The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 3:10 pm 
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Collection & Flexing of the poll

Collection
Collection, comes from the rotating of the pelvis, the hind legs under the bodymass, the hocks bend, The abdominals tugged in, the spine bend, the withers lifted, the upper muscle of the neck carrying and as a result the head drops in the poll.

Collection comes from training the body; shoulder in, circles, serpentines, corners, transations, moving backwards etc.
Mostly in free groundwork and some in the saddle.
Collection is as much a result as it is a goal.

Flexing the poll
The flexing, however, we use for the horse to work the uppermuscle in his neck.
It is one of the excersize for Strength and Stretch.
Like the spanish walk is used for balance and stretching the shoulder.

Image
Owen Flexing...watch the upperneck muscle.

As Bianca explaned, learning 'flexing' or ramener as some call it, with a cookie has nothing to do with collection.
Just as pulling the reins has nothing to with collection.

Eventhough the horse would not object to the first 'way' I am sure


Warm regards,

Josepha

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 3:28 pm 
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Thank you :mrgreen:


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2007 1:58 am 
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Is there anything wrong with using a treat to teach a horse to flex his neck? I'm not talking about collection, just flexing the neck as a stretching exercise.

Is it wrong to lure him to stretch his neck with the treat? If that is wrong, is it ok to give him a treat after he has stretched to reinforce doing it? (As you would in clicker training)


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2007 6:37 am 
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I would rather teach the horse to target your hand. This way she will learn how to "earn" the treat, not how to reach for it. I would have a video today but I forgot to delete old photos and the card was full :(


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2007 8:32 am 
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I would not ask and flexing or stretching exercise with reaching for treats because its important the horses itself feels how far he/she can go and the movement has to be "natural" to the horse.
With flexing the poll or stretching the neck I search for a scratching point wich will make a horse flex for example or find a situation in wich a horse stretches its neck. And reward with a treat ofcourse :wink:

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2007 3:23 pm 
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Okay - you DO reward with treat??!! I wasn't quite sure (but I have rewarded some anyway, cause I couldn't really find why I shouldn't).

Thank you! (But where are those scratching points that make them flex?)


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2007 3:28 pm 
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Quote:
Is there anything wrong with using a treat to teach a horse to flex his neck? I'm not talking about collection, just flexing the neck as a stretching exercise.


I first taught Cisco this way...luring his nose toward his chest with a treat. I don't think there is much wrong with this, other than, as has been mentioned, that you may teach the horse to reach for a treat and this may actually develop into very annoying behavior. So if you take care not to let a bad habit develop from it, go ahead and give it a try, but only if you have tried and failed to get the horse to move his nose inward in any other way.

My only caution is that luring with a cookie or treat does NOT give you a cue to work with.

So if you need to use a treat a few times, use your free hand to touch the horse somewhere, like the front of the neck at the base, or use a word cue, or both.

So if you are using the treat, touch the neck, give the veral cue, lure, reward.

If you have to do this more than a very few times, then your timing is off, or you are not being consistent in your physical cue, your body posture, or something....try to be very consistent in everything until the horse understands what you are asking. Always stand in the same place, and in the same way relative to the horse. If you are consistent, your horse will be consitent in his/her responses.

Something you can try before you try luring with a cookie...remembering to keep all things consistent when you ask...touch the base of the neck with one hand (this is where the cordeo would lift against the horse's neck in front), give a verbal cue if you want to use one, and then reach with your other hand and tickle the chin. It may only require that you touch the whiskers. You may have to touch the skin of the chin, or actually tickle a lip. Sometimes you have to touch under the head but above the chin, all the way up to the throat/jaw area....explore your options. Something will make your horse dip the chin in slightly. REWARD THE SMALLEST MOVEMENT, and I do mean the smallest, even if it's a little crooked (like to one side slightly). Several repetitions will result in a bigger movment. If your body position (this includes your posture, your own head position, etc), physical cue and verbal cue remains consistent, you will soon have a nice arch to the neck.

Once you have a consistent and reliable response to your cues, then you can play with it a bit to refine the head position, lengthen the duration, add in the hind legs coming under, looking to see that the back is rounded and that the ramener engages literally the whole horse, and not just the head, and finally, forward movement!


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2008 6:58 pm 
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I have a question about how you got ramener into collection.

Amiro offers collection sometimes during play, rarely but sometimes when lunging and a lot during gymnastic exercises such as shoulder in, circles, bending, transitions, etc. I just never really ask for it, also because I have no idea how to make this clear to him. When he offers it I always reward and he starts offering it more and more but I don't know if that is because he understood that he was rewarded for it or just because he got the muscles for it and he found out by himself it is a nice position to be in and he feels proud when collected.

When I ask for a ramener in halt Amiro always offers it. He likes the exercise, but it is nowhere near collection. As soon as he moves forward again he doesn't seem to understand the cue for ramener. When I ask for it he halts again and takes the right position. That's cute of him, he thinks that is what I mean, but I just don't know how to tell him that I mean something else.

I have the feeling that for Amiro ramener and collection are two complete different things. Is it possible to combine them in a way? Or teach Amiro that the head position of ramener is easy to use in moving when he is collected?

I hope someone can help me, because we are experimenting with this quite some time now. Amiro offers collection more and more but he doesn't seem to see the relation between collection and ramener. That's also why I don't really have a cue for collection now. Though I am always happy when he offers it a cue would make it easier :wink:


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2008 7:47 pm 
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The easiest way is to keep doing exactly what you are doing, but experiment a little more with various ways to ask Amiro to try and find the answer.

You can ask for ramener, then ask for a step forward. If they lose the ramener, then ask for it again, then ask for a step forward. At some point, the horse is likely to combine the two. The trick is to keep asking for the ramener (what ever cue you use) and cue for the step forward at the same time. Reward for the ramener, not the step forward. Keep your focus on the ramener.

Also try walking forward slowly, and as you are walking forward, cue the ramener. Reward for ANY attempt (however tiny) to answer the cue. If might only be a head bob, or perhaps the head comes slightly to one side, but at the same time is moving toward ramener (as if you are doing a shoulder in). Again...reward any attempt, however small.

If Amiro is offering it in lateral movement, then start near a fence, ask for the lateral move toard the fence, then as you reach the fence, maintain your body language the cues the movement, but begin to flow forward as you reach the fence.

Alternatively, you ask for forward movement, and then softly ask for a lateral yield where you know Amiro will offer the ramener, and reward immediately as he begins to offer ramener, but before he really gets set on moving sideways.

A horse will offer ramener much easier in lateral movements, so flowing from lateral to forward (or forward into lateral) is a good place to start from as well.

Be very aware of what your body is doing to cue teh ramener in a standstill, and use it exactly when in movement.

Get it first on the side of the horse he is most willing to offer it, then train the other side when the first side has learned how to do it.

Experiment softly with different touches and different ways to move. Amiro has to stay relaxed. If he gets flustered at all, stop, relax your shoulders and exhale...drop all your energy. Softly touch him and re-group, then try again.

There is no single, solid way to accomplish it. Just use the basics you already have (or that Amiro is offering) and play with it. It will happen! Just remember to reward very, very tiny tries.

I hope this helps?

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2008 7:59 pm 
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Hey Karen -- Stardust and I have started to try and connect the dots between ramener and collection, and I wanted to say that what you just wrote helped me enormously!

(Hopefully it will be helpful to Els, too...but you've already got one person with a little lightbulb going on over her head...thanks!)

:-)

Leigh

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:47 am 
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I second everything that Karen said! :D

I have wondered about this as well, and it is something that I had to "work" on for a while with Caspian and am just beginning with Deo.

With Caspian, the big breakthrough came when I was running next to him in a straight line. I'd take the treat in my hand, put it behind his chin (while we were trotting), and have him stop (in ramener, because he was following the treat :) ), back up (in ramener), and give him the treat (in ramener). Then I'd take off with him again, and repeat the process. I did this several times. Suddenly, he began anticipating that when my hand was coming up, we were going to stop and back with ramener and he'd start tucking his nose as he trotted. Much praise and treats! That was the day of breakthrough for him, and he made progress by leaps and bounds -- even that day -- in moving in a more collected state.

For Deo, I'm finding that lateral is when she starts softening her neck. If I lure her back with the treat in a similar manner to above, but while we're doing something a little lateral (like shoulder-in, or are at least THINKING about it... we don't do it yet...) she gets very soft and starts moving with an arched neck.

Hope that helps! Great question!

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 4:57 pm 
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Karen thank you so much for your answer! You have this great talent to write something wodn in a way that it seems to make sense to everybody and everybody understands it! It sure helps me, though I still have some questions left now :lol:

Because when I ask for ramener Amiro puts his head in a certain position but he is not collected. His weight is still in the front and his back is hollow. When I ask exactly for the same thing when moving I am a little bit afraid that I will get a false collection from Amiro. That's why so far I saw collection and ramener as two different exercises. I was hoping a bit that Amiro would collect more and more when we did more ramener, but he doesn't :lol:

I am a little afraid that after some time he will hold his head in the right position when walking, but that his body is not collected then. Maybe that doesn't really make sense and his body will follow his head after some time, but I don't know if it is so good for his body when he is flexing but not collected in movement.

Hannah, thank you too! It's nice to read you started with moving and after that halted and asked for ramener, I'd have first asked for ramener and then try to add movement, but that wouldn't really have worked probablt. Thanks!
And Amiro, like Deo, seems to find his collection much easier in lateral work.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 6:59 pm 
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Hanna, it makes perfect sense because the two halves...the front and the back can be disjointed or disunited. In fact there is also that third important part...the mind. This I think, you have covered very well and already know how to tell Amiro that you admire his pride and his strength.

So how to get the back end (the collection engine) to assist or drive the front end (the ramener or relaxation engine)?

Goat on a mountain, and the lateral exercise. The lateral work - the shoulder in and leg yields while in ramener, help not only to strengthen the driving engine, but also help strengthen the stretching and relaxation capability of Amiro as well.

But you should keep doing it all...a little here, a little there and keep it all mixed up, not concentrating on any one exercise too much in one session. Have you taught Amiro the Goat on a Mountain? I can't remember. :oops:

But you can ask him at a stand still to first lower his head to the ground (or nearly so), then to step under from behind just a little, then ask for ramener. Then walk out of it.

This is a wonderful stretch and will give Amiro a feel for the rounding of his body. Over time, you ask him to step under further (literally, until his back feet can touch his front feet). Still with his head very low while he sets it up. This is really quite easy for Arabians. They are very flexible and the shorter back makes this easier as well. This of course relies on him not having any injury that would prevent him from doing it.

Also over time, once he has learned to step under completely, you can then begin to ask him to raise his head more when you ask for ramener. At first he will need to keep his head very low, but over time he will be able to raise the base of his neck more and more. So in the beginning, his head and neck are curling under, well behind the vertical. Keep an eye on his balance so he doesn't curl so far that he falls over! And only ask him to hold it a few seconds and then walk him forward out of it.

As Amiro develops his Goat, this will mean that you are developing a cue to cause it to happen. So then you can ask for it, ask for ramener, walk forward for several steps and then ask for the Goat again. So he stretches forward into the walk, down into the goat, then forward into the walk, etc.

In time, you can then walk along beside him, ask for ramener and ask him to try to do a Goat while moving. He won't be able to, exactly (not at first), but you watch for any attempt by him to simply step more under himself as he walks (because you have asked him to), and reward for it. This takes careful observation, but dont' be afraid to reward even if you're not sure he's actually tried to step under more. It won't hurt anything!

I said long ago that I train both ends and work toward the middle. I still think this is exactly what I do. At some point the back half connects to the front and you get a Goat with Ramener and eventually into movment, it becomes an attempt to piaffe or passage.

If you watch my little Goat on a Mountain video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx1k1n1vNIo
You will see that Tam drops his head in order to step his hind feet under. Then when I reward him, he raises his head to get the treat? This works really well!

And since you have all the patience in the world, I have no doubt that you will get it in no time.

It's all about taking all these little single behaviors and playing with ways to put them together.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:02 am 
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Hi Els!

You have a very valid point about ramener in movement not quite being collection. Horses can certainly have their necks arched and still have hollow backs, trailing hind legs, etc.

However, for me, it worked very well to begin in ramener, because when the horse is in ramener, the rest of the body follows into collection MUCH easier. For example, if you were asking for shoulder-in (a fabulous collecting exercise), and the horse was NOT in ramener, likely they would be pretty stiff and not collect well at all. But simply putting the horse in ramener (while not collection itself) would make it infinitely easier for him to collect in that shoulder in. Ramener isn't collection, but lets the horse find it.

I've found this in most training methods, including "traditional" classical dressage. I took some lessons with a fabulous classical trainer and Grand Prix rider who is simply phenomenal (not saying this to brag, but to show that it was a very respected person who suggested this) and one of the very first exercises she has you do on the horse is a very quiet softening of the horse's poll and neck. She wants the horse to very softly give to the bit and arch his neck -- ramener. She knows this isn't collection. She knows it isn't true throughness. But it's a critical component for teaching the horse softness through his body so that true collection begins to come.

So I guess what I'm saying is, don't worry too much if Amiro is walking with only his neck arched and nothing else collected. Doing Karen's wonderful Goat exercise, teaching Amiro to pick up his legs higher (Spanish walk and hind leg Spanish walk), lateral work, etc, will all cause him to collect in the most beautiful and proud manner. :D

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:29 am 
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Karen wrote:
It's all about taking all these little single behaviors and playing with ways to put them together.


YES!! Ain't that the truth!

I LOVE that creative process!! When things come together, it is soooo sweet!

Brenda

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