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  1. #1
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    Default Spinoff: "French School!"

    Spinoff thread started by request. Any questions you may have, I'll do my best to answer based on my experience as a student of Jean-Claude Racinet and contributor to his magazine Riding in Lightness throughout the mid-90's. No matter what kind of horse I'm riding, the principles are the same and I use them every day:

    Separation of the aids (hand without legs, legs without hand);

    Release of the aids (when the horse responds, aid ceases)

    Moderation of the aids (action and reaction in proportion)

    Optimization of orders (BALANCE is the key to everything)

    Resulting in:

    "Liberty on parole" aka self-carriage in collection.

    This is a very, VERY different way of riding than pushing onto the bit. Vaquero person from other thread will find it Old Home Week; many others may have their foundations rocked a bit. Any other partisans of this system, please feel free to chime in, contradict me, add to the discussion!

    I'll kick things off with Jean-Claude's famous statement: "All I need to make up a horse to GP are the two tools of La Guerinere and Baucher: Shoulder-in on 4 (!) tracks, and flexion of jaw and poll."

    Here we go . . . .
    Last edited by SwampYankee; Sep. 4, 2012 at 10:23 PM.



  2. #2
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    The first book that I picked up when I started riding dressage in May was Another Horsemanship. Most of it just described the way I had been taught to ride from the beginning, by an eventer. One thing that simply did not work for my horse, though, was the idea that you should release slightly with the hands when asking for an upward transition. He needs MORE contact during an upward, not less. Does that mean he was trained "incorrectly?"



  3. #3
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    Almost all of those things are merely traditional training,especially the balance. And that issue can be called more the division of the two schools by some (ie balance before movement or balance through movement). But the truth is that most traditional schools just want balance. How to get there is always the discussion of horseman. The division of the aids is almost always a must because a horse cannot serve 'two masters', so one must proceed the other or the horse becomes blocked.

    The question is always what people meant traditionally by flexion of the jaw and poll (actually atlas/axis), because less and less people understand the important of MOBILIZATION of the jaw (not really flexion per se). And many think flexion of the atlas/axis is longitudinal rather than lateral.

    It is easy to misunderstand the degree of bend of asking for a s.i. on four tracks. Shoulder in on 4 tracks, that is a progression from the (eventual) use of voltes (6m), it is a progression of lateral flexibility/balance and axial rotation from 20m (shoulder fore on 2.5 tracks to 10m circle with s.i. on 3 tracks to 6-8m voltes with si on 4 tracks), it is not starting with si on 4 tracks. And further, if we are to follow from de la G, useing the exercises in combination and on circles (ie si to counter si and t to r).
    I.D.E.A. yoda


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  4. #4
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    Swamp Yankee, thanks for starting this thread. As I mentioned on the other thread, I don't read much dressage theory as it makes me cross-eyed - what is the book you recommended, though?

    Could you give some examples of what you might do differently from another system of training? You mentioned working on each horse's strengths - could you give examples of different horses you've ridden and what you've been able to get out of them? How does this relate to the training scale - did he use it in conjunction with the principles you mentioned?

    Finally, are you aware of any videos on YouTube that might compare and contrast this style vs. another?

    Sorry for the million questions, I'm truly interested!


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  5. #5
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    While almost all those things may underlie "traditional training," very seldom are they taught overtly as principles the way Racinet did. Particularly the separation of hand and leg and the concept that the aid is given and then RELEASED when the horse responds, or at least moderated.

    These are VERY "traditional" concepts in behavioral science, but I've never met a riding or dressage instructor who taught them clearly as the basics of all equitation. If the rider/trainer is a natural, they do this by instinct, but few seem able to articulate the concepts as First Principles, if they're even consciously aware of what they're doing.

    The flexion and what tracks where and such, yeah, that's theory, in the eye of the beholder. Argue about it all you please.

    But the separation of the aids and release of the aids--those are simply the working principles of communication via negative reinforcement, IE, traditional training. It's too bad so few traditionally trained students actually ARE taught them up front. We'd have a lot more cooperative and calm horses if they were.
    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.


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  6. #6
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    I train with someone who is influenced heavily by the french school - so I am learning a mix of German and French. While we don't do flexions, we do practice lightness, release of aids once the horse responds, etc. we use school figures to produce the responses we want, etc.

    Its an interesting journey and very rewarding.


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  7. #7
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    I am reading "Another Horsemanship" right now. Two things stand out to me and interest my brain; they are the counted walk, and the statement that Baucher said on his death bed to Racinet. He took his hand and said "always this, never this" and when he said never this, he pulled his hand to his chest, as in never pulling back on the reins. That is of course me paraphrasing ,not the way the exact way the statement actually read.


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  8. #8
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    I've got a question, and I'd love to compare notes. I am trained in French classical and 16 months ago took on a horse (who I now own) that was trained German, but wrong, front to back. He was terrified of seeking contact in raised shape, and would hollow, and bulge the base of his neck when asked to activate the longitudinal axis and relax into contact.
    It took 12 months of work to establish the trust, correct muscling, and behavioral reprogramming to get this 99% gone. It only shows up now at the walk right after warm up, or in the canter when he's nervous.
    I'd love to get this last tidbit of his past washed away... Thoughts?
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


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  9. #9
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    Have to go out and feed so I'm going to answer questions above in a single post:

    Book we're discussing is, Another Horsemanship.

    Mobilization of the jaw IS a key concept; it means that the horse is "yielding" to the rider's hand, relaxing his jaw in response to a half-halt or other signal. This is the antithesis of "leaning" or "hardening" his jaw to brace into the contact.

    If you want to make an upward transition, you relax your hand contact ("open the door" forward) while closing your legs to urge the increased gait; I don't understand why you would want to increase hand pressure when you're asking the horse to go forward; as Racinet would say, that's like hanging onto the hand-brake at a green light while pushing the gas pedal! The entire point is to stop mixing the "go" and "stop" signals so the horse has clarity--and is not pushing into pain.

    Those who mentioned that this is just good old-time basic training are RIGHT--I actually learned it from old Gordon Wright books as a junior back before anyone was calling it "dressage." Hunters were schooled this way up until the 1980's, and the method actually underlies the "American Jumping Style" as discussed by Morris and Steinkraus. That's because it was brought to this country by army officers at the Fort Riley Cavalry School who studied it extensively in France in the 1920's and '30's.

    Counted walk is one of the most powerful tools for collection; a great place to practice it is at road-crossings while you're trail riding! Last post above with inverted horse you are re-schooling; that gets into flexion work and I'll talk about that later on--anyone else with opinions, jump in here!

    I see there are others here who have really done their homework--welcome to the discussion! More later,


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  10. #10
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    ..... and the concept that the aid is given and then RELEASED when the horse responds, or at least moderated.
    Imho this is not altogether correct. The aids is given as an action, and the response/reaction is presumed. IF the rider waits for the reaction to reward the horse will end up with either a false flexion/lightness or hanging.

    Certainly BFM was problematic (as pointed out by Seeger), and is reflected in dressage de jour. Luckily the chandelier fell on Baucher and he was transformed, and what we have today is BSM.

    Interestingly enough Baucher was the first to codify equitation per se (for a french military application.

    Many older germans did routinely do at least a couple of flexions, but the apprenticeship of many followers is too brief to note or learn them.

    So, Petstore, what do you routinely do every day before mounting? Do you do the progressive reactions (demi arret/high and light; slight lateral flexions to mobilize the jaw; clear lateral flexions; and allow the later to then have the horse seek fdo/mobilizing the jaw to get fdo)? Do you do shoulder in in hand and then allow fdo? You have to be VERY careful that the horse is not too high in canter and starts to offer precipitous longitudinal flexion, in that case canter/walk would tend to lean. We need more specifics.
    I.D.E.A. yoda


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  11. #11
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    the idea of releasing the aids is done with any request to the horse... if you ask them to walk on ask then allow and stop aiding the millisecond the horse responds as you wish. On the opposite end we also ramp up the aids with whip as needed if horse is not responding in the manner we want so that we can then give and be lighter in aiding.

    we also work on lighter and lighter aids and better and better response to them.

    we also always work with goal of the horse seeking the bit with a lifted chest in light contact .....

    merge this with the german system of forward and it is very interesting

    of course i am just learning and still have a lot of baggage from my past that gets in the way of riding correctly! a big one was the common idea that you should not use your hands (which i believed!) that took a long time to eradicate in my riding.

    anyway, there is more to dressage than crank and spank or front to back riding and i wish more folks had access to better trainers.
    Last edited by mbm; Sep. 5, 2012 at 12:58 PM.



  12. #12
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    Great discussion

    Balance before forward makes more sense to me so I enjoy learning these methods.

    However, where I see most issues is you dont have to use forward to balance in this method but the horse must still understand foward and be comfortable giving forward.

    Secondly, the horse must be able to seek contact (reach/stretch) across the whole of the topline when asked.

    Flexions are fine for that but only if they maintain the correct amount of stretch at all gaits.

    What can give the french school connotations is horses behind the leg with a dropped chest being called classical/french because they are not forward or are on a draped rein.

    Like MBM said its great to find a blend. I'm with a German trainer right now coming from a Dutch one who actually trained very French. In regular terms we are more forward now coming from balance and that to me is fine in progression. BUT we began with obedience aka the horse understanding and reacting to the aids forward and then being able to stretch immediately into the bridle and use the entire topline as soon as we had that we went to balance work. Toggle. Early half steps, play with piaffe, what have you.

    You have to know where you are to know where you a going. Many trainers will do what is best for the horse in front of them rather than conform to a school but to each his own
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
    http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwampYankee View Post
    Hunters were schooled this way up until the 1980's, and the method actually underlies the "American Jumping Style" as discussed by Morris and Steinkraus.
    This connection is interesting. Because of how much I've moved in my life, I've trained with such a patchwork quilt of french, german, neither, something in between, etc. trainers over the years, and I started as a hunter. I'm always trying to reconcile the things I liked from each trainer and style I've done, and the principles you outlined in your initial post feel very "comfortable" to me, for lack of a better word.



  14. #14
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    Forward is a condition which originates in balance. If the hindlegs are folded they allow the horse to be up/open (and visa versa), so the horse can CHOOSE to move rather than be coerced into it. Because of this the horse IS consistently seeking the hand/stretching over the top line, and the proof of this is that the horses will easily go fdo when asked to mobilize the jaw. The PURPOSE of flexions progressively is to first be high/light/chewing/fold hind legs, lateral flexible minutely to always allow address to mobility, greater lateral flexions to allow the progressive gaits to great(er) ease in getting fdo (for relaxation moments/swinging back).

    The chest/frame compresses/curls only drops if the rider thinks they must wait for the horse to 'give to the bit'. Mobilizaiton of the jaw is NOT giving to the bit, and it must be our action/their reactions. Do NOT wait for a reaction, presume it, reward the change that will come. If the aid is not clear enough, repeat differently or to a different degree (hand aid lifted or opening momentarily, never holding nor backward). Loose reins are not a connection, they do nothing to sustain mobility/self carriage. That is later when the horse is 'held by the seat alone' (hence equitation is ALWAYS important).

    The interesting part is that all schools which place collection,lightness,activity as a valued element stick to the same ideals, just with little differences (srs/carde noir/portuguese/spanish because they are so closely related over time).
    I.D.E.A. yoda



  15. #15
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    another thing i have learned over time (i am slow, i know) that talking about riding and actually riding are different....

    nowadays, i rarely read theory now i want to SEE theory in action then i want to DO it myself.... much better way for me to learn



  16. #16
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    btw forward is also one of the critical things that allows the horse to be moldable and handy. No forward and you cant even get school work done correctly.

    so in my mind forward comes first. not running, but forward movement...


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  17. #17
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    "Balance before forward".

    I had the opportunity to ride briefly for a trainer who is classical. I came to her having done a great deal of riding and a decent amount of dressage, and riding at another dressage barn with a BNT, and she blew my mind. My horse wasn't compatible with her, but holy crap I learned so much riding from her. I wish I could figure out a way to ride with her even though we parted poorly because of my horse.

    But I digress. Her horses are light, straight and balanced. The first time she told me to hold my breath to downward transition I did so with a great deal of cynicism but wow! We spent alot of time on the lunge -did I mention how straight her horses are? I'd never experienced that on the lunge.

    I found out how crooked I was and was working very hard to become correct on her old schoolmaster. It has changed my way of thinking. I want to excel, but I want to be correct. So I've gone from planning the previous year to aiming for a first level debut on Tempi out of Dark Horse (that was my year's goal -I wasn't ready yet) to walk trot on my bareback horse trying to firm up my foundation -balance. Because I've come to believe in that -balance before forward.

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  18. #18
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    "Vaquero person from other thread will find it Old Home Week; many others may have their foundations rocked a bit."

    I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. Thanks for starting it.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOMIOMI1 View Post
    Great discussion

    Balance before forward makes more sense to me so I enjoy learning these methods. ...

    You have to know where you are to know where you a going. Many trainers will do what is best for the horse in front of them rather than conform to a school but to each his own
    Amen. I understand the intellectual need to discuss German vs French and the differences in training. But you still have to ride the horse. And they're all individuals.

    Quote Originally Posted by mbm View Post
    btw forward is also one of the critical things that allows the horse to be moldable and handy. No forward and you cant even get school work done correctly.

    so in my mind forward comes first. not running, but forward movement...
    *ding-ding* IMO, you can't do anything -- French, German, classical, whatever -- if you have no forward energy to work with.

    Quote Originally Posted by paulaedwina View Post
    I had the opportunity to ride briefly for a trainer who is classical.
    Can someone tell me what this means? I see this term used a lot. Is having horses that are "light, straight and balanced" the only requirement? Lots of longe line work in lessons? Trainer doesn't compete?

    Enlighten me, please.
    __________________________
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  20. #20
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    Petstorejunkie, I sent you a PM about your website . . . unrelated to this discussion.



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