The Horse Forum banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 21 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Question for the advanced western riders and trainers on here. I train out of the barn of a western pleasure trainer who has been around for a long time and is kind of caught up between old style and new style training.(I have nothing to do with WP other than starting his colts and helping him get them seasoned at local shows in "walk trot") He doesn't focus as much on teaching a horse to give to your hands as he does just tying them back. I teach horses to give to my hands and be as soft as they are capable.

When I am advancing horses to being soft and giving to me in every gate and all the western maneuvers(stops, turn arounds, etc) he almost always tells me that my horses have a "false give" because they are breaking at the pole too much. He isn't very good at explaining what he is talking about so I can only assume he is talking about them giving past the "vertical" From what I have studied and from my experience, the amount they give at the pole isn't that big of a deal as long as the are driving up under themselves. He claims that the horses are not leveling out with their neck but when I drop a loose rein my horse are absolutely dropping off level. His request for me to fix this is to "tie them back" for about an hour before I ride them. I will not tie them back because they give to me just fine and in my opinion, when you "tie back" a horse that is already giving you are going to regress their softness. Especially if you do it for an hour. That is laughably ridiculous to me.

So if any of you highly advanced trainers could give your opinion on this it would be greatly appreciated.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
775 Posts
I might refer you to some of Mark Rashid's books as he talks extensively about the difference between "Lightness" (on the outside) and "softness"(coming from the inside).
The way he presents the subject is much better than I could ever explain.

I think in simple terms a horse will "run away" from a cue or signal.
Not quite evade,but try to get ahead of the cue.
I guess the idea is that the contact is lost so the communication is broken.
This idea is usually promoted by folks that are very interested in the finished form or outline of the horse.

I am not completely sure that is what I believe.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Not meaning to sound rude, but this is exactly not the type of response that I'm looking for. I would like a functional discussion on the topic and not so much a lot of platitude and pointing me to somebody who wrote books on their own "abstract" philosophy on horses.

I might refer you to some of Mark Rashid's books as he talks extensively about the difference between "Lightness" (on the outside) and "softness"(coming from the inside).
The way he presents the subject is much better than I could ever explain.

I think in simple terms a horse will "run away" from a cue or signal.
Not quite evade,but try to get ahead of the cue.
I guess the idea is that the contact is lost so the communication is broken.
This idea is usually promoted by folks that are very interested in the finished form or outline of the horse.

I am not completely sure that is what I believe.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Don't get me wrong, I'm all about talking philosophy. But for this I was thinking more in terms of bio-mechanics.

Not meaning to sound rude, but this is exactly not the type of response that I'm looking for. I would like a functional discussion on the topic and not so much a lot of platitude and pointing me to somebody who wrote books on their own "abstract" philosophy on horses.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
452 Posts
I think the WP trainer is trying to say that the horses are not breaking (or giving) at the withers to your rein contact. They are breaking at the poll so much so that they are beyond the vertical, but you've still held the rein contact (probably?) so that the horse has an arch to his neck that is undesirable in WP. When you get the horse to break at the poll AND at the withers, then you get the flat, level neck of a WP horse.

All that said, tying the horse around for an hour is NOT the way I would go about getting the horse to break at the withers.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
307 Posts
My WP experience is somewhat limited, but if you are looking for a biomechanical answer, I can definately help you there. Ok, when we teach softness vertically, we are basically teaching to "give" to the pressure. This makes a very nice, light feel in the rider's hands, but the reality is, it isn't the best thing for the horse. (nor is tying, but we'll get to that).

Try this, stare straight ahead and drop your chin immediately to your neck. You will feel a bit uncomfortable right behind the jaw bone, and a bit stiff through your neck. This is basically what your horse does when the first thing taught is "give". The horse learns to give to escape the pressure. Going beyond the verticle would be known as hyperflexion. Is it soft in your hands, yes, but correct, no.

Now, think through the muscles in your back like you are stretching yourself from your tailbone to your shoulders. Follow this feel up through the shoulders, through the neck, and let your eyes drop towards the floor. What you should feel now is more of a stretch through the back of your neck that actually feels good. This is how to achieve that much desired headset, it comes from the back, not from the front. Notice how you are actually looser along the muscles in the front of the neck and the jaw feels loose. These are the same things we are looking for in the horse.

Both of those examples on the horse result in the horses head falling on the verticle, however, the first one, where the horse is only taught to be soft to the bit, is your "false" give.

I have done plenty of western events, from speed events to cow work, as well as hunters and am currently (and have been for some time) studying more classical dressage and biomechanical functions. This is what I find interesting in the show world. In human sports, proper posture is proper posture. There is an optimal physical condition whether you are a dancer, a swimmer, or a ball player. If your sport doesn't balance the muscles, then a good athlete does a cross training program, as the purpose of the muscles is to support the joints. Even though they all have different "disciplines", there is still only one human body, and anyone who is going to be successful in their sport for a long amount of time will keep their whole body conditioned, not just the muscles they use.
So why is it different for our equine athletes? Why is the western pleasure horse to have one posture, yet the dressage horse to have another? There is a correct way for the horses body to work. I know someone who has a WP horse that was at one time top 10 in the world, the horse is only about 12 yrs old, yet physically destroyed, is that how we want to label our world standard?

Often, we hear people say to get vertical flexion, and then push the horse into your hands to get "collection". I call this the crash test dummy theory. Do we need flexibility? Yes. Strength, yes. Condition, yes. However, your "collection" should go from back to front. Instead of breaking at c3 (typical with the "give" horse), the horse should actually be lifting through c6 and c7, elevating the front end, lifting behind the withers, bearing the weight towards the hind legs and releasing the topline, falling into the bit, with the bit being a piece of communication, more for listening than for telling.

Often, when training horses (I see this a lot in NH ironically), we look at the horse as something that we have to install buttons on. When I give pressure here, you release there, etc. However, sometimes this repitition is not the best thing for the horse, the horse learns to give despite the fact that it can be going against its proper biomechanical function.

I actually just posted a similar thread, but didn't get many responses, since teaching a horse correctly takes a large amount of time and skill, it sometimes is frowned upon by a time demanding society. My question was if was wrong to knowingly teach a horse something that could be detrimental to its body in the long run for the sake of moving it onto a riding career.

I know you weren't looking for a book, but I will recommend one anyway, its called "Tug of War: Classical vs. Modern Dressage" by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann. I know you aren't into dressage, but as I said, biomechanics are biomechanics, and the book goes into muscles and how the body is damaged by many training techniques.

I hope this answers your question, I can go more indepth if you like.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
775 Posts
Not meaning to sound rude, but this is exactly not the type of response that I'm looking for. I would like a functional discussion on the topic and not so much a lot of platitude and pointing me to somebody who wrote books on their own "abstract" philosophy on horses.

Not meaning to sound rude either,but this is DIRECTLY related to bio-mechanics and the end result.
This is not abstract at all and you just showed your level of training by not understanding the concept at all.

Mark Rashid is one of the foremost clinicians in the western world and is a cowboy's cowboy and is not into blowing fairy dust.
I am truly sorry that you only saw "platitudes".

I would refer you to Dr.Andrew McLean at this link for a more "scientific discussion" of the topic.

AEBC :: Articles
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,679 Posts
Well said, Flitterbug.
Ditto! :D

Thanks as well for the "demos" of the effects of changing the neck vs. starting from the back; that really brings the concept home for me!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Thanks FlitterBug.

I want to make it clear that my idea of softness is not how much a horse gives but that they do not brace themselves on my hands when I'm asking something out of them. Continuing your relation to human training(being that I have a degree in Exercise Physiology), I liken it to Plyometrics. Plyometrics is doing a movement related to what your your training for but using extra resistance and over exaggerating the movement so when you do the movement or action normally your performance will be optimal. An example would be sprinting while pulling a weighted sled and over exaggerating your knee lift and the drive off of your toes, this would be for speed. So back to horses, if we practice with optimal softness then on a loose rein they will find their most comfortable position without loosing correct shape. This is not my own theory alone but one I have found through study and practice.

I will repeat that I do not train for WP.

Marecare, Thanks for the kind words haha. I know what you're say in "I guess the idea is that the contact is lost so the communication is broken." and I don't believe either that there has to be contact for there to be communication. I think repetition can be used to create good habits and can eliminate the need for contact. And lets not get out our messuring sticks on who knows more. If I was completely sure about this I wouldn't have posted it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
I just didn't want this to turn into an esoteric discussion because I have seen quite a few of those on here in the short time I have been visiting. After re-reading your first response I see where you were going. I apologize.

Not meaning to sound rude either,but this is DIRECTLY related to bio-mechanics and the end result.
This is not abstract at all and you just showed your level of training by not understanding the concept at all.

Mark Rashid is one of the foremost clinicians in the western world and is a cowboy's cowboy and is not into blowing fairy dust.
I am truly sorry that you only saw "platitudes".

I would refer you to Dr.Andrew McLean at this link for a more "scientific discussion" of the topic.

AEBC :: Articles
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
775 Posts
Thanks FlitterBug.

I want to make it clear that my idea of softness is not how much a horse gives but that they do not brace themselves on my hands when I'm asking something out of them. Continuing your relation to human training(being that I have a degree in Exercise Physiology), I liken it to Plyometrics. Plyometrics is doing a movement related to what your your training for but using extra resistance and over exaggerating the movement so when you do the movement or action normally your performance will be optimal. An example would be sprinting while pulling a weighted sled and over exaggerating your knee lift and the drive off of your toes, this would be for speed. So back to horses, if we practice with optimal softness then on a loose rein they will find their most comfortable position without loosing correct shape. This is not my own theory alone but one I have found through study and practice.

I will repeat that I do not train for WP.

Marecare, Thanks for the kind words haha. I know what you're say in "I guess the idea is that the contact is lost so the communication is broken." and I don't believe either that there has to be contact for there to be communication. I think repetition can be used to create good habits and can eliminate the need for contact. And lets not get out our messuring sticks on who knows more. If I was completely sure about this I wouldn't have posted it.

The point is that the concepts can be explained in "layman's terms"
Or we can get out the force vector's and start talking physics with Newtons laws.
The end result is the same.

Your boss is looking for a profile and you are reluctant to create it.

I am actually on your side and feel the the "Industry" is contriving false frame to meet a every changing standard that wins ribbons.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Yeah it was an initial misunderstanding on my part but I'm with you now. I wouldn't really call him my boss at this point, It's more of a partnership where I trade colt starting work for stall rent.

The point is that the concepts can be explained in "layman's terms"
Or we can get out the force vector's and start talking physics with Newtons laws.
The end result is the same.

Your boss is looking for a profile and you are reluctant to create it.

I am actually on your side and feel the the "Industry" is contriving false frame to meet a every changing standard that wins ribbons.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,455 Posts
I don't really think a horse can be too soft in the face as long as it's real softness and not evasion. However just because a horse is giving vertically doesn't mean that it is collected. Most horses that are truely collected are broken at the poll but that is more a symptom than the cause. Just because a horse breaks at the poll doesn't mean the horse is soft in the face and feeling you. I have ridden some horses that really broke nicely at the poll and looked great moving forward but when asked to stop or back up they used the vertical flexion to evade the pressure to back up. They were truely breaking at the poll but they were not soft in the face and they certainly weren't feeling me when I wanted to move thier feet back. It was a runaway standing still. The horses body was in frame but the horses mind was tearing down the road bucking and squeeling.

In the end I want my horses in a frame they can maintain with thier minds and bodies staying in good shape and lasting a good long time. If I can't win a show with them because of a stupid standard (western pleasure at the foremost) then I can live with that. The fight would be on if a WP trainer wanted to critizise the frame my horses travel in compared to thiers. I have never seen a pen of horses look worse than a WP class at an AQHA show. I have talked at lenght about it on this forum and I don't wish to offend anyone any further so i will quit now. I think the OP is right to not compromise the way you train to suit anyone else. If you were training with Bob Avila I might say yeah change what your doing but since it's a WP trainer and a local one at that then go on making good horses and leave the lame, leg draggers to him.

You really need to know where your horses feet are at all times to get a horse "light" it doesn't so much matter where the head is. The horse will put its head where he needs it if the feet are shaped up to make the change. Too many people try to fix the horses head when turns aren't right or stops aren't right but the head is where it's at because the feet were ill-prepared.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Thanks Kevin,
This is similar to what I have studied. It's funny that you mention Bob Avila because I have studied him quite a bit. The particular horse he has been going into this about is the paint that I posted the video of a few weeks ago. She is so talented and one of the softest and capable horses I have ridden. To be honest the guy isn't capable of discussing this with me because I don't think he believes I know a thing, even though I turn out colts with strong foundations for him each year. I guess in his mind he is taking credit for that, although I left his methods a long time ago. Everthing I have learned about horse psychology came from my own research. For example, the halter breaking of the 2 year old video I posted on Sunday, He was telling me I was going to have to rope him and choke him down because "them big ones will hurt ya".

I don't really think a horse can be too soft in the face as long as it's real softness and not evasion. However just because a horse is giving vertically doesn't mean that it is collected. Most horses that are truely collected are broken at the poll but that is more a symptom than the cause. Just because a horse breaks at the poll doesn't mean the horse is soft in the face and feeling you. I have ridden some horses that really broke nicely at the poll and looked great moving forward but when asked to stop or back up they used the vertical flexion to evade the pressure to back up. They were truely breaking at the poll but they were not soft in the face and they certainly weren't feeling me when I wanted to move thier feet back. It was a runaway standing still. The horses body was in frame but the horses mind was tearing down the road bucking and squeeling.

In the end I want my horses in a frame they can maintain with thier minds and bodies staying in good shape and lasting a good long time. If I can't win a show with them because of a stupid standard (western pleasure at the foremost) then I can live with that. The fight would be on if a WP trainer wanted to critizise the frame my horses travel in compared to thiers. I have never seen a pen of horses look worse than a WP class at an AQHA show. I have talked at lenght about it on this forum and I don't wish to offend anyone any further so i will quit now. I think the OP is right to not compromise the way you train to suit anyone else. If you were training with Bob Avila I might say yeah change what your doing but since it's a WP trainer and a local one at that then go on making good horses and leave the lame, leg draggers to him.

You really need to know where your horses feet are at all times to get a horse "light" it doesn't so much matter where the head is. The horse will put its head where he needs it if the feet are shaped up to make the change. Too many people try to fix the horses head when turns aren't right or stops aren't right but the head is where it's at because the feet were ill-prepared.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
I guess the best way for me to explain what I look for in softness is I just need you to stay out of my hands while I'm coaching you on how to move your body most efficiently(ie. working on rear), so that when I turn you loose to move on your own, you can achieve optimal performance. My theory of the opposite would be that when you begin to allow the horse to brace on your hands(which is what tying back for an hour would teach), your going to always have to be pushing them to that point and that's what I would call micromanaging.

Would you guys agree with that?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,455 Posts
I would!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
775 Posts
I just didn't want this to turn into an esoteric discussion because I have seen quite a few of those on here in the short time I have been visiting. After re-reading your first response I see where you were going. I apologize.

No worries mate,
For what it is worth,I think you challenge is a noble one and one that keeps popping up at out place over and over.

It really boils down to what is referred to the ultimate argument,
What is "True collection"?

I will refer you to another link that would support your position and is authored by Dr. Deb Bennett.

true_collection_2008_pdf1.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The title of the article is "True Collection" and you may find it useful as you talk to your client.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
775 Posts
This is one of my favorite topics.

If I might be allowed to continue this topic for the benefit of any that might be interested, I might add this.

So here is a wonderful little tidbit that Mark Rashid shared at the clinic I attended.
This information was presented to a group of Dressage riders,Endurance riders,Hunter Jumpers,and a couple of timid cowboys and I really enjoyed the delivery he had.

"What does a mouse,a human, a horse, and a giraffe have in common"?



"They all have 7 vertebrae in their neck".


So the point being that weight shift has a lot to do with body type and conformation and so the final movement is very different even if the weight shift has occurred.
If the rider asks the horse to hold their head like a mouse and another ask the same horse to hold the head like a Giraffe neither form could be correct for the work being asked of the horse.
So the position that the horse holds themselves MAY shift the weight and it may not.
Also the work that is being asked of the horse may NOT need the weight shifted so much as is asked for by the rider.

The static position of the particular breed and conformation of a horse has an ideal "form" BUT that form will change based on the work that is required.

In other words,
A pulling horse that is a draft breed MAY look different than a draft doing Western Pleasure.
 
1 - 20 of 21 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top