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Re: Nose in the air horse

>Isn't getting the horse to carry its head properly necessary before
>engaging the hind end? As in, if the horse is travelling nose in the air
>and all strung out, there's no way to achieve collection. Wouldn't
>travelling that way be very fatiguing to the horse and thus a concern
>for a distance rider? The fact that the horse can't see what's ahead
>would also seem to be a concern....
>I've heard/read/been told that collection cannot be achieved from front
>to back. But I just can't fathom how collection would be achieved at all
>unless you have at least the beginnings of a good head set (which to me
>means flexing at the poll and no ewe neck).
>Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

First of all, ewe neck is a conformational, structural flaw, not a lack of
training or conditioning.  Collection is the result of the muscle groups
being conditioned in the proper manner over a period of time -- not
something you create by pulling the horses head towards their chest.  How
much time depends on how the conditioning is done, whether or not it's done
CORRECTLY, considerations of the breed, and conformational issues with each
horse.  Some breeds tend to collect more naturally and some extend more
naturally.  Lippizans collects more naturally -- i.e. the horse is built so
that he naturally uses his topline more easily.  A TB extends more
naturally (just basic breed comparisons here ;-)) and requires more
diligent work over a longer time to get them to collect.  A nicely
conformed Arab can excel in both areas...but still needs to be taught how
to carry himself correctly and conditioned for it.  Arabs also have heads
that tend to be set on their shoulders a bit higher than average which
makes it easier for them to hold their heads up high.  However, in order to
strong and collected, they need to lift their *shoulders, back, and top of
their neck*...a totally different mechanism that throwing their head up.
You can also take a high headed horse and pull their nose in towards their
chest so that they can achieve a "head set", but NOTHING is happening with
the back, stomach, back legs, and shoulders.  They are hollow, unconnected
and leaning on their underneck muscles...and this is *not* a position that
you want to practice on a regular basis. ;-)

Collection is achieved when the horse, in self-carriage, can lift with
impulsion and lower their haunches a bit by using their back legs well
under them and bending their hocks.  The ultimate gaits in collection are
those like the canter pirouette, the piaffe, and the passage...and
achieving correct movements takes many, many years.  To get this ability
you have to spend a lot of time concentrating on your riding
skills...making sure that you use your legs correctly because they will
trigger the back legs to come under further, contracting the abdominal
muscles which lifts the back.  This gets the horse to lift his shoulder
muscle and use the muscle on the top of the neck.  When that happens, you
get your *good head set*!  And when it does happen, your hands should be
light as a feather because the horse is doing the movement correctly...and
you are definitely not pulling the head in!  A good head set is a reward of
good conditioning...and it's really exciting when you achieve it --
especially since the horse really had to work hard to get there! 

>One other thing: somehow I managed to take lessons and learn to ride
>without ever learning to do a good sitting trot (bouncy horses is my
>excuse). I guess I probably did it long enough to appease the trainer,
>then started posting the instant the trainer looked away since I never
>got "cited" for it. Does a sitting trot accomplish anything a posting or
>standing trot doesn't? I just can't get the idea out of my head that it
>can't be good for the horse's back.

Learning to sit the trot well is an achievement!  Don't get discouraged if
it takes a while for you to get the hang of it.  Here are a couple of tips:

When you are not yet an accomplished "trot sitter", don't try sitting until
the horse is well warmed up and bringing his back up.  If the horse can't
yet bring his back up well during a work-out, don't be sitting the trot on
him yet!  It won't be good for either of you -- he has a hollow back which
is not being well supported by the muscles along the spine (and your
bouncing on him isn't going to make it feel particularly great)...and the
hollow back causes the stride to be much harder to ride...which will make
you stiffen and bounce.

Start with the horse trotting fairly slowly and with just a couple of
sitting strides before you go back to posting.  Sit up tall and vertical
(which will feel like you're leaning back) and let your legs hang long and
relaxed with your ankles loose, flexible, and absorbent.  

Ride in a saddle such as a Wintec dressage saddle that has a non-slip
surface.  After you are well warmed up yourself, drop your stirrups at an
energetic walk.  Wrap your long legs around his belly, sit tall, look up,
and *lift* his belly gently to bring him into a smooth, slow trot.  Totally
relax your legs and let your hips move with the horse's back.  Bring him
back to a walk before you start to stiffen up and bounce.  Start with a few
steps and gradually add more as you are able.

Do flexibility exercises and get your self a HULA HOOP!!  The motion that
it takes to keep that hula hoop moving is the one you need for the sitting
trot.  Probably doesn't hurt the waistline too much either. ;-)

Tyee Farm
Marysville, Wa.

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