Is she getting off the forehand? *Pics - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 29 Old 06-26-2013, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Is she getting off the forehand? *Pics

What do you think, is my mare starting to put more weight on her hind end? We've been working on it :) I know she feels less like a crashing airplane, and I think she looks more like she is pushing rather than pulling herself.

This is from October (my hands weren't normally that high, she was tossing her head up):

This is from this year, January:

This is from early this month, the day of her chiropractor adjustment:

And this is this week:

I know she doesn't look like the end result I want yet, but eh... I'm pretty glad her back doesn't look so dipped down. I test her by putting side reins on when free-lunging her in her paddock, and lately she has been able to balance herself without constantly bumping them or raising her head. I don't put her in extra things often, usually a free-lunge run in the sandy areas of the paddock with some trotting poles gets her lifting her feet and using her booty. Btw, we don't do Dressage primarily... we go for one-day Eventing. It's not just to help the score, but also because she needs a stronger butt and back to compensate for her slight ewe neck, and for now help fuse her right hind hock spavin.
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post #2 of 29 Old 06-26-2013, 06:24 PM
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Please don't free lunge in side reins, ever!!!! Incredibly dangerous thing to do.

Aside from that, there's certainly an improvement in her pushing power. However she still looks very stiff, I would be doing a lot of circles and leg yield to build more balance and suppleness.
Are you using draw reins/some kind of tie down in the last photo? Please get rid of it, it's not required.
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post #3 of 29 Old 06-26-2013, 08:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Kayty.

She has one remaining bone spavin to fuse, I keep her on various treatments to make her comfortable and have her work through it. Circles can only be done minimally or on large scale, but we do leg yield.

The draw reins aren't necessary per se, it just helps personably, and I put them on carefully about three times a month (emphasis on balance/relaxing with contact, not trying to build topline with them). She's very good about free-lunging, we do it in small areas and the side r's come on once every few months for the sake of seeing how she moves without a rider holding the contact... only about 5 mins. Concern appreciated, do you have any ideas how to help with her relaxing while having contact without over-exerting her back? The hocks themselves are sound, but the discomfort in one and some slight conformational issues lead her to compensate with her back. If you have any info on training in-hand, too, I'd be grateful :)
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post #4 of 29 Old 06-27-2013, 09:47 AM
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There is one thing missing in all the pix: that is a steady connection with the horse's mouth (which is what allows for a connection/lateral flexibility/bit acceptance/etc). The horse is taking longer strides, but the chest is dropped. Remember that the forehand is only held in a sling of muscles (no collarbone) so without a connection the half halts cannot fold the hindlegs and lift the chest.

It is a very cute horse. The last pix the horse is up/open, but now what about a connection to the hand (vs hunter loopy reins) and lateral flexiblity (ie riding a 20 m circles/seeing inside eyelashed/position laterally through the body due to the location of your leg)??

Also, your hands are too lowered, there is not bend in the elbows. The upper arm hangs vertically and functions as part of the trunk, there should be a straight line from elbows to horse's mouth. If you break that line downward the hands will act on the bars, if you lift the hands (intentionally) they will act more onto the corners of the lips and horse will lightly push into them. And neutral is 'merely' the straight line. Without this connection the contact cannot be built/maintained into flexion/bit acceptance/etc.

The use of draw reins is ONLY for lateral flexibility (because that is the basis of longitudinal flexion) never for longitudinal flexion.

There is a big difference between strength (aka endurance/power) and proper use of the hind legs (folding the joints/lowering). The later is the basis for long term soundness, but merely pushing the load is not.

And there is a big difference between a ewe neck and a horse which is pressing the underneck out/down because not being asked to sustain a connection. This horse easily can develop a top line, bulk the 'triangle' of muscles in front of the withers. But it cannot do it w/o a steady connection and independent (lifted) hands which connect the horse to the seat/spine of the rider.

Last edited by equitate; 06-27-2013 at 09:51 AM.
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post #5 of 29 Old 07-03-2013, 05:31 PM
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Draw reins are fine if used correctly. People say they "spoil" a horses gaits. Well, I own the number one hunter under saddle horse and the number one First level dressage horse in the state and needless to say they are gorgeous lovers. Your horse is quite a nice mover, try giving and taking with both hands(like you are squeezing a sponge) and get her to come back vertical. Then while gently holding her vertical, add leg until she lengthens her stride, stop and redo if she falls forward, pops her head up or out. Hope this helps, I know it helped me!:)
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post #6 of 29 Old 07-04-2013, 10:23 AM
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Are you using draw rein only in that photo? No regular reins? That is a very dangerous thing to do. The point of draw reins is to correct the horse when they evade the contact by raising their head. When the horse feels the DRs, they lower their heads into the contact provided by the reg. reins. With DRs only, she has no "sweet spot" to find, only a set head and neck, and she will never learn to be honest in the contact. Also, its truly dangerous if she decides she has had enough since she's never released from constant down/back contact.

I'm not a huge fan of DRs except under supervision or in experienced hands. From the other photos, it looks like you are very reluctant to shorten your reins and take some steady contact. Without establishing that steady contact whereby your mare learns to stretch her topline and tighten her abdominal muscles and lift her back, all you will get is the running trot seen here.

Like a motorcycle - if you simply hit the gas without some brake control, you're quickly off and speeding into the side of a hill ( my own experience ) When you find the balance between the gas and the break, you control the bike.

You can do some good with the DRs in addition to your RRs, but I would recommend you do so under experienced supervision to help you with figuring out the correct lengths of each rein and when to hit the gas and when to brake.

I Googled draw reins on dressage horses and here's a photo of the correct length of DRs and RRs:

Notice in this pic that the rider has allowed the RRs to get too loose and contact is solely reliant on the DRs - something you must be diligent about preventing, or your DR work is pointless:
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post #7 of 29 Old 07-04-2013, 12:22 PM
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On closer look, I'm wrong about the 2nd picture - it looks like the rider has steady contact on reg. reins, and not riding just on draw rein - sorry about that:
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post #8 of 29 Old 07-04-2013, 09:26 PM Thread Starter
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I agree with you Weezilla; I didn't use just draw reins! The piece of equipment I used is called a Neck Stretcher (sorry, I get confused about how people use such and such equipment, maybe I got it wrong, since people call it a draw rein I just go ahead and call it that) and doesn't do much more than put pressure on her poll when she raises her head, it isn't connected to my hands. It's more of a comfort thing for her and I; I don't see anything bad about her with them on versus off, judging my horse I would say she likes them. I did ride in real draw reins with a trainer before; ehhh... I didn't like the double rein style, but it helped her. Maybe I ought to try that again, I only did it once at the trainer's suggestion.

Now, I'm confuzzled again: I looked at her today, she's been changing since the chiro adjustments fixed her up, and I notice her upper neck is getting bigger... but also her lower neck. Wither and back area look fantastic imo, the muscle is coming in behind her withers. Maybe the neck is the last thing to show difference, I guess. Something else interesting is that I have increased the sessions we sprint, and to help cool her off at the very end I encourage her to stretch her neck out and keep very little contact on the rein, have her jog-trot the best she can. I figure this has always been very easy for her to do and no effort before (we haven't jogged in a long time). Looking at her though, her veins came out and she sweat around her stifle and butt more as opposed to the usual sitting trot speed (I two-point to give her an easier time) for cooling off. I tried one session of only walk and this jog, same thing. It feels different than the jogging trot attempts we did months ago, it feels very smooth, slow but not about to stop, and she has her neck out long. Would that be her trying to carry herself a little better? Didn't feel like the landing-an-airplane forehandiness of previous attempts. Don't get me wrong--- self-carriage should come a long way out, so maybe it's that she is putting her weight where it should be.

** And yeah, I have scheduled visits with trainers about monthly, I'm just obsessed with really staring at her good and being ultra specific, haha...
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post #9 of 29 Old 07-04-2013, 09:43 PM
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To echo the answer, no she is still on the forehand. Fixing your leg to rein connection will help her use her butt more. You push the horse into your hands, but your hands need to be ready. You need to bend those elbows and then make sure that you don't flex your wrist.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #10 of 29 Old 07-05-2013, 12:55 PM
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Draw reins are NOT meant for longitudinal flexion nor to bring the horse to vertical, that is a 100% incorrect use of them. They are (originally) meant for 1 use on a caveson, and ALWAYS for 2 introducing lateral flexibility (which over time leads to longtiudinal flexion).

Chambons and neck stretchers are meant to lower the horse into a lower ifV posture which seeks the hand. It will not help the horse work into hh/change its posture by lifting the chest.

WHY would the rider (who is interested in lifting the chest) want to poll pressure or to drop the head? That does not help lift the chest but flattens the top line. Each gadget serves a VERY specific purpose.

The underneck is carrying the horse, that is why it is enlarging. The chest has to lift (through half halts/folded hindlgs) which lifts/arcs the neck which can allow fdo in different degrees (more upright or more hack like).

The neck should be building within three months, as should the part right behind the shoulder. The narrowness (triangle) in front of the shoulders show widen as the horse stays arced out to the hand. If the horse is correct it looks like a plane taking off: compress hindlegs/lower croup/up/open/chest lifted/free in the shoulders.
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