The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:08 pm 
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Reading BlkHrsRider today in her Daily Dairy, thinking about how she describes Bella and how Bella takes care of less skilled and more vulnerable riders.

Having laid off horses for 40 years, after a 20 intense career as a professional trainer, coach, instructor, barn manager, competitor, I was not the least surprised when I came back to horses 4 years ago, that I still had a fairly good seat on a horse.

On the other hand I noticed too there were changes.

At first as I attempted critical evaluation of my seat I assumed that had I been riding regularly in those 40 horseless years my seat would not have changed except possibly for the better.

Now, in the present after than long layoff, I noticed some of the obvious - that muscles and tendons needed to be stretched, flexed, rebuilt, and I had to be conscious of things going on with my body that I had long ago not needed to think about to do them correctly. 20 years on horseback almost daily, many horses a day, will do that to you.

The thing that stood out most prominently though was, I thought, a lack of core strength that made my upper body feel wobble. A video of me riding proved that to be true. I was, compared to my history, wobbling. I blushed when I saw it.

I also resolved to do something about it. Ride more, of course, and do some workout routines for core strength.

Nothing happened. I still wobbled.

Oh, a bit less, but I, who had observed and evaluated my students and teams I coached, could see the details and, damn it, I WOBBLED.


The horse I was working a the time, bomb-proofing under saddle, was something of a wobbler himself, and yet very quick.*

Saddling up one day I missed that my saddle shims had fallen away on this rather high withered horse, and when I mounted up, his first step was a leap sideways and a crowhop.

Yes, I stayed aboard.

Got me to thinking later that had I reacted as a new rider with lots of core strength (usually the case with the young athletic rider) I'd have probably gone bottom up off the horse. What saved me?

Flexibility. That I wobbled. That I did not lack core strength so much as that I could have more time to recover if I was relaxed, as I had learned 60 years earlier as a boy exercising TBs at a racing stable. The TBs and the head trainer sort of pounded the lesson into me. :funny:

At the moment the horse shied from the pain of the gullet coming down on his withers (my bad) I was quite relaxed, and I had a big wobble, but a secure wobble.

I recovered about like one sees a cutting horse rider come from behind a movement of his horse under him and then swing out the other way as the horses dodges back again to follow the steer or cow. They do not lean into the direction of the movement but rather allow themselves to be a little behind it.

This does not just save the rider the strain and stress of trying to, struggle to, remain upright on the horse, but allows for relaxed flexibility. It also allows the horse the same time for recovery as the rider gets.

How is that related to age?

Age beats you into submission. If you haven't learn to bend with the winds and forces of nature you are dead already.

Age makes you flexible if you are a horseman, or horsewoman.

And it shows when the horse shies and bolts. :smile:

Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake.

* An aside: I found over the years that black or brown (black body with brown points) horses tended to be more high strung, more reactive to objects of fear, and quick - very quick. More sensitive to cues, thus trainable to lightness to a very high degree. Always an adventure to ride.

Lighter Greys, duns, whites (both white on darker skin and albinos) all tended to be quieter less reactive horses. Chesnuts (sorrels), and bays, somewhere in between.

Anyone else had this experience with horse colors?

Love is Trust, trust is All
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:24 pm 
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I must say that for me it is not so much about the colour but more about the breed.
As I have a lot of baroque horse experience, they are just so much more sensitive, fast reactive, flexible etc. then the warmblood horses I've experienced.

The warmbloods mostly are bay and dark bay, the baroque mostly grey and light colours...


PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:51 pm 
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Interesting observation, Josepha.

One would think my own Baroque, Altea, an Andalusian, has not proved to be in that mold - until I rode her with boots on her hooves.

She was badly foundered at some point prior to her coming to us.

I could see, when doing circles, on soft ground that she had great strength. She's showed me that close up as well, with neatly executed pirouettes to avoid, in close quarters in a barn, stepping on me. She did it a number of times, and even heavy with foal.

Some months ago I fitted her with boots so that she could move out on the back roads and trails where we live, mostly gravel based for logging trucks. I'd kept her at a walk, of course, with the rare short trot, and her's is amazing, though that's not a surprise to you, I'm sure. It was very pleasant with boots on her. Even more spring and suspension than barefoot.

Coming home and on the surfaced roadway we heard the Elk nearby and she became agitated and much more animated, and began some lateral movement, which I checked with my leg - and suddenly we were "in school." Her passage was most elegant and light all of her immense power suddenly on display.

Even Bonnie, herself the epitome of power and elegance in her play stopped to look in wonder at her mother, Altea.

Quick, light, powerful, sensitive, and responsive - the Baroque, the Spanish horse. This Andalusian with no training. All her life a pasture ornament, aloof and lonely in her lack of human contact until now. Something is changing in her heart and mind.

She's stolen my heart away from the TBs and QHs I was so devoted to in my youth.

All this time we've had her, two years, and she only showed any affection and willingness for contact with Kate. A memory of her breeder who handled her some in her youth. Me, a male, she hadn't much use for except to demand dinner. With me she was poor at boundaries sometimes just walking into me as though I was not there.

I've teased and played and talked with her, and gradually found her more tolerant, but certainly not trusting and attached.

A couple of weeks ago, as I once more offered a little puff of my breath she did not turn away as was usual for her. Then yesterday, with her Bonnie out in the Pasture Paradise, she bored no doubt, while I stood chatting with a student of mine who had come to see Bonnie's progress, Altea walked over to me, unbidden, laid her head across my chest and put her muzzle into my hands. And stood there.

At some point I must have done something that convinced her that I could read her breath as she could mine. She was asking me to put her muzzle on (which she does not care for) and let me out with her daughter.

I bent down, and also raised her muzzle with my hands and softly blew my breath into her nostrils as I thought to her, "Yes, beauty, I'll muzzle you and let you out with your daughter to play." She sighed. And kept her head against me. Her Majesty no longer in any hurry. Still an Empress, but pleased that I finally heard her.

I think something has changed, don't you?

I doubt my student knew what she was looking at. She's seen me put my face to her big Dutch Warmblood's nose and talk gently to the mare before a lesson. She's a kindly animal, very athletic yet very sweet and compliant. Almost too compliant for my taste.

I wonder if this student, an older long time horse owner, would be ready for the next level? She certainly loves this 15 year old mare she's had since she was a two year old, and fusses and worries over every little bump. Maybe I'll teach her how to relax, focus, exchange breath, and let the horse's thoughts grow in her mind.


Love is Trust, trust is All
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 4:51 pm 
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* An aside: I found over the years that black or brown (black body with brown points) horses tended to be more high strung, more reactive to objects of fear, and quick - very quick. More sensitive to cues, thus trainable to lightness to a very high degree. Always an adventure to ride. Lighter Greys, duns, whites (both white on darker skin and albinos) all tended to be quieter less reactive horses. Chesnuts (sorrels), and bays, somewhere in between.

Well, if this is true, then Stardust is the exception that makes the rule.

He looks like a huge tank galoot of a tough-guy warmblood and he is incredibly sensitive. This actually I think has been a big part of why he's suffered so much in his life -- people have assumed he's tough and a little thick and he's anything but.

And part of the reason that he trips himself, etc. is that he has extremely quick reactions -- but he's so big his body gets left behind.

I used to joke that somehow I'd gotten a horse with the body of a draft and the soul of a 2 year old Arab...

Almost all of the warmbloods I've spent time with have some issues with this, actually. People expect TB's to be hot and reactive, and at least here the Baroque horses tend to be Spanish and they've been bred to be wound up, often, so they're usually pretty hot, too. Maybe it's because the breeders decided that warmbloods were the next way to make money off of the middle-aged dressage lady wanna be market and over-sold their staidness, but there's a worry level in most of the warmbloods that I've encountered that is unique.

As I think about it, I actually think that Stardust is very typical (his issues are bigger because of his life experience) -- but the warmbloods I know all seem to be battling that cold/hot combination -- they are reactive like a TB but have the body of a draft, so it takes a while for everything to course through them. And I think they're often trained as if they're slow because people aren't noticing the difference.

And then, as I think about Circe, she's extremely quick and very responsive, at least when she chooses to be :funny: she can do hooves-in-her-ears-I'm-actually-a-mule routines when she wants but that's by choice, always. She still has some pingyness/spookiness but I think some of that is still being a young horse (almost always when she spooks at stuff I have the image of a 13 year old girl going EEEEK! at something, mostly to amuse herself... 8) ) She doesn't have that humming woundness that really highstrung horses have, but she is extremely fast and facile. Of course, she's a breed cross between a small draft/pony and an Arab, so she's got some of the same hot/cold stuff going on as the Warmbloods do, but in Haflingers, it seems to work without the angst -- maybe just because they're smaller. She looks like a little Belgian and moves like an Arab...

Anyway, I dunno. As I cast back w/out thinking about breed, a lot of the really wound horses I've known have been chestnuts...those redheads! :funny:

Interesting question, though...

"Ours is the portal of hope. Come as you are." -- Rumi

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:36 pm 
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An interesting read on age and related abilities while riding. I can only hope I retain my seat and such as I age. :)

As for the colorings, that's an interesting observation. I wanted to say I definitely have not had that experience with duns, as Diego is a red dun, with all the primitive markings (though they are easier to see in summer). He can turn into a mule very quickly and seem 'dead" to aids but in reality he is super sensitive to aids. :ieks: And if he's excited that just makes it worse (there's a reason I call him Rocket Man sometimes or Dragon). :twisted: It really depends on his emotional state and mood, but I do believe over all he's a very sensitive horse.

My trimmer brought up an interesting topic, that she had heard theories that horses with more primal markings (genetics) could often be counted on to be more primal in their response to pressure rather than to submit to it just to get by... I don't know about all horses but it certainly fits Diego's life profile.

The discussion is also making me think about all the warmbloods I knew. I have rarely ever ridden one so I can't say as to their riding sensitivity. My trainer's warmbloods were happy horses, although pushy. She complained constantly of them being handfuls but then again they are kept in stalls 12hrs a day and only turned out in little paddocks alone.... so I think that was environmental. :sad: She has one currently though that is the most sensitive mare I have seen in a long time - no accounting for breed. Her name is Rose and she's a Hanovarian I believe. Gorgeous, unusually dainty 16.3 mare. SUPER sensitive to EVERYTHING around her. Dark/almost black/bay if anyone was wondering.

Diego's Journal
There's no more looking back - no more grey skies black.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 7:18 pm 
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:roll: :funny:

Triple jeopardy - Freckles is a warmblood and his colour is a combination of white and chestnut (red near-leopard.)

He has a huge sense of responsibility and often seems to assume he got something wrong and needs a lot reassurance that what he just did was fine.

He is sensitive in some ways, mostly to sound and smell, especially if can't identify the source. He is laid back in other ways and displays huge amounts of patience and tolerance for weird humans and their strange behaviour. He is incredibly curious about everything - for example, I had a casual labourer here today to deal with the massive amounts of fallen leaves and branches and Freckles spent at least 30 minutes watching intently through the fence and snorting every time an unexpected movement happened.

He is light to ride and very responsive. He spooks at things I would expect him to be OK with, and then he doesn't spook when I expect he might. He recovers quickly from his emotions but they are very intense. He has strong ideas about how his world should be and gets sulky if it's not so. He has a mischievous streak that's a mile wide, and plays "jokes" on unwary humans from time to time, like mumbling on my rib-cage when I'm not looking and tickling me, and then giving me happy twinkling eyes when I jump and giggle.

In cold weather he behaves a bit "hot" and strong wind turns him into a lunatic that can't stop running and bouncing.

So I guess, on some days he is white and calm, and on other days he is chestnut and half-hot, and in-between he can't make up his mind so he defaults to doollally. :funny:

Glen Grobler

Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled. Anon

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