I despair: holes in the transmission of knowledge - The Horse Forum
  • 1 Post By thesilverspear
  • 2 Post By Spyder
  • 2 Post By MyBoyPuck
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post #1 of 8 Old 09-27-2011, 07:59 AM Thread Starter
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I despair: holes in the transmission of knowledge

This is just a bit of a rant, as it's been on my mind for a bit.

I was working my horse in the arena while A gave B a dressage lesson. I was actually surprised when I entered the arena to see this, as B is a pretty decent rider and A rides around using a hackamore to crank his horse's head in so her nose nearly touches her chest and the horse *always* looks slightly off. B's horse can be tense and high-headed and she usually uses a standing martingale on him, and fair play to her for dropping the martingale and looking for other approaches. The approach A was clearly taking, as I nosily kept half an ear on the lesson, was to get the horse's head down by having B brace her hands on either side of the pommel of the saddle but not give at all (you really can't give much when your arms are nearly straight down at your sides). The horse was arching his neck but wasn't any more relaxed or through his back than he had been when going around with his nose in the air.

What bugs me is that B also teaches lessons, undoubtedly passing on what she's learned in her own lessons, and in this transmission, the basic principles of dressage, of impulsion, softness, and relaxation, are being further lost to the importance of the headset. Presumably A learned what he knows from someone else, and is seen by B and others at the barn as the dressage "expert." I've seen it before at other barns -- BHS instructors even cranking horse's heads around without any release but able to force an outline, so the student thinks it's "right." While I have no doubt that good dressage can be found at "proper" dressage show barns here, it saddens me to see that this knowledge is virtually non-existent at "amateur" barns even when people seek out dressage instruction. The questions people seem to be asking are, "How do I get his head down?" Not, "Why is he so tense and how can I create more forward relaxation so he comes easily into an outline?" No one seems to know that the latter question is actually the one which needs to be asked.

I try to cultivate indifference to what other people do with their horses -- it has nowt to do with me and there is really nothing I can do about any of it -- but when you see this poor thing fighting the flash noseband when his face his being pulled into his chest, it's hard to maintain indifference!
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post #2 of 8 Old 09-27-2011, 08:17 AM
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I know where you are coming from and you can't "fix" somethings.

The way I looked at it was..I guess I don't have to worry about them beating me in competitions...and walk away.
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post #3 of 8 Old 09-27-2011, 10:07 AM
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Spyder, I like your response!

How horrific :( I despise people that use all the gadgets. All the gear, no idea! We have a woman at our yard who has a shot-putters shoulders. She gets young horses, holds them in, makes them look hot and flashy sells them on or ruins them. She also rides over everybody in the arena. I do believe this is practise for the warm up arena at comps so no one else can warm their horses up properly!

The worst I hear is 'I can't make my horse/pony come round.' Well, thats because there is no impulsion from the hind, and when he does inch downwards, you don't give with the contact to allow his reward. So why on earth would he do that??? The best I've ever seen is a girl yank the inside rein of her horse, the horse got hold of the rein and tanked off. You could see the thought process going through the mind of the horse!

Also, persons who expect their horses to work in a natural outline all the time with no chance to flex long and low. Biggest bug bear!!
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post #4 of 8 Old 09-27-2011, 11:26 AM Thread Starter
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Aye, Spyder, but I don't even find comfort in that as I haven't competed in about seven years. :)

Part of my PhD research is oral transmission of "folk" knowledge (nothing to do with horses) but the way horsemanship is often learned follows this sort of model. Obviously there are books, videos, and now more than ever, the internet, but still, I think most folk learn horsemanship skills from the people in closest geographic proximity. It's vaguely troubling witnessing the manner in which this knowledge can be passed down, like a poor game of telephone, in which the end result isn't at all what was initially intended. Here, classical dressage devolves into just pulling the horse's head down and dodgily calling it "dressage."

And hackamores (with huge shanks) are intended to be used with an indirect rein, right? That's what I thought.

Last edited by thesilverspear; 09-27-2011 at 11:30 AM.
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post #5 of 8 Old 09-27-2011, 01:34 PM
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Agreed, thesilverspur. I didn't know when I first started training that you couldn't force a headset. I guess it's hard for some people to be anything more than, "You can TELL a horseman, but you can't tell them much!"
(DD is an atty, DD is in law school--you can substitute the word "Lawyer" or a miriad of occupations and hobbies into the above underlined space! LOL)
I don't care for a standing martingale, but my babysitter QH, "Ro Go Bar" (1982-2009, RIP) would throw his head when we rode him at CW events, but when we put one of those on him, he'd behave perfectly. Sometimes it's about sensible use and correct adjustments.
Some people study dance and practice on a cement floor, but they suffer later with the shinsplints that wouldn't happen if they danced on a wooden floor.
I GUESS this is why some of the best (racing) TB trainers are very old men, and NOT the newbies.

Last edited by Corporal; 09-27-2011 at 01:36 PM.
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post #6 of 8 Old 09-27-2011, 02:46 PM
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"I try to cultivate indifference to what other people do with their horses -- it has nowt to do with me and there is really nothing I can do about any of it -- but when you see this poor thing fighting the flash noseband when his face his being pulled into his chest, it's hard to maintain indifference!"

Agreed, but as I get older, I get feeling more guilty. Doing nothing is still doing something.

The only thing I can suggest is a group thing: get a few others together and host film showings of good trainers, inviting others to come and learn.
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post #7 of 8 Old 09-28-2011, 08:21 PM
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Yeah that does suck. All you can do is ride your own horse correctly. That saying "what goes around comes around" will eventually come into play. After years of riding tense horses and not getting anywhere, one day they will look at your horse traveling around happily swinging his back and trotting around like he owns the place, and they'll ask you what your secret is. Then feel free to impart your knowledge. `
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You just have to see your distance...you don't have to like it.
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post #8 of 8 Old 10-02-2011, 10:10 AM
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This post makes me glad that I have a dressage trainer who firmly believes that gadgets are garbage, and that horse and rider MUST be supple and fluid together.
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