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Tom Dorrance techniques/confusing to dressage horse?

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  • Tom Dorrance techniques/confusing to dressage horse?

    I am talking about ground training before riding. I was having respect and boundary issues with my young one and called in a Dorrance-trained NH person. I have no background with this stuff, but what I was doing was not working. The trainer did a wonderful job and got horsie's attention within 5 minutes, and managed some good work. I'd like to know if anyone else has had experience with this school of training and what you think. Will it be confusing to the horse? (not gonna use it under saddle, when I think things like contact and cadence are too different)

    Some different things:
    I always lead the horse by walking by their shoulder. TD way is to walk way far in front, back turned, and lead with a very long rope. Horse stops when they stop.

    when I lunge, I want the horse to stop on the circle and stand square, facing forward. TD way, the horse turns in and faces the trainer.

    I was using a leather cavesson. TD way wants a rope halter with the lead attached (no snaps)

  • #2
    Put your selt belts on!


    • #3
      When I lead, my trainer has taught me that self carriage begins ON THE GROUND. So I walk by his shoulder, and make sure that he is moving his hind end underneath him and carrying himself. I can't expect him to go into an arena and go, "Okay - arena time! Time for self carriage!" It has to happen all thetime, and it can't using the Dorrance technique.

      When I lunge, I want my horse, again, to have self carriage and halt with his hind end underneath him, not on his forehand, and balanced and straight. If he turns to face me, he'll be crooked. After all, do you want to halt in a test that way? In addition - the halt shouldn't be "the end." From the halt, you should be able to do whatever you want - canter, walk, whatever. So you need to think of the halt as a moving gait.

      The whole idea of a cavesson is so that if you want to do in hand or lunge work on a lunge line you can, without creating an imbalance. I guess a rope halter could work but it would limit you.
      a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


      • #4
        when i lunge i linge lone reins 1st before i even attempt to lunge on the circle as i like to teach my horses basic commands and signals making sure hes balance and straight from behind you can se that especailly with a young horse as the cirrcle would put extra stresses and strains and un delveloped limbs
        then when ready start him on the lunge line both ways to keep him even when lunging you must be in position with his hind quarters to drive him forwards and when lunging you asking him to perform perfect circles which means you must stand in one spot, if you walk about whilse lunging the horse will make oval shapes rather than circle ones.

        try to privot on your inside foot that is the foot on the side you are lungeing if you are lungeing to the right pivot on the right foot whilse keeping the contact with the lunge line as near as possible to the contact that you would have when holding reins
        there should be not slack in the middle of the lunge line- keep it taught iif there is slack int eh middle then the horse is going to do what he wants to do - ie turn in, run, etc and not what you are asking him to do , also he mustnt be allowed to move outwards on the lunge line so he pulls you off your pivoting leg and unbalances you ,

        if the horse trys to turn in then you have got to be a lot quicker and any 1st sign of that
        you should take a step towards the hind quarters for exsample if lunging right then take a a sharp step to the left to get behind him agian which is the only position to keep him oving forwards-- if you are palce in front of his you will stop him, if you are just at the schoulders he will turn in - you should be behind the eye-- and at his quarters

        if you starting a new horse or youngster then make your triangle smaller
        keeping your whip hand near his quartes you as the apex of thr triangle and your lead hand
        to his caversson-- is the other side of the triangle and the horse is the bottom line to finish
        by making your self smaller to start as he gets the idea gentle lead him out a bit more until hes in the correct position

        always fold you lenght of lunge line so it doesnt get tangled when lungeing and is easier to release - the length..
        you can lunge from a caversson-
        or from the bridle --1--- connecting the lungel ine to the oppersite bit ring you are lunging from pass it over the horses head thread it through the inside bit ring--in effect the lunge is acting on the oppersite side of the head you are lungeing from the left on the the left rein
        the lunge line will be fastened on the right side of the horse mouth passed over behind his ears and threaded through the left bit ring.
        2-- you can also lunge of the bridle by passing the lunge line under his chin through the bit rings and attached it to the other side

        you should never ever lunge from the same side when lunge ing on a bridle as if the horse pulls you can possiable do damage to his mouth by pulling the oppersite side of the bit through is mouth causing him pain and to learn to be advasive


        • Original Poster

          yes! I was not even addressing the self-carriage point yet, because when I lead my horse the usual standard way, the way I was taught, she will spook abruptly and run over me. She is all up in my grill, no matter how much I tried to impress upon her. So the whole Dorrance thing is a major departure from my personal training. TD trainer said horse was using her neck against me and there was no way to solve the issue the way I was approaching it. I am not getting her attention at all.

          I'm not trying to start a train wreck popcorn thread. I have more respect for Dorrance than ,say,.....PParelli, Lyons, etc or the other games/carrotstick/b.s. artists...but I honestly do not know much other than his book (which is a love letter to the horse, basically) I just figured I need to do something different with better results, and I'm not tying the horse to a pole for a few days or beating the crud out of her.


          • #6
            A good dressage trainer can also help you with your horses respect issues. That type of training isn't exclusive to cowboys....

            Yes, the turn and face you on the lunge will confuse the horse. But, that trainer isn't lunging the same way you are. My horse was started by a 'cowboy' trainer, and it took a bit to teach him that I wanted him to NOT turn in to me.

            I still free-lunge my horse, and it works very very well to get him attentive and focused on me, but I don't let him walk in to me when when are finished.
            Never argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.


            • #7
              With respect, I disagree that the NH work aimed at teaching respect and keeping distance and attention will have any negative effect on the under saddle work. After all, the horse spends 23 hours a day in whatever sort of posture or "carriage" he feels like, yet, when we mount, he will do as we ask in that context and adopt a posture more suitable to that work or what we have taught them. When we longe to develop gaits, to develop weight carriage of the hind, to develop impulsion, or whatever our dressage goals, we are doing a different sort of work than what the NH person is trying to achieve at that moment.
              I agree that most classically grounded dressage trainers will also do their own version of obedience work and it is built in to the in hand work done all along with dressage horses brought along in classically grounded ways. but there are not too many trainers here who have the opportunity to learn the method the way it is taught in europe. However, there are many succesful trainers of other disciplines whose methods can achieve some of the same ends, especially where dominance issues are a problem.
              Whichever way you choose to do it, it is better to ask these questions of your current coach and follow their method until you have learned it well. Then you can begin to question it and learn other ways that other trainers do it.
              "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


              • #8
                I agree with CatOnLap. Once you are communicating with your horse proficiently and understand the principles the NH trainer is trying to teach you, you can go off on your own and adapt them to your personal style. This is no more confusing to the horse than any other type of training.

                Personally, I never lead from the shoulder. Too easy to get stepped on.


                • #9
                  You should look at the Bill Dorrance book True Horsemanship Through Feel. He was Tom's brother (I believe), and quite an amazing horseman in his own right.

                  Personally, I think people should do what works for them, particularly on issues of ground manners. I just don't get why there has to be a rigid set of rules that would prevent you from using some NH techniques (the ones that you found useful) to do what you want to do.

                  Really some of the arguments among horsepeople over these issues make the old arguments among various stripes of Marxists (Menshiviks vs. Bolsheviks vs. Trotskyists vs. whomever) look like amateurish bickering.
                  "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


                  • #10
                    well, and then, in my own version of NH, I always lead from the shoulder, because I can always keep eye contact with the horse. In my version, eye contact and body posture achieve a lot. My ponies are pretty respectufl of "Mom's look".
                    I am wary of walking ahead of the horse, having had a number of horses spook right up my backside in the past!
                    "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


                    • #11
                      I think the arguement of 'THIS is wrong because' and 'THAT is wrong because' is wrong.... because....

                      If the proverbial One is able to do as One wants w/One's horse then what the heck is anyone else wanting to fuss about? The trick is to COMMUNICATE w/the horse and to realize that you are teaching them things. Teach them things you want them to do... things you want them to know... as YOUR OWN horse.

                      Lead from the shoulder.
                      Don't lead from the shoulder.
                      Lead from in front.
                      Don't lead from in front.
                      Turn and face.
                      Don't turn and face.

                      Whatever. If your horse is doing what you want your horse to be doing then that is a wonderful thing. Don't go nit-picking what someone else is doing w/their own horse just because it's not something you want your horse to do.

                      As regards dressage specifically I can see where certain way of training would interfere w/your ultimate 'goal'. Ok. So don't train that way - but you simply cannot say as 'point of fact' that way of training is wrong. It's not wrong. It's different. Celebrate the Difference!

                      If the 'dressage' way of training isn't working for you and your horse and you want to explore - go right ahead. There is nothing in the Horse Book of Training which says a horse cannot relearn or unlearn something. We relearn and unlearn w/them EVERY day. If they learn to face on the lunge... they can learn to not face. If they've learned to not face, they can learn to face. They are quite the adaptable creature.

                      I lead from the shoulder. Sometimes.
                      I lead from in front. Sometimes.
                      I have them turn and face from the lunge. Sometimes.
                      I have them stay facing forward from a stop. Sometimes.

                      It depends on what I want. I give the cue... the horse obeys (usually <lol>). There are times you simply cannot lead from the shoulder, on tight trails, if you're leading 3 or more horses, ponying, whatever. But to have a horse who cannot be lead from the shoudler is a handicap for reselling. Having them turn and face you from lunging is not a sin. If I stop mine and cue for a turn and face they better turn and face.

                      One way I really like to teach them to sit down on their butts to stop is to lunge, change direction w/a turn and face, and then them right back the other way. If you pull their nose instead of push their butts then they'll learn to rock back, pick up the front end, check in w/you and then continue the front-end roll or stop facing you. If you've told them to reverse then they'll keep that front end roll and set down facing the other direction... and - hopefully - canter off again.

                      It's pretty cool to be able to subltly cue them for a stop, stop and face, or a roll back. And there's nothing wrong w/it. And there's nothing wrong w/not doing it that way.

                      It's a CHOICE. Outfit yourself w/the tools of communication and then have fun. sylvia

                      PS - If I'm thinking a horse might 'spook up my backside' then I'll do some space-respecting chicken-arm flaps. Meaning... I'll lead them out and then stop and flap both elbows as I'm backing. If they don't move back they get their nose whopped w/the elbows.... or their neck/shoulder. It's AMAZING how quickly they learn to pay attention to their 'leader' and to stop and GET BACK if needed. Even when leading from the shoulder you are not immune to getting run over by a spooky horse. Your best bet is to teach them to respect your space no matter what. If they feel the need to spook they'd best spooky forward or rearward or away... not toward - no matter what direction you happen to be in at the moment.
                      Never explain yourself to someone who is committed to misunderstanding you.


                      • #12
                        It depends on what I want. I give the cue... the horse obeys (usually <lol>). There are times you simply cannot lead from the shoulder, on tight trails, if you're leading 3 or more horses, ponying, whatever. But to have a horse who cannot be lead from the shoudler is a handicap for reselling. Having them turn and face you from lunging is not a sin. If I stop mine and cue for a turn and face they better turn and face.
                        agreed. I think that you can teach your horse whatever you want, and ask for differant variations of the same thing depending on the circumstance.
                        For example, my horse knows how to halt square on the lunge. My horse also knows how to halt by turning into me on the lunge. Both are halts, but they are asked for slightly differantly
                        My horse can lead with me by his shoulder. My horse also leads great if he is behind me.

                        The beauty with training is that you have choices. Let the training fit into your philosophy.. don't force an entire philosophy into your training (or abstain from an entire philosophy because you don't agree with one or two things.)

                        The biggest problem I see with people trying to adopt NH is that they focus on the outcome, not the thought behind it, which is funny to me because NH is focusued on how horses think. People see (insert favorite or not so favorite NH trainer here) wave a stick in the air, so they wave a stick in the air without giving any thought to why he might be waving a stick in the air. what he was asking for, when he started waving it, when he stopped waving it etc.

                        I'm sure if you asked your NH trainer exactly the reasoning behind where he wants you to lead your horse, he would give you a slightly more profound answer that was ultimatly aimed at improving your communication with your horse, which in turn gives you freedom with your horse...


                        • #13
                          i'm really wary of leading too far out in front. a woman who used to work for my bosses got paralyzed by doing that last year. apparently she was far ahead of the horse when it spooked and reared, and struck her right in the back of the neck. that's really stuck with me, and i'm super super paranoid about leading from the shoulder now, all the time. did the guy mention what his reasoning was for leading so far out in front, or what he was hoping to accomplish?
                          My mare wonders about all this fuss about birth control when she's only seen a handful of testicles in her entire life. Living with an intact male of my species, I feel differently! WAYSIDE


                          • Original Poster

                            the horse sometimes spooks INTO me when I lead next to her shoulder. She looks away from me, pops her shoulder in and runs me over. I have been able to push her away, or pull her head in/push her shoulder out but it is very strength based, and some days I'm weak.

                            the Dorrance or NH thing is walking way ahead, the horse pays way more attention to the handler. Although, the horse spooked with trainer way up in front and galloped straight for him. Would have trampled him too but he was too quick. Proceeded to back the horse twice as far back as the horse came forward. I will back a horse 3 to 5 steps but not that far.

                            at any rate, the horse is not really spooking. Just flipping the hoof and being feral and untrained. I am so embarrassed to even be having this problem (one of a few training 101 issues) I have started young horses for years in my youth but last time was about 18 years ago. The horses haven't changed. I have. My timing has. My body language has. My energy level has. So any new techniques that can nip the ground stuff is most welcome.


                            • #15
                              Some good points posted. I still think you should listen to your trainer, though, otherwise you are wasting your money. You can always add and improve later.

                              I lead with the horse's nose at my shoulder. That's is the habit I get all of my horses into. Ever seen a horse when they hit a patch of ice under a thin layer of snow? Legs splay sideways, and they will absolutely take you out while trying to balance. I'd rather not be caught by flailing legs. (I almost found that out the hard way one time when I let a horse get too far in front of me -- I can't believe I'm still alive after some of the stuff I've done.) Also, I've found that the horses seem to respond much quicker to an abrupt right turn when you lead with the head at your shoulder. I don't think you have as much control leading from the horse's shoulder.

                              Is this an english/western divide? I've never seen a western rider lead from the shoulder (on purpose, lol), but maybe they do and I never noticed. Just curious.


                              • Original Poster

                                my understanding is the western folks walk way ahead of their horse. When they stop, the horse stops. When they go, the horse goes. I thought it might be a QH vs WB thing too (like ground tying or standing tied to a trailer quietly at a show?) I just never gave it much thought.

                                I don't have a trainer right now. I just asked a local Dorrance student to come out for a consult. It was very educational, the horse responded immediately and I remain open minded to new things. But then started thinking about if there will be problems in the future, when I decide to 'switch' over to traditional "english" ways. I don't know anything about clicker training or TTouch or other stuff cuz I thought it was kind of 'circus' or porpoise or trick training.


                                • #17
                                  yes, the techniques and the basic principles are extremely different from dressage training and i've never found NH horses to be 'adjustable' later to 'personal styles'. because of the way the training is done it creates an extremely unvarying, rigid response that is very, very hard to change.

                                  if it works for you fine, but don't kid yourself - NH methods, such as walking in front of the horse instead of at the shoulder, having the horse turn toward you on the longe - none of that was developed for teh same type of horse or training goals.

                                  and no....self carriage and the kind of respectful behavior one wants on the ground - many riders with very good ground manners on their horses do not have self carriage - and self carriage does not mean not pulling or having a light contact.


                                  • #18
                                    SLC, how does leading from the front harm a dressage horse? That seems ridiculous to me. Like saying cross ties will ruin an endurance horse, or ground manners will "break a horse's spirit."


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by feisomeday View Post
                                      my understanding is the western folks walk way ahead of their horse. When they stop, the horse stops. When they go, the horse goes. I thought it might be a QH vs WB thing too (like ground tying or standing tied to a trailer quietly at a show?) I just never gave it much thought.

                                      It is NOT a QH vs WB thing; it's a horse vs human thing. The point of this kind of work is to interact with the horse with the kind of feel that others of his species use to interact with him. What you ultimately do with it makes no nevermind whatever. Once you have feel going between you and your horse and can manuver his whole body without resistance, you can stop him on the end of your longe line standing on his head, if that's what you want; just ask for it the right way, and with feel. It is not discipline-specific and should not negatively influence what you ultimately do with your horse. If it does, it is not being done correctly.

                                      I will qualify that by saying that it is not done correctly a lot.
                                      "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                                      Spay and neuter. Please.


                                      • #20
                                        As a personal choice, I would never allow my horse to get ahead of me on the lead. I want their throatlatch right about even with my shoulder, so I can see what they are seeing, and see where the ears are pointed. I would only allow a dead broke, completely respectful horse trail behind me. It is a potentially dangerous position to be in, and I have, in the past, had horses run up behind and over as well as get a bit too far ahead and try to jump into my arms. Also, I will admit, that sometimes I have allowed my horse to trail behind me, but that is the exception, not the rule. (for me, that is)

                                        I see no conflict in starting with NH, and transitioning to the saddle and then going where you want to go. Pick and choose your training techniques. What works for me may not work for you. I watch a lot of CA, but since he is more than a foot taller than I am, not everything that he does will work for me. Also, some of the stuff that I learned years ago still works.......

                                        Although I am just starting back, nothing that I have tried has set me back. Groundwork is groundwork. Some of it will translate under saddle, some won't. So far, I have had no trouble communicating the difference between a halt on the lunge and a reverse. They are separate signals, and once you have one, the other is easy enough to get, if you communicate clearly.
                                        Arab Dressage Riders Clique