Back-ups causing head raising/hollow back
I found a site with many informative articles addressing this issue (the strong energy sent down the rope in swinging it back & forth, causing horse to raise head & hollow back & back up uncomfortably) & other biomechanical issues, such as squeezing the horse into a frame, so wanted to share: Google Desert Horse Equestrian Services.
There are exercises to cause the horse to rock his weight back when he's standing or backing, which enables him to be balanced, thus calm & not falling against a handler, etc.
In theory, I ought to agree with her. In practice, I do not.
"To find out why a horse misbehaves when carrying a rider requires quite a bit of exploration. Just a few possible answers: an ill-fitting saddle, a sore back, an unbalanced or stiff rider, an ulcer, poor posture. It’s the rider’s responsibility to find out the answer..."
Well, here are a few more: lazy, more interested in hanging out with other horses, has a comfort zone limited to its corral, hypersensitive. Yes, it is worth taking a few minutes to see if the saddle fits or not, etc. But given the number of us who are new riders, and who haven't spent our lives around horses, I think the truth is that there are more spoiled horses than there are horses with sore backs from bad saddles.
"A related technique is employed by many natural horsemanship practitioners. This involves using a leadline with quite a lot of slack or “float” in it and shaking it side to side very quickly. Again the result of this movement of the line attached at the horse’s chin is to cause the horse to lift its head and hollow his back while he backs away. After many repetitions of either of these techniques, the horse may give in and stand still. But what has been taught? Submission or a better postural choice?"
I don't shake lead ropes to back a horse. However, I sure don't shake a lead rope to back them under saddle. What most horses learn in this situation is that the much smaller human can and will insist on not being bullied. And that is because a lot of horses ARE bullies. I can watch my horses in my corral and see them bully each other. And a horse that considers a human its social inferior is dangerous.
Horses hollow their backs all the time. It doesn't hurt them. It isn't the best way to support a rider's weight, but that often is best taught from the saddle. Without a rider, my horses can hollow their backs and then move with explosive speed and agility. I've watched them do it. It is my weight that hinders that, and they cannot learn to carry my weight efficiently when they are not carrying my weight.
"As an intelligent, experienced rider, if I determine a horse I’m working with doesn’t have the balance and postural skills to execute such simple figures as a large circle or semi-straight line or to do a simple walk-to-trot transition in some semblance of self-carriage, I might decide it’s not in the horse’s best interest to be asked to carry a rider at that time. This is especially true if the horse in question is very sensitive, is recovering from chronic lameness or has been abused emotionally in some way, such as being pushed too hard in his training program."
If the horse is injured or has been abused, then some time off is certainly reasonable. However, most horses move OK in circles without a rider's weight. Even if their circle is a series of straight lines, it works for them - without a rider's weight. I've watched my horses sprint at high speed across a field covered with 12-18 inch boulders, spinning and turning, and do it without any injury or loss of balance. The same horses, with my weight on their back, couldn't trot in a 20 foot circle efficiently. The problem wasn't THEIR balance, but their balance WITH me. And that required me to be on their back to correct.
"Why has the dominance paradigm persisted? There is an element of “that’s how it has always been done,” for sure. Dominance-based training can be successful, to a point. But what does the horse really learn when he is made to run around and around a roundpen until he “submits” to the handler? That once he gets tired, it’s time to listen to what the human wants?"
Nope. They learn it is easier to do it the human's way than to act like a spoiled kid. They learn the human is the one who determines what to do next. And that is a critical lesson for a horse to learn.
I'm all in favor of a willing partner. But I may need an UNWILLING partner until the horse has learned I know what I'm doing. Mia couldn't gain the experience needed for her to trust me willingly until she first did so unwillingly, and then found out I was right. I need a willing SERVANT. Why? Because I know more and am smarter than she is.
I'm all in favor of listening to your horse and respecting their opinions. But we also need to be realistic about those opinions. Mia may be refusing to move forward because she is genuinely afraid, and pushing her harder will cause blind panic that shuts down all learning. But she may be refusing to go forward because she is concerned - not afraid, but concerned - over things she needs to ignore because I tell her to ignore it. Maybe she is afraid of an ATV. So what? We're surrounded by cactus, and the cholla behind her is a much greater threat than the ATV. I know that. She does not. That is why I need to make the decisions.
All quotes from Dominance Training Alternatives for Horse Riders
Here is another:
"We were chatting away when my student turned her horse away from the barn toward the path. He didn’t move. She took a stronger feel on the leadrope and he still stood. Then, she swung the end of the lead and lightly whacked him on the hip – common practice often effective at getting a horse moving. He took a couple steps and stalled. ...Okay, so what information was there in that moment, in that series of stops and starts, that might inform her mounted work? Was there, maybe, a bit of information that just might provide a breadcrumb trail back to the root of the “lack of forward” issue. I can tell you from experience that many, many horses who are forwardly challenged – and labeled lazy, sluggish, dead-sided, stubborn – are really just off balance. They are stuck on the forehand, and have lost the mechanics of lifting and lightening the front end so the back end push has somewhere to go."
Tune in to the Small Stuff With Your Horse
Here is a hint: Put some oats out in front of that horse, and see if that horse suddenly gets "unstuck on the forehand" and MOVES. If so, the problem wasn't that the horse didn't know how to move. It just didn't want to move.
"So, instead of just trying to get the horse to move, she turned her attention to his posture and balance. First, she connected in to the halter noseband and did a bit of the waggle exercise to get him connected back to front, then reminded him to soften at the throatlatch and shoulder. As he started to shift a bit of weight off his forehand, she started asking him to rock back a step or two and forward a step or two until he came unstuck. After a few rocks, she had him moving forward without pulling, bracing or needing extra input to his “engine.” So far, so good, for the level beginning section of the barn-to-arena path."
He became unstuck? If he wasn't halfway to his belly in mud, he wasn't stuck. I've never gone out to my corral and seen my horse stuck, unable to move forward because he or she was unbalanced on the forehand. My horses love pellets. If I go into the corral with 3 buckets of pellets, I will not have any stuck horses. The thought of gobbling pellets unsticks them in a hurry!
There is some truth in there. I was taught by a video when I first started that just pulling forward wasn't the best way to get a horse moving. Asking them to make a small turn and then forward worked much better (thank you, Chris Irwin). But if your horse gets stuck while standing, and you need to rock him to free him, you've got big problems...
It's true that horses rarely have any problems, either physical or emotional, which get them physically "stuck" when left alone by humans. Yet the way humans deal with them can cause these mind/body issues of stuckness, crookedness, chronically tense back muscles, habitual compensations for imbalanced riding which end up stressing/damaging the horse, etc. She has pics of these on the site, & I've seen plenty of horses whose shoulder blades are habitually "stuck" in a forward, hunched position, from ill-fitting saddles which didn't allow for the scapulae to slide back & forth freely under them, & from there, their musculature is a combination of overly developed & under-developed, down the length of the body.
If a horse (she says she's seen many) gets to the point of loading his forehand habitually, & so is helped by the gentle maneuvers she describes, I see no reason to cast doubt on/reject her experience.
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