Leg vs Back Movers

Posted on February 15, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, riding, training.
2012 Anky van Grunsven

2012 Anky van Grunsven

Gizelle Hamilton uses the biomechanic academics from Dr Gerd Heuschmann to explain the confusion connected to the training of horses when riders mix a spectacular leg moving horse for the correctly moving swinging back stride of dressage horses.

photo by Ken Braddick

photo by Ken Braddick

“A back mover is a horse who is engaged, forward moving and using their whole body correctly for their level of training. Dr Gerd Heuschmann refers to this state as “relative elevation”. A back mover has been trained in such a way that their head-neck position has been allowed to reflect the horses’ training level and progress, rather than rushing and taking shortcuts.” Her informative article will shed valuable insight on this subject: published at Sacred Horse

The Military Horse of 1863

Posted on February 3, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, health, history, training.

Sherman

General Sherman

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War since it ended the Confederate General Robert E Lee’s advancement northward to conquer New England. The State of Massachusetts had sent among its troops the 9th Battery Mounted Division with Captain John Bigelow in charge, who was severely wounded early on during the battle on July 2nd. The Mass Battery brought 110 men: 10 were lost, 18 wounded;  but of the infantry mounts – 88 horses of the 9th were killed on the battlefield. The Northern, or Union Soldiers, were 90,000 in number; they lost 30,000.  The Southern, or Confederate Soldiers, came with 75,000 men; they lost 27,000. Horses estimated killed in battle at Gettysburg: 1.5 million horses dead. Said Capt Bigelow: “The enemy opened a fearful musketry fire, men and horses were falling like hail…. Sergeant after Sergt., was struck down, horses were plunging and laying about all around….”

Horses from Battle at Little Round Top/Pictures from Library of Congress,Civil War Collection


Requiem for the War Horse

No battle fought was theirs by choice, nor came victory from their breath,

But they trotted forward just as ordered – into bullets, swords, and certain death.

Their brave hearts beating in silent courage, in fear that no voice would tell

They stood as targets, lay down as barriers to protect riders from being killed.

They labored for our liberty, they forfeited their lives,

Faithful military horses one and all — felled by cannons, bullets, and knives.

They bore the blows and fatal wounds to save their mounted friends–

Who had only saddles but no horses, when each battle came to end.

The war horse asked no questions, sought no medals, nor decorated pins

Just blinked an eye and charged ahead, trusting they’d go home again.

We salute with honor their deeds of valor: their sacrifice, pain, and torture.

For they were more than just mere transport….

They were the humbly silent:  Equine Military Soldiers.

Reader’s comment: I read once the way they trained the horses to charge into the face of fire was to have them charge a line of men. Then when they reached the line the men would pet them and praise them. They worked up to firing blanks when they charged. Then they would be petted and praised again. By the people firing as well as their riders, of course. There is an excellent video which documents the use and sacrifice of the 75,000 mules and horses that participated in the battle at Gettysburg. It is called, appropriately, “The Horses of Gettysburg.”

One correction, there were not 1.5 million horses and mules killed at Gettysburg alone. The estimate of horses and mules killed during the entire war are 1 – 1.5 million. In further news, for those interested in the incident with the 9th Mass. artillery, there is a good book titled “History of the Ninth Massachusetts Battery” by Levi W. Baker. Baker was a member of that battery. The illustrations are by Charles Reed, their bugler.

The sacrifice the men and horses of this battery made, stopped the Confederate Army from pouring through a large gap in the Union lines. There is actually going to be a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 2013 (150 yrs) in which the 9th Mass. Artillery will reenact their part. Another interesting book for cavalry buffs is “The Battle of Brandy Station”, by Eric J. Wittenberg. It is North America’s lagest cavalry action ever, and took place just almost a month before Gettysburg. Mahalo, Steve

Thanks for your correction on the number dead for the whole war. Will look up your references also! Jerri



 

Teaching Detail to Your Horse

Posted on January 18, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, history, military, riding, training.
Kyra Kyrklund on Matador Photo by Ken Braddick

Kyra Kyrklund on Matador
Photo by Ken Braddick

 

Kyra Kyrklund, six time Olympic Competitor, and well known Dressage Grand Prix trainer discusses profound instruction for advancing your horse’s training by increasing its balance through using shorter steps and attention to detail.  “You can’t have control over your horse’s balance until you have control over your own balance. When you are balanced, you are the leader who oversees your horse’s length of step, speed, rhythm and direction. To be balanced, you need to have a correct riding position–you need to be sitting equally on both of your seat bones, centered in your body and strong in your middle part.” Read her article at:   Kyra

Book Review

Posted on January 7, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, riding, training.
Learning Riding Posture

Learning Riding Posture

“Dude! Did You Just Fall Off?” is a delightful kid’s e-book on Amazon’s Kindle that skillfully and humorously attempts to prepare the horse newbie for their first and, hopefully, subsequent encounters.  It boldly asks:  what would you do if you were invited to go horseback riding, had never even been near a horse, but really wanted to go?

Obviously this is not a common invitation for inner-city dwellers, but for the nearly 30% of rural school children, and even higher percentage of suburban students, a recreational weekend just may indeed include a friend’s offer to see their family’s stabled horse. Facing the reality of being near such a big animal and actually sitting on its back can seem adventurous,  but nearly everyone quickly discovers a sudden level of panic once they become face to face with such a large animal.

This is why we picked the “Dude!” book off the shelf of Amazon. This book stands apart from the plethora of previous books by the way it brings horseback riding into your home and helps you practice balance and posture before you even head out to your friend’s barn. The list of straightening and correcting exercises range from simple body adjustments to learning ready-to-use moves while in the saddle. It had such great ideas plus a wallet saving price of only $2.99. Download it to your phone or tablet and refer to it right on the way to the stable. Personally, we found it just as helpful for adults. Enjoy..

Minimalist Horse Training I

Posted on December 5, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, riding, therapy, training.
*Jentry rides her pony round the cones

*Jentry rides her pony round the cones

Minimalist training is exactly what it implies. When circumstances demand our absence from our horse for long periods of time, the moments we spend with him can be highly productive by minimizing and focusing what we try to accomplish with him. Training the horse takes place every time we touch our horse. The horse learns how we prefer him to behave. Minimalist training does not attempt to build muscle on our horse; only daily, vigorous forward riding can do that. But it can produce an obedient, trusting animal in only a minimal amount of time. Well structured, short sessions always produce ample results, and sets the tone for subsequent training sessions.

Whether you have been away from your horse one day or sixty days, it is always best to start an exercise session by either free- lunging your horse, or on the long line before doing anything. This gives you a chance to see how the horse is moving, specifically if he is favoring or limping on a leg or hoof. Even though you were away and and haven’t seen the horse, he could have twisted or stepped on something in his turnout, or paddock time. Once you determine he’s moving fine it’s time to exercise.

If you are able to ride once a week you can actually accomplish a lot with the use of  cones. With just two cones you can address bending, balance, and response time to cues.  Three cones is a luxury where you can set up a spacious triangle, or a straight line, and combine threading and circling to promote bending and re-bending. Cones provide a great short cut to helping your horse learn how to stay on the intended circle; not to change speeds on his own; and to bend both to the right and to the left. As he gets the hang of it at the walk then you can pick up a trot, taking care in keeping him balanced and adjusting his tendency to dip around turns.  Practicing halts, changes of stride from longer to shorter, using transitions between the walk and the trot, these changes keep your horse’s attention by keeping him focused on the work. Remember, you are not developing muscle so much as alertness to cues, and obedience to direction.  If you are able to move to canter work you will find endless options for practicing figure eights, flying changes, and even counter canter.

Ground poles can expand your cone lessons by changing the focus from turning and flexing exercises to lessons on lifting and carrying.  This helps activate your horse’s hind quarters, and subtly addresses ‘dragging toes’, a problem where the horse drags his back feet across the ground which causes stumbling. One of my favorite uses of ground poles is to lay down two parallel poles in three different places in the riding ring, placing a cone at the ends of each group of poles. Then I have the horse step over the center of one set of ground poles, bend right around the end cone, come back and step over the center of the poles again then turn left, (making a figure eight), and as we step back over the center of the ground poles once more then we move into either leg yield/shoulder-in/or half-pass toward the new set of poles where I can repeat my figure eight. None of these activities require extensive muscle strength, but they do address alertness, suppleness in bending, and stepping the hind legs under the horse’s barrel. Remember that minimalist training is for infrequent riding, focusing on building behavior, response, and trust. I have found it fully effective with horses ridden as little as three times a year! Muscle strength and stamina, however, can only be developed through a daily, vigorous riding program.
Next: Minimalist Training II  Scaling it down even further.

*photo from Jennifer Buxton; Braymere Custom Saddlery

Twist vs Bend

Posted on November 26, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, riding, therapy, training.

from: Science of Motion. Author Jean Luc Cornille
Question- Chazot looks beautiful in both these pictures, but you said there was a problem with his position. Can you explain what is wrong and how to fix it?

-Question by Helyn

Jean Luc’s response:

Jean Luc Cornille training Chazot

Jean Luc Cornille training Chazot

Well, the problem starts at the first picture. I am asking him to bend the thoracic spine to the left. Chazot is not then optimally ready for such bending. He starts to bend left but does not really bend the thoracic spine. Instead, he is contracting the middle of the neck on the left side. The neck contraction is only the visible part of the iceberg. It is due to the fact that he is not properly coordinating lateral bending and transversal rotation. The neck contraction is barely apparent and the picture still looks good.

Meda by Science of Motion

Media by Science of Motion

The next frame shows the evolution of the wrong vertebral column’s coordination. Chazot could have corrected himself. Instead, he does increases the contraction of the middle of the neck and is now twisting the cervical vertebrae. This torsion is placing his nose to the right and is shifting is thoracic spine to the right. This torsion also disconnects the proper coordination of the main back muscles and Chazot is slightly extending the thoracic spine. His reactions demonstrate that he is not bending the thoracic spine properly. He is in fact combining lateral bending and inverted rotation. The solution is to go back straight on shoulder fore until proper lateral bending of the thoracic spine is recreated and then try again the shoulder in. This reaction exposes one of the major side effects of the outside rein concept. Quite often, acting on the outside rein does turn the horse’s nose toward the outside. This abnormality shifts the thoracic spine to the right and therefore shifts the weight on the outside shoulder. In such case, the outside rein is creating the problem that it is supposed to fix.

Due to the fact that feedback corrections are relatively slow, this series of event is happening too fast to be corrected through the usual process of feedback correction. The two frames are 100 of a second apart. The horse nervous system is using predictions, allowing it to deal with event occurring faster than the speed of normal feedback correction. Prediction means that the horse’s brain predicts the coordination for the upcoming effort. This equine neurological capacity underlines the inefficiency of an equitation based on correction and submission. Instead, clever riding is using the privilege of the human intelligence, which is the capacity to use past experience for better future. Instead of punishing the horse for the error, which is obsolete since the error is already in the past, the rider needs to register the error, analyzes it and use the information to better prepare the horse for the next strides.

See you in a few strides.

Jean Luc

 

Positioning of the Head

Posted on November 1, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, riding, therapy, training.
photo:informedfarmers.com

photo:informedfarmers.com

 

There are so many training and lesson terms referring to the positioning of the horse’s head when it is being ridden that it can become difficult to know which is best when riding. For example: “on the bit/up to the bit/over the bit” are descriptions describing the horse’s head placement from the way the rider is holding the reins. In fact, some instructors will substitute the word ‘rein’ rather than bit:  “on the rein/behind the rein/cue the rein/supple the rein” to indicate the rider’s influence on the horse via the reins held in the hands. With all this obsession on where the horse’s head should be positioned when riding and how the rider affects this positioning, how can a rider know just which position of the head is correct?

I have yet to see a horse out to pasture who didn’t know how to put his head down to eat grass. Yet under saddle the common perception is that the horse will not keep his head forward and low without gadgets and bits. Why can’t we connect the grazing stretch from the pasture to the head carriage of the horse under saddle?

Studies show that the horse’s reaction to rider weight is to push its spine downward toward the ground. He will also lift his neck and head upward toward the sky to accommodate his dropped back.  This means he bends upside down with his head high and his back sagging. Since his back is no longer supporting the rider, the horse will have to hop from his hip and shoulder to trot forward, creating a jolt and bounce to the rider in the saddle. The common method of pulling back on the reins to adjust the high head position of the horse just brings the horse’s head up higher than it was before, creating more bounce.

To fix the head position and produce a pleasant riding horse we need to fix the source of imbalance:  the dropped spinal vertebrae. Once the horse lifts the spinal vertebrae upward then the head and neck automatically reach outward and downward similarly to what we see when they are out grazing. The test of our horsemanship is not in how cleverly we can pull back the horse’s nose but how quickly we can convince the horse to lift its back upward. When his back lifts upward and carries the weight of the rider, rather than ducking down away from it, the horse discovers the relief of reconnecting his back to his tail and head. His balance returns,and his movement becomes smoother and easier to ride. The reins in the rider’s hands become simply a tool to maintain the horse’s posture while guiding it in which way to turn.

Absolute Elevation: The Sister to Rolkur

Posted on October 15, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, riding, training.

excerpts from an article by Bonnie Walker

versusThe controversy of rollkur within the world of dressage is not a new one. Also called hyperflexion, it is the practice of forcefully pulling a horse’s head into an extreme low, deep and round position. Many have seen photographs of horses being pulled into such a headset, inspiring anti-rollkur websites, publications and Facebook pages. But this is not an article about the evils of rollkur, but rather the less publicly sensational but no less harmful practice of absolute elevation.

No horse is meant to have their head and neck in any extreme position for an extended period of time and there will be repercussions physically if they are forced to do so. Rollkur is an extreme deep and low position, absolute elevation is an extreme high and back position. Since this is an article on absolute elevation, I will discuss mainly this, though you see in the nifty picture I drew, both absolute elevation, rollkur and relative elevation, which is the proper way of doing things.

collectiondiagram4So how does this thing called collection work? Let’s start with your horse’s hindquarters and work our way forward. The idea of “getting the hindleg under” and “lowering the croup” are two concepts that are commonly bandied about in the dressage world. What happens to create and more importantly, sustain, this way of moving is actually a full body experience.

While the sacrum of the horse does not have the ability to rotate, a horse’s lumbosacral joint does. This joint acts to ‘roll’ the horse’s pelvis under themselves, aiding in the compression of the hind legs (aka engagement). It might just be a little (for example in training level to achieve level balance) or it might be more extreme (for example the piaffe). This rotation of the pelvis and compression of the hind leg joints also allows the horse’s center of gravity to draw further back and away from his forehand. These mechanism do not work in a vacuum however and that full body experience we were referring to now must include to the horse’s back and abdominal muscles. Think of them as the platforms that link the horse’s front and back ends. If a horse does not have sufficient muscular strength within his midsection then there is NO WAY we can build a horse with the ability to truly collect.  In addition to supporting our weight, a horse’s midsection also supports and connects the mechanisms of collection in the forehand and hindquarters.  A horse does not have a collar bone as we humans do. Instead they have a muscular “girdle” of sorts that runs near wear the girth lays. When toned, this series of muscles, called the thoracic sling, acts along with the musculature of the neck and chest to elevate the front half of the horse. When these muscles are engaged the front limbs of the horse act to aid in his or her overall balance, pushing upward to maintain the elevated front end and encourage a rotated and engaged hind end. Just as the hind leg must rotate and compress more as collection increases, so must the front end elevate and push upward more to maintain its end of the bargain. All of these body actions to combine to create a phenomenon called “relative elevation”, which is the right and proper way to strength build and collect a horse.
There is no such thing as putting the horse in the headset and then waiting for the muscles to develop afterward. The muscles develop INTO the balance that supports a certain headset. Both extreme headsets (rollkur and absolute elevation) will force the horse to have issues breathing, as that tightly compressed throat latch area can impede airflow.

A swaybacked horse is an extreme example of what happens when the back drops.

A swaybacked horse is an extreme example of what happens when the back drops.

If the head is brought too high, too fast, then the front end does not have the muscular strength to elevate upward, the core musculature is too weak to follow it up and the hind legs cannot maintain the rotation and compression. So, the front end drops, the back sinks and the horse’s pelvis rolls outward instead of under. An array of tendon and joint injuries occur from this, not least of which is a phenomenon called “kissing spine”. This happens when the vertebrae of the spine are compressed together and rub on one another, bone on bone, which is extremely painful.
What you want to get comfortable with is watching how the horse’s body works, and knowing how it should correctly work. If done right, dressage will add to the strength and longevity of a horse. They will become beautiful old geldings and mares. If done incorrectly you will have a ten year old horse than rides like an old man.

About the author: Bonnie Walker,USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist, in San Diego, Ca, rides and shows in dressage. Her profound articles on riding and training are public on her blog DressageDifferent.com

Understanding the Mounted Police Horse

Posted on October 3, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, history, riding, training.

Providence Mounted Patrol

Providence Mounted Patrol

Thanks to Delfin Vigil for his following article:
Officially founded in San Francisco, California, in 1872 (two years after New York City’s), the mounted patrol unit has been trotting through the city’s streets fighting and preventing crime in three centuries. While in its — ahem — heyday, there were upward of 30 badge-wearing horses, and although at one point every substation in the city had horses, there are only 13 on-duty patrol ponies left at the department’s stables in Golden Gate Park. Although some critics write off the mounted patrol as a chance for police officers to joyride through the park, many don’t realize that the horses are putting their lives at risk.
During one of the initial and largest protests against the current war in Iraq, the mounted patrol unit was brought in to help the first officers on the scene, who were being backed in and surrounded by protesters near Third and Market streets.
“Eleven horses were brought in to save the officers,” remembers Sgt Downs. “We were able to part the sea of protesters without hitting, stepping on or even touching a single person. That’s the beauty of the horse.”
Aggressive dogs are probably the biggest danger to the four-legged officers.
In November 2003, a woman was walking Nettie, a pit bull mix, in Golden Gate Park when she decided to take off the dog’s leash to let it play with other dogs. But instead it went after police horse AAA Andy.
AAA, who is not in the insurance business but was given to the department by the company, was bitten several times in the belly and legs by the dog, which continued to chase him for about a half mile as AAA Andy tried to find his way back to the stables. The officer was thrown to the ground during the frenzy. Another officer had to shoot the dog (who survived) to stop the attack.
AAA Andy went on disability for a couple of months. Within weeks of being back on the job he was in the news again for galloping down the “Spider-Man” burglar who had a record of more than 60 acrobatic burglaries through skylights and ventilation shafts in Sunset District buildings. This time, “Spider-Man,” a.k.a. 27-year-old Kristian Kwon Marine, was on the run after snatching a purse at a cafe on Ninth Avenue and Irving Street. With only a good old-fashioned “he went thataway,” tip, AAA and Officer Kaan Chin chased the burglar down in a field in Golden Gate Park.
“What people don’t always understand is that most of what all police officers do involves crime prevention,” says Kaan, who rode AAA Andy. “But these horses are very capable of fighting crime in heat-of-the-moment ways as well. Once that saddle is put on, their personalities change and they are ready to work.”

Dressage: Sport Technique or Art Form?

Posted on August 10, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, riding, training.

 

Nuno Oliveira in passage

The following is a feature commentary:

Dressage Commentary by Charles de Kunffy

The fashionable dressage terminology has recently increased by the word “technique.” It is just the word I would not welcome. There are references of various riders’ techniques for the improvement of everything, including the horse, his piaffe, his flying changes, his extensions, his attention, his contact and everything else under the sun. None of these are improvable by any techniques for the simple reason that riding is not a technology. Horses are not a triumph of mechanical inventions. Horses are living, complex individuals. They cannot be understood from an instruction booklet, even if it were written by Dante, Shakespeare, Moliere or Goethe, and they cannot be schooled by techniques. In fact, riding is a complex art. That positions it most decidedly opposite technology. Technology is predictable and based on instant and predictable responses of machinery to predictable mechanical actions

If riding would be a technology, it would come with an “instructional booklet” or a “recipe book” similar to those that are tormenting anyone who buys a gadget.  Not all horses produce predictable, or identical reactions to riders’ communications. Nothing more needs to be said than this: Horses are complex living individuals, not a piece of technology. Riding them is done by knowledge leading to understanding and wisdom. Instead of techniques, suitable to technology and machines, we need to develop the correct skills for communication in harmony with the horse’s nature.

Egon Von Neindorff

Had horsemanship ever benefitted from techniques, we would have long ago produced the necessary guide booklets and recipe books. However, as in fact none of that would suffice, we learned that riding is an art. Therefore riding, as all art involves the mind, the character, the virtues and the skills necessary to deal with a living partner in an artistic endeavor.  Practicing an art, mastering its principles is multi-dimensional and is based on inspirational mentoring and instruction by a master from whom we learn. It is a coaching art. It is acquired by diligent apprenticeship. And it is practiced by skills and not techniques.

Great masters mentored all great artists. Michelangelo was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio. Andrea del Verrocchio mentored Leonardo da Vinci. All art survives by the genius of its practitioners. One generation derailed can damage or destroy art. Especially, performing art!

Charles de Kunffy is an international dressage judge, author, and educator. You can follow him on Facebook.

equi-works

equi-works