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What does roundness feel like? How do you describe it?

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  • What does roundness feel like? How do you describe it?

    I don't know if I've ever felt a truly round horse. (Remember, horse and I are very new to dressage, and I've never ridden a true dressage horse.)

    I have been able to get his nose vertical occasionally, which I believed was round.

    Yesterday we used draw reins for the first time (first for me, first for horse) for about 15 minutes until I got overheated and had to stop. Trainer wanted me to be able to get rounder faster without being so busy with my hands trying to get there so that I could FEEL roundness.

    Today when I was so pleased that horse's nose was vertical when we first walked into the arena, trainer broke it to me kindly that there is fake round and real round, and today I was going to learn the difference. What I watch trainer do is real round, and what I do is fake round. I get it...because I have to look in the mirror to see if his nose is vertical, but his body hasn't felt any different. So "feeling" roundness hasn't worked...because he hasn't been round.

    No draw reins today. Was doing lots of transitions, serpentines, 10-meter circles, etc. after warm up versus our standard 20 m circles and changing across diagonal. Was doing a left 10 m trot circle in corner by H, and suddenly horse put his head lower, and by the way he felt, I was 100% convinced he was going to buck. (Has never bucked with a rider.) I freaked a bit (ok a lot but only in my mind) and while trainer was telling me to use my left leg and push him into it and keep going, I instead turned right and trotted toward F and safety (aka trainer). Trainer told me that THAT was round. What I was feeling was not pre-buck, but was his back coming up and his head lower and round. Real round, not my fake round. I know I did the wrong thing but we fixed it once I knew what I was feeling and realized that he had no intention of bucking.

    The rest of the lesson was amazing, and he was "real" round...we did lots of 10 m circles and even leg yields into canter (I've done just a few leg yields before). It was a BLAST. But he did feel different-not strong different like I felt right before the show-but like his legs were more under him. Trainer was very pleased and said this is what real round feels like, and no more fake round for us. I smiled through the whole lesson. Leg yields! So cool.

    I love that horse and I are learning this together. It may not be the ideal way, but it's what we're doing. If trainer rode him solely for a few months and I rode a different horse, I would probably be afraid of the new power of my horse as he progresses, so I need to keep up. But I think this is the first time he's been truly round with me. We also worked on my allowing his shoulders to really move (I was much less busy with my hands because I wasn't going after the fake round). How do you describe "real" roundness? Other than the "he's going to buck" feeling, what does it feel like?

    What else is trainer going to spring on me? (trainer is awesome and knows just how much to put on me at a time) I love this sport. Every time I think that I "get" something, OMG I'm just more aware of just how much there is left to learn!! I'm glad there is no end point, no graduation, etc. I don't ever want to stop learning!
    LarkspurCO: no horse's training is complete until it can calmly yet expressively perform GP in stadium filled w/chainsaw juggling zombies riding unicycles while flying monkeys w/bottle rockets...

  • #2
    I didn't get past the second paragraph of your post. Round has little to do with his nose being on vertical.

    Round comes with throughness; those two things go hand in hand and I can't imagine having round without throughness…and throughness starts from behind your saddle. Is your horse working from behind? Do you have hind-leg engagement? When your horse is more engaged from behind you can then start to feel throughness or connection over his back & entire top line via your seat and legs. As that energy comes through your horse the idea is to help contain/direct/contain/direct with your hands. To me here are days that throughness is easier or harder to achieve and days when the connection in my hands is lighter or firmer - but when it's all there my horse is 'on the bit' and I'm not at all worried about her nose being vertical. Roundness is being more round or less round (this is describing the horse's frame or outline) but it only comes with being through. And for my horse 'more round' comes from half-halts and my seat - it doesn't come from my hands.
    You don't necessarily need an up-hill built, dressage-bred horse to have engagement of the back legs. Any horse can learn to shift their weight back and work less on the forehand and more from their haunches so don't worry that you're not on a proven dressage horse. In this sport just try to be consistent in asking for more from behind with every ride and you will make headway toward throughness to being round.

    Ok, now I read the rest of your post. What I described above is the path that I know to round. IMO, draw-reins in the hands of someone just learning dressage are a gimmick and the path to 'fake round' as you describe it.


    • #3
      Oh, and every time I feel or 'get' something new in this sport I've come to realize that I'm about to uncover a new thing that I don't get! The layers to this sport and what we're trying to do are amazing! It's what makes it great.


      • #4
        When a horse is round he feels to me like his front end has disappeared. I think it's because his back is lifted.

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


        • #5
          Like riding a bubble.


          • #6
            When it's really good, I think it feels like sitting on a beach ball. My horse's trot is hard to sit - and impossible to sit when she's not round. When she clicks into gear, it's a big soft bounce rather than a jarring bone-rattling bounce. When she gets into "full beach ball with floppy ears" mode everything gets really easy.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ponydoc View Post
              Like riding a bubble.
              This, and the bubble feels like the top of the world!
              http://essas-storm.blogspot.ca/ An OTTB rescue/project found me!


              • #8
                My trainer uses the beach ball comparison- bubble is just as good. The way I describe it is that the horse drops its neck, from the withers, while being active behind. Thus the neck drop results in a lighter forehand, not a leaning onto the bit heavy forehand. Achieving this requires lots of "conversation" between the leg aids (step FORWARD into contact) and the half halts (balance, stay here, dont rush, dont lean)
                We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                • #9
                  If you, as a newbie to dressage, are being told to use draw reins, your instructor is not as good as she should be. Roundness has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the horse's face is vertical. It has to do with whether there is a connection from the engine (haunches) over the back and through to the bit, unimpeded either by gadgets like draw reeins or too strong of a hold by rider's hands.
                  RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                  • #10
                    My descriptions would depend on the frame of the horse. When I am allowing a lower neck, stretchy frame for warming up, cooling down, or between collected work, I would describe it as riding the crest of a wave right before it breaks, similar to others saying it's like riding a ball. That's when I know the horse is really rounding from hind to front and working over their back. When I am riding in a more "up" and working frame, I feel like I'm on a teeter-totter when you just barely start downward from the level plane. This indicates the horse is lowering and engaging the haunches and lightening or lifting the shoulders and wither.

                    From the description of your riding level, you should be looking for the "wave" or "ball feeling" where you are the top and the front and hind are lower.


                    • #11
                      It feels like a jet plane taking off with the hindleg joints more compressed and the forehand lifted with the neck arced (ideally slightly in front of the vertical/seeking the hand), in the hand it is like a bow ready to shoot an arrow (or a sail filled by wind).
                      I.D.E.A. yoda


                      • #12
                        At the sitting trot, roundness feels like an uplifting power, like a big bouncy spring makes up the back of the horse, ... like you are arching into the air as suspension begins to be the main foundation of all of the gaits ... even the walk to some extent.


                        • Original Poster


                          WasthatC: we are working toward increased hind-leg engagement. He has improved SO much, but he was very weak behind, so he hasn’t been ready for all of this yet. We are working on his strength. The progress he has made in the six months we’ve been doing this is excellent, and we are taking things slowly so as not to injure him. Plus, I’m a newbie, so I don’t always do the right thing . Trainer shows me how to engage his hind end more, and I’m learning. And trainer rides him 1-2 times each week and whenever he needs it more than that. But we’re (I am!) simultaneously learning so many other things as well, so we don’t always focus on that. Today we talked about the EVERY RIDE consistency…it’s not that I don’t care, or don’t try, it’s just that it is a lot to learn and a lot to keep in my head all at once. I really like what you said about doing it every ride and I will make headway toward thoroughness to being round. Today, interestingly, I felt that he was lighter on my hands when he was “round,” whereas when I have felt the “fake round,” he has felt heavy. Thanks for responding!

                          Paula, Ponydoc, catz, cada, thanks for the beach ball/bubble on top of the world ☺ description…I did feel that at times!

                          2tempe: This LIGHTER forward hits home – that’s what I felt like. We worked on the don’t lean today by doing leg yields on 10 m circles…he tends to lean on my right leg…and I’m sure I have a lot to learn about the “conversation;” perhaps you’re giving me insight into what trainer has in store for me next!

                          Sdlbredfan: thanks, that’s the exact point trainer is trying to get across to me: that roundness has nothing to do with vertical, but with the connection. I was just having a hard time “getting” that.

                          Myleetlepony: thanks, what a great description. I definitely felt the “wave,” only I described it as a pre-buck. I was very incorrect . I’ve seen the “up” frame; we aren’t there . Thanks for your description.

                          Ideayoda: thanks! I always love your posts and descriptions. We are not quite to the jet plane taking off, although I DID feel that about two months ago and shut poor horse down immediately while trainer wondered why. I felt like he was launching into space at the canter…and trainer told me that’s what he would eventually feel like. I used to sail often, so I love that analogy as well. Thanks!

                          BaroquePony, thanks! I can't wait to feel that. I've had fleeting moments but probably wasn't ready for them

                          Thanks all for responding: it’s very helpful for me, as a newbie, to read these responses.
                          LarkspurCO: no horse's training is complete until it can calmly yet expressively perform GP in stadium filled w/chainsaw juggling zombies riding unicycles while flying monkeys w/bottle rockets...


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by sdlbredfan View Post
                            If you, as a newbie to dressage, are being told to use draw reins, your instructor is not as good as she should be. Roundness has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the horse's face is vertical. It has to do with whether there is a connection from the engine (haunches) over the back and through to the bit, unimpeded either by gadgets like draw reeins or too strong of a hold by rider's hands.
                            I agree being told to use draw reins shows lack of true understanding of how to have a round horse.
                            "Ask often, demand little, reward generously"
                            " Every horse has a chocolate side"


                            • Original Poster

                              Let me clarify the draw reins thing. Trainer is wonderful and very smart - not just in training horse, but in getting inside my head. We used the draw reins for a very short time in part of one lesson to teach ME something, not horse. I do appreciate the feedback, and I know that everyone has his or her own idea about draw reins and other such things.
                              LarkspurCO: no horse's training is complete until it can calmly yet expressively perform GP in stadium filled w/chainsaw juggling zombies riding unicycles while flying monkeys w/bottle rockets...


                              • #16
                                Like I'm sitting straight yet he's going to impale my sternum with his withers, and I'm sitting on his butt. True roundness comes from using the "suspension bridge" aspect of a horse's musculature, and with my guy it comes in a very uphill carriage every time (body, not head positino) - so not something he can fully carry at first, but if I try for round when he's not ready to carry himself that way I just get a break at the wrong place in his neck and a false frame.
                                If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                                • #17
                                  It is when you can feel what their hind end is doing through the elevation of
                                  their shoulders and neck.
                                  See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


                                  • #18
                                    On my horse there is a transition period where I can feel his back come up like an inflating balloon. His trot extends (he has a very short, horrible trot before he becomes round but can have a quite beautiful after - he goes from looking like an evil school pony to a fancypants dressage horse) and becomes easy to sit. At the moment it happens it's like he's yelling "I'm ready!!!"


                                    • #19
                                      True roundness won't be achieved with draw reins. I see what your trainer was getting at by having you have them on - removing one path of resistance so you can get the feeling of an unlocked neck, but they won't help you achieve true roundness so I do hope they're not something your trainer goes to rely on to help you with this journey. It is fantastic, though, that you started to feel it afterwards, without the draw reins. Corners and circles are great places to start getting the feeling - it's much easier to get the horse round when it's turning as it's so easy to get flat and strung out on a straight line, whereas they have to use themselves a bit more to balance around turns.

                                      So what does true roundness feel like? Well, there's a difference to me between roundness and throughness. I can have my horse round, but she might not be through. But to have her properly through, she has to be round. Without going into too many details, a round (and through) horse feels a bit like a coiled spring - you can feel an increase in the power beneath you. Like what you felt when you thought your horse might buck - as you get used to that feeling, you'll grow to love it. When a horse is properly round and through, it feels like you can ask them to do anything. The back comes up, the body shortens, the forehand lifts and the hind legs come further under. The energy, rather than just travelling in a forward direction with the legs, comes up and around, through the body and the back.

                                      Originally posted by 2tempe View Post
                                      My trainer uses the beach ball comparison- bubble is just as good. The way I describe it is that the horse drops its neck, from the withers, while being active behind. Thus the neck drop results in a lighter forehand, not a leaning onto the bit heavy forehand. Achieving this requires lots of "conversation" between the leg aids (step FORWARD into contact) and the half halts (balance, stay here, dont rush, dont lean)
                                      To the bolded - no. A properly round horse does not drop the neck from the withers. It lifts the base of the neck at the withers. The rest of the neck, closer to the poll, may come rounder, and thus lower (if not working in a very 'up' frame), but a horse that drops the neck at the wither is not properly round. It will be bracing the neck, using the underneck muscles rather than those over the topline.


                                      • #20
                                        Just a wee caveat to the descriptions that mention lightness in front, or a "disappearing" forehand... this is true for most horses but for those with a naturally elevated front end or a tendency to curl behind the contact, the feeling of roundness can actually be accompanied by a greater awareness of the front end, as the horse offers connection to the rider's hand and stretches round and consistent throughout its whole body. Nitpicking I know... but I commonly ride so-called "baroque" breeds and they're wonderful at prancing around all light and arched in front with no genuine connection whatsoever.
                                        Proud COTH lurker since 2001.