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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My quarter horse gelding, almost 6, is learning to use himself. While we are in a twice weekly lesson with my dressage coach/judge, I still wonder about the 'reward' when he attempts to become round and on the bit.
I maintain a light contact, keep my outside rein steady, ask for a little inside flexion for a little bend, inside leg to the outside rein. When he lowers his head I praise him. When he pops his head up, I am supposed to close my outside hand and use more inside leg immediately, maintaining the contact and not giving it away.
I would have thought when he is relaxed and travelling nicely on the bit and relaxed down and forward that I should reward with a little bit of rein. No, my instructor says, it should be more comfortable for him to travel that way and just keep the praise on.
I respect my trainer but just wonder what other opinions are - the sooner I get him to relax that under neck muscle the better. We are only working at the walk and trot for the time being. He is getting slightly better at going down and forward, it is averaging 8-15 strides now. And, I am new at this too, after years of other hunter jumper riding.
 

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well, it depends on how much he struggles with it. If it is hard for him, then big rewards help, at first. Especiallly if he is still learning what each thing through the bit and leg means. Once he knows, and can work on the bit for a while, then you don't want to 'throw away' the contact.

Instead, ask him to stay with you, and after a good bit of riding, reward him FULLY with a nice long rein and allowing him to walk out and reach down.

It's a feel thing. be consistent, reward often, but don't be wishy washy ; meaning as soon as he gets on the bit you stop meeting him there.
 

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I am learning and teaching on my own (no dressage instructors around here). I had no idea what I was doing so as soon as I got half a small circle done correctly - I would get off and finish the ride. It sounds silly but it worked remarkably well for my mare. I kept expanding it over many months and currently I can do a whole intro test collected. My mare has started collecting on her own even before I ask now. This isn’t practical if you paid for a lesson but maybe you could try it when you are on your own.
 

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Horses don't "round". The sooner this fundamental fact is acknowledged, the sooner we can start teaching horses "to use themselves". When we discuss "round" we deceive ourselves and blind ourselves to what proper training would be. A horse's body cannot "round up" and a horse's body cannot "round" laterally on a circle.

Collection has nothing to do with trying to make a horse conform to misguided ideas of round. Jean-Claude Racinet gave this illustration of what a horse CAN do, which in turn makes real collection make sense:

In collection, a horse tucks under with the pelvis and then LIFTS the withers. The horse's very stiff back remains stiff - as it must to protect the spine. And a horse can lift at the withers regardless of head position! What we want the horse to do is redirect his energy to come under at the rear and left at the withers - redirect the energy upwards at the withers, not contain it with the bit at the mouth.

I strongly recommend Falling for Fallacies: Misleading Commonplace Notions of Dressage Riding by Jean-Claude Racinet. It isn't cheap ($50) but it addresses many of the wrong things we ask of horses because our ideas are wrong - and does so from the perspective of a life-long lover of dressage. From one of the reviews (not mine, I haven't written a review of it): "One of the strong points of the book is the fact that it points out the futility of trying to ride, train horses and judge dressage tests according to assumptions based upon fallacies that cannot be verified scientifically." And $50 compared to the cost of weekly dressage lessons is pretty cheap in comparison. If working at things from the right angle - what a horse can actually do - shortened the training by just a couple of lessons overall, it would pay for itself.

This is another image that ought to be studied carefully:

I'm a trail rider and don't have much interest in teaching collection for its own sake. Bandit can and will briefly collect himself if he sees a reason to do so. Collection is a very natural thing for a horse to do, but our false views of what it involves leads us to asking and training for it in a way that must be very confusing to the poor horse.

He is getting slightly better at going down and forward
That is one of the fallacies Racinet discusses. Arguably that is teaching the opposite of collection. It also is not needed to teach relaxation or acceptance of the bit. Another guy who loves dressage AND who is seriously interested in the horse's physiology has a website here (free):

 

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I would have thought when he is relaxed and travelling nicely on the bit and relaxed down and forward that I should reward with a little bit of rein. No, my instructor says, it should be more comfortable for him to travel that way and just keep the praise on.
/QUOTE]

This is why I quit, and can't go back to, dressage, although I do a lot of exercises that include RELEASE as the reward. If you offer a horse a "good boy" or a release of pressure on his mouth or sides as a "reward", there seems to be little doubt which one the horse would work for. "Good boy" means nothing to the horse, though it gives us pleasure to say it. I believe that the horse should gradually become able to sustain a movement without being "held up" by the rider.
 

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@bsms When people use the term "round up" , hopefully they are not conceiving of the horse actually become 'round'. I think this term came into use because it 'feels' like the horse is round when the come onto the bit (another term that no doubt bothers you). And, yes, it is not a matter of a headset alone. It involves the horse dropping the hind a tiny bit, bending the hocks a tiny bit more, reaching under a tiny bit further, and lifting not of the withers, but rather of the neck , which 'floats' between the shoulder blades.

It is by using the muscles right in front of the withers that the lower curve of the horse's 'S' shaped neck is raised slightly, and flattened out somewhat, while the upper part of the "S" get a larger arc to it. It FEELS like the withers raise, but it is a change in the shape of the neck.
Is that better?
 

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lifting not of the withers, but rather of the neck...Is that better?
No it is not. Why? Because you cannot raise the base of the neck without raising at the withers. If the withers are not raised, then there is nothing for the rider to feel. The spine itself, from T2-T18 stays stiff - as it must.


Any feeling of lifting (or rounding) really has NOTHING to do with the neck. The neck doesn't float between the shoulder blades. The thoracic area of the spine does. One can argue if withers or "base of neck" is more precise - and BASE of neck would be fine by me - but withers is more succinct. The point is that even the shape of the neck has nothing to do with collection.

"Rounding" is far too often believed to be exactly that - a rounding up of the back itself. For example, this quote comes from a book recommended by the USDF:

"When riding the horse long and low, the back came up, the bow from hindquarters to mouth was put in tension, the entire muscle chain was stretched. There is no difference when collecting the horse, except the stretch is now directed upward instead of forward. 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...Prolonged collecting work is very strenuous for the horse." - Balance in Movement, The Seat of the Rider by Susanne von Dietze, page 120

Or here:

"Physically, horses are built like a bridge. They have four supporting pillars, or legs, and a long connecting span, or back. If you think of a typical suspension bridge, it has four major pillars that support an upwardly arched section of road....The same principle applies to our equine friends who are built like bridges. Horses can carry themselves in two basic ways: with an upwardly flexed topline like our well-designed bridge (Figure 1), or with a downwardly flexed topline, like our poorly designed bridge (Figure 2)." - The Physics of Flexion in the Dressage Horse, The Physics of Flexion in the Dressage Horse

You will even find serious science articles discussing the "Bow & String" theory, with the abdominal muscles tightening to bend the bow (the back) up. And the horse, who is too often asked to do what is impossible, must then search for some pattern of movement that will give his rider a pleasing feeling - which must be frustrating for the horse.
 

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@bsms - I’m not sure why you are arguing round/roundness in the dressage forum again since you have not been trained in dressage or ride dressage, but it is an acceptable term and is defined in the USDF Glossary of Terms.


ROUNDNESS
1. The convexity of the profile of the horse’s topline, which is accompanied by concavity of the underline of the neck.
2. The circular (as opposed to linear or flat) quality characterizing the movements, action, or trajectory of the horse’s limbs.
3. Shape of figure (such as a circle).

Not everything is literal. As the definition says, it is the profile of the horse. When achieved, though, it is definitely an awesome feeling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Whew....can I just say I don't want my horse running around with his head in the air and inverted. Jean Luc Cornille I follow and use some of his techniques. I must say I agree with his philosophy of transversal rotation and it feels natural to use now.
Jean Claude Racinet sounds very interesting. I'll look into it.
As another aside, my lesson today felt great, my guy was more relaxed and travelling well. Those half halts are something else to learn and apply, though.
 

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@bsms - I’m not sure why you are arguing round/roundness in the dressage forum again since you have not been trained in dressage or ride dressage
1 - I no longer have the option of filtering out new posts based on the forum their appear on.

2 - Roundness is OBVIOUSLY misapplied and misinterpreted, as the quotes I've provided show.

3 - The USDF recommends the book I quoted (Balance in Movement, The Seat of the Rider by Susanne von Dietze), so it isn't surprising that they continue to push the fundamentally flawed idea. "The convexity of the profile of the horse’s topline" does not happen.

Whew....can I just say I don't want my horse running around with his head in the air and inverted.
Entirely reasonable and obtainable. I'm sure you'll get there. FWIW, Jean Claude Racinet mentioned in one of his books that he assumed Quarter Horses would have problems with collection. But when he came to America and worked with some, he said the power they generate from the hind quarters actually made them good at it. Good luck and good riding.
 

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@livelovelaughride I think what your instructor may be thinking, is that, she/he doesn't want you to "throw away" the contact you've just established with your horse--and confusing him further. Which I think a "reward" release might do.

@bsms Your arguments are confusing to me. Especially regarding your objection to the term "round". The Dressage Today article you linked mentions several times a "round" topline:
A round topline can be envisioned as having a spring that sits between the maximum and minimum positions of arch in the horse’s back.

It is still commonly believed that a horse ridden with a high headset is also round across the topline.

Like @updownrider states, it's a perfectly fine term to use when discussing horses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I remember well riding a TB lesson mare several years ago when out of the blue she felt light, lofty, powerful. It was for a few strides only, and I immediately felt amazed. At the time I had no clue how to achieve that but my instructor at the time said I was the only lesson rider that mare would lift her back up for. As updownrider said: When achieved, though, it is definitely an awesome feeling.
My TB gelding would occasionally transition into a lovely collected canter - same thing - I had no clue what I was doing. But it sure felt good! Now that I have more of a "clue" lol I look forward to a few more of these.
 

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My quarter horse gelding, almost 6, is learning to use himself. While we are in a twice weekly lesson with my dressage coach/judge, I still wonder about the 'reward' when he attempts to become round and on the bit.
I maintain a light contact, keep my outside rein steady, ask for a little inside flexion for a little bend, inside leg to the outside rein. When he lowers his head I praise him. When he pops his head up, I am supposed to close my outside hand and use more inside leg immediately, maintaining the contact and not giving it away.
I would have thought when he is relaxed and travelling nicely on the bit and relaxed down and forward that I should reward with a little bit of rein. No, my instructor says, it should be more comfortable for him to travel that way and just keep the praise on.
I respect my trainer but just wonder what other opinions are - the sooner I get him to relax that under neck muscle the better. We are only working at the walk and trot for the time being. He is getting slightly better at going down and forward, it is averaging 8-15 strides now. And, I am new at this too, after years of other hunter jumper riding.
Inside hind leg to outside rein facilitates the action of "bending" in the horse and we ask for this by applying the our inside leg aid-closing the outside hand (outside rein) and cuing with our inside leg in rhythm with the horses inside leg stepping under. When the head is too high a horse isn't using the hind end effectively. Bending is a complex process involving musculature from the pelvis, sacrum, spine, and rotexation of the spine and rib bones through the thoracic vertebrae, it takes a lot of effort and coordination of many muscle to achieve forward balance and connection from hind to head. As your horse continues to find contact with the bit - he will stay there for as long as he can physically, and then he will lose it, and then come back to it. Imagine trying to hold correct posture with yourself and you aren't truly conditioned to do so, your postural muscles will fatigue more quickly but with more practice you will find yourself spending more time in correct posture. I would say give him two - 4 strides when he loses that on the bit flow, before asking again rather than giving away the outside rein as a reward - reward him through a subtle break before once again asking for contact and then repeat the process he will continue to build balance and connection and muscular coordination with you from hind to head.
 

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If you have never ridden a horse that 'rounds' up, and felt the change, you would persist in calling it imaginary. It is really more that the horse 'fills up' as the muscles in front of the wither lift the base of the neck, and in the shoulders actually drop accordingly. It is akin to how a human who has been allowing their whole neck to sink down and forward ( a very typical poor posture asociated with sitting at a screen), picks up their neck lifts the top of the head to the highest point and feels their shoulders drop. This sort of posture is how a ballet dancer stands; as upright and powerful as possible. the muscles at the base of your neck will fill out , too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I and I hope my horse, is having fun with the lessons...there are some distinctive differences between the disciplines of jump and dressage. That habit I have of looking around the corners instead of through my horses ear's is hard to ingrain, for one. Today I tried to get my posting less angled forward and a bit more vertical rise. That is another well established habit. The steadier contact is harder, and the asking for it is getting more familiar. I also felt that the hindlegs were working better under him, from time to time, I could feel that subtle push and how light it makes everything feel. Anyway it is all great. And I am just getting started in one of Racinet's books.
 

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Wow, you're both looking great!
 
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