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Posts Tagged ‘Balancing Act’

Look at this image. Can you spot the differences between the horse on the left and the horse on the right?

bend

 

Which one is a horse that is bending correctly?

If you guessed the horse on the right is bending correctly, you were right!

The horse on the left shows how in an incorrectly bent horse, the vertebral column kinks to the inside in front of the horse’s shoulder. This gives the illusion of bend to the inexperienced eye.

“Never bend the neck more than you can bend the trunk of the horse,” says Dr. med. vet. Gerd Heuschmann in his book COLLECTION OR CONTORTION? “All additional important elements of bend derive from this maxim. Only a neck that ‘grows with stability out of the shoulder’ and is stabilized by the muscles in front of the shoulder can contribute its important part to the correct bend of the trunk. If a horse has an unstable, loose, ‘wobbly neck’ in front of the withers, he can’t be ridden in the proper balance, nor can he bend, straighten, or collect. Only well-developed pushing power helps the horse’s neck become stable on its axis…. To this end, it is explicitly required to regularly ride transitions from working trot to medium trot in the horse’s first year under saddle. On the other hand, suppleness of the inside trunk and the inside hind leg leads to the development of carrying power and correct bend of the neck. Said another way, the initial bending work and the required stability of the neck promote flexibility of the hindquarters. The neck must be seen as a stable component of the body that is securely attached to the horse’s trunk. Bend runs linearly and evenly through the whole trunk from the poll to the sacrum.”

COLLECTION OR CONTORTION? is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to download a free chapter.

GOODBADBEND

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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We’re happy to have TSB author, translator, and Masterson Method Practitioner Coralie Hughes discuss the idea of “balance” in the horse, providing insight and ideas from her experiences at a clinic with Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, as well as in her work with Jim Masterson and the Masterson Method of Equine Bodywork. Coralie and Jim’s new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED is due out in June 2015. CLICK HERE to add your name to the wait list to be notified as soon as its available!

Coralie Hughes and Jim Masterson discussing the painted horse from their new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Coralie Hughes and Jim Masterson discussing the painted horse from their new book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Having translated his book BALANCING ACT from German to English, I felt I understood Gerd Heuschmann’s equestrian philosophy pretty well. Attending a recent riding clinic of his and listening as he taught dressage riders of all levels to Grand Prix was still an extraordinary experience for me, both from the perspective of being a dressage rider myself and being a Masterson Method practitioner.

If you haven’t yet encountered Dr. Heuschmann of Germany, he is an accomplished dressage rider and trainer, a veterinarian and the individual who led the international charge against Rollkur (a flawed training practice used in all disciplines, English and Western, that brings the horse’s nose to the chest in the mistaken notion that the poll and the back will release, while actually accomplishing the opposite). Dr. Heuschmann is also a fan of the Masterson Method and loves to watch the horses release as Jim works.

To Dr. Heuschmann, what he does in his clinics is balance horses. He teaches the riders to ride with the sensitivity of seat and hand that allows the horse to free his back and poll. If the horse is ridden at the tempo and rhythm that is most comfortable for that horse (“Every horse is a song and we must find the melody”) and the back is free, full utilization of the hind end in his work is possible. If hand, seat, or leg transmits negative tension to the horse, then tension develops in the poll and transfers to the back and to the hindquarters.

During the clinic, Dr. Heuschmann identified common riding errors, especially in the use of the hands, that cause increased poll tension, inhibit the movement of the corresponding hind leg, and negatively impact the back. Such a horse is imbalanced in his movement and the dressage goals of impulsion, straightness, and “throughness” are impossible to achieve. There is a kink or block in the energy transfer through the body of the horse.

But even the best-ridden horse is going to develop negative tension in his body as a result of his efforts to please his rider and just simply as a result of repetitive motion. Over time, the muscles lose the ability to fully contract and fully relax, and the muscle chains of the body become unbalanced. As a Masterson Method practitioner, it is commonplace to feel the tight and locked poll, the stiff back, and the shoulders and haunches that have only limited range of motion. It is also commonplace to be able to restore range of motion and release restriction in the body of the horse through Masterson Method bodywork.

Click the image to join the wait list.

Click the image to join the wait list.

With the Masterson Method, we have recently taken it a huge step further. With the painted horse project that yielded the DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED DVD SET and now the book THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED, we studied the biomechanics of the dressage horse so that dressage riders, and we Masterson Method practitioners, would be better able to understand how the horse uses his body in his work. The better we understand how the horse must use his body to perform movements of upper level dressage, the better a rider understands how to be in sync with the horse and not against his motion, and the better a Masterson Method practitioner understands why certain muscle groups are involved when a dressage trainer is having given training issues. Bodywork can often feel like a “hide-and-go-seek” effort. Through the work we did with DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED and THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED, we have gained an understanding that removes a lot of the mystery when horses can’t perform as well as they used to, barring a frank veterinary cause.

Since completing the research and work related to this new book, co-authored with Jim Masterson, I find in my Masterson Method practice that I better understand horses of all equestrian disciplines. The reiner that is having trouble in a spin reminds me of the front end of the dressage horse’s half-pass. The jumper that can’t use his back or flex his lumbosacral joint or use his gluteals in a good push off, is a dressage horse that is too locked up to collect properly or has lost his extended trot.

The musculoskeletal system of the horse allows for a limited set of movements of his body parts. Because the dressage horse is asked to perform the greatest range of different movements, understanding how the dressage horse uses his body can be a springboard for understanding any equestrian discipline as a bodyworker.

Betsy Steiner on Bacchus from THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Betsy Steiner on Bacchus from THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED.

Most equestrians are trying their best to be good riders. But as one of the old dressage masters said, “A lifetime isn’t long enough to learn to ride a horse.” With the Masterson Method we can help the aspiring rider travel the long, often frustrating but also joyous journey of learning to ride by rebalancing the musculoskeletal system of the horse through regular bodywork. In essence, we are giving the rider a new “blank slate” for his or her continued efforts to learn to ride this most noble of creatures.

It’s all about balance… from Dr. Heuschmann’s ground-breaking work about how to ride a horse in balance, to the Masterson Method’s rebalancing of muscle systems through release of tension. For every horse of any discipline, it is a question of balance in how the horse is using his body, or the lack thereof.

The DRESSAGE MOVEMENTS REVEALED DVD SET and THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED BOOK are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

For information about Masterson Method courses, seminars, and workshops visit www.mastersonmethod.com.

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“In the mid-2000s the German veterinarian Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, working with German Olympic dressage champion Klaus Balkenhol, created headlines when they publicized the findings of Heuschmann’s anatomical and biomechanical studies of hyperflexion,” writes Jennifer Bryant in “Rollkur: Dressage’s Dirty Word,” a recent article on TheHorse.com. “Heuschmann said that hyperflexion not only fails to develop the proper musculature for upper-level dressage, but the exaggerated flexion can also restrict the horse’s airway. Heuschmann published a book, Tug of War: Classical Versus ‘Modern’ Dressage, detailing his findings and arguing against the practice of hyperflexion.”

According to Bryant, “Some dressage enthusiasts remain convinced that rollkur still occurs. During the dressage competition at the 2012 London Olympic Games, some photos circulated on the Internet, appearing to show Swedish competitor Patrik Kittel on Scandic riding in a hyperflexed position. Online forums and the FEI’s Facebook page, among others, were barraged with expressions of outrage and accusations that the FEI was failing to enforce Annex XIII of the Stewards Manual.”

Dr. Heuschmann agrees that, despite the online uproar, there continues to be a troubling acceptance of certain training techniques amongst those who ride, train, and show horses. Heuschmann says this is not only an international issue, but a local one, and not only a dressage issue, but one that is relevant to the show jumping community and those who participate in competitive Western sports, namely reining.

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Heuschmann’s new book BALANCING ACT: THE HORSE IN SPORT–AN IRRECONCILABLE CONFLICT? is his attempt to keep equestrians around the world focused on the problems at hand, while at the same time offering well-researched, fair, and proven techniques for retraining:

-the tense horse,

-the rein-lame horse,

-the horse with gait deviations, and

-the hyperflexed horse, among others.

BALANCING ACT is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE NOW TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF BALANCING ACT TODAY

And check out the complete article about the debate involving the 2012 Olympics by Jennifer Bryant on TheHorse.com.

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