Wednesday, September 16, 2009

simplicity

Well I've just returned from the briefest visit to the UK; no time for visiting friends (flights didn't allow for it) and a 4.00am rise this morning to get the flight home. I feel like I'm holding my breath whilst I'm there, so much traffic and noise and too much choice of everything.....pubs, shops, hotels, magazines and anything else you can think of. I understand why lots of people who re-settled from the UK to France find it hard to adjust but I just find the quantity of everything rather baffling, lol, I guess I like things simple.
Talking of simplicity, I've been spending most of my time with Moo either walking out or in-hand/lunging in the school; working on the principle that he really needs to strengthen up before I advance the ridden work and I'm not sure my discipline skills are up to not trying too hard when on board ;-).
All of our in-hand work is done in a headcollar and lead or lunge, it's at least 6 years since I've lunged in anything else but the in-hand is a different story, I've used a bridle and worked off the bit always with this. I decided to ditch the bridle after working him in-hand in the hackamore worked so well.
OK that's the history, now to technique. Even when I plan for most of the work to be on the lunge I start with him in-hand. This is not only a barometer for me to see how he's moving but a nicely contained stretch and warm-up for him. To begin we just walk straight lines and corners, on and off the track. Then we start to bring the shoulder fore and add in a quarter turn on the forehand to change direction. Then maybe shoulder-in with some haunch and or shoulder yield. If we're lunging then we go onto transitions, spirals etc which I'll try and video as it will help me watch for any longer term improvement. If we are working in hand we may go forward to some reinback, trot, counter-shoulder fore/in and travers/half pass. The most amazing discovery for me has been the way I can influence him by the merest touch, for instance, if he brings around his head too much in the shoulder-in I can just use the tip of my fingers (at the side of his face) to realign it. If his neck looks 'held' somewhere I can use my fingers (or gently touch with the end of the whip) and he seems to react.
I used to truly believe that I couldn't work without a bit (sorry I know I labour on about this) not if I wanted to access all areas; now I wonder at what science (you KNOW I love science) I was relying on to support this? I know all about the recycling of energy from back to front and back again, I know about 'feeling' for resistances via the mouth but really and truly I wouldn't put a bit in my childs mouth (oh lord don't tempt me) to 'feel' anything and I KNOW horses ain't humans but......it's making me return to old values with new light on them. Any thoughts on this guys?

14 comments:

Kate said...

Bits are just one way to communicate with the horse, but they're certainly not the only way, and although they're traditional, that doesn't mean that they're inherently good or bad, although they're often misused. I'm about to try out a bitless bridle, and I don't see any reason why we can't achieve the same softness with bitless as with a bit, and for some horses it may be easier.

Claire said...

i think it depends on various things - the horse first and foremost, and then the abilities of the rider/trainer....some people can do wonders with a bitless, others can't .. it also depends on the bit and/or the type of bitless being used. it might even depend on the particular work being done. for instance, longlining molly works well bitless, but have yet to achieve the same bitted .. different story ridden.

Cabruze said...

Really interesting about the bit. I've almost done the opposite to you - gone from riding bitless and not understanding why a bit is necessary to believing that for more precise and advanced work it is needed - but with the prerequisite that my hands must be really good - never ever harsh and pulling. Paul Belasik really helped to clarify my thoughts on this and I'm going to add them to my blog.

HorseOfCourse said...

Hm.
I am inclined to agree with Claire; I believe there are so many variables that it is difficult to state that one alternative is better than the other in general.
I would perhaps refer it to the horse; whatever he works best in is the best choice.

trudi said...

Thanks for all the comments :-)

I'm really looking at the fundamental process of bitting and why it's necessary. For instance we have already moved away from de la Guérinière's huge curb style bits and he is a 'god' in terms of classical equitation. The world moves on and we develop, I'm not suggesting for one moment that we throw away the idea of riding with a bit; I'm just exploring the reasons why those masters, who knew so much more than I ever will, didn't ever go there. I shall expand this over the next few days ;-)

trudi said...

Should have said Jane, yes I've actually been here before and more than once ;-) I'm still not happy that the science of this is correct, ie why does a piece of metal in a horses mouth lead one to a higher plane of communication??? I'm off to see if you've blogged on it yet.

Di said...

Perhaps it doesn't really lead to a higher plane of communication and with different methods we can get the same results. Perhaps over the years we've just felt the need to justify the fact that we're putting a piece of metal in a horses mouth. Logically, it must be the easiest way to control the horse, the mouth being arguably the most vulnerable part of the horse.
I had a similar conversation last night about the necessity of shoeing horses. After years of having my horses shod because it was convenient, I'm thinking very seriously about taking all mine barefoot and went to a very interesting talk with a local barefoot trimmer. There are so many negatives (for the horse) to shoeing but we always manage to justify it.

trudi said...

Excellent Di, you are really close to where I am on this. Do we develope a method over centuries without the science (but with good reason; as you say the mouth is an easy place to harness)and then justify it the best way we can? Or, do we look at a horse and then develop a method that suits him?

Claire said...

this is a good debate!

on the barefoot front, though - i rather think when people started shoeing horses it was for a reason. back in the day horses were working animals, did a huge amount more miles every day than we would begin to expect them to do and i rather think that if we were running e.g. dray horses etc back in the day we'd find we needed to shoe them. Clearly there are some horses that are unlikely to need shoes for work(arabs, apparently, have very good hard feet and would be fine). where a lot of what we all do is not nearly so intensive...and we're more careful about varied surfaces etc.

and really, whoever it was first put a bit in a horse's mouth must have had a reason for this, as I think it probably unlikely that that was anyone's first thought...

on the other hand, didn't native american indians ride wonderfully without? and isn't that all about seat/balance? although they weren't aiming for high school airs, i don't suppose....

Di said...

I think, that, as humans our first thought was how can we adapt this animal to suit our needs, so using a bit and shoes was the easiest way to do that. To most, even in this day and age where we like to think that we're more enlightened it is still the case to a lesser or greater degree.

trudi said...

Yes I think Claire that they did have reason to use bits, perhaps farmers using working horses had no need for them but taking horses into battle would no doubt require a decent set of brakes/steering. Think I need to get reading up some history.
Seeing a horse piaffe in a field yesterday I got to thinking how a layman would start the thought process of how this might be achieved on 'cue' as it were. Trouble is most people nowadays know that horses are ridden in bits, finding someone that didn't would be hard.

Di said...

Trudi said "Seeing a horse piaffe in a field yesterday"

Hee hee, has Moo been practicing his moves again!! ;-)

trudi said...

I think he's feeling better, lol

HorseOfCourse said...

Seems like I missed out the follow up here!
I am looking forward to hear your thoughts here, Trudi.
I love to ask why, and to question "established truths".

When it comes to shoes, I have kept my youngsters unshod as long as possible.
But with hard work (when they get older and are exercised 6-7 days a week), they get sore without shoes, so to me it is a matter of practicalities.
During pasture time in summer the shoes are always removed.

And it seems as Moo is feeling fine ;-)