Extremes- Ritter article - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 01-10-2010, 02:12 PM Thread Starter
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Extremes- Ritter article

I saw this on another site and would like to share it.

For some reason, people like extremes. It's almost impossible to overcome one
dimensionality and the "more is better" thinking. When Dupaty de Clam found that
elevating the head and neck can help in flexing the haunches over 2 centuries
ago, people started to bring the neck so far up that it was vertical and the
head was horizontal. Many green horses were destroyed that way. In the counter
movement, Seidler recommended starting the training from a lower head and neck
position, and to develop the elevation gradually, step by step, as the haunches
and the back become stronger. Over the following 150 years, the forward-downward
stretch was then taken to an extreme by some people, to the point where they
don't do anything else, and the horses are completely strung out and on the

During the 19th century it was discovered that a lower head and neck position
can help to get the back to rise and swing, which was taken to the extreme of
putting the chin on the chest, which puts the horse on the forehand and makes
him brace his back upwards against the rider.

Seidler, Baucher, and others found that lateral flexions can be useful in
unlocking the poll and neck and in accessing the back and haunches, which was
then taken to the extreme lateral flexions at the base of the neck that are so
widespread today, and that only disconnect the neck from the rest of the body,
so that there is no energy circuit from the hind legs to the bit and back.
During the 1970s, the "poll the highest point" rule was often misunderstood, so
that many riders had hollow horses, because they didn't look at the rest of the
horse. As long as the poll was the highest point, they thought everything was
fine. There were many sore backs as a result.

You will see that as a backlash to Rollkur, where people actually stand in the
stirrups and throw their entire body weight into the curb reins, some people
will now call for a ban on bits, or for riding with no rein contact, which makes
it impossible to establish an energy circuit or true balance and suppleness.
As a reaction to the overflexed horse, people will latch onto Philippe Karl's
high hand and active elevation without understanding it, and use it
indiscriminately every day on every horse they ride. And they will damage
horses, too, as a result.

It seems to be impossibly difficult to teach people differentiated thinking and
moderation. It's not all or nothing. There are a million nuances in between the
extremes. Every part of the horse's body is connected to every other part. You
can't be successful if you only focus on the head and neck or if you only focus
on the hindquarters. You have to look at the entire organism and at the way in
which all the different parts work together and influence each other. You can't
work all horses exactly the same, because they all have individual needs. The
principles are the same, but the practical application varies. You can't work an
individual the same way every day, because he changes as a result of the
training. So his needs change from day to day.

Every exercise, every tool, and every aid can be harmful, if it is used at the
wrong time, too early, too often, too long, or too intensely. Every piece of
equipment can be abused. A stiff, hard seat with tight hips can inflict just as
much pain and suffering as a hard hand. That's why the old masters liked to
remind their students that everything can be right, and everything can be wrong,
depending on the horse's conformation, temperament, and training issues, and
depending on what the rider currently wants to achieve with the horse. They also
liked to tell their students that the rider has to write "the book" for each
horse, because the general principles are the same, but the specifics vary all
the time.

Thomas Ritter
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post #2 of 4 Old 01-10-2010, 04:49 PM
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post #3 of 4 Old 01-10-2010, 05:21 PM
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post #4 of 4 Old 01-10-2010, 06:39 PM
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This is the essence of what dressage is, and how best to train it. I love the word moderation.
At the same time as "Every exercise, every tool, and every aid can be harmful" they can also all be beneficial. Every horse at some point may need extreme lateral flexion, they may need to be taken LDR, or you may need to bring the neck up to the sky! But at the same time, cone in the wrong moment they can have disastrous results. None of these are "correct" and done in a test would get you crucified, but done in the right moment can be great tools.

The thing that I love about our sport is that in training, there are no rules as long as you are working harmoniously with the horse. It is so important to keep an open mind, and always be adding to your "tool belt". As my first dressage teacher always said about everything "Never throw the baby out with the bathwater!!".
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