Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by funkybizniz, Jan 26, 2019.
Look what that does to the walk rhythm. "But he got the horse's head down!"
The bottom line is this: Nothing is so important that it justifies throwing away the baby with the bathwater.
There is nothing that is so important that it justifies roughness and force.
NOTHING is so urgent that one has to utilize roughness. NOTHING.
You see what happens. When you have that kind of idea about training dressage, that it's so important to get that head on the ground, everything - EVERYTHING ELSE - becomes unimportant. You throw away EVERYTHING but that. In fact, that is no different from rollkur. No different at all.
And that is the problem with the head down method. It DOES matter 'how you get there.' It matters how long you make the animal hold that position.
If you train a ballerina and you want her to keep her arms up, YES, you can hold them up with ropes and force her arms up, you can even scream at her and beat her and force her to hold her arms up for hours of practice out of fear of you, and maybe even fool some people for a while, but the plain fact is that, even if you care nothing about the feelings of the dancer, ballet just doesn't work that way.
The performance will be a stiff, ugly caricature of what it's supposed to be. The way it's supposed to be is that her legs provide so much energy, she's so balanced, that her arms literally 'float' up into the right position. She has that freedom and beauty because of the right foundation. Same with dressage.
Anyone been following what's been going on in human sports? It's interesting. There are very few human sports that are still doing the 'old timey,' 'static stretches' (maintaining a fixed position - basically what head-on-the-ground and rollkur are).
The reason is that maintaining a fixed position leads to problems in communication between the brain and the muscle, and it lessens strength. Yes. Weight lifters were reducing the amount they could lift in leg lifts, by maintaining static stretches.
It actually cuts down the signaling from brain to muscle, and reduces the power of some muscles.
Rollkur cuts down on muscle signaling to specific muscles. It actually interferes with nerve signaling because it is a static position.
The neck is so complex and has so many muscles that work in so many different ways, that cutting down on nerve signalling to one or more muscles is very unwise. That incredible complexity of muscle function is there for a reason.
So what does 'real' dressage stretching look like?
We start with only a very slight stretch - we're talking inches. Babies, green horses, they are not stretched down real low. It will be a long time before they can stretch further, but we never stretch them extremely low at any point.
The horse is taught to take the rein from the rider (yes, pull the rein down. Yes. Pull.) The horse takes the rein and the rider maintains contact.
Contact is maintained throughout. If contact is lost even for a moment, something is going wrong.
It's not taught by pulling or leaning back. If it's done that way, that is punishing the horse til he sees that the punishment stops if he puts his head down, so he seeks to put his head down for relief from punishment. That will never result in a useful stretch.
It is not maintained for a long period of time. A dozen strides, that's it. It is an exercise, not a religion.
And the ultimate trick as one goes up the levels is that the whole time the horse is being ridden in a 'higher posture,' he is CONSTANTLY being stretched to the bit. All the time. That 'stretch' might be one inch, but it has to be there.
The 'ongoing' position for a baby or lower level dressage horse is NOT with his head down on the ground. Instead, it's a position HE CHOOSES for himself. Unless he's constantly made to put his head down, he will choose an 'intermediate position,' neither very high nor very low, in keeping with his conformation. THIS is a position he can comfortably maintain for long periods of time. He finds this position comfortable and natural. He can move without struggling for balance. He can see around him easily.
THE HORSE decides on what that position is. It is not to be artificially raised OR lowered.
From that, a little stretch is introduced, SLOWLY over a long time. Over several YEARS, gradually, more stretch is introduced, but never taken to extremes. It is maintained for a short time only.
Dressage stretching is NOT a 'how low can I get my horse's head' contest.
The first time I saw a dressage horse stretched correctly was around 1983, I think. A little tiny lady was riding a horse around. And it was just magical. It was astounding. She never appeared to do a doggone thing, the horse would just take the rein down, come up, down, and the contact never once changed.
She'd stretch dowwwwwn, up, dowwwwwn, up, but it was not just an exercise she was doing over and over mindlessly - she was doing it when the horse needed it done. It's not a parlour trick.
Once you see it done correctly, and do it yourself and feel the results, you will never go back.
Separate names with a comma.