From your later post, it appears there are two DIFFERENT issues involved.
"Self carriage", engaging the hind legs, lowering the haunches, etc., comes from the horse's hindquarters and back, activatied by the rider's leg and seat.
But in order for this to work, the rider must have a good connection with the horse's mouth. The horse must "accept the bit" before moving into self-carriage and truly working from front to back. This really does come back to the training scale. To have that true collection and true self-carriage, you can't skip the steps involved to develop it.
If the horse is going like a giraffe, braced in the poll, or, conversely, curled behind the bit, all the leg and seat in the world isn't going to produce self carriage. The horse needs to accept the bit first.
"Using your legs" (without your hands and reins) isn't going to get the horse to "drop its head".
"Dropping its head", and accepting the bit, is a prerequisite for "self carriage", but it isn't the same thing.
Now, I will say that "using your hands and reins" IN CONJUNCTION with your seat and legs should NOT "hurt your hands". So the clinician either wasn't using a good techique, or was not explaining him/heself
I really like how this is worded. You can't really have that self-carriage, truely working from hind leg through the lifted back to the front without acceptance of the bit first. If you don't have that bit acceptance, and continually have leg on, I know several horses that haven't had that dressage training already will simply go faster/more forward since they don't have that "box" telling them to collect their energy instead of stringing it out... (hope this makes sense!).
A Grand Prix dressage rider has taught me that self-carriage comes from the back/hind end as influenced by the rider's leg (leg goes on, back/hind end engages, head goes down.) An eventing clinician who is considered Very Knowledgeable told me that was wrong: that self carriage comes from the head/neck as influenced by the riders hand's via the reins (wiggle the reins, head comes down, body follows.)
I do not claim to know a lot, or be either a GP rider or a Very Knowledgable eventing clinician, but I will say this: I have spent the last year+ as a working student to a Gold/Silver/Bronze medalist in the USDF, and the first thing she will tell me any time we talk about collection that the entire action is about getting a horse to carry themselves on their haunches. This allows to the shoulders to lift, and for the horse to be much more "manipulated" by the aids. Think about when you do a shoulder in - you are moving the shoulders ONLY off their track; however, in order to keep moving forward, or to keep it from becoming a leg yield, you must also prompt the hind end to keep the forward impulsion. Without it, you lose the movement.
I'm sorry, but I personally think that self carriage as taunt from the head and neck is part of the reason we eventers do not have a better name in terms of riding our dressage. To say that it comes from the head and neck is a very elementary view of collection - and it shows only what you SEE when a horse is truly collected, not what you should be feeling.
I'm getting the answer to my question. Thanks to everyone answering the poll. Seems I live in a weird place where the only eventer/trainer in the country that thinks you ride front to back lives and the only clinician that thinks so comes.
fwiw, i think you misunderstood what the clinician was trying to tell you.
before a horse can engage its HQ it needs to be accepting of the contact and loose in the body/back. If you horse was going around like a giraffe it was neither. so it should of been asked to lower its head/neck so that its body could work.
It honestly sounds like your dressage trainer wasn't correct either - .
Okay, I suspect I may not have explained things very well, something I have issues with frequently. (Don't fall off a horse and get a concussion. It sucks and can screw you up forever.)
The evidence of other riders who ride with the clinician regularly makes me believe that I was indeed understanding him. Perfectly nice horses, almost sawed on by their rider's hands, are now going around unengaged and hollow. There are several of us who have moved on and we all tell the same story.
Did my pony need to get her head down? Absolutely, but messing with her mouth just pissed her off. She absolutely did not like contact, to the point I'm pretty sure it was causing her some sort of pain, though the vet couldn't find anything wrong. It's part of the reason I retired her.
Dressage Trainer is not advising a complete lack of hand, just that one must have engagement in the hind end (created with the rider's leg) before the hand is used. I could quite possibly not be explaining this quite right. She's had a number of us to retrain at this point and using our legs for anything other than speed was completely foreign, so perhaps she's emphasizing it more than it should be to get it through our heads
Since I moved away from hunters I've had two trainers: Clinician's protegee and Dressage Trainer. So, in my experience it was 50% one philosophy, 50% the other. I know what feels better, what makes the horses happier, and which one I like better. But, using the local sample it was hard to tell what was more followed in the eventing world. Hence the poll and now I know my first eventing trainer and her favorite clinician are out of touch with the rest of eventing dressage.
Dressage Trainer is not advising a complete lack of hand, just that one must have engagement in the hind end (created with the rider's leg) before the hand is used. I could quite possibly not be explaining this quite right. She's had a number of us to retrain at this point and using our legs for anything other than speed was completely foreign, so perhaps she's emphasizing it more than it should be to get it through our head--Quote Desert Topaz
That you have this idea in your head speaks well of her teaching capabilities.
Now if she can get you to understand that half halts, and transitions don't start with the hand, she will have done even better. This, for many students is the "aha" moment, along with learning to organize their bodies and separate their aids to correctly produce the lateral exercises that really help with the whole engagement process.
Sounds like you are on the right track.!!
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
So, there I am with my pony in our flat ride with Clinician. Pony was being, as ever, difficult and going around like a giraffe. He asked me why I kept using my legs. I said, "because I'm trying to get her to use her back end and drop her head." He responded (this isn't word for word,) "That's wrong. You influence the head with your hands and reins and then the rest of the body follows."
First off, I'm not sure your issue is truly "self carriage." A horse can be in self carriage with a loop in the rein, even with their head up (think engaged jumper to a large fence--they don't need that contact to hold themselves up). They can also be in self carriage while in a false frame (i.e. head tucked in with a loop in the rein, like many western pleasure horses). A horse can even be in self carriage with its head up and back dropped (lots of saddleseat horses). That horse may not be particularly engaged, but if it can maintain its balance with a rider on its back without falling on its face or needing to "balance" on the reins, its in some degree of self carriage. Self carriage does not necessarily mean roundness, impulsion, or collection. Likewise, a horse can be round but not necessarily be in self-carriage. Or increase its impulsion without being in self carriage (such as a lengthening that progressively gets more on the forehand).
Having the horse truly engaged with the back up is a totally different matter. If a horse is somewhat round and balanced, you can do it with just leg and seat: i.e. half-halt with the seat and time your leg aids to encourage the horse's hind legs to step further under its body. But if the horse's head is way up in the air, the back can NOT come up. No matter how much leg you use.
So you add in some hand to encourage the horse to stretch down (and for horses that are built or muscled a little "upside down" in the neck, this may require some training to get them to respond to a rein aid in that matter). You can also use exercises (circles, shoulder in, transitions) to encourage the horse to step under more. But in the end, the horse's head and neck need to lower for the back to come up. And generally, the hands are needed in some degree to get that done, at least in a green horse that does not respond straight off the leg and seat aids.
Using your hands does NOT necessarily equate to sawing on the reins or pulling their chin in to get a round neck without anything going on behind. I have no idea what method the clinician was suggesting, but I would agree that if the horse is raising its head so high that the back can't come up (i.e. giraffe), its perfectly acceptable to increase rein pressure to encourage it to lower it.
Exactly what I would say. Once the horse has met all the basics of the training scale and is being ridden properly and allowed to self carry, it will then happen.
Originally Posted by beowulf
I am surprised a BNT told you to do so Deltawave: makes me question if their education is classical or not. I was always told (and mind you, I spent a lot of time on the back of a retired PSG horse) by my very German, very classical instructor that proper carriage is very similar to collection and collection happens naturally once all the tiers of the riding scale have been truly, properly achieved. Which would mean that no, IME self carriage isn't influenced by the reins - it something the horse takes of its own accord due to its proper training and it is influenced or "carried" by leg and seat aids.