Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cross Training

 For whatever reason, I am completely unable to just ride. I have to either be training, think about training, or planning on training. It's a knee jerk reflex at this point.
I am still on my quest to successfully show my horses, train them myself and kick some butt. I also want my horses to be happy and healthy, enjoy their life and get plenty of the Big Four.

As I was trotting up the steep hill behind our barn I was thinking of ways to incorporate trail rides with training to improve Pete's performance.

Both of us are out of shape. Pete has a tendency to hollow out and string his hind legs behind him as he goes.

I stood up in 2 point position, or at least as close as my creaky boned, bad postured self would let me and encouraged Pete to really trot up the hill. He began to drive very effectively with his rear and picked up his back nicely the last half of our climb.

We sat at the top and aired up while I thought. Driving up the hill got him working his legs and back the way I wanted. Putting myself in a 2 point position got me out of his way and worked my legs and core. It was much more interesting than being in an arena for both of us.

So how else can I take advantage of being out of an arena and improve my show performance?

I began thinking about some of the discussions we've had recently. Spooking came to mind. Just being out alone, making my horse travel in the gaits I choose and picking a straight course along the way will help teach my horse to just go where I point him. Very simple, no tricks or buttons being pushed, no shoulders in or out, just git. As he becomes more willing to trust in my decisions he will become less reactive in the show pen.

As my ride progressed I worked on how I handle a spook in general. Because Pete really doesn't spook much I had plenty of time to think about how my horses react, how I react and what's the best way to handle both of us.

It occurred to me that a horse who is looking at something in the distance raises his head. Just because my horse stops and raises his head doesn't mean he's going to spook. It just means he's looking. Since I ride in an area rife with coyotes, bears, mountain lion and the last of the 60's era psychedelic crowd (wild Manitouites), it doesn't hurt for me to look with him.

I practiced dropping my rein hand when Pete stopped to look. Just to be on the safe side I rested my hand on the swell of my saddle to stop any reflexive rein clutching. I made myself relax. All he did was look. It was great.

In my thoughts I went a step farther. I thought about my yellow mare. I know exactly what she would do in the same situation. She would stop, look, not feel me responding and then she would scream, "OMG,OMG,OMG!!!!" She would flip her platinum mane, spin a few times at a high rate of speed and take off with a buck and a bolt.

Keep in mind, she wouldn't really be scared, it's just how she is. A molly-coddled arena baby.

I went back to our discussion on rollkur and other dubious training methods. The reining trainer in the photo I showed you was after a horse who would keep his head low and level, stay off his bit and continue to drive from the back. I did not feel this was a cruel or inhumane training method. It was an effective approach to teaching the horse to keep his head and neck level and his face supple.

At the very informative website I had seen an interesting chart on how a horse's vision is affected by different head positions. By lowering our horse's heads we are limiting what he can see.

A reining horse will have to trust his rider to direct him through a pattern because if his head set is correct he won't be able to see much of the arena. He can't spook at what he isn't looking at. The horse will learn to depend on his rider, not himself, for his safety.

Which will help create the good reining horse AQHA defines as : To rein a horse is not only to guide him, but also to control his every movement. The best reined horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely. Any movement on his own must be considered a lack of control. All deviations from the exact written pattern must be considered a lack of or temporary loss of control, and therefore faulted according to severity of deviation. Credit will be given for smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness and authority in performing the various maneuvers while using controlled speed.

Great for reiners, not so great for cowhorses. We need them to see. They need to track and control a cow at a high rate of speed. They need to think. With us or without us. Somebody back in the comments said something about muscle twitch response? About it being higher in our twitchy little cow horses than in other horses. I would like to know more about that one.....It explains a lot.

So, my thoughts went on, if I could get my yellow mare out on the trail, give her time to look, but trained on her in a way that would limit her sight when I didn't get the reaction from her I wanted (as in deal with it), could I teach her to trust me to work through something scary by lowering her head and driving her? Hmmmm.

I do know, if I could get a conditioned response on the trail of take a look, then keep on going in the needed direction or I'll work you like a reiner, I would about eliminate all my arena problems.

About then Pete got bored so we went up a few more hills. In a few weeks I think I'll practice driving him towards his bit for a few strides, on then off, as we go up the hill. I'll take his face from side to side and soften his body when I don't like his behavior. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

In my thinking on just that one ride I rifled through the file I'm building in my mind from the things I'm learning on this blog. I thought of riding simply with a purpose like a roper, driving with my legs and head position from dressage, keeping my horse light and responsive with almost no weight on my bit like a good spade bit horse and threw in the two point just for grins.

I would like to keep going with this thought process. I would really like to know the purpose behind some training methods, without getting into the abuse. I mean, is rollkur abusive in any context? Or can it be a tool used in moderation to benefit the horse? Can I use some pleasure horse training methods to get my horse to pick up his back? How else do I use the trail to train for the arena?

You guys now have a peek into my wacky brain. I can be a total pain in the ass to ride with because I'm like this most of the time.

My question right now? How can I use hill work to become better in the show pen? If we all get in on this it could get really fun.

HorseofCourse- What kind of shoes are you using on your horse? I saw pictures of you working in the snow on a shod horse with no snow-pack, what gives?


Double A Training said...

Wow, I'm glad I'm not the only one with the ADD thoughts about horses and riding.

I recently got a new horse to be my personal horse and all arounder. He has been started on cattle and I love his conformation. Its been interesting to go back through my last horse and think "HOW did I get him to do that" or "What made me decide to teach him that". My last horse could work cows, barrel race, ace a 2nd level dressage test, and do a jumper course without getting stressed. Now I need my new guy to do it and while I have been riding him I have been tweaking things that I don't like but I need to get back to planning the rides.

Trail riding and exploring is our first step this weekend. I want him to trust me and go where I point.(like a roper) I think GO is the first step.

Francis said...

I too am glad I am not the only one who "relaxes" by training on the trail. My poor horses don't get to lollygag around, they are always being asked something. But I don't have the ability or drive or something, to put it into words as well as you do Mugs!

Hill work is good on so many levels! If we could use hill work to reinforce ques it would be great.. unfortunately there is not always a nice hill available!

Can't beat it to work up muscles in the quarter and back.. can't beat it to take the edge off a fidgiting horse.. can't beat it to get the maximum results in the shortest time, period.

Log it as a training tool packed away in the tack box.

What I want to be able to do is "train" in the rope horse attitude. Every rope horse I have ridden and been around was excellent on the ground, willing ot stand tied for days, trailered like a dream and in general just had the attitude that it takes years for me to develop in my horses. That said, I think it comes down to "expecting" a horse to do something (to a point). I expect my horses to stand quietly and they do, I do not expect my horses to walk onto a trailer without balking once and guess what? they balk once before they get on.. Guess what else? If someone else goes to load them, they load perfectly without a balk..

Ropers expect their horses to relax on the rail, load without an effort.. etc.. and guess what, they do.


HorseOfCourse said...

Lots of interesting thoughts here, Mugs.
I have to read through again and ponder a bit myself.

In the meantime, shoeing in the snow.
As the first snow here comes as a big surprise each year on car owners and horse owners alike, I put on shoes with stud holes in the autumn on my horses.
In that way I can just screw in the studs when the snow comes, and I don't have to wait for the farrier (which by this time works 25 hrs a day).
Next time my horses get shoes with fixed studs and snow pads/rubber inlays called Huf-grips, you can find them here:
Marvellous invention, didn't exist in the old days...
Then the horses have a good grip the whole winter, and we can work them as normal. Works super on all kinds of snow and ice.

HorseOfCourse said...

And coyotes, bears and mountain lions???? Eeeek! I'd love my horse to spook!

mugwump said...

Francis- all I've got is hills!
Thanks horse of course- my shoer is going to love this....thank goodness he's a patient man.

LuvMyTBs said...

I use the hills and trails all the time to really get the horses to use themselves properly. You can't go uphill and be flat and hollow backed and there is nothing like hillwork for getting them to go straight while using the front end to grab and the hind to drive. Plus it takes the boredom and repetitiveness out of working in an arena.(for me anyway)

I rehab and retrain lots of OTTB's.They mostly only know Go or Go Fast and don't have good responses to leg and very little steering. Nothing like the trails to just get them to walk,trot, turn and stop and stand and I find that the hills and trails are great to get them to RELAX and to understand what I'm asking for with changes in my seat and leg positions and with collection and giving and bending. Many OTTBS are so one sided and very stiff till they learn to use their bodies correctly with a rider actually sitting on them and being a partner.

You can do a reining pattern or dressage moves out on the trail.You can bend around trees or half pass over deadfalls.You can let a horse learn to look and not spook at all kinds of stuff.

Anonymous said...

Francis, some team roping horses are idiots, too(!) But I think the reason many of them are as you describe is that once they are "solid" rope horses, they truly get the point of their event. If they are treated kindly and fairly, many of them enjoy roping. It fits a horse's natural impulses pretty well. Thus many rope horses are content with their jobs. They feel confident because they are not just obeying the rider. They are somewhat self-motivated. They know what they need to do to get the job done and they do it. And this confidence and self-motivation helps them in all areas.

Janet, you crack me up. And I would frustrate you completely on a trail ride. I just loaf along, enjoying the scenery and letting my horse do his own thing as long as he keeps marching down the trail. I only wake up and do a little training if he spooks, or balks...etc. I think I must be the world's laziest rider. After a good many years training horses, all I want to any more is cruise along and enjoy the ride.

Horse of Course, I read your blog post about your winter ride and enjoyed it very much. I tried to comment but for some reason it wouldn't "take".

horsegenes said...

I used to ride with this old guy who had awesome reining and stock horses. His program for included a day or two on the hill. He had this huge mountain behind his house. We would walk out to the base of it and then push them up into a long trot. The trail was narrow, curvey lots of trees, and pretty steep in places. When it got steep he would let them pick to trot or lope. His main goal was to let them learn to move and carry weight. You really didn't have to guide them much - where ever that nose went the body had to follow. It took about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the top if you were moving along at a fairly good clip. It took about 45 minutes to walk down the other side and that would let the horses cool off slowing and air up. Depending on where they were we might have taken them up the hill twice. His goal was to let them figure out how to best drive and carry. When the horse started to get more condition and understand what carrying weight was about he would ask them to bridle up, pick up a certain lead, etc. As they progressed he would ask for lead changes etc.

I think that is why "wild kids" riding like a "wild bunch of hooligans" had such great horses. We let our horse learn to carry us. We didn't really interfere with that basic concept.

I trail ride my horse all the time. I school him while I am out there. But I try to not let him recognize that he is being schooled or nag at him. He loves being out on the trail and I like to use it for a reward for hard work done in the arena.

I ride with a girl who has this huge OTTB and he can be a nut job on the trail. So she has learned that when he starts to be all spastic, she starts bending him, pushing him into the bridle, flexing and asking him for all the dressage manuvers that he really doesn't enjoy doing and you would be surprised how fast he gets over it.

Mugs you are on to something. Keep your thinkin' cap on.

Heather A. said...

If you'd like to throw in more traning methods, or thoughts of training methods...
Through another blog, I recently discovered Jane Savoie's (a dressage Olympian's) blog here:

She's always been one of my favorites and I love the way she teaches. Many of the things she says can be applied to any discipline. Another great one Sally Swift's book Centered Riding.

I'm sure you have a wealth of resources already, but these are some of mine. :) There are so many means to ends in horse training!

HorseOfCourse said...

Thanks, Laura!
Yes, it hangs sometimes, I don't know why.
I've found out that if I use the preview-function it works, though I sometimes have to press the button twice.
How's Henry?
One of ours colicked Monday. He's OK now, but it was stressing.

barrelracer20x said...

The only thing I really have to add about using hills to train is this--
I lope circles in one of our little 5 acre traps, and use the varying elevation of a hill on one side of the trap to wear my horses out when they're being snot heads. I'll warm them up fairly well, I use a lot of long trotting for my barrel horse. When we get to loping circles, they can relax and lope on a loose rein, staying collected and NOT trying to grab another gear with every stride. As we go up the littler side of the hill, I let my horse pick his own speed if he's staying relaxed. If he's being the aforementioned snot head, he gets to hustle harder when we go up the hill, then sort of plane off as we go across and come back down. I've always been told that long trotting/loping uphill really helps to put muscle on a topline, and that traveling across unlevel ground (think side of the hill) makes a horse much more concious of where they're placing their feet.

Redsmom said...

Hi Janet!! I like peeking into your brain.

Saturday is the show... with the reining class...

I think of the old Teddy Roosevelt quote - essentially saying it is better to be in the arena than never to have tried at all. Yeah, I'm going to focus on that....

Anonymous said...

Rollkur is abusive. Horses trained using rollkur have a lesser shelf-life, it screws up the back and the vertebra in the neck. Here's a good website on the nasties of Rollkur and comparison to the correct positions of the classical maneuvers (this is the first group of articles I read on the subject that convinced me):

A scientific article comparing methods and measuring stress factors in horses:

Finally, I suggest looking at videos now available on YouTube of the great Nuno Olievera, the great master, working young horses, working the great master horses, and demonstrating various techniques of both riding out in the field and work in small rooms, some examples:

And here is a real WOW, backwards gallop, gallop piaffe gallop, fantastic stuff:

Anonymous said...

Sorry typoed his name, Oliveira.

Anonymous said...

Point being, you don't have to pull a horses head down into his own chest to make a horse work correctly. People who do use the technique because they are scared to death of the horse and use it as a control factor, and that scientific article states that horses worked in rollkur are more likely to spook and buck than horses worked without it. Big friggin German mess it is. It's a blemish on equitation.

Justaplainsam said...

Blah I had a post and it died!

Anyways hill work is good but around here the weather sucks untill about June, so most of my cross training involves obsticals and different ways to work them.

Use poles, gets the horse reaching underneth them selves. Back though cones, either on foot or in the saddle. Oh and Im a big beliver in teaching everything to jump at some point (yes even the wp horses can benifit from a well set up gymnastic! although mostly its just raised poles lol )

Anonymous said...

Horse of Course, Thanks for asking about Henry. I am still spending lots of time on his rehab. He is mending and overall doing well at four and a half weeks out from colic surgery, but he has what they call an incision infection that is being persistant. A culture has shown it is resistant to the antibiotic they originally prescribed, so today I started him on a different one (naturally more expensive and very hard to grind up--it figures). But, like I said, overall, we're doing OK. The vets tell me the infection thing is more of a nuisance than a threat--I hope they're right. Henry certainly feels good and wants to do more than be hand walked a couple of times a day. My gentle bomb-proof kid's horse spooked yesterday and almost landed in my lap(!)

I'm glad your horse is OK. This colic surgery and recovery/rehab is no fun...

Anonymous said...

This might sound funny or sucidal (or both) but my partner and I go out for trail rides on our broke horses bareback with rope halters to better improve our feel and control over lead changes and straight lines. It also forces us to let go of the face and stop picking. Long straight strechs of fields for miles drops the pressure on my young horses to change now or hit the wall/turn a corner etc. Just a thought.

Candy'sGirl said...

I bought a 3yo Arab last Easter that I'm training by myself. He's the first horse I've trained from scratch. I have a lot of experience fixing problems in "fully trained" horses, but near zero in colt starting. I'm having a blast figuring out what works and what doesn't with him and he's turning into a really fun mount. We just started cantering in the past three weeks and its a ton of fun. We've just been figuring things out at our own pace and he's turning into a very sane, broke animal.

I'm like an ADD kid with him. Some days we just fool around. I torment him by hanging crap off him, making him drag stuff, walk over weird things, etc. I hop on and expect him to be sane and travel where he's pointed. When we first learned the trot, I wasn't particularly picky about speed or direction, I just wanted him to learn the cue. Gradually I got more and more picky about both speed and direction and he's learning to go wherever he's pointed. Cantering is still iffy, but as of the end of last week, he couldn't keep his balance in a turn and yesterday he figured that out.

He's my guinea pig for trying out any and every training method I've heard about that I feel is worth experimenting with. Some things work. Some don't. Some I'm able to tweak so that they work for us. I think he's taught me more about training in the last year than I learned in the 16 years I've been riding/problem solving. He's incredibly intelligent and while he is very willing to do what I want as long as he understands what I'm asking so he makes me be very very precise and really think through what I'm doing with him. I'm having a blast with him!

mugwump said...

HorseofCourse- I've only physically seen coyotes, but I've crossed the track of the other two...
Laura Crum- You are such a hippie chick....I keep assuming the "trainer brain" will relax, some day.
Kel- Your friend with the OTTB is on the same track I am with the reiner training maneuvers....
heater- have read and respect both of them!
barrelracer- I like the cross hill work idea....That would work well with horses who string out too.
Redsmom- We're all waiting for Saturday with you. My thoughts? Do you want them?
Anon- I already referenced sustainabledressage-I'm not promoting rollkur, nor am I asking why it's bad. I'm trying to understand why it's being used to help people win. What is it's purpose? Why is it used? Why does it work? I understand why many of our training methods are wrong.I have often found ways to train and benefit by adapting a method I find wrong. But only after I understand the concept. Do you see what I'm getting at?
Adrienne- You rock. I don't ride bareback anymore, trust me, there's just cause. I do like the idea of taking a long stretch of field and slowly working on lead changes.
justaplainsam- How far do you set your poles?
Candy's Girl- I like you're style.

Unknown said...

I love reading your blog, and have found many of your posts to be helpful for my current projects. I ride mainly english, but due to where I live and what I can afford, I have used and expect my horse to do everything from gymkhanas, dressage, jumping, cross country, to polocrosse and trail.

I am a huge believer in hill work, though here in NY that is all we have. I have used it to muscle up my horse in the spring before I even try to jump them. Since these past few years I've started working problem horses for people, I have also used it for horses with weak stifles (building them up with a trot up hill really improves them), horses that have bad bucking habits, and in one case an OT Standardbred mare who was literally terrified of cantering, due to her past training. In this manner she could be eased into the canter and since she was working so hard on concentrating where her feet were, she wouldn't worry about her gait. Eventually she learned she could do it, and then we worked up to flat work. I also like to occasionally work my horses bareback in the fields doing hills. Partially b/c sometimes I just don't feel like putting tack on, and also b/c I can then feel how there muscles are working, as far as if they are tighter on one side, how they are using their back, and it gives me a tune up as well.

Specializing in said...

Not at all suicidal Adrienne. One of the best (hunter/jumper) riding trainers I knew - named Danny O'Sullivan - always started out kids bareback on the school horses.
He was a tough, bowlegged old Irishman.
He liked me and my buddies because we rode to the stable (5 miles cross country) bareback just to hang out and watch the 'rich kids' get trained by him. And often as not he would tell us girls to go grab a couple of school horses and 'get in 'ere an show 'em what's at.'

I still love an Irish brogue.

Andrea said...

I think rollkur can be a useful training tool if used in moderation. Then again, it's not really rollkur anymore if it's in moderation, is it?

For example, I ride an Arab who was originally trained for Arabian western pleasure and then went from there to someone who was content to do rollkur-style dressage with him because oh look, he knows how to go on the bit. Now his current owner and I are working on retraining him and getting him to work properly from behind. We're working with an excellent trainer and the first thing she had us do was teach him to yield his head and neck by, yep, pulling his head around with an opening rein at the walk and trot until he was willing to give us that level of control. He was so tight and defensive of his head and mouth that he was resisting all of our aids. Now that he's a more willing partner our trainer is weaning us off the inside rein and shifting the emphasis to the outside rein and getting him to track up behind. From what I've read, the opening inside rein until he yields his head/neck would count as rollkur. So ironically we used some of the principles of rollkur to correct damage done by other parts of rollkur?

I think rollkur CAN be beneficial when done to solve certain problems and when used as one method among many to progress a horse's training. Occasionally putting a horse deep or asking it to work with its neck yielded may be necessary to fix a specific problem. But like with any training method, you have to know when to use it and be willing to give it up when the horse is ready. With people in such a hurry to have a 'finished' horse I think a lot of people don't bother to give up the crutch of their training tools and progress to the next level.

Holly said...

"I keep assuming the "trainer brain" will relax, some day."

it will if you train yourself to it. Just like you train yourself to relax and stay centered, you can train your mind to quit working over time.

mugwump said...

Andrea- You're closing in on what I'm looking for. Why do they use it? What is the feel you're supposed to get? Is the horse light on the bit? How can it make them heavy on the front when it's winning the Olympics? What is the goal of Rollkur? To get a certain feel? A certain responsiveness? A look? If so, what is the look?
Once again, please don't confuse my questions with support of a bad training method, I just want to understand it.

Joy said...

I liked this!

I mostly trail ride on my own horse because depending on the weather he has a hard time doing circles (turns) even really big ones. So a lot of times arena is work out for us. (rectangles are difficult too. He just can't turn on his forehand anymore unless it's really warm out)

He's hot little spooky booger, but he always gives fair warning. He will fling his head up and tell me "something's there!!!!! ARGH!!! RUN!!!" but he always listens to my response. Didn't used to though.

I think hills are awesome for fitting up a horse. Up and down. I love the way my horse and the horse I don't own, but ride, both collect on the downhill and use their big booties to work down the steep hills. The horse I don't own is a little lazy and will try to track to the right or left on his back end instead of going straight down, but when I ask him to collect, and actually speak his language correctly, he is heaven.

I'm not very good at arena work. My steering is a little off sometimes (this is why I love love love your training blogs about arena work. You're instruction just clicks for me sometimes and it's just like a light bulb going off).

I like it how you use arena and trail both. I think the horses are better for it.

For me trail riding has been great for my spooky horse. When he spooks hard at something (i.e. spins and passes his own bad self as he's leaving) because of a bag that picked up in the wind, I'm at the point where I can "catch" him before he departs and direct him back to his item of imminent death. He will snort and make a big show, but he always noses whatever scared him and we move on.

It seems like the horses I get to ride are not passenger horses at this point in their lives. I need to pay attention and ride. The times I don't "ride" are the times I'm sorry later....

My friend who has trained my horse and the other horse I ride, who also attempts to train me, has always said that cross-training is essential. He is a big believer in getting the horses out on trail and in un-familiar situations. He tells me he wants them to think and to experience all sorts of situations. He makes nice horses (really nice) so i listen as best I know how.

Sorry for the blah blah blah. This blog post just made me have diaharra of the mouth for some reason. D'oh!

Unknown said...

"and the last of the 60's era psychedelic crowd (wild Manitouites)"

LOL!!! Are they really that scary!?

Oh yay on the types of muscle fibers. I shall do a post...Maybe tomorrow on them and link ya mugs. It'll explain a lot more on what makes certain horses want to run faster and others just to plod along. It was one of my favorite topics in my second year of university.

Anonymous said...

I'm near some great hills. Thing is, my barnsour horse won't go past a certain point. He'll stop and then start spinning rather than go forward.
How to fix this?

Accendora said...

I reread this entry a few times because I was figuring out your methodology: Even if a training method is bad, there might be something to it that could be done right. That's very cool.

So I got to thinking about how my trainer told me to deal with my horse spooking. The first part of it is: I should be keeping my horse so busy with stuff to do that she shouldn't have the opportunity to look around and spook. The second part of it is, this works even better if the thing my horse is doing is 1) somewhat mentally demanding and 2) On the bit.

When my horse is on the bit, I can put her head where I want it. Usually, that's pointed away from the thing she's considering spooking at. I find that shoulder in works especially fell for this, since it is a movement that is designed to get the horse to step under herself. The extra energy from the spook really gets her doing so.

However, if she argues with me about where to look, she gets in trouble. Not for the spooking, but for the not-paying-attention-to-me. The 'trouble' is a set down with the bit: Pressure until she lowers her head and yields. Generally, this works in a snaffle.

It also works pretty well, and over time, she spooks less and less at the same damn thing.

But she's still a spooky idiot. Just one who has learned to focus more on me.

Anonymous said...


Ah, ok, I can explain that too you easily. It is discussed heavily here in Europe and a lot of extensive documentaries have also been done.

Rollkur's main purposes are: a) train the horse quickly and build up the musculature fast for early competition, and b) break the horse's spirit.

It used to be, and this is often how it is explained here, that Dressage and competition was a thoroughly male sport (mind you I'm not male). Basically, there were several schools, the German school, the French School, the Austrian School, and so on. And, then there were the Military Academies. If you watch videos from the 1930s to 1960s even you will see mostly competitors from these groups (military riders being in uniform, school riders being in classical dressage attire).

The English of course were also there, but came late to the dressage seat or riding method, having developed separately a chair seat and other use for the hands. True dressage took a long while to convince the British Riding Society of its usefulness. This is a whole other story...sorry, I digress.

The Germans however, in the 1980s or so, in their quest for ever preciser methods, and the fact that more and more very slight young or old women began riding ever bigger and more hyper Warmbloods for fancier and flashier movements, needed methods to assist these slight riders in controlling their mounts and also needed a method for faster turn around times in building up a horse. The emphasis was no longer on the slow careful crafting of a master horse that competes at the age of 13-18 years old (or even up to 28 years old) but bringing up horses from the ages of 6-12+ faster in order to go through more horses to find those who would compete the best. Much like the racing world with their breed and train a lot of them, then throw away those not useful.

As dressage became a mega-sport not just for the rich, but for the masses and a riding industry grew in which money could be made via sponsors and a whole industry developed, so it was that the riding establishment left the classical methods for faster more intense training.

Rollkur basically blinds the horse, as you mentioned, the horse cannot see properly. He is FORCED to rely on the rider in his fear. Rollkur is not just the bringing in of the head to the chest to ride the horse down into the dirt to force him to give up, but is often combined with other very abusive methods used while lunging. Whipping the horse constantly forward. There is a huge sccandal in Germany that broke about 6 months ago in which an olympic level rider/trainer was secretly caught on video beating repeatedly over the time of 30 mins or more, a very high level competition horse that was not moving forward as she wanted. Or, maybe it was just a normal training day, who knows.

OK, that could be a single example, but more likely it is the norm. At least to some degree.

Like I understand it in the Western scene, there are a lot of drugs used to to control the horses physical and mental state also, and this is also a scandal often.

Rolkur also builds muscles in the neck and topline so the horse looks finished faster. The muscling as you read in the articles is incorrect muscling compared to horses trained classically, however judges in the Dressage scene ignored this (sound familiar, this happens everywhere, peanut rolling?), rewarded flash rather than correctness. As long as the horse had mega muscles, and flicked his feet forward during an extended trot with flash (even if he was on the forehand) or stamped his feet up and down in the sand with the right timing, regardless of the back was not round and that there was no collection, the judges rewarded it.

Actually, it was the judges who promoted rollkur. Since the Germans started winning, others started to take it up, fighting for it because it was the only thing one could do to win, because it was what the judges were rewarded.

Why? Money...must be, what else? Trainers and owners of horses trained using rollkur had to have put pressure on the judging community. With new generations of judges being trained and used to seeing rollkur build horses, they continued to reward them, and probably never saw a correctly trained horse in the classical method (which was never called classical in the early half of the 1900s, it was just called DRESSAGE!)

I guess maybe I've rambled enough now, but I hope I have answered your question.

Candy'sGirl said...

Thanks! I absolutely love your blog. I'm an English girl at heart, but I love learning about training in general. The western stuff aside from barrel racing doesn't really interest me to compete in, but its really fun to learn about. I love stealing training methods from just about anywhere. Above all I want my colt to go where he's pointed at the speed he's asked to go in a sane, rational manner. I refuse to believe in the flighty idiot Arab stereotype that ALL Arabs are too crazy to do actually accomplish anything with. I think you get what you expect. He's allowed to be afraid of things and to take a reasonable amount of time figuring things out as long as he is at least trying to do what I'm asking him to do. He is NOT allowed to freak out and have his brains fall out of his head and "act like an Arab".

I keep having people telling me we "should" be able to this or that by now since he's been under saddle for nearly a year (he'll be 4 in May). I refuse to rush him though. I want him to be sound and sane in 20 years. Yes, I've been going slow with him, but 1.) I'm not a pro and 2.) I really don't care HOW long it takes to train him. Honestly, I'll probably never quit training him. I think he'll be sane and relatively broke by the end of this summer, but 'fully trained' probably not. I plan on eventually doing just about everything under the sun with him from trails to jumping to polo to barrels to dressage and anything else I run into along the way. Yes, I'm an extremely ADD rider... Basically I like to figure out how things are done and I hate being told I "can't" do something with him because he's an Arab. He's smart and athletic and doesn't seem to mind being my guinea pig so we're going to try a little of everything.

Question for you: How do you get bucking to stop? He doesn't do a true longe, but does not buck with a saddle on while being free longed. He never bucks at the walk or trot and never did even in the initial stages of training on the ground or with me on his back. He never bucked when I first put the saddle on him or first got on his back. He does one crow hop into the canter which I don't mind terribly and I can see that is already starting to diminish. He's now doing it every few times instead of every time we pick up the canter. I think that will go away on its own as he continues to figure out how to carry my weight at the canter. When he's *thinking* he doesn't do it.

What I don't like and don't know how to prevent is the random buck he'll throw in as we're cantering. Usually he does it when we're in a turn. I'm in no danger of falling off because he's not really bucking that hard, but its obnoxious and I don't know how to express to him that that is not acceptable. It was suggested to me to pull him down to the walk and YANK on one rein as a punishment. However, he has about the softest mouth ever (put more than pinky pressure on his little French link snaffle and he acts like I'm trying to kill him) and I really don't want to wreck that. I'm pretty sure he'd nearly flip over if I ever yanked on his mouth like that. I typically carry a crop with him and do give him a swat with it on the rump for the buck and he won't usually do it again...until we stop, walk or trot and then pick the canter up again.

HorseOfCourse said...

I believe this post was very interesting, Mugs.
I also like to try and get new input and ideas, and see what can be used to improve myself or my horses.
I am a firm believer in cross training.
And I am afraid this will be a –very- long reply.

In the stable where we keep our horses, the owner is a race horse trainer.
In his teens he had a TB which (while racing) also competed up to PSG in dressage (advanced level). Not many of those, I believe.
Racing and dressage use different kind of muscles in the horse.
A race horse has to push a lot with the hind legs, and stretch for each stride, being on the forehand. When you look at them they have a kind of ”greyhound” set of muscles, with a lean stomach.
A dressage horse on the other hand is over time learnt to carry more weight with the hind legs while lifting the forehand, and they set a different kind of muscles with a bulkier look on the body.
But due to the background of this trainer the TBs in our stable are trained a bit different than the normal race horse is.
All of them do basic dressage in the arena, several days a week. Working on the bit in an outline with bending and suppling exercises in all three gaits. They go trail riding, hill work with interval canter training. During season (apr-nov) they are driven down to the race track 1-2 times a week.
They are daily turned out together from morning to late afternoon.
All of the race horses are bought cheap, but they are steady into the money, they keep healthy and happy.
Out of a total of five horses, this trainer has always horses at the top in the contest “this year’s tough one”. The award is given to the horse that through the season has had most horses behind him/her in races.
And the point is?
First I believe that varying the work keeps the horse sound, both mentally and physically. No news, I know that.
Secondly, I believe that even training that actually uses a different set of muscles will benefit the horse also in the main discipline. My theory is that horses that get a too “narrow” training might get strength and muscle bulk for that discipline, but they may also lack in flexibility. They will be more exposed to wear and training realated health issues. (And they get bored)

I want a happy athlete, so my dressage horse gets interval canter training and hill work, in addition to trail riding and jumping.
In the dressage work many of us believe in “opposite training”.
If your horse wants to work with a high head set, you try and work him deep, round and low. If he wants to go low, you work him a bit more up in the form. If he is good in extensions, you work on the collected work and so on. Note – always with variations both in form and tempo. He also has to do the easy work. The horse also has to find the work fun and interesting .
So I kind of analyse my horse’s abilities, and try to find the mix of training that improves us in the long run.

And back to your question, Mugs.
“How can I use hill work to become better in the show pen? If we all get in on this it could get really fun.”
I would say that this is depending on how the horse is, and what kind of “holes” you’d like to fill in.

I am, like you Mugs, blessed with hills and mountains to work in. I believe we all agree that they are super to get your horse to use the back, and build muscles. They are also really good to train a horse after injury or vacation, just walking uphill which builds strength but doesn’t strain the horse.
If you combine it with interval training you get two benefits; the horse improves strength, condition and lung capacity, but by using the back and hind legs you also get a horse that is working more correct.
Possible benefit three: If you combine it with riding on mountain paths, the horse learn where to put his feet, and gains balance and body control. Especially beneficial for the younger horses. Balance and body control is important in a dressage horse – as well as in a cow horse, I suppose? As well as with a show jumper, as well as – well in all disciplines?
Benefit four: environmental training/spooking.
I’ve read that the spooking level of the individual horse is affected by the surroundings. If you keep the horse in familiar, static surroundings (like working in the same arena and keeping the horse at the barn) the “spooking limit” is low, i.e. it does not require much to get the horse to spook. If the same horse is trained in different surroundings and gets a lot of impulses, the “spooking limit” is heightened which results in less spooking.
In other word, you can train the horse to spook less. So the hill work, or trail riding will probably make your horse less spooky in general as he constantly has to deal with new input.
When it comes to tricks to handle the spooking situation, an advice I’ve heard a lot is to ride the horse in shoulder-in position away from the spooky object, to gain control of the shoulders.
Personally I prefer to do as little as possible, and kind of ignore that there is a "problem".
When riding in walk I always keep my reins long. I let the horse stop and look, but I don’t touch the reins if not in a potentially dangerous situation.
I expect the horse to walk by after looking, he may dance a little to the side, maybe tense a little and speed up, but that’s OK – I’ll give him the freedom to move forwards, to pass the scary object. But he is not allowed to turn around, away from it.
He might stop. If I understand that it is an out-of-death-experience to pass, I might jump off and lead past instead of having a fight. As my horses are used to being led this usually solves the problem.
Spooking in trot and canter – I just try and keep the horse between the aids, concentrate on forward movement and hang on (through jumps, instant stops, speed increases etc) You can’t train in the arena, you just have to get out there and deal with what happens. More experience=less spooking, and lots of entertainment along the way, haha.
Benefit five: Bonding and trust.
I have good experience with starting young horses out on trail riding early, once the basics are established. They get varied work, they learn to balance and they see a lot. I walk beside them half of the time as not to strain their backs. I also do it on older horses, often after the interval training so I can loosen the girth and they can cool down and regain breath. I find that the trail riding and walking makes the horses trust me, and create a closer bonding than just to work on the arena. They have to handle a lot of different situations.

When I’m out riding, I am mentally a mix between you Mugs, and Laura. As long as we are walking I am enjoying the scenery, letting my horse walk on long reins, relaxing. When I pick up the reins, my horse is to work on the bit, between the aids and in an outline.
I have a weak point. When we do the canter work, and have some nice stretches in front of us, I feel that my horse gets itchy all over and just wants to GO. And often I let her. We have all the controlled work in the arena, and I feel that she needs just to be a horse and enjoy the speed. But of course it is also a matter of creating (bad) habits. I just feel it’s a matter of “all work and no play…”

And then to the rollkur issue.
I believe it is now denominated "hyperflexion" in English, which might say a bit more?
I believe that we first have to separate rollkur from normal flexing work.
To flex the horse is not a bad thing; on the contrary it is a necessary and good tool to get the horse soft and flexible, and to learn it to give into the rein IMO.
But rollkur/hyperflexion is an extreme, it’s where you overbend the neck so the horse’s nose is locked to the breast, and keep it there over a period of time.
I have once read that Anky started to use it on one of her horses that was very talented, but also extremely difficult to ride. So in a situation where we have an extremely talented rider, with a problematic horse, maybe it has its justification. But not as a normal tool for everyone!

In all sports where money (or honour) is involved you have people who are prepared to take shortcuts, and also bad apples that are down right abusive.
I believe we are down to one of your earlier topics again, Mugs, about giving the horse time.
And it is so much easier to keep your path clean when you are not working with horses professionally.
I know that if I didn’t do the varied work and instead concentrated on the dressage only, my horse would have come further in the training.
But as I plan to keep her with me, sound and happy for as long as possible, I opt for varied work instead. Even though I can be very tempted sometimes to exchange one of the trail days to do dressage work; I really do enjoy the training.
I don’t keep horses as a living, so I don’t have any press to show results. I can use as much time as I want. My horse couldn’t care less; all she is interested in is having a good time as we plod along.
As I'm getting older I also relax when it comes to my own ambitions. I just have to accept that I'm over my prime time anyway, lol! I settle with doing what I find fun, which might be the best alternative after all.
What I do get a bit obsessed with is to learn more, to get new angles on what I do, and improve my skills. I love to work with my horse.
Unfortunately the more I learn, the more I realise what a vast gap of knowledge I lack. But I will not let that insight destroy the daily pleasures with my horses.
As Charles de Kunffy said: Riders die ignorant.

A looong post today Mugs, and it's all your fault. You have to stop blogging on so interesting topics!

Justaplainsam said...

3-4 feet for joging/ trotting. Depending on the horse. I ususaly find that 3 and 1/2 feet fits most horses you can also raise them once the horse is comfortable over them. Or rise one side of each pole but alternate sides. Example: first poles right side is higher by 6" the second poles left side is higher by 6"

Lope: 6-7 feet depending again on the horse.

Horse and Rider in Feb and Jan had some good basics in it but I'll try to find a good example this afternoon.

Anonymous said...

Here is Anky warming/trianing up in Sydney (Olympics I guess), horrible. Horse is totally stressed with mega tail-swishing.

Another vid showing it in action:

Anonymous said...

Philippe Karl's very good explanation of what is wrong with rollkur and what the classics teach about hand positions:

sorry if I'm off topic today. I just want some of this info out there.

autumnblaze said...

Hills are the BEST conditioning you can do for a horse. Few things build up and teach driving from the hind as hill work. Got a horse with iffy stifles? HILLS! Build up that butt and it will do wonders for stifle issues. We have ZERO hills here. A few places have built moguls for hillwork but it's not the same. Boy do I miss mountains... loooove cantering up a big hill it's just fun on top of all the benefits!

Since you happened to mention spooking and I'm alawys whining for help in that area, I thought I'd tell you I had a couple light bulb moments lately that have helped most tremendously.

Trail ride before last I paid oodles of attention to myself when he wigged out and why. Despite usually soft hands, I do react and grab his face. Since I ride in an english saddle, I bought an oh-shit-strap so I can drop my hands and grab that instead of his face. I was just very happy to read you did that.

Second, I get nervous I stop breathing. He's very in tune to me and it really freaks him out. My 2nd instructor used to fuss at me about it when concentrating on something new or if I was nervous. I did some reading about how that affects your body, posture and everything about how you ride. I ran my mouth the whooole last ride to him and nearly zero spookiness. I'm going to work on not having to talk the entire time but I knew if I was running my mouth I had to be breathing. We're getting there! Oh, and about him getting sold, I may be able to take him on afterall. Not 100% but things are looking better and better. Funny how sometimes things DO work out.:)

crochetyolelady said...

Mugs, I know the question wasnt directed at me, but wanted to put in what we use in winter.
There is a sort of rubber "tubing" that fits under the shoe that POPS the snow out of the hoof. Its so much better then pads as the foot can still breathe. I will get a picture of it for you. The shoe holds it down and the "tube" part - oh hell, I can describe it. I will just get you pics if your interested. It cost $4 a piece and you can use it for more then one season.
I cant wait to take Jazz out on a trail ride. I've been pining for a trail ride - but am also a bit nervous..

Anonymous said...

Okay since people keep mentioning spooking. I have this really weird thing I do with some horses that are 'goofy' spooking. I don’t know if I can explain exactly how I know when it’s a legit spook or a goofy spook but I get my feeling for it......
Anyways when the horse stops 'deer in the headlights planting all four feet with their heads up and they have that inner tension where they are deciding to spook or not I take away the focus from the spooking thing (object of focus) by spooking them myself. I will usually go 'BOO' at them and they almost have a little 'spook' of 'oh your still there! And here’s the kicker that goes with it....I laugh at them. I know it sounds odd but its almost like a little bit of 'shame on you'! I usually stroke their neck after I laugh at them and then off we go at whatever we were doing before. I don’t ever do this in front of people (I think I am little embarrassed by the whole thing....) but it works on my horses that are trained and just being goofy. I ride a lot of Arabs and I find they take the mocking a lot harder than some of my other horses....
Okay so am I nuts?
PS. thanks for the compliment on Bareback...I love the feel it gives you (not to mention the balance).

mugwump said...

Joy- I loved the concept - "passenger horses". It clarifies to me what I am looking to train my yellow mare into. She needs to allow me to be a passenger.I would blame it on over-vigilance on my part, but it's an aspect of my training I am quite proud of. I don't, for the most point over- ride my horses.I have a hesitation before my hand or leg engages which allows the horse to make a choice, hopefully the right one. It is a huge base in my training, it also causes me difficulties down the fence, it's where I'm known for my indecisiveness. Anyway, you gave me a very cool thing to think about.

Anon.- with the barn sour horse - I go in little tiny steps if the horse is in any way threatening.
My goal is to go 50 yards farther than the horse's comfort zone each time I go out. I'll get down and lead them if I have to, but we will go. I will tell a story about my most barn sour beast ever tomorrow- so stay tuned!
anon. from Europe- Thank you! Now I see. So it is very much like the unnaturally low head sets we promote in the western world, in that it is based on a fad, or judges opinions.Our low headset came originally from the look a cowhorse has when hunting a cow in cutting and the level, relaxed set of a horse traveling at ease (pleasure). Crazy huh?
My next question is, what is the difference between rollkur and working the horse "deep" or "long and deep"? Then, also, what is the answer for small women on hot, big, warmbloods?

Candy - When you told me he is bucking through corners a light bulb went on. My guess is he is not completely comfortable holding his lead through the corner. He isn't mature enough to stay upright and drive deep on his lead, so he protests. Arabs mature slower than other breeds don't they? So in my head I would think of him as a late two-year-old QH.If I have that going on with a youngster I start doing lope/trot transitions, focusing on the trot through the corners. He will begin to drive threough the corners, partially from the downward transition and partially through anticipation of the lope. It's more work than loping through, will help him stay up and should set him up for going back to loping through your corners.
Once I think he's ready to try again (that's your call, could be the same day, could be several weeks)I would push him into the bridle, then reinforce my lope cue about ten feet before the corner, and maintain the drive and push from my leg through the corner.I'm really glad you didn't punish him and I'll bet this drill will help him balance.
HorseofCourse- How do you do your interval training? Could you explain your variations, do you decide by how the horse is breathing? Or is it a set variation?

Anon- When one of our horses (reiners or cowhorses) is ridden this way the horse becomes a master at getting behind the bit and avoiding contact. They will tip over the top of the bit, dump on their frontend and are very capable of running off with us. It's a pretty ineffective method. Why doesn't that happen with these horses?

barrelracer20x said...

I got to thinking about your comments on riding through the weather and a big prego belly have me thinking more and more about the things I wish I could be doing! The best barrel horse I'd ever had was a western pleasure/halter prospect when he was a 2/3yr old. A vet had bred and raised him, and he'd literally never been ridden outside of an arena. He'd been a team roping horse for several years by the time we got him, so he was somewhat seasoned as far as hauling to new places went. He had no confidence outside the arena at all-no crossing water, no walking through ditches or crossing anything what so ever. His biggest problem came from shadows/dark spots on the ground...he'd gather up like a jumper and fling himself rather than take a step through a shadow. As you can imagine, this presented a problem as I started him on the barrel pattern. Depending on what time of day it is, lol, there will inevitably be a shadow around a barrel somewhere! I began riding very late in the evening, just before dark. I was lucky that I had a good, safe arena to ride in that I knew like the back of my hand. As it grew darker, he'd get nervous, but then would realize the entire arena was dark, sigh and then go on. It made such a huge difference in him! It took lots of hesitation away when it came to crossing dark spots. Our warm ups were outside of the arena only-the only time we went in the pen was to work the pattern and to cool down. I really think riding outside the arena is essential for performance horses. If you can ride them outside of the pen and work on conditioning or just anything, the arena is a welcome relief for cooling down. That's my personal quick fix for gate sour horses...not really cross training per se, but sort of!

HorseOfCourse said...

Badges - I believe we are talking about the same thing re. rubber inlays in the shoes. Click on the link and you'll see.
Mugs - intervals. Nothing scientific. I stop by breathing and when I feel the horse wants to slow down. I walk until the breathing is normal again, then I take next session. I train in hills with a steady climb, so it's good work. Number of sessions normally 3-4 off.

autumnblaze said...

Adrienne - I laugh at him too. It makes a HUUUUGE difference in calming him down. I've never tried Booing at him though. Ha. He's an arab.

I've used laughing with spooky youngsters I've worked with/handled too. I had a WB two year old who was spooking/freaking majorly at a constant drip of water off the roof of the barn, from the melting snow, which was splashing on a rock. I laughed profusely at her once I realized WHAT she was spooking at and called her a dope. She sheepishly walked by it a minute later with zero issues despite her previous protests.

It's anthropomorphizing them I guess thinking they can be 'ashamed' but on some level I think they understand when you're mocking them. Either that or they realize I never make the 'happy laugh noise', when it's really something skeery. So they shouldn't stress either. I figure that's probably more likely their thought process but it works. You also can't laugh at their antics if you're a nervous nelly - which I am working very hard at moving past when riding.

Anonymous said...


OK, you posed two questions. I'll deal with the deep and long one first, because it is an easy answer.

"My next question is, what is the difference between rollkur and working the horse "deep" or "long and deep"? Then, also, what is the answer for small women on hot, big, warmbloods?"

Rollkur you know now, it's overbent at the neck, hyperflexion as it is called in English as was pointed out. It is the forceful bending and hard riding forward.

Riding a horse long and deep is generally done after collected work. Working collected the horse has its muscles tensed, um, bunched, held together. Especially young horses you do not work long in a collected state, rather breifly. Young horses then (and this is usually in the snaffle not the two-bits, Kandare) are allowed to stretch and are ridden forward, ie. they stretch their necks out and down (like a Western horse) and are ridden forward in this position like in Western in order that they arch their backs upward. There is nothing wrong with riding deep and long if done correctly, it is a part of normal training.

You can think of this as how western came about, they just stayed in the deep and long position instead of coming back up. It helps relax the horse, allow him to loosen his muscles, and round his back. In the end, though, collection comes when the horses hind legs come under his body. He can only really do this if he raises his front end, and lifts his poll up and bends at the poll.

Then, he can bring his feet underneath him and the weight shifts to the back. Long and deep is only a step to getting there.

The rollkur folks also use long and deep, although through rollkur they cannot obtain true collection.

Gee, am I a sqwuak box or what? post I have to think about how to answer your question about control of the horse and his head up rather than down.

If you watch the vidoes of the masters, they have a very thin crop in the hand and hold it over the poll of the horse, this is used to remind (gently of course) the horse that his poll should remain in place.

But, that is only one aspect. I have to really think about how I answer you question about head position because it is a very complicated answer really.

My opinion is that to understand the masters, it is good to read them. There are many many books now available (even on where true masters (even Nuno's writings, or Philippe Karl's and even ancient masters) are available. They each have something to give to the serious rider.

Answering your question about the head position isn't easy, as it gets into theory that maybe I'm not so expert at explaining.

I will think about if I can come up with at least a partial answer.

Anonymous said...

Oh, about little women riding big WBs, they should learn to ride? Just kidding, they should learn to train properly and then ride? It's all super stars, gimmicks and fast fixes, short-cuts to get to the top, what else? They don't want to ride WBs correctly, it's too much work, effort, crafting, and time.

Read Sylvia Loch :) She's a little woman who rode WBs and also Andalusian stallions and learned from the Nuno school.

She wrote several books on the subject too.

Anonymous said...

Well, I cannot help myself:

"Anon- When one of our horses (reiners or cowhorses) is ridden this way the horse becomes a master at getting behind the bit and avoiding contact. They will tip over the top of the bit, dump on their frontend and are very capable of running off with us. It's a pretty ineffective method. Why doesn't that happen with these horses?"

In partial answer to this, masters would say it has to do with the hand. Training of the hand is one of the hardest and longest schoolings and very difficult to master. It takes years and years. I am sure you are an expert at the hand, so I am not commenting about your abilities of which I cannot know.

However, a master uses the hand very carefully, and very exactly. Once the riders hand is mastered, then the horses head is an instrument that the hand carefully plays, the masters hand is like the best pianist or violin player, etc. Very finely, it adjusts and works the mouth and the head. Of course, longing is also a part of it all and so on. The hand is one of the most crucial parts, and giving the horse time. A horse is often not galloped (cantered) until it offers a canter on its own, this can take a long time. You see? These things allow the horse to chose his own pace of development, to chose for his own fun and sake of enjoyment a canter, a gallop, or offer a piaffe. The horse gives the rider a gift, and the rider thanks the horse for the gift and is grateful?

And, of course, like you say, not all horses are capable.

See, I told you I was going somewhere where I cannot really describe it. You need to read the masters.

crochetyolelady said...

hahaha.... Horseofcourse, we are talking about the same thing....duh... I wrote all that for nothing - If I had just clicked on your link in the first place! lol

mugwump said...

Anon- I think we're talking about two different things. When I see the videos of the horses being trained with the Rollkur I see horses forced over the bit for an extended period of time. Then you tell me about the horses on the longe being whipped forward for exended periods of time. This would not bring the word "master" to my mind. I don't understand how the horse is kept between bit and leg in this position. Why don't they leave? How does a rider keep contact after doing this for extended periods?

We have riders in our country who understand how to work a horse between the reins, trust me.

As for our horses going long and low only, that depends on the discipline. Not mine, not the bridle horse. Ours come up, break at the poll, drive from behind and are quite soft in our hands, although we ride with more contact than the other aspects of western riding.

Even the horses who stay low are still driving deep from the back. Think of the high point of the arc as just at the shoulders instead of the poll.

"You can think of this as how western came about, they just stayed in the deep and long position instead of coming back up."

Not even a little. Western came about from the need to ride a horse as a working partner on a specific job. Transportation across vast stretches of land, usually with cattle involved.Our saddles are meant to carry us, our food, our bedding, our ropes etc. and still be an effective tool which had enough strength to tie a rope to with a cow on the end.Our horses had freedom to place their head where it needed to be on a specific task, so our long loose reins came in to play.

Our finesse came from the Spaniards and the Mexican cowboy.Who ride with their horse's head elevated by the way.

Anonymous said...

"When I see the videos of the horses being trained with the Rollkur I see horses forced over the bit for an extended period of time. Then you tell me about the horses on the longe being whipped forward for exended periods of time. This would not bring the word "master" to my mind. I don't understand how the horse is kept between bit and leg in this position. Why don't they leave? How does a rider keep contact after doing this for extended periods?"

No master beats their horse.

The woman who beat the horse is an idiot trainer. I am sorry if you misunderstood me. She also used Rollkur. Not everyone using rollkur beats their horse. However, rollkur is not a classical method, nor does it bring about classical results.

About the western horse profile, I'm sorry, it was just a casual example of long and low, that I should not have used, it confused the issue.

The horse should still be on the hindquarters, however it takes a break being up and collected by stretching its neck outward and downward seeking contact to the hand as the reins are relaxed. He rounds up with his neck stretched and nose somewhat down.

About western, I realize it was a silly comparison, my appologies. I just meant that (much like in some pleasure riding I have seen) the horse arches his back upwards while stretching his neck forwards and downwards.

Masters do not beat their horses. I was not clear I think about that, I am saying the opposite. They treat the training of a horse as an art. Like writing a new symphony each time. No violence, slow careful crafting and work, then wonderfully and sometimes furious and beautiful work when the horse is ready.

You are asking about the technical aspect of keeping the horse between the leg and the bit in this position. The answer is not a single one, and I am not trying to be mysterious, but to answer that question I would have to ramble on and on about it, and that would be extremely rude of me, and I don't want to do that. As I am not capable of explaining it in any comprehensive short to the point packet?

Read "Reflection on Equestrian Art" (Nuno Olivieira) it explains it well, in a brief book. From there you will reread and reread it, and every time you do you will discovery another secret and another answer.

I cannot answer your question easily, as I am not a master! :) I can answer simple questions like Rollkur and Long and Low, but not how a master establishes his riding. I am working on it.

Here is what Nuno has to say about it:
Subdued Horses and Educated Horses

A horse may only be considered properly trained when by progressive and moethodical gymnastics, without undue haste in the basic muscular suppling, he abandons himself to the rider's will without any revolt, assured that he will not be asked any movements which would be forced and would demand too much effort on his part. He will then work convinced of his pleasure, rather than in fear or apathy."

You see, it is not a technical answer. The answer lies in the philosophy, and the training, and the ability to bring a horse to ride between the legs and the bit because he wants to.

I guess you may not believe me.

I think I have offered enough on the topic now, as I feel I will get in over my head, and that is not good. :) You enjoy writing, I imagine you enjoy reading too, I hope so! And, that is friendly meant.

mugwump said...

Yes we need to let the subject go, I can feel the collective yawn from the other readers.....but, I'm still not getting my point across.
I simply want to know where the success comes from over bridling a horse as in the rollkur methods.
Because...In my world a horse who is consistantly over bridled will learn to evade all contact with the bit...
Why doesn't this happen with Rollkur? Why don't they flop over the bit and run like hell?
That is what I want to know.

Anonymous said...

A blog on a trainer about hyperflexion (scroll to the second article on the page). She attempts to describe in a whishy washy way why.

They all avoid telling WHY they do it, just that it is a better training method.

If you are forced to walk with a bent neck and back every day, actually trained to be bound that way and carry weight, you will eventually permanently go that way. Also, if I read this lady right, if I in any way attempt to work against the rider, I will be punished by going into rollkur?

mugwump said...

OK, I think I get it. It's the same thought behind our rock grinder spurs and an innapropriately used spade bit. There is no where to go, forward is pain and backward is pain, so hyperflexion comes.Eventually the horse will willingly carry themselves in this shape to avoid the pressure. Thank you for wading through this with me...and for being patient.

Anonymous said...

You are very welcome, it was my pleasure. You do a wonderful job of explaining many things to me, glad I could do something for you.

mugwump said...

I don't know if this is as humerous as I think it is, or if I've just been in the office too long. But I was wondering if I could develop acute schizophrenia in my horse by swapping training techniques too often. Then I envisioned sliders, with HorseofCourse's snow studs in them.It just killed me.

Anonymous said...

Sliders with snow stops???

I had a vision of you hitting the stop position and the horse digging deep in the hind end to slide, and whap! Endover nose in the dirt and you doing the flying W.

Pseko said...


another way of explaining why a horse doesn't fight rollkur is the term -- learned helplessness. Andrew McLean in the Horse magazine (online) from Australia has quite a few articles on that subject.

Also - what's referred (by some dressage trainers) to as a hanging neck is a way of setting a horse up to ignore outside stimulus - it's a way of releasing tension at the base of the neck I believe - leading to the same result (poor vision) but it's never as deep - just ears level with the withers and yet --- it is manipulation of the mouth - no matter how slight (or invisible) BUT - it causes a very slight head wagging with time.

Mugs - I am encouraged by your questioning!

Anonymous said...

I am a big believer in cross training...the more you teach the horse, the more broke they are. I think that you can learn something from EVERY disapline. I work my horse on cattle, but not every day. Some days I just lope and work on his head, other days I take him out for a trail ride. Once a month I try to take him somewhere with a friend and we go for a 3-4 hour trail ride where I don't mess with him at all(unless it requires some attenttion.) Just sit on him and let him RELAX. He seems to love it out on the trail and really relaxes...I think that it gives him something else to think about other than go to the arena all the time and work on manuvers or work cattle...Like someone else said on their post earlier...all work and no play gets old after awhile.

I do have a question for anyone that has a suggestion. and I am sorry it is off topic but I have a slight problem and I need some advice. How can you catch a horse in a 8 acre pasture that WON'T go into the catch pen? I walk out of the barn and this mare sees me and runs away from me. I have had her for a year now, she has been letting me catch her until she had this baby. When I first got her, she was difficult to catch, but with determination and lots of grain, I was able to catch her with very little we are back at square one and my technique that I had before is NOT working now! Thanks!

mugwump said...

slippin- can you use a judas horse? You know, tie another horse in the catch pen, leave the gate open and wait until she goes into to fight or play?
If you're worried about somebody getting kicked, can you tie the other horse on the outside of the catch pen, but where you're mare has to go in to see it?
Or maybe leave the gate open to the catch pen for awhile, put feed in there and leave for a day or two until she goes in on her own to eat?

Anonymous said...

Thanks mugs...I can try tying another horse outside the pen for awhile, but her problem is ME. As soon as she sees me, she is GONE. Last nite I went to feed and she ran the opposite direction, so I just didn't feed her. This morning I shook the grain bucket and she whinnied really loud and acted like she was hungry. She was standing just outside the catch pen, but as soon as I got off the feed wagon(4 wheel drive mule)shaking the bucket of grain, she AGAIN I didn't feed her. Around noon she was standing in the catch pen(thats where her water tank is)I grabbed the bucket and walked out to her. She nickered and I put the bucket in the pen. She ate the handfull that I put in there and then looked at me like, "Thats it??" So I went and got more...I got half way to the catch pen from the barn and she trotted out, so I again didn't feed her. FInally tonite I got 1/2 scoop of grain and set it in the pen. She went right in there and started eating. I snuck in behind her and closed the panal. While she stood there and ate I petted her and was very nice to her. But as soon as I opened the pen she tried to run me down, so I yelled and made her get back in the pen until she relaxed. When she licked her lips and sighed I gave her one last pat on the head and walked out of the pen. Later on tonite, I again went out with the grain and she trotted off away from me, so I just said, "Fine, don't eat then." We will see how she is in the morning, but I was manly trying to get different ideas, tricks, what ever to get her to trust me. She USED to trust me...and she doesn't have to worry about any other mares out there...she is in the pasture by herself. What gets me is the fact that she used to trust me. The only reason I was trying to catch her was so that I could bring her and her baby in the stall for the nite so that they could stay warm, but since it isn't going to get below 60 tonite, Iam not going to worry about them. we are supposed to get some severe weather here next week and I would like to be able to go out there and catch them and not be out there for 45 minutes like I was doing 2 nites ago! Thanks! I will try tying someone outside the pen tomorrow and see what happens.

You should have seen me a few nites ago...I was FURIOUS! There is NOTHING that ticks me off more than a horse that you CAN'T catch!!!

Anonymous said...


Here is a master horse crafted for his work. You see he loves his work, has his head up and the rider can only do what he does because the horse gives him the gift of working with him, you may have seen this already:

HorseOfCourse said...

I had planned to leave the hyperflexion discussion alone, but I feel I have to make a last comment.
First: the link to the dressageprocess-site actually refers to a discussion about the difference in riding the horse behind the vertical and hyperflexion, and why this rider at a certain point in the training is having the horse behind the vertical. Riding the horse behind the vertical does not equal hyperflexion.
I have been following the rollkur-debate here in Europe, and up to this date I have not heard any sensible argument that convinces me that the training method is worth using. To me it just sounds plain stupid and abusive.
I agree with your comment Mugs, that teaching the horse to avoid the influence of the rein by working it behind the bit, where you normally lose control, is ? well - personally I can’t make any sense of it.
I haven't tried it. I don't intend to.
Please also bear in mind that the clear majority of the dressage riders (including female dressage riders at the top) stands firm on the normal training scale of a dressage horse, and look at rollkur as something that does not belong in dressage riding at all.

Now, I have also experienced that there seems to be a kind of divide (mainly on US sites) between “classical” and “modern” dressage, and sometimes the comments makes me wonder what kind of experience the commenter has.
I believe a debate is good.
But I also believe you have to keep it in a setting where we try and keep the dogmas out of it.
A debate can make you look at things in new ways, and make you evaluate if doing things like they always have been done, or said, is the best solution or not.
If we look at historical dressage, keep in mind that the horses used were of the Lusitano/PRE/Lipizzaner type. The horses were around 155 cm, with short backs and a good ability to collect.
The dressage horse today is around 170 cm, with longer backs, quite a lot of TB in them – and all this affects the horse.
How they move, how the body works, what is easy and difficult, and also the temperament.
Now I would like to know what modern sport today that has not evaluated and changed the training methods since the 17th century?
Do all people move in the same way, independent of conformation?
Do all people have the same abilities?
I believe the training has to be adjusted to the individual horse.
Making things in a different way than we did a hundred years ago doesn’t have to be of evil.
Just keep the hyperflexion out of it.

barrelracer20x said...

One of my horses is the type that doesn't really care if he sees a human or not, doesn't care to be petted, etc. He's not hateful, just, uhm, aloof. He's in a 5 acre trap, and pulls that not wanting to come in crap at least once a month. The easiest thing for me to do has been to drive him away anytime that he even thinks about coming up-lol, reverse psychology I suppose. He's very independent, so anytime I'm forcing him to do something he doesn't want to do it irks him. I realize w/her being out on a bigger pasture it will be harder to do, but it works for my pony. If you have some portable panels, you could try using them to cut down the area around the catch pen, just so that when/if she does come in, you can cut down her area to escape to. Good luck!

Candy'sGirl said...

That's interesting. Trot to canter better. I'll have to try that exercise today.

He's two months shy of 4 years old, so he's about as tall as he'll get, but I expect another year or so of filling out and maturing. He *looks* like an adult now instead of that frankenbaby look he had a year ago. He'll be about 6 before he's got a fully 'adult' brain, although I'm seeing wonderful glimpses of it now.

Yeah, I'm slow to punish him for things that are potentially *not* his fault. I have no problem giving him a solid correction for blatantly being a jerk about something, but I don't ever punish him for not understanding or not being able to do something correctly. I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt if I'm not sure. I'd rather have to go back and fix something later than squash his willingness because I'm being unfair to him.

mlks said...


You've probably already done this, but the next time you want to catch the mare, make sure you're not on a tight time schedule. Be prepared to "walk" the mare down until she allows herself to be approached and handled. This means that she doesn't get to stop and stand unless she's stopping and standing while looking at you and paying attention.

The moment she starts moving away or grazing or in any other way tuning you out, push her forward and keep her moving. If she stops again and continues to ignore you, push her forward again.

This is a lot like that Barrel is saying.

Good luck! I hate having to walk a horse down, especially one that used to know better. :-)

mugwump said...

HorseofCourse- Thank You! That is very much what I was looking for. I want to discuss these ideas.
I don't like being preached at or getting the feeling someone is trying to cure me of my "ignorance" or explain why my knowledge is not up to snuff because it doesn't come from their concept of horsemanship.
I know of nobody who does.
I want to learn what I can from everybody.
I would hope that people who are new to this horse biz can still feel free to talk about what they know too.If we try not to be patronizing even the "armchair trainers" should feel free to chime in.
You stated my point very clearly. Thanks.

Redsmom said...

Wow, this exploded. I'm going to go back and read the whole thing, but yes, Mugwimp, I want your thoughts on Saturday -- I'm about the talk myself out of it so HELP. Please. Thanks.

mugwump said...

mlks- I used to have a lesson horse (not Annie!) who could have happily spent her life never seeing a human again.
I would go out in her 40 acre field with my trusty Subaru and go "car cutting". She would blow around for ten minutes or so, tail in the air, then square off and stare at me. Then I could catch her. It was insane. She eventually knocked it off nd let me catch her.
I think Slippin' is handling it just right.

mugwump said...

Redsmom- Here's my thoughts.
1. Before you show, scope out the arena. Find the center line of the arena both up and down and across. Find how far you have to travel to guarantee you go far enough down the arena to pass your cones.I find landmarks and use those, like, "the telephone pole past the Hank's Grainery sign."
2. You have paid the judge to watch and score you. He works for you. Walk in there, look him in the eye, smile pleasantly and make him earn his keep.
3. Stop and take 10 deep breaths between each maneuver.Every time you stop your horse, settle him and slow count to ten on a relaxed rein. If you can do this the whole run was a success, nothing else matters.
4.Look ahead. If you make a mistake just keep on going.It doesn't matter, all you are working on is settling between maneuvers, remember?
4.Show softer than you practice, not harder. Make the whole pattern slower and calmer than at home.
5. Once they close the gate behind you the show is done. Your pattern is just showing what you've been working so hard on.You're working towards the next show now.
6. Try not to worry about who's watching you. The only people who are paying attention are the one's who love you and are rooting for you. I have scribed a bunch, trust me, the judge is rooting for you too.
You can't back out now, we're all waiting to hear how it went!

Redsmom said...

Okay, MugsJanet! thanks! I feel better now. You inspire confidence in me. I am hoping it will be fun and I will be able to show what old Matty can do. It is him I am proud of and want to show to the (tiny slice of the) world. I will keep remembering that. He is a valuable old soul and I have to remember that he KNOWS when he's in a show pen. - he really does. One day when we first got him, he was walking all stiff that morning and I almost scratched, but my daughter wanted to go in WTC, so they went and Matty was brilliant - never stepped stiff once in the pen. 10 deep breaths between maneuvers...don't look back at any mistakes, just go forward and who what Matty can do. I feel better. Thanks!!

Redsmom said...

who = show - fast typing.

HorseOfCourse said...

Sorry Mugs, maybe I was a bit grumpy today.
It just makes me sad that some horse people have to be so rigid in their ideas and also condemning in their views of others. I've been thinking about this a lot while reading on other blogs, and you know sometimes it just gets too much and you have to vent off. No offence ment to anyone, it was more a kind of heartfelt sigh.
You remember all the wonderful answers you got on the Horsaii-post?
We all love our horses.
I really like your blog because it's a place to exchange thoughts and ideas, no matter what kind of background or type of training you do.

And Redsmom - best of luck! I'll keep my fingers crossed all the way from Norway!

mugwump said...

HorseofCourse- Please don't apologise, like I said, you phrased it perfectly......

mlks said...


You're absolutely right. I didn't explain myself well. :-)

I meant, push a little until they stop, stand, and are resigned to being caught. Which seems to be exactly what you said.

Anonymous said...

mlks: I have done that with this mare before she had the baby. It does work wonders! BUT this mare has a very strong mind and the first time I did the drive her away thing, I was out there for 1 1/2 hours!! I never chased after her, but when she got to where SHE wanted to go, I would walk over and cluck to her and make her move. At the end of the 90 minute session, I was able to walk right up to her, put the halter on and give her treats and then turn her loose. After about 2 days of doing that morning and nite, she was easy to catch and I didn't have any other problems with her. Sometimes she would trot away from me for about 20 strides, then look back at me like,"Oh yeah, I remember what happend last time I did this!"
Thanks for the compliment Mugs. I am glad that someone is agreeing with me. I was hoping that my idea would agree with others...LOL
This morning she was VERY hungry and went right into the pen with me holding the bucket. I gave her the full rations of grain this morning and she ate half of it with me holding the bucket. When she was about half way done, I petted her and went to the panal and closed it behind her. She started to panic, but I just quit and went over and petted her and she went back to eating, so I closed the panal the rest of the way. I gave her some hay and left her in while she ate that. I think tonite I will try to give her the hay with me in the pen...if she runs the other way, I will lock her out until she figures out that I have to be present in order for her to get the food...that way she will "Hopefully" make the connection that I am her food source and that I am not BAD!
Thanks again everyone for you tips...I will try them on some of the others that are difficult to catch, but not like this one mare.

Anonymous said...

mugs, anon, and HorseofCourse, I have enjoyed your discussions! For many years, we, in the western world, have been hearing that dressage principles can be, and should be, applied to our western training techniques. I whole heartedly agree! Through my training, I have done many of the movements I am now reading about, so now I'm working on perfecting the maneuvers. I have left the show pen to trail ride also. Maybe that is what happens to us when we reach middle age!!! thought...sounds like Rollkur is just an easy fix to having the horse give his face, maybe like in western disciplines when we overused the training forks and draw reins! mugs...keep hitting those trails! I truly enjoy them too!

Anonymous said...

Hi folks:

Just wanted to say that I wasn't preaching at all, sorry if it came across that way. Rather, I was trying to answer mugwumps questions on Rollkur and then the other questions she asked. I am so against rollkur that probably it sounds like preaching.

However, with regard to mixing and matching and exploring techniques, to go back to masters and old techniques Nuno was a modernist, he always said to look everywhere for solutions to problems, to never close your mind and to explore new riding methods.

So, my comments were only against rollkur because personally I think it is totally against what dressage was initially meant to be, and that is of course my personal view. I'm not preaching about where someone can find their answers nor am I adamant about my stance with respect to masters.

But, they are well worth investigating and reading, in my view. As, I think, they practice the art of riding to its highest form.

Hope that clears up my posts if anyone was thinking I was preaching.

HorseOfCourse said...

From time to time, the eqestrian world is gifted with people that are more Horsaii than others. Nuno Oliveira is one, Bill Dorrance is another.
I both understand and share your fascination Anon.
As a matter of fact David Oliveira is holding a clinic here in Norway in april, and I'm going there.
I guess it all comes down to wanting to share something that means much to us.

Anonymous said...

I'm facinated by Bill Dorrance. I have his very big book, and read it and read it, and try to wrap my head around his thoughts. My trainer actually gave it to me, because he said his english wasn't that good, when I started to read it I understood why, because it is dialect and terms he defines in a new and unique way.

mugwump said...

I don't know how you guys read Bill Dorrance, especially when English is your second language. Don't get me wrong, I love him to death, but his books are very poorly written.
I have had to read and read them to pick up his concepts. He's a tough read.
Another problem with Dorrance and Ray Hunt, who I learned mountains from, their methods don't create a show horse.
Which is how I got caught in the middle like I did. Because I believe in their philosophy, but was left wanting.
So maybe I need to look at Oliveira.

Anonymous said...

Great post - cross training is something that should be done more often. My pleasure horse does the usual pleasure horse events - showmanship, pleasure, horsemanship and we're working on trail. We also do English Pleasure and English Equitation at local shows. When we feel like a break, he also (surprisingly) trail rides, can dabble in games like barrel racing, and even plays polo. He does it all quite well, really - his only problem ever is not being able to relax enough to really perform.

Which brings me to a question I was wanting to ask you... I love your training methods and matter of fact approach, and I was wondering if you would help me with a little problem I've encountered - mostly in our rail work.

I've read about your AWESOME yellow mare, and how she's a spooking fool - and how that makes her competitive. My pleasure horse is competitive...and a spooking fool. While I have figured out how to get him to calm down and not be so crazy spooky (in truth what gave me that extra shove is your "Ride Like Bob" Sonita story =)), he still is a little tense, which I think is a contributing part of our main issue.

I'm not sure if you've done a post on how you teach self carriage, but as a pleasure rider self carriage is a big part of our work. I'm a bit different from the style of pleasure seen these days - I do not allow my horse to four beat, nor do I have him go around the outside with his hip canted in, but I do ask him to travel with the much sought after level headset. I'm finding that, though he knows how to lower his head with a left-right of the reins, he does not consistently keep it there - if we go off the rail into a circle, he gets a little nervous and the head comes up, and of course I then have to ask him to lower his head again - which further frazzles him. The result is a tense horse who takes short, choppy strides and raises his head above the bit to avoid contact. I don't like constantly nagging him for his headset - I'm sure it's terribly annoying to him, and I feel bad for being on his face a lot. I only ride him in a snaffle, but he's got a very soft mouth and I don't want to ruin that.

He originally was a very highly trained show horse, and I believe he was spur-broke, but he came to the barn I take lessons at and was encouraged to leave that training behind him so that he could be easier for the kids to ride him. I do not wear spurs on him - I do all my training sans extra equipment like martingales.

I guess my real question then is, how do you get a good performance out of a horse who easily gets tense and nervous, especially when asked to do anything other than rail work? I can drive him forward and try to make him keep his mind on the work, but the result is still a tense horse, and his gaits suffer. Also (I'm sorry, I'm pestering you now...I'm constantly thirsting for information that will help me and my horse), how do you teach self carriage, and is there a different method I can teach my horse to get him to lower his head? The only one I can use as of yet is a left-right movement with the reins, though I've heard of people using their legs etc...A check doesn't work on him, either - he just picks up his head and gets tense. Mostly I just want to be able to get him to relax so that we can both enjoy our practicing, but I was also curious about teaching - or bettering - self carriage, as it's been our greatest challenge from the beginning.

Sorry for the novel =/ Hats off to you if you even read all of this, haha.

Anonymous said...


Nuno Oliveira (Portugal) gave performances and trained riders who competed. He himself was trained by a master who had been a rider for the King in the style of the Academy of Versailles. They say Nuno was the last one to have a connection back to the old masters. But, he was not bound to the old, he was obsessed with the new too.

Then there's Philippe Karl who showed comeptitively (studied in the French military Academy, , Saumur School, big jumping and so on, Eventing), and taught show people.

Philippe Karl still teaches (French School) at an Academy he has now opened on his own. He is very strict with the rules. I know someone who was in this acadmey working on her certificates, he threw her out because she put on an event recently, Working Equitation Doma Vaquera style. It is like Western Trail but goes very fast at full gallop (it looks very flashy and is very precise, but hard on the horse).

He was appaled because he does not like this form of competition. If I were her, I would have not done that and had stayed with his academy. She would make more as a master than running working equitation shows which are not that popular here, just unusual.

Oliveira's books are deep in philosophy of riding along with details, Karl's books seem more dry to me. More technical. But, he explains precisely. The two schools are different but in technical ways really, the philosophy is fairly the same.

Dorrance: I probably get about 30% and the rest I fill in with what I think he's saying and try it and see and go back and read it again.

Anonymous said...

For cross training here are the working equitation classes (two of them, another is working with cows). In both of these it is the same stallion Oxidado:

the speed test, the course must be completed in the fastest time:

the maneability test, the style of horse and rider is judged:

This is a typical Doma Vaquera compeition, however is very different than what Oliveira was doing which was dressage.

Just thought I'd show you what Karl got upset about.

Not trying to hyjack the blog. Sorry. I just get excited about topics and then get carried away.

Candy'sGirl said...

I tried your suggestion on Friday and it seemed to work out a little better. He was able to canter through *one* turn, but not more than one so I went back to asking him to drop back to the trot going into the short side of the arena and picking the canter up as we come to the next long side. He offered to keep cantering (I noticed he hesitates ever so slightly going into turns - I assume because he doesn't think he's balanced) on a couple of the turns so I let him continue on at the canter. I noticed I have to keep him all the way out to the wall (60x120 indoor arena) because he can't seem to make a turn at the canter on a smaller path. Anyway, we'll keep at it, just wanted to give you an update on our progress. Thanks for the tip!

gtyyup said...

I'm way late in replying...

I absolutely love my hill for training. I've always used trail riding as a training tool...but the hill work is a bonus. My experience is mostly with newly started colts, not horses with strict WP arena lifestyles. As soon as I can get them safely out of the round pen, we're off to widen our horizons.

Their first trips out are usually ponyed beside a trusty gelding. They get to stop and look at stuff and then we go on. I don't make a big deal out of anything. The only thing they have to do is face whatever it is that's bothering them.

After they get going and are relatively safe, I'll switch things around. Sometimes we do a warm up on the trail, and sometimes we do a cool out. Sagebrush is a great tool...supplying exercises at the walk or trot...keeping balanced and listening...changing speeds of gaits.

I had a 7 year old warmblood come in last summer for "real life experience training." He belonged to a friend of mine that I'd known for years and she has gotten the middle age fear factor going on. This guy is broke to death, but didn't have a lot of outside experiences and she wants to trail ride. We rode on my hill almost every day. There's some pretty steep side hills and we had cows grazing too, which always added a bit of interest when they stood up from behind a large stand of sagebrush. He just acclimated to the daily routine of checking cows for calves, coyotes and deer popping up, and my dogs running a muck.

When his owner came to take him home, I made her ride him on the steepest side hills and up some pretty steep hills. I didn't tell her what we were going to do, we just did it. Afterward, she said she would never have thought that she could do it. But, Deseo took her without a fault. It built her confidence and today they are going out trail riding and she's doing what she didn't think she could ever do again.

I guess I'm just saying that it boils down to my confidence in the horse that they can do it and then that I expect them to do it...and they do.

For my cow horse, Colt, it gives him time for a mental break, even though we are still training...he just doesn't realize it. said...

Re: Rollkur/hyperflexion, etc.

One of the real reasons this technique wins in higher levels of competition is the dramatic over-extensions it brings to the piaffe, passage and extended trot sequences. Like a spring when you have coiled up a horse's muscles that tight and conditioned it to stay coiled until the explosive burst of energy is needed for the flashy extended foreleg movements, you have a brilliant *looking* gait. BUT...

If you watch the videos carefully, especially the much-feted Helgestrand ride at the WEG in 06, you can see how off-tempo his little mare is, especially at the piaffe and passage. Her hind feet are striking at different times than her fore feet. She's also *barely* lifting her hinds off the dirt - she hasn't got the stretch in her back or the strength to lift those feet crisply and precisely, as used to be demanded by the judges. That is *directly against* the base principle of rhythm in dressage. (And for those fangrrls out there, yes, I am saying Bleu Hors Matinee was trained and shown with Rollkur techniques. She was *9* at the WEG...)

The schooling and pre-show riding hard on only the curb rein are abuses of a legitimate training technique, a shortcut of proper, careful conditioning of both rider and animal. Those horse go "light" on the bit because their faces have ceased being wrenched on for the 8 minutes they ride their test.

HorseOfCourse said...

Poetrix - what kind of information do you have to state that Helgestrand is using rollkur?

HorseOfCourse said...

Poetrix - I am kindly once again asking you either to back up your comments about Helgestrand with facts, or delete them.

HorseOfCourse said...

Poetrix – as it seems like you are not intending to answer my questions, I’ll answer for you.
If you had seen Andreas Helgestrand train his horses, you wouldn’t post comments like the ones above.

I have seen him train.

He is not only a very talented rider, he is also a very sympathetic person.

He does NOT use rollkur.

I’ve seen Andreas just by playing with a talented 4 yo show some steps in piaffe.
That’s what he does.
He plays with the talented ones.
He often does not show them at younger ages as he adapts the training to each horse.
But when they reach GP the horse is ready.
Training a horse up to GP level takes 4-5 years with a talented rider and a talented horse.
Being 9 yo as Matinee was at WEG is rather normal.
What is not normal is the exceptional talent in the horse and rider.

What you have written above is injurious.
If you want to bash someone, bash someone else somewhere else.

Beasley the Wonder Horse said...


I have a problem. I noticed you accept problems from people and am hoping you'll review mine.

I have a horse I trained myself. I adopted him at 18 months and am happy with how he has turned out except I have a problem now and wanted to know a solution.

I'm a trail rider. I do not have access to riding arena so all my training happens on the trail. When I ride by myself, I can stop in a flattish area and school on whatever needs to be fixed.

Our current problem is jigging on the way home however I solved it by as soon as the horse makes the little hop for a jig, I turn him around and we head the other way. If I have energy at the end of the ride, we trot the other way until I feel him give up. If I'm too tired, we just turn and walk. It has solved the problem. Again, anything else that crops up, I fix.

But when I'm riding with friends, it is harder to stop to school and turn to stop the jigging. If I turn to school, my friends have already left and trotting to catch up to them is not the training I want at that point. So if he acts up, I either leg yield on the trail, left and right, left and right. Or I do a shoulder in kind of movement. I'm still going forward but I'm working him hard. I give a little if he walks, then we can walk on a loose rein until the jigging starts up and then I go into work mode again.

(I'm an old dressage rider. This horse goes in a full cheek snaffle and direct reins.)

This horse has gotten my number. He knows when we are out with people, the schooling is not as hard nor do we stop to school.

And recently, this work mode in a group of horses seems to wind him up? I'm not sure if it is a physical problem. He is a bit of a head shaker and because of spring, the symptoms have intensified. I have a nose guard (like a hair net for his nose) on order.

However, what would you recommend to do when a horse gets particularly wound up in a situation when others are around and you can't stop to school? What are exercises you do that don't interfere with others riding but get your horse listening to you? DO you drop out of the trail ride and say you'll catch them at the trail head?

Also, this horse likes to lead. We've been working on being behind and staying a length behind the horse in front. This in particular winds him up and the constant correction really winds him up. He has a long stride and the people I go out with have slower horses. When I say constant correction, I need him to rate and not be on the other horse's butt. If I was by myself, I would stop and school in circles or simply turn the other way as I mentioned but in a group, I can't always do that. Again, I'm looking to hear what you do? Exercises along the trail behind a pack of horses.

One thing I've found is to alternate the exercises prior to his winding up. And, when I say he gets wound up, he starts pitching a hissy fit and then gets more wound up. I understand he should rate...Again advice..

Oh and one thing I do want to ask is when we turn for home, he does pick up the pace. Is that considered jigging...really? Should that be rated as he is kind of giving me the finger by walking as fast as possible without jigging?

Thank you so much and I so enjoy all your columns.


Beasley the Wonder Horse said...

PS: After rereading my request for help, I left some things out.

To rate him when we are behind other horses, I tend to get heavy as he is not listening. I'll alternate between a two rein slow down with hands and seat to a one rein sort of half halt thing. He can be pretty unruly when behind. Hmmm, I'm wondering if the switching is winding him up. He's not sure what I expect. He's still pitching a hissy fit but maybe the inconsistency is a problem...

Well, any help would be greatly appreciated and thank you!

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