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coveredbridgefarm

Dr Deb says

I have to say that I never expected to create a Dr Deb thread but these articles appear to contain some excellent information that I have never read or heard expressed any better anywhere else.  A friend loaned me a few copies of Eclectic Horseman and I took some notes of Dr Deb Bennett's articles. I think I'll post a few notes each day. I'm not particularly enamored by Dr Deb's attitude sometimes but I do believe that you often just have to get over your opinion of the clinician personally and focus on the substance of what they're saying, if you can find any substance, and I think you usually can with most clinicians. I  certainly think that applies to this clinician. There is some good stuff here, imo.  Make it about the horse, not about the clinician. That's what I would like to focus on. This isn't the definitive word on Dr Deb by any means so anyone is welcome to correct or enhance these notes. I just thought perhaps someone might find them useful if they haven't read these articles. They include some rather complicated concepts that are difficult to put into words. There is also a heavy emphasis on anatomy insofar as it relates to things like collection, mechanical devices, etc..  There are also terms like "twirling" and "pulling square on the reins" that probably should be clarified first.

Dr Deb seems to me to be defining "twirling" as a movement of the horse's head where the jowl is tucked under the throat without tilting the head. This is distinguished from the common action of "tucking the nose" by the fact that twirling is a sideways swiveling of the head at the poll joint where the rider can see the horse's inside eye and tucking the head has no sideways movement unless there is tilting of the head. I think that Dr Deb is saying that "pulling square on the reins" will give you a nose tuck but no twirling because it involves equal pulling on both reins. In order to create twirling, you must have a different feel on one rein than you have on the other rein. It is this intricate and delicate differential between the two reins that induces twirling in the horse's neck. The horse then responds by giving the rider a "soft feel". It is also this differential that allows the rider to talk to each foot individually, btw.

The horse has a particular anatomical structure at the poll joint(located about 5" directly below the poll) where the first vertebra connects with the skull. The first vertebra(also called the atlas) has 2 cup shaped indents on each side of the vertebra that fit over two knob shaped structures of the skull which are called occipital condyles. The cups and the condyles are all bean shaped which creates an eccentric type of function along with the synovial fluid which has the effect of keeping the entire joint lubricated.

It is this unique anatomical relationship between the skull and the atlas that creates 2 types of movements possible at the poll joint. The first movement is a simple tucking of the horse's head. It is the second type of movement, which is much more important than the first, which allows twirling or side-to-side swiveling to occur.

According to DD, the condyles of the skull have a narrow edge which fits into slots on the cups on the first vetebra(atlas). Thus the head does not rotate. Instead, the condyles slide across the slots in the atlas, keeping the head level but swiveled. If the horse's head tilts, it's not being twirled and it is being flexed at a different joint in the neck.

The advantage of twirling to the horse is that it helps the horse release any brace in the muscles of the neck, the end result of which feels good to the horse. The advantage to the rider is that the horse responds with a "soft feel".  The problem is that few riders are aware of the twirling effect. And fewer still are able to manifest it. Therefore, few people ever ride with a true "soft feel".

Larry
karmikacres

Right, and this is what makes the way most are teaching it wrong.
PasoBaby_CarolU

karmikacres wrote:
Right, and this is what makes the way most are teaching it wrong.


Mike, are you talking about "twirling" or "soft feel"?  

Although it isn't called twirling in dressage, getting a poll break and softness through the inside rein/eye is taught (with support on the outer rein) as one of the building blocks.  Part of where those 10 meter circles come from, which are perfect for getting a break of just the upper vertebrae and softness in the reins.  Julie or Michelle might talk to this better as both are a lot farther along in dressage then I am.

I don't believe it is called soft feel either though.   I learned it as soft rein, and originally from Mark Russell and started in hand.  The idea is to get a relaxed jaw and not create tension.  

I do have a question on the anatomy discussion.  Is she calling the first several vertebrae the "poll joint?"  The reason I ask is that I thought (could well be wrong) that C1/skull allows up/down movement and C1/2 allows side to side - neither allows a lot, but to get an inside eye and break at the poll, you'd need both joints.  The C 2/3 joint allows a lot more movement and where many horses break instead of at the poll.
karmikacres

I'm talking about flexing with no regard for proper position of the head.
PasoBaby_CarolU

Well, in that case, I think "wrong" is one person's opinion.  I have worked Rosie, per Vet/Chiro instructions on neck flexibility for the past year, and while some flexing keeps level ears, other stretches don't.   The important thing is to stretch ALL the muscles of the neck, both laterally and vertically.
coveredbridgefarm

Carol wrote:
Quote:
I do have a question on the anatomy discussion.  Is she calling the first several vertebrae the "poll joint?"  The reason I ask is that I thought (could well be wrong) that C1/skull allows up/down movement and C1/2 allows side to side - neither allows a lot, but to get an inside eye and break at the poll, you'd need both joints.  The C 2/3 joint allows a lot more movement and where many horses break instead of at the poll.
Carol, without taking the time to refer to my notes, it's my understanding that she is calling the "poll joint" the one between the skull and the first vertebra(also called the atlas).  It has more than just up and down movement. If the horse only tucks its head, it is using only up and down movement. If the twirling action is utilized, there is side to side movement as well, and less(or no) bracing.

The second vertebra(C2) is also called the axis so I believe the C2/3 joint to which you refer is the joint formed by the axis and the third cervical vertebra which is also the place where a "braced" horse tends to bend. An "unbraced" horse tends to bend more at the poll joint in a "twirling" fashion, and up and  down as well.   Each cervical joint serves a somewhat different function or has a different degree of flexibility. The "poll joint" is a very unique joint in the horse's body and the horse is best served if its function is fully utilized(which it hardly ever is). I'll check my notes on all of that to see if my recall was correct.  This should all become more clear with more notes on the anatomy. I no longer have those issues of EH to refer to, only the notes that I made from the articles.  I'm sure someone else on this forum has those issues starting with around issue #51 or 52, I think.

And always remember, I'm no expert on Dr Deb's theories.

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

Here are some more notes involving twirling and the anatomy associated with twirling:

Dr Deb gave a reference at the beginning of the article that I really like. She broke the "inner horse" that man cannot see into two parts, the skeletal parts like bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, etc., and the horse's thoughts, emotions, and spirit. Right now, we are mainly focused on the skeletal part, obviously.

We have to include mention of the second vertebra which is called the axis in order to describe what happens during a failed attempt at twirling which is what commonly happens. We have, in the horse, the skull, the atlas(first vertebra), and the axis(second vertebra). Due to the unique structure of all 3, twirling is possible only at the poll joint(juncture of the skull and atlas), and tilting occurs at the juncture of the atlas and axis. When tilting occurs, the poll joint has already jammed because the knobs and cups of the skull and atlas, respectively, do not allow the  head to tilt. So that joint becomes a locked unit. That brings into play the joint formed by the atlas and axis which is the only place in the horse's vertebral column where tilting of the head is freely accomplished. This allows the rider to be aware of which joint is being utilized when the horse turns and tucks its head. If the head is tilted, the atlas/axis joint is being accessed. You can watch the horse's ears for an indication. If the ears are unlevel, you do not have twirling. You have tilting. So, the association is like this: Poll joint/ twirling; second joint/tilting.

One thing that is confusing for the rider is that twirling and tilting are both accomplished by the same basic signals on the rein by the rider.  Dr Deb's drawings show 2 ways to ask the horse for twirling: One is a soft raising of the rein by one hand or the other; the other one is a simple turning-over of the hand so that the hand is palm-up, similar to the Parelli instruction for indirect rein(I think).

Twirling requires no force and it is a relatively minimal movement. The unique structure of the poll joint does not allow for extreme movement but apparently twirling provides significant benefit to the horse. The rider needs to recognize when twirling is occurring and he/she needs to know the limitations of the movement in order to give their horse the benefits of twirling which are available to every horse when the rider learns to make use of them.  

Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

Hmm, that is interesting.  This is from Russell's Lessons in Lightness:

Quote:
The TMJ is one of three closely related joints.  The atlanto-occipital join, which allows the head front-to-back movement, is located between the occiput and atlas vertebra.   The atlanto-axial joint, which controls the side-to-side movement of the head, is located between the first cervical vertebra, or atlas, and the the second cervical vertebra, or axis.  Since all three joints participate in aligning the vertebral column, any constriction in the TMJ has far-reaching consequences for how the horse works under saddle.


Of course his focus is then teaching you how to train the horse to relax his jaw and release tension in the TMJ and neck, getting rid of braces that way.   It is neither flexing or twirling.  It sounds to me like twirling works much the same way, getting the horse to relax all three joints, which releases tension.
PasoBaby_CarolU

You know, the mind is a funny thing.  I really couldn't tell you what I bought on the grocery list just Wednesday, but I remember this discussion of Mark's...and I read it years ago.    

I honestly don't think it's critical which joint moves what direction, they are so closely related.  The point is to relax that area.
Blue Flame

Larry,

I think the most important thing to take away from all this is the part about never having a square feel in the reins.

In order for the horse to twirl the head, there has to exist a differential in the muscles which twirl left and those that twirl right. Therefore the muscles on one side will be more released in reference to those on the other side - and this relates back to not having a square feel. If the horse is going to carry a brace in the poll, it has to carry it bi-laterally or else it would be flexing to one side or the other - thus the key (again) to the vertical flexion lies in being able to unlock the brace laterally.

Then, as the horse moves, if you are oscillating that left/right feel differential in the reins in time with the feet, you get alternate releasing of one side in reference to the other.

I learned about the power of oscillation in relation to getting a horse to release a brace from Peggy Cummings . . . the smallest oscillation can bring down a building or mountain if the frequency (footfal timing) is just right. Similarly, you can break a piece of high tensile wire by bending it back and forth. Many of Peggy's exrcises are designed for the purpose of getting the horse to, what she calls, "let go of his head".

If you get a chance to read further Dr. Deb also goes into twirling the loins by untracking. When you combine this with twirling the head, then you might get the horse to let go of his ribs.

Carried further beyong the poll joint alone - this principle of oscillation is also applicable to Buck's short serpentines. IMHO, I could be wrong  
AlythLong

To bring  understanding back to its simplest level is the following correct in terminology?
tuck - nose towards chest
tilt - ears unlevel, nose lifts
twirl - aka flexion? - ears level, nose comes backwards.

To elaborate on "flexion" you can have it in minute amounts - just see the eyelash - or gross amounts - nose to boot.

Those would be the 3 basic movements of the atlas/axis/poll?  

Alyth
PasoBaby_CarolU

Alyth, it takes all a lot more then just those joints to flex to the boot.  I also see horses who flex to the boot who have no release of tension through the poll and TMJ and jaw.   I think DD's point (correct me if I'm wrong) is that your goal is relaxation, not necessarily flexing or twirling.
coveredbridgefarm

Carol, I think that what each joint does only becomes critical when the rider interferes with the natural movement of a joint. In the absence of a human, I think the horse usually doesn't have a problem. Everything works as a unit until man shows up.  I see that Mark Russell and Dr Deb apparently disagree on which joint, the poll joint, or the atlas/axis joint, is responsible for twirling. We probably do need to try to resolve that point of contention. My point of reference is strictly Dr Deb Bennett in this thread. I would imagine she could be wrong but hers is an educated opinion. I'm not promoting her point of view, simply trying to interpret it. My interpretation could be wrong.

MR also uses different terminology.  See, it's that language thing again.  Humans are so communicationally challenged.    

I guess the occiput is the skull?  the atlanto axial joint is C2 or the atlas/axis joint? Where exactly is the TMJ joint located(base of the jaw?)?  I don't think I recall DD commenting on that joint. But you are right that it is about relaxing.  I am thinking that is roughly the equivalent of getting rid of the brace.  

Sandy, I do have some decent notes on the bilateral muscle structure of the horse and why both sides shouldn't fire at the same time. I also have fairly good notes on untracking.  I'll probably post those tomorrow or the next day.

It sounds like you have read these articles, so please, don't hesitate to clarify or correct my notes. It just makes good sense to me that riders should have a working knowledge of how a horse's body works.  And how the horse's mind works too. Right now, we're focusing on the body.

Alyth wrote:
Quote:
Those would be the 3 basic movements of the atlas/axis/poll?
Alyth, using Dr Deb's articles as a reference, the poll joint is the juncture of the base of the skull and the atlas(C1) vertebra. The axis is C2.  

The C1/C2 joint allows for tilting(ears unlevel)(head tilts).

The poll joint allows for twirling(ears remain level)(nose tucks in toward chest).  Muscles are involved too. We'll get into that later. Right now, I'm just talking about the skeletal structure and what it is designed to do. Once a joint is used inappropriately, other joints may attempt to compensate.

A tuck is just bringing the head to the chest. I think some degree of tuck is made possible in the poll joint. Somebody who knows needs to tell me how much, if any, tuck is made possible by other joints. I haven't come across that in my notes.

The way all of the neck muscles and neck joints are functioning is significantly dependent on what the rest of the body is doing too, beginning with the loins.

Larry
Blue Flame

AlythLong wrote:
To bring  understanding back to its simplest level is the following correct in terminology?
tuck - nose towards chest
tilt - ears unlevel, nose lifts
twirl - aka flexion? - ears level, nose comes backwards.

To elaborate on "flexion" you can have it in minute amounts - just see the eyelash - or gross amounts - nose to boot.

Those would be the 3 basic movements of the atlas/axis/poll?  

Alyth


Alyth, a twirl is looking to the left or right but isolated to the joint between the skull and C1. Yes the ears stay level but the nose doesn't necessarily tuck. If you imagine an axis running through the centre of the head from poll to nose - then the horse rotates the head about this axis.

There is a diagram and explanatory caption on page 4 of Dr. Deb's "True Collection" document at the following link: http://www.equinestudies.org/true...008/true_collection_2008_pdf1.pdf

That document would be a good basis for this discussion.

If this joint is braced and vertical flexion is still forced on the horse, what we risk getting is a horse that breaks at the 3rd vertebra which is the weakest point in the cervical chain. Dr. Deb considers (I think but don't quote me) that if you see a horse that breaks at the 3rd vertebra, chances are it has been ridden with a square feel in the reins. Supposed to be something that is very difficult to reverse.
AlythLong

I agree with both of you!!  I was simply trying to establish the basic terminology.  So far all I have read, considered and tried with my own head (visualise me sitting here and moving my head in all kinds of directions!!) comes down to twirling and flexion being pretty much the same movement.  I can't see twirling and tucking being compatible!!  As Larry said, everyone uses different words to try and describe what they mean, and each of us interprets those words in different ways!!  Alyth
Mandy'sMarty

The occiput is the base of the skull. It's the occipital bone, one of 34 bones creating the horse's skull.

The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is like the hinge of the jaw. It is found in the area rear of the eye on each side of the head. It should be balanced in a neutral state. When it is not, it can create compensation issues that can involve other areas of the body, including the hind end. ( See Spencer LaFlure and http://www.advancedwholehorsedentistry.com/spencer-laflure/ )

Other possible flexibility issues can result from misalignment at the C6/C7 area at the base of the neck. I've experienced that with my mare. She was not able to properly extend her neck from her chest ('telescope' her neck) and flex at C2/C3 until I re-aligned her at C6.
Blue Flame

Alyth, I think twirling and correct tucking are inseperable. A horse who has the twirling muscles braced on both sides cannot tuck his nose in using the poll joint. This then leaves the horse with next joint in the chain able to flex vertically (C1/C2 has no vertical flexion) which is the joint between the C2/C3 - hence the horse will break at the 3rd vertebra.

Both tucking and twirling are correctly done at the joint between the skull and C1. The joint between C1 and C2 is only capable of tilting (causing ears to go unlevel).

Here's a little clip of BB that, while not addressing twirling specifically, gives an idea of the movement to work towards: http://www.youtube.com/user/MikeThomasHorsemen#p/u/20/ufCDtyGo8Qc
PasoBaby_CarolU

Quote:
Alyth, I think twirling and correct tucking are inseperable. A horse who has the twirling muscles braced on both sides cannot tuck his nose in using the poll joint. This then leaves the horse with next joint in the chain able to flex vertically (C1/C2 has no vertical flexion) which is the joint between the C2/C3 - hence the horse will break at the 3rd vertebra.


I don't believe this is true, certainly not an absolute truth.  I can probably show you all thousands of pictures of horses that are broken at the poll AND braced hard against the bit and throughout their neck and back.  Look at almost any Polo pony in play, and they are broken at the poll...and still braced against the bit, noseband, tiedown, etc.    

On the flip side, the mare in my avatar breaks naturally at C3 almost all the time, even when no rider is present.  Now this picture isn't really fair, since she is looking at the bridge we are crossing, but it is her very typical neck break.  

I think the twirl in this area is to get the horse to relax at the poll - and throughout the jaw, but a break at the poll is certainly no guarantee that the horse is relaxed.
Blue Flame

Carol, could it be that these polo ponies are also carrying their heads high (in spite of draw reins, tie-downs etc.) so that it disguises a break at the 3rd? i.e. if their neck was lowered without changing the head/neck relationship, it would look like rollkur?

I expect that a horse could break at the poll and not be relaxed, but they wouldn't be soft either would they? They'd have to be held there and if the reins were released they'd poke their nose out?

Then there is the question of what is happening in a horse going behind the bit . . . .

Invoking Larry's disclaimer here . . . IMHO, I could be wrong.

I think I know the visual you describe - usually they are bulging forward at the lower neck muscles, yes?

My horse doesn't break at the 3rd when at liberty, but doesn't really tuck his nose much either unless he is doing an up transition when the herd is playing. In this case it almost seems as if he leads with his poll/forehead and you can almost sense the energy shooting upward/forward out of his poll/forehead. However, in a passage at liberty he sticks his nose out.
PasoBaby_CarolU

Yes they have bulging neck muscles...often veins sticking out all over their necks from so much pressure.  And it doesn't have to be against a bit/rein pressure, sometimes just the threat of a harsh bit will keep this pressure, even on loose reins.  

What concerns me with general statements like this is that first we put a picture in our minds of what a horse MUST look like:  break at the poll, face on vertical.   When only horses with certain anatomy will carry themselves this way comfortably.   Horses are then forced into this one type of carriage to be 'correct' when it may not be correct for them at all.   And, like the nightmare that is Rolkur in dressage, or the headset in WP horses, this becomes the acceptable fad and so many people will put a horse through anything to achieve this "perfection."  

Even the correct "collected" frame is defined on the Iberian horse...what about a TB or a stock bred QH...they aren't built to carry themselves this way...so people put horses in harnesses and sidereins and work them forever trying to achieve something that is sheer torture for the horse.  

This is actually where Tom comes in and says, "What's in it for the horse?"
Blue Flame

Fair call on the conformation implications  
coveredbridgefarm

Good discussion.  A special thanks to Marty for clarification of the terminology.

These are my final notes on the art of twirling. Think of this part of the discussion as the "layer" of the horse called the skeletal system. We can have more debate, and then a summation of the range of opinions on this "layer" before we go on to the next "layer", the musculature system of the horse.

Just to finish up the article in EH issue # 51, DD states that twirling has one object only: To provoke release of the neck muscles, to help the horse get rid of a brace. When you get the horse to hold his head in the desired twirling position, hold for a slow count of 2 and then release the head(yes, there is always release involved). There are several muscles that come into play and they all have special nerve cells called "stretch receptors" imbedded in the muscles, and in tendons as well. The horse has 2 options: Brace, or relax. When the horse's head is held in the relaxed position, the horse benefits and so does the rider. In the braced position, both horse and rider experience resistance. It is to the mutual benefit of horse and rider to make use of the phenomenon of twirling.

A square feel on the reins tells the horse to brace in order to prevent muscle strain but an un-square feel gives the horse a choice: To either brace or relax. Twirling, done successfully, convinces the horse's brain that relaxing is the best choice. Since twirling is pleasurable for the horse, repetition reinforces the positive effects of twirling and the horse develops a soft feel.

There is the issue of how often the rider should ask for twirling. The answer is whenever the horse doesn't do it on its own as long as you don't drive your horse nuts with the request because you aren't asking for it correctly, or you are asking for it at the wrong time. The horse naturally twirls its head all of the time without a rider on its back. The challenge for the rider is to get the horse to twirl its head when it's the rider's idea to do so.  When the rider and horse are in unity, all the rider has to do is look in a particular direction and the horse will go in that direction, twirling as necessary. But until you reach that level of connection with your horse, you may need to initiate the twirling. And once you are able to successfully initiate twirling, the next step is to determine if you need to steer the horse all of the way around a turn(for example).  Steering a horse is usually not good because it can rob the horse of any initiative he might have to carry a soft feel but some horses who have been trained badly need help from the rider at first before he can maintain a soft feel on his own. This is where the skill of the rider in determining where the horse is as far as developing a soft feel comes in. The skilled rider steers only as much as necessary. When accomplished successfully, a horse may go long periods of time without any steering at all.

My condensed version of this article:  This stuff is technically complicated so what do we need to know in order to utilize twirling in a manner that is beneficial for both horse and human?

The anatomy is interesting but probably only absolutely necessary if you are a veterinarian. From a rider's standpoint, use the horse's ears to tell you if you have the horse's head in position for twirling as you ride in your direction of choice. If the ears are level and the horse's head is turned and tucked slightly in the direction you are asking for, then you probably have successfully accomplished the act of twirling in your horse. If you sense a lack of brace in your horse as he turns, this will probably validate the experience of twirling. If the ears are not level as your horse tries to comply with your request for a turn, then you have failed to achieve the act of twirling. I think we can make this part of it fairly simple: Watch the ears.

If you are able to successfully initiate the act of twirling in your horse, then you will need to determine how much steering you need to do in order to help your horse stay in the twriling position as long as necessary. In my view, this might be the most difficult part because it requires you, the rider, to make split second judgements as you and the horse are in motion. Did I get a soft feel? Am I still getting a soft feel? Do I still need to steer? Can I trust my horse to stay relaxed throughout the turn or whatever I am asking of him/her(can I allow a release?)? I guess only experience and time in the saddle with each individual horse will provide those answers for you. Over time, it may become simple(r), more intuitive.


Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

So let me get this straight....twirling is an alternative to traditional flexing and a cue to relax at the poll and down the neck at the same time.   She doesn't mention the jaw.  Is it also a cue to release tension in the jaw?  And if so, how is it really different from other cues you may use to relax the jaw?
coveredbridgefarm

Carol, I think twirling, in Dr Deb's view, is a vital component of proper flexing. I guess you would have to describe what traditional flexing consists of.  

From a strictly skeletal perspective, I think she feels that each joint must function in a manner in accordance with its evolved structure and purpose. To do otherwise is to lock up the joint which, in turn, can create(or be caused by) bracing in the muscles.  All joints have limited degrees of movement. Humans tend to utilize the horse's joints in ways in which they were unintended, the poll joint being a prime example of that. I do not have anything on the TMJ in my notes. She may have mentioned the TMJ but I don't recall any discussion of it.  I would think that it should have been included. Maybe it was. I have nothing about it in my notes.

All of this may become clearer when we get into muscles and devices.  Or maybe not.

Let's see what we have so far. There appears to be a definite contradiction regarding the function of the second cervical joint between the opinions of Dr Deb and Mark Russell. It seems like that should be able to be resolved, more or less. Someone must surely be wrong on that point.

Carol, you bring up some good points about horses being less than identical. Dr Deb's model doesn't seem to take into account the fact that each breed brings different characteristics to the model. I don't know if that's because she considers the differences to be insignificant or if she is trying to speak in general terms for simplification, but surely there must be a difference in the skeletal structure of the neck of a Saddlebred and a QH, for example. I'm not sure how significant those differences are. I'm just trying to present the views expressed in her EH articles using only my notes. If nothing else, I think her articles present a good opportunity for discussion. Theoretically, if we could be more aware of what is going on with the horse skeletally, muscularly, mentally, and emotionally, we would be better equipped to help our horses.  To the extent that Dr Deb helps us do that, and that would certainly be subjective to some degree, this discussion could help with that challenge. Unfortunately, I have to rely on my notes, not the articles.  And like most things with horses, absolute agreement and clarity to all is probably not realistic.

I suggest that we make a mental note of the questions any of us may have so far about the skeletal aspect of the horse and go on to the musculature, keeping in mind that their functions are connected. See if that clears up some of the questions you all may have so far, or probably more likely, creates more.

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

Dr Deb has some really good drawings apparently produced from actual pictures that show a horse in movement. One thing that is obvious(obvious because she points it out) is that horses do not have collarbones that connect the shoulder with the breastbone as we do. The absence of a collarbone creates an instability of the breastbone in horses and would create instability in the shoulders of  humans if they did not have a collarbone.

The breastbone of the horse moves sideways between the front legs as the horse moves. The only things holding the horse's legs to the chest below the top of the shoulder blade are muscles and tendons. There is no bone-to-bone connection and no socket connection of the front legs to the rest of the horse below the top of the shoulder blade. Those muscles and tendons also support the weight of of the chest in kind of a sling configuration.

This is probably not the way you would build a car. All of a horse's weight and remarkable athleticism are dependent on something as unstable as muscles and tendon tissue. There is also the sling-like movement of the ribs when the horse bends causing the ribs to squash against the shoulder blade and the upper part of the front legs.

Lots of movement going on around and in the chest area of a horse as it moves due to the lack of a more rigid bone structure. All of this emphasizes the importance of developing a straight horse, one that is neither crooked to the left, nor to the right.

Larry
Mandy'sMarty

Does Dr. Deb mention the muscle of an average horse as a percentage of the body mass of the horse? I've read somewhere that it is 60 percent.
I believe that compares to 42 percent for an average adult male human and 36 percent for an average adult female human.
PasoBaby_CarolU

Larry, can we go back to twirling for a bit?  Does Dr. D say what is wrong with flexing the rest of the neck?  Why is it "wrong?" and what is the harm in it?  

The reason I ask is that I learned it years ago, seen it done by almost every clinician and training school.  Even Bill Dorrance teaches it is his book.  Of course Pat does it and Clinton overdoes it.   My chiro-vet has me flex Rosie for both her previous neck injury (C2-3) and now at C6-7 from a recent injury.  

I certainly see twirling as a good thing...I just don't see why that would be the only area of the neck you'd stretch and exercise, and not just add it to what you already do.

I have a history of neck injuries and slew of neck stretches and exercises that I do myself.   If I don't stretch my whole neck and shoulders and upper back, I'm in pain.
Mandy'sMarty

Here's a brief illustration by Regan Golob on the technique of 'telescoping' the horse's neck. It is a small segment from one of his DVD's. I personally don't actually see, in this video, the muscle recruitment that this exercise is intended to stimulate. The video appears to skip and miss the actual muscle response. I fault the camera person and the editor, not the technique.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cTUOMzD03s

I don't have a lot of experience using this technique because it is not intended to be used until the horse responds well to other stretches first. Mandy apparently injured her withers long before I found her. I believe she actually fractured the top of one of the vertebra at her withers and has been 'guarding' that spot for years. She has had less flexibility on her right side of her withers since I've known her. I believe that the muscle and ligament on her right side at the withers have been tighter since the injury. She has had less extension when I do carrot stretches to encourage her to reach around on her left side and touch her stifle. She has improved since we've been doing the carrot stretches.

I'll check her flexibility this afternoon and see if she will perform the previous 3 exercises Regan refers to. If she does, I'll try the telescoping technique. It all depends on how flexible she is now at her withers.

Carol--I didn't intend to push our discussion into the realm of muscles prematurely. I posted this video clip thinking of it as another way to stretch the horse's neck by flexing and decompressing the vertebrae. Only after I had posted it did I remember that the purpose of this stretch is to build muscle in the appropriate place. I suppose it is an illustration of how both skeletal and muscle systems may benefit from one technique.
PasoBaby_CarolU

They are all interrelated Marty, so you are fine, and I think you can't work the vertebrae without working the muscles...that is what you relax so you can stretch.  I just wasn't ready to move away from the neck yet.  

We have a few vets on here and some Linda Tellington-Jones followers on here, so I'd like to see them pipe in too.  

When I hear someone tell me that what I'm doing is "wrong" I would like more explanation on why it is wrong.  My Vet-Chiro is Kim Henneman, one of the pioneers in her field, including certification in Performance Biomechanics, and world renowned for her work (lucky me that she lives in Park City!).  So before I call her "wrong" I'd like to know what to base that on.
Blue Flame

Looks like a great exercise Mandy's Marty.

Not sure about which muscles he describes as using though. It is certainly not what Dr. Deb teaches about which muscles produces neck telescoping. First, she says that all muscles above the vertebral chain must release - so the muscles he indicates need to release. Secondy, the muscles that produce the telescoping lie under the base of the neck but are not visible or palpable.

Refer to page 5 of "True Collection" for explanation and diagram: http://www.equinestudies.org/true...008/true_collection_2008_pdf1.pdf
coveredbridgefarm

Mandy'sMarty wrote:
Does Dr. Deb mention the muscle of an average horse as a percentage of the body mass of the horse? I've read somewhere that it is 60 percent.
I believe that compares to 42 percent for an average adult male human and 36 percent for an average adult female human.
Marty, I don't think the articles include a reference to that but a significantly higher percentage than humans sounds right to me.

Carol wrote:
Quote:
Larry, can we go back to twirling for a bit?  Does Dr. D say what is wrong with flexing the rest of the neck?  Why is it "wrong?" and what is the harm in it?  

We may be thinking of two different things here, Carol.  You're talking about the horse reaching around to the side as in the PNH task of sniffing the tail?  I think Dr Deb is talking about collection.  The cervical vertebrae are designed to allow the neck to bend around to the side but they're not all designed to bend in a posture leading to collection.  As I understand it, the poll joint is the key cervical joint in getting the horse to maintain a "correct" collected posture when ridden.  As far as I know, Dr Deb would say that stretching as you are using it would be a good thing.  I believe her point is that riding a horse in a collected posture with a "break" at C2/C3 would be a bad thing because that is not the joint that should be bearing the brunt of collection.  I think I didn't make that very clear.  

I believe that the cervical vertebrae tend to share a common ability to flex in order to swing the head from side to side but the poll joint is the critical joint when it comes to collection. Twirling is just something that permits the poll joint to function as it's supposed to.  Riders who do not utilize the effects of twirling run the risk of not making the most of the poll joint's advantage in helping the horse achieve collection. When that happens, another cervical joint will try to make up the deficit, usually that turns out to be the C2/3 joint.

I hope that helps. I hope I have described that fairly accurately.  No guarantees.  

Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

This is what I'm talking about...

karmikacres wrote:
Right, and this is what makes the way most are teaching it wrong.


I want to know why flexing is wrong.   There is flexing you can do with the ears level...but there are flexes where they can't be for the horse to get a good stretch.   There are also flexes where you stretch C2/3 and 3/4 specifically.  

I just wonder what is wrong with it.
coveredbridgefarm

Slight deviation from the discussion of muscles:

The idea of a horse going straight requires some thinking out of the box. The only time a horse should be truly straight is when it is standing still. Otherwise, it's a matter of equalizing the time the horse's body is displaced to the right and the time it is displaced to the left. But even then, it's not that simple.

The symmetrical gaits, walk, trot, and pace, alternate displacement to the right with displacement to the left with each step. Straightness is achieved when the degree of displacement to the right is equal to the degree of displacement to the left.  Except on a circle.

On a circle, the arc of the horse's body should conform to the arc of the circle in order to be going straight. The outside pair of feet should feel like they are carrying the majority of the weight of the horse. One good thing about working a horse on a circle is that bending is the physical key to getting a horse to go straight.

In the case of the asymmetrical gaits, canter and gallup, the chest of the horse will be displaced to one side as long as it stays on the same lead. The horse's body will be displaced to the right when it is on the left lead and it will be displaced to the left when it is on the right lead. In the case of these asymmetrical gaits, getting a horse to travel straight involves equal degrees of displacement to the right and to the left depending on the lead the horse is on.  If you spend more time cantering on one lead or the other, you may be creating a crooked horse because the fact that the chest is heavy means that the outside legs are continually carrying most of the weight most of the time.

Dr Deb does not leave out the mind of the horse in her effort to describe straightness in a horse. When the horse's mind is totally focused on the path ahead, there is a strong tendency for the body of the horse to go straight as well. For example, if a horse spots something ahead that gets his attention, like a tarp on the ground, his body  will naturally start to go straight.

Larry
karmikacres

PasoBaby_CarolU wrote:
This is what I'm talking about...

karmikacres wrote:
Right, and this is what makes the way most are teaching it wrong.


I want to know why flexing is wrong.   There is flexing you can do with the ears level...but there are flexes where they can't be for the horse to get a good stretch.   There are also flexes where you stretch C2/3 and 3/4 specifically.  

I just wonder what is wrong with it.


First, they are not teaching stretching.

Second, they are not putting any emphasis on correct flexing, they are just pulling the nose around.
PasoBaby_CarolU

I am still not sure what you mean by "correct flexing."  Almost every method I have seen has a soft request and then a harder request until the horse complies.   There is a teaching phase and holding/stretching phase.   I've seen many that state the ears should be level.  I've seen others stress that the face should be vertical.   And I see many who just teach it as a stretch...sometimes back to a carrot, etc.  

What I don't see is any reason why NOT do it in any particular way.   What does "wrong" mean?

I can see why NOT overdo it...and believe me, I've seen it way overdone to the point the horse puts its nose on its shoulder and freezes anytime it is stressed.  This is what happens to it mentally when it is overdone.  But what about physically?
Blue Flame

Carol, maybe I can resolve the conflict.

On Dr. Deb's forum people have asked about the head tilt when doing carrot stretches and also the plie bow as it seems the horse assumes a rollkur like head position. If I remember correctly, her answer was along the lines of it making a difference if the horse assumes the position voluntarily versus if force is applied.

Here's a couple of great diagrams which will help greatly in seeing what each joint is physically capable of:




We can see from the diagrams how the poll (skull/C1) has a huge range of motion both vertically and laterally compared with the other vertebrae.
Also note the other joint that has a comparatively huge range of motion - the lumbro-sacral joint. From this we can see why Dr. Deb focusses on twirling the head and loins (untracking).

What the diagrams don't show, since we don't have a diagram comparing range of axial rotation of each joint, is the large range of motion that the C1/C2 joint has which is rotation about the axis of the spinal column - head tilting. If we did have an axial rotation diagram, we would probably see that the C/C2 and lumbro-sacral joints would have the largest range of axial rotation.

It might also help if we differentiate between the terms "stretching" and "releasing". The former describes elongating a muscle while the latter describes turning it off. Stretching a muscle does not necessarily release it - especially when an external force is applied. IOW, a very supple horse (with good stretchiness to the muscles) could still carry a brace. Conversely, a very soft or unbraced horse is not necessarily supple. Mostly they'd go hand in hand - just not an absolute though.
Blue Flame

IMHO, the whole head tilt right/wrong thing is more about balance than anything. When I envision a horse in balance, I picture level ears.

If your horse carries out its movements with level ears, all well and good. But if it tilts the head in a turn or movement, it is likely not at optimum balance - so then we might look into what the causes might be.
PasoBaby_CarolU

Those are interesting charts and I like Hilary's work.  It does a good job of showing the 'stretchiness' available through the joints.   I don't think it explains why flexing would be bad though, even held stretching, since in PT you hold stretches to exercise the muscles.  I do the same in PT with my rehab horses.

Just a thought I had while looking at those charts...most "flexing" is done in the lateral plane (other then dressage, few people spend much time on vertical flexion), but it has been my experience that most braces are in the back and in the top of the neck and are probably bilateral, and due to vertical flexion problems, not lateral ones.   So, I don't really see a lateral move crating or removing a brace - only half a brace.  You would need to twirl both sides to relieve the full brace.

Lateral flexion conctrates more the bendability of the horse...most seem to show plenty in their neck and very little in their ribs.  I've seen horses (again, those overdose of flexion horses) be able to go straight forwards with their head cranked around to the side...no one rein stop, or control of any kind.  An extreme case I know, but a dangerous one.
coveredbridgefarm

Very nice charts.  

Larry
Blue Flame

PasoBaby_CarolU wrote:
Those are interesting charts and I like Hilary's work.  It does a good job of showing the 'stretchiness' available through the joints.   I don't think it explains why flexing would be bad though, even held stretching, since in PT you hold stretches to exercise the muscles.  I do the same in PT with my rehab horses.
I do held leg stretches with my horse. There is a feel of the horse releasing into the stretch or bracing against it that is completely independent of the amount of stretch. While I could stretch his leg further with a bit more force, if he is resisting it then I think it is not as beneficial as if he lets go of the muscles, switches them off, even though the stretch might not be as much. I'm sure you know what I mean - when you begin the stretch there comes a point of resistance where you can wait for the horse to release into it or not. Sometimes you might need to back up the stretch a bit before they will give themselves to it or relax into it. On the other hand, the amount of support you give them in holding the stretch could influence what the muscles that are being contracted (while their opposites release) have to do to maintain the stretch. IOW, it might not be the muscles being stretched that cause discomfort, but the opposite muscles contracting and possibly cramping. Therefore, I think the focus should be on making sure we are lengthening something without cause undue contraction of its antagonist.

PasoBaby_CarolU wrote:
Just a thought I had while looking at those charts...most "flexing" is done in the lateral plane (other then dressage, few people spend much time on vertical flexion), but it has been my experience that most braces are in the back and in the top of the neck and are probably bilateral, and due to vertical flexion problems, not lateral ones.   So, I don't really see a lateral move crating or removing a brace - only half a brace.  You would need to twirl both sides to relieve the full brace.
Exactly!! Being that most of the muscles involved are bi-lateral, it is often easier to access and treat them one side at a time than to try to treat them both at once. It also makes it easier to isolate them. My limited experience has shown me that, at least with my horse, if there is a vertical flexion problem, working laterally usually helps. It is almost like releasing lateral braces gets us better vertical posture as a consequence - in my very limited experience - not merely due to the effort of the muscles below the spine but because of the release of muscles above..

One of Dr. Deb's assertions is that  for vertical flexion to occur (and it makes perfect sense to me) all muscles above the spine must release and it is the muscles below the spine that create the flexion.

Somewhat related to that is another principle of Dr. Deb's in that straight should come before forward, in contrast to many other training scales. Her view is that when you get a horse straight, forward, or impulsion,  occurs as a consequence. Its an efficiency thing. When we first got shoulder-in with Blue Flame, the vertical flexion came automatically - from this lateral movement - and it was surprising how much rein he gave back to the rider.

PasoBaby_CarolU wrote:
Lateral flexion conctrates more the bendability of the horse...most seem to show plenty in their neck and very little in their ribs.  I've seen horses (again, those overdose of flexion horses) be able to go straight forwards with their head cranked around to the side...no one rein stop, or control of any kind.  An extreme case I know, but a dangerous one.
. . . and probably more in the realm of mental/emotional than physical - but I guess that is where twirling the loins comes in - what PP calls disengaging, what Dr. Deb calls loin twirling and what Mike Schaffer calls the lateral engaging step. If you can bend the neck and twirl the loins, the least you are going to get is a lateral movement rather than a runaway. The final peice to actually get the horse turned and heading in another direction is probably the shoulders.

On a more purposeful note, the combination of head twirling and loin twirling together can lead to a horse releasing through the middle - it is easier to work on these two ends of the vertebral chain - which have the largest range of bend -  than to work on the ribcage directly.

I guess sometimes the best we can do if we can't isolate a particular brace is to work with more accessable areas that have a large measure of sympathetic relationships with the braced area. This might actually be where the potential for damage to be done with regards to head twirling/head tilting resides - in that we may create a disconnect between the parts of the physique that should act more in unison.

Question for those that have actually held the bones in their hands . . .
When a horse tilts the head, does it create a more limited range of movement of the poll with reference to interference bewtween the skull/jaw and the wings of the Atlas?
coveredbridgefarm

The hindquarters equivalent to head twirling is untracking.

According to Dr Deb, untracking is asking a horse to step under his/her body with the inside back leg taking care to time the request as the inside back leg is getting ready to leave the ground. Untracking and head twirling apparently have similar effects on the mental, emotional, and spiritual states of the horse, as well as the physical state of the horse. Untracking gets the horse's attention, makes him calmer, helps to get the "brace" out, and it gives the human more control over the horse.

Dr Deb states that these techniques(head twirling and untracking) were used in ancient times.  That begs the question: If they are so important and if they go back so far, why haven't they become a more integral part of all types of horsemanship? Both can be fairly easily learned.

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

Blue Flame wrote:
Quote:
When a horse tilts the head, does it create a more limited range of movement of the poll with reference to interference bewtween the skull/jaw and the wings of the Atlas?
This is mostly a guess but I would say that it does due to the shape of the condyles which allow for twirling and because of bilateral muscle contraction involved in tilitng.

Sandy, when you use the term "loin twirling", are you talking about untracking?

Larry
Blue Flame

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
If they are so important and if they go back so far, why haven't they become a more integral part of all types of horsemanship? Both can be fairly easily learned.

Larry
Larry, from what I've read on Dr Deb's forum, things got seriously screwed up about the time that the Germans (or more pointedly, Nazis, as she would put it) created the 'sport' of dressage. I guess that is when ego came into the equation versus genuine utilitarian needs.

As for being easily learned - yes - definitely. The problem seems to be that instructors/clinicians are imitating the masters rather than emulating them. They give people a rough idea of the movement without expounding on the deeper aspects - the why of things.

For example, when Dr. Deb teaches untracking on the ground, three differences stand out between her a PP. First, the step is more forward than sideways. Second, related to the first is that it is an engagement of the HQ - not disengagement. Third, she places much more emphasis than PP on the importance that the horse does not flee the cue - what she calls blurring - that the horse settles between each step and that the handler absolutely releases every step. Even after all that, in her 'Mannering' audio set this untracking lesson is taught as just one of the necessary pre-requisites for the purpose of gaining the horse's attention and teaching it to focus and increase it's span of attention - quite apart from all of the other benefits.

. . and obviously, where PP would go straight to teach his version of lateral flexion, DD is teaching head twirling with it's more precise specifications. On that subject, I guess she would use a rein to bring a horse's head around so far as she could without creating a tilt. Beyond that I don't think she would use a rein to the point that a tilt is created - though she may use a carrot or some other lure or method without physical compulsion - just a guess though
Blue Flame

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
Blue Flame wrote:
Quote:
When a horse tilts the head, does it create a more limited range of movement of the poll with reference to interference bewtween the skull/jaw and the wings of the Atlas?
This is mostly a guess but I would say that it does due to the shape of the condyles which allow for twirling and because of bilateral muscle contraction involved in tilitng.

Sandy, when you use the term "loin twirling", are you talking about untracking?

Larry
Larry, yes - untracking = loin twirling.

My question on the wings of the Atlas is a genuine one - I do not know the answer having never held the bones in my hands. Not sure about the bi-lateral muscle contracting for tilting either.
PasoBaby_CarolU

Well, not speaking of PP, but this sounds an awful lot like what Mark Russell teaches in his book.  Larry, your description of untracking is taught by Larry Whitsell, and he learned it in France.  The head twirling is not unlike I learned to relax the jaw, except that exercise includes a longitudinal stretch also.
Blue Flame

Carol, indeed DD's head twirling, as she herself writes, is a version of Francois Baucher's (a Frenchman) jaw flexions. The effect is simlar, even if the anatomical understanding is over a century apart.
coveredbridgefarm

PasoBaby_CarolU wrote:
Well, not speaking of PP, but this sounds an awful lot like what Mark Russell teaches in his book.  Larry, your description of untracking is taught by Larry Whitsell, and he learned it in France.  The head twirling is not unlike I learned to relax the jaw, except that exercise includes a longitudinal stretch also.
I have seen both Larry Whitesell and Dave Ellis use untracking in clinics in a way that reminds me of what Dr Deb writes about, with forward movement and, I think, a release as opposed to a simple disengagement. I don't think either one called it untracking though.

Sandy, can you be more specific about how you think the wings of the atlas might possibly interfere with the twirling action? A physical interference?  

And the bilateral muscle firing during tilting? I was guessing that a muscle on one side of the neck would fire to raise the neck on that side and a muscle on the other side would fire to lower the neck on THAT side.  You're thinking that doesn't happen?  You could be right.

Larry
Blue Flame

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
Sandy, can you be more specific about how you think the wings of the atlas might possibly interfere with the twirling action? A physical interference?  

And the bilateral muscle firing during tilting? I was guessing that a muscle on one side of the neck would fire to raise the neck on that side and a muscle on the other side would fire to lower the neck on THAT side.  You're thinking that doesn't happen?  You could be right.

Larry
No Larry, I can't be more specific - that's why I asked
coveredbridgefarm

I'll use a second post, separate from the previous one on untracking, to paraphrase DD's explanation of the physical purposes of untracking. She gives 3 purposes.

1. To cause the horse to develop physically so that he can better carry the rider's weight.

2. To cause the horse to develop physically so that he will stay sounder longer.

3. To cause the horse to develop physically so that he will become more beautiful, both in appearance and in movement.

These 3 purposes are "physiotherapeutic" which means "beneficial to the physique" of a riding horse given the fact that, unlike a mustang in the wild, he needs to be disproportionately stronger in the muscles which support the freespan of the back, much stronger through the haunches, and more flexible through all of the joints of back, neck, shoulders, and hind joints. Untracking helps to produce this needed development.

It's interesting that DD points out that untracking is often being taught wrong throughout the world. The emphasis is often on making the horse take longer steps underneath his body as opposed to what works best for the kind of development that riding horses need which is a more narrow step with the inside hind leg, with an oblique circular motion. Dr Deb refers to the teaching of the longer steps as a very damaging modern misinterpretation.

That observation sort of fuels my natural skepticism of riding lessons and horse shows which often promote and proliferate bad ideas which is not to say that they don't teach a lot of good stuff. It is to say that the promotion of one bad idea can cancel out a lot of the good stuff.  

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

Dr Deb said:
Quote:
The so-called even bend from poll to tail is an anatomical impossibility.

This is because of the engineering of the horse's skeleton. There are 2 zones along the horse's spine that have no flexion, or almost no capacity for bending.

The first one is the joint between the atlas and the axis behind the poll. This joint allows for rotational movement only. No lateral flexion is possible.

The other zone is the last part of the lumbar span just in front of the sacrum where the tail is attached. Looking at DD's diagram, it looks like it involves the last 2 or 3 of the sacral vertebrae and the sacrum, and lateral bending is as impossible in this area as it is in the atlas-axis area. There is a very limited amount of bending permitted in the 3 lumbar vertebrae in front of this span.

Lateral bending is allowed along the rest of the spine but the degree of bending is variable. Starting with cervical(neck area) vertebra # 7 extending through thoracic(chest area) vertebra # 6 is the third least flexible span of the horse's back. There is some bending possible in this area.

The rear part of the thoracic vertebrae, where the rider sits, is fairly flexible. Dr Deb uses a diving board analogy to describe this area.

The neck is one of two areas with the most flexibility. The poll joint and the cervical vertebrae behind the axis are involved in a lateral bend.

The other area with the most flexibility is the tail area which consists of small vertebrae that can bend in almost any direction.

Something else to keep in mind is the fact that each thoracic vertebra articulates with a rib. The entire collection of ribs forms a basket upon which a properly fitting saddle sets(not on the vertebrae). During untracking, the rib basket moves and flexes, outward and upward on the outside with the individual ribs stretched further apart, and inward and lower on the inside with the ribs compressed closer together.

It has already been mentioned that the atlas/axis joint behind the poll is the only individual joint where rotation in permitted but the entire span of the thoracic/lumbar area does allow for about 30 degrees of twisting collectively. The 30 degrees of rotation are shared by 18 thoracic vertebrae and 6 lumbar vertebrae. None of those 24 vertebrae are capable of more than 2 degrees of rotation individually. This collective rotation is what makes the horse supple throughout the rib cage.  

Just to summarize up to this point, the act of untracking(asking the horse to step with the inside hind leg under its own midline) makes the rib area supple, stretches the hind muscles, teaches the horse to not rely on the inside front shoulder to carry all of his weight on a circle, teaches a horse to be better balanced and to bend correctly from the rear, and it  negates the need of the rider to drag the horse around with the reins. Ironically, all of this focus on bending is the physical key to teaching a horse to carry himself straight.

Dr Deb said:
Quote:
There is no action in all of horsemanship more important to understand than untracking.


Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

I do have a problem with her No. 3 there.  Again, we humans are deciding what is beautiful and forcing the horse into that frame.   What's in it for the horse?
coveredbridgefarm

#3 is pretty subjective, isn't it?  

#1 is somewhat subjective, I suppose.

#2 could be validated by evidence. Whether it is or not, I don't honestly know. But working with the horse based on anatomical structure does seem logical to me.  Joints are designed to be used in a particular way. If the joint is continually used in a way that it isn't designed for, then there would likely be adverse consequences. Seems logical.

But your point is valid, Carol. Dr Deb did get into a gray area there, imo. Appearance is in the eye of the beholder. I guess movement could be also.  Some people like that ugly head-down shuffling gait that you can see at some horse shows these days.  Personally, I think it's ugly. It's one of the reasons I rarely go to horse shows these days. I'm afraid it may violate #s 1 & 2 above also.  

Sandy, interesting about your point that competitve dressage created an environment for the human ego to be expressed at the expense of the horse's well-being.  It's still happening, but not just in dressage any more.  

Larry
Clarissa

Well I'm glad this conversation finally got going. I have tried for the 2yrs of this forum's life to get it started.   Just sorry I haven't been able to have input this time round. I've been too sick to do much.

But I have been reading when I can & the thing that strikes me is that there is no footage of the actual twirling action on the net that I have found. All the words in all the forums doesn't do justice to 1 minute of actual footage of the exercise.

I was shown & instructed by DD herself how to do it correctly. It is hard to explain & I can visualize which each explanation but still most  people fail to understand via words.

One day I might push my luck & upload a short demonstration to youtube & see if DD allows it to stay there.


Carol I think the reason why it's not good to flex the horse's head around to the shoulder or your foot is mostly to do with biomechanics. If the horse is already heavy on it's front end, taking away that balance point of the head can cause the horse to tighten the wrong muscles like those along it's back & down the shoulders to the toes. This creates incorrect muscle memory & things like shortening the stride & causing the saddle not to fit well.

The horse should be balanced over it's feet better before flexing that much. Not many people are informed enough to what that should look or feel like to get the whole exercise right. There certainly is no reference in the PNH teachings to getting the horse's weight 50/50 or thereabouts before flexing the head 90-180degrees.

Hence the reason twirling is so important. It keeps the joints flexible, teaches the horse good posture, re-enforces softness in the muscles, makes most other exercises more easily attainable & allows the horse to have confidence in it's handler.
stella

As the saying goes, "There is nothing new under the sun."
I think alot of things have simply been repackaged.

I have been training horses for over 40 years, and my jaw dropped reading about the horse "carrying weight with the outside legs" when turning or circling, whereas, what I've been training all this time is, what is called here, "untracking." Totally basic balanced seat(english or western), classical old school dressage, spanish, portugese, french, as some have pointed out. Just part of good old-fashioned lateral work.

The inside hind leg comes under the body, to help support the weight of the horse and the rider above that point; and also "free" the forehand-help the horse become more agile, optimize its balance relative to gravity.
It requires you do so slowly, as part of training a horse is teaching it, and part is conditioning its musculature to perform correctly. You wouldn't want to try to do 50 pushups your first time, either...it'd hurt you, not help.

In this case you will be helping build the underpinning of the horse, strengthening the stifles, hocks, etc. to support not just itself, but also some of the forehand weight, and human/tack weight, which is more difficult to do with more and more impulsion. Collection is all about improving that rear end motor, and letting it do all the work BECAUSE its the strongest part of the horse, the back legs attached by bone to the body, while the forehand, as previously stated, is not.

In the process, there are a few other considerations:One, is that the horse is usually "handed," that is, left or right handed, has a hollow and a stiff side....and two, being the head is the fulcrum of balance, and the horse, until it has "self carriage,"is well-developed and conditioned enough throughout the rest of its body to carry itself correctly with your weight, so that its forehand is truly free, is dependent on his head and neck will try to use them however it feels necessary to retain its balance. So, what you may call "twirling" is an element of lateral flexion that you can use to help the horse find the position that would actually best achieve its balance despite the weaknesses of "handedness" while you strengthen the weaker, "stiff" side, and helping it develop the proper rounding of the forepart of the topline into a proper "bascule:" and also, in its flexion, prevent the horse from "falling" onto its inside front shoulder, helping to displace some of the forehand weight more to the rear, giving it confidence by making it much more agile.

If you yourself take a step forward, you will see that you can't shift your weight to your forward moving foot to advance, unless you allow your head to move over it, because we, too, rely on head position for balance. That's the principle of the reins in controlling the horse's movements.

As riders, our control has to do with not only preventing the horse from doing things, but also, improve ways of doing things while carrying our weight. Feeling ultra agile is an elation to the horse by nature-its ultimate survival skill, so after impeding it with the burden of our weight(and all that stuff we put on them), if we can help show our horse how best to regain,and even improve its agility and mobility, despite the fact that we are the ones ultimately in control, it helps instill our horses' trust in us, and regain the confidence in themselves. Its almost as if "lightbulb goes off" in the horse's head, and you'll know the moment "they get it"...and the learning snowballs with eagerness.

Excuse me if I don't use all the fancy intellectualized terminology; I do have beyond a Masters' degree, but I'm a strong believer in the KISS method of expression, its easier on us all.

stella

(PS Carol, I do think that horses that are flexed too much tend to get what's called, "rubbernecked," and insensitive in their anticipation; takes alot of patience to undo it, too)
Clarissa

Well elaborated Stella !


As Stella said about nothing new under the sun, the fact is that people forget or fail to keep that info in circulation so it gets lost. As happens a lot with 'old' knowledge such as you referred to from the old masters.

So someone has to come along with a new approach to it, add their bit & give it a new name. Twirling might be one of those things. Or it could be that DD being the type of person she is has worked it out for herself & given it a name.  

Too many people just get on & ride or force the horse into a shape with no consideration to the horse or it's biomechanics.

In anycase we should be taking notice of Dr Deb's work because it is very important work & vital to good horse health in all respects.
coveredbridgefarm

Clarissa wrote:
Quote:
But I have been reading when I can & the thing that strikes me is that there is no footage of the actual twirling action on the net that I have found. All the words in all the forums doesn't do justice to 1 minute of actual footage of the exercise.

I was shown & instructed by DD herself how to do it correctly. It is hard to explain & I can visualize which each explanation but still most  people fail to understand via words.

Clarissa, a video would be immensely helpful. Twirling is definitely an example of how insufficient our language can be sometimes. Since you have actually had hands-on lessons with Dr Deb herself, would you care to take a stab at explaining twirling? I don't feel like I have explained it very well. In fact, I don't feel like Dr Deb explained it very well in her articles.

Stella wrote:
Quote:
Feeling ultra agile is an elation to the horse by nature-its ultimate survival skill, so after impeding it with the burden of our weight(and all that stuff we put on them), if we can help show our horse how best to regain,and even improve its agility and mobility, despite the fact that we are the ones ultimately in control, it helps instill our horses' trust in us, and regain the confidence in themselves.
That is a crucial point. Balance, or at least regaining the balance that has been lost due to the distribution of the weight of rider and tack, is very important to the horse in several ways.  Dr Deb says that untracking and twirling are two of the keys to allowing the horse to find its way to the "elation" that you describe. This thread is about discussing the truth of that assertion and why it might be true without promoting or casting aspersions upon the clinician. I hope you will continue to contribute to the discussion.

Does this "stuff" help the human to help the horse?  That should be the primary consideration, imo.  

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

While we struggle to obtain a clear concept of twirling, let's think about riding the horse in a circle, paying particular attention to the function of untracking. It seems to me that untracking is a function that is more easily explained than twirling.  

Before we actually ride, we need to cover another concept that DD introduces briefly.  That would be the idea that the horse can "see" your mental pictures. One mental picture that would be helpful to the horse is your mental picture of the direction of the horse's energy at each and every moment. This mental picture can be aided by a clear understanding of the movement of the horse's skeleton and musculature. Now, picture riding the horse in a circle.

As the outside leg of the horse becomes the weight bearing leg, the lumbar region and the pelvis will be higher on the outside, thus freeing the inside leg to step under the body and the weight shifts to the inside. The proper transfer of weight in the most balanced manner possible, as I understand it anyway, is what untracking is all about with an emphasis on the importance of the inside hind leg moving under the midline of the horse's body. The relevant muscles become stronger, balance is maintained, the horse feels good about itself.  The rider tries to avoid getting in the way of the horse's naturally balanced movements.

As the inside leg starts to become the weight bearing leg, the lumbar region and the pelvis shift to a roughly level position. Very soon, the weight will shift to the outside and the horse's body will once again make room for the inside hind leg to be placed under the midline. There is a continual shifting of the combined weight of horse and rider with the positioning of the inside hind leg being the key movement.  This serves the purpose of, among other things, preventing the outside legs from carrying more of the weight burden than a well-balanced horse would be comfortable with.

It must also be remembered that the rib cage must be permitted to swing freely from side to side as the hind legs move, alternately serving as the bearer of the horse's weight. The rider becomes a key element in these movements. If the rider sits on the same side of the horse all of the time, or if the rider is stiff in the waist, the rib cage of the horse will be restricted from being able to freely rise and fall along with the pelvis and lumbar area. It is critical that the rider avoids restricting the horse's rib cage with his/her legs  and that the rider be supple enough in the waist to accommodate the horse's need to shift its weight from one leg to the other.

This is where the concept of being aware of where the energy is flowing comes in. If the rider focuses on a mental picture of the direction of the horse's energy, it is Dr Deb's belief that the horse will be aware of the rider's intention. And if the rider can adjust his body position in the direction of the horse's energy with an adjustment of his legs and the manipulation of the rest of his body by adjustment in his own waist area, the horse will then be more likely to make the rider's intention actually become a reality. A knowledge of the horse's anatomy helps to make this all possible, coupled with the rider's ability to make his own body compatible with the balance requrements of the horse as it moves.

Anatomy, energy direction, compatible body movements between horse and rider, mental pictures, untracking. All of these things are components of a properly ridden  horse. Otherwise(my conclusion), the rider is a passenger, not a partner.

Any corrections or enhancements to that description would be freely welcomed because the ultimate goal here, the only goal really, is to enable humans to make the horse's job easier, not harder.

Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

Clarissa wrote:


Carol I think the reason why it's not good to flex the horse's head around to the shoulder or your foot is mostly to do with biomechanics. If the horse is already heavy on it's front end, taking away that balance point of the head can cause the horse to tighten the wrong muscles like those along it's back & down the shoulders to the toes. This creates incorrect muscle memory & things like shortening the stride & causing the saddle not to fit well.

The horse should be balanced over it's feet better before flexing that much. Not many people are informed enough to what that should look or feel like to get the whole exercise right. There certainly is no reference in the PNH teachings to getting the horse's weight 50/50 or thereabouts before flexing the head 90-180degrees.


Clarissa, I don't agree with this.  I honestly can't say that I've seen anyone, including my chiropractor state to get the weight off the front end before flexing the neck.  Since you are doing it with the horse standing relaxed, it is safe to say that 60% of their weight will be on their front end and they'd probably shift some weight back as you flex.  I just don't see that as critical. I have not seen "incorrect muscle memory" be an issue with collection or weight bearing or saddle fit after flexing - and I've seen a LOT of flexing, more with Paso Fino training then with PNH.  

The point is to stretch and increase flexibility and flexing the whole neck should be part of a whole stretch warm-up, not the only element in it.  I honestly haven't seen neck flexing be a big element in PNH, certainly nothing like it is with others.

Even as I understand head twirling, if it is as Sandy described, similar to the exercise I learned to relax the jaw, that is done with the head lower and to the side.  More weight is most definitely on the front end at the stand still, and in a similar position when tracking in a small circle.  

Larry, I'm not sure why DD considers untracking so critical.  To me, your last paragraph is much more critical: understanding how important it is for us to move with our horse.  The most important lesson people need to learn is how critical BALANCE is to the horse - and in this use I mean physical balance.  By nature a horse that is out of balance is in danger of falling over - and they are hard wired to avoid that.  So, when we weight them, as Stella described, overweight them wrong, then we are in danger of putting them out of balance.  

That whole paragraph is a long-winded way to say to have an independent seat and ride WITH the horse.
coveredbridgefarm

Carol wrote:
Quote:
Larry, I'm not sure why DD considers untracking so critical.  To me, your last paragraph is much more critical: understanding how important it is for us to move with our horse.  The most important lesson people need to learn is how critical BALANCE is to the horse - and in this use I mean physical balance.  By nature a horse that is out of balance is in danger of falling over - and they are hard wired to avoid that.  So, when we weight them, as Stella described, overweight them wrong, then we are in danger of putting them out of balance.  

I'm going to assume, and we all know what the ramifications of "assume" are, that Dr Deb sees untracking as a way to compensate for the fact that man tends to get the horse out of balance.  Also perhaps as a compensation for some of the unnatural things we ask the horse to do. And perhaps for the unnatural conditions we ask the horse to live in, such as stalls, small pens, etc..

Maybe untracking is like the physical aspect of certain martial arts pursuits and twirling is like the mental/meditative aspect of those pursuits(I'm getting the image of a mostly sedentary human being getting signed up for, let's say Kung-fu, by a spouse).  They both help to get the horse prepared for carrying out our equine-related desires and wishes.  These things may be either done naturally in the wild, or are not needed to the same extent in the wild. Maybe they are compensation for what we do to them and what we ask of them. To the extent to which Dr Deb is correct is up to everyone to decide. I'm just trying to present her perspective to the best of my ability. I'm certainly not saying that Dr Deb couldn't ever be wrong but I am thinking that these articles are worth discussing, and assimilating, and being challenged. As always, it's just a learning process.

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

Ideally, untracking should not involve a horse stepping beyond the midline of the body with the inside leg. To ask a horse to step beyone the midline is to risk tripping because the horse's hind legs can get tangled up with each other.

Untracking is an appropriate maneuver when a horse starts to bolt or buck by utilizing a one rein stop. It is important to initiate untracking early in the horse's out-of-your-control behavior. To wait until the horse has built up a head of steam is to risk crossing the hind legs and causing a fall.

Emergency stops such as these should not be practiced as part of a general training exercise. They should be reserved for actual emergency only stops because of their forceful nature. Riding a horse in increasingly smaller circles is the recommended training alternative.

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

According to Dr Deb, there are 3 classess of lateral movements: Leg-yields, shoulder-ins, and traverses. Leg-yields are the simplest class and that is the class that she addresses first.

Any time a horse untracks by moving a hind leg forward and under the body-shadow without crossing the midline, that horse is leg-yielding. The relative length of step of the front leg to the length of step of the hind leg determines the ratio of the forward vs sideways movement. If the length of step of the front leg is small vs the length of step of the lind leg, the horse will perform a turn on the forehand. If the lengths of the steps of both front and hind legs are equal, the horse will move diagonally. The angle of the horse during the diagonal movement can vary.

A true sidepass is not a leg-yield. Leg-yields vary from almost(but not quite) straight sideways, to almost(but not quite) straight forward. DD appears to discourage asking the horse to go straight sideways because the legs tend to strike each other in the absence of any forward movement.

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

Dr Deb uses an analogy that I really like to describe a leg yield.

Picture a sailboat with wind blowing across its deck, filling its sail. Visualize the wind as energy passing across the ship. Picture the captain of the ship utilizing the energy of the wind that has collected in the ship's sail to direct the ship's movement.

Now visualize the energy from your inside leg passing through the horse causing your outside hand and outside leg to be filled with the energy that you created with your inside leg.  Now you can use the energy that has passed through the horse as the captain uses the wind that has passed over the ship's deck, to direct your horse's movements. With the energy acquired by your outside hand and leg, you can now regulate the horse's forward and sideways movement using the right mixture of both to obtain the movement of your choice.

The leg yield that occurs as a result of the pressure from your inside leg creates a bend in your horse which can be used to create perfect circles or figure 8s. Ideally, your horse is being driven more by your leg than being steered by your reins. The horse is to be driven, not pulled, in the pattern of your choice. Leg yield and untracking are one and the same and the pattern that the horse's hooves make on the ground is the result of your legs' interaction with the horse asking the horse's inside hind leg to move under the body shadow of the horse and the result of the way you use the energy that passes through the horse to your outside leg and hand.

Like wind  blowing across the deck of a ship, so too does energy flow through the horse, from your inside leg to your outside leg and hand. You are the captain and your outside leg and hand are the sail. How you utilize the energy collected in your sail will determine the course of your travel.

Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

That is a nice analogy that I think most people can understand.   Very good.  It's also easy to see why if your legs aren't in the right position, that your leg energy would be directed at the wrong place and in the wrong direction for where you want to go.
stella

Yes, I think its an excellent analogy, too! Sally Swift also has very good analogies in her "Centered Riding" book, too, and I think its any excellent way of describing touch, body awareness, etc.
I think many people don't really realize how much their thoughts and expressions are mirrored in their body language. Using our senses as part of, not just adding to our intelligence, but also as forms of communication, isn't done as consciously as it should. Because of that, we often "tell" our horses to do things/or constrain them from performing correctly, because some part of our unconsious body mannerisms are "telling" them to, without our conscious knowledge. Body awareness(knowing ourselves)is very important in effective riding communication.

We now tend to relegate our senses to "the arts" in a more or less artificial manner, separate from "real life." There was a time when, studying the arts was considered part of a "well-rounded" person, meaning every aspect of taking in intelligence, and communicating was developed...not just the more narrow aspect of intellectual. Yet, I think there is an innate need to be "more balanced" in a personal sense, to develop our senses to higher and more useful levels, and its just a freeing to have many forms of self-expression. I think its one of the reasons we get so much from our horses...it completes us in meeting these other needs of communication and expressive exchanges.

To have "the thought" really goes beyond just thought, and is expressed, even if "only" very subtly, in our body language, our touch, our voice...our comfort with first-ourselves, so we can also have it, and communicate it, to our horses. They can feel when you're relaxed, or tense, whether we're conscious of it or not. They're really much better "honed" at interpreting these forms of communication than we are, as they utilize their senses so much more consciously on a minute-to-minute basis than we do.

I also use that expression alot, "being a passenger," rather than a rider. Visually, this may actually seem like a superficial difference, as really good riders, while "active," and the one in charge, also seem to show the least amount of movement. You almost can't see how they actually communicate with the horse, but that's because they've refined their cues, their relationship with the horse to the point that its pretty close to mental telepathy-just the slightest touch, shift of an elbow, push of a seatbone, responds fully and correctly. They're refined that "language" between them to a very high level. Its not about the reins... they're just a secondary tool.

If you do understand (or just start thinking from that perspective-because you do "balance" every minute of your waking life unthinkingly anyway!) the really simple physics of balance, gravity, movement, for both yourself and your horse-and develop your own body awareness....then be consistent in communicating to your horse that you are reliable in your choices in helping it retain-even improve-its own body balance, innate to its survival- you will have its complete trust, and have a very willing partner....one that won't hesitate to do whatever you ask (provided, of course, that you ask clearly, understandibly!) The horse has to not only "give" to you physically, but much more importantly, mentally. But, its important that you first "understand where he's coming from"(survival needs) to do this, and communicate as much as possible in a language he'll understand....more kinetic, but nonetheless, refined.

Hopefully what I've written is understandable, as I think what a person's concept of what riding is about, is very crucial. Its not a mechanical, rote-learned process of "head up, back straight, heels down," that you simply "plug in" and follow, commanding the horse and it rotely does, as if a machine, which I find way too many people seem to think and expect...sometimes to a rude awakening when the horse responds otherwise. Its not about memorizing or mimicing some mechanical movement...its about being present in the moment, in a very complete  and total way.
Clarissa

Is this the thread where there was a discussion about telescoping the neck? Sorry I've been a bit out of it lately & can't remember.  shaking If this is the wrong place someone can let me know & I'll move it to the apropriate thread.

Anyway....

Have a look at the photo on the latest Parelli email offering in the section about horses pulling back.

That horse is telescoping it’s neck. See how open the area between the back of it’s jaw & the rest of it’s neck is. Also note how lifted the base of the neck is.

The front legs seem to be almost vertical & under the front of the wither, not leaning forward & standing under the back of the wither. That indicates the horse is more balanced over all 4 feet.

There is no vertical flexion but the horse has very good posture that will lead to correct dynamics for whatever the rider wants to develop in future if they know how to foster it!
coveredbridgefarm

Stella wrote:
Quote:
To have "the thought" really goes beyond just thought, and is expressed, even if "only" very subtly, in our body language, our touch, our voice...our comfort with first-ourselves, so we can also have it, and communicate it, to our horses. They can feel when you're relaxed, or tense, whether we're conscious of it or not. They're really much better "honed" at interpreting these forms of communication than we are, as they utilize their senses so much more consciously on a minute-to-minute basis than we do.

If you do understand (or just start thinking from that perspective-because you do "balance" every minute of your waking life unthinkingly anyway!) the really simple physics of balance, gravity, movement, for both yourself and your horse-and develop your own body awareness....then be consistent in communicating to your horse that you are reliable in your choices in helping it retain-even improve-its own body balance, innate to its survival- you will have its complete trust, and have a very willing partner....one that won't hesitate to do whatever you ask (provided, of course, that you ask clearly, understandibly!) The horse has to not only "give" to you physically, but much more importantly, mentally. But, its important that you first "understand where he's coming from"(survival needs) to do this, and communicate as much as possible in a language he'll understand....more kinetic, but nonetheless, refined.
Imo, humans tend to be not so well-grounded in those things which would naturally give them "balance" in the same way that horses are naturally balanced in each of their waking moments. Our culture has long ago led us into a mindset that is materialistic, superficial, artificial, and otherwise "forced" into a man-made model that has become largely disconnected from nature.  The fact that horses are much better "honed" at nonverbal communication than we are should be interpreted as a warning sign of just how far our various cultures have led us astray.

But, of course, that's not what usually happens. What usually happens is that our cultural mindset tells us(most of "us" anyway) that what horses have to communicate isn't nearly as important as what we would like them to do.  So, as is our cultural nature, we "force" these horses to abide by our cultural will, conveniently ignoring the "fact" that it is mankind who needs to be trained, or I probably should say "retrained"(because at  some point in our development we must have been more like horses in our ability to communicate nonverbally) to communicate on a high enough level that we might actually have earned the right to simply be around these sentient beings, let alone forcing them into anything. Instead of "forcing" them to abide by our unnatural ways, humans should be taking advantage of the opportunity that horses provide to re-learn nature's ways.  

That's why a working knowledge of the anatomy is important. Among other things, asking a horse to do things that its anatomy isn't designed for is very revealing about our disconnect from the natural balance that other species have maintained. It should be a warning sign to us, not an indication that we need a device of some kind to make the horse conform to our wishes. It is man who needs to conform, back to nature's ways. Horses have the ability and willingness to lead us there but first we need to realize what we are missing, or what we have lost. There is a section in these articles on devices that kind of makes that point, in a way. By learning how horses work, we can learn much about ourselves, if only we weren't so defensive about our level of disconnect.

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

Clarissa, this seems like the perfect place to discuss telescoping. I don't recall that Dr Deb had much to say about it.

More notes on how horses work:

The limbs of humans allow for more flexibility than do the limbs of horses. The nature of our joints allows for rotation and side-to-side flexions. In horses, most of their joints allow only for forward and backward movement, except for two joints which are of the ball and socket type, one in the front quarters and one in the rear quarters. The other joints are mainly tongue-and-groove types which resist lateral type movements.

In the front quarters the joint that allows for lateral movement is that formed by the juncture of the humerus and the scapula bones at the point of the shoulder. In the hindquarters, it is the joint where the femur articulates with the pelvis, or the hip joint.

It is these 2 joints that allows for lateral movement but it is the muscles associated with those 2 joints that create that movement. In the hind legs, there is a large muscle on the inside of the rear leg called the femoral adductor which is primarily responsible for stepping-in. There are also 2 other muscles which assist the femoral adductor muscle in moving the hind leg under the horse's body. And there is a large muscle located on the outside of the leg called the femoral biceps muscle which creates stepping-out movement of the hind legs. This muscle is an abductor muscle.  Both abductor muscle and adductor muscles are about equally capable of lateral movement so the horse can step in or step out with equal relative ease.

The front quarters are a bit different in that stepping in is significantly easier than stepping out. This is because the muscles which create the lateral stepping in movement(adductors) are the large pectoral muscles which draw the front legs in. The muscle primarily responsible for stepping out(abductor) is the deltoideus muscle which is actually a vestigial muscle and, at this stage of evolution, thin and small. Two other larger muscles(the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles) are also involved but are too poorly attached to provide very much leverage during a stepping out lateral movement. For these reasons, stepping out on the forelimb is one of the most difficult things we can ask a horse can do.  This is why horses prefer to turn on the forehand rather than step sideways. Their muscle structure makes it easier for them to take relatively larger steps with the hind legs while taking smaller steps with the front legs, thus they tend to turn on the forehand.  

Horses can be trained to step wide with the front legs as long as we have given them the time to develop the front abductor muscles which allow them to step out with the forelegs. This means that horses should be allowed to take a few small steps of front lateral movement in the beginning of their training in order to build up the deltoideus muscle and the two other associated muscles that create the stepping out with the front legs movement. It's a bit like asking some people to do pushups when their muscles are not conditioned to do them. Give them time to build up the relevant muscles first before asking for too much.

Weight is the last remaining issue involving sideways movement in horses. Since the abductor muscles of the front end have limited strength and since the front end carries 60% of the weight of the horse, the rider can significantly assist the horse in its sideways movement by shifting weight from the front end of the horse to the back end. Shift your weight to balance the weight distribution evenly between the front and back legs. Get in tune with your horse's feet.

Larry
Blue Flame

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
Shift your weight to balance the weight distribution evenly between the front and back legs.

Larry
Dr. Deb said that? It doesn't seem consistent with other things I have read on her forum.
coveredbridgefarm

Blue Flame wrote:
coveredbridgefarm wrote:
Shift your weight to balance the weight distribution evenly between the front and back legs.

Larry
Dr. Deb said that? It doesn't seem consistent with other things I have read on her forum.
That's what I have in my notes. I'm not sure if that is a direct quote or my summation of what she said. Either way, it probably should not be taken absolutely literally.  It is a recognition of several things:

The front end carries about 60% of the weight.
The hardest part of a leg yield for a horse is stepping out with the outside front leg.
A rider can help the horse overcome these 2 disadvantages by shifting his/her weight backwards.

I think "evenly" in this case means to distribute the weight evenly between the front and the back ends, not literally, but proportionally, taking into consideration the difference between the ability of the front end to move over and the ability of the back end to move over. Put your weight(in this case, more toward the back) where your horse is best able to move to the outside, to the extent that you can, so that the ability of the front end to move over more closely approximates the ability of the back end to move over. So, evenly in a proportional sense, not in a literal sense, if that makes any sense.  

It's that language thing again and the above is nothing more than my interpretation, not a direct quote from the article which I no longer have in my possession.

Larry
karmikacres

How about just as simply as put your weight in a position to help your horse.
coveredbridgefarm

I like analogies and Dr Deb has offered the analogy of a gondolier powering a gondola by pushing the boat with a long pole placed in the water(to the ground floor actually), first on one side and then on the other side(key point if you want the vehicle to travel in a straight line). That is how a horse's hind legs work. They push first from one side and then from the other side.

The analogy continues to apply as the gondola "sidepasses"  up to the dock. The gondolier will place his pole close to the boat at his end and push off thereby swinging the rear end of the gondola toward the dock. The gondolier will then place his pole toward the other end and up next to the boat and push off again. He is, in effect, "untracking" his gondola and moving sideways. This is basically what the horse is doing during a sidepass.

The horse, of course, has legs on both sides so think of the same sideways movement in terms of which rear leg(restricted to rear legs only for simplification) becomes weighted and which one becomes unweighted as well as what is happening in the rest of the horse's body and what should the rider be doing at each point in a sidepass.

1.  Note the movement of the rear legs as they become, alternately, weighted and unweighted.

2.  Untracking enables(unweights) the outward step(to the right in this example) of the outside leg. As the left leg steps under the midline, it will become the weighted leg thus freeing(unweighting/enabling) the right leg to step outward.

3.  Very soon the right leg becomes the weighted leg which enables untracking(unweighting) by the left leg once again as the left leg again steps under the midline.

4.  The untracking encourages the rib cage of the horse to sway in the direction of the body's movement.

5.  Going back to the analogy of wind blowing across a ship's deck and being captured by the ship's sail, feel the outside rein(right rein in this case) as it is brushed by the horse's neck. It's important to feel more than just the pull from the horse's mouth. The energy is blowing through the horse's entire body and the reins offer an opportunity to feel the energy as it blows across the neck. Feel everything that is going on as the horse moves sideways. The energy flows from one side of the horse to the other side and is captured by the rider's outside hand and leg.

6.  Feel the outside rib cage as it responds to the energy it receives from the inside of the rig cage as the energy passes through the horse. Free up space with your outside leg so the rib cage can shift over and shift your own weight to the leg that is becoming the weighted leg thus freeing up the unweighted leg to move over.

7.  The left rein should drape slightly as the horse bends its body to the outside.

Dr Deb ends this article by quoting master horseman Nuno Oliveira:  "You need to be aware of everything that is going on along the inside of your horse."

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

karmikacres wrote:
How about just as simply as put your weight in a position to help your horse.
Simple as that. And yet, I'm thinking that most horses would tell most of their riders that they just don't get it, not completely anyway.

Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
karmikacres wrote:
How about just as simply as put your weight in a position to help your horse.
Simple as that. And yet, I'm thinking that most horses would tell most of their riders that they just don't get it, not completely anyway.

Larry


I think it is that simple if you've ridden most of your life, or you are a natural athlete, and it comes easily for you.  But many people started late in life and they have to put a lot of thought and concentration into where their weight is, where their legs are, how they're sitting, if their hips are loose, where their hands are, elbows, head, focus, etc.   It boggles my mind.

I wouldn't know this if I didn't go to the Parelli and now Dressage clinics and listen to other people's lessons.  I really have to hand it to the instructors, and even DD above, for breaking it down like this.  I'd be hard pressed to do such a good job of describing things I do without thinking.
karmikacres

This is one of the things Martin is so good at teaching.  Having started thousands of colts has shown him where the horse wants our weight and what works for them.
PasoBaby_CarolU

That's nice to know Mike.  Martin is one I've never studied.  

I do study Larry and Mark Russell, Sally Swift, some others.  Same thing.  They've done it and have a great way of putting it in words.  I think that is a gift.
coveredbridgefarm

Being able to do it and being able to put it into words in a clear and precise manner are two significantly different challenges, imo.  It's that language/communication thing again.  

Larry
Mandy'sMarty

Larry, the analogies you've mentioned--the sailboat and the gondola--are really excellent ways for me to visualize the concepts from the saddle. (I suppose thanks are due to Dr. Deb for the excellent analogies.) And I can really relate to Dr. Deb's descriptions of managing the horse's energy as I have always thought of the horse as an exceptional example of energy expression.

This all helps me understand how I have been able to so quickly grasp riding techniques. I've never had any formal lessons other than participating in a few Parelli clinics. I have had years of experience sailing and paddling solo.

I recall my last clinic with Gretchen Thompson when she was guiding me through an exercise while riding that involved identifying specific footfalls. I had to stop her at one point because her narrative description was creating too much confusion in my head. I literally could not process what she was saying and then translate that into the appropriate cue for my mare. I asked her to just quietly watch what I was doing and then give me some feedback. She then laughed and said that, like her, I was a 'natural' rider. I interpret that to mean that I am often better able to access my innate ability by 'doing' rather then 'thinking' about a new physical exercise. I'm sure this all relates to that "language/communication thing" and how the particular student learns.

Perhaps I have often subconsciously 'thought' of being in the saddle on Mandy as similar to being in the trapeze harness of my catamaran or being in my whitewater canoe. I know that occasionally I do consciously relate what I am doing on Mandy to what I would do in a boat. I find it intriguing that whitewater canoes are outfitted with a 'saddle' that you kneel astride, rather than a seat that you sit on.
Blue Flame

So if you shift your weight onto the weight bearing outside leg in order to help the opposite leg to lift/move - then that has you opposing the ribcage, since it will be lifting and swinging to the side you are weighting in order to make room for the other leg to step through and untrack.

Ok, so you may be unweighting the stepping leg, but it seems that at the same time you are opposing the ribcage. I can see the horse getting it done anyway but maybe it doesn't roll the barrel quite as far or maybe it drops the untracking/inside of the barrel rather than lifting the outside.

Looking at it from a purely physical perspective, a horse with weight on the outside - so the outside hind is pushing up on one side of the horse - while stepping/untracking the inside so the inside of the horse is unsupported, creates a torque couple which will naturally rotate the barrel so that it is higher on the outside than the inside.

My point is that the weighted side of the horse has the effect of pushing that side of the horse upwards from below. How then does it help the horse if we simultaneously shift weight to that side and push down from above - effectively opposing his movement?
coveredbridgefarm

Sandy wrote:
Quote:
So if you shift your weight onto the weight bearing outside leg in order to help the opposite leg to lift/move - then that has you opposing the ribcage, since it will be lifting and swinging to the side you are weighting in order to make room for the other leg to step through and untrack.

  It can get very confusing to describe the sequence of events.  I'm not saying that I have this straight but let me try it. I think that the part of your quote that I highlighted in red is incorrect.

Leg yield to the right---RH leg begins to step to the right. The rider needs to get some of his weight off that leg in order to make the horse's job easier. The rider also needs to open his right leg up to free up room for the horse's rib cage as it gets prepared to swing to the right as the horse steps to the outside with the outside leg.

At some point during the weight shift, the right leg will become the weight bearing leg and the rider needs to begin to shift his weight toward the right side in order to make it easier for the horse to untrack with the left leg. I think the rib cage would then swing to the left so the rider would need to free up his own left leg to make room for that movement of the rib cage to the left. The sequence would simply repeat itself.  Right leg moves outward, rib cage follows to the right. Right leg becomes weight bearing, rib cage swings back to the left. Left leg untracks, rib cage begins to swing to the right as you begin to shift your weight to the horse's left leg which is sarting to become the weight bearing leg and you free up space for the rib cage by opening up your right leg as the right leg begins to move.

Please, by all means, correct me if I'm wrong about that. It is difficult to describe the dynamics and timing of a leg yield.

I think the ribs tend to go in the direction of the outside leg that is moving sideways and then in the other direction as the outside leg starts to become weight bearing. The untracking leg then sends the ribs toward the outside once again as it starts to become the weight bearing leg, and then the right leg begins to move. And so on.  Even more than usual, I could be wrong.  

The point of contention is exactly when does the rib cage begin to shift directions. I'm thinking it may be around the time when the moving foot hits the ground, or possibly slightly before.  

Somebody on this forum may know. Someone else give it a try, please. Tell us the exact timing sequence between leg movement and rib cage movement. Include the rider and what he should be doing.

Larry
Blue Flame

This article, which has been posted on this forum before, might help get clear on this ribcage/footfall thing.

http://www.saltriverperformancehorses.com/uploads/countingthebeat.pdf

The following quote from the article linked above describes the sequence of events while riding a circle to the left. The foot in question is the inside (left) hind.

Quote:
FEELING THE START OF THE SWING PHASE:

Remembering that the ideal moment of the stride to apply an aid is when the foot in question is just leaving the ground and entering the swing phase, now is the time to really concentrate on feeling when the horse’s ribcage reaches the limit of its movement to the left. A split second after this happens, just as the ribcage starts to swing back in the opposite direction (from left to right) is the correct time to give an aid to encourage the inside hind to take a bigger step. A feeling of your left hip dropping slightly downwards is a good indication of the exact moment when the inside hind foot comes off the ground.


So we can see that the ribcage is always moving towards the grounded foot and away from the stepping foot. Hence my view that weighting the grounded side of the horse opposes the swing of the ribs.

Also . . . looking at the exercise for humans to understand the link between ribcage and hind feet . . .

Quote:
Back to the original example where you’ll also find that the more swing you allow your ‘belly’ to have to the right, the larger the step you’re able to take with your left foot. In contrast, if the ‘belly swing’ is only a short distance, this foot can only take a little step.


This again indicates (to me anyway) that if we inhibit the ribcage, we inhibit the hind feet. This is why I think that weighting the grounded foot with our seats can inhibit the horse's movement.

That said, there is another posibility of what might occur. That possibility is that if we block the energy flowing left/right, that energy might be diverted to flow forward. On her forum, DD writes about 'anchoring' the outside hind which (on a well schooled horse) causes the horse to rearrange his body in such a way that the horse 'unfurls' into the desired bend - or maybe a canter depart - depending on the application.
PasoBaby_CarolU

Interesting Sandy.  This has nothing to do with rider's weight, but I was taught to cue the outside foot as it is stepping out, because if it doesn't go out farther, then the inside foot can't come under farther.   This translated to cuing when the inside foot lands.
coveredbridgefarm

Quote:
A feeling of your left hip dropping slightly downwards is a good indication of the exact moment when the inside hind foot comes off the ground.
I was thinking that it felt like there was a small delay between the time the foot comes off the ground and the time when the rib cage begins to drop. But maybe not.  

There may be some blocking, hence the forward movement, but I'm thinking that by the time the rib cage is all the way over to the right, the rider should be shifting over to the left.

So, the other critical timing question is:  Where is the left foot at the exact time that the ribcage is all the way over to the right. The horse's weight may have already shifted to the left leg by that time and a properly timed rider would be off the right side of the horse by then. Well, in any event, this discussion does tend to point out the importance of the timing.  

Marty, I'm pretty much like you.  Whatever I do is natural because of the way that I learned, without formal lessons. Mechanically following instructions is hard for me to do too.  

Larry
Blue Flame

I'm NOT a natural and following instructions is hard for me to do as well

Just had more thoughts on this 'unfurling' effect DD talks about . . . back soon.
Blue Flame

OK, back now . . . so  . . . 'unfurling' . . . .

So lets say that the horse is about to step forward with the left hind - but we have shifted our weight to the right so that it opooses somewhat the swing and lift of the ribcage to the right.

Now the horse is faced with a couple of choices since it is limited to how far out of the way it can get its belly for the left hind to come through . . .

First, it could just take a shorter step with the left hind proportional to how much of its belly is in the way - this is what I have been talking about above . . .

Alternatively, what would the horse have to do in terms of rearranging its body in order to take the full step with the left hind?

If we now consider that the belly has moved as far to the right as it could (limited by our weight shifted to the right side) so that for all intents and purposes the ribcage is now stationary . . .

. . . what if the horse, instead of moving it's belly to the right (because it can't), stretches the RF shoulder forward and left a little to take a bigger stride? What if it, at the same time, stayed on the supporting right hind a little longer to further make a longer stride and thus further lengthend the right side of its body? Would this not enable the horse to create enough bend around the limitied ribcage in order to allow the inside hind to untrack? Would this cause the well schooled horse to 'unfurl' into a left bend from an 'anchored' RH?

. . . then, having untracked with the left hind, would the left front then step forward and to the left since the right front had already moved left?

Just thoughts . . . I may have it completely wrong . . . but if I'm right, then this means that there are two possible outcomes (at least) depending on the horse's schooling and/or its natural talent. One is inhibiting or stifling the movement and the other is creating a bend and turn in the opposite direction to our weight bias.

Carol,

What is your cue for the outside hind to step out? Indirect rein or something else?
coveredbridgefarm

Sandy, is "unfurling" synonomous with "untracking"? I'm not familiar with unfurling.

I had a couple of random thoughts during the evening and night.  The rib cage is supported by a sling of muscles, kind of like a hammock, as I picture it.  If you swing in a hammock, there seems to be a moment at the apex of each side of the swing where you appear to be momentarily suspended and you shift your weight to that side in order to keep the swinging movement going.  I'm wondering exactly what the left leg of the horse is doing at the moment of the rib cage's apex to the left. As I recall, Dr Deb referred to a circular movement of the untracking leg. IF(not sure) that movement is counterclockwise, that(the circular movement of the left hoof) could be the horse stepping around the rib cage as it gets prepared to make the left leg the weight bearing leg. As the left leg takes on more of the weight, it also moves backward out of the way of the rib cage so that the rib cage can move to the right.  I  have a QH mare who can do a nice sidepass when I'm riding her but, of course, I can't see her feet at that time.  

Good point about bringing the front feet into the discussion because they could also help create space for the rib cage.  

The other random thought that I had about this is about the amount of blockage of the rig cage by the outside leg of the rider.  Leg yields can have varying degrees of of sideways movement relative to forward movement. Maybe that translates to varying degrees of blockage by the rider's leg as the horse's diagonal movement would vary depending upon the timing of the rider's weight shift. In a sidepass, the movement is straight sideways(no forward movement) so the rider needs to shift his weight sooner. That's what I think it feels like to me when I'm sidepassing my mare.  I don't know for certain if any of this is correct but if it is, then the timing of the rider's weight shift is a key. I know that it feels like I'm spending most of my time on the left side of the horse when I'm sidepassing Baby, the afore-mentioned mare, and a lesser amount of time on the left side during a leg yield. This is actually a rather complicated series of timing factors(for us more so than for the horses), isn't it?  

Carol, what do you think about this? Stella? Clarissa? Anyone? I think we need new inputs.  This is simply a discussion about getting the dynamics correct, not about who is right.  I don't think I have ever read anything by anyone, other than the comments from Dr Deb(and I don't recall that she discusses the timing in this detail), regarding the movement of the rib cage relative to the feet during leg yields or sidepasses.

Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

Sandy, I use an inside heel, or calf actually is where my leg contacts my horse.  I time it with the landing of the inside hind and let my energy pushes the outside foot farther out.   I'll be totally honest too in that I don't do much with my weight at all other then ride naturally.  I ride an awfully small horse and it would be too easy for me to get her out of balance if I'm shifting my weight around.

If I'm asking a front foot to go out farther...like in Spanish walk, then I shift my weight back and to the opposite side of the step I'm asking for.   You can't take a step with a foot that has weight on it.   Try it yourself..put all your weight on your left leg and then try to step out with it.  You can't.  Try it with even weight, you can't.  You have to unweight that foot.
Blue Flame

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
Sandy, is "unfurling" synonomous with "untracking"? I'm not familiar with unfurling.
Larry,

No, unfurling is not the same thing. Unfurling, as I think of it, describes what the horse does with his body when you anchor (as a rider) a hind foot so that the horse must re-arrange its body around that hind foot. DD describes this in the context of a horse adopting a left bend when a right hind is anchored and vice versa. She uses the word 'unfurling' I guess to give the visual of a sail being unfurled on a yatch.

If the outside hind is anchored, it extends the time it remains on the ground so then the horse takes a bigger step with the front foot on the same side. This increases the distance between the anchored hind and the front foot on the same side and thus extends that side of the horse which creates the bend.

DD also refers to this type of movement for correct canter departs. The outside hind gets anchored as the first part of the transition and the horse re-arranges its body around that to strike off. She describes how a good canter depart involves the horse basically doing a mini-rear on that anchored hind instead of throwing his head and neck upwards to create the lift - so that the power comes through from behind.

This unfurling response, as I said above, is possible with more naturally talented horses or with well educated horses - its not necessarily automatic

Did you read the article I linked above?

In that article, at the bottom is a 'belly' dance exercise for the human to do which demonstrates how;

1. The belly needs to move out of the way for the hind foot to come forward.

2. How this also unweights the hind foot so it can step as Carol describes in her last post.

Yes, it makes sense that in a sidepass you would spend more time on one side than the other since only one foot is stepping in/under while the other is stepping out - the latter not needing to occupy the space held by the belly/ribcage. This probably explains how weighting the left for a sidepass to the right seems to help the horse - it helps him bend swing his ribs to the right therefore the bias is that the left leg can step more in and under than the right - whick doesn't need to as it is stepping out away from the center.

Just to complicate matters further - the conformation of the horse also has a part to play. A close coupled horse (short loin span from last rib to croup) such as I have needs more lateral movement of the torso to make space for the hind leg than does and horse with a longer loin span.

You mention the riders leg on the ribcage - so far I've only been considering weight placement.
Blue Flame

PasoBaby_CarolU wrote:
Sandy, I use an inside heel, or calf actually is where my leg contacts my horse.  I time it with the landing of the inside hind and let my energy pushes the outside foot farther out.   I'll be totally honest too in that I don't do much with my weight at all other then ride naturally.  I ride an awfully small horse and it would be too easy for me to get her out of balance if I'm shifting my weight around.

If I'm asking a front foot to go out farther...like in Spanish walk, then I shift my weight back and to the opposite side of the step I'm asking for.   You can't take a step with a foot that has weight on it.   Try it yourself..put all your weight on your left leg and then try to step out with it.  You can't.  Try it with even weight, you can't.  You have to unweight that foot.


Thanks Carol,

So if you use you inside leg to cue the outside hind, what do you use for a cue on the inside hind? Is it the same thing with only the timing that differentiates the two.?

I'm inclined to agree with your approach to weight. I think that weight can be used to differentiate similar cues more clearly for the horse or else be quite subtle indications of direction. Our version of an entwickle involves nothing more than a little more weight in the stirrup of the direction we want to drift. I think we can do the horse a great disservice both by weighting in such a way as to make a movement difficult for it and also weighting in such a way as we make the movement so easy that the horse falls into the direction we desire. For people like myself who do not have anything like the experience of people like yourself, the best thing I can probably do for my horse is to try to stay as central as possible. The more central I am, the easier it would be for my horse to adjust the weight to where he needs it.

I ride a thorobred who is extremely sensitive to weight - in fact, I find it pretty difficult to canter him in a straight line - the more energy he generates, the more likely he is to change direction if I get slightly off center - and by slightly I mean little enough that I am often not aware of it.

To use Mike Schaffer's terminology, I think weight can be both a cognitive aid and aslo a mechanical aid. Congnitive meaning the horse responds through understanding - mechanical meaning the horse is physically compelled by the action of the aid. I guess we'd all like our aids to become cognitive in type - so weight aids should be working towards reducing to a minimum for this to happen.

My own aid for the outside hind is still pretty basic - indirect rein for outside hind, inside leg for inside hind, left and right reins for the front feet (or inside and outside reins if you prefer). I might use weight as a backup phase for lateral movement. One of the things I have problems with right now is that if I put a bend in the horse preparing for a turn, I often get offered shoulder-in instead. Weight shift is one of the backup phases I might use to get the horse turning. Guess I need to work more on my outside aids. Interestingly, with my horse going from a circle to shoulder in occurs instantly if I shift a little weight to the outside shoulder - something both Mike Schaffer and Sylvia Lock suggest.

To add another dimension to the discussion (as if we need one) we could think about how we might use our weight to block a horse as that would necessarily indicate what is needed to free the movement.
coveredbridgefarm

Sandy wrote:
Quote:
Did you read the article I linked above?
I have read it just now.  I'm going to do this until I get it right.  

Using your link and just referencing the inside(left) hind leg relative to rib cage movement:

1.  As the inside hind foot is still on the ground in weight bearing mode but getting ready to thrust up and forward, the rib cage is swinging to the left.

2.  As the inside hind foot begins to leave the ground, the rib cage has just begun its swing back to the right.

3.  As the inside hind foot begins to touch down, the rib cage has swung all of the way to the right.

4.  As the inside hind leg becomes weight bearing, the rib cage has begun to swing back to the left.

The rib cage swings to the side of the horse that can support the weight at the same time that the "moving" leg is beginning to leave the ground. So, the left foot leaves the ground at about the same time that the rib cage begins to shift back to the right. Are we all in agreement up to that point?

Now throw on a "good" rider assuming  that the rider's job is to get his/her weight off the leg that is about to leave the ground. The rider's weight should begin to shift to the right at or just before #2 when the rib cage has just started to swing to the right, and it should begin to shift to the left at or just before #4.

Your question all along has been, does the rider's leg block the rib cage from moving over during the rider's weight shift which would seem to precede the shift of the horse's rib cage?  

The horse's rib cage seems out of synch with the need to get the weight off the leg that is leaving the ground(as the rib cage is just beginning to leave the left side, the left leg is just beginning to leave the ground). Maybe it's enough to satisfy the horse's balance that the rider's weight is only beginning to shift at the same time.  Maybe it's more of a momentum shift and the rider's leg wouldn't really come into play until the rib cage has already shifted over to the right side which is the point when the left leg is becoming the weight bearing leg and the rib cage is getting ready to swing back to the left.  

Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

That sounds right Larry.  As a natural rider, I ride the rib cage and therefore shift my weight with the horse as it moves over.  This isn't really noticeable at the walk, but definitely at the trot.   I have to think about gait because gait really is fast walk.   It's been awhile since I rode a firm sitting trot.

Let's not talk about canter yet.  I have to think about that some more.
Blue Flame

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
Sandy wrote:
Quote:
Did you read the article I linked above?
I have read it just now.  I'm going to do this until I get it right.  

Using your link and just referencing the inside(left) hind leg relative to rib cage movement:

1.  As the inside hind is foot still on the ground in weight bearing mode but getting ready to thrust up and forward, the rib cage is swinging to the left.

2.  As the inside hind foot begins to leave the ground, the rib cage has just begun its swing back to the right.

3.  As the inside hind foot begins to touch down, the rib cage has swung all of the way to the right.

4.  As the inside hind leg becomes weight bearing, the rib cage has begun to swing back to the left.

The rib cage swings to the side of the horse that can support the weight at the same time that the "moving" leg is beginning to leave the ground. So, the left foot leaves the ground at about the same time that the rib cage begins to shift back to the right. Are we all in agreement up to that point?
Yes.

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
Now throw on a "good" rider assuming  that the rider's job is to get his/her weight off the leg that is about to leave the ground. The rider's weight should shift to the right at or just before #2 when the rib cage has just started to swing to the right, and it should shift to the left at or just before #4.
You could shift your weight over at that point and it would help unweight that foot - BUT, as I'll explain, there is no need to help that foot unweight and you also will be inhibiting the swing of the ribs with several detrimental flow on effects.

All of this is referring to the walk and the weight of the rider biased to either one seatbone or the other - not considering riders legs at all for now.

First the unweighting of the foot.

Obviously the horse can do it without us. This is where the belly dance exercise is limited because the horse is a four legged animal.

Just before this hind foot is lifted, it is fairly well positioned out the back - not under the horse. The horse still has a triangular base of support described by the other 3 feet and so long as his center of gravity is within that triangular base, or there is enough momentum to carry it into that triangular base, we can remove the 4th foot from weight bearing even if it is still bearing weight.

Also, as the horse is moving forwards or diagonally, it is rolling its weight over the other 3 feet and progressively rolling its weight off the 4th foot. The step previous to this hind foot was the opposite fore which, stepping forward or out or both, had the effect of moving and expanding the triangular base of support in the direction the horse was going - a place for his weight to land and be carried. As the weight rolled into this triangle, it rolled off the hind that is about to step. Finally, unless you have your horse's head in a fixed position, he also has the ability to re-arrange his balance using his head and neck as a counter weight.

So you see there is no need to help unload the foot. You could help by moving your weight away from it but this will inhibit the swing of the ribs.

Effect of rider weight on the swing of the ribs.

I'll try to give a very simple visual for this one.

Imagine you are riding a swing.

What do you do with your weight to swing bigger/accelerate?

What do you do with your weight to swing smaller/decelerate?

Now imagine that the horse's ribcage is a swing with the spine as the bar from which it hangs.

If you weighted your left seatbone, which way would the ribs swing?

If the ribs were swinging under the spine from left to right, and you had your weight on your right seatbone, would that cause the swing to swing more or less? i.e., would it add to the swing or diminish it?

Going back to the swing, we should be able to see that we add to it when we FOLLOW it with our weight, which means putting or weight on the side that is moving downwards. Conversely, we dimish the amount of swing when we LEAD it with our weight, which means we are placing our weight on the side that is rising.

The importance of this is that the swing of the ribcage directly effects how much the hind foot can step forward or untrack, how much the fore foot can reach, how much the spine can bend laterally (which affects the prior two aspects) and how much the loins can twirl.

Try this on your horse and see how it effects his energy and length of stride at the walk by adding to or opposing this swing. The horse is the ultimate authority on this anyway.

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
Your question all along has been, does the rider's leg block the rib cage from moving over during the rider's weight shift which would seem to precede the shift of the horse's rib cage?
As mentioned above, not considering legs at all, only rider weight.

coveredbridgefarm wrote:
The horse's rib cage seems out of synch with the need to get the weight off the leg that is leaving the ground(as the rib cage is just beginning to leave the left side, the left leg is just beginning to leave the ground). Maybe it's enough to satisfy the horse's balance that the rider's weight is only beginning to shift at the same time.  Maybe it's more of a momentum shift and the rider's leg wouldn't really come into play until the rib cage has already shifted over to the right side which is the point when the left leg is becoming the weight bearing leg and the rib cage is getting ready to swing back to the left.  

Larry
I hope I have explained how the foot becomes unweighted even though the ribs are at an extreme on the same side - it is a question of where the feet are in relation to the weight coupled with a small amount of momentum at the walk and progressively more momentum at the other gaits. I really don't see a need to help unweight that foot.

However, the ribcage still needs to move out of the way AS that hind foot comes through - not before - and what the rider does or does not do regarding lateral weight bias in his seatbones can have a large direct effect on this and follow on effects on other aspects of movement that are closely connected.

I must make mention of the role of conformation in all of this - if you have a close couple horse like mine (short loin) this magnifies everything I have discussed.

Clear as mud?

Disclaimer: All above IMHO YMMV

P.S. Just had a BFO on lateral movements when you guys are ready to discuss.

P.P.S. Remember that if you do exeriment with these ideas with your horse that it does constitute pressure, so be mindful that a response deserves a release - lest you subject the animal to an eternally driving or stifling seat.
coveredbridgefarm

It has been a long time since I rode a swing. These answers might be wrong.  

Sandy wrote:
Quote:
Imagine you are riding a swing.

What do you do with your weight to swing bigger/accelerate? Lean back as the swing is going forward.

What do you do with your weight to swing smaller/decelerate? Lean forward as the swing is going forward.

Now imagine that the horse's ribcage is a swing with the spine as the bar from which it hangs.

If you weighted your left seatbone, which way would the ribs swing? Toward the right, if the ribs were free-swinging, but there are legs involved. Spine gets some lateral movement too. That would get some weight off the left side. Some momentum too, perhaps. It's not like the unflexible bar that supports the ropes of the swing

If the ribs were swinging under the spine from left to right, and you had your weight on your right seatbone, would that cause the swing to swing more or less? i.e., would it add to the swing or diminish it? It would diminish it if the rider's shift was ahead of the shift of the rib cage. But if the rider was riding the rib cage over................Maybe not. Not sure.


Your introduction of the moving triangular base certainly does change my view at least to a certain extent.  I can see how that could provide balance to the horse, especially without a rider. The front feet would elongate the triangle and provide more stability. Repositioning the head and neck would help as well. I still have a problem with so much weight being on the left side with a rider as the left hind foot begins to leave the ground. Rib cage plus rider as left hind foot lifts, concentrates a lot of weight on the left side that would be outside of the triangle momentarily(I would think), especially with a heavy rider.  It seems like momentum could carry the weight over into the triangle but how does the horse get the momentum started with all of that weight on the left side? From the other legs perhaps? Rhythm is obviously important. Maybe there is a point where some energy is inserted into the equation to jump start the momentum back in the other direction. Some extraordinary athletic feat by the horse???

Let's think about a horse carrying a large number of riders one at a time. Each succeeding rider weighs more than the rider before him. I'm assuming that the horse would have an increasingly difficult time untracking as the riders get heavier. That's why I am having a bit of a problem with this statement:

Quote:
I really don't see a need to help unweight that foot.

At some point the horse might not be able to compensate for the weight unless the rider can shift some of his weight off the left side.  Does that tell us anything about how the horse is able to lift the left hind leg off the ground with all of that weight and get the weight shifted on its way to the right. Rib cage and rider(part of) are sitting over the left leg as it lifts off the ground. There must be a weight limit beyond which the horse cannot untrack.  

We are making progress. We now seem to have answers to the questions about the timing of the rib cage to the movement of the hind feet. I think we were close on those all along.  The rider adds confusion to the mix. That's probably what the horse thinks too.

I really like this discussion. I hope I'm not the only one.  

Larry
Blue Flame

Larry,

Remember that even if we put all of our weight on one seatbone - we are still only moving that weight 1 or 2 inches off center depending on the distance between your seatbones. It is not as if we are placing all of our weight in one stirrup.

The horse can correct for this using his head and neck and also by leaning. If he adjusted by leaning alone, he would only need to shift his spine over 1 or 2 inches to do it.

This leaning also transfers some weight onto the outside legs, which is exactly what we want to happen anyway as it lightens the inside feet, which are the ones that will be stepping next - hind then fore.

Also, if the rider weighs 100kg and the horse 400kg, then only 20% of the total combined weight is being shifted.

Don't forget the inside hind is already carrying less than it's share as it gets progressively further out the back of the horse before breaking over.

Thats 20% of the weight shifted 2" to one side. Easily compensated for by the horse automatically doing what we want  - which is to lean to the outside and shift weight onto the outside legs - thus freeing up the inside legs to step (remember inside fore is next after inside hind).

Yes, in the swing visual I realise the spine is not like a solid bar but didn't want to overcomplicate the basic concept of the swing. Yes, the spine displaces laterally as part of the bend as viewed from above and can also swing about a mean center like a shallow hammock or slack rope. Believe me, I could have written about movement in 9 dimensions - lateral, vertical and longitudinal multiplied by translational, rotational and inertial. Multiply those by flexions of the head/neck, thorax and pelvis and things really start getting complex. (I actually started doing this but just got too bogged in it.

Basically, you can use weight to add energy and motion, oppose energy and motion or maintain energy and motion. Your horse will tell you which of these is occuring if you experiment a little.

One day I saw Chip Johnson tell a student to try shifting her seat a 1/2" to one side and voila - the horse picked up the lead that he had previously been having trouble with. Did the weight shift cause that - no, I don't think it was enough to cause it - however, the weight shift probably caused the horse to make a small adjustment in its barrel and spine in order to compensate and rebalance  - which was all that was needed to pick up the lead.
coveredbridgefarm

Hmmmmmmmm.     Yes, it does get complicated when all of the relevant adjustments that are made by the horse to change the momentum from left to right are taken into consideration.  I see the sequence somewhat like this:

Rib cage is swinging to the left.

Rider is probably swinging to the left.

Weight has been concentrated on the left because the left leg has been the most recent weight bearing leg.

Suddenly, at the worst possible time, the horse must get prepared to lift the hind leg followed quickly by the front leg on the same side.

So, both weight and momentum must be switched toward the opposite side while both feet on the weight bearing side have to "think" about lifting off. Don't leave out the inertia issue.  I realize it's done automatically. I'm just marveling at the horse's ability to pull this off.  It's a wonder the horse doesn't fall over sideways to the left.

Options available to the horse for accomplishing this seemingly gravity-defying act include:

Spinal shift

Forward movement of the neck and head.

The geometrical advantage of a triangular base formed ever so briefly by 3 other legs.

The thorax and pelvis make their contributions to the challenge.

If we look at the lateral, vertical, and longitudinal forces as vectors in a physics experiment, I suppose the vectors would be the summations of all of the above forces, and perhaps some that we haven't mentioned yet.

I'm pretty sure that rhythm is an important part of the process as well and it may be that the disruption of that rhythm by the rider is more detrimental to the horse's ability to pull this off than is the rider's weight. Any thoughts about that?


Rider to horse:  "Yes, I know that, considering the fact that your weight, my weight, and your momentum are concentrated on your left side, that this would seem to be a very inopportune time to ask you to untrack with your left hind leg under your own midline, but could you do it anyway?"

Horse to rider:  "No  Problem."

Pretty amazing.


Larry
Blue Flame

Lets look at momentum or inertia of the ribcage.

What is the feeling/sensation one gets at the extreme of a playground swing when it has peaked to one side, in that moment when it changes direction?

So, the moment you are concerned with where all the weight is at an extreme on one side of the ribcages swing - the mass reaching the end of that swing has inertia that has to decelerate and change direction just like the playground swing - causing a moment of partial weightlessness.

If we use our weight to help accelerate that swinging, wouldn't that feeling of weightlessness be increased at the next peak in the same way that the higher we swing on the playground swing, the more intense the moment of weightlessness?

Conversely, the peak feeling of heaviness occurs at the lowest point of the swing, does it not? Is this not also the best position for the horse to take this maximum?

So if the peak heaviness occurs when the ribcage is in the middle and the peak weightlessness at either extreme, then are things not getting lighter for the horse as he gets closer to stepping that hind?

So this helps with defining our timing. As I mentioned earlier we slightly follow the swing, transferring weight at or slightly after the swing peak, which is the easiest time for both ourselves and the horse due to the weightlessness caused by the inertial effect.

Now for another aspect. You asked how one might get this all started from a standstill. . . .

Imagine holding the end of a string in your hand with a weight tied to the other end. How do you have to move your hand to start the weight swinging like a pendulum on the end of a string?

Is this not similar to what the horse does when he leans and shifts his spine over to correct for our weight shift to one side? Would it not cause the ribcage to begin to swing in the oppisite direction?

It is the horizontal displacement between the pivot point of the swing (spine/bar/hand) and the pendulum weight (ribcage + any weight bias the rider adds or subtracts) that gets the swinging motion started.

The horse can start this swing off by leaning to move the spine over to create the horizontal displacement between his spine an ribcage. We can help create this displacement by shifting the other end of the swing, the mass in relation to the spine by biasing our weight to one side - they are interdependent - the horse influencing one end of the swing while we influence the other . . .
PasoBaby_CarolU

Blue Flame wrote:

Is this not similar to what the horse does when he leans and shifts his spine over to correct for our weight shift to one side?


It has been my experience that there are basically three kinds of horses in this world when you are out of balance - Those that move under you to again balance your out-of-balance weight.  Those that move away from you and laugh as you hit the ground.   And those that throw in a buck or a jig to 'help' you off the rest of the way!    
Blue Flame



The school mare I ride will stop if I get off balance. She's a sweetie and she looks after me - but most of the time I need her to keep going long enough for me to learn to correct myself.

The ones that get under your weight - great for keeping you safe, but maybe not so much for increasing your skills - a horse like this can make you think you are better than you are. Good confidence builder - but could cause overconfidence as well.

My own horse will:

At the walk, show me where my balance is by either turning or moving laterally.

At the trot, show me where by balance is by either turning or moving laterally or transitioning into a canter. I think he finds it easier to rebalance me at the canter because the increased suspension time gives him a better opportunity to rearrange himself as needed.

At the canter, show me where my balance is by turning or swerving.

He seems to be a horse that likes to get under your weight at trot and canter - so that you can actually lead him with a weight shift. At a walk, he likes your weight to lead over his outside shoulder for a shoulder in, to follow for a sidepass, and to lead to the inside for a turn. We're still negotiating the backup

In short, my own horse is all about showing me my limitations. I sometimes think he throws the odd change at me to either test me or show me where I need to improve. Thankfully, he has never, to my knowledge, tried to intentionally get rid of his rider. But then we are very choosy about who rides him - there have only been 5 people on his back in the last 5 years and 3 of them were only being lead at a walk for 1 lap of the arena.

I remember once my daughter started to ask him into a gallop. He took her with him into a fast canter and then did some moderate swerves left and right before slowing down again. I think he was testing her balance and then letting her know that it needed to improve before he felt he could keep them both safe at a gallop. We have to remember that as a thorobred hurdler, fast for him was learned with riders weighing next to nothing - riders who did this all day, every day. I wonder sometimes how many people would have seen this as a refusal to gallop and tried to push the horse on through it - rather than the horse telling you that it would not be safe to do so . . . .

Perhaps this is one of the reasons thorobreds get more sensitive the more you ask them to move out - the faster they go, the higher the stakes if they lose balance. For non-professional riders, meaning those who do not spend several hours a day on horseback at speed, the risks increase exponentially.

When it comes to certain things, I like to ask what the horse is WILLING to offer me. If he is unwilling to offer me something, I like to be fairly certain why before deciding whether to push on.

The last of the horses you mention, the ones that help you off, I stay away from them. I must say I haven't seen too many of these ones try to ditch the incompetent rider unless they are hanging on their mouths. The ones I see helping riders off are usually trying to ditch the inconsiderate, rude or bullying rider - after first trying to tell them that something is really bothering them, then realising that they are not listening.

I once had a grumpy school mare bounce her rear end up and down when I asked her to move out at a walk. We stopped for a moment and then I asked more politely/gently. I must've interpreted it correctly because the rest of the lesson she went really well for me.

On being unbalanced, the most worrying thing for me personally is if a horse gets on the forehand at the canter, for whatever reason. They start falling forward and speed up to try to catch their own weight - becomes a self perpetuating thing. I had this experience with an old school gelding one day and has real difficulty trying to get him slowed down again. If there is one thing I most want to avoid, it is this cantering on the forehand.
coveredbridgefarm

Sandy, I'm not quite yet ready to give up on the notion that a rider should try to help the horse by unweighting the leg that is about to leave the ground. Applying the swing analogy to the timing of a horse's rib cage below(swing comments in red):

1.  As the inside hind foot is still on the ground in weight bearing mode but getting ready to thrust up and forward, the rib cage is swinging to the left.   Swinging backward, "rider" leaning forward(back of swing unweighted)

2.  As the inside hind foot begins to leave the ground, the rib cage has just begun its swing back to the right.     Apex of the swing backward and just beginning to descend forward, pulling back on the ropes(back of swing weighted)

3.  As the inside hind foot begins to touch down, the rib cage has swung all of the way to the right.   Apex of the swing in a forward direction, leaning forward

4.  As the inside hind leg becomes weight bearing, the rib cage has begun to swing back to the left.   Descent backward, leaning forward

If those timing references are comparable to a sidepass and to the extent to which the swing analogy is applicable, that is a bit like what a sidepass feels like to me(I think).  As the rib cage is swinging to the left, I unweight the left hind leg, and at the apex of the swing to the left and as the left hind foot begins to leave the ground, I seem to shift my weight back to the left and ride the rib cage to the right. I'm thinking that the critical moment to unweight the left leg is not while it is off the ground but in the moments preceding lift off.  Once the leg is lifted off the ground, the momentum and rhythm of the movement including compensatory adjustments in the head, neck, and spine, to name just a few, will assure the horse that balance can be maintained until the left hind leg touches ground again.  

So, I think I have unweighted the left leg from about the moment of thrust through to lift off.  Then I "weight" the left leg to push the rib cage over to the right.  Then reverse the procedure as the rib cage swings back to the left.  And it's not so much that I do this consciously necessarily. It's more like that's the natural rhythm of the horse.  Give the horse a chance to "set" itself up for the change in direction prior to the left hind foot leaving the ground, then use your weight to help push the rib cage to the right while the left hind foot is airborne.  I had thinking that the horse needed to be unweighted while the hind leg was moving under the midline. Now I'm thinking that the leg needs to be unweighted for preparation to lifting off the ground. If the horse gets a chance to set itself up properly, the leg does not need to be unweighted while it is suspended. In fact, weighting that leg as it leaves the ground would drive it further under the horse. It seems like that is what happens when I sidepass my horses.

Back to the swing analogy, and thinking of the back of the swing as the left hind leg, I would stay off the back of the swing until the apex of its backward arc. Then I would add energy to the back of the swing to create more movement forward, thus driving the swing to a higher forward arc. If my timing is off, the rhythm and momentum of the swing's movement is disrupted and the swing does not move as high.

I guess I'm just having a hard time accepting the idea that a rider does not need to help the horse by getting in time as the horse's body shifts its balance. As always, I could very well be wrong.  Things happen fast on a horse and there is so much going on.

Larry
coveredbridgefarm

While I/we beat the swing analogy into the ground, let's go on to Issue #55 and The Magic of Draping Reins.

A rider can ride with either tight reins or he/she can ride with slack reins. DD thinks there is a third rein condition which she refers to as "draping reins".

Draping reins do not occur simply as a result of releasing tightness nor do they occur as a result of taking up slackness. In DD's opinion, they are not an intermediate position even though that may be what they appear to be from a superficial perspective.

According to DD, draping reins are the successful culmination of the rider's attempt to connect with the horse's feet rather than the horse's mouth. I think this may be an important distinction in a rider's efforts to become one with the horse. DD insists that draping reins do not involve pressure any more than your own body parts require  pressure to remain attached to your body. If you and your horse are truly one, pressure doesn't come into play. Your body, your arms, your hands, the reins, and the horse's body are one entity and they all function harmoniously as one unit when you are able to ride with your reins in this draping position. It doesn't require the use of pressure to ride in this manner. Rather, it takes awareness(one of those delightfully vague words which people tend to assume is understood and defined equally well by everyone-----wrong!).

So, the reins reside in the rider's hands, and the reins are also attached to the bit. which rests on the horse's tongue. It is through this channel of communication that we talk to the horse's feet in much the same way that we talk to our own hands and feet. Ideally, pressure is not involved. Only awareness is involved. If pressure is involved, we create bracing instead of true communication. We become ineffective riders because our body and the horse's body are no longer one due to the introduction of pressure into the equation.

Larry
PasoBaby_CarolU

I don't agree with that Larry.  I've seen many horses BRACED hard against a draped rein and if you remember Jack's comment about the "bluff" of pain with the bosal, you get the idea.  The fear of sudden painful contact with a bit will put a physical brace in a horse just as effectively as having hard contact all the time.   Sometimes just carrying a strong bit will change how the horse has to carry himself to stay out of pain.  

Now, I don't think this is true of all riding with a drape...you see reining horses all the time that aren't 'braced,' but I don't think you can see draped reins and automatically assume there is no pressure on that horse, or that the rider is talking to the feet.
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