Thursday, 6 December 2007

Working on losgelassenheit...

Lack of suppleness and looseness is what I am currently having problem with while riding Hamlet. Being my usual detective self I am now trying to learn as much as I can about achieving this elusive losgelassenheit with a horse that tenses up when I ride him.
Most of my half-halts stops somewhere at the base of his neck most of the time (although I had a few very nice moments today when he seemed more through and accepting). I don't feel him coming up with his back and loosening; when he does come round it feels more like neck only roundness rather than arching of the back underneath the saddle. Since I have experienced how it really feels to ride a horse that is 'through' I became dissatisfied with this whole 'arched neck only' situation.
What I do now is I am trying to achieve true long and low outline with Hamlet where he stretches down and towards the contact. We had about 5 minutes today when he actually chewed the rein out of my hand and it felt fantastic! If only I could ride like that for 30 minutes not just 5!
I am hoping Dressage Mum and Echo might be reading this and won't mind offering some exercises and advice? :)

Now, time to read this article: Functional Anatomy of the horse's back where a top German veterinarian discusses why the horse must be stretched forward and down to be able to raise his back. The piece seems pretty comprehensive yet concise and very interesting so I am going to spend a while on studying it tonight. There is something in the fact that some people, me included, learn better when they really understand why and what for something is done.


Suzie said...

Hmm... I'll have a proper think, but one exercise that I finds encourages the horse to loosen through its back and reach for the contact is leg-yielding on a circle. As you come round the open side of the circle, for example on the left rein, ask for the quarters to move out - a little at first, then you can ask for more of an angle. This really gets the inside hind working underneath the horse. As you come back to the wall straighten up and really open the trot out with your outside leg, allowing the contact to go forwards. When the inside leg is properly engaged, the horse will be reaching through and the back will naturally come up and swing more.

I'll think of some others, but you could perhaps try this. ;)

Suzie said...

I forgot to say (!) that article on losgelassenheit is interesting. I had always thought of it simply as 'throughness' but the article seemed to see it as much as a state of mind as a physical state. I suppose for a horse to be 'through' it does require that calm and wiling mind-set, but I had never thought of it like that.

Unknown said...

Thanks for that! Will definitely be trying to do this next time:)
As to the article, I usually think of this second element of the scale as elasticity and fluidity in movements and ideally would like the horse's ears sideways and their whole concentration on me (but only rode a couple of horses like this!).

Dressage Mom said...

Ah, "going to the bit". This was such a difficult concept for me to get when I first started with dressage, and also for Kaswyn to get because he'd been trained to back off of the bit.

I agree with Echo that lateral work can help a great deal to encourage going to the bit and getting the back up. However, if the lateral work itself causes tension then you'll be doing more harm than good. Be wary of the shoulder-in, as it's main goal is to raise the forehand (and also to work the inside hind more under the body), and if done with a dropped back will result in the neck becoming stiff and the horse blocking from the poll to withers. Shoulder-in should only be done when the horse is warmed up well and back is up, otherwise you're defeating the purpose.

Having just skimmed your Hamlet blog, it appears that Hamlet has some dressage experience but also has other training. He might not have been started in dressage, like Echo, but was started a different way, like Kaswyn. I found that the best way to encourage going to the bit is lots of taking and releasing. Timing is everything here, since you don't want to take when your horse is ready to relax and follow the bit. If you take and get no indication that he is willing to reach down, then try bending the neck from side to side to loosen it. Start small, and give the benefit of the doubt, always returning straight to give to opportunity for him to go to the bit. If he does not, then loosen a bit larger. Be ready to give the second he puts his neck down, and also be ready to take again if he doesn't keep it there.

Sometimes if the horse won't work over the back the problem lies in the neck and shoulders. Lots of serpentines at the trot where you insist that he truly bend through the body, not just the neck, can help loosen the neck and free up the shoulders. I think you really can't get any other work done until you get the neck loose and the horse going to the bit all the time, consistantly.

Tension is your enemy. Work towards elminating the tension and you'll make progress in leaps and bounds!

Sorry, that was long. Hope it helps.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this! It really makes sense and yes, lateral work does seem to make him tense but I think it is partly because I am not doing it ever so correctly.
Hamlet is an eventer (dressage, cross country and show jumping in one) and have been trained rather incorrectly (as a show horse and a little similar to Kaswyn from what I gathered from your recent post! i.e. head down and round but no proper connection).
Will try the bending. Today, he was reaching down and stayed forward, low and down for a whole round around the arena which is a massive progress from a few steps a few weeks ago.
But he still tenses up in transitions.

© Riding Instructor's Diary | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template by pipdig