a bit that they are so nervous when trying bitless that they freak their horse out.

If it is right for you to go bitless then a time will come that you feel it is appropriate to do so. Until then don't worry about it, but do go and learn the information and read the research, and form your own opinion based on facts not anecdotes and "because it's always done this way" demands from other people who may or may not have real information behind what they say.
:kiss:

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 9:50 am 

Joined: Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:19 pm
Posts: 69
Location: Estonia, Tallinn
I have to say that I just love this conversation here, cause' I have decided to start my own green darling with no bit (nor bridle) and she is getting better and better on cordeo cues each day.
This topic gives my even more confidence, so thank you, DignityHorse, for asking and thank you, all others, for answering. Every question, raised in this forum, brings knowledge and use to a lot of people.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 12:15 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:32 pm
Posts: 10
Thanks so much guys! I don't like to brag or anything (and this certainly isn't meant to mean I'm the best rider ever- my coach will tell you I'm not!!!) but I think I have a good feel through my seat and legs and hardly ever touch the bit. Yesterday I had no reins and although lunging the horse, my coach wasn't helping me and I managed to get Rain into a collected trot (sitting- today my legs are screaming at me :pray: ) an extended trot, and a canter-to-walk. If I owned this horse I wouldn't be using a bit- or bridle.... perhaps??? My coach is genuinely open to new concepts, she has studied a bit of Parelli, clicker training and overall lets me speak my mind and we have great conversations on the topic of training methods. My coach is a strong believer that every horse is an individual and you needn't force a horse into anything as if they will not do what you wish it is usually because they don't understand. She refuses to use whips or spurs as she claims those aids only cause unhappy horses and if a rider needs a whip or spur something has gone wrong in their education. Her five (or six...?) year old Rocky Mountain Horse came to her with a Parelli background and she worked on ground work for a year, waited until her horse was about a month away from four to start her and has never rushed her. Right now this horse is contentedly working at a walk/trot level and doesn't know how to canter. My coach believes that her horse, Velvet, needs to develop the right muscles and become mentally ready to canter so she is waiting until she can collect, lengthen and laterally move in the walk and trot before moving on. Today she offered for me to ride Velvet (YAY!!!) because she said she'd never seen my seat so strong and she says I can handle my reins independently enough to not spook her :) As for what part of Canada I'm based in, I'm in one of the Atlantic provinces- try and guess which one!!!

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:27 pm 
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DignityHorse,

First, welcome :D !

Second, I envy that you are young and already starting down a classical path with what sounds like a very solid and sympathetic instructor. I've come to classical concepts much later in my life. To me, classical is the original "Natural Horsemanship".

Third, if you are taking lessons on school horses, don't beat yourself up about bit vs bitless. I get the feeling that Rain is not yours? Until you own or lease your own horse and can make those decisions for yourself it's a bit hard to decide to be bitless when you need permission from those who actually own the horses. Just keep learning what you are learning and one day you'll be a blessing in the life of some lucky horse. Age is a factor as well. Sometimes kids would like to explore a different way with horses and parents say no. Partly because, until you learn how to argue your point in a way that makes sense to everyone around you, getting permission might be tough. So don't sweat it.

Fourth, most competitions require bits. So deciding to go bitless at this point is also, often, a commitment to not competing. I get to go to a couple fun shows put on by our local saddle club each year because they instruct the visiting judges to allow bitless bridles.

I hope you learn lots here and enjoy your time here. Poke around all the topics and ask questions! And again...WELCOME.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 5:07 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:32 pm
Posts: 10
Thanks Karen! :) It means a lot to me. My coach is awesome, she's patient and kind and we have many good discussions. My ride on Velvet was awesome! I think I'm converted to gaited horses! They're so smooth.
I bought the book "Gallop To Freedom" and I highly recommend that everyone interested in training dressage here check it out! It not only has insights into the lives of these extraordinary individuals but also shows that playing silly "games" is great for Haute Ecole! I'm not quite done it yet but I know I now admire Ms.Delgado and Mr.Pignon as two wonderful horsepeople.
I played some games with Rain two days ago- just for fun! Rain was following me like a puppy and came with me to eat grass and I just relaxed with him.
Glad to know I'm not going to be banned :) I think the NHE forum would've sent me packing long ago!

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