View Full Version : Balance, Self-carriage, 5th leg. Question on development.

Dec. 11, 2009, 02:45 PM
This is really a spin-off of Micklem's post on the importance of a 5th leg and that it comes from self-carriage and balance. He talks about it having it's roots in dressage. So actually I've suckered my fellow eventers into a dressage question thread...

I think classically the books tell us that with very young horses that are being started you don't "put them in a frame." Mussler in Riding Logic discusses this, but also tells you have to fix a "poor trained" horse by "showing him the way to the ground" meaning that the horse stretches down and forward on command. This is pretty much what I do with most young horses, since the average TB in first work off the track is pretty much "poorly trained." :)

So how many of you teach a horse to find a frame by doing nothing but riding forward with consistent contact all while trying to help the horse learn (and strengthen himself) to be straight and balanced? I think this is the basis of what Micklem's talking about when he says the balance doesn't come from pulling on the reins. Also, how long is it taking for your horses to find their own frame?

Dec. 11, 2009, 03:12 PM
This is what I am doing with Buddy. He is conformationally well balanced with a nice neck, so I try not to think about him being "on the bit" at all, just forward into a steady contact, straight with a nice rhythm.

Dec. 11, 2009, 04:36 PM
I don't just ride forward and straight. Mostly because most young horses can't even go straight. I work on suppleness and I help them find the way to the ground, as I have found that once they are soft and swinging through their backs, and stop being stiff (either through worry or lack of development), that they will start going on the bit.

For some horses, this can be learned on the ground by applying pressure to the bit and releasing it when he puts his head down. For some horses, it involves some longeing with loose side-reins. For some, it comes when they learn to do leg-yield and shoulder-in, and as they work on that and their canter, they start to get it in trot as they stretch out from the canter. Often going from canter to trot and then leg-yield on the circle will do the trick. For some, it involves some poll pressure (a deGogue worked wonders on my recent high-headed TB).

Once they are stretching to the ground, it's just incremental work from "a stride here and there" to "a couple strides" and more until they are on the bit, consistent, and able to be balanced and carry more weight for longer periods of time.

Dec. 11, 2009, 04:40 PM
Short answer to "how long does it take": minutes.

Had a lesson on the green horse the other day. Having trouble with the balance particularly at canter - he wants to do the racehorse lug thing, leaning on you for his balance rather than elevate his withers and carry himself on his own.

Long story short, instructor changes my position, suggests a few things to do to move him off the hand, including being vigilant about allowing too much stretch at first until he finds his balance on his own - flexing both ways, moving his haunches in and out on the circle -- and VOILA. He finds it. All of a sudden - he's light and carrying himself. Of course it's not for long but it's there.

On my own now, riding at home after the lesson -- self carriage coming like slicing hot butter. More and more. Just takes someone on the ground knowing something, and someone in the tack figuring it out. Every horse is different and sometimes they are different from lesson to lesson!

Until you've patiently schooled a green horse with the help of a classically trained instructor who has ALSO schooled green horses, this will remain mysterious, at least, it did for me. Each time I ride this horse I get better at helping him find that self carriage more quickly and to keep it for longer. I can't help but think this is what others are feeling, and thinking about, too. It just seems one day you get on and they've figured out what you want. Of course it doesn't happen overnight but feels that way.

Dec. 11, 2009, 05:00 PM
subk and Blugal -- I think you're talking about the same thing. I took subk's "all while trying to help the horse learn (and strengthen himself) to be straight and balanced" to be exactly what Blugal is talking about when she talks about helping the horse to get more supple.