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From: Bob and Kathy Bridges [mailto:katja5@xxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 8:11 AM
To: Roxanne Ciccone
Subject: FW: [HORSE-SENSE:3872] can an endurance horse go "round"?
[mailto:owner-horse-sense@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx]On Behalf Of Jessica Jahiel
Sent: Thursday, October 17, 2002 8:53 PM
Subject: [HORSE-SENSE:3872] can an endurance horse go "round"?
>Subject: can an endurance horse go "round"?
>Dear Doctor J, I've been reading your books for years and love them all. I
>even got to audit one of your clinics once when you were teaching in
>Vancouver, and I'm still hoping to ride with you one day.
>I'm a beginning endurance rider (and ex-dressage beginner rider) who is
>falling totally in love with this sport. The people are so nice and the
>horses seem so happy, it's everything I dreamed that dressage ought to be
>but somehow it never worked out like that (except for your clinics which
>is why I want to ride with you). I love the freedom that our endurance
>horses have. But it worries me some that I see so many of them going very
>flat and sometimes even "upside down", with their hind legs out behind
>them. I know that the aims and goals of endurance and dressage aren't the
>same, but I feel that some balance and roundness would be good for our
>endurance horses too. But when I suggest this, I am always told, in the
>nicest way of course, that endurance horses can't be expected to rely on
>contact to keep them round and the riders can't be expected to put that
>kind of pressure on their horses for so many miles and hours. It's fine
>for a five-minute dressage test but not for a long ride over tough
>terrain. I sort of accepted this, it does make sense in a way, but last
>week my friend and I watched a video of a famous endurance rider who was
>talking about how bad it was to let a horse go hollow all the time, so now
>I'm back to wondering. Would it be good or even fair for me to want my
>endurance horse to be round? And if this is okay, just how much is enough
>roundness, and would I have to use a lot of contact every minute? I don't
>think I can do that. I think I understand why roundness is good for
>horses, but I don't think I can have the strength and "endurance" <BG> to
>make my horse be round all the time. I know I couldn't use heavy contact
>all the time, it would be too exhausting, that's why I gave up on dressage
>lessons. The instructors here aren't like you, they tell riders to PULL on
>the horses. I'm sorry this is such a confused sounding question. Can my
>horse go round, and can I ride him that way for endurance, and is there
>some way to make him round without heavy contact all the time? It seems to
>me like dressage and endurance could be compatible, but I'm pretty much a
>novice at both so I could be completely wrong.
>Thanks, Doctor J.
>P.S. This has nothing to do with my question, but I thought you would like
>to know this. My boyfriend's sister is a dressage rider who worked with
>Dr. Reiner Klimke for several years before he died, and she said I should
>tell you that he was a great admirer of yours and always spoke highly of
>your philosophy and your teaching. She said I should tell you because if
>he had ever said anything like that about her, she would surely want to
>know, and she would die happy. ;-)
Hi Lesley! Thanks for the kind words - and thank you AND your boyfriend's
sister for relaying that message from the late, great Dr. Klimke. He was a
great horseman, a great teacher, and a good friend, and I miss him very
much. She was SO right, I did want to know that, and now I'll die happy.
Not soon, I hope - but, when the time comes, definitely happy. ;-)
Now, let's look at your question. The short answer is "yes". The more
detailed answer will depend on the amount of roundness you ask for, and
THAT will have to depend on the amount of roundness your horse is able to
offer. Note the word "offer". Roundness isn't something that the rider can
create with reins or seat or spurs or any combination of those things.
Roundness isn't a circus trick, it's a way of moving and holding itself
that begins with the horse's hind legs, belly, and back, and finally shows
itself in the relative elevation of the front end, the lifted, arched neck,
and the head hanging from the top of that arch.
You can't create roundness overnight. You can't force roundness. When you
see a dressage horse with an arched neck, don't assume it's round. Look
behind the neck - at the withers, at the back, at the hindquarters and hind
legs. Roundness BEGINS with the hind legs - and although we talk a lot
about the horse's BACK lifting and stretching into roundness, this doesn't
come from any action of the horse's back, but from the horse using its
BELLY muscles. In other words, horses are just like humans in that they
must use their abdominal muscles in order to allow their backs to stretch
and widen. People don't talk much about teaching horses to use their
abdominal muscles, but that's an essential component of dressage, and
should be an essential component of endurance riding.
When someone says "Look at that horse, he's round", or "Look, he's on the
bit", look closely, and don't be fooled by a head and neck position.
Whatever is going on in FRONT of the saddle, it doesn't count unless it's
the reflection - and result of - what's happening BEHIND and UNDER the
Looking at a horse with an arched neck created by "strong contact" (read:
"a pulling rider") will show you a horse with an arched neck, nothing more.
It isn't round, it's just uncomfortable, carrying its head and neck in an
artificial, forced position. It's also well on its way to having muscle
cramps, spasms, and permanent damage, everywhere - from the jaw, poll,
neck, and shoulders all the way through the back, hindquarters, and hind
legs. There's a reason that horses forced into this sort of false frame
tend to become lame in the hocks.
The truly round horse, on the other hand, is COMFORTABLE being round,
because it has been encouraged to develop its muscles and carrying power
through years - yes, years - of sensible, progressive, systematic,
building-block work. The rider's goal is to help the horse develop its body
so that it can carry itself and its rider in balance, without the human
pulling on the reins to curve the horse's neck, and without the horse,
reacting to the pain of a cramping neck and back, leaning on the bit to try
to get away from the pain.
The kind of roundness you want, in a dressage horse or a hunter or a jumper
or a trail horse or an endurance horse, is the sort of functional roundness
that promotes soundness, helps the horse move well and comfortably, and
will, if the rider continues to ride and train the horse well, eventually
culminate in SELF-CARRIAGE. There is no "heavy contact" in this roundness,
because the horse gradually balances himself and his rider more and more
comfortably until, with engaged hindquarters, strong belly, and lifted,
stretched back, the horse arches his own neck COMFORTABLY and works with
just a whisper of contact from the rider's hand.
Will your young horse begin like this? No. At first, he's likely to be
unsure of where all of his own body parts - let alone the rider's! - are
going. Instead of bending his hind legs, using his belly muscles,
stretching his back, lifting his shoulders, and raising his front end, a
young or green horse will tend to stiffen his back under the rider, push
with the hind legs instead of carrying with them, and travel downhill, on
the forehand, pushing against the bit.
A young horse that's just learning to balance himself under a rider will
usually want a stronger contact, possibly even as much as a pound or two of
contact at certain times. But the trend will be toward lighter and lighter
contact, so over the years, as the horse is developing through correct
training, the contact will be measured in ounces, then in fractions of
ounces, until it matches the weight of a very lightly stretched rein. A
horse in self-carriage will work on light contact, very light contact, and
sometimes on NO contact at all. In NO case is there any question of the
rider FORCING or CREATING the roundness by putting pressure on the horse's
mouth - the horse OFFERS the roundness because it can, and because it has
gotten into the habit of moving well. The rider is ultimately responsible
for all this, of course, but through slow, systematic development of the
horse's body, NOT through pushing and pulling in the short term.
Don't worry about needing to create spectacular roundness - the ultimate
collection of the upper-level dressage horse. All you need to do is help
your horse become strong, balanced, coordinated, and CONNECTED, and if you
do that, the amount of roundness he'll be able to offer you at any given
time will be exactly the right amount for that moment. You'll feel his back
lift under your seat instead of dropping away from it, he'll be lighter in
your hands, not heavier, and he'll be stronger, fitter, and better able to
perform - and enjoy - demanding work. By using his hindquarters and belly
more effectively, he'll be able to move more smoothly and cover more
ground, becoming an "efficient" mover (high praise for any working horse).
Of course, there IS one catch to all this - in order to best help your
horse become strong and supple and connected and round and effective, you
need to be all those things yourself. Don't forget that your primary
obligation is to avoid getting in your horse's way, and that's much more
easily said than done. If you are a fit, balanced, supple, connected rider,
you'll be "round" and efficient yourself, and in addition to being able to
avoid interfering with your horse, you'll actually be able to HELP him.
Dressage or endurance? It doesn't matter, because in either case, both
horse and rider need to be athletes and partners. Roundness isn't something
you do TO your horse, like stuffing him into a bundt cake pan, it's
something that you help your horse develop, so that he can work hard, enjoy
it, and stay sound.
If you'll contact me again, privately, I will put you in touch with one of
my long-term dressage students who is also an instructor. Her name is Sue
Brown. She lives just a couple of hours north of Seattle, teaches endurance
riders, and would be a wonderful person for you to work with. Her dressage
knowledge has helped her become a truly good endurance teacher and trainer,
with skills that give her riders and their horses a definite "edge". And -
just in case you wondered - all of her horses are LIGHT in the hand. Can
you tell that I'm very proud of her? ;-)
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Jessica Jahiel's HORSE-SENSE Newsletter
Copyright (C) 2002. Jessica Jahiel, Holistic Horsemanship(R)
Materials from Jessica Jahiel's HORSE-SENSE Newsletter may be distributed
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jjahiel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx | Jessica Jahiel, Ph.D.
Voice: (217) 684-2570 | * Author * Clinician * Lecturer *
http://www.prairienet.org/jjahiel/ | Holistic Horsemanship (R)
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