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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan. 1, 2005
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    Ohio
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    Default dressage newbie ? about stretching

    Hi - dressage newbie here ... I've been riding H/J for almost 30 years but have been taking dressage lessons for the past 2 years with my greenie project. He has come a long way - really moves beautifully up into the bridle at the trot and is now starting round up at the canter as well. One consistent problem that we've had from the beginning is that he hates bending right. He is almost a completely different horse going from left to right. He's gotten better but still pops his right shoulder in from time to time.

    My question to you all is this: we have been working on Training 3 and 4 and he just WILL NOT stretch at all. My instructor laughs each time - saying he should WANT to stretch because he's working into the bridle but he just won't. When given his head he either leaves it hanging at a normal place or pops it up and tightens his back a bit. The thought of stretching just doesn't occur to him. If we're going to the right then he also often ends up counter bent.

    I'm also not sure if I'm asking for this the right way. I've tried different things - using a lot of inside rein and leg, letting his head go, lots of leg, more rein, etc etc.

    Does anyone have any ideas?
    Thanks!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb. 7, 2007
    Posts
    1,381

    Default

    Not sure if this will help but here's my 2 (uneducated) cents.

    My horse also had some trouble stretching and I found that if he used his neck correctly then he wanted to stretch because his neck got tired. Maybe work your horse (correctly) for longer than you would normally so that he gets tired and then he should stretch when you let out your reins because it feels better. It becomes something natural for him to do because his neck is soooooo tired from working correctly. Once he's learned to do it for himself, then you can start teaching him to do it when you let out the reins.

    Good luck.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    May. 15, 2003
    Location
    northern California
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    1,445

    Default

    The stretchy circle is really a confirmation that your horse is being ridden CORRECTLY into the bridle. If you give the reins the horse should follow, seeking out the bit. A horse can look round with the neck tucked, giving you the (false) sense of security that he is on the bit, but if he doesn't stretch/follow the bit, he is not!
    A good dressage instructor should be able to tell you how to do this and also notice when it is not the case and correct it.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2000
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    Not really.

    The horse doesn't 'stretch because you give the reins' - you give the reins because he is stretching his neck.

    You follow the horse as his neck stretches out, you follow the horse's neck - he puts his neck out because of the urging of your legs and the lack of actual resistance from your hands, not because you 'let loose the reins' and he's taught to chuck his head down when you do that.

    You very rarely do see that done right - usually the rider drops the contact with the reins, and the horse trots around kind of hesitantly as if he's wondering if he's supposed to put his head down now, LOL, and finally he does.

    In other words, is trained to drop his head when the rider drops the reins. It doesn't really give that good of a stretch over the back, and it's usually pretty obvious to the judge what's going on.

    When the rider really has the horse connected to the bridle, the horse's neck is like an accordian, and the rider can push the neck out to a stretch or ask the horse to go with his head up in the normal position, without any change in the contact with the reins, and without the reins being loose at any point. It's because he stretches the horse with his legs.
    -------------------------------
    Hi - dressage newbie here ... I've been riding H/J for almost 30 years but have been taking dressage lessons for the past 2 years with my greenie project. He has come a long way - really moves beautifully up into the bridle at the trot and is now starting round up at the canter as well.

    --

    One consistent problem that we've had from the beginning is that he hates bending right. He is almost a completely different horse going from left to right. He's gotten better but still pops his right shoulder in from time to time.

    --He hates bending right is not really what is happening. It's not that he 'hates' it, it's that it's impossible to bend when there's too much weight on that side. Why doesn't he bend right? He can't. he can't actually bend when he's leaning too much weight on his right shoulder.

    --It really sounds like he's putting more weight on his right shoulder. That makes it harder for the horse to bend in that direction. Move him off your right leg (back it up with yiour whip if it;'s not working), and get him to yield away from your right leg, almost like a leg yield - at first do a real leg yield, not just going sideways in a test, but actually really getting a bend in his body at the girth (the bend in the neck shouldn't be a great deal, it's more important to get a bend in the body, but the bend in the neck helps that).

    The inside leg at the girth and the inside rein help you bend him at first, though after a time, that inside leg and outside rein will not really be for the purpose of making an actual leg yield at all, but more like a shift of weight so he is 'standing up', instead of leaning too much weight on the right shoulder. be sure that your outside rein actually is sufficient, often that's much of the problem.

    My question to you all is this: we have been working on Training 3 and 4 and he just WILL NOT stretch at all. My instructor laughs each time - saying he should WANT to stretch because he's working into the bridle but he just won't. When given his head he either leaves it hanging at a normal place or pops it up and tightens his back a bit. The thought of stretching just doesn't occur to him. If we're going to the right then he also often ends up counter bent.

    --Because he is not connected to the bit and being 'sent' down by your legs. if you are really trying to send him down him with your legs, some bending can help to loosen up his neck and help him stretch it down.

    I'm also not sure if I'm asking for this the right way. I've tried different things - using a lot of inside rein and leg, letting his head go, lots of leg, more rein, etc etc.

    Does anyone have any ideas?

    --Think of it this way. You're ALWAYS pushing your horse's neck out to the bit, EVEN when your reins are quite short; it doesn't matter what rein length you have, you're always pushing him to the bridle. In that sense, 'stretching' is nothing at all new, because you're always 'stretching' the horse in the sense that you are pushing him out to meet the bridle.

    --When yiou said 'he's rounding up' I thought, 'well there is the problem'. Don't ever try to 'round up' your horse - it's the new way of saying 'getting a headset', and it doesn't work. Think about pushing your horses neck to the bit and the horse will wind up eventually in a very nice looking position, just because when they're supple and loose they adopt a nice posture all by themselves. if you try to 'round them up' they aren't connected to the bit.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep. 12, 2005
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
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    3,760

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    Stretching happens automatically when the rider offers the horse to, IF the horse is truely 100% correctly on the aids.

    So if your horse "pops his head up and tightens his back" when you offer him to stretch, it unfortunately means he is not really on the aids when you think he is.

    Sorry, but it sounds like you may need to look for a better dressage instructor. Dressage instructors who teach or allow the "false headset" are way too prevelant. That is one reason I am so happy that the stretching circle is now in some the tests. It catches out those who are incorrect in their training. I wish it were in every test, all the way up to GP.



  6. #6
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    Dec. 13, 1999
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    Greensboro, NC
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    Have you done any groundwork with him, and hands-on work to show him the way? He may simply be "stuck" and either can't stretch like that, or doesn't know how.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 1, 2005
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    Ohio
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    Thanks to everyone with their thoughts and feedback. Much appreciated!

    I was a little hesitant on what wording to use to describe his body being "round" - I didn't mean that his neck is round and head tucked but that his body was moving forward from the haunches into the bit, he was supple, soft, flexible back, etc. His canter had been very flat up until now and lately he seems to be moving off his haunches better, relaxing his back, etc. I do agree that his body still might not be working exactly as it should - but it is a huge improvement and the stretching feels like it would be a natural thing for him to do. And I also noticed this improved when I stopped worrying too much about what his head was doing and focused more on riding him forward from my leg.

    The explanation that he should want to stretch after being in the correct position, and might actually do so after longer periods of work ,seems to be the thought process of my instructor. I won't be changing instructors because we are still with my H/J trainer and they are at the same barn. But I really appreciate the feedback you all are giving me - I will certainly put it to use.

    SLC2 - your description is exactly what another rider at my barn says happened with her horse. He eventually threw his head down on accident, was rewarded for it, and now does it (most of the time) when he's supposed to. It does look like a stretch but is probably not quite accurately executed. I also agree with what you're saying about his right shoulder. It seems to be some sort of habit of his. I have found that when I ask him to move off my right leg he tends to bend his neck too much and it takes a while for him to move off my leg. I've been using more outside rein and that seems to help. I'm just not sure I'm getting as much bend in his body as I should be. Can you explain more about what you mean when you say "send him down with your legs"?

    JB - I have not done any groundwork with him but am totally open to suggestions.

    thanks again!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2000
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    If your outside rein is there, and you're bending himm in the ribs and trying to push him over to the outside rein, you are doing the right thing. The question is, should you be doing it even more obviously, so that it actually over a period of months gets to be less and less of a problem.

    As far as 'sending him to the bit', it's a matter of teaching him that when you push with your legs, if yiou maintain a contact with a passive hand, he stretches his neck out.

    I am working with a horse that was very very what they call 'stuck' where he would get his neck shortened so the reins are hanging down loose, instead of him taking a contact and having a connection. There was a period of time with that horse where I just drop my reins to the buckle and start pushing, and he just isn't folloowing the bridle down (to a more stretched forward, lower neck). Now, the more I get him forward the quicker it happens, til at the end of the ride, I can 'accordian' him, pushing with my leg and his neck just lengthens and the reins never lose their tension.

    If you CAN'T push the neck out, you need to go to some suppling exercises like leg yield and circles before you try to stretch. DO exercises that loosen him up and get him forward, just keep going back and forth from one to the other.

    The toughest thing with that connection is you keep pushing your horse out to the bit, but at the same time, making that connection springy,, loose and supple, so it's like a bungie cord. The 'phone never actually gets hung up' - you always have that connection, feel of the mouth, it is the quality of the connection that training is all about.

    Bending a little to the left and then the right can help to loosen up your horse's neck if he's not currently loose enough or supple enough to stretch to the bit.



  9. #9
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    Jan. 1, 2005
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    Ohio
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    Thanks so much! I will put this advice to use.



  10. #10
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    Sep. 13, 2002
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    Azle, Teh-has
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    Quote Originally Posted by slc2 View Post
    You very rarely do see that done right - usually the rider drops the contact with the reins, and the horse trots around kind of hesitantly as if he's wondering if he's supposed to put his head down now, LOL, and finally he does.
    That's because 90% of American judges don't reward a good stretch. They would rather see loss of connection and a daisy pusher.

    and say American cause I don't know what the heck goes on over seas. : )

    Mai Tai - sounds like you may have a case of perma frame. The horse goes through the motions but is really not connected correctly. I have a horse that is like this and it takes 30 minutes of impulsion an shitty lateral work to finally get what I really want. When I ask for a little whoa on the outside rein she liftes her head and often will stiffen her back...but when she finally stretches in to the bridle and accepts my leg and butt she softens or drops a little lower when I give that little whoa. And in her first way of going she carries her head high and looks really pretty. But when she goes correctly her gaits/back/topline are soft and she is a little flatter in her frame.
    That is a connection you can build from.
    Technically speaking I've only one horse that accepts a true half halt. And I can put that son of a gun where ever I want at any time. It's blistful.
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  11. #11
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    Jan. 4, 2000
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    I don't think judges 'reward' that kind of stretch. I think that's all they get in most classes they judge, but I think they know the difference.

    My friend was judging a class at a little schooling show and she kinda groaned when I brought this up, and said in more words, but basically, sometimes the one that wins is the one that stays in the ring.

    When you see a really good stretch and how it affects the horse's gaits, you won't be happy til you really get it done the right way. In schooling, horses often can't stretch much at first, they can't keep the throttle on and stretch. The key is that over time they can.

    -- "I'm not sure that's Pete" (George Clooney, 'O Brother Where Art Thou')



  12. #12
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    Oct. 10, 2007
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    My guy thinks that the free walk is a time to take a break and be lazy in a test I have to really push with my seat and leg and not throw the reins away like I did. Let the reins out gradually and push more. At the beg. of our shows we would get comments like needs more stretch, needs more overstep, and when his head was actually down I'd get needs to stretch over the back. It felt like I couldn't win. Now the last two shows we haven't gotten nice stretch and through the back and ok over step so it will come the more you get him working from that back end and pushing into the bit. good luck.
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