Training a Horse the Classical Way - Page 6 - The Horse Forum
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post #51 of 59 Old 09-24-2009, 07:36 AM
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I think this has been asked before, but will you post a picture of Joe? I love reading these descriptions and it would be great to see Joe to "put a face to the name." Also, being a sheltered American, I don't have the best idea of what his breeding/"cobbishness" looks like.

My horse makes a funny groaning sound when you ask her to do something she doesn't want to. I can picture Joe with his nose in the air, with a similar attitude to Ada groaning.

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post #52 of 59 Old 09-24-2009, 09:26 AM Thread Starter
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Hannah - look up my profile - there are photos of Joe there.

He is the one with the white blaze on his forehead and the knowing smile.
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post #53 of 59 Old 09-24-2009, 09:41 AM Thread Starter
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In Britain there is a wealth of national breeds.
A cob is a descendent of the vanners - the horses used to pull delivery carts for milk and coal etc before WW2,
Some have Shire blood, others have Irish draught or Welsh Cob blood.
Many blacks are based on Dales or Fell ponies.
Height usually 16H max, stocky, bit butts, lots of power.
Some have been lightened by crossing with Thorobreds.
They are known as "cold bloods" - as against "warm bloods".
They are the horsey equivalent of the mongrel dog.
They by temperament are canny, knowing, crafty, devious, stubborn and for that reason they are often salt of the earth. Good sorts.

Joe was probably a Galloway - a farmer's horse used on the farm for ride or drive and pulling the plough. Joe himself worked in a trail riding centre.

Nowadays we are all fussed about the breeding and the registration but cobs go on because the gene pool from which they have been drawn is much wider. What you have to watch out for with this type of horse is temperament - they can be devils, they can be angels.

Joe was both a devil and an angel. He was perhaps at his best with children. He was immensely strong and very sure footed.

The head shot caught his mood.

I miss him.
Barry G
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post #54 of 59 Old 09-28-2009, 09:54 AM Thread Starter
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LESSON 6 Straight talking.

Tuesdays were by now personal fulfilment days for Joe. Fairy Lightfoot was groomed and tacked up and taken into the arena to do his Military Twostep - just like the poncie warmbloods that performed last weekend on the telly. Except of course, that the Joe was no warmblood. The Tutor reckoned that she was going to get Joe up to “Preliminary” standards within 12 months. If a dressage program included 360 degree wheelies to the left followed by a quick belt up the arena, then maybe our Boy could win - but elegance in motion - that was not my Boy’s way. But we’ll see, Joe always tried to please if he could.

That week the lesson focussed on me again. By then it was not just my back or my hands or my looking down through Joe’s ears - it was my legs. I had got to get the legs to reach down towards the ground, so that if the horse were taken away, then I could still stand up. Just imagine, I had got to wrap my thighs around the Boy’s ample chest and then allow them to drop down perpendicularly toward the ground in such a way that the heels were below the ball of the foot. At the same time the centre line of the foot should run parallel to the centre line of the horse. Now if I had swivels instead of joints then this might have proven to be easier but the joints I had were made for walking and the undoubted fact that I waddled like a duck when walking was undeniable. My mother could have genuinely called me Flat Foot Freddie instead of Barry which she so often used to say was the closest she could have named me to “Ba” - short for you know what. I was a wartime baby.

So, after the Boy had done his regular set of exercises, I climbed aboard and managed to get in just one circuit of the arena at the walk before I was pulled up short by the Tutor. Then came the (wo)manhandling. The ankle was bent around, the knee pushed this way and that and then came one special neat little wrench which was particularly excruciating. This Tutor obviously could have got a job in Henry V111’s torture chamber - she would not need to have used the rack. Finally it seemed the leg was in the right position - the fact that I felt like a peg wrapped around a towel on a clothes line was irrelevant. Seemingly if I wanted to sit on Joe correctly and ride properly, then I must learn how to sit up straight and, what’s more, I must hold the correct position throughout the ride.

Joe had stood perfectly still for half an hour whilst this palaver was going on. At the end of the tweaking session, I dropped down off the saddle and walked with him at my shoulder over to the gate to the arena. There was no need to hold the lead rope, he walked quietly alongside and seemed to be saying: - “You OK Boss?” Joe was remembering how to move his legs but could I remember how to place mine? The trouble with living in the same body for years was that it gets a bit, bruised, battered and bent in the process and it did not seem to work as smoothly as once it used to.

Not that the Prissy Dressage Tutor either cared or had pity. All she wanted was for me and Joe to imitate a flouncie German on a big fat horse.

Barry G
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post #55 of 59 Old 09-30-2009, 12:18 AM
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I love how some days joe seems to be nearly gloating at your torture and others almost commiserating with you. What a true and blue friend he must have been. As usual, a delight to read BG!
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post #56 of 59 Old 10-02-2009, 08:22 AM Thread Starter
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JOE and a Blind Left Eye
The Boy was by now upping the odds. Joe had embroiled the Physio into the equation. It had been established by the Tutor that the Boss’s seat was not correct. Fair dues, the Boss did not get his leg down into the correct position and he would turn his left toe out at the slightest provocation. However there was to be yet another revelation - the Boss did not sit level in the saddle. In other words the right hip dropped down exerting more weight on the right hand side of the saddle and thereby thru to the right hand side of Joe’s back. So, when the Boss mounted The Boy, there was a downward diagonal pressure on the right hand of Joe’s back. Put simply, The Boss’s bodyweight of 100 kilos was not being conveyed equally down to Joe’s load bearing skeletal structure. If he were not such an accommodating fellow, then Joe would have walked permanently off to the left in response to the right side pressure. However deep down being the good fellow that he really was, Fairy Two shoes took up this unequal weight and carried The Boss forwards and straight, despite the unequal burden. It was called buttering up to the Hand of He that fed Him. Perhaps that was just as well, because The Boss had absolutely no idea of what either of his hips looked like, let alone where to find them.
This was all proved in the surgery by the Physio asking the Boss to sit on a big round ball. Lo and behold, when asked to perform this simple task, the Boss sat down and immediately without hesitation, went into a series of posture evasions - including turning the toes out and using the thighs as a support for the hands. There was no doubt - The Boss was crooked. If The Boss could not sit on a silly ball, how could he possibly sit properly on the back of the lithe Joe?

Undeniably Joe had had more difficult burdens to bear in his career as a trekking horse, but of course, this new and weighty revelation created room for doubt in The Boss’s mind. Did Joe indeed have true cause for disgruntlement? Was there more to Joe’s evasions than a cob’s latent urge to be stroppy just to test the mettle of his rider?

But what to do? Well, The Boss was sent away with the strict instructions to walk up all staircases facing the wall (as against the stairs) and told to read a book sitting on a big round ball. Seemingly it would be difficult to finish a chapter of reading however short the chapter.
However what could be The Old Man‘s excuse for all this? Well, it had not been mentioned previously, after all one does not wish to bear one‘s soul completely, that The old Man was pretty much blind in his left eye. So in everyday life The Boss would favour his right side and more would have to hold his head over to the left to compensate for the monocular vision. The tinnitus in the left ear would not help either, because the eyes and the ears are important when adjusting for balance. In addition there perhaps was another barrier to equilibrium in that a moving saddle interface between horse and rider, as is to be found with the specialist WOW saddle, might prove to be more difficult for The Old Man to accommodate than a fixed traditional English style saddle with a static saddle tree. Undoubtedly, Joe was now of the personal opinion that he desperately needed a new, expensive, tailored-to-measure, Pathfinder saddle made by Uncle Keith.

Regardless of the correctness of these theories, the Boy had somehow managed to sow the seeds of doubt in everybody’s mind - including the Old Man‘s. Innocent Fairy Two shoes could from here on in, claim that not only did he have to carry the heavy load of The Old Man on a damaged back but somehow he had to accommodate his Boss’s physical disability in dispersing the weight. Talk about exeats, Joe had, temporarily, a gold plaited, fur lined, pair of leather boots with silver braided laces.

Barry G

PS. It so happened that on the day after the antics with the big ball, there was to be another lesson with the Tutor in the arena. As usual Joe did the business but later The Boss was allowed to move around the arena for one and a half circuits at the walk only. The next hour or so was spent discussing the principles behind the positioning of the lower leg. The Tutor adjusted this limb, that knee and the other ankle and suddenly it happened. Stars twinkled up in the sky, a bright glow erupted to the East and Goddie suddenly realised that his foot was toes up, heels down, firm and steady in the stirrup iron - without any conscious pressure downwards through the ball of the foot. What’s more, The Boy was firmly clasped between both legs - he couldn’t go anywhere without The Boss knowing in advance. And amazingly, the posture could be held without effort. Is this what conversion is all about ?
Is this the beginning of the end of the worship of Clint and the start of the worship of Schokkie?
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post #57 of 59 Old 10-05-2009, 08:21 AM Thread Starter
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To readers of Joe's Classical Lesson
Some of the issues raised in the thread over in English Riding entitled "Heels Down or Up", are touched upon in this next episode in Joe's story.
So I have brought it forward.

Barry G
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post #58 of 59 Old 10-05-2009, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
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A Re-evaluation of Joe

Joe suddenly went lame - probably as a result of a bruised sole following the laying of tarmac and stones locally on the roads. Also he had recently discovered another evasion - going up on his hind legs - a sort of mini rear. Obviously that little trick had come out of his lessons with the Tutor. Another little incident had been a look in his eye when, under instruction, he indicated to the Old Man that he wanted out of the arena. The idea that he might get away with a sudden lunge for the gate was poo-pooed but undoubtedly if the gate had been open then he would have tried his luck. To the Old Man it seemed that Joe was not completely happy about the training routine although promisingly he had learned to do shoulder ins and a few other classical moves quite quickly.

The method by which he was asked to use his hind quarters was to push him on, yet at the same time hold him back through the reins and bit. It takes strong centre core muscles on the part of the rider which the Old man no longer had. The desired result was an “improved outline” which was very much in the eye of the beholder. The undoubted fact had come to light that BG was deficient not only in core muscle strength but also that he had no awareness of where certain muscles in his own body were. Also for some reason he was unable to notice certain key movements in Joe - which to the cogniscenti were readily apparent but which to BG were imperceptible. It followed therefore that BG would have some difficulty in following up on the re-training of Joe. What Joe seemed to do was to store the riding style of a rider in his head and when a different rider mounted up, then Joe would modify his riding profile and react accordingly.

Of course, here was also another problem. Joe was often ridden Western style - on a long loose rein with little contact through the bit to the mouth. Joe liked to stretch his neck and indeed to look around when a sound or smell gives cause to do so. As long as he did not wander from a straight line whilst he was doing so - did it matter? The purist would say ‘yes‘. However it is important not to take away from a horse the responsibility in deciding where to put his feet. A cross country horse must be held responsible for the keeping of balance during a ride. It is the horse that decides where to put his feet not the rider. OK, when show jumping in a tight arena, then the rider must keep the horse in a short bouncy canter but out on a hack, then it is for the rider merely to set the direction - say 4 or more paces away but for the horse to put his feet down where it appear to be safe. Joe was undoubtedly sure footed with a strong sturdy leg, set well apart, going down to the ground at all four corners. But he was heavy at 635 kilos or more, which together with 100 kilos of rider and saddle, represented a lot of weight and mass when in motion. Joe was also 12 years of age. Yes he was still trainable but what we were thinking was of teaching him to carry more of his weight on his hind legs, when his natural centre of gravity was further forwards than most horse. Joe also sloped downwards from the tip of the rump to the wither - not the other way as with TBs & warmbloods. Joe’s chest protruded forwards between his front legs. Joe’s neck was almost that of a stallion: heavy, thick and well muscled, with as much on the underside as the topside. Put plainly, Joe was not built to walk on two legs.

So what I perhaps am trying to say is that we had got a capable beer drinker, why convert him to wine? If BG had the ability to follow up then maybe it might have made sense but let us be honest not only would we have to create a silk purse out of Joe’s sow’s ears but we’d have to do an impossible makeover on the Old Man too. The controlling aids which the Old Man used to communicate with Joe won’t be found in any manual but they worked. BG doesn’t make any attempt to put Joe on a particular leg either - usually we were going forwards out on a hack in a straight line. Joe was not heavy to ride in that he bored down on the reins - he was heavy to ride in that needed pushing on from the waist and lower back. Until he warmed up or got a taste of adrenaline he could be a lot of effort. The width of his back was also a problem, the rider was almost forced to sit down on the under thighs rather than the seat, which can be very tiring. Also when one rode him on a long rein - he was a lump to keep straight if he decided to wander. Joe was heavy because he was a big boy and that was for sure.

So, with hindsight there was no clear cut case for converting Joe over to the “classical” way if doing things. Many of the perceived problems in riding Joe came from Joe’s mental attitude: he was sometimes, stubborn, he was lazy when coming out of the yard and above all he was in truth a timid creature who constantly needed re-assurance. Arguably his biggest fault was that he was careless with his front left foot and from time to time he would trip. But had he got a skeletal problem in his back?

The important parameters in the care of Joe was routine and carefully considered stable management. I also had to watch that this fellow was not in discomfort because one of the problems of Joe‘s undoubted stoicism was that he would carry a rider even if he had a physical problem And we did not really know if he had a problem in his back - did we?. So perhaps a new plan was called for.

There would be a re-assessment of his back.
We would seek out whether there is any reason for the tripping.
For a start we would change his shoes.
In the interim the Old Man would continue to try to sit properly
We would allow a warm up period at the beginning of every ride.

But the classical training would stop immediately, not because it was wrong or even too difficult but because it seemed to be giving Joe a problem and over the long term it would not really help him in his role with BG. “Horses are for courses” someone once said.

There was another problem. The Old Man would never look good on Joe’s back: BG’s pelvis, his riding style and his brain could not make the transition to Classical from Yobbo. However there was still one other hurdle to cross. We would have to find a polite kind way of telling the Tutor that she was redundant.
Joe was my mate, not her plaything.

Barry G
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post #59 of 59 Old 10-09-2009, 05:44 AM Thread Starter
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The End of Classical Schooling

The lesson series is a humorous history of an attempt to teach both Barry & Joe the classical way of Riding. In fact Barry thought he was going to learn how the modern Spaniard rides and Joe was not really interested in changing his ways in the slightest. So nothing worked out as planned. I decided to pull the plug on lessons.

The Tutor was well meaning and a firm believer in the concept that all horses should be ridden along the lines devised over centuries by the Classic Riding Masters who studied the art of riding in the capitals of Europe around the time of Napoleon. The best of those riders and horses went on to be taught Haute Ecole movements and the Airs above Ground - mostly irrelevant to 99% of today’s horses. Displays of the Equestrian Art are to this day given by the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Mind you, neither the riders nor the horses are Spanish and Vienna is in Austria. Modern dressage for amateurs has been developed largely in Europe and especially by the Germans. It is an Olympic sport in which the riders and their horses are very special. Indeed, describing them as amateurs is questionable. There was (indeed ‘is‘) no place for me or Joe in the modern sport of dressage, we would never be in that class.

The tutor chosen was not very adept in some respects. Her idea was to push Joe forwards by working her very substantial butt through the saddle against Joe’s back whilst holding him from going forward in on a tightly held rein. The idea was to force Joe onto the bit. Thereby he would show a rounded outline with his head held in a traditional ramener position. For a horse with a thick short neck, who was heavily built up front with a very deep chest, this might well have been uncomfortable for Joe especially at the beginning of the training. Joe probably wondered what was going on, after all he did not need to be taught to carry a rider at any speed. Stubborn, confident cobs like Joe don’t give in easily.

When for the first time I saw him, whilst under saddle, come off his hindquarters into a mini rear, I knew that he was getting ready to revolt. The schooling should not continue. The tutor had gone too far. Later I looked at the photos I had taken of the latest training session. It was very obvious to me that the classical schooling as being demonstrated was not for Joe and certainly not for me either. It was both unfair and wrong to subject him to the training. The tutor was in my opinion not as adept or as accomplished as she might have thought herself to be.

A couple of days later this thinking was reinforced whilst out on a hack I had asked Joe to turn up a lane which we did not normally use. He refused and then did a mini rear on me for the first time ever. The decision to stop classical schooling was confirmed by that one positive act of disobedience. It so happened that ten days later, whilst climbing up a steep tarmacced lane, Joe whirled around and bolted back down the hill with disastrous results. It was an example of gross lawlessness and he might have easily killed both of us.
The full details of the incident might form the basis of another series of articles.

With hindsight this was the end of our riding out together, but of course at the time I was not aware of this. Joe and I had five more months of healing and trying to work out what to do in the future for the best. First Joe’s torn check ligament had to heal.

As the master of an ex trail riding horse, I had made a fundamental mistake. I had thought to convert my working class riding horse into a polished dressage horse. Joe had neither the conformation nor the temperament to make the transformation. Even before the lessons had started, Joe was behaving badly and regularly he would try to evade his rider. He had been showing signs of nappiness for some time. I firmly believe that taking him down the Classical route reinforced his determination to resist. He was that sort of horse. If he had been caught young or even before he was six he might have done well in the classical arena but Joe was 13 when I tried to convert him to a new way of walking. There is a saying : ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks‘. For dog, read: ‘horse‘.

I have said many times that Joe was a special horse. One of a kind. To accept that he would rebel in the way described calls for the human to believe that a horse can reason if only to a limited extent. Personally I am nowadays not prepared to dismiss the idea that Joe could reason. Maybe I was foolish to ever think he could not. The mistakes I made cost me personally a lot, and Joe even more but as I have written elsewhere, that is another story.


Perhaps you might like to read “Joe the Wonder Horse in Famous Horses”

Barry G
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