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  1. #1
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    Default Confused about why/if HJ horses need to be on the bit and rounded

    I know everyone in the dressage world wants those two things, but I was watching some of our more advanced students today in their group lesson and noticed the most advanced rider had her horse with muzzle pointing vertically down at the ground, but all the others didn't.

    They were doing a 3 foot course, but the most advanced rider normally shows at the metric equivalent of 4 feet or a little higher. Sooo, I was thinking this way of going is required for people doing the higher jumps, but then I went to youtube and took a quick look at some grand prix, and nope, horse had its head up and watching the upcoming jump.

    So, why is this one advanced rider having her horse hold its head that way? Is there any real need for this in HJ land? Is it even desirable there?
    Last edited by altjaeger; Apr. 9, 2013 at 12:01 AM.
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  2. #2
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    I ride H/J and I prefer to ride my horse on the bit and rounded, and my trainer prefers for us to ride that way (it's helped improve her movement because she's gotten stronger and uses herself more properly). She can't build muscle and develop a good top line if I let her go around however she chooses. It seems to be more of a preference thing--do it if you want, don't if you don't. I see a lot of people around here go either way. As far as being desirable, I don't see why it wouldn't be. Unless the horse is going around in a false frame, and being "falsely round." After switching back to hunters from dressage I have to say that I think a hunter horse should be ridden no differently than a dressage horse: round, on the bit, working from behind, forward, and light up front.
    If i smell like peppermint, I gave my horse treats.
    If I smell like shampoo, I gave my horse a bath.
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  3. #3
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    Exactly this!

    Quote Originally Posted by DottieHQ View Post
    I ride H/J and I prefer to ride my horse on the bit and rounded, and my trainer prefers for us to ride that way (it's helped improve her movement because she's gotten stronger and uses herself more properly). She can't build muscle and develop a good top line if I let her go around however she chooses. It seems to be more of a preference thing--do it if you want, don't if you don't. I see a lot of people around here go either way. As far as being desirable, I don't see why it wouldn't be. Unless the horse is going around in a false frame, and being "falsely round." After switching back to hunters from dressage I have to say that I think a hunter horse should be ridden no differently than a dressage horse: round, on the bit, working from behind, forward, and light up front.


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  4. #4
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    How well can they see the jumps (especially large deep ones) with their heads held that way?
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  5. #5
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    The same way my dressage horse doesn't step over the end of the ring when we get to the end of it they can see in front of them just fine when they are moving over their backs ("round"). It's when they are behind the vertical that there will probably be an issue seeing.

    When a horse is "round" correctly, as the previous posts reference, they use their bodies more effectively, with emphasis on the topline muscles. To jump a big jump, a horse needs to sit on its bum and engage the hindquarters. A horse's head doesn't need to be straight on the vertical in order to sit down more and get off of its forehand.

    http://www.wgte.org/portal/members/L..._2526_3889.jpg

    http://www.horsegroomingsupplies.com...ion-piaffe.gif

    Both horses are sitting, using their butts, and correctly engaging their toplines and neither have noses behind the vertical. in fact both are in front


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  6. #6
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    So, if a horse doesn't need to be straight on the vertical to sit down more and get off its forehand, then I assume the 9 out of 10 GP horses I see with their muzzles up at about a 45 degree angle are engaged. (?)

    Final question, if you can engage and be off the forehand without the muzzle being straight down, why is this de rigueur in dressage land? Is it just a style, a convention, that the judges expect to see?

    I will be honest, I have always thought the position looked unnatural and contrived. (I guess I'm being a bit of a troll here, LOL, but at least I didn't post this in the dressage forum!)
    Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!

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  7. #7
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    It shouldn't look unnatural or contrived as it is a natural head and neck carriage for the horse.....unless you are thinking of the incorrect and overbent rollkur method? That is just awful and inhumane.

    Quote Originally Posted by altjaeger View Post
    So, if a horse doesn't need to be straight on the vertical to sit down more and get off its forehand, then I assume the 9 out of 10 GP horses I see with their muzzles up at about a 45 degree angle are engaged. (?)

    Final question, if you can engage and be off the forehand without the muzzle being straight down, why is this de rigueur in dressage land? Is it just a style, a convention, that the judges expect to see?

    I will be honest, I have always thought the position looked unnatural and contrived. (I guess I'm being a bit of a troll here, LOL, but at least I didn't post this in the dressage forum!)



  8. #8
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    unnatural for sure, without a doubt: http://www.horseman.co.za/photos/Hal.../salinero5.jpg

    For the engagement, maybe it helps to think about the jumpers (and hunters for that matter) weight distribution. If the hind legs are carrying more weight than the front, and the horse is energetically moving forward, i would say that yes they are absolutely engaged. Think of collectibility as well, the shortening and lengthening of strides without changing the tempo of the gait. That's engaging the hindquarters as well, but the nose doesn't have to be on the vertical. This is also why only the most athletic[ jumpers make it to grand prix. it's a hard thing to do!

    Dressage is taking that engagement to the extreme. A true dressage horse is light in the bridle, sensitive to the leg and seat, and uses its butt for pretty much everything. In order to achieve this extreme lifting of the back, and sitting of the butt, tightening of the abs, the topline will automatically have to work more and thus the rounded necks. There is also more fine-tuned bending/flexions.

    And of course, a horse in an upper-level dressage frame can't jump a jump like that. I mean that just wouldn't really work, same as a super athletic jumper who can adjust strides can't really score well on an extended to collected gait transition.

    I'm sure others may disagree, have more to add, or have something completely different to say than what I did but that's how I've come to view things. I like to think of it this way: A great football player is a true athlete, as much as a great basketball player. Both use some of the same muscles and train/work/strengthen them correctly and similarly, but the application is slightly different. At the pro levels, both are extremely good athletes and could probably do lower levels of each other's sports, but the extra athleticism, talent, and conformation (if thats a word for people LOL) will help them in their specialty sport


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  9. #9
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    If you've ever seen horses at play or fighting in their natural environment or in a paddock, you'll notice that when they become highly collected and carrying in the haunches, the neck naturally lifts and arches.

    It isn't the head, itself, that dictates whether or not the horse is "engaged and off the forehand", but the head carriage is a result and reflection of the degree of engagement and collection. In the same way, a horse cannot jump well with its head flung up, its back hollow, and its hocks trailing.


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  10. #10
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    Not to sprout a completely different conversation but there is a difference in the way a Hunter goes than a Jumper. When people say they do H/J (Hunter/Jumpers) to me those are two different styles of competition and different type of horses way of going and I don't know why but it makes me laugh when someone references they do h/js.

    When schooling my hunter my trainer has me ride him on the bit in a round frame because it develops a strong balanced horse. But in the Hunter ring what I understand they want a slightly open throat latch on a soft rein with their nose poked out just a bit.

    A jumper should go whatever best suits their conformation and jumping style. I see mostly horses with their necks much more elevated and hunters polls are much lower...
    Train like you have never won and show like you have never lost!!!


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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by doublesstable View Post
    Not to sprout a completely different conversation but there is a big difference in the way a Hunter goes than a Jumper. When people say they do H/J (Hunter/Jumpers) to me those are two different ways of going and I don't know why but it makes me laugh.

    When schooling my hunter my trainer has me ride him on the bit in a round frame because it develops a strong balanced horse. But in the Hunter ring what I understand they want a slightly open throat latch on a soft rein with their nose poked out just a bit.

    A jumper should go whatever best suits their conformation and jumping style.
    This is so true...It's just a habit for me to refer to it as hunter/jumper even though the mare and I both know we're not, and likely never will be jumpers But yes, I agree, hunters and jumpers have very different ways of going and probably shouldn't be bunched together that way.

    To the OP: I bolded those parts because I wanted to say that it's hard to achieve the soft rein, flowing, nose poked out type of ride if the horse isn't strong and balanced, and working from behind and off the forehand, which usually comes with being able to work round and on the bit...trust me, I've tried. No bueno.
    If i smell like peppermint, I gave my horse treats.
    If I smell like shampoo, I gave my horse a bath.
    If I smell like manure, I tripped.


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  12. #12
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    How a horse is schooled on the flat does not equate to how the horse will go over fences. But the muscles/muscle memory/ responsiveness SHOULD transfer over into helping when jumping over fences. So a h/j SHOULD school the flat as correctly as a dressage horse, but depending on the horse (and discipline, jumpers can be more unorthodox as style is not judged) and how they go best over fences depends on how they are ridden when jumping.

    My old guy flatting
    http://pic100.picturetrail.com/VOL70.../399338448.jpg

    My old guy jumping (he could only do the 1.00m due to suspensory issues)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnAJ7...6A6CQ&index=34

    My younger boy flattin
    http://pic100.picturetrail.com/VOL70.../399784268.jpg

    And jumping 1.20 (he has a difficult mouth and we're constantly working on rideability with him)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5ZLm...6A6CQ&index=26


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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by DottieHQ View Post
    This is so true...It's just a habit for me to refer to it as hunter/jumper even though the mare and I both know we're not, and likely never will be jumpers But yes, I agree, hunters and jumpers have very different ways of going and probably shouldn't be bunched together that way.

    To the OP: I bolded those parts because I wanted to say that it's hard to achieve the soft rein, flowing, nose poked out type of ride if the horse isn't strong and balanced, and working from behind and off the forehand, which usually comes with being able to work round and on the bit...trust me, I've tried. No bueno.

    Jumpers we will never be my thing either...

    I had Rob Gage Judge my ride and he said this was a perfect under saddle photo of a Hunter. My new horses first show.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=1&theater

    And with time consistency is hoped for. Those are the horses that clean up in the under saddle and over fences that are balanced, engaged, light and seemingly to do it without the help of their rider
    Train like you have never won and show like you have never lost!!!


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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by doublesstable View Post
    Jumpers we will never be my thing either...

    I had Rob Gage Judge my ride and he said this was a perfect under saddle photo of a Hunter. My new horses first show.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=1&theater

    And with time consistency is hoped for. Those are the horses that clean up in the under saddle and over fences that are balanced, engaged, light and seemingly to do it without the help of their rider
    Oh snot that's a nice picture! I love how you can trace an uphill line from his tail to his poll. So pretty...I'm drooling

    I agree, the horses that do well seem like they do it all on their own. I hope that's where Dottie and I end up at some point
    If i smell like peppermint, I gave my horse treats.
    If I smell like shampoo, I gave my horse a bath.
    If I smell like manure, I tripped.


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  15. #15
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    OP, don't focus so much on where the head is that you miss what counts--- everything from the shoulder back!

    For GP jumpers, you are usually seeing a very engaged horse. He should look up-hill and cruising around on the flat, he probably does have his head down. In addition to moving in that front-to-back, uphill way, chances are that he's built with his neck set on a little bit more vertically than your stereotypical hunter. (Note, there are many hunters built with necks that come "up" out of their shoulder, too). By the time the GP is approaching a big fence however, he has rearranged his body for the legitimate leap that will come next.

    The true engagement, rather than head/neck position, can be harder to see in the hunters. Mine is built with just an OK neck. But the poor slob has enough dressage in him that he never drops his shoulders. He has not been allowed to do that, evah!

    So watch these horses move. Get the whole picture and look for a horse that looks especially light on his front feet, easy to ride, relaxed in his back and coordinated. Regardless of where his head is, that's the one who is being ridden correctly where it counts.

    Now to create the education and the muscle needed to let a hunter cruise with his head down for a hack class without dropping his shoulders, you might see him ridden with more engagement, more energy and perhaps a tighter frame at home. The picture might look more like what you saw in the "most advanced" student you witnessed. Of course, she had better have the hind end active, too.

    Sigh. Again, looking at what the head and neck are doing is just a starting point for learning how to see which horses are ridden well.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


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  16. #16
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    The German riders tend to ride somewhat more "technically" then some others may.

    Here's an example

    Philipp Weishaupt
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=WCejiOhGoIw

    Notice the locations in the ride where Philipp collects his horse.

    Then notice that he lets his horse raise his head before a jump, but still retains the engaged hindquarters.

    The reason a jumper over high obstacles needs to have his head raised when taking the jump, is because the horse needs to lower its head during the flight phase over the jump in order to influence the orientation of his body relative to his center of gravity (balance). The lowered head at the apex of the jump, also aids the horse in rounding his back making it easier for him to jump a rounder trajectory and therefore use less energy to clear a jump then a horse who jumps long and flat.

    Study some different grand prix videos, and notice how a horse can use his head position to influence the orientation of his body in flight, and the quality of his jump.


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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by doublesstable View Post
    Jumpers we will never be my thing either...

    I had Rob Gage Judge my ride and he said this was a perfect under saddle photo of a Hunter. My new horses first show.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=1&theater

    And with time consistency is hoped for. Those are the horses that clean up in the under saddle and over fences that are balanced, engaged, light and seemingly to do it without the help of their rider
    Wow, is that a great pic! As someone who did hunters but now does more dressage and eventing, I just love how you're riding him here. He's in a very nice training level frame, where he's pushing from behind into a soft contact, but not restricted at all. He's tracking up really well and looks very comfortable and happy.

    I've always understood that a good hunter should be engaged and stepping up under himself but in a longer frame than a dressage horse. If you school your horse a bit rounder, then there's no reason he shouldn't be able to poke his nose out a bit when asked

    Love the horse! What is he?


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  18. #18
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    The vertical nose was originally the result of gravity when a horse with a relaxed poll raised the base of his neck. It was the byproduct of a horse going in a proper weight-bearing posture (collected, rounded, in a frame, off the forehand, whatever term) if you use weight-bearing posture as the term, you can see how it would be appropriate for all disciplines. When the horse is in a weight-bearing posture and his nose is hanging vertical, rather than pulled in and held vertical, the rider's soft hand would allow him to lift his face if he needed to look at a fence. The position of his face has nothing to do with the position of his body. It can be the the result, but can never be the cause.


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  19. #19
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    The difference in connection between a horse that is properly engaging the contact and one that isn't is like night and day to ride. Your influence over the horse increases ten fold. Suddenly you have options: shorten the step off seat, lengthen off seat; legyield, half pass, etc.

    Once the horse is on your seat you can always play out a loop and cruise around. But the difference in the quality of the training and the development of the horse is like night and day.

    People can not seriously think that that gorgeous picture posted by doublestable looks artificial and contrived...??!


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  20. #20
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    Most upper-level jumpers are round through the topline and -- especially -- engaged behind, particularly on the flat. Go to a big show and watch the upper-level jumpers warm up. They all look like dressage horses (not GP dressage horses, but round and forward and engaged). When they get in the ring, they often raise their heads to jump (should, really) but the round body frame is still there. If they lose that engagement, get "strung out" etc., they won't have the power behind to get over big oxers in complicated related distances.

    One difference can be the extent of contact -- I like my jumpers to be lighter in the hand than a lot of dressage horses are. I personally feel like many dressage riders take a stronger feel of the mouth than necessary which isn't connection, it's heaviness. The really good ones don't seem to do this which makes me wonder why 2 out of 3 second level riders appear to have a death grip on the dressage horse's mouth.


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