Friday, November 11, 2011

In the dark

Daylight Savings day is my least favorite day of the year, it marks the beginning of three months of darkness for me. Three months when I only see my horses in the light on the weekends or holidays. Ugh, winter.

Anyway, this year I'm going to try to make the most of it. I asked Mark to set up a light on the front of the barn so I'll have a place to work in the evenings and I plan to pick up all the projects that fell by the wayside this year. That means head lowering, pilates, standing on the mat, leg lifts, and working on balance in small circles (AKA picking the shoulders up and out instead of falling in on them).

I plan on trying to ride Gwen on the weekends, I'm hoping that when the snow covers the grass she'll be able to focus better, while Coriander is basically getting the winter off from riding. In the meantime I've started dressage lessons so that when Coriander and I get to work next spring I'll be better prepared for our next step in training.

Speaking of that: During my lesson we worked on walking and halting "on the bit." She had me squeeze my buttocks to get the horse to lower his head and lift his back, then I got him to go long and low by squeezing my cheeks while he walked. I went and tried it with Coriander later that day and it worked, he arched his neck down immediately.

Why does that work? Is it a pressure point on their backs? I would be afraid to rely on that trick though, does it teach the horse anything about carrying their bodies or is it just a physical response? I want a little more than just a reflex to get my horse stretching over his topline (not to mention that my tushy gets tired and it makes me feel like I'm perching on top of the horse). I'll have to ask her about that during my next lesson.

Dr. Kellon's nutrition course started this week too. I mentioned I'd give out little tidbits that I've learned along the way, so here's one for week 1: You almost never need to supplement vitamins A, D, K, B-12, and C in your horse's diet.

Wow, that seemed like an incredibly random post. Might as well keep adding to it then- I added another video to my last post. I'm really starting to wonder if the judges for AQHA are legally blind.


  1. I know the chiro trick of tracing lines on either side of the horse's tail (encourages them to lift their bellies up) but I've never heard of the "squeeze!" Sounds like it works, although I understand your reservations. I think the idea is to get them to figure out it feels best to carry a rider that way, yes?

    I watched the videos you posted earlier and was just as disturbed. One of my least fond memories was interviewing some folks who were "show horse" people. I understand wanting to work on goals, and I understand that insane "mom-is-totally-blind" pride about our own ponies. But when money is involved, it seems like common sense and a bunch of other things go right out the window.

  2. Except for the cooler temps and no bugs I hate this time of year once the clocks are changed. It's so depressing to be in the dark so early.

    I have no idea why the trainer makes you squeeze your butt cheeks. I've never heard of that before, that I remember anyhow. Weighting different cheekbones is different and I've been taught that but never the squeeze. Let us know the answer when you get it.

    Fetlock is right, when money is involved common sense and the well being of the horse go right out the window. Still want to know how those movement started and why they are accepted.

  3. Fetlock that's exactly what I'm thinking, if you teach the horse to pick up their back on their own then they own it and can be responsible for it on their own. Or maybe I'm anthropomorphizing a little too much.

    And yes, "money is the root of all evil" isn't a cliche for nothing.

    GHM- get your daughter to give it a try once. Halt with the horse between the aids and then squeeze your cheeks. The horse will drop their head in a second or two. If it worked with Coriander it will work with your well-trained bunch.

  4. i know what you mean about the dark :-( i wish they'd just leave daylight savings all year. it's bad enough it's winter, but they don't have to ensure everyone gets home from work in the dark with no time left to do anything else!

    as for the cheek-squeeze, i think your reservations could be well-founded. i tend to doubt the horse is truly round and relaxed, as that kind of pressure on the back generally causes the horse to tense their muscles to some degree as a defense mechanism (kind of the way when someone gives you a pinch or squeeze, your muscles automatically tense up....) from the saddle it may feel like a lift, but i don't think a horse would be able to maintain a relaxed, swinging back if you did that while moving....

    also, for me, 'on the bit' shouldn't be a mechanical reflex brought about by a specific physical stimulus, but an overall behavioral response of attention, relaxation and cooperation. but then, i also disagree with most of the dressage world with the whole concept of an active, continually driving seat grinding into the back supposedly in 'support' of engagement. i've only ever seen it create a defensive posture, whereas a relaxed, following seat tends to loosen the muscles (like when you really unhinge your lower back and let your hips swing at the walk and get some good overtracking - and then you can add an alternating nudge with each leg just as the hind on the same side lifts off the ground to lengthen the stride :-)

    but that's just my two cents. i'd be interested to hear the explanation for why it works also. and i know i'll have to try it next time i'm on a horse just out of curiosity ;-)

  5. What jme said! There are lots of shortcuts for getting on the bit, but I think often they produce the illusion of roundness. Seems like squeezing your butt would raise your seatbones off the saddle?!

    Looking forward to your reports on the Dr. Kellon course, especially info on magnesium. It wasn't in the cards for me this time unfortunately. :)

  6. Well I asked and she said it was a pressure point, so lowering the head is just a reflex response. I don't see this as a technique I'll use regularly in training but it might be helpful to keep in the toolbox. You never know when you might need it.

    jme- did you get a chance to try it?

    CFS- yeah, I don't like the perched feeling I get, not to mention the butt cramps ;)

    I'll try to remember to post the magnesium info when we get to it. This week's lesson is on testing soil and hay.

  7. That does sound odd--squeezing the butt cheeks--and the butt cramps. lol. I took dressage lessons two years ago and just couldn't synthesize all the little details, but I did learn a few things very well. Like you said, they are tools for the chest--or something to ponder anyway.

  8. that's interesting! i'll have to ask their chiro/acupuncturist about it next time we have her out :-) and no, i haven't had a chance to try it yet - had a minor car incident and i probably won't be riding until the bruises heal :-\ but i'll get there!

  9. Squeezing buttocks? Well that sounds like a win/win. Head lowered and toned buns! ;0
    I'm jealous about Dr. Kellon's class..I do not have the time or the brain power right now to do it. I'll feed off of you though :) Thanks for sharing what you learn!

  10. Glad you can get things set up for some winter work. I hate that it gets dark so early :(
    Interesting re the butt squeezing thing. The woman I just started taking lunge lessons from to work on my equitation has me do this to get the horse to halt, and it works. I tried it out of the blue with my own horse and he halted too. Seems to be a resistence thing. I haven't noticed any tendency for them to reach down or lift their backs from the 'squeeze'. Anyway, sounds like you got some great feedback.

  11. Bummer jme- I read that her daughter got in an accident, I didn't know it was you.

    Kristen- LOL, that's a good way to think of it, I know my bum could stand to be a bit more toned ;)

    Carol yes it would work to get a halt, but for mine I just stop swinging my hips to halt(well, Coriander does this, Gwen is learning), it's after the halt that I applied the bum squeeze, sometimes it takes a second or two for the horse to drop.

    I taught Coriander to halt off my seat by teaching the rein aid, then using an exhale and stopping my seat before applying the rein aid until he stopped at the seat aid. Actually, he'll stop at an exhale too, I have to be careful if I yawn sometimes.