Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nothing to Report

Horses Fine

Me, tired.

Had a long day at school despite its being only a half day. I had two exams to give to two classes. And, I needed to grade them both and figure the grade averages for the year.

Then we had a rather long meeting on school safety procedures.

When I got home, I just had no energy left. Or, no ambition. Or neither of either.

Thoughts: To Caroline--PK is Phillipe Karl, master of the French school of classic equitation.

When I rode with Lockie Richards, he simplified many of the complex riding methods of the world into easily understood concepts. He was himself a master teacher who had hundreds of marvelous techiques to deal with almost any training problem with nearly every kind of horse. (Lockie also rode at the Spanish Riding School a few times and narrated an excellent documentary on the School.)

When we were discussing some of the various ways to ride, he introduced the German school as driving the horse from behind into the bit. The French school worked the horse from front to back, suppling the front end to "allow" the hind end to step forward. He also said some horses were naturally German and others French. Russell R. was more French and worked better if we used those techniques.

Lockie also said that he'd ridden in some of the top German schools and found many of the horses very "strong" to the contact in front. As a matter of fact, he recalled one time when riding with a German master, that he found himself almost not strong enough to maintain the kind of contact his mount demanded.

I always remember these lessons when I am riding and considering exactly what is right and correct. Everyone will talk about "lightness" to the bit, but that is never actually defined. I have always felt my horses were going better when I had some good solid contact on the bit. It would actually be a matter of pounds, not ounces. But, I still tend to ride more "French" in the sense that my horse also needs to be suppled in the front so he can come through from behind. The contact needs to feel "alive" as if at any time I could bend him right or left easily and close up his frame more if I wanted to. I also seem to want to feel a little sense that if I let the rein play out, my horse would want to stretch down and out, not up and out.

Fortunately I was pleased to discover that Gabriel, my new trainer, was happy with the feel Tucker gave him when he worked him on the long lines, and also when he rode him. He had said that watching me ride Tuck, he was not too sure he was taking the bit as much as he should be.

So far, then, so good. Tucker does, however, tend to "lock" his jaw a bit and resist by stiffening thrhough his poll. This is one of the reasons why the long lining, even with an overbend, is good for him as it really does make him give in. When I am on the ground--as Lockie taught me for longlining many years ago--I have much more leverage than I do in the saddle. Planted to the earth by gravity, I have a decided advantage with a horse trying to resist the action of the bit. But, because of that, I must also be tactful and ready to "give" quickly. It's a tricky job, as I said yesterday.

By the by, Kenny Harlow establishes the "give to the bit" as one of the first basic training exercises in the horses he works. The idea is to hold the rein until the horse "drops" its head to the bit. You must release the rein entirely and instantly each time the horse gives even a fraction, until, eventually, the horse's reaction to the lightest touch of the rein is to give to the bit. Dressage does need more contact than that basic "give" creates, but using his (and John Lyons's) basic techniques can make a really positive change in a resistant horse.

OK, I'll get down of the soapbox now. Perhaps tomorrow I will put some of my concepts into practice and do some riding of my own.


  1. I'm a Frenchman - get the front end up and out of the way and the hind end comes through. It also produces much more lateral flexibility than driving from behind. I agree totally with Kenny on the give to the bit too, it's where I am struggling with George right now as he does not want to play my game :-)


  2. Excellent post Jean you must be a great teacher as you explain things so well.
    Ive heard a fair about French v German school on EE..did understand the theory but you made it much clearer!

    Oh ive just longlined in the school today and you've also summed up what im finding there with AliG:)
    ..although I thought the reason he was going so much better in the longreins was my rubbish riding!:0