Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sandbox Lesson #3: Driving the Center-line

Driving the Center-line

Driving down the center-line occurs at least twice in every dressage test at every level. There is always a judge assessing your accuracy, sitting at "C". Practically above all else, they notice when you waiver or veer from a true line. If you are not perfectly straight, how can it be a ""10"? Why is it so difficult to be accurate on the Center-line? And how many drivers fudge this part of their tests? 

One reason is that as soon as you turn down the line, the letter in back of you is out of your sight. You do not have eyes in back of your head to keep you and your horse directly lined up with it as you travel down the line. 

One very simple practice technique we use at Green Meads Farm is to place three sets of cones on line, one pair at "D" which is on the line 10 meters from"A" and one pair at "X" in the center and one pair at "G", 10 meters from "C". These should be wider than cones gates you would use to practice or train for driving obstacles, especially the pair at "X" so that you can still drive the long diagonal lines. They just serve as a visual guide to help you stay on the line and to stay straight.

The pair of cones at "D" and "G" help guide you to start your trip down the center-line in the right place. By the time your horse's hind end passes thru the pair, he should be straight down the line. If you look closely at the photo you will see the hind end foot prints right between the cones in front of "A", right on the center-line.

These cones will help pretty dramatically to keep your repetitions very nearly the same so that when they are not present, your internal compass will have been honed and trained to rather instantly sense when you are about to not be exactly straight and you can make the tiniest adjustment to remain on a true course. Your wavering and veering and drifting will be minimized. 

This same effect will occur in your horse(s). They will remain straighter over time as they begin to feel the straighter line occur again and again over time. Like pushing a wheelbarrow, it's easier to stay balanced and straight than it is to keep re-balancing and adjusting course. I believe it is much the same for the horses.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Looking forward to the next horse

"It is hard to put a price on accepting that everything you think you know about horses may change with the very next horse."
From an article about Bill Dorrance by Verlyn Klinkenborg 'Death of a Legendary Horseman' - NY Times July 24, 1999 -…/editorial-notebook-death-of-a-lege…

It is amazing to ponder that with all the time man has spent with horses and with all that has been studied and written about horses, there is always something new to be learned.
I am always looking forward to what the next horse has in store for me.
Bill Dorrance

Friday, July 10, 2015

Can it be driven?

I saw this set of tracks in my driveway today left from stone dust on the wheels of a Pacific Darmor that I had turned around by hand in order to hook the next horse of the day. I set some cones next to them and pondered this.....

Is it possible to actually make this turn?

The carriage did it with 35 cm clearance....
Training Level clearance.

Red = Front Track      Green = Rear Track

But can it be done with a horse or pony attached?
Where would the front feet have to be to make this?

It probably can not be done with a Training Level Horse except by pure luck and it might not be fair to even ask for it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Allow for Mental Processing

Mental Processing


 At each level of the education, the horse reacts first protecting familiar locomotor patterns or muscle imbalance. If properly guided by the rider, the horse brain explores a new reflex combination. It is scary first from the horse point of view but also intriguing as the reflex combination renders the move or the gait, less uncomfortable or even easier.

The brain is simultaneously scared and interested. The brain is interested because of the physical comfort that the reflex combination provides. Basal nuclei, olivary nuclei, cerebellum, which are components of the brain monitoring the body situation, have registered the physical comfort associated with the move. The brain is simultaneously scared because the sensation is not familiar. At this point, the rider easily encourages or destroys the horse mental involvement. If the rider thinks in terms of submission, leadership, obedience to the aids, the rider annihilates the horse mental development. At the contrary, if the rider respects the horse’s mental processing and gives to the horse some processing time, let the horse explore errors and use the horse’s errors to reformulate the question, the rider develops the horse’s intelligence.

by Jean Luc Cornille

This is reflected in the way I teach:

  • Make it easy for the horse to guess the right answer.
  • Guide him to a way of accomplishing what is asked of him that makes his work easier.
  • Allow him to explore what works best. Do not force him. He will come to you.
  • Give him enough repetition and enough processing time for him to recognize there is an easier way.
  • Capitalize on the equine's evolutionary instinct to make the best use of the calories available. Horses want to be efficient.
  • Our training job is made easier because the evolutionary appreciation for greater efficiency ultimately has meaning to a horse.
Related thought:

"When a motion is repeated slowly and accurately it becomes thoroughly ingrained in the muscle memory of the practitioner. The motion then becomes automatic, and conscious thought is no longer needed to perform it. This kind of programming cannot be obtained by fumbling through a technique. Rather, it must be repeated often and without mistakes. At first, this can only be done at slow tempos."
(Philip Sudo & Tobias Hurwitz, 2007)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Feeling, Timing, Balance

Glad he gave credit where it's due. 

This is a pretty good explanation of what should be happening when you ride *or* drive!