Just something interesting I stumbled across - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 08:09 AM Thread Starter
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Just something interesting I stumbled across

Hi guys,
I was reading a book called 'understanding your horse' when I stumbled across a couple of interesting pieces of information.


You know how we all like our horses on the bit? Engaging their hindquarters, head dropped down nicely (not over bent!) and really flexing? Well according to this book, when a horse is on the bit it is very uncomfortable, and an unnatural position for the horse. It seems you shouldn't try to get your horse on the bit what so ever, but just leave them be with what ever natural head carriage they have. Also, when on the bit, it seems they can't see as well as a horse that is holding its head in its natural position.
I'm not entirely sure, and I'm just relating this info to you guys, to see what you think.
My horses naturally hold their heads slightly high, but their faces are vertical to the ground, so I don't worry. As long as my three don't poke out their noses, or become over bent, I leave them.


The other piece of information I found:
According to this book, circles are one of the hardest things a horse has to do. In the wild, or in the field, it seems they would never go in circles, unless there was a behavioral problem. Even 20 metre circles are very difficult. Apparently on very small circles, horses can injure their necks and backs, and legs as well as having to endure a lot of stress.


Just to be aware, this isn't my opinion, and I took this from the book.
In my opinion if this way of thinking is correct, it will take a long time for people to come round to it, and for the image of a horse on the bit to leave their minds entirely. The dressage world in particular will take a long time to come round to this, or maybe it won't at all. Who knows?


I think, as long as the horse is supple, and is working well without being forced, they should be let be.
What do you think?
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post #2 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 10:54 AM
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Anyone can write a book. Doesn't mean the information contained in it is true or has any real validity.

Horses in nature absolutely DO go in circular patterns. Watch horses out in a pasture setting where there are no humans to 'force' them into a circle.

You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!
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post #3 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 11:49 AM
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If the horse's face is vertical, it does impact where their binocular vision is best:



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equine_vision

There is nothing wrong with a horse 'on the bit', nor off it - depending on what you do and how you define those terms. It isn't painful for them unless done by an idiot.

Lots of sustained, tight circles probably is bad for a horse who hasn't trained to do it. I'm working with Mia to improve her circles so she can move more freely and with better balance in all other riding. But we do not do a tight circle forever...she wouldn't tolerate that anyways. I let her carry her head wherever she wants (except on circles), but that is based on what we do and how we like to do it. It does not in any sense make anyone wrong for doing it different.

"There goes Earl!"
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post #4 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 12:14 PM
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Who authored the book? That may explain this thinking....;)
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post #5 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
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Emmm.... Someone called Susan McBane... Never heard of her!
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post #6 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 12:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CandyCanes View Post
Hi guys,
I think, as long as the horse is supple, and is working well without being forced, they should be let be.
I would agree with you. We trail ride. I want my horse going down the trail in as natural a position as possible. I can watch them in the pasture to see what their natural carriage is. If I'm balanced, the tack fits and the horse is comfortable, I figure they should look close to the same as when they are moving around on their own.

If you ever find yourself in a fair fight, it's because your tactics suck. ~ Marine 1SGT J. Reifinger
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post #7 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 02:37 PM
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I grew up riding horses in their natural manner, forward and on the forehand. Nothing wrong with it. It was functional and good for carrying occasional, inexpert young riders over obstacles.

As an adult, though, I have an eye towards the "art" of horsemanship. I believe that the rounding, and exercises on the bit, strengthen the horse's back, and makes it easier for the horse to carry weight. Which is NOT natural.

Whenever I can get my horse to really come through (energy from behind, through her body, and then dropped, like a gift, into my hands) she moves in a bigger way, as if it feels good. Certainly not painful! I think the vision that is lost is significant: only a horse who thoroughly trusts you will move in a big way, blind!

I've seen my little, dominant mare "free lunge" the other in a circle---not with relaxation and rhythm, though.
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post #8 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CandyCanes View Post
Hi guys,
I was reading a book called 'understanding your horse' when I stumbled across a couple of interesting pieces of information.


You know how we all like our horses on the bit? Engaging their hindquarters, head dropped down nicely (not over bent!) and really flexing? Well according to this book, when a horse is on the bit it is very uncomfortable, and an unnatural position for the horse. It seems you shouldn't try to get your horse on the bit what so ever, but just leave them be with what ever natural head carriage they have. Also, when on the bit, it seems they can't see as well as a horse that is holding its head in its natural position.
I'm not entirely sure, and I'm just relating this info to you guys, to see what you think.
My horses naturally hold their heads slightly high, but their faces are vertical to the ground, so I don't worry. As long as my three don't poke out their noses, or become over bent, I leave them.


The other piece of information I found:
According to this book, circles are one of the hardest things a horse has to do. In the wild, or in the field, it seems they would never go in circles, unless there was a behavioral problem. Even 20 metre circles are very difficult. Apparently on very small circles, horses can injure their necks and backs, and legs as well as having to endure a lot of stress.


Just to be aware, this isn't my opinion, and I took this from the book.
In my opinion if this way of thinking is correct, it will take a long time for people to come round to it, and for the image of a horse on the bit to leave their minds entirely. The dressage world in particular will take a long time to come round to this, or maybe it won't at all. Who knows?


I think, as long as the horse is supple, and is working well without being forced, they should be let be.
What do you think?
I agree in theory that both things are unnatural for a horse to do a lot of. But in moderation they are fine. I think it is generally agreed that tight circles strain their legs and should not be overdone.

The "on the bit" position is also something a horse wouldn't do a ton of in the wild (although they do it sometimes at short stretches at liberty).

I think what has everyone obsessed with "on the bit" is the notion that if your horse isn't collected it is somehow ruining his back. Some people would have you believe that if your horse isnt collected 90% of the time with a rider the horse is straining it's back. I personally don't know if collection is that important or not. I ride western and a lot of western riders ride on a loose rein without collection for pleasure and ranch riding. I don't see any evidence of it hurting the horse's back. I think a lot of the notions of what is correct come from the show ring and what people think looks and feels desirable.

I trail ride and alternate a loose, floppy reined walk with an "on the bit" trot. Hopefully my horses get the benefit of both.
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post #9 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 04:10 PM
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Watch Clinton Anderson on Diego?. That poor horse is so overbent when loping he's looking where he's been instead of where he's going.
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post #10 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 07:47 PM
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Susan McBane is an English author, competitor and riding isnstructor. She bases her training approach the German Training Scale as well as the latest findings of equitation science which covers a range of areas including biomechanics, behaviour, neuroscience, physiology etc.

She is 100% correct that the "on the bit" head posture restricts the horse's binocular vision. Horses have a "visual streak" which is a narrow band in the centre of the retina which they use to focus on detail. The bands either side of the streak are used to detect movement. In order for the horse to focus on detail it has to raise or lower its head to align the visual streak with object its trying to see. Its why jumpers raise their heads just before take-off and why horses frequently lower the heads to trailer ramps or puddles.

Wild horses may perform circles at trot and canter but they are unlikely to be perfect 60ft circles and they don't do them over and over like a dressage or western horse.

And most importantly they don't do them with an extra 200lbs of human and saddle on their backs. They are also free to use their heads and necks to balance against the centripetal forces of the circle, something dressage and western horses are often prevented from doing.

If you watch young horses at speed in a round pen or on the lunge the fact that the majority travel with their heads tipped to the outside demonstrates the difficulty of circling. This is unsurprising given the thoracic and sacral parts of the spine are almost rigid with no lateral flexion and there is very little lateral flexion in the lumbar spine. The ability to circle mainly comes from the movement of the shoulder and hip joints towards and away from the horse's body. The contraction of abdominal muscles also assist.

Young horses in particular can find the first few canter circles quite a challenge and it can take many sessions for them to develop the coordination and musculo-skeletal strength to do them in a controlled and balanced way.

Susan McBane's books are full of reliable, quality information and well worth a read.

Horses are blameless participants in training- its up to us to get it right
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