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View Full Version : The magic of the stretchies, why??



Chaila
Apr. 3, 2012, 07:04 AM
I know neck stretchers are a bit controversial. I have no illusions that it's helping me frame my horse, but it just gives me such a calm ride and I can't figure out why.

In the stretchies, I go out they're in a loop, pretty much the whole ride and my horse is relaxed straight and adjustable. If he throws his head up, he says oh yeah! and relaxes and goes right back to work.

Without them he's like a giraffe. He's not naughty, just really distractable and quick and I have to work REALLY hard on the outside to keep him together. With them everything is soft.

I like to use them when I'm riding alone on the property because they pretty much guarantee me a calm ride. But I can't for the life of me figure out why that would be.

No flames please. I'm just wondering why the stretchies would cause a personality transformation like that?

kashmere
Apr. 3, 2012, 07:16 AM
If they're actually loose for most of the ride, I wonder if it's at least partly a psychological thing for you. If, when he's wearing it (them? I don't really know what these things are!), you go out expecting a calm ride, I bet you ride differently than if you go out expecting him to be a giraffe.

I can be my own worst enemy (and my horses') when it comes to solving problems like this. I get SO convinced they are going to act a certain way, and I ride "defensively." I never give the horse the benefit of the doubt and just ride "normally" (well, not never, that's what I have a coach to yell at me for :lol:).

Also, if the stretcher actually does come into action when he throws his head up, I'm sure he's smart enough to know when he does and doesn't have it on. Combine that with your (probably very subtle) signals that you're expecting a difficult ride, and voila -- horse magically transforms into a giraffe!

I hope that doesn't sound to hokey and psycho-analytic-y :lol: I just don't think we should ever underestimate how well our horses can read even the subtlest change in our demeanor or the situations we put them in. They spent a long time evolving that ability!

GoGrnRideIrish
Apr. 3, 2012, 08:21 AM
I, too, have a neck stretcher for my young horse. I have not ridden with it- I have only lunged with it. My horse is fairly reluctant to move forward (he is very green and still trying to figure out what "go" means) so I chose something that would not put direct pressure on his mouth to cause him to want to slow down or stop (ie side reins). Again, I have only used it during lunging (maybe 5 times total). I have noticed that he rides better after I have used it and he will also lunge in a lower frame too (even when he's not wearing it). My horse is certainly not a giraffe but I wanted him to learn to travel in a long/low position from the beginning. I have had good success with it but don't think I will continue to use it except, on the rare occasion, when my horse might require a reminder.

The neck stretcher puts pressure on the poll. I believe that the pressure on the poll releases endorphins into the horse's system, which will have a calming, pain controlling effect. Which may explain why you have a more agreeable and focused ride. Just a thought.

Chaila
Apr. 3, 2012, 08:35 AM
I'm with you on the psychological thing. I took him on the first hack of the spring on Sunday TOTALLY expecting last fall's horse. A bit gifaffe-y to start and then after 10 minutes bum-ba-dee-dah cow-pony.

I was really relaxed and excited and he never settled. The giraffe never went away. And believe me I never expected him to be angst-y on the trail.

I take out the stretchies and we have a cow pony after two minutes. I'm not convinced I'm not the problem. :D It's just weird. I wonder if I could achieve the same affect with a less controversial piece of tack like a martingale.

I also think there's something to the endorphin theory.

ideayoda
Apr. 3, 2012, 09:24 AM
If a horse is high headed/distracted it is the job of the rider to learn how to put the horse to the aids and get it to go into the outside rein, to chew and seek the hand. If the horse is not going forward often just lifting the rein will cause it to seek forward for which it can be rewarded. A connection is made from the seat/leg to the hand, not by putting a rubber tubing connection to the mouth, in short get assistance from a proffi who knows how to train people to school their horses...mho.

Sport
Apr. 3, 2012, 09:37 AM
I have had similar situation with draw reins.
He can go around with them loose and he is working nicely into contact with no assistance from the draw reins. He is calm, not at all spooky.
Take the draw reins off and he becomes mr looky loo.
Discussed this with my trainer and she felt that I rode him more forward and straighter when the draw reins were there, even though they weren't truly being used. This made a bit of sense as I expected him to behave with them on, so I focused more on other areas. With them off I was more timid as I was expecting the spook or whatever.

DarkStarrx
Apr. 3, 2012, 10:24 AM
I really like the neck stretcher for ottbs and greenies. I put the ends through the noseband, rather than the bit. I also only leave it on for no more than a half hour and loose, I use it just as a guidance for them. I find most horses go better and happier when they are going straight, coming from behind using themselves properly so if the neck stretcher is helping him do that/making it clearer that is what you're already telling him, than I can see why he would seem happier.

SkipChange
Apr. 3, 2012, 11:06 AM
I would think the consistent contact is what's giving you that great relaxed feeling from the horse. You say you're riding on a loop, but the stretcher stays the same the whole ride. It's difficult to keep good, consistent contact yourself but the stretcher does it exactly.

magnolia73
Apr. 3, 2012, 11:57 AM
I would think the consistent contact is what's giving you that great relaxed feeling from the horse. You say you're riding on a loop, but the stretcher stays the same the whole ride. It's difficult to keep good, consistent contact yourself but the stretcher does it exactly.


I think this is a big piece of it.

My horse did a few months at cowboy camp and he challenged me to ride without reins. My horse was fine, but generally not focused. Now when I pick up my reins and constantly fiddle, horse gets tense and angry. If I take a light contact, consistent and ride off my leg, she is the best. So what works bst in terms of head down, calm is light contact, but not active- like the neck stretcher.

Roisin
Apr. 3, 2012, 12:27 PM
I would think the consistent contact is what's giving you that great relaxed feeling from the horse. You say you're riding on a loop, but the stretcher stays the same the whole ride. It's difficult to keep good, consistent contact yourself but the stretcher does it exactly.

I have same exact situation as the OP!! I wonder if you are on to something here.

Chaila
Apr. 3, 2012, 08:09 PM
No, I meant the stretchies are looped and *I* have nice soft contact with half halts in all the right places. He's not fighting with them at all. They are slack. Maybe a quick head up "What's that?" spook moment then he's down and soft.

My horse has a really soft mouth so I'm very conscious of being very steady and soft with my contact whether or not stretchies are involved. I'm competent up there either way :D. Just wondering why he's so different...

Is there a less controversial piece of tack that does something similar? I know elevator bits and the like apply poll pressure, but they seem harsher than I'd like to use on a soft mouth horse.

I have a standing martingale that I'll likely start using as we're in H/J world. But they seem more for looks than anything else.

Electrikk
Apr. 4, 2012, 10:08 PM
I've been using a neck stretcher for ages on my horse who likes to pretend that she's a jumper stuck in hunterland :) I love it because it doesn't fight with her, it just suggests what she should be doing... she's a mare, so she has opinions on things like where to carry her head. If I tried to use my hands and legs to get her to carry her head better, she just tried to get me into a pulling match and canter like a crazy pony around the ring. Neck stretcher got her to relax, and I think it helped her figure out that I wasn't trying to fight with her, I just wanted her to do something different than what she wanted.

I know with me, I did anticipate that she would be more tense without the neck stretcher, so my trainer started to take it off partway through my lesson. This helped me realize that it was the same day and same horse, instead starting a ride with anticipation about nervousness.

I never really thought of neck stretchers as controversial, I've seen them used quite often. They're more gentle than aids such as draw reins and side reins because of how they're positioned and the elasticity.

Since you say you have a horse with a soft/sensitive mouth, I really discourage something like an elevator bit. It's better to use an aid that does not simply rely on using the mouth/bit to transfer leverage.

We've now reached a point where I don't need the neck stretcher, we just use a martingale at home for flat and jumping, with the occasional no martingale ride just to help her remember that she's still supposed to carry herself nicely at shows :) A regular old standing martingale has worked well for me, and my horse/giraffe doesn't seem to mind it.

equidae
Apr. 5, 2012, 01:17 PM
I use them to hack out in the fields every now and then.

I think they're helpful in the sense that they keep the horse focused inward on himself, rather than what's going on everywhere else. It can put them in a spot where they're more easily collected and listening.

meupatdoes
Apr. 5, 2012, 01:36 PM
In the stretchies, I go out they're in a loop, pretty much the whole ride and my horse is relaxed straight and adjustable. If he throws his head up, he says oh yeah! and relaxes and goes right back to work.

It is "magic" because, when your horse does throw his head up, the stretchies are consistent 100% of the time. They come into play instantly and they release instantly, in direct proportion to what your horse does, every time.

If you can be that consistent without them, you will get the same results without them.

Chaila
Apr. 5, 2012, 03:14 PM
I had such a nice relaxed ride last night I think we're going to start transitioning to a standing martingale tomorrow. He's back in 24x7 turnout and I can literally watch his brain dialing down to normal. Some horses just shouldn't be stalled with part time turnout and he's one of them.

Wish me luck!

tua37516
Apr. 5, 2012, 03:30 PM
It is "magic" because, when your horse does throw his head up, the stretchies are consistent 100% of the time. They come into play instantly and they release instantly, in direct proportion to what your horse does, every time.

Speaking of neck stretchers, this question has been on my mind for a few weeks. I started working with a 9 yo TB who is still on the green side (for a friend). In a lesson, my trainer rigged it up differently-fastening it to the noseband, down through the bit, and to the girth. Experience proves this is helping him to learn to engage his hind end... any reason this would be preferable over the traditional over-the-poll rigging? Prior to this, he was unfocused, irritable, and tended to over flex in the head and shoulder without engaging behind (OTTB that he is). Also, about what length of time (or what would be the appropriate benchmark for progress) would it be appropriate to use this as a training tool?

Piatt Farms
Apr. 5, 2012, 03:33 PM
I started to read this, thinking you were referring to something else, but now I'm terribly curious...what is a neck stretchie??

tua37516
Apr. 5, 2012, 03:40 PM
I started to read this, thinking you were referring to something else, but now I'm terribly curious...what is a neck stretchie??

it's simply an elastic band that threads from the poll, through the bit, and attaches to the girth.

http://www.compassionatehorsetraining.com/images/NeckStretcher.jpg

Chaila
Apr. 5, 2012, 03:41 PM
It's a long piece of elastic that feels like a bungie cord. It has clips at either end. The top goes over the horse's poll and the ends go down through the bit and you clip it between their front legs to the girth.

Here's a picture of one.

http://www.greystokefarm.com/store/files/images/2244.jpg

You generally use them very loosely so their heads aren't tied down. Some people just put them through the noseband and not the bit.

But they really seem to relax most horses and provide a very nice ride and I'm out to find out why.

DarkStarrx
Apr. 5, 2012, 03:41 PM
http://img.smartpak.com/product/14980_InUse.jpg

It is a bunge cord. Has a little plastic piece you can slide down or up for tightness. I prefer to put it through the noseband then attach between the legs to the girth, than through the bit like the picture.

Piatt Farms
Apr. 5, 2012, 04:16 PM
thank you! Fascinating....there are all sorts of gizmo's out there I'm not aware of. I love it....

If my baby dragon doesn't grow out of her attitude by the time she's 4, this could prove very useful. :-)

meupatdoes
Apr. 5, 2012, 04:47 PM
Speaking of neck stretchers, this question has been on my mind for a few weeks. I started working with a 9 yo TB who is still on the green side (for a friend). In a lesson, my trainer rigged it up differently-fastening it to the noseband, down through the bit, and to the girth. Experience proves this is helping him to learn to engage his hind end... any reason this would be preferable over the traditional over-the-poll rigging? Prior to this, he was unfocused, irritable, and tended to over flex in the head and shoulder without engaging behind (OTTB that he is). Also, about what length of time (or what would be the appropriate benchmark for progress) would it be appropriate to use this as a training tool?

I have no idea regarding your initial questions as my answer to your last question is 0 minutes.

tua37516
Apr. 5, 2012, 04:56 PM
I have no idea regarding your initial questions as my answer to your last question is 0 minutes.

I was hoping for slightly more constructive criticism.

LoveJubal
Apr. 5, 2012, 05:52 PM
I have seen the neck stretchers and chambons and the like used when lunging under tack for a horse that needs to build more of a topline and work from behind more.

Personally, I have only ridden in a chambon and I have used that very infrequently. My horse got too low (even though it was very loose) and it kind of defeated the point.

I do think it could help a horse build up a topline if it used when the horse is lunged under tack. I liken it to the Pessoa training system and other things that will encourage the horse to go correctly.

Once the horse builds up the muscles and learns how to use it's hind end more, it will go more correctly. With that said, I wouldn't want myself or my horse to become dependent upon it when I'm riding.

That's just my two cents though. I may get flamed, but that is just what I have seen/observed in the past.

Crown Royal
Apr. 5, 2012, 06:02 PM
I was hoping for slightly more constructive criticism.

I *think* she means that she would NOT be putting that set-up on a horse for any amount of time. 0 minutes. Zip. Not at all.

From what I understand, it's putting pressure on the bit from underneath? So basically a tie from the horse's mouth to the girth? That is constant pressure on their mouth, especially if they don't "get it" and just go along with it. That's a good way to get your horse hard in the mouth (as in, not respond to any pressure on its mouth) or get your horse to constantly curl up behind the bit. Not a good idea.

ETA: On the other hand, I used a polo wrap twice this week on my OTTB to function as sort of a stretchy standing martingale. Looped it around the girth to go in between the front legs and loop around the buckle part of the caveson. No pressure if he's relaxed and stretched, just a bit of that pressure on the caveson if he pulls his head way up. A little more forgiving than a standing martingale. That allows him to understand he can stretch down, but I wouldn't ever depend on that to make him activate his hind end. That's what my leg and "forward" are for...not a set-up on his head.

meupatdoes
Apr. 5, 2012, 07:05 PM
I was hoping for slightly more constructive criticism.

My constructive criticism is take dressage lessons and learn more effective ways to school your horse without gadgets.

Satin Filly
Apr. 5, 2012, 07:06 PM
Applying pressure on the poll releases endorphines. Endorphins are the body's natural production of endogenous morphine....which likely explains why your horse acts so relaxed while using this training aid, and is a totally different horse without it. :)

The use of a chambon will produce the same effects, but has no "give" because its not elastic. The issue with these devices is that don't teach, they force. Though, they are good for helping to develop the muscles used to carry the head in this desired position. Ultimately, if you desire this head set without a training accessory, you will need to teach your horse to do it by listening to your aids.

If you want to help your horse carry his head lower with your hands, you could try draw reins. The use of the neck stretcher and chambon is self reinforcing for the horse when he "gives". Draw reins will rely on the rider to positively reinforce the wanted behavior. So, be sure to "give" with your hands when he "gives" with his head and neck, and don't forget your legs aids. :)

buschkn
Apr. 6, 2012, 12:11 AM
I had this occur with an OTTB I had once. Even if I lunged him in it first for a couple minutes before riding him he was always more relaxed. He was probably the hottest most reactive horse I've ever ridden and it made a world of difference for him. The endorphin theory makes sense.

I disagree that it is strictly placebo and we ride differently with versus without. If one rides a horse every day and sometimes lunges w or wo a neck stretcher or rides with or without one, and starts to notice a pattern of behavior, there is often something to it. Certainly our own psychology contributes mightily to our horses, but at the time at least in my case I truly don't feel that it did. I rarely used it but it definitely helped that horse.

Also, anyone who gets all high-horsey and preachy about "gadgets" and "learning to ride" really ought to be only riding their horses bareback and bridle less because as far as I can tell, a bit and reins and martigales etc are all different forms of gadgets used to control a horse. EVERYTHING we do and use on or with a horse has potential to cause harm in the wrong hands.

And if anyone is using a neck stretcher that is "forcing" a horse to do something, or is applying constant pressure on the poll, you've got it waaaay too tight.

SendenHorse
Apr. 6, 2012, 08:39 AM
because as far as I can tell, a bit and reins and martigales etc are all different forms of gadgets used to control a horse.

And therein lies the problem.

meupatdoes
Apr. 6, 2012, 09:35 AM
Also, anyone who gets all high-horsey and preachy about "gadgets" and "learning to ride" really ought to be only riding their horses bareback and bridle less because as far as I can tell, a bit and reins and martigales etc are all different forms of gadgets used to control a horse. EVERYTHING we do and use on or with a horse has potential to cause harm in the wrong hands.

Yes, but being able to ride any horse you meet in the bare minimum is very empowering. The possibility is out there, you just have to be determined to go get it.

Increased knowledge is the number one thing that reduces the chances that a rider will cause harm.

tua37516
Apr. 6, 2012, 09:50 AM
Once the horse builds up the muscles and learns how to use it's hind end more, it will go more correctly. With that said, I wouldn't want myself or my horse to become dependent upon it when I'm riding

This is the precise reason I reached out to the COTH community for advice. Since I am riding a 9yo TB who I did not break myself, I am using this tactic to build up muscle while he starts learning to engage the hind end. This is my first time posting a question to the board, and quite frankly I am disappointed with some of the negative assumptions regarding my riding skill level and practices. I agree the goal is to move away from this "gadget" as soon as possible... which is why I reached out to the forum with my question in the first place. However, as the horse is older and can sometimes be on the engergetic or tempermental side, we have found this to be a method to easily "explain" what we would like from him that seems to be stressing him out the least.

tua37516
Apr. 6, 2012, 09:52 AM
Yes, but being able to ride any horse you meet in the bare minimum is very empowering. The possibility is out there, you just have to be determined to go get it.

Increased knowledge is the number one thing that reduces the chances that a rider will cause harm.

And yes to this, too! Definitely the goal every time ;)

meupatdoes
Apr. 6, 2012, 10:00 AM
This is the precise reason I reached out to the COTH community for advice. Since I am riding a 9yo TB who I did not break myself, I am using this tactic to build up muscle while he starts learning to engage the hind end. This is my first time posting a question to the board, and quite frankly I am disappointed with some of the negative assumptions regarding my riding skill level and practices. I agree the goal is to move away from this "gadget" as soon as possible... which is why I reached out to the forum with my question in the first place. However, as the horse is older and can sometimes be on the engergetic or tempermental side, we have found this to be a method to easily "explain" what we would like from him that seems to be stressing him out the least.

As the re-trainer of a gazillion ottbs over the years who have ranged in temperament from super dull to WOWZAREACTIVE!, I can tell you straight out that your development of this concept for him will come first and foremost from developing a lateral response to the leg, establishing an outside rein connection, and building progressively and systematically from there. It can happen 1,2,3 if you know how (or someone helps you) to set up the dominos.

The bungee will only distract both you and him from what is really at the heart of it. It will take your horse 6 months to half-learn what he could get in 3 rides focusing on the heart of the matter with no equipment extras. As I mentioned, being able to do it without any artificial help is tremendously empowering.

If you are anywhere near me I would be happy to help in person.

JustMyStyle
Apr. 6, 2012, 10:20 AM
I am anti-gadet. Having said that, I will explain why.

When I was 12 my parents bought me a 4yr Morgan gelding with 8 months of professional saddleseat training from a Saddlebred barn. I rode Morgans, but rode huntseat, so although I was not going to ride him saddleseat it isn't a big deal to go to huntseat in the Morgan world.

Fast forward 1.5yrs later. I had my little Morgan at a decent h/j barn with a trainer that had no idea what saddleseat was. At one point she asked me if I intended to ride him saddleseat because I taught him to park out in hand for a treat.

Needless to say I had no concept of engaging a horses hind end and asking for them to give at the poll and move TO the bit. The trainer put a chambon on him after a few months of watching us go around with his head straight in the air. I wasn't skilled enough to use draw reins and she felt the chambon was the easiest and safest way for a kid to help teach her horse to put his head down (when the kid had zero skills). She also had me take a lesson once a week on a school horse so she could better teach me feel on a horse that responded correctly to being asked to go to the bit.

I sold that horse a year later as a dressage horse to another 12 year old girl.

Now, after several years of training with an FEI dressage trainer I can ask just about any horse to give to the bit, lower their head and move forward to the bit. No gadgets required.

So the reason I am anti gadget is because I came from having zero feel to being able to ride and change what was going on under me with out external help.

However, I will say I think it is better to properly use a chambon, draw reins, stretchie or "gadget" then to fight with your horse. I would hope that you use this in hopes of becoming a better rider that could ride without a stretchie and achieve the same results if you chose too.


And to better answer your question, I would second a couple things said:
1) you feel more comfortable with it on your horse and your horse picks up on you being more relaxed.
2) poll pressure does not release endorphins, but the position of the poll does. When the poll of a horse is lower than their natural eye level endorphins are released. Thus if your horse goes around with a lower headset they will be calmer

SendenHorse
Apr. 6, 2012, 10:45 AM
Hey, its not like I am trying to judge and get all high and mighty. I have used a martingale and it was the biggest mistake I have made in all my years riding (trusted a trainer I shouldn't have)--set me back a month once i took it off regarding training connection.

Release of tension through figures and suppling work can produce this same effect.

Xctrygirl
Apr. 6, 2012, 11:09 AM
I put the stretchie on my 4 yr OTTB yesterday for the first time, to lunge only. And I know the goals I have for it, him, myself.

It is:

To help encourage him to re-form his upside down neck and non existent topline and allow his front end to lower as his hind end pushes.

Only going to be used roughly 2x a week. (Those muscle groups are non existent and should be introduced slowly. I wouldn't want a gym nazi standing over me and making me do 30 mins of sit ups a day when I have done none previous)

It is not:

For when I ride him. He knows about outside rein, lateral work (beginnings anyway) and does yield to the bit. But some muscle development is best done (imho) without the riders weight and with a "guide" to help the correct muscles come in to place.

A replacement for correct forward through the back contact to his mouth.



As an aside... I found this site interesting....

http://www.compassionatehorsetraining.com/Neck_Stretcher.html


~Emily