Sunday, February 1, 2009

Get Low

"So how do I get him on the bit?" Sitting in a western saddle, holding the horse-hair bosal reins in my hands, it was a new question for me when I was wearing cowboy boots, but I asked anyway.

"You take a hold of the reins and push him into the contact," she answered. "He'll fight for a bit because he's green--but when he gives he'll find his relief. You can hold on to the saddle if he tries to pull the reins out of your hands."

Ten minutes later, he 'gave' to the bit.

"I didn't know that contact felt so... heavy," were my exact words.

'Cool, huh?'

Not really.

This belief is one of my biggest gripes with most BackYard Dressage--the hold and push method. The 'dressage' trainers I had met and worked with for a while followed this principle, and I was no fan of it immediately. The horses were heavy on the reins, and they weren't supple at all until you were 30, 40 minutes into the ride. My arms ached, the would try to pop their head up and off of the vertical and steal the reins, and it was ALWAYS a fight for ten minutes, every time I would take one out and ride.

When I would come home and hop on Key, I couldn't imagine my way being wrong. I bent the rein softly with my wrist, and he'd bend. Every time, no matter if I was riding for 1 minute or 50. There was no fight there. But my horse was 'on the forehand' and theirs were 'collected and beautiful'.

Here were dressage trainers telling me to hold and push. It'd compress the horse (by allowing his back to drop and his croup to get higher), his head would be on the vertical (Or behind), he'd be 'on the bit' (by leaning on it), and his poll was the highest point (if you meant the 3rd vertebrae, then yes). These were the same people that told me a half halt consisted of pulling the outside rein backwards. And with hot horses, it became a ride of half-halts. I positively hated micromanaging every single stride--couldn't they teach him to calm down?

But being hot was 'good'.

Then I suppose being 'nervous' was good for them, too.

They kept telling me that this was correct contact; this was what it was supposed to feel like. It was how I'd seen top dressage riders ride (with death grips on the reins), so I supposed they had SOME validity. I'd only ridden western pleasure horses and OTTBs--so how would I know?

With a post on long and low, I decided I absolutely could not leave out a post about contact as well. In understanding one, it helps improve the other--and vice versa.

Dressage riders today are riding with either too much, or quite incorrect contact. Usually, they fall under the use of 'too much' and 'pulling back.'




Look here at this example. The horse isn't horribly behind the vertical or anything like that, but take a look at the curb bit. Seeing that when it is inactive it is lying almost parallel with the mouth... He's got it pulled back to a pretty high degree. The horse doesn't seem angry but worried, and you can see the tension arising in his gait--the back left leg is hitting the ground far ahead of the front right. Sport horse breeders and dressage riders call this positive 'diagonal advanced placement' (DAP), thinking it's something that denotes collection. The trot is essentially becoming a 4-beat gait. Why is that something we should encourage, or look for? Unresolved tension in the horse's body manifests itself this way too often, and often times you can hear the impurity.

My favorite.


And look here at Anky's curb bit--unnecessary contact. You can google her name and see 8,000 other photos of the curb bits pulled far beyond ideal; she rides entire tests this way. And the horse's response? Broken at 3rd (probably from being ridden 'deep and low'), disunited back end, high croup, sagging midsection, behind the vertical. You can see how she sits behind the vertical to 'push' the horse into the very restricting hands--inventing her own horsemanship in order to ride the horses she has. (Kind of like Linda Parelli's equitation, but that's a whole other topic!)

I can't fathom how people can be completely oblivious to the very hard, very real problem of this kind of contact in the dressage rings. This is a double bridle. There are two bits in that horse's mouth, one of them being a curb. If I rode my western pleasure horse like that, I'd be slammed on boards for using that much contact in a curb. But a dressage rider? Well, then it's perfectly fine.

Problem is, this isn't true contact--this is the face of contact when a horse is pulled into it.

Contact is not something you just take up on a young horse. You must work to it--just like a 'frame' is due to correct work, so is true contact. It is also not something you just expect every day--if contact is as dynamic and amazing as people expect it to be, then you can not expect your horse to pick up the contact as soon as you hop on. It becomes part of your warm up, therefor giving it purpose--to warm, stretch, and prepare, mentally and physically.

When gaining contact, your legs and seat ask for it by sending the horse forward. The ultimate goal is for the horse to reach forward with it's neck into the contact, for the legs and seat ask, and the hands allow it to happen. They don't pull back, they don't take out slack--the horse does that. The horse creates the contact, not the hands! When the horse begins to seek the offered hand, then your contact is true.

But how does one get a horse to even begin to think about that?

Other trainers have different methods, but I enjoy using long and low. It comes by other names, such as forward and out, forward down and out, etc., but it is essentially the same thing. It has many uses, and I can't even begin to understate it's importance.

First of all, what's it look like?

True long and low has a horse arching his neck forward and into the bit, with his legs tracking up and his back raised. This helps lift the back directly behind the withers, and eventually strengthens the hips to rotate in (rather then rotate out and leave the back end 'trailing' behind). In correct long and low, you must have some semblance of contact. If it's a green horse then you are asking him to give it; if it is a more advanced horse, then you'll have it. The horse is always in front of the vertical. You want the horse to think forward and move forward, not only with his legs but with his head and neck. In keeping his head in front of the vertical, he is searching and creating his own contact--if he is behind the vertical, then you're holding him there or he is not stretching correctly.

BZZZT!



Example one. Behind the vertical and NO contact. As you can see, there is no 'lifting' work really going on, and the hind feet seem disconnected from the front. Not the way you want it to look!

Ding ding!


Look at this cutey! This is Mouse from Arrow Equestrian, a training dressage barn somewhere... in Europe. You can see clearly how he's engaging, not just moving his head down or pulling himself around on the forehand. The rider has perfect contact, and she's moved her hands forward and down to follow the head (rather then just lengthen the reins, which is incorrect). You can see the correct muscles bending, rather then the incorrect ones in the previous picture.

Here's my photo up for critique, from last summer when I was still with the 'dressage' trainer:

Clydeo


He is tracking nicely and stretching nicely, considering I threw away all contact. He is green so I don't like tight contact (teaches them to lean!), but I surely should not have the reins as loose as they are. Otherwise, I'm pretty pleased with the look and since then corrected the floppy reins. Woo!

We've talked about looks, now onto reasons why. My favorite reason is that it teaches a horse to search for the bit when you are giving driving aids. He lengthens, reaches, and finds the bit due to the aids, which then can later be applied when his head gets higher.

Long and low really encourages a horse to swing through his back and allow the energy to transfer from the hind end to the front--which is what we are striving for, to connect the hind end to the hands. It allows the horse to relax with his head lower, and really gives the topline a good stretch after working in a more contracted state. If the horse is worked with a higher head set for a length of time, I allow him to stretch long and low or free walk on a loose rein to stretch the muscles and give them a break immediately after. My work is a constant change between 'collected' work and long and low, allowing the horse to stretch and find relief in a break. The more conditioned the horse is, the longer I can keep him in a 'frame' before allowing him to break.

Long and low is especially good for checking the quality of the contact. If the horse is seeking the bit, when you push your hands forward he should follow it (it might take newbs a second to realize what to do!) to keep the contact. All horses should be able to do this at all gaits!

A bigger question than 'what should it look like' and 'what does it do' is how do I do it.

Putting the horse into a long and low frame should be like pushing him down, with the two reins acting like 'sticks', as Erik Herbermann describes them as. You push your reins forward and downward, whilst keeping your driving aids on--a soft, asking leg and a moving seat. You don't want him to just take his head down, you want him to arch and to be pushed forward into it. Green horses won't have the contact a more advanced on will, but eventually the horse will reach out and initiate contact--searching for the bit on his own!

Some horses are difficult to get into this position, and have issues with 'finding the ground'. I find that some uphill horses feel nervous when putting their head that low, because they've never learned to balance their bodies that way (especially with a rider). So, we have to show them.

First thing that I've found to work tremendously is bend my horse like I mentioned a few posts ago (too much detail for me to repeat myself!) for greenies. As I found out, bending a horse's neck from side to side helps enable him to relax and let it down (I love figuring out why things work--thank you, Philippe Karl!). Why's this? Because a horse can't really flex his neck to the side AND bring it up. When the stretch done correctly, the horse bends his neck, stretches both sides with a pretty low headset, and then is much more comfortable to relax and drop the head when offered rein.

If the horse does not, at that point, then I take my inside rein, tighten my hand to create tension in the rein and a slight pull on the bit, then I release and put my hands forward. Eventually the horse usually drops his head and then is 'rewarded' because I no longer squeeze on the rein. You teach him where to go, when the contact is 'gone'. Once the horse gets it at the walk, I use the exercise mainly at the trot.

I don't know if you can tell but I absolutely adore long and low, and use it a lot on my greenies.

Here's the challenge! Try some long and low work, get a picture of it, and send it in! If your horse is a beginner we'll talk about how to improve it, and if you're an old-time Dressage queen with a gorgeous shot, I love those too. I'll post up the pictures with comments if you'd like, but if you want it to be anonymous then there's no issue there either. :)

-----------------------

In other news, I trotted Clyde in hand today on the soft sod we have by the house. No visible limp now, but he's still on rest for two weeks so I know it's completely healed. As you can see, the bugger is pretty hyper from the stall rest! Do ignore me patting him after his little episode--I can't understand punishing a horse for having extra energy for being in the stall. He calmed and stopped himself without any help from me as if going, 'well, that was pretty stupid' and no more episodes. :)

And yes, he is absolutely wearing a chain on his nose. And we use it correctly--no yanking or jerking at all, and just soft movements from my wrist so he listens. I like using a chain rather then hanging all over his face, especially when he's super hyper. Actually, I'm surprised he was so good today--the day before he would just buck in place!

Silly boy!

Do let me know if you see anything suspicious with his movement, but for right now I'm pretty pleased with his progress.

(Barnum the goat provides some entertainment whilst I fidget with the chain hehe)


Trotting Clydeo in hand from Kelly Mayfield on Vimeo.

27 comments:

Daun said...

DIJ,
Once again, you are freakin' awesome. I love your posts!

Oh, the delicious irony of finding Brego's picture on Google because "low" is something we do NOT do correctly. Thus I have no picture for your challenge.


And here's another video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B39vqtB02dM

I would really like you to do a post on how show western pleasure, with the four beat jog and canters is better than modern dressage in not ruining a horse's natural gait, because in my ignorance, I don't get it. I can understand your frustration with dressage, but I can't understand you wanting to compete in Western. And I know you want to go and show them that the horse can be happy, but if this is what they want... I don't know, how can you be successful? Sorry for the downer, I am just really fascinated on how such an intelligent, understanding horsewoman is going to make it in that sport.

in2paints said...

What a great post, and very timely as well! My blog entry from yesterday was related to contact too, but mine was full of questions instead of answers!

I've been taught many different ways to get my horse to give and I haven't liked any of them. Sometimes after a ride my arms were really sore and I've even had blisters on my fingers from us fighting each other. Me telling her to give and her refusing until she finally had no choice. And I got thinking... if my arms hurt that bad, I wonder how Lilly's mouth felt!

Your training tips are wonderful because they're not over the top like the NH techniques available these days. You care about the horses and want them to be happy, but you're realistic. The tips are practical, can be used every day on a variety of horses, and they actually make sense.

As I mentioned before, you give me hope! Lilly can excel in HUS and western pleasure and be a happy horse all at the same time.

Thanks for the great post!

Funder said...

There is a goat in that video. Also Clyde looks to me like he's hitting evenly, but I'm no expert on lameness.

Ok, the DAP thing - that's a foxtrot, one of the "easy gaits." It's way easier to sit than a real trot, but you'd think judges would penalize it in tests. One day I will convince Champ to stop hard trotting and start foxtrotting, and I'll be delighted. :)

That dressage book I borrowed from the library - the Crossley one - said that too-heavy contact in a young horse is better than too-light. He thinks it's easier to teach them to lighten up and carry themselves than to teach them to reach out for contact. I'm inclined to agree with him.

I'm delighted that Dixie and I have stumbled upon long and low work in our own way. I'm going to try to pester the husband to come take pictures or video of my lesson this weekend. He is not keen on the horse thing but hopefully I can twist his arm. I was planning on asking for some short gait and walk videos, but I'll get some long and low shots for you too.

Anonyma said...

Okay, I am seriously considering emailing this blog to my old trainer. Seriously, all she ever says is long and low, bend, stretch, supple, etc. (I think you get the idea). Then, once you've got all that, you can THINK about strengthen. And it totally works! To me, the phrase "long and low" is what's missing from EVERY horse owner's vocabulary. And even if it's there, it's not there enough.

I feel like I'm reliving some of my lessons where she showed me videos of Anky which I thought were magnificent at the time (idiot that I was), and she showed me how, in reality, the horse she rode was not at all correct, inverted back, head cranked in, not pushing from behind... well, you get the idea.

Anky is--how shall I put it?--a talented "trick" rider. That is all. Everyone oogles over her carefully choreographed freestyles, but if you really pay attention, they're not even on beat most of the time! And way worse than that is the concavity in the back behind the saddle and the fact that she feels the need to use the bits she does to muscle her horses into a frame.

Talented dressage rider? Disputable. Someone working in the horse's best anatomical interest? Definitely not!

Great post! I feel inspired.

Now That's A Trot! said...

This is the number one reason I think the "DAP" stuff is utter nonsense:

http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b246/nowthatsatrot/willie/winfree_522a.jpg

Standardbreds racing at speed are hollow, braced, and most definitely not collected. But if you look at a lot of race photos, the hind legs are often touching down slightly ahead of the front. So, STBs must be exceptionally talented if they display DAP at 30+ mph, right? I love my breed, but I am thinking, "Yeah notsomuch."

I love long and low work. I have ridden a lot of STBs, and you can see above how many of them are used to traveling. That's just how it is in racing; keeping their heads up keeps them on gait, and safe -- imagine the disaster if they rooted down or sideways in the middle of a race. So when I was riding many of them on a regular basis, I encouraged as much forward/downward/out as possible. I admit to being tricked into letting my guy trundle along on his forehand fairly often, but he enjoys the stretches and when he does them correctly, they really help get all the right muscles going. I think that's why we've scored so well at shows, despite not being the roundest; the judges appreciated that I was allowing him to move like a horse at Intro/Training, instead of cranking him into a Second level headset. (Note the specific use of the H-word, which I detest!)

I have ridden with a lot of different dressage trainers, and I've seen a lot of people take their STBs to the hold & push trainers. Yes, they get "round" very quickly -- but they also have that tell-tale knot several inches behind the poll, and few look very relaxed when being ridden.

I would really love to get some pictures of riding my horse long and low, mostly because I've never seen how we look and until I do I'll still be convinced I'm not doing it 100% right. Alas, we never have a spare camera-savvy soul on the ground that's willing...

DressageInJeans said...

Daun,

Haha, thanks! :)

Western pleasure is another huge frustration with me. WP was done a lot at Findlay, and all of it was wrong. In my opinion, from what I've seen of WP trainers, big-timers and the backyard ones, I've never seen someone do it 'right'. I've seen people care about the horse and take it slow, but to me that doesn't mean correct.

There are a lot of four-beaters. A. LOT. There's a lot of excessively low heads (although they are working on steering away from that). Horse's still cant (canter in a exaggerated haunches-in to keep them 'collected'). There's a lot of angry faces and swishing tails. People still drug them, riders still ride excessively slow.

But the judges want something different. The association is calling for something different. How can the judges pick the correct horse if NO one does it right? I took Key in one western pleasure class last year at a Paint show, and he was severely unprepared (to me). And when I got first (our only WP point, haha!), the judge walked over to compliment us.

I've sat in on judge clinics where they are telling people 'we don't want to see this anymore'. But the horse's are continually trained to keep their hind end trailing behind them and the weight on the forehand.

I was actually at a AQHA show in Delaware where they were disqualifying horses for headsets being too low. Yay!

I hoping that if someone does it right--teaches the horse to carry what weight he can on the hind end, much like a long and low posture--the judges are going to see this difference. They're going to see him loping and jogging, not four-beating. They're going to see something so incredibly different that they'll have no choice but to place me. Or that's what I hope; I don't know what Key--or me, for that matter--is capable at this point.

You can't change the world if you never try ;)


in2paints,

Alright, I am CONVINCED my blogger follower ignores new postings! I completely didn't see the post. Sheesh.
Thanks! :) I set to do a WP post soon, you know... after all the OTHER ones I want to write! :)


Funder,

There totally is! We have two pygmy goats (well... one registered one, the other is a Heinz 47 goat. loool).

I think some of the DAP is very hard to see at a Dressage test, because the horses are moving so quickly and I'm sure the judges have enough to look at already. I wish they would penalize it, but then they would have to penalize other forms of tension (tight mouth, swishing tail, laid back ears) and LORD knows they don't do that enough.

I am sure that Crossley is correct--it is easier to teach them to lighten then it is to teach them to search. But 'easy' never made anything right or wrong. ;) There are a LOT of different mindsets when it comes to classical dressage (German, French, French Baucherist 1 and Baucherist 2, Saumur... ugh!), and they all train a little differently. The first thing I do when I get a new dressage book is look at all the pictures. Are the horses happy? Are they collected correctly? Are the riders correct? If that's in place, then I'll hold more weight to the writing because the author knows what is correct.

One of the main reasons why I don't like taking contact is because it's the horse's gums. He'll decide how much he wants on them when he carries it with his tongue--not when I pull it back to what I deem is correct. It also feels like riding the horse from 'front to back', rather then the other way around. Push the hind into the hands... or pull the hands back to the hind.

But there are HUNDREDS of ways to do everything, even when you look back at the masters, and what works for one person may not work for someone else.

I too am excited to hear about Dixie! Twist the arm as much as possible, haha! If she is following your contact, then be VERY excited--you're doing everything as correct as you can at the moment!


Anonyma,
I have a lot of gripes with Anky and the way she trains, but I don't like beating people up very often because it doesn't get me any closer to kicking her ass in the ring! :P I'll probably have to do a post later just on rollkur and the like. Bah.

Sounds like you were lucky with your old trainer, though! Long and low work is awesome sauce. :)


Now That's A Trot!,

I love learning about the standardbreds! I feel like, much with the gaited horses, I've stumbled onto something that is completely brand new.

I agree with the headset concept of Intro/Training--the horse should be soft and moving freely, not looking like a second level horse! Stupid judges! Rawr.

If you ever manage to tackle some poor soul and force them into taking pictures, I WANT TO SEE. Your horse is so gorgeous, I'd love to see him move too!

Stacey said...

Thanks for taking the time to write these posts! They're awesome!

The Taco Horse said...

Can I just say I've been looking for YEARS for someone who rides western pleasure/HUS and has the same principles as me?

I've always ridden with a dressage basis, and when my friend at Now That's a Trot up there pointed you out, I literally said "finally!" I'm so sick of getting bashed just because I own QHs and compete in western pleasure--I feel like a broken record when I say that this may be my chosen discipline, but that my horses do not bob their heads, four beat, or peanut roll. I try explaining that the basis of my S-L-O-W is not an artificial gait, it's collection and softness, but they're plugging their ears or something because they just don't GET IT.

I love that you posted about "stretchies" because even though I haven't always known that this is an actual "dree-ssage" maneuver, it's exactly the kind of collection I strive for. I want to knock people over their heads when they tell me that my horse CAN'T possibly be collected, because his neck is stretched out--or rather, his head isn't cranked up and he's not behind the vertical.

Anyway, I just wanted to poke in and give you some major kudos. I've been reading through some of your posts and they've clarified a lot of things for me! Your horses are both adorable too, and your chestnut reminds me a lot of my horse, Ace. :-)

DressageInJeans said...

Stacey,

No problem! You keep posting your workouts too so I can steal them when I train my colt. *innocent whistle*

The Taco Horse,

'Dree-ssaage'. Lol! <3

Thanks for stopping by! I love love love hearing from other people that do it 'our way' too :)

jme said...

agree, agree, agree! could not have said it better :-)

long and low is probably my favorite exercise, and i actually used it to rehab a so-called 'unrideable' horse. i was going to do a post about long and low, but since you've covered all the bases here, maybe i'll just post about that horse... mind if i link to this post?

that diagram from phillipe karl was an eye opener to me too - i knew it worked, but i never knew why! now it makes a lot more sense...

you probably already guessed, but i'm not an anky fan either. in fact, i think she's a demented sadist-she creeps me out the way she smiles so gleefully as she kicks and yanks her way around the arena while her horses are in a lather looking like they're terrified... and we're supposed to think that's great dressage?

DAP and the 4 beat trot bothers me too, but i really can't stand the 4 beat 'canter' without suspension that passes itself off as 'collection' or, in the hunter world 'relaxation.' huh? i actually had a trainer tell me that any signs of real collection will put you out of the ribbons in the hunter ring, so if your horse's stride it too big or you have to slow down, put him in a 4 beat canter. the hunter world is just sad... :-\

anyway, great post!

Meghan said...

I love long and low work! I did (and continue to do) a lot of that with Bandit. After reading your post, I will think about keeping a light contact (I definitely "over-release" at times, LOL) and using my driving aids.

In case you're curious, here's a couple of links to photos I have of Bandit and I. I'm not sure if there's any (correct) long and low, but at the very least, you'll see a cute pony. ;)

http://pets.webshots.com/photo/2858558030080613445wUcvpr?vhost=pets

http://s16.photobucket.com/albums/b24/Breyerbuyer/?action=view&current=DSCF0017.jpg

In other news, I got a book on mental health for dressage riders by Jane Savoie, and my new saddle is starting to feel more like home. The pony has been carrying himself really nicely at the canter, and taking his leads.

Give Clyde and the goats a pat for me. I spent the afternoon cleaning my goat barn - I'm trying to keep it clean for the new kids which are due in two weeks (VERY excited).

DressageInJeans said...

jme,

Of course I don't mind! I want to hear about your horses, so whatever gets you to write about them faster. ;)

You know what? I think I agree about Anky. I've seen her talk about it many times, watched her ride (and sometimes almost get thrown as she kicked and spurred...), and there is something eerie about her complete lack of care on the horse's spot. But she's riding in the Olympics and I'm not, so. Darn FEI.

I am coming to believe the Hunter ring isn't much better then the western pleasure one, just with it's own world of crap. I've seen a lot of 'classical dressage' trainers ride four beat canters or canters with no suspension... and I am just like, 'Where is the impulsion?!' it looks just as bad to me as a crappy western lope, just with a high head.

And thanks! :)

Meghan,

He IS cute! Paints are my weakness. :)

He just looks like he's having a horizontal head at the moment, but I'm sure with work he'll start 'reaching' for you. It'll feel weird, because you'll think you're riding a western pleasure peanut roller! (Even though his head won't be that low, lol!)

That's cool! Glad to hear the saddle is going well for you (why don't you blog about it? I likes to reeeead! :P ) and the boy is working out.

Will do! Clyde got loose the other day for a few moments at feeding time... no sign of a lame horse, there ;)

And omg, TAKE PICTURES. We're going to breed our little Bailey, and I cannot wait for goat kids!!! :D Cutest animals ever!

serensk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
serensk said...

P.S. since it seems relevant here all of a sudden... the horse in my avatar picture there isn't actually doing anything pretty, or forced, or trained. She's actually right in the middle of showing her displeasure at waiting in line on a hot day in her first show by tossing her head... this is the flex-and-tuck phase before the head goes up and the french braid falls out.

DressageInJeans said...

Serensk,

Thanks! Good to hear there are other people out there! Would love to see/post a picture of your baby WP horse; I KNOW there are a few of us out there, it's just hard to prove it to non-western people. Good for you!! :D

Also, I didn't think your horse was trained there as she doesn't have all the weird muscley things going on with her neck--it looks correct. :)

Meghan said...

I did intend to have a training blog, but I have very limited computer time as I live rather far from civilization and we only get into town to use the library computers a few times a week. I'm also in the process of writing a novel, and of course I read other people's blogs. So blogging kinda fell by the wayside. ;P

serensk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BET said...

Please check out the Balanced Equine Training section "Stretch, Supple, Strengthen" for all equines at my website: www.arlyndecicco.com

DressageInJeans said...

Meghan,
Boo! :( But that's really interesting about the novel! I don't have the dedication, heh ^^; *slides up* Is it about horses? lol

Serensk,
I am interested... heh. I have my own stories I haven't put up here yet, but they'll come around in due time.

serensk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

This was a really interesting post. I learned to ride saddle seat and hunt seat on Arabs. 15 years ago in the Arab show world the emphasis was on 'headset' rather than true working collection. Now, I am training my 5 year old gelding and trying my best to put a good foundation on him. I always start him on about 10 minutes of loose rein walking as a warm up. I have noticed that he seems to like the light contact and has started going 'long and low' on his own. I try to maintain contact with him at the walk and just let him do his thing and be relaxed. I have noticed that at the trot, he tries to go long and low, but only lasts for a few strides. How do I handle this? He isn't 'rooting' the reins out of my hands at all, but he does bob down and then come back up after a few strides. Should I let my hands slide forward along his neck when he stretches forward, thus trying to maintain the same amount of contact no matter where he puts his head? Or should I give him a release reward for stretching out?

DressageInJeans said...

Heather,

It depends where he is in his training, and something like that is really personal preference. Some classical dressage trainers recommend letting green horses stretch into a long and low frame as often as they wish; others say only let the horse go down when you dictate.

With my own horses, Clyde is allowed to reach down as often as he wants, seeing as he is high-headed, nervous, etc. With my other horse, he is only allowed to stretch when I allow him to.
If I were you, I'd try to keep contact when he stretched into a long and low frame; if you keep your hands where they are he might go btv, or lean on your contact, OR not learn to accept and want the contact. When they are stretching long and low correctly, the horses will enjoy the contact so it will still be a reward for him. :)

Horseypants said...

Hello, just found your blog. Your description of how to do "long and low" was really great. I can't wait to try it with my horse. Hopefully I can get a picture and participate in the challenge!

Heather said...

Ok, I took some pictures of us riding today and put them in my blog post. I linked to this post and was hoping you could give me some feedback on what you think of our stretching and form so far. I started this horse myself and he has about 50 rides on him, if that gives you any frame of reference.

http://sabumi.blogspot.com/2009/03/good-stuff.html

Thanks,
Heather

Shoshin said...

Fantastic & sublimely helpful, instructional post!

Thank you :)

P.S. The person who posted & asked you to evaluate her efforts to get her lovely Arabian to "get low": Seems as if the human has gobe ballistic & taken poor Boomer to one of these so-called "natural hosemanship" 'trainers' (something she terms "boot camp").

Seems poor Boomer has the temerity to refuse to cooperate when he is obviously in physical & psychologicla distress & for his protestations is subjected to N-H "boot camp."

This is yet another example of why I am so sour on homo sapiens sapiens--& sick of rescuing & picking up the pieces at auctions when these raging narcissistic types find that other sentient beings deserve & require respect & patience.

Carry on, Ms. Dressage in Jeans--& please post more on correct riding.

Salute!

HollyLolly said...

What a great post! It is very interesting and informative, without over-facing one with long words that one doesn't understand! Many thanks for this, and although it was posted several years ago, I'm finding it very useful in the here and now.

HollyLolly said...

What a great post! It is very interesting and informative, without over-facing one with long words that one doesn't understand! Many thanks for this, and although it was posted several years ago, I'm finding it very useful in the here and now.