Re: Riddle Me This--Western Competition Puzzles
- From: "Ponai Mahone" <lunch@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 9 Jun 2009 00:20:21 -0700
> That is how the horse is asked to bridle up/asked for a certain head
> carriage. Since they ride on a loose rein, they don't have contact,
> so they tell the horse where to place the head and then they stop
> telling the horse where to place the head - repeat as necessary,
> hopefully when the judge isn't watching.
I understand you are defending a practice, you don't necessarily agree with
here, but I have to mention the following.
Explaining maybe, not defending.
It isn't that the jerking actions of the riders needs explaining in a way that defends the actions their actions. But I am assuming you are more enlightened in your actions with reins, when they are connected to a horse's mouth via a bit.
With any rider, regardless of the discipline, holding on the the reins is a
two way conversation with the horse, if the rider doesn't "block" the
feedback from the horse's mouth.
In western training, think Clinton Anderson. They pick up on the
rein, apply tension, and ask the horse to give to the pressure by
moving his head or head/neck in a certain manner. They ride like that
in a snaffle bit for however long. Reins are shorter so that the
ability to apply that sort of cue is readily available. They are
started being asked to position their head laterally - over time they
are asked for vertical placement also.
Clinton Anderson is hardly a horseman whose skill illustrates a equitation at its finest. Certain schools of thought in the Classical Equitation world use the raising of the hand(s) as a halt to reverse technique, so I am familiar with the concept. The length of the rein is relevant to the stage of schooling the horse is trained to. The effect of the hand(s) is the same throughout the process. Head carriage comes from self carriage, i.e., the horse learns to carry himself in a posture most advantageous to his well being and the comfort of the rider. The way a horse carries his head is totally dependent on how the horse is carrying his body. It doesn't take a bit in the horse's mouth to be manipulated by the rider for the horse to learn to carry himself. In fact, quite the reverse is true. Mies Van Der Rohe "less is more" is so, so, important here. Putting the horse in a "frame" not suited to his conformation sets him up for arthritis, because it places stress on the joints by torquing them into positions they were never supposed to assume. Bill Dorrance was applying this method of thought to his work with horse until he gave up riding at the age of 92.
As a horse progresses, he eventually is expected to move in the way
he's been educated to move, without the rider having to continually
place the head, the nose, the neck, whichever. For rail classes like
Western Pleasure, the horse mainly has to remember to keep his head
down. He doesn't come off the rail and do patterns so his turns are
not as micromanaged - just his headset.
Again I assuming up have enough understanding of horses at this point in your career to know what is required in the show ring is not necessarily in the horse's best interest. Focusing only on the horse's head set is not encouraging the horse to move in a fashion most advantageous to his physical wellbeing.
The Big Red Horse's brother has been the national/world champion for Western Pleasure in the Morgan breed. Morgans don't travel travel with their heads below their withers, but they aren't generally breaking from the first and second vertebrae, so their "collection" is a bit of uninspired confection. Think high fructose corn syrup. Serves a purpose, but isn't good for the health of the individual.
On a shorter rein, headset is asked for by applying equal tension to
both reins at the same time. On a long rein, with a more finished
horse, instead of shortening the rein, applying the cue, then
lengthening the rein, the reins are just used with the hands in the
long position - hence what Elaine saw and what I see at every reining,
every Western Pleasure show, every trail class, and even some cuttings
with horses older than futurity horses... Hands are brought up until
the slack is out of the rein, tension or bumping is applied to both
sides at the same time, horse lowers his head, reins return to slack.
This is not a tactful, a respectful or a kind way to training a horse to carry a bit in its mouth. On a short rein, the hand is never supposed to move behind the vertical, i.e., there is no rearward action of the reins. Tension is created by making a semi circle upwards with the wrists or wrist, depending if the rider is riding with one or two hands. The same holds true when using a curb bit as well. If after the transition to a curb, riders were riding in a curb with a mullen mouth the method you describe might be an effective, but generally, WP riders use a curb with a port designed to apply pressure on the roof of the mouth with movement from the riders hand. Any movement is amplified with a ported curb. Evasion is taken care of by the curb chain locking the action of the bit into the horse's mouth. There is nothing soft about having a horse so paranoid about the sudden jerking action of the rider he will hold his head in a position contrary to the way he uses his body.
That's what I meant about the horses no longer going on contact. It's
a difference in how they are trained as youngsters and how they
progress into finished horses. It's entirely different from English
training in which a horse is expected to reach for and accept the bit
and offer his rider a feel. In western, the horse is not supposed to
offer any feel whatsoever, and if he feels anything more than the
weight of the reins, he is supposed to give to it - which means to
position his head or head/neck until he no longer feels that tension.
For example if he's reminded to assume a bit of an inside bend during
a turn, that cue is given and then released when he assumes the
position, and he is supposed to keep that position while on a slack
rein - slack, not the English version of slack but slack.
The rider has influence on the horse's mouth whether the reins have drape or not. Contact is contact. I read what you are saying, and I believe that is what riders are trying to achieve, but I don't agree. Most Western Pleasure horses are shown with romel reins. They are beautiful works of art, but they usually weight a considerable amount, so their action amplifies miniature movements of a rider's hand, to the curb bit. Moving the hand so the curb becomes perpendicular to the ground (which Eileen reported she observed) is a lot of pressure on the roof of the mouth.
I'm sorry, but wherever the idea the horse isn't supposed to offer any "feel" goes against anything about riding I can think of. If I want a calm relaxed horse, and I presume the majority of riders do also, I want to be able to feel the horse's tongue and jaw. The information that comes from the sensation a rider fells can feel tell that rider a lot about the horse's current state of mind. Are they calm, are they relaxed, are they a pleasure to ride?
I'm not defending any one thing here, just explaining. There are ways
to do it badly, and there are ways to do it that are less bad, and IMO
particularly in cases where the horse is allowed to have his neck
telescope out and carry his poll wherever he likes and simply drop his
nose via the poll and not lower his whole head via C4, then that might
not be bad at all. It's good to keep in mind that most western bits
do not have broken mouthpieces, so the straight up two rein cue does
not cause a pinching of the tongue and bars and a stabbing into the
palate like a broken mouth bit (like most snaffle bits) would cause.
Depending of course on overall bit fit, and not that what I see
happening is anything, for the most part, I'd say is OK - most of what
I see happening is way too abrubt and harsh.
A port is a tool in the hands of the user. If a bit is used with tact, it is an excellent tool for a "less is more" style of riding. Most bits are excellent tools if used as with a minimum of effort. If the bit is over-used by the hands or hand of the rider, it quickly turns into abused, and from what you have kindly taken the time to type, it generally abuse in the Western Pleasure world. You have described a method of behavior used by most Western Pleasure riders, which indicates tact is lacking in the riding ability of riders, regardless of the success they may be having, whether the reins have drape or not.
PS I am a an English rider dabbling in the dark side. So far, my concessions to Western riding, are tack based. I ride with split reins, because I find it more comfortable to keep my arms at my sides, and the English buckle reins are too short, because of the horn on the saddle. Aids are still the same. The horse manages to go in self carriage, with draped reins, despite the fact he was formally ridden in an English saddle. We still use a snaffle bit, because he is still a green horse.