The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2007 12:48 am 
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danee wrote:
Okay you guys HAVE to check out this thread and you will completely understand the whole belly vs back thing!

The muscles that raise the back are UNDER the spine- not he whole way to the belly, but not above the spine either. The horses that are inverted have strong tone tense back muscles0 we want loose flabby back muscles.

Go to www.equinestudies.org and read the articles "Lessons from Woody" and "True Collection".


Great site, Danee, and how it's explained over there is as I have learned it too. Thanks! :D

And before I forget: cool artwork, Ania! :D


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:01 pm 

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Quote:


(Photo removed.. see first of series in album instead..
http://picasaweb.google.com/windhorsesue/Collection)

Sue



I finally am getting time to read some of the material. Instead of calling this collection (in the photos up above), because it's not, we should be calling it "Balance". I feel before any horse can start learning to collect, they must be balanced. This means that the whole body is fluid even though the weight is still on the forehand. The "balance" needs... it has too come first. Which I think we all agree.



There is a lot we can learn from Alexander as far as the relationship goes and his ideas are great, I still have questions about it. Time will tell, as I grow and my own horses grow.

Try to study as many pics as you can and just keep on reading everything that you can get your hands on.

Collection doesn't come from a standstill, so to flex the head at a standstill isn't right. It's just a headset. It's the same headset that I see a lot of show people do. I feel we can, give them the idea of where we want the head, but to train that, I feel is very wrong. The head will place in the right place, as soon as, the weight gets shifted back.

I am sure, we have all seen this, when our horses get to playing. It's a matter of developing and stregthening the topline. Which not to repeat again, but I did... :D

Study as many pics as you can especially from people who have been teaching the NHE way and on this forum, you'll notice that the head is actually being placed behind the vertical. I'm not bashing anyone, but just trying to get how I feel about this training. I wish I had pics to go along with this, but I feel that I would make people sad or feel bad, and that's not what I'm trying to do. So please bare with me and my thoughts.

Back to the headset... When this is taught with no movements. There is usually too much tuck. This is putting the horse behind the vertical. Look closely at the neck and if you see a hump that's where the break is. This is because the horses are being taught a headset and doing this at a standstill...not a good idea. This can also happen by forcing the headset with the reins. We must go back to focusing on the hindquarters and then things will start to come together, but we must have balance with the front and back legs otherwise, the horse isn't even ready to start collecting.

I have started out with just giving the horse the idea where his head should be but that's it, I'm not going back and back and back to show him, because he isn't collected and horses are very quick to making a habit. I want the head to come into place when his body is ready not before it's ready.

I have also questioned the phrase "if the horse doesn't feel comfortable then he isn't going to do it" Well, unfortunately that's not true either. And I do believe that all of you have agreed on this. Horses can be so willing and then we end up still destroying them, even with us doing this with no bridle or halter. We can still make a mess of things. I see this more in the headset and the stretching. I've seen horses on their tippy-toes doing a stretch. Their feet should always be flat on the ground. My other concern is teaching them to park. Many of the stretches are to the extreme that it looks more like a Tennessee Horse "Parking" I don't see this healthy and again the stretch has become too much of a training exercise than a stretch.

Again, please don't take this the wrong way.

I'm trying to put my thoughts out there so we can discuss these issues that are going through my head not yours. I'm not bashing anyone...I'm just trying to sort out my thoughts...
:D
Thanks
April

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2007 6:27 pm 
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Brave post, April, and a lot of good points in it!

I can't see the photo's, but I do think that you're right about 'balance'. I call it physical relaxation (yes, your word is better 8) ), others call it something else. It's the point when the horse relaxes wrong tension in the muscles and starts moving his back, neck and legs in an unrestrained way. For me the vital exercises to getting the horse to realise how he can be balanced/physically relaxed, are shoulder in and the bending on the circle.

When the horse bends his head, neck and body to the right, he stretches the left side of the body and shortens the muscles on the right side, and the other way round. When he starts doing so, you actually see that he will lengthen his frame at first, before is is strong enough to shorten the muscles on both sides of his body simultaneausly - and equally! - in order to reach real collection.

But before the horse has the ability to reach that state, he will be experimenting with various poses, getting his neck too deep, too high, too stretched out, too curled up.. And that all depends on his built too. Sjors is short and square, and will curl up like a ball if he's balanced, but not really collected yet. Blacky is long and weak in the back and will rather bend at the wrong place in his neck, 'nodding' like that in movement, while keeping his neck stretched out. You're not going to prevent that from happening (without ropes, bridles and other stuff that is ;) ).

So I would rather not use that to judge horses (or people ;) ) on, but see it as work in progress. It is a clear sign that at that moment the horse isn't balanced/physically relaxed enough to really collect in the correct way. Our job as a trainer is then to guide the horse back to that balance, stretch the muscles again and try to reach real collection. The only thing that's important, is that you know how to do that. If you have flexing the poll on a voice cue and expect that if getting your horse to collect in walk, trot and canter, then you will face some problems because your walk and trot and canter need to be balanced first in order to do so. Of course flexing the poll at halt is very good, as it teaches your horse that this is what you are looking for in the end, and also that this stance is good, positive and not painful (anymore). But getting correct flexion in collected movement is something else.

That was was I missed at NHE, thoughts on how you can restore your horses' balance in movement and train his body, get rid of stiffness and crookedness in movement, so that the collection would have a sound basis in movement too. For example, Alexander explains on the Principles dvd that he teaches his horses to canter very slow and collected first before beginning to lunge. With a long horse like Blacky, that's never going to work: he can canter really slow, but by trashing his head up in order to cause enough lift for each canter-jump. Just flapping with a cordeo or tapping his hindlegs with a whip won't fix that: first he needs to get his movements balanced enough through bending exercises to be able to give a real collected canter. He needs the lungeing, the bending, the stepping under and collecting one hindleg at a time in order to be able to reach real, straight collection in the end. Stretching exercises at halt like taught in NHE are nice, but they don't improve his self-carriage and balance in walk, in trot or canter. Teaching the horse to be balanced and straight in halt is great, but you should also teach him all that in movement, in every new gait, every new exercise again.

That was what I missed in the lungeing-work on the principles dvd too: Alexanders horses are trotting and cantering very collected and look very impressive, but when you look at the way their body is following the circle they are walking, you see (collected) counter bending (nose to the outside instead inside of the circle) and hindlegs walking more to the inside than the frontlegs, so without real bending through the ribs and without really engaging the hindlegs in a proper way. The results still are amazing, but when you have a physically more demanding horse, that might just be the reason why you're not getting collection at all. When I look at Blacky, he's a good example for that. His body just doesn't allow me to get lazy ;) on the flexing, bending and gymnasticing and instead just focus on a nice curled neck and jumpy frontlegs. He won't be able to reach then in a correct way without this balance. And even though those curled high necks look very impressive, for me it's just not enough if the hindquarters are trailing out in order to get out of real collection.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2007 3:03 pm 
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Study as many pics as you can especially from people who have been teaching the NHE way and on this forum, you'll notice that the head is actually being placed behind the vertical. I'm not bashing anyone, but just trying to get how I feel about this training. I wish I had pics to go along with this, but I feel that I would make people sad or feel bad, and that's not what I'm trying to do. So please bare with me and my thoughts


If no head gear is on the horse, then the head isn't necessarily being placed behind the vertical, but rather the horse may be reinforced for holding the head in the wrong place, or, it is just the place the horse is comfortable being at this time. It's compex and as Miriam says, it's a process...a work in progress.

Cisco was taught "the pose" at the standstill, but it is only a starting point. It isn't a goal in and of itself. In movement, it varies from low and very much behind the vertical, to a more classic dressage position of vertical, or when needed, slightly in front of the vertical. In watching the Walter Zettl videos, he points out that the free walk,the working trot and the extended canter (?)one has to allow the horse to come in front of the vertical for proper balance (or the extension does not happen properly or comfortably). This does not mean the horse is not collected, but it means the movement doesn't require a lot of collection and the horse should be allowed to move freely and comfortably and if that means the nose moves, then it moves.

Tamarack, of course, tucks even tighter than Cisco in the static pose, but just as with Cisco, as I make the transition of that pose into movement, then nature takes over and Tam finds his comfort zone. Again, initially, this is a lower head set and in his attempts to maintain the pose, he will come behind the vertical. But as he learns to move and to bend through lateral work, his head takes a natural position of being more vertical and a little higher.

One of the things I like (no, ADORE) about this forum is that truely, there are no experts. Yes, different people here have vast knowledge, but not specifically in how to make all this work without tack or without bits. Everyone here is exploring. No one here has achieved exactly what Alexander has done. If they had, then I think this would be a far less interesting place, because discussing things with people who know it all already is really no fun. It is instruction...not discussion. I prefer the exloratory discussion that lets me feel like I am breaking new ground for myself (not for others) and not just trodding old, hard ground that has been trampled already into a too familiar road.

A paved highway is great if you want to get from point A to point B in a hurry. But for adventure and challenge, one has to take the little dirt paths where few have gone before you.

I have been midly criticized on a clicker list for teaching a static pose to my horse...but as I explained there, it is just step one. Then it flows into movement and there it changes into whatever it needs to be. When I have done this with Tamarack, I don't just look at the head, but I involved the hind legs as well once he had the head part pretty good. So the "pose" begins to involve the shoulders, the back, the haunches. I see it as a stretching exercise...not just training a head set. So within that stretch, I will not micromanage the head. ehind, in front, or absolutely on vertical is not was earns the reward...it's the try, and ultimately, the involvement of the whole horse in that stretch.

When the first steps of movement come into play, the head immediately changes it's position. Over time, it all comes back together...but in the end, it's not just having the head/back/shoulders engaged in the movement, it is also that they are engaged and yet relaxed. The poll has to e loose and not tense. So if I don't micromanage that once movement is added, then Tamarack (as Cisco did) will find that point where it is loose and relaxed. If I try to micromanage it, even without a rein, the poll tenses as he comstantly seeks the position where I will click...so I avoid that. So if he falls ehind the vertical for time...so what? If he comes in front of it, so what? Eventually it will fall neatly where it should as all the other parts of the movement fall into balance.

So long and short of it, in my mind, there is no harm in teaching "the pose" as long as one does not try to make that pose move stiffly forward. It has to flow forward. Within that flow, it will change many times. Allow it to change. Allow it to flow.

As you say, it is the rest of the horse that ultimately dictates "collection", but I find it useful (so far) and interesting to teach the horse that somewhere around that poll, is a key component to what we're ultimately shooting for. They just don't know to begin with, that I want it relaxed. They figure it out.

Cisco has a lovely relaxed poll. I expect Tam will too, eventually.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2007 4:27 pm 
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Well, actually I think we have a lot of experts on our forum already, in various fields of horsemanship (Parelli, clickertraining, classical dressage, western riding, the seat, tricktraining etc.)! What I like about this forum is that all these experts share their knowledge without judging others or creating a personal cult - and that they're all realistic enough to realise that what works with them and their horses, doesn't necessarily work with every horse or trainer, and not on every day either.

So there is a huge amount of information and wisdom over here already, and the adventure for me is that everybody is encouraged to create their own reality with that. And I learn more and more, every day I am on this forum! :)


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:05 pm 
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Miriam, what I said, I must have said very badly....I MEANT to say that where there is a great deal of knowledge here, that no one here has specifically done what Alexander has done...that everyone is creating their own path to get wherever they wish to go (or those like me that haven't a clue where I'm going and are just enjoying the adventure for it's own sake).

It wasn't my intention to imply that no one was expert in anything at all here.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:56 pm 
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I didn't think you meant it negative at all! :D But your reply really set me into thinking about what it was that made this forum so much fun to be at for me. Just reading everybodies diaries already gives me lots of ideas all the time, especially yours, with your two very different training companions. 8) Sometimes by reading I get new ideas about exercises, sometimes about the direction or aim of our training, and sometimes about tai-chi ;) or the philosophy behind training and playing with horses. And I think you're right in that everybody seems to create his own path. Maybe that's the most important thing, because it doesn't allow you to blindly follow a great leader (blind to your horse, and to yourself) but instead it turns you to yourself and your horse for your training. :)

So no offence taken at all. On the contrary, thanks for your ideas! :D


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2007 10:58 pm 
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Quote:
(Photo removed.. see first of series in album instead..
http://picasaweb.google.com/windhorsesue/Collection)


The photo of the gray horse...with the caption "not very happy about the pressure", is just like Tamarack was feeling about cantering. Too much pressure!

So you know the old adage, "when the student is ready, the teacher comes along"...well, just as I was lamenting about the pressure it took to get Tam to canter (and it wasn't as nice as the gray horse in the photo even, because he was out of balance and not in a frame of mind to even think about balance), then on a clicker list, someone posted a youtube video about gait transitions with a target stick.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BbOXlOnqoA

Ooooooo....THAT was the idea I needed. Tam would like this very much, and if I free shape it, all the better. I think he will be cantering in no time, and it will be all his own idea rather than mine! Well, at least he will think it is...


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2007 11:08 pm 
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Wow, thanks for the video! It seems that more of us have problem with canter now, maybe it's because of autumn? ;)

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2007 11:41 pm 

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Quote:
Karen stated:

If no head gear is on the horse, then the head isn't necessarily being placed behind the vertical, but rather the horse may be reinforced for holding the head in the wrong place, or, it is just the place the horse is comfortable being at this time. It's compex and as Miriam says, it's a process...a work in progress


I think you hit it right on the nose. It doesn't matter whether it's with head gear or not, it's reinforced and sometimes it's reinforced behind the vertical. I have seen pics where the horse will keep his head behind the vertical, because it was trained to have it there. This is without head gear. Even if, the head is comfortable for the horse, doesn't make it right. It's diffinitely a process...I totally agree. This is my concern about training the headset way before the collection happens. Collection can't happen without movement and so the head can't be placed in the right spot until there is movement. Right?

I totally agree that showing them where you want the head is different than training the horse to position his head in whatever spot you want it to be.

The other concern is that if I train their head to be where it's comfortable for them at a standstill, later on when the muscles actually develop and change, I'm afraid that the horse will not change his headset because I've been so certain of where his head should be and not worried about where the hindlegs are placed and where the muscles will develop and change.

This is my concern...

Thank-you for all of your input...

April

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 11:08 pm 
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I've never taught Evita a pose or headset and she did this all by herself in movement. Her head is often placed behind the vertical but for her this is a normal posture. Many things depend on the build of the horse also.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 3:39 pm 

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Bianca wrote:
I've never taught Evita a pose or headset and she did this all by herself in movement. Her head is often placed behind the vertical but for her this is a normal posture. Many things depend on the build of the horse also.


This is the reason why I feel that training the headset isn't a good idea. Evita needs to find her balance and when a horse is behind the vertical there needs to be more impulsion from the hindquarters to lift the front end.

Horses that aren't strong yet, will shift from being behind the vertical to being above the vertical and then finding the right position.

This is my concern, is that we teach and train this headset before the muscles are developed and before the hindlegs are strong then the head is always going to be in the wrong place. When these muscles do develope, the head will have been so trained and it's been so inbedded into their brain that they will not find the proper place.

Is this making sense?

Even though there is no restraint on our horses, it's still easy to position them wrong. Once we have their trust, they are very willing to do. Does this make it right? Some horses will only do what is comfortable, but I believe we have to encourage them to do the exercises right, not just what the horse feels is right. Building the top line is hard work. Getting those hindquarters under themselves and have enough impulsion is also hard work, especially in the beginning. Our horses would rather, not put that much energy into it in the beginning. It's hard...this is where the horse is always right is not always right...

This doesn't mean I will stop listening to my horses, this means I have to pay even more attention and not over do anything. Only ask for small steps...Rosie is starting lateral work and I'm asking of this without restraint...this is where it's going to be interesting...can I do this properly so the muscles develop without having to put a halter on her...time will tell...

Is this making sense?

April

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:10 pm 
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Indeed, train the hind and belly for putting more weight on the hindquarters and the head and neck will come in the posture it should at that moment.
The head and neck position is maybe also a valuable reflection of the way your horse moves from behind. Not to disturb ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:32 pm 
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For me personally, I look at what benefits the pony doing it at that moment. For example; Sjors was stiff in the (hollow) back and neck, leaned on the front and didn't use his hindlegs when we got him. From that we went to using the hindlegs and lifting the back - but with the nose behind the vertical and therefore too much weight on the frontquarters. Our next step is to keep the good points, while taking more weight on the hindlegs adn lightening the frontquarters. So if you look at Sjors on one of the video's, yes, you do see an imperfect picture of a pony leaning on the frontlegs - but it's a hughe improvement from what it was before.

So if I may give you advice: it is to focus on the difference between how it was and how it is - not how it should be. See the positive side of the current situation, and improve the less perfect parts. And even when you don't teach your horse to flex his poll at a halt first - your horse will have wrong neck-postures when you start with training at liberty, too deep or too high, and will use his hindlegs the wrong way when teaching to step under, and will tense and hollow his back when you ask for more elevated steps the first time, and will pull his neck up and backwards when you start working on the piaffe or pesade - but I wouldn't focus on that. I would reinforce the horse (and trainer!) because what they do is a great improvement on how they did before (even worse!) - and then start polishing, shaping it into the even better performance. You will never get a good trot, if you don't accept - and stimulate - the bad and medium attempt to trot first.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:59 am 

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Miriam wrote:
For me personally, I look at what benefits the pony doing it at that moment. .



Yes, that makes more sense...thank-you for your input and everyone's input.

April :D

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Horse's idea becomes your Idea...

April


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