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Standing "at attention"

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  • Standing "at attention"

    I was channel surfing the other day and came across a dressage program on RFD TV. I though "Yay! A program on here that's NOT Clinton Anderson!"

    I can't remember exactly what program it was, but the clinician/trainer was talking to a crowd of people while a rider waited "at attention" with her horse. She had quite a bit of contact with the bit and the horse was standing square with his neck arched. He was constantly chomping at the bit and foaming at the mouth.

    I am VERY new to dressage but to me the horse looked extremely uncomfortable and I couldn't understand why the horse was made to stand "at attention" the entire time. The woman kept going on and on and on, and all the while that horse stood there chomping and foaming. Would it have been a bad thing to allow the horse to relax while she was talking? In dressage competitions, does the horse have to stand collected (if I'm using the correct term) for an extended period of time?

    Honestly I couldn't even tell you what the clinician was saying, I just kept staring at the horse and finally had to turn the channel because I just couldn't stand it any longer.

  • #2
    Was the horse white/gray? A BIG warmblood?


    • #3
      Sounds as though your reaction was correct. When you tune in to nonsense, tune it out!

      No!!!! It makes no sense to keep a horse "up" and at halt forever.
      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


      • #4
        Actually, one of the most helpful tips I got from lessons with a BNT was to teach my horse to stand still, on the bit, paying attention to me. (IIRC he learned this technique while training at the Spanish Riding School.) The purpose is not to keep your horse "up" like a statue forever, and it's certainly not necessary for every halt. But, it's good to be able to bring your horse back to you and keep him still and paying attention, particularly when there's a lot of noise/distraction.

        This is way more useful than I thought it would be - maybe more advanced riders or calmer horses don't need this, but there have been a couple of times since when I've need to bring my horse back to me and rebalance myself (loud noises etc + young horse coming off of stall rest.) And it's been nice to have this in the toolbox. My horse already understood what closed leg & asking for contact meant, so he stood focused on me, paying attention.

        It's quite possible that the clinician was teaching the horse to stay calm in front of a crowd - which any competition horse needs to learn! I have no idea who the clinician was or any of the context, but my guess is that she wasn't letting the horse stand relaxed because the horse wasn't relaxed - and looking around and focusing on the crowd wasn't going to get him there. So yes, it does seem like a weird thing for a clinician to focus on (why not ride the horse in a series of 10m circles in front of the crowd or leg yield him past them instead?) But this is actually a really smart skill to teach your horse, and while I wouldn't stand there chit-chatting with my horse comping on the bit, on "tractor backfiring behind closed arena door" type occasions, I'm glad we have it.


        • #5
          I believe I know which video she is speaking of and I would be the last to argue with Jessica Ransehousen about her methods of instruction.
          USDF Symposium 1996 I believe. I see nothing wrong with what they are doing. At least it isn't rollkur.


          • #6
            The halt is a forward action. The horse must remain with coiled energy in the haunches, seeking contact, and ready to power forward (or backward) at a seconds notice.
            Immobility (in my opinion) is the last element of the halt I even care about.
            chaque pas est fait ensemble


            • #7
              IMHO, the horse's eye is how I would judge whether ther horse was uncomfortable or not. I agree that a prolonged immobile halt is not really appropriate while someone chats away, but if the horse's eye is soft and it is mouthing/working the bit, I would think the horse was comfortable. As soon as I put my own horse's bridle on and the bit in her mouth her eyes get soft and gooey, she softly mouths the bit and she relaxes.


              • #8
                This is about obedience and patience. For both the rider and horse, while the clinician speaks.


                • #9
                  You can always tell the ammy riders from pros in the warm up when you see horses going to a long rein so often vs staying on the aids and even at halt when talking they are "schooling" the horse to stay attentive and ready to work.

                  There is a difference between standing and halt IMO. At halt I am ready to do something else any moment and if that was an extended canter what then? If the horse is flat and sleeping the croupe will bounce up and we will be downhill and running along.

                  I think we relax and chat plenty (well I do since I talk with my hands LOL) but how often do you stand on the aids with your horse?

                  THis thread actually was a great reminder to me oops I have not done it in a while.
                  ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                  • #10
                    Let's start with what a halt should be (according to the directives). Horse upright, a leg in each corner, closed (according to the level of training...base of support shortens), neck lifted and arched, poll the highest point, chest lifted, face slightly in front of the vertical, or lightly chewing the bit (light foam going toward the chin). The horse should be able to move off with great ease.

                    So the quality of the halt sounds correct. That said, IF the speaker is going to go on and on. Then put the horse 'on parole' and let it look about and stand and weight. Then regather the horse and move off. If it is only a minute or so, fine. Poised and still and with a mobile jaw...otherwise, let the horse be on loose rein.
                    I.D.E.A. yoda


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by Cincinnati View Post
                      Was the horse white/gray? A BIG warmblood?


                      • #12
                        Posted by Cincinnati:

                        I believe I know which video she is speaking of and I would be the last to argue with Jessica Ransehousen about her methods of instruction.
                        USDF Symposium 1996 I believe. I see nothing wrong with what they are doing. At least it isn't rollkur.
                        It isn't Jessica nearly as much as it is the "system" that the U.S. has allowed to fall into place.


                        • #13
                          I saw that too and my neck and jaw got tight just watching that poor horse and the same thoughts as the OP crossed my mind. I would have let him "at ease". The horse may have been a bit nervous but he should be able to stand on a long if not loose rein. JMHO
                          Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"