The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 11:52 am 
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The bow and the back crunch are two stretching exercises that stretch the horses muscles both in the topline and in the underline. Because both frontfeet and hindfeet do the same thing and stand at the same distance all the time, it's an even, total stretch; there's no left or right stretch.

Stretching is the same in horses and people; when you get out of bed and are asked to run 100 metres, you will do better (and less painfull!) if you stretch before. You'll become more supple because as your muscles are stretched out, they find it easier to contract again. Therefore it's not a bad idea to teach the bow and back crunch before or at the same time as you're teaching higher levels of collection like the piaffe. Especially the back crunch is of a lot of importance for that, as in collection you fold all the hipjoints together in small, sharp angles all the time. If you have a way to stretch them out again regularly too, your horse will become less tired and pained by it. If you ask for a collected movement, then a back crunch and then the collected movement again, you will see that the second is better than the first: the horses' muscles are free to contract again. Muscles get stronger by shortening and stretching repeatedly, than by staying contracted for a longer period of time. So stretches actually help get the muscles stronger even though the exercises themselves don't collect the horse.


The bow (front crunch)
Image
The bow is an exercise in which the horse lowers his shoulders to the ground, with his frontlegs stretched forward near horizontal, and the hindlegs standing straight under the body. Because the frontlegs are stretched out like that, the shoulderjoints all open up very wide: the shoulderblade rotates upwards to nearly horizontal, the angle with the upper arm bone (humerus) gets bigger and the angle between the humerus and the ulna too. Because this is such a mighty stretch, it can take a while before the horse performs it really low to the ground - and also if he is stiff on one side, his bow will become less deep. And because of this opening up of the entire shoulder, the horse will achieve more freedom in his frontlegs when moving - and will get a better Spanish walk, extended trot or passage for example.

With some trainers you see that they let the horse stand stretched out first before they ask the horse to bow, but that means that the hindlegs stay stretched behind the body too, while they should at least take over some of the bodyweight in order to not overload the frontquarters when they stretch down and out. You can teach your horse the bow by asking him to follow an(empty!) hand that slowly moves towards and between his frontlegs - and and reward in a normal position again when he does! This way he does stretch his frontquarters and frontlegs out, but his hindlegs remain engaged under the body -and still bear the bodyweight. At first you still ask him to touch your hand, then you can add the cue for this exercise by - for example - patting with your hand on his rump, touching there with a whip or merely gesturing towards the ground to ask him a bow. Over time you then not only to ask him deeper and deeper, but also to stay longer in the bow before you ask him to get up again.


Back crunch
Image
In the back crunch the horse essentially lowers his pelvis to the ground, with his hindlegs stretched out behind the body and the frontlegs standing straight under the shoulder. Because the hindlegs stretch out behind the body, the joints in the hindquarters between pelvis, humerus and tibia open up and the muscles that are tying those together stretch open. It's a really good way of stretching the horse between and before collected exercises, because in real collection on the spot, like in piaffe, pesade and levade, the horse not only moves his hindlegs further forward (tying the hindquarter joints together in strong, sharp angles) but also rotats the tail-end of the pelvis downward-and forward by shortening muscles in the belly. Only with a movement back and out of both the hindlegs at the same time like in back crunch or a fast gallop you stretch that back and up again.

You can teach your horse the back crunch when he has learned to lift his frontlegs on a touch of your hand or whip. You teach this exercise by asking his frontlegs to step forward while his hindlegs stay in place - and staying further and further out and behind the body. You can touch the frontleg of your horse with your whip to ask him to lift it and then gently touche the front of the leg and on the ground in front of it, to ask it to place itself back on the ground a little more forward. Then you reward him, and ask the other leg to do the same. It can take quite some time to teach to the horse, and some people therefore shorten that time by placing the foot forward with their hand or foot, but when the horse does it all by himself in his own tempo, it's safer because the back crunch is quite a heavy stretch and you don't want to force a horse into that.

Edit by Romy:
The compliment (bow on one knee)

As there are wonderful instructions on how to learn doing the compliment in this thread, I will insert a picture of that too to prevent some of the confusion about the terms.

And there is another sticky that specifically deals with the compliment: Bow on one knee


Image

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Last edited by admin on Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:58 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 1:50 pm 
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Thank you for the information! Evita tended to go and "sit" on her head so I ask her to move forward her front legs before the bow. Her nose lowers to her hooves and does not bend under the front. Can in this position the weight shift enough to the hind do you think? I'll try to make a picture. Do you have pictures of these exercises? Maybe useful for clarification?


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PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 3:02 pm 
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What you're doing sounds like the bow just as well, so no worries there. ;)

There are a lot of different ways to teach the bow, but indeed on of the things is that horses can take their heads so far backwards behind the legs when bowing that they put their heads on the ground. That's the point when I start rewarding when they take their head back up again while staying bowed so that it's lifted a bit again and moved forwards.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:42 am 
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Obviously we don't want our horse's to think we want their face in the dirt- but it may feel good as part of the stretch to keep their head low. When the head comes up they get hollow.

Just thinking out loud. I've never even tried this type of bow yet. (my mare bows with one leg folded, but I hate putting her weight on a knee. ouch!

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:47 am 
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That's indeed the two ways of thinking about it: one is that you should get the head as low as possible in order to keep the back up and round, because otherwise he hollows his back. The other way of thinking is actually allowing the horse to hollow his back, because this is a stretch of the muscles you want to train. And muscles only grow when they both contract and suspend.

I don't have a choice yet as Blacky chooses the deep one (not with his head on the ground by the way), but the Stretch also hollows his back, and I'm not too worried about that. I've noticed that when i ask for the stretch (with hollow back), his collection gets better after that.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 10:34 pm 
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It is awesome to think that hollowing the back (not in motion mind you) can be a beneficial exercise. It makes sense, but initially went against my traditional ideas of getting the back up.

Yes my muscles stretch better after being contracted and contract better after being stretched. Duh, I guess my horse would be the same way!

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 3:52 pm 
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While teaching this to Brandy, she didn't want to shift her weight back onto her hindquarters. So I brought her head farther back so she would start to move back. Now she puts her weight beautifully onto her hindquarters, but most of the time she bends one leg to get a deeper stretch, instead of leaving both legs straight out. I'm not sure how to change that. :oops: She LOOVES this stretch, and I see her do it in the pasture sometimes. But before we start she always does this (like her own warm up). So I am not even asking for a deep stretch, so I don't know how to correct her. :?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 5:59 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2007 5:44 pm
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I really don't understand the back crunch...does it look the same as the bow??
Or even better...can somebody post a picture of a what it looks like... :roll:

The bow I understand...

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 6:10 pm 
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Back crunch:

Image

We had quite a lot of it two weeks ago, when it became Titum´s favourite exercise. ;)

I think that there is also a picture in the AND Encyclopedia in the Research Material section... :)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 6:24 pm 
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I've pasted them into the first message. I had quite forgotten that we had pictures of them in the Encyclopedia


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 8:37 pm 

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thank you thank you....now it's all clear...and now I will chack the encyclopedia first!!

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:40 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:42 pm
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Location: Lenart, Slovenija
http://konji.info/modules/coppermine/albums/userpics/13945/1%7E39.jpg

This is how a girl in my country does the bow. I tried to explain that it is wrong and how she can get it right (even with photo material of a correct bow), but she only kept smiling at me. People see something on the internet then find it interesting but no one learns to do it the right way. Very sad. It's not that hard and it makes so much fun.

There's a exception too. ;) A girl little younger than me. She has an islandic mare and they are doing a lot of groundwork now. I've already showed her this forum and she's very enthusiastic about it. :)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 10:51 pm 
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It is very unique! But as long as it doesn't hurt the horse, I don't know that I would say it is wrong.

I don't think I could get my horse to do that! :D


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:07 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:42 pm
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Location: Lenart, Slovenija
Yeah, but in my opinion, this horse is going to crash every minute. He is not straight (the front legs and his back) and it seems like he goes only after the cookie in the hand no matter what. The hind legs dont wear as much weight as they could. I don't know, but it just doesn't looks right to me. Maybe I'm wrong, no idea. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:24 am 
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It looks a bit akward, but this is just the learning stage of a much used method to teach the bow. It's true that the horse isn't balanced and has his front feet irregular, but that's because he is learning how to balance himself better. Also it doesn't look like he's chasing food, as her hand seems to be empty: even better!

So like Karen, I don't see anything wrong with it. I would think it was dangerous if she would have been holding the leadrope between the frontlegs and 'pulling' the head down and back. Then you seriously risk putting the horse off-balance and bringing him to a fall. I think this horse will very soon learn how to straighten himself out. ;)


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