The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2007 11:06 pm 
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Well, it's simple when you make it simple, as Romy righteously pointed out. :wink: If you dismember your horse, you'll see that this string running from the back of the skull to the tail, you will see that it actually exists of various tendons with different capacities - and a lot of muscles around them doing similar or opposite things too.

And then there's such a suprising amount of muscles in the horse that we still don't know of what they actually do, and when they do that. The whole question of the belly-musculature (the big muscles that are attached to the thigh-bones and pelvis and then run towards the ribcage) of the horse is still a mystery: one researcher says they only spring into action during the suspension fase of the canter, others state that they are used when collecting the horse. Who knows? I know that I would like to know. :wink:

So don't see this simplification as the One Big Truth (or anything on this forum actually). See it as a temporary fase of understanding, from which you then can search further and learn and discover more. At least that's how I use these symplifications, bigger pictures and overviews of systems in my own head. 8)


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 3:32 am 
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I only read three quarters of this thread so far, but maybe this will help in your general understanding of how the biomechanics work...

If you bring the back up by ONLY lowering the head, than the nuchal ligament and supraspineous muscles become so tightly strung that the horse cannot bring the pelvis under. You need to have a way of bringing up the back while the horse's head is up. But the most important component to get is lifting of the wither and base of the neck. If this peice is missing the rest cannot be correct. In all reality, riding in a cordeo is an excellent way to give the horse the idea of lifting the neck base!

I also find that through lateral bending the horse relaxes the back and lifts it instinctively. When the muscles above the back are totally relaxed, the muscles underneathe (which you can activate through transitions and lateral work)) are than easily able to lift the back AND the base of neck.

The difficulties any trainer has is maintaining relaxation during exuberance! Just like riding is difficult to learn because people are loose in the muscles they need to use, and tight in the ones they need to relax- it is the same with the horse. During tension he tightens and hollows his back. Excitement often brings this tension. Yet if the horse is totally relaxed he is sleeping, and we don't want that either. That is why AND is so exciting- we mentally engage a emotionally relaxed horse and thus achieve what takes years for other trainers to sort out. It takes most trainers years to train the correct muscle groups which may require a bit to do so to literally man-handle, or at least softly manipulate, the horse into the correct position, and than teach the horse to maintain it. It takes us years to develop the relationship, but than the horse figures out the details of biomechanics on his own.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:25 am 
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I can't agree more, Danee. 8)

With Sjors I notice this hollowing and tension a lot as soon as he does anything out of the ordinary. That's why I'm going to work very, very, very slow around the piaffe and passage and collected canter with him. His instinctive reaction is to throw his head in the neck, stiffen the back and have the frontlegs flinging all over the place. Every few training sessions he has a great, really slow and really high collected canter - but too hollow. And a week ago I got these few steps of an amazing passage/Spanish trot - but again too hollow. So instead of pushing these through I try to see if there is any stiffness in the normal work hiding too that could emphasize such a hollowness in the more collected movements. And yes, then it turns out that Sjors is keeping his nose slightly to the outside when trotting on the volte, instead of really bending in through his body.

So then it's back to walk, stepping under on the volte, and then in trot when the walk ik okay, and only then I'll seriously try to work on the passage again, because then I can combine alternate a few high and hollow steps with a few steps of shoulder in in trot and regular Spanish walk which he does without tensio and which indeed lifts the back and relaxes it. This switching all the time between more collected, upwards movement and a relaxed back - we'll just do untill Sjors has found his ideal combination of these three exercises.

By the way, Chasing the Tiger really helps to get a good outline during play too! When introducing new exercises in movement, you'll always get a hollowing at first, and I was puzzling over how to improve Blacky's (hollow) canter again yesterday. At one point cued Blacky to canter on the volte around me with the whip thoughtlessly in front of him. While I was wondering how I could get him to lower his head during canter, Blacky cantered off, right at the whip and started chasing that around me in canter in high speed, with the head almost on the ground. :shock: 8) He actually is so fond of him that I regularly have to protect my whip (our targetstick) because he tries to steal it when he walks next to me, and when chasing it in canter he really grabs it with his teeth, draws it out of my hands and then canters off with it.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:18 pm 
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I'm playing with a Dutch Warmblood colt for a yearnow(almost since weaning). All his maternal siblings learned to stretch on a cirlce after I yield their ribs- when they instinctively stretch I put it on a cue and can later get the stretch without yielding their ribs twenty times. :D But this horse just wasn't getting it- at all. He saw it as me chasing him aways while demanding he stay on a circle- he simply could not figure out that I was only asking the ribs to move :oops: . Finally, thanks to this forum, I started target training instead and now he puts his nose way down to follow the target around the circle- and his changes of direction are in this stretching position too sicne he is still following the target. I also raise the target just to keep him interested, but he is always stretching forwards, forwards, forwards! It is pretty nice. :D

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:29 pm 
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I created a Google notepad: Training the neck back band about this :)

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:15 pm 
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Oh, I just found this thread after Romy pointed it out to Patrice (I think that's who...I've been on too many websites today and my brain is bleeding).

Oh, this is wonderful information, thank you.

And I'm with Donald -- I think that German is far more precise in this kind of language than English is -- perhaps because Germany has been thinking more carefully about how horses move than English speakers have for a while? (Kind of like all of the indigenous peoples words for snow or rain in snowy or rainy places...???...)

I can understand and feel in my own body the distinct differences between dehnen and strecken -- both in terms of where movement originates and in the energy that's held in the body (and accordingly, how the muscles are worked differently) -- something that dancers do, but also don't have a very good language for.

So I vote for using the German!!! :-)

In any event, whatever it's called, this is a really clear and helpful discussion about how to work these muscles. Splendid!

Thanks, all.

:-)
Leigh

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2009 2:30 pm 
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Here is an interesting article sort of conversation between Joni Bentley and Dr. Gerd Heuschmann that I think belongs here too, as they discuss the head, neck, and back in the horse (and human).


http://www.jonibentley.co.uk/articles/less.htm

The relaxing the poll thing with the bit tires me out. No wonder no one understands when the current masters can not explain that this does not have be done with a bit. There are numerous ways to that with a bitless bridle, a cordeo, or just the seat and legs. For instance asking the horse back and forth a copple of times with the seat can have the same effect, just as lateral movement, but okay...

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:34 pm 
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I do think that the most important thing I'm doing with Tam now is a LOT of relaxed, head down work - both on the ground and under saddle. I thought that my biggest challenge would be collection, but it's not at all. I think it's more important and more beneficial to the horse to learn to work with the head down, stretched forward in a relaxed balance. One can always then look for ways (with or without tack) to ask the horse to bring the head up from this relaxed place for a few moments, then ask them to seek the stretch down again, and what you get is moments of relaxed collection that can be built slowly upon. I say slowly for many reasons - for the sake of the horse we don't hurry or we risk losing the relaxation - but also slowly so we might examine and study the movements of our horses from the ground. There is no better time to stare at your horse (because I so often say NOT to stare at the horse) than when they are trotting happily around you in the fdo (forward/downward/out) position. Watch how the legs move, the hips, the footfalls - where the feet land in relation to each other. Slowly encourage more speed in this position and you will see an amazing extension of the reach of the hind legs. Then ask the head to come up and the pace to slow...watch your focus here, but again examine the footfalls, the reach, then head back down and increase the momentum.

If you can then, when you ask the head to come up and the pace to shorten, ask for a few steps laterally away from you (Practice first at the walk, and only at the trot when you have the communication solid), then forward, down, out again. In the lateral steps you might see some nice ramener. Within this lovely, relaxed flow you may find passage.

It has been the hardest thing to teach Tam to open his throat and lengthen his neck (as much as his spanish heritage will allow), and targeting has helped a lot. But Tam and I have found a certain magic in the fdo position. I will know that for any horses in my future, this is where we will begin. For Tam and I, my knowledge is a bit hit and miss, so we sometimes have to step back and do something I didn't know I needed to do - but these last few months of fdo - forward and laterally - has done more to build the muscle on his back. Still a ways to go - but it's also teaching him how to open up his throat a bit as he was tending to put himself behind the vertical (even at liberty). So I could ask for head down, then ask for his head to come up and if I see any hollowing (or suspect it under saddle because it's difficult for me to feel it yet), then we go immediately back to head down. I will do this as long as it takes for him to find the most perfect middle ground for him.

And soon I will post a report on what I'm learning about endotapping, because it, too, is a nice way to teach some horses to drop the head in movement and seems to have some intrinsic benefits that targetting alone may not for more sensitive/anxious horses. Sorry to just tease everyone with that....I'm so busy at work that it's hard for me to find time to be here. But I haven't forgotten!

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:46 pm 
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I could not agree more Karen! :applause: :yes:
And I am very interested in the Endo Tapping for sure. :D

I have lot to tell about training too… but no time, alas.
:sad:

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:09 pm 
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Very good topic!

Karens words really helped me seeing what I'm going through now. I had a really hard time having Ruphina to go low head with bit, with cordeo It doesn't seem to be a problem, she lowers her head immediately lately when I'm riding bitless. When I start doing sideways and transitions her head comes more upward quite easily but when she starts to lower her head, I don't hold her back and let her stretch her neck and back again, she eventually will come upwards more untill it's enough. But we always start with lowering her head which was only possible after 30 minutes when someone was riding with a bit, as soon as bitless she would lower her head and stretch her head straight forward.

Who says you need to have a bit? I'm way better of without one :P

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 2:43 am 
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Jumping in here.

Miriam wrote:

As this tendon is quite unelastic, this means that there is only that much rope to go around in the body: if the head goes all the way to the ground, you can imagine that all the excess rope is pulled forwards to the head through the body. The same happens when the horse curls up his neck totally, like ofr example in the roll-kur: the nuchal ligament is pulled forwards. And by that the nuchal ligament rope is actually pulling back of the pelvis and tail up, instead of down. It un-collects the horse, but it can be a good starting point for very hollow horses because they need to realise that they can lower their head first.

So what you then want is to engage the hindquarters again and start moving towards collection: you want to bring the hindlegs further under, have the joints bend further in movement and therefore rotate the back of the pelvis and tail downwards in order to make the angles between all the hindquarter-joints smaller and store energy in those 'springs' so that the horse can make more upwards jumps when moving - collecting. When the pelvis is rotated however, it pulls at that same nuchal ligament as the head did, but now it is pulled in the opposite direction and with a much stronger force (very logical, the head and neck weigh a lot less than the hindquarters). So that same nuchal ligament rope is now pulled back again as the back end of the hindquarters rotate down. And that causes the neck and head to raise again, as there is only that much room in the tendon.

It's quite logic: a horse who is first introduced to dressage, needs to learn that he can stretch that nuchal ligament and all the upper back muscles, and the easiest way to show him that is by allowing him to stretch his neck down and out. When he starts doing that on his own, you start to teach him that the stretch/pull on the tendon can also be produced by rotating the pelvis, which lessens the weight on the frontquarters and makes the horse able to respond faster. That rotation of the pelvis, through the ligament, causes the nose to lift. The nose then will be around vertical and the tip of the nose is around breast-height. As the horse gets stronger in his hindquarters, he will be able to rotate the back his pelvis further and further down (tail becoming lower in collection), and the head will become higher and higher, but still with the nose around the vertical line.


So, I guess what we are doing with the leaning back exercise (sitting down on hay bale) is teaching him how he can lower his hindquarters, raise his back, and tip his pelvis under. Is this an invaluable exercise? Is this something we should do lots of in the beginning? Of course, being aware of what the horse is ready for and all that.

danee wrote:
If you bring the back up by ONLY lowering the head, than the nuchal ligament and supraspineous muscles become so tightly strung that the horse cannot bring the pelvis under. You need to have a way of bringing up the back while the horse's head is up. But the most important component to get is lifting of the wither and base of the neck. If this peice is missing the rest cannot be correct. In all reality, riding in a cordeo is an excellent way to give the horse the idea of lifting the neck base!


Okay, so what exercises are good for teaching the lifting of the neck? I am sure there are topics for this, but I just love it when people just tell me where they are and I don't have to hunt for them! :funny: :funny:

I am in way over my head!

Ivy

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 6:15 am 
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Ivy, I am a great fan of "range." That is using the horse in ways that condition range of motion throughout the possibilities for that horse at that time. There are no exercises I see in AND ground work or in mounted work that do not apply in some way to this consideration.

If one is not pulling the horse's head up into unnatural positions, and is asking for motion, both in ground work and mounted the development of the neck-backband group is going to take place.

It needs, of course, not just vertical work, but horizontal work that calls for lateral exercises.

That especially, I think, is what to look for in the groundwork and other related folder/forums at AND.

Don't be intimidated, nor that any of this is over your head. It most certainly is not.

Before AND there certainly were effects on the horse that strengthened the neck-backband. It's just that here we approach it in a different way.

My own preferences as I teach others to develop their horses is to focus on forehand and hindquarter turns in place with little or no rein aid. Then circle work, with attention to the horse moving his head and neck freely and encouraged to lower the head, at least below the level of the withers.

I like and encourage loose rein work, whether the rider is using a bit and bridle, a bitless bridle, or hopefully no bridle at all -- so no reins.

I come from (though it's not directly AND related) the Caprilli school of cross country and jumping work, where great freedom to the horse's head and neck is encouraged not just by the hands, but by the seat as well.

The green horse is apt to raise his head and hollow his back, unless his groundwork has encouraged more development of collection and extension - range of motion and range of frame.

The reason I'm not specifically answering your question as to what to look at and read is that there is simply too much and the subject too broad. You can begin almost anywhere, but moving toward the beginning chronologically will probably serve you best.

The founders of AND put a good deal of work into the early forums on related subjects.

You will want to read the one article and thread that I will give direction to. It is on the "neck-backband," or in German, "Nacken-Rücken-Band." Romy felt that to an English speaker it might look odd, but I'm comfortable with it even untranslated to English as it so aptly and precisely, as German often does, describes the group of muscles, ligaments, and I think tendons involved.

You may or may not have read this thread, but if so, I'll offer it again. As you read it I think you'll begin to see how a great deal of what we do already addresses the flexing and strengthening of the Nacken-Rücken-Band.

http://www.artofnaturaldressage.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=621&hilit=nacken

But to be aware of what we are doing is the real trick in all this. We can better organize our plan, our routines with our horses if we understand better what is happening anatomically as we ask things of them.

It's quite a bit to think about as we are actually working with our horses, but hopefully we will find the time to take the time that it takes. Karen has what to me is a wonderful skill of isolating tasks, that is "chunking down," to manageable bits in her training. It's were I often go, Karen's posts, when I find I am just not able to focus enough for my horse. Or in fact for my students.

You'll find both Romy and Miriam, in the thread I've linked to above, go to considerable length to clarify what is taking place around this muscle ligament group. They certainly helped me better understand and appreciate the issues in conditioning the horse, and especially what my bottom had been telling me for years about the horse's back and it's need to rise and to stretch and contract in motion.

I tried to contribute some to the thread myself by citing an authority I have come to trust and respect.

Once you understand better how the Nacken-Rücken-Band works and really what it is I think the ideas will flow for you in planning your conditioning of your horse.

Best wishes,

Donald
Nettlepatch Farm

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:28 am 
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Hi you all! I haven't been here for about a year (several reasons) and now I find this very interesting topic here!

No time to read the hole thread at the moment or to write much, but want shortly to share this:

It is something I think a lot about at the moment, as I have a new horse (Lipizan mare) that I want to ride bitless from the beginning and do "ambitious" dressage with her. I read a lot of books about classical dressage at the moment and talk with people about this (also in a german dressage forum, perhaps the same as you Romy?). Nearly everybody sais you need the bit for this "Spannungsbogen der Oberlinie" in German.

But I feel with my horse (at the moment) that I get this through the noseband! She "dehnt" herself on the rein with it! So I'm very eager to see how we develop and how far we can come with our bitless riding. It would be wonderful to have more positiv role models in this...!

Read you soon

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:53 pm 
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Hi! :) was just thinking about you some days ago :)

Glad you're doing well and looking forward to meet your lippizzaner, wow!!!
:kiss:

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:41 pm 
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But I feel with my horse (at the moment) that I get this through the noseband! She "dehnt" herself on the rein with it! So I'm very eager to see how we develop and how far we can come with our bitless riding. It would be wonderful to have more positiv role models in this...!


Franziska, it is very good to read from you again!! I really want to see photos of your new mare!

You and I have similar goals. I have been very, very lucky to find a few good coaches that believe in what I'm doing (bitless) even though they do not necessarily do it themselves.

One is JP Giacomini, one is Paul Dufresne and one is Ken Schmuland who is a local cowboy with a vast knowledge of horse physiology and the keys to correct collection from studying under Dr. Deb Bennett and others. There are a few others that help me from time to time. None will say that a bit is essential, and some believe it is essential but are at the same time patiently waiting to see what happens with Tam and I.

For those really steeped in the tradition of classical dressage, they do believe that it is necessary for the horse to open in the mouth in order to relax the jaw and therefore relax the poll. I do not feel the same way because it it obvious that there are numerous ways to relax the poll without the action of the bit opening the horse's mouth. To me, it all begins with a relaxed mind. If the horse is relaxed and willing, then that is 80% or more of the puzzle right there.

When I started reading Phillipe Karl more, I really keyed on his lateral flexions and began to learn to use them. Very small lateral flexions that involve the atlas (poll) help to relax it. These flexions can include neck flexions where the neck is bent (to the side) more, but the one thing I check freqently when I ride is whether or not Tam is holding any tension in his poll. I do this with very small head flexions (carefully asking only the atlas to release to one side or the other) for a few strides. So I ask Tam to turn his head to the right for a few strides while traveling straight down the wall, then to the left for a few strides. One rein at a time. These are tiny flexions. If he is holding any unwanted tension in the poll, it is then released. (PS, my friend Paul can see this slight tension at a distance...he's amazing that way).

So the ability to manipulate Tam's poll at my will (with his willing participation of course which is brought about through trust) is the key. I have a few good people still scratching their heads as to why the working of the jaw is not necessary, but they nevertheless are very kindly supporting of me.

Because I like to have this very light and direct ability to manipulate Tam's poll from the saddle, I find that a side-pull type of bridle works better and more directly than the cross under style of bitless bridle. It is a personal preference and I do not have any scientific knowledge really that would say one is definitely better than another. But I use a light jumping cavesson that is only a noseband with rings on either side. Simple and light.

I guess my point is that you do not have to question at ALL whether it is possible, because it simply is. But it's still a fascinating subject to piece together all the physiological aspects of it. Some will say that a horse is simply happier without a bit and that is the reason in itself. But I do believe there is more to it than that. I am not fanatically anti-bit (only for myself, not for others). But you can be sure that it is entirely possible and those that say it isn't are only saying so because they have not experienced it any other way than with a bit.

It is possible. Absolutely. Please do not doubt it.

Now...can we see some photos? Please? :f: :applause:

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