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LIFE Feldenkrais MethodÂŽ for Riders

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Nuno Oliveira’s Contribution to the Iberian Breed Volume 59 Horses For LIFE


About

Welcome to the Horses For LIFE blog! After publishing our magazine for years, and creating an incredible repository of information, we came to realize that we had created – a monster! A monster of information, that for our new readers might simply be overwhelming. And in our busy hectic lives of today not everybody has the time to read the magazine from cover to cover. Especially since Horses For LIFE is uniquely so incredibly content rich. In depth articles, engrossing and revealing interviews and our tendency to just making each issue more content rich than the one before, means that each issue is in essence the same as sitting down and reading an entire book! So for our new readers and for our existing readers we wanted to help out. Hence the Horses For LIFE blog, where we will be sharing tidbits from various articles through the years. Each blog piece short and to the point that hopefully will give you some equestrian tidbit to ponder or to help you with your horse that day, short enough to be helpful even on a busy day. But might also remind you of the article that you just must read.

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Looking Back at:

1. Scientific Research: How the Position of the Head affects Distribution of the Weight of the Horse 2. Walter Zettl: We Never Tightened the Noseband 3. The Curious Imbalance of the Horse’s Mind 4. Range of Movement 5. Bones: From Foal to Full-Grown 6. Freedom of Movement ..Truth or Fiction 7. Freedom of Expression Through Choices 8. Kurt Albrecht: Riding with the Double Bridle

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Scientific Research: How the Position of the Head affects Distribution of the Weight of the Horse A study studying the effect of the head on the weight of the horse and how he distributes his weight between his front and hind legs. The study clearly relating to the observations and training practices of Baucher and many others. Previously, training practices had observed that the basculing of the hindquarters resulted in the lifting of the withers and the front end. Centuries of baroque dressage rested on this principle.

Horses For LIFE Baucher related the two concepts but turned it around. Saying that if horsemen were to raise the head, the result would be the horse basculing through the hindquarters and carrying more weight on the hind end. That in essence the same thing could be achieved from either end.

This observation and many other training practices of Baucher resulted in decades of controversy that continues on to this very day. Decarpentry is one master who examined this idea, discussed in the same issue in the article Decarpentry: Backward Action. We suggest that you read that article first, and then continue reading this article on the research by the McPhail study.

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[Editor’s Note: For further information read Decarpentry Backward Action in the same issue.] http://horsesforlife.com/Decarpentry/BackwardAction This study involved measuring the effect of head and neck position on the weight distribution between the front and hind limbs, while recognizing that this is only one part of the balance equation, and that there are other components that will need to be investigated later. The weight carried by the front limbs and the weight carried by the hind limbs was measured with the head and neck in three positions: in a neutral position, in a lowered position and in an elevated position. Perhaps not surprisingly the results showed that with the head in the neutral position, the front limbs carried 58% of the horse’s weight and the hind limbs carried 42%. This is a principle that has stood for centuries and in this case science in merely confirming a long-held concept. When the head and neck were lowered, the weight on the front limbs increased to 60% and the weight on the hind limbs decreased to 40%. When the head and neck were elevated, the weight on the front limbs was reduced to 56% and the weight on the hind limbs increased to 44%. Therefore, the center of gravity moved closer to the front 6

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limbs when the head and neck were lowered and moved closer to the hind limbs when the head and neck were elevated. But perhaps even more interesting was not just the observation by these scientists of what occured with the horse’s weight, but another observation made that perhaps none of the researchers were expecting. Science often catches up with the masters of the past. While scientists study 6 or 20 horses, the masters of the past had the opportunity to study thousands. How can we doubt that this kind of opportunity did not bring about many truths, ones that perhaps other researchers will be studying in the future? Article Excerpt From VOLUME 37 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine

Horses For LIFE Scientific Research: How the Position of the Head affects Distribution of the Weight of the Horse

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Walter Zettl: We Never Tightened the Noseband Herr Zettl: You know I was really lucky, I had a great, great teacher. He always said the most important thing is really the well-being of our horse. We have built up a relationship of respect for each other ‌ force is the same as these nosebands. They always used to say, you know, you still have to get your fingers under the nose band, between the nose and the noseband. HFL: What did you learn about the noseband? What were you told? What were you taught? Herr Zettl: We never did tighten the noseband. We had to do all the time so the fingers could go under the noseband. HFL: And why were you told by your teachers that was important? Herr Zettl: So the horse is not made afraid by the nosebands. HFL: When did you see it start changing? Wasn’t that normal everywhere you went? Herr Zettl: I noticed the change around in the 70s, already it started. HFL: So why do you think, if it was accepted for literally generations, that the right way was to have a loose noseband, why do you think we had that change? 8

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Herr Zettl: Because everything started with force. And now the rider applies force, the horse is afraid of the hands; stops them from engaging their hind leg so the power goes over the back, …, they sit on the horse and the first thing starting to pull to the left and to the right. Now the poor horse opens up the mouth, the poor guy, because he has so much pressure on his mouth. But now, if they try again to avoid, to open up the mouth, so they tighten the noseband like it is squeezing your fingers. If they would have soft hands, they wouldn’t have to pull the mouth so tight, with the noseband. HFL: Let’s talk about that for a second. Let’s talk about what it was like before there were tight nosebands, before there were crank nosebands, before everybody was riding with a flash. When we were riding without flashes and we had this loose cavesson, and you were being trained, did you see horses opening their mouths all over the place, was that something you saw?

Horses For LIFE Herr Zettl: No.

HFL: You didn’t see it anywhere, did you? Herr Zettl: No.

HFL: Now, so and to add to that a loose cavesson and everything, you saw lots and lots of horses around you all the time. You didn’t see horses running around trying to open their mouths or take the bit. Herr Zettl: For sure, not our horses.

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HFL: So I mean, I think people don’t understand the horses are opening their mouths for a reason. They didn’t used to, so why are they now? Herr Zettl: That’s right, to put the tongue over the bit, to put the tongue out in front, on the side, is only because the horse is not trusting the hand of the rider. Really, riding is a matter of trust —a relationship. Excerpt From Volume 42 Other Articles with Walter Zettl on Horses For LIFE Publicaitons What it was Like Before with Walter Zettl A Ground Breaking Clinic – East meets West Other Articles on the Cavesson Cavessons and the Infraorbital Nerve

Horses For LIFE Walter Zettl: We Never Tightened the Noseband

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The Curious Imbalance of the Horse’s Mind

When a horse refuses to lunge, it’s usually the case that it won’t lunge to the right. When it spooks, it’s more likely to jump to the right and we all know about that scary plastic bag that is completely harmless when you ride past it in one direction, but it turns into a lion when you’re going the other way. Now researchers are starting to get to the bottom of the horse’s lop-sided view of the world. We go to great lengths to achieve bodily balance and straightness in our horses, but most handling practices are decidedly one sided. We usually lead from the left, tack up from the left, and mount and dismount on the left, and rarely stop to consider why we do this, whether it’s a good idea, or, indeed, whose idea it was in the first place. Recent research has shown that horses are actually hard wired to prefer having people on the left. The study, a combined project by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, The University of Regensburg in Germany and the Harmony Centre in Austria, compared conventionally trained horses (handled mainly from the left) with horses deliberately trained and handled on both sides. The researchers found that the horses of both groups preferred to put a human in their left eye. Excerpt from the article “The Curious Imbalance of the Horse’s Mind” More on this study at • VOLUME 49 • © HORSES For LIFE™ 14


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Range of Movement

When we are working with our horses, we are many things to them. We are part vet, sometimes part farrier, we make sure they have food, we are rider, trainer, teacher. One thing we also should be is physiotherapist. Physiotherapists look at the mobility of the body and how it can be improved. Should we be doing anything less? When you work with physiotherapists who work on humans, one of the phrases that you will hear most often is “range of movement”. “He has limited ‘range of movement’, we were able to increase her ‘range of movement’, his ‘range of movement’ has decreased.”

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Checking the range of movement of any one joint informs the physiotherapist as to the health of that joint and the body in general. When we ride, when we train, we must keep full range of movement as one of the single-most important things that we must maintain to provide full health to the horse. Otherwise, our riding literally becomes detrimental to the horse.

We must welcome the power of the whole horse and his full range of motion if we are going to ride him in such a way that is healthy for our horse.

This can be difficult, as even limited handling of a horse can affect his mobility, his way of going. Even just being on a lead rope can have a very real effect on the horse. We can see differ16


ences in foals before and after they have been handled. Watching horses free in the pasture does not always work either, as having a very strong body memory pattern, what they learn in hand and/or under saddle will change their way of going. This is one of the reasons that we can do so much training from the ground. Understanding and learning the “range of movement” of each individual joint seems to be a forgotten element in the process of training horses, yet it should be part of the foundation – one of the fundamental skills that we develop. As we work to gain knowledge of exactly how we can add to our repertoire of horse training skills, it can be extremely helpful to look to some of the fundamental principles of human physiotherapy, and assessing range of movement is exactly that – fundamental. If a particular modality works to bring fuller range of movement to humans, then why shouldn’t it be applied to horses, as well? After all, ensuring and enabling good movement is absolutely key to successful work with horses. Educating ourselves about range of movement prepares us all – the rider, the instructor and the trainer – with the essential tools and skills to become a master horseman.

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This is from one of our free articles that we offer each issue to all of our free registered users. Currently over 160 Free Articles to Registered Users! Each Registered Article can be recognized by the asterisk (*) in the title. To read the full article register, login and goto: http://horsesforlife.com/*RangeOfMovementIntroduction

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Bones: From Foal to Full-Grown Bones: Basic Building Blocks Part I: From Foal to Full-grown Da Vinci’s anatomical drawings stand the test of time in their exactitude. Stubbs did numerous sketches. In order to truly understand the structure – and movement – of both man and animal, they looked beneath the skin. They dissected carcasses (often in secret to avoid censure) to uncover the anatomy that underpins the strength, symmetry and power of the horse, one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. The Moving Frame

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The skeleton is made up of 205 bones (give or take a few such as in shorter-backed Arabs).

They are joined together to form a movable – and moving – frame that supports the body against gravity and protects the internal organs. Bones contains active material which constantly rebuilds, remodels and repairs itself through the horse’s entire life. Bone is living tissue. From Foal to Maturity

The foal is born with amazingly long legs and a small body which eventually matures into something far larger. As a prey animal it must be able to gallop with its dam within hours of birth in order to avoid being some carnivore’s lunch. So, this long-legged, small bodied foal must, over a few years, change shape dramatically 18


and this is where bone growth is so fascinating. Very simplistically, bones start as pure cartilage (that’s the smooth, shiny rather yielding part at the ends of a young bone). Over time, as the bone lengthens and thickens, this cartilage changes into hard bone in the middle with softer ends that act as padding. The end plates, which allow the bone to lengthen, ‘close’ when growth is complete. In the horse, ‘closure’ starts at the bottom and works up. The coffin/short pastern are closed at birth; short /long pastern close at 6 months; knee 18 months to 2 ½ years; scapula 3 ½ to 4; hock 4; pelvis (point of hip, croup) 3 to 4 to name a few.

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But here is the most interesting part: the vertebrae of the spine do not close until 5 ½ years minimum. This applies to smaller equines. The larger ones take longer – 6 to 7½ – and the males (no surprise here) 6 months later still. So a 17.0 hh Irish Draft cross or Warmblood gelding may not ‘mature’ until nearly 8 years old. by Dana Green

From November 2007

http://horsesforlife.com/BonesBasicBuildingBlocks

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Freedom of Movement ..Truth or Fiction The churning hooves grip the desert floor as the horse, with mane whipping in the wind, dodges past rocks and vegetation. The breathtaking height as the horse soars over the jump, fulfilling our desire to take flight. The black stallion rearing on the tiptoes of his back hooves as he neighs his challenge to the skies above. All of these images represent in many ways what we love about horses. The incredible beauty of the ultimate in incredible power and freedom. So what do we do? We tie down, we hold, we tame? We change the very thing that we love and admire most about our horses. And in the process‌ In the process we subjugate, and take away what draws us to them in the first place. Many of us sense this dichotomy either consciously or unconsciously, and we see this in the many different searches for an alternate reality in horsemanship. All of these appeal to that which is in all of us. A realization that we do want to respect the natural and incredible beauty and power of the horse, and are looking for a partnership where we can join together and be with these amazing animals without creating marionettes that have had their incredible movement altered into something false and very wrong. 20


‌ It has always seemed quite contrary to me that you have to have one thing, in this case contact, to create the opposite thing, in this case the ability to work off the weight of the reins alone. And that there is simply no other way to achieve collection. As if you would need hot water to create cold water, or white paint to create black. I know it is a struggle getting the horse to understand that we want them to carry more weight on the hind end. The necessity to create a mental/ physical(?) wall that stops the horse from thinking forward in all of its connotations, in order to create upwards. Forwards being the most common natural response that these flight animals offer us. There are endless ways to try to create the concept of up versus forward. Side reins, flexions, wall work, bits, half halts – all of them different ways to try to create a wall to make the horse go up instead of forward. But can we challenge the concept that the only way to create collection, a horse on his hind end, is through constraint or a holding in of the front end? Collection is not something we make up as if it had never existed before. It exists already, always has, in the body of the horse. Excerpt from September 2007 Freedom of Movement Horses For LIFE


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Freedom of Expression Through Choices Lately, I have been ruminating on the word, ‘expression’. It started with an article in Dressage Today by Michael Klimke, son of the late Reiner Klimke, and a trainer and successful competitor in his own right. The article is titled ‘A Horse That Goes On His Own’, but on the cover it is represented as ‘Allow the Horse Freedom of Expression’. That got my attention. How often does one hear that? We hear a great deal about expressive movement and expressive gaits, but how often do we hear about allowing the horse the one thing all of us in the free world take for granted? Freedom of individual expression.

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Very early on in the article, Klimke reminds us that the horse needs to find the balance to be ‘on the seat’, and to ‘carry himself and go on his own’. As riders and trainers, we have to develop the horse to move freely ‘without too much pressure from our legs and rein aids’, and that this allows the horse to ‘work more freely in self-carriage’. But most interestingly to me, he states that ‘The most important benefit is the often overlooked development of the horse’s personality.” He goes on to say that ‘…it is easy for trainers to forget about this interior aspect of the horse’s growth, but it pays to concentrate on each horse’s individuality.’

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Somebody buy this guy a beer. Make it a case. In a dressage world increasingly in danger of churning out mechanical puppet, cookie cutter dressage horses, in a world still largely concerned with the deadly evils of the anthropomorphizing of animals, he speaks of the individuality of horses. Of learning to ride better from our seats to allow them to develop their own personal expression. And how this relates to their inner growth and development. At the very end of the article, Klimke suggests that “In your daily riding, don’t think the horse must learn your way. Concentrate on riding primarily with your seat, and you will succeed in learning your horse’s way…..” This reminds me of a tenet in movement therapy that I

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learned from Feldenkrais practitioner and SENSE Method creator, Mary Debono. When I asked her about the effects of Rollkur on the inner systems and biomechanics of the horse, she simply replied “Movement benefits from choice.” In other words, put a body in a straightjacket and you severely limit that body’s options in how to answer any question asked of it. More often than not, this means that while you may get an apparently acceptable answer, it is rarely, if ever, the correct or most desirable answer for that body, its individual biomechanics and conformational eccentricities. I think of this kind of training as drinking grape juice and calling it wine. When our aids become a closed prison cell for the horse, we deny him any number of choices that would lead to his optimum means of expression, physical and otherwise. We also deny ourselves the pleasure of surprises and outright miracles in our mounts’ responses. From the Article Freedom of Expression by Susannah Cord from the Torchlight Series Volume 35

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NEW!! horses For life blog!

Kurt Albrecht: Riding with the Double Bridle Kurt Albrecht: Riding with the Double Bridle Posted by Horses For LIFE Magazine on June 27th, 2011 | Edit “Very few modern riders are taught the old and perfectly correct cavalry way of holding the reins. That is both curb reins in one hand, but the bridoon reins separated.

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In itself, the present day customary 2:2 division of the reins is not wrong, but riders ought to understand that it imposes perfect stillness of the hands; the curb rein must never be used for giving direction and position. If in the course of training one may sometimes have to “bend the horse forcibly” it is abso-

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lutely essential to put the curb rein out of action for the moment and to use only the bridoon rein. It follows that if one rides with a curb rein in each hand, it is almost entirely with seat and legs that the horse has to be directed since the curb rein should not be used for this purpose except to give the barest indication of change of position.� Kurt Albrecht The key phrase here being that the curb rein must never be used for giving direction or position. Riding with the Curb in Two Hands Means our Hands MUST Be STILL. This imposes huge restrictions upon the rider when he chooses to ride in the customary 2:2 division of the reins. With the curb bit in each hand, the rider must have stillness and symmetry between both hands. The curb bit and rein infers a horse that is finished to a degree that we no longer need to use the rein for either direction or positioning. The curb bit being a solid bit cannot be used seperately from one side to the other, and thus the two hands of the rider cannot be doing seperate things. It is thus quite correct to request perfect quietness of the hand when one rides 2:2.

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From December 2005 Albrect: The Double Bridle

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The Great European Schools of CLASSICAL DRESSAGE by Alain Laurioux and Guillaume Henry Reprinted with kind permission from CADMOS http://www.cadmos.co.uk/ and Trafalgar Square http://www.horseandriderbooks.com/ 28

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