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Front To Back?

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  • Front To Back?

    Have been a long time lurker and often see posts about front-to-back riding that I wanted to talk more about.

    About a year ago I started riding dressage with a Grand Prix trainer that has recently emigrated from Germany. I don't want to get into names (besides I'm not sure if it's ok on the board) but he is pretty well-known and has trained many upper level riders with success. I will say that his English is spotty so we have some issues communicating and I'm new to dressage so I may get terminology wrong. However, I have seen 3 horses start with him at the same time (from other respected trainers) and do very well (much better) with him. He is extremely respected and knowledgeable but I think some of what he teaches conflicts with what I read here and in other places.

    So here's been my experience:
    1) Relaxation and rhythm are no. 1 with my green horse. Seems to follow training scale from what I see with others. Horses are all sound, sane and happy.
    2) Trainer is all about forward but will quickly point out if the horse is just "running".
    3) Says not to be afraid to use the reins and thinks I've been taught too light of a contact. We don't crank our horses, but he has no problem with behind the vertical as long as horse is still accepting and on the bit.
    4) He likes to spend a good portion of the ride with older/younger horses in long and low and/or deep position to get them using their back. I can definitely feel and see a difference in the way the horses move- very much pushing from behind and tracking up.
    5) He is big on control of the neck (which he says gives you control of the horse) and steady contact. He is careful about keeping the neck in a position for too long or forcing a frame.
    6) We do LOTs of transitions to get the horses sharp and moving under themselves.

    I guess what I feel like conflicts with a lot of what I read is the focus on the neck and reins (numbers 3-5 above). I also see the exact opposite style at our barn where people FREAK when their horse goes a tad behind the vertical but then never really get their horses to accept contact. I don't want to start a rollkur discussion (We do NOT do that) but I'm curious- what do you think of all this?

  • #2
    My guess without seeing him is, rather than saying "wiggle the horse's head back and forth until he drops it" he's more saying "because you're riding the horse properly it will drop its head and lift its back when you let it do so." It's a big difference, and why you can see such a huge difference from one person to another on a stretchy trot circle.

    You should be able to control the strength of the contact and your horse's head position once you have properly gotten your horse working back to front. You're not setting the head, though - you are riding the horse in such a way you can adjust position by adjusting your aids.

    While I hate rollkur in an emotional, not logical way - I don't think that btv is always bad. There are horses who are built such that the tendency is to be btv while still engaging the back end. It's a moderation thing to me - yes, you want to be in front of the vertical, but some of the neck shapes and super clean throatlatches you see on horses now make it nearly impossible to be engaged without being btv. I'm no expert, of course, so take my opinion for the little it's worth.

    I like that he doesn't stay in one position for too long. To me, that's one of the most important things. So is steady contact - it's part of how you communicate, and if you don't have steady contact, you don't have full communication. (I have contact issues... I'm familiar with this problem...)
    Originally posted by Silverbridge
    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


    • #3
      its not a wiggle on the reins its small check with dinky fingers the intructor is asking you to do the half halt stride which informs the horse somethng going to change using a direct signal, if the horse is running then hes not listening to you hes doing his own thing, and astispating your moves so dont let him
      bring him back to a walk or halt do carry on doing what the horse thinks is right as you have no control over than, bring the horse back to a walk half halt and halt hen compose yourself count to 10 and restart what ever it is your doing this will stop the horse from thinking and antispating you

      look here on how to do a half halt stride which it is a stride it informs the horse to go from a faster pace to amore collected or visa versa



      • #4
        A lot depends on whether or not you believe that riding a horse with the neck low and the head behind the vertical (I don't mean just coming back occaisionally) is detrimental to the long term training of the horse.

        I do know that if you ride a cross bred horse or one with less naturally "uphill" movement you will end up spending a lot of time unbracing the horse and getting it into self carriage if you ride it with the neck straight out from the wither and carrying the head on your rein contact.

        While you might maintain an reaching hindleg you can lose the spring in the back as the horse becomes more and more on the forehand. If you have the skill to keep the horse off the forehand by advancing through the lateral work this might not be a problem for you but it certainly is for many people.

        I prefer that the horse spends most of its time in self carriage and the suppleness and throughness are tested by putting the neck wherever you want on demand but only for very short periods. The rest of the time the horse works in a carriage as close to "correct" as it can support on the hindquarter, then stretch and relax again. There is no room for lack of acceptance of contact in any of the schools of riding, some just have a different interpretation on "contact".

        Of course other people will tell you that what you have outlined sounds like a perfect training program.

        You might have to spend a bit more time with this trainer before you can really decide.


        • #5
          THis trainer sounds to me like a very good and intuitive trainer. I always ride mine long and low and have been doing that for YEARS when warming up. I find, all too often, the situation you describe where people are so afraid of "behind the vertical" that they are never getting the horse to be soft, round and accept the bit. I do not think a horse should be behind the vertical for any significant period of time, but for a few strides, or to get a certain point across during schooling sessions it does not bother me. Relaxation and "not running" are also two major issues with me and something I work on with horses and riders. Forward does NOT equal racing forward!!


          • #6
            I agree with shawneeAcres. I'd rather see a horse a little more round and deep (head nowhere near the chest!!!), then an inverted horse with a hollow back being ridden around with reins flapping. I think the people who are afraid of the contact don't truly understand the elastic quality of it. And sometimes the contact has to be a little heavier for the rider and horse to get the concept. As long as the elbows are still giving and 100% elastic, then I don't see a problem with it.

            There is a video with Jane Savoie teaching someone and she is explaining the contact. She said the "light" contact that has the rein going loopy and then straight just hits the mouth of the horse and makes him irritated. She encouraged the rider to take more weight in the hand to get the idea of elasticity, meanwhile keeping the elbows very giving. The horse was clearly and immediately more comfortable and rounder.

            I'd say your trainer sounds pretty smart from the small amount of info you've given. I know everyone is always worried about front to back riding, but even correct riding does require use of the hands at some point!


            • #7
              Long and low is always a difficult task to do correctly and especially keep the horse in front of the vertical. With the extra length of reins you have the added problem of the horse being able to slump onto the forehand and just mosey along with his head low...

              I don't think your instructor is wrong in what he is saying. I think if you were perhaps more advanced he would be instructing you to ride the nose out with your legs but at this point in time it sounds like you are learning feel and timing, which does take a while to master.

              At some point, behind the vertical will be addressed, I daresay! Sounds like you have a great instructor on your hands!


              • #8
                Your instructor sounds fine, with lots of tools in the toolbox.

                The people who freak about a horse BTV from time to time (generally) lack the knowledge or tact to understand where the horse is, why, and what to do with it. It is a bad thing if there is no contact. It is a positive thing if there is light contact -- you can change the horse's posture, higher or lower or shorter or longer at will. That is good.

                Most important is what the horse is doing with his back and legs. It's human nature to concentrate on the head & neck. It's what we see sticking out in front! But it isn't right. Ride the back end, control the neck & shoulders & it's all good.