Monday, August 31, 2009


yielding, nonresistance, obedience., surrender, cession, resignation

Just some of the thoughts one can associate with submission.

I recall my first judge training session; clueless but keen would best describe me. I still have the notes I took at that session about submission...

compliance, throughness, confidence, as well as lightness of the forehand (did he 'carry' himself?) and did he go willingly?

Later in another training session I scribbled this one....

Willingness of the horse to obey the riders aids without any tension.

Submission still troubles me, it is one of the cornerstones of training (any training, not just dressage) and yet it makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable. If one adds an adjective....willing, accepting, gracious etc then it sits slightly more comfortably.

The truth is that we can't get along with our horses (let alone work/ride them) if they don't submit to us. The art of 'getting along' works so much better if one half of the team can lead and the other be lead.

Of course there are times when we really should turn around the roles, times (when this dumb human certainly) should stop and listen before we take the lead again.

Each horse being different means that they will find the art of submission easier or more arduous. I believe that the 'hotter' horses find submission incredibly difficult, whereas the cooler, more sane types can assume the mantle with ease.

I have spoken a number of times of the difficulties associated with training 'hotter' types, where to engage the brain so that one can get to work on engaging the physical motor?

So as I start Moo back to more solid work (assuming he stays as sound and fit as he is) I will be once again visiting the roots of submission....for there lie all the problems. I have already started this work and will fill in the gaps when I'm less tired but suffice to say we are back at the beginning (think nursery class).

As I struggle with the idea of submission and the incredibly tough job that places on the trainer (don't even start me on should we even work them at all, lol) I have selected two thoughts based on Seunig's words.

Trusting surrender, learning to stand alone, to accept responsibility for balance, not leaning on or relying on hand or leg.

Complete responsiveness to all influences-hand, leg, weight (voice, body language I'd like to add because submission starts at the very beginning BEFORE riding) in other words; being totally reponsive to all influences that the rider/trainer exerts.

I still find the idea of submission somewhat tricky but I have to concede it is necessary (or I shan't ever tack up my horses again). But I'm going with trusting surrender with a lots of listening out for his side of the story.....I'll keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between a horse that is compliant (on the outside) and willingly compliant (from the inside) - the trick's in know the difference and working to achieve it. Your post is very thoughtful.

Di said...

Yes, thought provoking post.
I agree with Kate. I don't think any of my previous horses have really been 'with me', willingly compliant on the inside. I get glimpses of it with Anky, I feel that the bond I have with her is the strongest of all my horses. When you get into this kind of territory it becomes a very difficult, complex road, the reason, I presume, why most people choose not to take it.

trudi said...

The inside and outside are inextricably linked. The route to the inside is via the outside and vice versa. As humans I think we find it hard to accept that not all horses will want to be lovingly compliant but will nonetheless be quite happy to submit 'part way'. The honest truth is that horses aren't humans and won't ever understand the goals of training.
I was so frustrated watching Laura Bechtolsheimer getting the highest mark ever by a Brit at Windsor...not much 'joy' but a hugely talented horse. Interestingly he is not so submissive if you look hard enough, notice his extremely poor immobility in the opening halt...

Di said...

I get sick of hearing people rave about E. Gal and Moorlands Totilas, looks like a wonderfully talented horse but how much inner compliance there? Oh god, it gets me down!

trudi said...

Don't get me started on that one Di, TF has a post up and everyone loves him...been 'warned off' moaning by someone saying 'don't let's turn this into another training debate'. Surely debate is good.

Claire said...

nothing wrong with a training debate, we all learn from them... whether we learn what those riders want us to learn is another matter, lol.

and as for your original point - i never think about "submission" in the context of training my horse, the word makes me think of slavery and like that, which is not what we're after.

yes we want the horse to trust what we ask it to do, and to do as we ask once we've taught it properly, but not in a mechanical fashion... i'd rather just work on getting it right by getting me right to get the horse right, than worry about "submission"

trudi said...

OK Claire we can call it compliance, acceptance of our will, nonresistance to our will...whatever but that is just semantics and of course in competition it is referred to as submission (yep I know that doesn't make it right). From the day we put them in a field and shut the gate, in a stable and close the door we are submitting them to our ways. As I said, a pretty adjective helps but it's still taking away their free will one way or another.

Well you said decbate was good, lol.

Claire said...

i suppose that's right... i just don't like the word, and as i say, never think about it as such!

Claire said...

i've just read a thread on EE arising out of the europeans... i think some of the comments people have made on there about the way the top horses look and what seems to be demanded by submission at that level puts me against the notion... clearly, that's not what YOU mean, but maybe the notion of the word itself results in such taking the training in the "wrong" direction

hope you see what i mean by this, don't know if you've read that thread yet....

HorseOfCourse said...

Very interesting post, Trudi, to which I don't believe there is an easy answer.
As you say, every horse is different, and some find it easier to cooperate than others.
To me, submission is very much linked to trust, which I believe we have to earn.
Does the horse feel good when working? Is he rewarded and praised when doing the right thing? Or just punished/corrected when doing wrong?
True willingness to work is about feeling good on the inside, I agree with Kate on that. That doesn't mean that we cannot put demands on our horses.
But some horses are very difficult, in particular those that comes with a history.

trudi said...

Claire I do follow what you're saying and excepting that it seems a maligned word in terms of horse training I myself am trying to come to terms with it. It's only a word and the 'intent' is what counts. I love Seunig's line when he says about numbing the brain(as one may think of with some competition submission) as an anathesia which renders the body immobile (not an exact quote because I doubt I'd find the page if I looked)and I guess when you're training/riding in excess of 700kg of hot stallion then a little brain death goes a long way. Many years ago I watched a Catherstone family member haul around a stallion when working in and it made me feel physically sick....if that's the only way to get medals then I'm happy out of it and I haven't kept up with the Gal thread, it just gets me down :-(

Yes HofC yes agreed, trust is key as is sharing the responsability for balance...that's why I liked this one that I quoted ''Trusting surrender, learning to stand alone, to accept responsibility for balance, not leaning on or relying on hand or leg.'' it kind of says that you trust your horse to be there for you, rather than submission at all costs.

Claire said...

''Trusting surrender, learning to stand alone, to accept responsibility for balance, not leaning on or relying on hand or leg.''

I like that! exactly. if we can get that...

HorseOfCourse said...

Like that qoute too.
I would like to add another, from von Neindorff. (I have it at the bottom of my blog, so you might have seen it before)

"Dressage does not mean total submission of the horse, not overtaxing him forcefully, nor getting into useless arguments. Harmony means sensibility, synchronization, consistency and unison.
"Dressage in harmony" means to solve together a task in such a manner that rider and horse are enjoying the work. Then and only then will you feel the wonderful natural ease and subtle relaxation which every rider seeks in his or her daily work."
Beutiful put, me thinks.