The heck with the status quo! Train your horse with your own style
I've gotten my fill of rubbish from numerous people, from riders who crank their horse's nose in, to riders who don't know how to work with anything less of a perfectly conformed horse, I'm branching out and working with two Dressage trainers we, my horse and I, like, and we're training at home in a way that is comfortable for us.
I kept hearing how I need to shove my horse forward and make her uncomfortable in the usual position so that she tries the "correct" one. Boo. She has done plenty of sports before, and has shown that she knows how to round. Problem is, making her uncomfortable isn't her style. She would scrunch up hollow and try to bear the discomfort of a thick outside rein/abnormal pressure/etc. paired with constant legging. Ugh. I started the more natural method we like, on the ground, minimal equipment, lunging with a roomy halter and 20ft tether. I would praise her and get excited about her sniffing the grass, and pretty soon she would experimentally lower her neck to a nice Quarter Horse level instead of a giraffe height. I would say Good Girl to let her have the choice of walking, or keeping the gait. She is a Paint from racing lines, so she loves the walk and the gallop as her favorite gaits; her most hind end engagement and use of topline can be seen at those two. So, I would wait until she was walking lively but with a relaxed neck, and then ask for trot. She would snap her head back up and go around looking nasty, but as soon as I saw her lower her head, I gave the verbal praise so she could walk, and pretty soon she realized that the same form in the walk was good to have in the trot; she wasn't made uncomfortable in the trot, all I did was keep her from lagging in pace, but she recognized one form was better than the other.
I was still struggling with getting this under saddle, though. All this talk about shoving her onward and yet restricting her with an outside rein wasn't getting us anywhere solid, so I thought... why shouldn't what I do on the lunge not work in the saddle? So, I worked her for an hour as usual in whatever frame I could best get her in, and at the end she routinely stretched out and relaxed for the cool-down at a walk. I waited for the best moment as on the ground, and asked for trot verbally. She picked it up, went giraffe for a bit, but as I simply kept posting lightly and focused on having the softest hands possible while still having contact, she finally started lowering her head, and after a few times of Good Girl, she very well got the idea.
I put her in a paddock for free-lunging afterward in a Neck Stretcher set loose, good goodness her hind end was springing/swinging and she had her neck so lovely, anyone could tell she was liking her newfound stretch in trot.
That's it for you then---- have your trainers, of course, but remember to ride and train your horses with your own style. My girl already could move off a light leg aid spritely, so I do have the warning that anyone attempting headset and back rounding should have stop and go under control and as light as can be.
I can't say setting a horse at liberty in a neck stretcher is a good idea, at all!!
The rest, the "forcing" of your horse into the frame may well have been a trainer issue more than a training issue.
I cannot agree more with Allison's post. having a horse stretch freely downward is absolutley paramount to creating the base of the training pyramid of dressage. If your past trainers did not focus on this, then they are remiss.
Just curious; how is a Neck Stretcher loose at liberty bad? Do you think it's only supposed to be used on a circle or that she might freak out? She hardly ever spooks, and when she does, it's a slight hop or side-step, nothing more, I've never had her bolt or rear out of a spook, and there's no vice like rearing/bucking/kicking in her in the four years we've spent together. I put her in the paddock to free lunge instead of lunging with a tether usually because the paddock has straight angles and it's better for her cow hocks. She can't really go anywhere out of reach in the paddock... it's small enough (60ft long, about 20ft wide) that I can step ahead of her to change direction or stop her if her obediency to verbal command doesn't work for whatever reason, and in the very few cases that she has freaked out, she heads straight to her stall--- the stall is directly connected to the paddock, if something went horribly wrong she would go for the stall. I can't imagine lunging her with a tether being better than free lunging her, "walk" is the command she loves to hear. She's already dandy with the neck stretcher.
Someone please enlighten me on how this is remotely related to dressage?
Oh that's right - we're all about getting a head set ;)
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Nah, I'm talking about relaxation in through the back >w<
By free lunging in a paddock with a neck stretcher?
Looks like this 'trainer' either had no idea what they were doing, or you got completely the wrong idea of 'shoving forward and pulling back'.
Having a competent trainer on the ground is an essential ingredient to achieving success in dressage, whether competitive or not.
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the neck stretcher actually doesnt get the horse moving through the back, it restricts the horses movement and keeps them from adjusting their head and neck as needed to balance, especially in walk and canter...an arched neck and lowered head doesnt necessarily equate to using themsevles properly...dressage is much more than kicking a horse up and pulling back on the reins...just my 2cents..
Depends on what you are calling a neck stretcher. This?
Any one of them can cause a huge crash if a horse gets tangled in it. All it takes is a horse scratching his ear with a hind leg, or kicking up in fun or whatever....
A hind leg caught in the section from bit to body will cause the horse to freak and tear at the bit in its struggle. If the horse is on a lunge line, they are MUCH less likely to do any of that AND if they do, you have better control to halt and untangle.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly and easily KaKa can happen.
As for the equipment as a whole. I have never put one on any of my dressage horses and would not have them in my tack room. It is a shortcut device I would prefer not to use. It has a horse going backwards into it's "frame", IMO.
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