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GirlandtheDancingHorse-horseandriderbooks

Charlotte Dujardin and her charismatic horse Valegro burst onto the international sports scene with their record–breaking performance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The world was captivated by the young woman with the dazzling smile and her dancing horse. The YouTube clip of their Freestyle performance has since had over 1.7 million views, and Dujardin is considered the dominant dressage rider of her era. When Valegro (affectionately called “Blueberry”) retired from competition at the end of 2016, his farewell performance at the Olympia Grand Hall sold out and the dark bay gelding received a standing ovation.

But what about “before” the stardom? Dujardin’s journey began at the age of two when she first began riding her family’s ponies, and Valegro’s on July 5, 2002, when he was born on Burgh Haamstede, an island in the Netherlands, of dressage horse lineage. Dujardin’s autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE shares how their two paths would eventually meet, and become one high road to unparalleled success.

Here, in Dujardin’s words, are what she remembers about the first (and second!) time she saw Valegro:

The first time I saw Valegro was at Addington in the summer of 2006. He was being ridden by Carl [Hester], who also owned him, and I can honestly say I was blown away. His canter was huge, absolutely huge, and even though it looked a bit out of control, he looked like he’d be so much fun to ride.

One of the things that immediately jumped out about him was the way he was built: he was a complete and utter powerhouse. Nowadays you see a lot of thoroughbred-type dressage horses with very elegant, long legs, but Valegro was much more of an old-fashioned, stocky stamp – a real-leg-in-each-corner type. He completely filled your eye, but he also had a pretty, dished face like a seahorse’s, and even then he looked like he only wanted to please.

I saw him again, a few months later, at the Nationals, where he won the Shearwater Four-Year-Old Championship. He left the same impression on me as last time – here was a horse that stood out from all the rest. Dez and I were entered for the Elementary class at the Nationals where we finished third, which was a good result because as we were warming up it started to rain. Not just a little bit of rain, but torrential, thundering, lightning, fill-your-boots-up-with-water rain. My boots actually did fill up with water and I could feel it sloshing all round my legs; my saddle was so slippery I couldn’t sit on it, I could hardly hold my reins, and Dez was curling up like a hedgehog because he wanted to get out of it so badly. There wasn’t a single part of me that was dry, the arenas were all underwater and everything and everybody was soaked.

I carried on warming up, trying to make the best of it, but then suddenly the class was suspended: the judges, who were sitting in their cars around the arena, had had their ignitions on so they could use their windscreen wipers, but it had been raining so hard for so long that their batteries had all gone flat.

Girl on Dancing HorseIt was brilliant timing for me. I ran back to the stables, dried Fernandez off and got him a new saddle-cloth, then tried to dry myself. My coat was too wet to put back on, but I managed to borrow someone else’s; I somehow then managed to change my breeches, empty the water out of my boots, pull myself together, get myself back on and still be in the arena by the time the judges were ready to go again. It carried on raining throughout my test and we were sloshing through puddles with water sheeting up around us the whole time – I might as well have been riding on the beach.

 

THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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

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CharlotteDujardin-horseandriderbooks

We at TSB are simply thrilled to be the US publisher of Charlotte Dujardin’s autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE, which will be released in the States on Friday, March 16, 2018.

Charlotte Dujardin and her charismatic horse Valegro burst onto the international sports scene with their record–breaking performance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The world was captivated by the young woman with the dazzling smile and her dancing horse. The YouTube clip of their Freestyle performance has since had over 1.7 million views, and Dujardin is considered the dominant dressage rider of her era. When Valegro (affectionately called “Blueberry”) retired from competition at the end of 2016, his farewell performance at the Olympia Grand Hall sold out and the dark bay gelding received a standing ovation.

Dujardin began riding horses at the age of two, but dressage was the domain of the rich–not the life a girl from a middleclass family was born into. Her parents sacrificed to give her as many opportunities as they could, and she left school at 16 to focus on equestrian competition. It was at 22, when she was invited to be a groom for British Olympian Carl Hester, that she met the equine partner that would change her fortune.

THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE shares this story, beginning with Charlotte’s early years restarting naughty ponies and following her equestrian evolution, which eventually led to the Olympic arena and gold medals, as she competed against the best in the world. Readers get an honest look at the road Charlotte took to reach the top, and along the way they gain an intimate understanding of who she is and why she and Valegro were able to connect with each other and develop such an unparalleled partnership.

There are many fascinating details readers learn in the pages of Charlotte’s autobiography. Here are 10 you probably (maybe) didn’t already know:

1 Charlotte grew up battling dyslexia, which led to anxiety at school. But as much as she feared a spelling test, as a child she was never nervous at a horse show. The bigger the crowd, the better. (That changed when she had to memorize dressage tests!)

2 Early in her development as a dressage rider, Charlotte struggled with her sitting trot. So she took up swimming to help develop her core strength, clocking in 50-70 lengths each morning before heading to the barn.

3 Charlotte wears false nails because she wants to disguise her “old lady hands” and arthritic knuckles from years of working and riding outside in the wet and cold.

4 At the barn where she rode with Carl Hester, there was a long concrete driveway that riders would walk the horses up before and after work, and when Charlotte first started at Carl’s, she would always try and finish schooling at the same time as him so they could ride up the driveway together and she could work up the courage to talk to him.

5 Charlotte never rode in a helmet at home and wore a top hat to show until she was bucked off into the wall of the arena one day and ended up in the hospital with a skull fracture. Now she schools and shows in a helmet.

6 Charlotte’s fiancé went to the horse show where they first met intending to find himself a girlfriend. He thought it a likely venue for available young women!

7 The first time Charlotte and Valegro competed against Carl was in a Prix St Georges class at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May 2009. Charlotte and Valegro won.

8 In 2010 Charlotte lost a bet (by winning a test with Valegro) and had to jump into a hot tub in her riding clothes.

9 Valegro loves performing. There are never monsters lurking in corners or waiting in the flowerpots to get him. He’s always focused and always reliable.

10 Before the Olympics in Rio, Charlotte had a feeling it should be Valegro’s final competition. She wanted him to finish at the top where everybody would remember him as the best horse there was. She didn’t want him to end his career as an older horse, not able to give what he once could. Retiring him while he was still at his best was what she felt was the right thing to do.

Girl on Dancing HorseThe first 100 people to order THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE from the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore will receive an autographed copy! Plus, shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order your copy now.

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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JLG-Genius

Before we published HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, I knew of Jack Le Goff. I knew of him the way any once-young-and-aspiring eventer would: through stories shared by the trainers I rode with through the years, as well as those very fine horsemen and women I’ve had the honor of working with during my tenure at TSB. He existed in my mind as a formidable individual, one who hesitated not in turning the screw in order to elicit improved performance. I knew he was a great coach, but his name caused the same quake-in-my-boots fear that George Morris’s always did…and it also raised the question that any rider with even a smidgeon of self-doubt will admit: Had I been born at the right time under the right star and found myself under his tutelage, would I have found the resolve and personal strength to flourish…to become truly accomplished in the saddle?

In HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, we hear of plenty who did flourish with Le Goff as their guide and coach. But what helps is not that they succeeded where I admittedly think I would likely have failed (in that fantasy where I am an elite rider during the heyday of US eventing), but that Le Goff shares his strategies: how and when he chose to be hard or soft, why he’d settle on keeping or losing his temper, and what his reasoning was behind decisions he made concerning coaching and the teams he led. So now we see the path to the medal, but we don’t just hear about the fences cleared, we also know about the tears, the injuries, the heartbreak. The times riders tried, and failed, and tried again. And we come to understand the passion for the horse felt by all involved, perhaps most profoundly Le Goff’s own.

Larger lessons aside, there are also hundreds of fascinating facts and historical notes throughout the book. Here are 10 that stayed with me:

1 In the notoriously hard 9-month course at the Cadre Noir, “students rode eight horses a day for a total of eight hours or more.” Le Goff writes. “For the first three months, six of those eight hours were without stirrups, so the breeches were more often red with blood than any other color…. In the evening, we had to do book work, and we all spent that time sitting in buckets of water with a chemical in it to toughen the skin.”

2 At the Olympics in 1956, the Russian eventing team only had one helmet for three riders, and passed it from one to the other after each performance.

3 Britain’s Sheila Wilcox won Badminton three times and in 1957 at the age of 21 became European Champion, but was never allowed to compete in the Olympics because she was a woman.

4 American rider Kevin Freeman helped save a horse from drowning by holding his head up in a flooded river at the Olympics in Mexico in 1968.

5 Bruce Davidson didn’t know what a diagonal was when he first started riding with Le Goff. Two years later he competed in the Olympic Games.

image1

Tad Coffin with his copy of Le Goff’s autobiography.

6 You should walk a cross-country course as if that is the ONLY time you’ll be able to walk it. You should have total concentration and envision how you will ride it. A walk simply to get a first impression is a wasted walk.

7 Today, people learn to compete before they learn to ride, and that makes it difficult for them to be truly competitive and to progress to other levels.

8 There is no instant dressage like instant coffee. You can go out and buy a top-level horse if you have enough money, but the true rider should be able to “make” his or her own horse. In eventing, there are often “pilots” who “fly” or ride the horse, and mechanics who prepare him, train and condition him. But the true horseman does both.

9 Although he was a brilliant rider, Tad Coffin did not believe how good he was, so while Le Goff would intentionally infuriate some riders to get them to perform, he would instead look for ways to give Tad confidence.

10 The riding coach who is looking to be popular will not produce the desired results, and the rider who does not accept discipline “may be better suited to another pursuit,” Le Goff writes. “Crochet comes to mind!”

I’m certain you’ll find many other tidbits that motivate you or make you laugh or look at your riding differently in this book. Most importantly, by reading Le Goff’s book, you, too, will be able to share his stories and spread his philosophy. And through us all, the best of Jack Le Goff, the man George Morris called “a genius,” will live on.

 

 

HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST is available from the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

—Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

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

 

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GHM-magic

As we watch the Olympic Team Jumping Qualification and the jubilation in the Brazilian camp as members rack up clear rounds in search of a place on the podium in front of their home crowd, we are no doubt a little sad to acknowledge that in Rio, George Morris is focused on the success of someone other than our own American riders. It is, of course, the way of the equestrian world for the most talented coaches to cross international borders on a regular basis, and so we cannot be surprised that George was eventually tempted to help the country he admits is one of his “absolute favorite places” go for gold.

But if the Brazilians do keep it up and George is, in fact, making magic in Rio, one can’t help but wonder if he’s had to apply the same kind of tough love that has not only been his clinic calling card for decades, but also helped guide the US to their success in countless World Equestrian Games, World Championships, and Olympics of years past.

“In 2005, George Morris took over the role of Chef d’Equipe of the U.S. Show Jumping Team,” writes Olympic silver and gold medalist Chris Kappler in his foreword to UNRELENTING, George’s bestselling autobiography, which was released earlier this year. “Shortly after, I received a call from a member of one of his first Nations Cup teams. ‘How did you do this?’ the rider asked. ‘Chris, how did you work for George for twenty years?’ As the new Chef, George was pushing limits…Commanding specific attitudes, turnout, and professionalism, he expected an extraordinary commitment…I have experienced first-hand the zealous pursuit of excellence for which George is famous. ‘If you can take my pressure cooker,’ George would always say, ‘the Olympics will seem like nothing.’”

“I always had childhood dreams of going to the Olympics someday,” adds five-time Olympian Anne Kursinksi in UNRELENTING. “With George’s encouragement…I made it…Horsemanship and what it took to have an Olympic level horse was George’s passion, and it was contagious! George had vision and made it all happen; he took us all with him. It was an amazing time. George helped you figure out how to be your absolute best. For him, there is no other way to be in life.”

Excellence. Passion. Vision. Absolute best. This is where the magic begins, and I can’t begrudge another from wanting to sample from the fountain of success. Ultimately, George’s willingness to share his wealth of knowledge helps improve the level of horsemanship and elevate the level of competition, worldwide. I, for one, can’t wait to see the results.

TSB wishes all riders and horses in the Olympic Equestrian Jumping Competition the best of luck. Have fun, ride safe, and enjoy the remarkable partnership that helped you reach the pinnacle of the sport!

UNRELENTING by George H. Morris is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

ORDER NOW and SAVE with our OLYMPIC FEVER SALE! Click here.

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

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TSB caught up with Anne Gribbons, FEI/USEF dressage judge, former Technical Director of the US Dressage Team, and author of the wonderful book of “dressage time travel” COLLECTIVE REMARKS, and we asked for her thoughts on the 2016 Olympic Dressage competition, underway now in Rio de Janeiro. Here are her insights as we begin Day 2. (For Anne’s refreshingly honest and brutally funny perspective on past Olympics and other international competitions, as well as all manner of dressage-related subjects, check out COLLECTIVE REMARKS!)

 

ANNE & STEFAN

Anne Gribbons with Steffen Peters in 2010.

 

After all the misgivings about Brazil not being able to handle the Olympics, it has come out of the starting box with flair. The eventing coverage was fabulous, the cross-country course beautiful and challenging, and the surprises many. Perhaps that is why I will always love combined training the most, because things can change in a heartbeat and each second can present a different landscape. And you can actually be competing, driving home without a ribbon, and still completely elated because the horse jumped so well it made your heart sing. Obviously, this is not the feeling you would have if something  goes awry on the Olympic course, and I am sure both Phillip Dutton and Ingrid Klimke were less than amused after brilliant dressage rides with the odd mishaps they had, which completely changed their standings at the top. 

Now the dressage is on, where the risk is limited and the element of surprise is a rarity. At this level, we expect each equipage to know its lessons well, and few mishaps to occur in the test. What we look for and revel in is the finely tuned communication between horse and rider. We search for  the balance, the self-carriage, the connection between the hand of the rider and the mouth of the horse. Harmony and yet full power when horse  and rider together reach for their ultimate best is what thrills us and keeps us glued to the screen. Watching it at home is a miracle, until it is not. When the streaming  momentarily shuts off, you get rudely pulled back to reality. With impeccable timing, this happens just as your country’s horse enters the ring. 

And I mentioned no surprises? Well, not true the first day when the Dutch star Parzival was retired by his rider who felt he was not quite up to the task. Good horsemanship, but a blow to the Dutch team, while it gave an opening to the Americans. We are talking fractions of a point here, and with no drop score left, the Dutch are more vulnerable. Since Kasey Perry-Glass had a very solid ride once she got past the first five movements when Dublet was busy in the mouth and Kasey was a bit tense, our chances looked even better after her ride. The Germans are powering on, and nobody expects any other team to catch up with them. In spite of one imploding pirouette and another weak one, Dorothee Schneider showed such strength in the rest of her work on Showtime that they gathered over 80%. And the 21-year-old Sönke Rothenberger who went first in the German team on his 10-year-old horse shows all the signs of growing up in a horse family. He admits he gets help from his father, Olympic rider Sven Rothenberger, but insists that his true calling is actually jumping. Well, if dressage is only his sideline, wait until he focuses on it! 

Riding for England, Fiona Bigwood had a very impressive ride on a wonderfully elastic and submissive mare named Orthilia. Imagine coming back from an injury that robs you of sight in one eye and putting on such a spot-on performance where balance and accuracy is of essence. Hats off to this lady who received a well-earned 77-plus% as a forerunner to more great scores expected by the remaining Brits, who are expected to finish in at least silver position. 

And then there is the US with four great quality horses and well prepared riders. Over the last two years all these combinations have gradually become more seasoned. Except for Roosevelt, I know all the team horses very well, and I am well aware of  the capacity of each. We already saw what Dublet was able to do, and believe me, there is so much more in that horse! Verdades is becoming seasoned and stronger and should have no trouble staying as focused on Laura Graves as he usually is in this comparatively quiet atmosphere. I can understand why the Chef D’ Equipe would make that combination the anchor by putting them last, because Legolas can, at times, be a little too fired up and lose concentration. However, Steffen Peters’ masterly riding has overcome that tendency in his shows as lately, and when they are on, he and Legolas can gather many valuable points. 

So, when I am writing this I am, like all of you, keeping my fingers crossed and hopes high for our team. Go USA!

–Anne Gribbons

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COLLECTIVE REMARKS by Anne Gribbons is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

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

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Rio2016

Who doesn’t get bored going in circles? Olympic Equestrian and TSB author Ingrid Klimke says that riding over cavalletti on circles and half-circles can be a welcome change, not only improving the rider’s seat so it is more secure and balanced, but developing “feel,” as well. And there are many benefits for the horse.

“Cavalletti work on circles and half-circles helps to loosen the horse, and can rectify stiffness on one side or the other, so the horse bends and flexes equally in both directions,” she writes with her father Reiner Klimke in their bestselling book CAVALLETTI. “If a horse is not straight, he will often lose rhythm – this where cavalletti work can help by restoring elasticity and encouraging the placing of the hind feet under the center of gravity.

“Over poles, the horse does not have the chance to step out to the side with the hind legs. The length of stride and placing of the feet is so precise that the horse maintains rhythm by himself. It takes very little practice before the hind feet step into the tracks of the front feet—and the horse becomes straight.

“Riding over cavalletti on circles is especially beneficial for training the horse’s inside hind leg to take weight. Because of this it can be quite strenuous, so avoid doing it for too long.”

Cavalletti1

Set up cavalletti on a circle. One exercise Ingrid recommends is on either end of a figure eight. Pick up a working trot, circling in your horse’s stronger (better) direction, keeping sure your seat light.

2  Just before the cavalletti, move your hands slightly forward, and ride exactly over the center of the cavalletti. If all goes well, change direction, and ride over the cavalletti in the other direction. The aim is to work the horse evenly on both sides, to work on lateral bend and suppleness through the ribs.

3  After working on the circle, do some exercises on the straight: ride forward on the long sides of the arena to re-establish freedom of movement. Riding forward helps overcome any stiffness or resistance.

Cavalletti2

Ride over the center of the cavalletti again, but now on each subsequent circle, make the circle bigger, moving out to where the space between cavalletti is larger, so the horse has to stretch more, making his steps bigger. This means that the inside hind foot must push off the ground with more energy and at the same time take more weight. At this point it is easy to cross the boundary between training to build muscle and straining muscles. For this reason, this exercise should only be repeated a few times, riding each circle just once in each direction every time.

5  Gradually bring the lesson to a finish. It is important to ride some easy exercises that the horse is familiar with at the end of the session. Finishing on a good note makes work the next day twice as easy. After working on circles a few times, allow the horse to stretch.

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For more cavalletti exercises from Ingrid Klimke, check out her book CAVALLETTI, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

And if you are a dressage rider, don’t miss Ingrid’s new DVD series TRAINING FOR DRESSAGE HORSES—the first level is now available!

TSB wishes Ingrid Klimke and all Olympic equestrians the best of luck in Rio 2016!

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

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Last week, The Guardian released the findings of a new study that finds horses are stressed by tight nosebands.

Last week, The Guardian released the findings of a new study that finds horses are stressed by tight nosebands.

“Researchers studying the physiological impact of nosebands on horses competing in international equestrian competitions including the Olympics are calling for new regulations to reduce potential pain and distress from the equipment,” Nicola Davis reported in The Guardian on May 3, 2016. “The scientists found that horses’ heart rates were raised and they struggled to chew when nosebands were fitted too tightly around the animals’ heads.”

This was just last week.

“Serious concerns have been raised about riding equipment to be used at this year’s Rio Olympics,” wrote James Thomas for ABC Australia on May 10, “with scientists claiming nosebands and double bridles could cause unnecessary pain and suffering to horses during equestrian events.”

The ABC report prompted an immediate response and official statement from Equestrian Australia, released via EquestrianLife.com:

At Equestrian Australia (EA) events full consideration is given to the welfare of the horse. Trained stewards ensure that equipment rules are followed and are responsible for conducting saddlery checks, including checking nosebands and bits of competing horses.

The noseband check includes a physical check by the steward to guarantee that the noseband is fitted properly and is not having an adverse effect on the horse.

The story and its response, with the upcoming Olympic Games in full view, is only now finding headlines.

But it was a full 4 years ago that renowned horse behavior expert and founder of the Tellington Method Linda Tellington-Jones devoted an entire section of her groundbreaking book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL to the subject of tight nosebands and their detrimental effects. Ahead of her time, as is often the case with her innovative ideas and techniques for bodywork and training, Tellington-Jones brought in expert analysis from two top veterinarians to support her claims that too-tight nosebands are ultimately detrimental to equine performance. Here is an excerpt from her book and key points from Tellington-Jones and two equine veterinarians.

Maybe, finally, things will start to change for the good of the horse?

***

It has become commonplace to ride dressage horses with a very tight noseband (cavesson) and girth. Sometimes riders even use mechanical levers to crank the noseband or girth tighter when their own strength fails. This creates a major conundrum. A dressage horse is expected to be flexible and move fluidly, but the tight noseband and girth prevent free movement of the jaw and restrict the ribs. When any joint in the body is restricted, the movement of all joints is affected so that the horse cannot bend, flex, and achieve free-flowing gaits as expected.

In her seminal book CENTERED RIDING, Sally Swift described a simple exercise that illustrates this phenomenon: Take one hand and shake it. Now, continue to shake the hand and tighten one finger. Notice what happens to your hand…and what happens to your breathing. When you tighten one finger, you tighten the other fingers of the hand, as well as your wrist, on up into your arm, eventually limiting your breathing. One tight finger results in the larger part of your body becoming stiff.

For decades I’ve hoped that prominent veterinarians and trainers in the international dressage world would speak out against the practice of cranking nosebands and girths so tight that sometimes I have found my hands are not strong enough to release them. In 2007, 12 years after I had first visited his
farm and worked with him and Goldstern, Klaus Balkenhol taught a clinic during Equitana in Germany in which he recommended that riders loosen the traditionally tight nosebands and girths, mentioning that I had brought the matter of such restrictive tack inhibiting a horse’s freedom of movement to his attention. At the time I was both surprised and elated, hoping that the riding community would prick up their ears and pay attention. Unfortunately, I do not feel that enough change has come to pass in this area, even with the support of such prominent and successful individuals.

It was a number of years ago that veterinarian Dr. Joyce Harman first stated in one of my newsletters that “a comfortable mouth is as important to a horse’s happiness and performance as saddle fit, good shoeing, and tooth care.”

“For years,” she wrote, “in my quest to help riders improve their horses’ comfort and performance, I have asked them to loosen tight nosebands. When one part of the horse is tight, the rest of the horse cannot move freely—just clench your own jaw and feel how far down your back and shoulders the
tension travels.

“The key to understanding the effect of tight nosebands (and bitting, too) extends far beyond the mouth. It begins with the anatomy of the horse’s tongue, head, and neck, and expands to include how the front part of the body affects movement of the whole horse. The tongue lies partly between the
bones of the jaw (bars of the mouth) and above the jaw. Some of the tongue muscles connect to a small set of bones in the throat called the hyoid bones.

LTJnoseband

“Originating from the hyoid bones are two major neck muscles. One attaches to the sternum (sternohyoideus); the other to the inside of the shoulder (omohyoideus). Thus, there is a direct connection from the tongue to the sternum and shoulder along the bottom of the horse’s neck. Consequently, if you have tension in the tongue, you have tension all the way down to the sternum and shoulder along the bottom of the neck, where you actually want suppleness. Once you have tension to the sternum, the horse cannot raise his back and use the commonly cited ‘circle of muscles’ that allow for collection and the self-carriage desired in dressage.

“Small muscles also connect the hyoid bones to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the poll. The TMJ is an important center for nerves that control the horse’s balance and proprioception. And the poll—its ability to bend and flex—is of central concern to the dressage rider. Because of the small muscles connecting them, there is a very close relationship (which few riders know about) between the horse’s tongue, hyoid bones, TMJ, poll, head, and neck.

“When the horse’s tongue is free and soft, all of this translates into a horse who is better able to move well, with coordination, improved balance, and a significantly lengthened stride.”

Dr. Renee Tucker, a veterinarian certified in equine acupuncture and chiropractic, concurs with Dr. Harman.

“The super-tight noseband,” she says, “what I not-so-fondly refer to as ‘STN,’ not only keeps the horse’s jaw from opening, but in a lot of cases prevents the lower jaw from moving forward and backward. When a horse is flexed at the poll, the lower jaw needs to move forward—just bend your own neck to bring your head toward your chest, and notice how your lower jaw moves forward to accommodate the movement.

“When the lower jaw is prevented from moving forward, the horse’s tongue gets ‘bunched up’ in his mouth. The amount of ‘bunching’ depends on tongue size and the arch above the roof of the mouth (both of which vary from horse to horse). I believe this is why we see many horses with STN trying to stick their tongue out the side of their mouth—there is no room in there! Especially for breathing!

“The joint with the most proprioceptive nerves in the horse’s entire body is the TMJ. When the horse’s lower jaw cannot move, it cannot, therefore, ‘transmit’ accurate positioning data to the horse’s body, which results in poor movement and performance.

“A tight noseband means the horse cannot breathe, cannot flex at the poll comfortably, and doesn’t know where he is in space. I feel justified in saying that this is not desirable when trying to attain optimal performance from any horse, and is especially problematic in the case of the dressage horse.”

***

“Finally, this important issue of tight nosebands is being more publicly and scientifically addressed,” says Tellington-Jones in response to the recent veterinary study and articles in both mainstream and equestrian media. “Tight nosebands cause unimaginable pain, and as I explained in my book, it is a fact that restricting the movement of any joint in the body inhibits and effects ALL joints. Therefore tight nosebands actually inhibit movement.”

It seems that now, with the whole world about to watch the 2016 Olympic Games, we should be able to finally demand more conscientious, fair, compassionate treatment of the elite equine athletes who will accompany their riders to Rio. Are we not outraged to discover human athletes suffering psychologically and physically at their hands of their trainers in pursuit of a medal?

 

Dressage-w-MBS-300DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click HERE for to download a free chapter or to order.

 

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

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