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Western Dressage - Thoughts ?

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    02-18-2013, 12:43 AM
Well, we're all agreeing that it was the wrong picture.
But I still don't know what you consider western collection and where the difference is. If there is one
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    02-18-2013, 12:54 AM
Originally Posted by longride    
BTW - from the German Federation Advanced Tecniques of Riding. "True collection produces "schwung" and cadence, not just [italics mine] shorter strides.[so shorter strides are a component of collection.] If both hind legs step further forward under the horse's center of gravity, the bent haunches carry more weight and then propel the body powerfully forward and upwards. Because the center of gravity is shifted backwards and the quarters carry more weight, the forehand is lightened and elevated, the horse's neck is arched - according to its conformation - and it shows proud and cadenced steps and strides." So while the wording of the WDAA rules may be at this stage very bare bones, leaving too much assumed, they embody the elements of the German and classical definitions - weight shift to the hindquarters, resulting in a raised and arched neck. There is also wording about the action of the hind legs straight from the USEF rules. What isn't there is the word "schwung" or an equivalent, and I agree the concept needs to be spelled out. Far more than just gaits, however, collection is about protecting and freeing the horse's back, restoring it's ability to support the heavy load of internal organs + rider the way nature intended while allowing full freedom of motion. "Schwung" happens when that's been achieved and so will certainly be a component of WD since a primary goal of WD is about riding for the welfare of the horse.
im trying to come up with a worthy translation for Schwung .....Schwung comes from schwingen....swinging, but is not quite right, since swinging is in general sideways. With the Schwung in a horse we're referring to forward. Schwungvoll forward. Maybe a little like dancing a Strauss waltz with a great partner and a very big dancefloor......
Sorry for rambling on about it, but I feel it is very important that the word is being understood, classical dressage or western dressage.....without Schwung it's not good riding, it's only a drill.
    02-18-2013, 08:11 AM
Originally Posted by deserthorsewoman    
Well, we're all agreeing that it was the wrong picture.
But I still don't know what you consider western collection and where the difference is. If there is one
I didn't want to touch WP because in my opinion they don't show collection. WP is looking mainly toward balance in the horse - can the horse w/t/c easily and stay in the gait without speeding up or slowing down a lot. That's just balance, its not collection.

Reiners/cutters are closest to my definition of collection, but its different from what I've learned in dressage. It's not wrong/right, its just that the highest end result of collection for reining/cutting and dressage looks different.

Since I don't believe WP shows collection, just assume I'm talking about reiners or cutters if I say western in this reply.

The differences between western collection and dressage collection is the sustainability, and the thrust from the hind legs. Dressage trains the horse to stay in a high degree of collection the entire test (at GP level). At te highest level, the dressage horse has to be strong enough to continuously push its body upward with brief moments of showing that it can push its body forward (extended gaits). Dressage rewards for lofty gaits that look like the horse barely touches the earth.

Western rewards horses that can show dramatic thrust forward, and strong hind quarters to capture the much stronger forward energy and translate it into either a stop, or turn. The forward in western isn't elongating the stride like it is in dressage. Western wants more of an ideal toward function in the horse rather than the energy wasting qualities exhibited in dressage.

If both western and dressage are trained correctly to the highest level, the end result looks different, but the main concepts for how they got there are pretty similiar.
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    02-18-2013, 10:13 AM
Technically "schwung" combines several different elements. The neck is supported by the tension of the nuchal ligament gained by correct connection through the supraspinus ligamint to a tilted pelvis. This raises the spine between the shoulder blades but leaves the muscle system of the back free to move rather than support weight. The tilt of the pelvis is created by the use of muscles of the abdomen which again leave the motor muscles free to move. The feeling of "raising" the back comes from the lift of the spine between the shoulder blades. The result of this carriage of the spine is that the horse can move it's limbs to full range of movement allowing full utilization of the forward impulse to either push or lift while all the muscles of the back can be either engaged or relaxed in movement ( schwung). Here is how it's worded by the German Federation - "the transmission of the energetic impulse created by the hind legs into the forward movement of the entire horse. An elastically swinging back is the necessary precondition."

Loftiness of gaits isn't mentioned and can be the result of tension or simply breeding. The emphasis on this quality is IMHO a modern fixation. OTOH lightness of carriage, the feeling that the horse barely touches the ground, is paramount, but has nothing to do with how much air there is between the hoof and the ground, but instead is the result of elasticity of the joints. For a test, try jumping lightly from foot to foot barely coming off the ground. As you tire, you'll get more "loft". Height off the ground doesn't translate into ability to carry, which is what collection is about. I think this shift has come as dressage horses have been seen less and less as useful. Western horse on the other hand have to be functional.

By the way, the western horses I have seen the most collection in are the Ranch sorting horses, especially the horse keeping the gate. Completely different from cutters. They have to be able to go backwards as quickly as they go forwards as well as switch directions in a split second.
    02-18-2013, 10:55 AM
BTW, Opal and anyone else who is a member of WDAA and would like to see rule changes, the WDAA is accepting suggestions on their web site. The link to the submission form is on the Rules and Tests page.
    02-18-2013, 11:15 AM
Originally Posted by Opal    
I am so thankful that this has evolved into a discussion rather than an argument XD That's how so many things always seem to end when discussing these types of situations, so seeing that we're both willing to be civilized and have a resonable discussion is such a relief.

I totally agree with you. The WD assosciation really needs to get itself together, but it is SO new (It's been "officially" around since 2008) that it's just have trouble straightening itself out. I've found that WD has been far more successful in-breed (with Morgans) than it has is other breeds, so I am probably a little blind to the problems that arise in open/different breed classes. I do know that there really needs to be a LOT of straightening out though in the near future, and I really hope it successfully evolves into the good things that I'm finding in it already.

There isn't really a lot of show opportunities higher than the basic things, mostly because there hasn't been enough time for people to become skilled enough to actually show at higher levels. It's hard to come up with a competition-ready set of horses which can perform high level movement like piaffe, passage, tempi, ect. At competition level within the time that WD shows have actually been around. Classical Dressage didn't evolve out of thin air, did it? XD

Overall, I completely agree with your post this time around. It really does need time to develope, but they need to start developing faster, because as I've seen from other posts, WD has been given a terrible starting reputation and it breaks my heart a little to see people who think that there isn't any potential in it at all.

Anyway, about the bits.

Horses do collect quite a bit differently in a curb. A very, very slight raise of the hand is all you need to encourage them to flex their poll and engage their hind-end. Because Curb's are so harsh, you can't really have the same contact with the reins as you can in a snaffle or double, plus you ride with rommel reins, which you use one handed. Of course, if you're collecting properly, you still use leg to encourage the engagement of the hind end as well. Like it was said in the quote above, WD riders are expected to have SLIGHTLY more contact with the bridle, unlike in WP where the horse is ridden with almost complete slack and obvious drape in the reins. With English dressage, there (should) be a straight line of contact from the horses mouth, up the rein and to the lower forearm before the bend at the elbow, which doesn't apply to riding with a curb.

Now, what really bothers me is that the WDAA is allowing people to ride a curb with two hands. THAT irks me, and definitely makes me want to tell the WDAA to get it's crap together. It'd be so much more appealing if it was just a little more organized, put together, and thought through XD
I think you missed this Core :)

Also, I actually think that reining/cutting shows a lot less collection than a GOOD, (Morgan) WP rider. You use neck reining to control reiners/cutters, and so far with my experience, I've never heard a single reiner/cutter even mention/seem like they care about collection.

Again, I think we have different opinions when it comes to collection. I believe that collection can vary based on the horse and the discipline, and the collection simply involves being on the bit and engaging a horse's haunches and that his hind legs should be reaching over the places where his front hooves last left the ground in a stride. You, from what I understand, believe that collection is simply as what is defined by the USDF and nothing more. It is true that balance is an important part of WP, but I have NEVER heard of anyone who does WP (Morgan) and does not plan on collecting there horse, at least in the way that WP defines collection. WP riders cannot show the level of extension and "floaty" gaits a dressage horse can-- that's not WP. Collection, in my opinion, it imparative to balance and I've ALWAYS been taught collection when I did WP. Trying to do WP without "collection" would just....uggg...I can't even fathom it.
    02-18-2013, 12:01 PM
    02-18-2013, 12:04 PM
Ahh. And here we have it. Dressage language vs the rest of the world. Opal, if WD never planned on going beyond 1st level, your definition would hold. But we already have tests for 2nd level and are writing tests for even higher levels. There are degrees of collection, and you're talking about the lowest degree while Core is talking about the highest. Neither of you is wrong. It's a language problem. While books on dressage training have no problem recognizing that there is a scale of collection, the RULES only use the term for full collection. It isn't different things - it's the same thing only more so.

As WD horses have higher levels, they will have to show greater collection. It's built into the whole concept of classical principles and the ability to fully collect is a huge part of western cow work, though as has been pointed out it isn't usually asked for continuously.
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    02-18-2013, 12:15 PM
Im not so sure if higher levels need to be introduced and called Western Dressage. IMO they already exist in the California Bridle Horse. All without taking technical descriptions and expressions from any rule book. ....and these horses prove that western and classical collection work well together in everyday work of a ranch horse. Schwung and all.......
    02-18-2013, 12:25 PM
For those who have access to California Bridle horse trainers that's wonderful. But I know of only one bridle horse trainer in my state and he's no expert, though dedicated and well intentioned.
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