Do you think a dressage frame is important?
OK, trying to start a discussion here instead of just writing an article like I did accidentally the last time I started a thread. :)
I'm a very logical thinker so I am trying to understand something, not just argue for the sake of it.
I am having difficulty with this concept: an arched neck and head on the vertical is necessary for collection. I understand the concept of collection and that the theory is that part of getting a rounded, strong back under saddle includes the stretched vertebrae in the neck. I've heard that "an arch is strong," and therefore helps the horse carry a rider better. But I am not convinced this arched back is only possible when a horse also has the neck vertebrae in an arched position.
We supposedly improve horses by training them and riding them. I only ever see loose horses briefly travel in the proper dressage form, but I see some naturally collected horses that travel from their hind end with their front end elevated and they are collecting and extending beautifully on their own without arching their neck or placing their head on the vertical.
I keep seeing photos of horses and horses in person that are running free with their neck up but not arched and their head well in front of the vertical, but to me their backs look rounded and they are self-collected.
There are also so many disciplines that use horses "hard," where the horses seem collected but never strive for the dressage form.
I can round my own back and arch my neck and head back at the same time.
As for under saddle: endurance riders can ride for 50 miles or more without their horses getting a sore back yet most of them don't ride with their horses necks arched down or on the bit. Their horses carry a lot of muscle and have strong backs. If the dressage position is the best for the horses' back, then why do the people who ride the farthest ride in a different frame? Endurance horses usually assume a frame more similar to a horse that is running free, with head and neck high but not in a sustained arch. While endurance horses are usually more in extension than collection, dressage riders still keep the arched neck and head on the vertical when they are extending gaits. The endurance horses have to be using their bodies properly or they wouldn't remain sound for so many miles, right?
Please help me try to understand this.
First...who said that a "dressage frame" is mandatory for every discipline out there?
By the questions you are asking I feel you truly don't understand the difference between a horse that is traveling in a unrestricted manner that only requires it to propel its own body forward and a horse that is being asked to support a rider in a trot in place...or the variations in between.
Certain disciplines require the thrust from the hindquarters to outweigh the support those same hindquarters can give, and that is what will separate the overall position (frame) the horse will naturally give.
I have yet to see a racehorse run and win a race with a head position you will see in Olympic dressage for the requirements of the oxygen exchange and power needed is directed in a totally different manner.
So do you feel a horse is required to support the rider more with his back when he is trotting in place than when he is galloping?
But if a horse is merely propelling its body forward and not supporting its rider properly, wouldn't his back become sore, especially over a long distance?
Is every horse that is not in a dressage frame moving with a hollow back or strung out?
I like what you said about the horse's speed overcoming the possibility of the frame, as in the gallop. That makes sense to me.
We have to make one assumption in this discussion to be able to focus on the horse's overall position and that is that the rider is positioned in the most perfect position/place ACCORDING to what is being asked of the horse.
That would mean that a jockey will not be in a dressage position or a jumper rider going over a jump. A race horse will have a longer frame and doesn't need the strength in its back that a fully developed dressage horse would because the jockey is distributing his weight differently than a dressage rider. This is a case where thrust (forward) needs to outweigh support to get the job done according to what is expected of it.
Agreed with Spyder.
Horses who are at the upper levels of dressage and are in this "dressage frame" resulting from the collection required to perform the movements in the test, do not go for marathon rides. The purpose of collection is not to extend the length of time or distance which the horse can go, but rather to use his body to carry himself in a way which makes doing dressage movements less labored and less likely to injure the horse. This means the horse has a limited period of time where his muscles can carry his body in this collected fashion.
In lower level dressage the work is geared more towards general riding. It is more important that the horse is relaxed and carrying himself in a balanced manner than if he is in this so called "dressage frame".
It is important for any horse which is being ridden to be relaxed and balanced - not that he is an upper level dressage horse - but obedient to the aids. These basic requirements of lower level dressage tests are important for a horse at any level of any sport (that he is relaxed, balanced and obedient). However this does not mean that for every discipline that "a little dressage is good - a lot must be better". An endurance horse would not make it very far trotting like Blue Hors Matine.
Hope I helped!
The horses are athletic and compensating correctly for the rider's position, based on what their sport requires them to do. I don't think it is mainstream thought that horses need to shape themselves like upper-level dressage horses to have balance or to handle their rider's weight.
In upper level dressage horses are trained to carry themselves and the rider in a way analogous to the way a ballet dancer does. The dancer is always balanced over her feet, upright and most core muscles engaged to keep her ready to change her balance speed direction at a moments notice without losing her balance. That "frame" keeps her from injurry, too. but she could not keep doing it non stop and certainly wouldn't want to do it over a marathon or a dash race.
However, the training she has in "self carrriage" for ballet will help to keep her strong and injury free through daily life for many years.
Thanks, I appreciate the logical replies. There are some intelligent and helpful people on this board.
I guess saying the belief that horses need to be in a dressage frame to be carrying their rider properly is "mainstream," was a bit exaggerated. Perhaps I should have said it was something I have run across frequently. Most notably in people (some trainers) who have done some lower level dressage and probably read some books about the principles of dressage. I have read some excellent dressage books and have thought that some were making the point that a rounded back was always the priority and this was only possible within a certain frame, but perhaps I was misunderstanding their point and that they meant the concept to apply specifically to that one discipline. The "circle of muscles" seemed to be an important concept to me.
Some of these people I have run across seem to look at every discipline through the lense of whether the horse is in a dressage frame, so they say people who ride jumpers or endurance or in western classes are building the wrong muscles by letting their horses be strung out or not riding from the hind end or not "collected," as if it is a terrible thing. That is not saying that I don't see a LOT of people riding their horses out of balance and disengaged. But it is nice for me to hear that other intelligent people feel it is not necessary to always have your horse in that frame in order for them to be using their bodies correctly..
You have all made some great points and it is helpful to me to have a response when I run across these people who want to tell me my horse should always travel in a certain frame. I do ride my horses in collection sometimes and think it is great for them. But I personally emphasize balance and straightness more, and work a lot on extension too.
For a horse to work in a dressage frame, it takes more work from them than just going as they would do normally. They would much rather just go along very little changed . It is much easier for them to run around strung out and falling forward. It's much easier for me to slump along as I do than to move as a ballarina does. But the ballarina will last longer physically than I will.
Also, one thing I read recently about "collection" said that as a horse comes to be more and more in a balanced and collected way of going, its' four feet will come closer and closer to each other on the ground. The horse will be balancing itself on a smaller area of contact with the ground.
I find that interesting. Something I never thought about.
So, I am going to start looking at photos and see if there's any truth to that.
Just to add to the already excellent replies, I feel from your first post that you are thinking from front to back in terms of collection. There are so many posts on this forum about 'head/neck set' and in all of them you will find that the head and neck position is in fact the last thing to happen - the head and neck position does NOT determine the position of the back and rest of the horse's body. It is in fact the other way around - when the back has been lifted and is swinging, able to carry the rider, the head and neck will naturally come into a more 'arched' position. This 'arched' neck is enhanced at each level of dressage, in the training levels the horse should be in an open frame, the back should be loose and swinging not stiff and hollow, but the head and neck will be carried quite low and not overly 'arched' like you would see in a grand prix horse.
It takes many many years for a horse to develop the strength of back and hind quarters, to actually be able to correctly maintain what I think you are referring to as a 'dressage frame' with neck high and arched, poll the highest point, head on the vertical etc as you would see in a grand prix test.
tinyliny, yes the legs are closer together as collection increases, not necessarily because the horse is taking shorter steps, but also because the whole body is shortened/compacted when in collection, creating a closer connection between hindquarters and forehand.
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