"bsms - the only way you will ever understand what it means for a horse to 'round its back muscles and 'lift its back' is for you to take dressage lessons to learn how to ask for it and then ride a horse that knows how to respond to those cues and is fit and trained to do it - and then ride one that isn't
As the saying goes, you are entitled to your opinions, but you are NOT entitled to your own facts. Facts are stubborn things, and truth is found in accepting facts, not hiding from them.
1 - Horses' backs do not round up. Period. Their spine does not allow it to happen. Ever.
This is not open for dispute.
2 - Horses do not use their tummy muscles to round their backs (or to lift them). There is no "bow & string". It has been measured. The tummy muscles are tightened while the horse is extending, and relaxed when coming together, which is the opposite of what would happen if tummy muscles "rounded" the back. Nice theory, but it has been proven false. If someone's rear tells you otherwise - or if YOUR rear tells you otherwise - consider the source.
3 - I am well aware that horses can and do lift their backs. Contrary to what dressage people believe, horses do that on their own, when nervous - and I've spent a LOT of time on nervous horses. I know exactly how it feels. Bandit did it on his last ride:
Got to admit, Bandit is really growing on me, so to speak. Last October, a 6'3" friend did an unplanned detour thru a neighbor's yard about 100 yards further down the road when Bandit would NOT stay on the pavement (or even close to it) due to an empty trailer in a neighbor's yard. There were two other horses with him at the time, leading the way on the pavement, but Bandit didn't think that proved anything. I'm told he went at least 100 feet off the road.
"We just did a lap around the block. About 300 yards up the road, a neighbor was loading a trailer with stuff to haul to the dump. He was putting the tarp over the stuff as we got close. I stopped Bandit to let him look. He was a bit stressed, but I guess he found standing still more stressful, so we continued on. Yes, I had one hand on the saddle horn in case he decided to do a 180 fast. He danced a little, but kept going mostly forward - with slack reins in my one hand. As we got almost abeam the trailer (did I mention the wind was gusting today?), Bandit broke into a trot.
I normally consider that a no-no, but he was tense and I figured it was better than having him try to turn away, so I ignored the no-no and we trotted the next 250 yards. Then he wanted to slow, but I told him that since he wanted to trot, we could do another 100 yards - and he did, without much reluctance. Then we walked."
Today, it was a bigger trailer, on the street, with the wind blowing, and a tarp being attached to the top of the trailer by a guy climbing over it...and Bandit...well, we were not dead center on the pavement, but we were not even at the far edge of it, either! I was willing to give him more time to study it, and Bandit just wanted to get it over with. It was as if he was saying,
"If I'm going to go past it in the end, let's just DO IT! NOW!
Whew...I hate those things..."
So we did. Yes, he got very light on the front end. Like "Trigger" and "Maypo", he has some springs attached to him! Didn't "round his back", but he sure lifted the base of his neck! And yes, I was prepared in case it overwhelmed him and we did some spinning or a high speed alternate route thru another neighbor's yard.
But he didn't."
Contrary to what you claim, MANY riders experience collection - real, natural collection - without ever taking a dressage lesson. It goes back to an argument (or discussion) on a previous thread, where people told a lady she could not ever become a good rider unless she took dressage lessons.
I'm experimenting with encouraging Bandit when he gets light on the front to sustain it a little bit. Don't know if he will or not. But knock off the nonsense about how a person needs to take dressage lessons to know how it feels when a horse lifts its back.
4 - "Belly lifts to stretch out top line" - is utterly irrelevant to what happens when riding. The horse has no need to control the weight of its gut in motion when it is standing still.
5 - The "Slinky Theory" is also referred to, by dressage enthusiasts, as the "circle of energy". It worries about energy "spilling out the front", and was expressed in the quote I posted previously:
"This elevation against gravity, without getting tight in the process, requires a great deal of basic tension (and requires the horse to be closed in between the driving reins and restraining aids). The "rubber band" may never lose its arching oscillations. Especially during collection, the oscillations become rather pronounced, and the horse's back moves increasingly up and down as the horses steps and strides become loftier and more cadenced. This of course requires that the horse is well contained between the pushing aids and restraining aids, because this relatively high basic tension which is necessary for collection can only be obtained in this way..."
It is found in the German word "Abstossen" (Pushing of from the Bit):
"As we’ve explained, the horse’s energy should travel from his thrusting hind leg, through his back, to the bit. However, if the energy went only from back to front and stopped there, then the horse would lean on the bit and be heavy. That’s what happens when a rider drives the horse forward and forgets to half-halt.
Most riders understand that the energy needs to get from the hindquarters to the bit, but some forget that there must also be a connection through the bit to the hindquarters. When the rider uses rebalancing half-halts as frequently as the driving aids, the horse’s energy recycles. The energy reaches the bit and the horse “pushes away from the bit,” causing the weight to transfer back to an engaged hind foot. Then the forehand lightens.
The German word for this concept is Abstossen. When the horse pushes of from the bit, he continues to reach forward, but the energy “bounces of” the bit and transfers to an engaged hind leg that is flat on the ground and carrying weight. Then the horse thrusts again to perpetuate an ongoing cycle of energy."
I didn't make that twaddle up on my own as satire. It comes from "The Heavy and the Light" in November 2013 • USDF Connection
People actually think that is happening! Somehow, they get on a horse and forget the horse has legs in the front! Collection increases the peak impact on the horse's front legs
. Why? Because the horse shortens the front strides and then vaults off the front legs like a pole vaulter using the pole, creating lift in the front of the horse. It has nothing to do with the bit, which is why horses can collect without a rider, let alone without a bit.
We're talking mechanics here, jaydee. Not feelings. How does the horse actually ACCOMPLISH what you enjoy feeling? It is a mechanical process, not imagery. A person can discuss the mechanics of a fighter plane without having ever been in one. Many of the maneuverability diagrams I used in the military were made by folks who had never flown in a fighter - but the MECHANICS were correct, and valuable to know.
However, I DO know the feeling. Which brings up
6 - Horses can raise their withers just by the muscles of their shoulders.
Remember, the spine is not attached anywhere at the front, bone to bone. The back is supported by a sling of muscle in the front, and the horse can raise or lower its front end (lowering to eat, for example, or raising to pay attention) without ANY movement of the feet.
Bandit did that on our last ride. Now that I'm aware it CAN happen, I'm sensitive to when it DOES happen. And when he saw something of interest on the last ride, while we were stopped in the arena, he raised the base of his neck and the front of my saddle without taking a step.
7 - No rider "collects a horse", unless they are referring to buying horses. A horse is trained to collect himself in response to a cue. The rider cues. The horse responds with the motion he has learned. You can no more collect a horse than you can stop a horse. I did more than enough bolts to learn the truth of what I read in a book on dressage: "No one stops a bolting horse. They stop a horse who has stopped bolting!
With Mia, the most certain way to end a bolt was to relax and call her name softly. When an ear flicked back, ask lightly with the reins and she would stop. Before the ear flicked back, she was bolting and I wasn't going to stop her. What is true of stopping is true of collection. You ask a horse to collect (if you desire it). The horse, if trained and willing, collects himself
. Frankly, anyone who disputes that does not understand dressage, regardless of how high they compete.
Done such a way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with dressage or teaching a horse significant collection. Just as there is nothing wrong with me asking a horse to canter when the horse would be content to walk. Same thing.
But if someone believes it "requires that the horse is well contained between the pushing aids and restraining aids
, because this relatively high basic tension which is necessary for collection", they will try to apply the Slinky Theory.
Dressage is NOT the basis of all good riding. All good riding does not include constant contact, nor does all good riding pretend that how a horse responds when tense is the ultimate goal of all riders. SOME good riding - a good style
of riding - would describe dressage. But ONLY if the underlying theory is correct. And unfortunately, too many dressage enthusiasts base their riding on myths about horse movement.
Riding a horse is not a science, but science can help us to understand how to ride a horse better.