The flexion of the jaw is as it happens a flexion of the TMJ (the temporo-mandibular joint), meant to annul temporarily the contractions that may happen in this area. This joint is located circa two inches behind the eye, under the base of the ear, and whilst we are focusing strongly on the bit, and the lower part of the mouth, the real thing happens high in the head, a good twelve inches away from the bit.
The term "flexion" is a little misleading, since the opening of the jaw in itself is not what is looked for (although it is part of the process). Our purpose is to relax that joint, to prevent it from being contracted, to discontract it (the word does not exist in English, but it would be the exact translation of the French "decontracter").
In the flexion of the jaw, the horse "lets go" of the bit. This should not frighten you. It is about a momentary loss of contact whereby the horse "savors" the bits, making them "jingle." The tongue goes up and down, several times; which shows, incidentally, that the flexion of the jaw is the sure fire remedy for "curled tongues."
Many words have been used to describe the flexion of the jaw: mobility of the jaw, yielding of the jaw, mobility of the tongue.... Let me quote the two most famous: General L'Hotte speaks of a "light murmur." And Captain Etienne Beudant has this admirable expression: the horse "smiles." Indeed it is absolutely impossible to smile and contract the jaws in the meantime. As we clench our teeth, we can grin, but we cannot smile."
Would you consider standing in front of the horse and lifting the bit to the corners of the lips to be a flexion?
I personally got tripped up because i said I never did flexions, then realized i had said on another thread that i had done a standing flexion (aka lifting the bit)
it is a interesting topic.
would love some discussion.
You have to "do" flexions, if you ride with bend. You can have flexion without bend, but you can not have bend without flexion. A horse bends from tail to poll. Flexion is at the poll only. (Actually the connection of the neck to the skull, the first, ~ but generally termed "poll").
I think you are actually asking what exercise people use to develop flexion?
I use standing flexions (from the ground), and from the saddle. I also use carrot stretches, lateral and longitude, which develop bend and flexion.
Flexion of the jaw, like many subjects is a relativly simple concept. If the action of the hand on one side of the horses mouth can convince the horse to "open his mouth in an action of relaxation," at the same said moment the mouth is opening the hand gives and the mouth closes, this will be accompanied by a small motion of the tongue, then you have a longditudinal jaw flexion. When this action is thorough the horses occipital will relax to the point he'd rather round up voluntarily. Elaborate on this and ask him to bend a little left or right conditional upon the "mellow mobility of the jaw" remaining, then you have a lateral flexion. Do this standing still and then add walk, trot, canter, etc. chosing to stop again and return the horses jaw to a relaxed state if you losing the mobile jaw in motion, then you have the essence of Baucherism. Dont move until or unless your horse is light, relaxed, and mobile in his lower jaw. It is efficiant and not too complicated. What has always amused me about the debate between Steinbrecht and Baucher is that they both want jaw flexions. Steinbrecht insisted they be aquired in motion, Baucher thought it simply be easierfor the horse to learn standing still. I have found some horses learn easily in motion and that is fine! Most learn easier standing still and that is fine too! Either way I find they end up the same. All thhat really matters is that the horse end up light, relaxed, and animated. Baucher and Steinbrecht should have been friends! Had they put their heads together while they were both alive they would have revolutionized riding way more than they did alone!
DRR what you say seems very straight forward and logical. and i agree that it seems that some horses respond to the german system and some to the more french.
However, i am looking into french theory and there are a LOT more flexions that what you just described. Lots of bit lifting, neck bending etc.
Can you elaborate on that?
oh, and why is there so much angst against what you just described? I dont really understand - if i take what you described to mean very small almost invisible actions, and not nose to toe or nose to chest etc.
It is never to get the horse to push onto the bit. It is done in the first lessons on flexion just to convince the horse to open his mouth. A horse that has a supple mobile jaw can be taught to reach for the hand in the same way as a Germanicaly trained horse. You see. These concepts dont have to contadict each other. In fact they can compliment each other!
MBM. I missed your previous posts. they ARE good questions! What I described was just the beggining. In Bauchers second manner he stressed that he had changed the lateral flexions[side to side] to only 1/8th of the way around in most cases. With a horse that has more natural stiffness or manmade stiffness from previous bad training the more exxagerated lateral flexions might continue to be appropriate. The longditudianal flexions that we have discussed in the past, which take the horses frame into a BTV position, were only appropriate with horses that had through much time and training,developed a dependably mobile jaw. Thus through the soft jaw the rider "guides" the relaxed horses neck into exaggerated ramener! This is not exactly but very similar to what our much debated LDR riders are doing. Especially trainers like Carl! It is not the same but it is very similar because it is done through relaxation. Also in Baucherism it was not each horse or each time in these positions. But it was and continues to be true that whatever one does it must be done through a completly relaxed jaw. Anyone who has observed or participated in human athletic events has seen humans stetching, hamstrings, thighs, arms, backs, etc. We can stretch horses legs manually.I.E. gentle lifting and stretching front legs etc. But to get to necks backs and deep muscles of the hind quarters we have to ride.And Baucher believed that while a horse must engage from the back to the front, they will resist from the front to the back. so render the horse relaxed and stretched then ride forward and go to town! This is an an art form, a science, and an athletic sport. Some of us will choose pure unadultrated Baucherism because they want just that. Others will take bits and pieces. For example that Phillip Karl doesnt promote exaggerated ramener doesnt mean he isnt a Baucherist. He quite obviously is! But that does not mean Baucher did not use jaw flexion to produce exaggerated BTV positions. He quite obviously did. It is for every new serious rider of every new generation to interpret these various classisists for themselves. I think learning more about the various schools and when and how to mix them simply makes more educated riders and trainers. Trainers that have wild cards in the hole and because of this "better hands!" Pun intended! Sorry.
so, i have a mare who was very backed off the bit, over bent blah blah.
i taught her to push into the bit by lifting the bit gently into the corners of her mouth. i was shown this and my own attempts proved that it did, indeed work.
this taught her that she could indeed seek the bit instead of back off. it was only one step but it helped!
also, wiht this horse i do the balance before movement thing, which i kind of found on my own just trying to see what worked with her.
i dont ask her to move off until she is soft in the jaw/poll/etc, lifts her withers and engages to the degree she can at halt. this literally revolutionized how she understood being ridden and allowed her to use her back etc.
anyway, it is all interesting. i am reading a book on French theory and a lot of it doenst make sense to me, but i am open minded and am trying to understand what i am reading.
i dont want to make this a deep thread so i wont go there.... altho i will say that loosening/strengthening the back is of course part of all training and each ride as part of the loosening phase....
i agree that education is key and i also think lack of education is what trips up most of us.