Thursday, December 11, 2008

You're Not That Special

Watch this video... it's less than 2 minutes long, then come right back.
Did you notice anything about the horses in the video? How they were playing and how they were moving?? How they were rearing, doing rollbacks, piaffes, canter pirouettes, side passing, all on their own???

When we train horses we aren't really teaching them anything that they don't already know. We as trainers just need to find the right way to ask them to do it. It's us trying to figure out how to get them to extend the trot, roll back, and more in a way that they understand.

The basic principal of dressage is merely this: Asking the horse to perform movements that they do naturally, show casing their natural talents. Dressage is so amazing because these trainers have asked their horses all the right questions, and in return have gotten all the right answers. They have figured out HOW to communicate with horse appropriately to get the desired performance. Same thing with reiners. They are the dressage of the western world. Their horse knows how to tuck their butt under themselves and slide, watch a young horse run around a pen and come up to a gate and have to quickly stop. Same thing.

There really is no such thing as "advanced" movements for a horse. They're already in the horses head. Watch your horses play in the field. Running around you'll see them do everything that Anky does on her Grand Prix horse.

When working with horses, what really makes a great trainer or rider is someone who CAN and WILL take the time to find the correct method of communication between them and their horse. Every horse is different so for every horse you'll use the same principals, but tweaked slightly to accommodate the individual horse.

Horses, whether you are watching them in the wild, in a field or while riding are amazingly smart animals, but they each have their own way of learning and own special communication techniques that they require in order for us to be able to bring out the best in each other.


2toads2luv said...

Oh, I love this one! Like when people say, I taught him to jump, or to swim... No, sorry, those are abilities that horses have naturally. That's like a parent claiming they taught their child to walk, run, or skip. The ability is there, you just have to learn how to use it.

Exactly like you said, as trainers (either professional or barely able) you have to know what questions to ask in order to get a result. It's about asking for baby steps, developing confidence, and gradually asking for more and more.

Not every horse is going to be a star dressage, jumper, cutter, endurance horse. It's about recognizing each horse's strength and making the most of it.

Trainer X said...

Pretty much... Honestly the horses are actually teaching us exactly WHAT to ask. Not the other way around...

Reagan said...

Very cool point. It's so obvious it kills me!

Also, speaking of dressage, you must must must watch this video:

2toads2luv said...

Who are we kidding? The horses are training us, in more ways than one!

Ask and ye shall receive... We just keep getting what we're asking for, until we learn how to ask what we really want them to give us.

There's no stupid horses, just stupid riders. (for the most part- lol!)

Trainer X said...

Some VERY stupid riders and trainers and breeders and... oh well you get the idea!! HAHAHHAAAA

2toads2luv said...

Oh yeah, I get your point and I'll raise you 5...

kestrel said...

It's all about timing....and I mean ours! If we expect our horse to react to us, we have to react to them properly, and a split second makes a world of difference. To develop timing you have to PAY ATTENTION to your horse.
How many horses do we see performing with a bored irritated look on their face, with some dumbass human cooing "look what I can make him do" as horse is thinking "if you weren't the food wagon I'd just get this over with and stomp your silly ass!"

Trainer X said...

Kestrel~~ LMAO!! Food-wagon!! hahah ugh, it's so true though!!! Oh man is it true!!

JohnieRotten said...

Short time reader, first time blogger, besides, CNJ let me off of my leash.......

I always tell my students/clients, when we train a horse we want to get the horses shoulders and face nice and soft, then we can ask the horse for pretty much anything and they will be willing to give. If they are stiff and leaning on our legs, then we will not get much from them.

There are a lot of dressage barns that preach you need to control the hind end not the front end, when actaually quite the opposite is true. I we can control the front end then the hind end has no choice but to follow..

amanda said...

My horse would have been a wonderful dressage horse. He can trot in place, canter and trot sideways, do a fly lead change every other stride, all that fancy stuff. Too bad it always happens when I'm on a trail ride and all I want to do is walk in a straight line. lol If only he would do those moves when I wanted him to.

kestrel said...

And another diss from me to the show ring judges...that lovely, fluid, dancing mare in the vidio placed 2nd to a stiff boring technically correct rider up on an obviously unhappy horse. WTF!

kestrel said...

Johnny rotten, amen! The training starts with the head and brain...then work backwards and you never have a problem with goofy balance problems, or some brat horse that figures out how to run away with his head pinned to your stirrup. (But hey, we've got the forward thing down....yikes)

Mikolaj said...

Amanada - LMAO!! Isn't it the absolute truth? My best friend has a mare that makes me DROOL with her movements - if she could contain it, I truly think she could make an impressive Dressage horse. Probably is, she only likes to us that springy hind end to jig in place and buck for all she's worth!

GoLightly said...

JR, Kestrel
I do cower before your awesome training experience, but I respectfully disagree.
Dressage/event barns that I've known, preach a heavy hand, and a heavier seat. The lightness of a horses' forehand comes from engagement behind. Not being a western person, I would just caution you, that heavy, hard hands (and harder mouths) are already far too common in these disciplines.
Telling them to have a soft face and shoulders is akin to telling them they are doing it right, and they ain't. Any horse I've ever trained/re-trained with a hard mouth, and over-bent "frame" (HATE that word) benefited greatest when ridden forward, off my hands, into his own self-carriage. Moving forward, off of my leg, into my hand, which allowed him his greatest freedom of movement, and thus allowing him to move in his own balance, much more comfortably.
Just a thought, from an old english trainer:)
(cowers again)

JohnieRotten said...

GoLoightly said
JR, Kestrel
I do cower before your awesome training experience, but I respectfully disagree.
Dressage/event barns that I've known, preach a heavy hand, and a heavier seat. The lightness of a horses' forehand comes from engagement behind.

Me thinks you are misunderstanding my comment...Remember, I am acowhorse trainer and I like my horses so soft in the shoulders and the face. We do a lot of the lateral flexion as well as a lot of poll flexion as well. And as for my cutters they absolutely have to engage the hind end. I do not know what they do in the pleasure industry!

First it should be mentioned that horses carry 70 of their body weight on their front ends. So from the beginning, when we start a young horse, we like to get the shoulders to move first. Now, when you think of the basic mechanics of that, you will realize that if we get the horses shoulders to move first, then the weight is transferred back to the hind end, thus engaging the hind end and allowing the horse to go forward, using the hind end.(I hope that is not redundant).

Many of the dressage barns that I have been to, I have seen them teach the riders to set their hands and shove the horses forward beyond the vertical. I am not saying that is indicative of every dressage barn, just the ones I have seen, including the one next door.

As far as western horses being heavy on the forehand.I agree that many of them are, especially in the pleasure industry. But they are nmot that way in our barn. We do use some basic dressage in our training methods as that is how the trainers that I worked under years ago trained. We do notuse draw reins of martingales,because if theyy are used wrong, we do have horses that become heavy on the forehand. We only use smooth snaffles, as I have never had to use anything else.

GoLightly said...

Thx, JR. That makes good common sense.

Yeah, I'm englaise, and I've not had any experience in the western training end of things.
Just think we need to carefully describe it right. I hear ya!

So true. Young horses are of course, on their forehands. They got all this darned weight up top, as well:)
I've just seen so many people hanging on to their horses mouth, complaining that the horse is heavy in their hands. Well, of course they are.
Now, get back on your leash:)
Hugs to your wee red-heads, and CNJ.

CutNJump said...

GL- Seems a bit of what JR had said may have gotten lost in translation the first time around... Yep those babies don't often move with their weight on the rear end, until they have been taught how. Then the light goes on and things progress quickly and much easier for them.

Seems your having a better day today? I hope so. Nobody deserves a shitty day followed by four! Well some people do, but I wouldn't include you in that group. And we all know those of which I speak... *wink*

As for the dressage barns with Iron Fists, Their hands may 'hold' but not give or follow. We may take a hold, but when the desired movement is given by the horse, the hands go back to being soft and following giving the release.

The barn next door- they gather, hold and hang on for dear life! They teach their students the same. This coming from what they advertise themselves as- Intl. Carded Dressage Judges!

Yep, Wow! I guess it isn't going to get better any time soon...

Hyena Overlord said...

Ha ha I heard this in my lesson today. "You don't need to show him how to canter. He already knows how." How appropriate.

I came from a dressage barn where it was feast of famine. Nothing or drive your seat into him, squeeze with your legs, hold your hands in your crotch and push with your seat.

Now at the Hunter/Jumper barn it's light seat, weight in the leg, soft hands. No wonder I'm having a hard year adjusting. I'm not giving up.

GoLightly said...

CNJ, Thanks dear.
You've taken down your blog!
I betcha having twins may have a teeny tiny bit to do with that sad fact?
I got so upset when I read NoHossJones reply to my ADD rant, I felt so bad.
I get so crazy, some days.
All part of being a mentalpausal red-head:)

Hope you bring it back, I enjoyed reading it. Maybe you're just building up more stories about bad parenting?

Good luck with your babies, you brave brood-mare, you.
Keep that JR hopping:)

Trainer X said...

Hi JR!! I'm glad CNJ, let you off the leash ;)Welcome, you know I am really loving the fact that everyone can put together all these awesome ideas!! Thanks Everyone!!

CutNJump said...

Go lightly- I didn't take itdown, I merely renamed it, which wiped out the You're What, web address. I will put that one back up and see if I can get it to redirect. If not I will post a link for everyones ease.

If you have anyideas, please by all means send them on...

GoLightly said...

What's weird is that my bookmark of your old blog worked for awhile, and then stopped.
Thanks, new bookmark done.

night-night little red-heads, and big 'uns!

kestrel said...

GL, hi, how's it going? I may not have explained myself well...happens to me a lot!
Physiologically, a horse rounds up and can use his hind end if he learns to shorten his abdominal muscles, automatically engaging his hind legs and shifting his weight back. Muscles cannot push, they can only lengthen or shorten, so a horse has to relax his topline and tighten his bottom line to engage the stifle and hip underneath himself.
If his neck is stiff, the top line will tighten making anything but artificial collection impossible. Rolker! By starting a young horse softly and allowing him to learn how to balance your weight naturally, waiting until he's going strong and has some muscle tone built up, then you can start asking him to adjust his balance without stiffening him up. If you add heavy leg too early in training the horse will stiffen his sides, making it impossible to tighten his abdominal muscles and making lateral movements difficult. I've actually seen horses that learn to throw their shoulders funny. They are trying to avoid the discomfort caused by leg aids, by not swinging their barrel. Another clue is a horse with a huge muscle on the bottom of his neck.
A good trail horse will automatically learn to use his own body just by going in rough country. Most riders who spend days in the saddle learn not to brace and just follow the horses movement instinctively. Otherwise you just get too sore to brace! A heavy seat just encourages stiffening the back muscles, making it impossible for the horse to lengthen them by tightening the abdominals. When two muscle groups are both trying to tighten at the same time the horse will get really sore and may even tear muscle attachment to the bone. A lot of unsoundness is caused by the horse not knowing how to use himself properly.
Hope this helps!
I like a horse to have a good sense of balance, and he has to be encouraged to find it himself before you can influence it.

CutNJump said...

If you add heavy leg too early in training the horse will stiffen his sides, making it impossible to tighten his abdominal muscles and making lateral movements difficult. I've actually seen horses that learn to throw their shoulders funny. They are trying to avoid the discomfort caused by leg aids, by not swinging their barrel.


Might I just add this? Too much leg or heavy leg aids, at any stage of training (despite the horses age) will generally lead to the horse either leaning on your leg or ignoring it altogether. The more they lean the more riders tend to use their leg, trying to 'push the horse off of it' which becomes a vicious cycle. The more the horse leans or ignores the aid, usually the more the rider becomes frustrated and resorts to kicking, then spurs and sometimes a whip.

It's much the same with bits and bad hands- as the horse declines to respond, the rider seeks harsher bits to regain control.

Back yourself up a few steps as a rider. If you feel you are using too much leg, take your legs off for a few steps, let the horse move on their own, apply the leg aid lighly until you get the desired response and take it off again.

Taking the leg off and removing the pressure is the horses reward for doing what you asked. Baby steps. Take what you can get, even if it is only one or two steps. You can gradually build on it form there.

GoLightly said...


Thanks, you guys. Nice to know english can still converse intelligently with the western speak. Balance basics are true, and correct, no matter WHAT discipline you're in.

best to you all.
You all are the best.

To your horses.

kestrel said...

CNJ exactly! The aids are supposed to be cues, and the training is all in the timing of release of pressure. No matter whether it's english, western, or bareback, it's still a human on a horse. Great explanation.