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Running martingales and Jim's post

Title: Running Martingales
Kathy wrote:
>>I have actually taken lessons on her other lesson horse with a kimberwicke and hardly needed to use a lot of leg to get him to come to the bit softly so I'm not convinced about using strong leg aids to overcome the curb action for all horses.<<
I have no idea what your level of riding is, nor how developed your "feel" is, so please don't take this as a personal attack on you, but rather as a general observation (and perhaps, a caveat).
I, too, can get a horse "on the bit" with very little leg contact, in a KW.  Hell, on Toc, I can do it while he's still on the buckle.  Being "on the bit" is NOT what we want from our horses.  What we want is for them to work in a rounded frame, using their quarters, and softening in front.  I've seen horses above the bit who were still soft in their backs and engaged behind.  I've seen horses ridden deep (which sometimes looks like they are "behind the bit") who are working well.  I've seen some with their noses on the vertical, but their hocks are about as engaged as a hermit's telephone!
This is the danger with a bit like a KW (or a Pelham, or Weymouth, or similar curbs) : the horse drops easily onto the bit.  What some riders don't appreciate is that a horse can work just as incorrectly in this "frame" as it can in any other.
>>Actually, with any Arab I have ever ridden, strong leg aids was not necessary. 
I've heard this, too, when people ride "hot" horses.  "Oh, he's so hot, you use hardly any leg".  My experience with hot horses is that they require as much, and sometimes more, leg than a calm horse, it's just used in a different fashion.  Hot horses will often give the impression that they are moving "forwards" when in fact, all they are doing is moving fast!  There is a difference btw speed and impulsion, and what you are looking for is impulsion, and that comes from the correct use of the rider's leg. 
I have tried a KW once on my horse, when I was considering taking him to the Boxing Day Hunt.  My reason for trying it was not because I needed brakes (Toc will stop when I ask him to, because I ask him to, irrespective of what is going on around him) but because he has a buck from hell, and I thought the curb chain might help to keep his head up.
This horse has had five years of solid work under his belt, moves strongly off of the aids, and carries himself in a balanced frame.  What I found with the KW is that he backed off of the bit, even when I was riding him "on the buckle".  No, he didn't get over-bent, no he didn't go behind the vertical.  The "backing off" was only evident if you looked at what his back and quarters were doing.  Tense through his back, with quarters strung out behind him.  Oh, and the old "draw rein wither effect". 
I guess what I'm saying is that it seems to me that folks are awfully caught up with what their horses' heads are doing at this point, and not with their horse's backs.
Which brings me to Jim's post about a lowered head being a sign of a calm horse.  In most cases, this is true, but not always.  Some horses will lower their heads, because it's what they've been taught to do, without relaxing in the jaw, at the wither, or at the SI joint (this is usually the last place to "give").  Others will carry their heads above the wither and be utterly relaxed throughout their bodies. 
If you want to see if your horse is relaxed, you have to "feel" it.  It's not about head height, it's a whole body thing.

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