Wednesday, October 8, 2014

is it blasphemy?

Anyone who's read any of my posts tagged 'dressage' knows that Isabel and I are essentially just getting started - but that the 'nice' moments are happening more often and lasting longer.


our current maximum fancy 

In between these moments, though, I'm working with some resistance and tension. It is more than likely rooted in my own riding, so I don't necessarily want to start adding gadgets and changing everything up on Isabel in search of a 'solution.' 

Also, my dressage trainer MP wants me to just focus 100% on the fundamentals - and getting myself totally correct - and that this alone will establish the basics. I shouldn't be changing things up every time I don't get the expected response or reaction from Isabel. I just need to stick to the fundamentals and we'll eventually get there. 

That said... Isabel has *always* had a head-flinging habit. 

classical form - check out that extension! lol

The fling crops up on trail rides when Isabel loses her mind and jigs every which way (never mind the steep hills and stony paths) - fortunately not a common occurrence any more. But it also shows up in the arena occasionally when Ms. Thing doesn't like what I'm asking (or maybe bc I'm riding shittily... which is perhaps what my dressage trainer would say). 

I started riding in a running martingale a few months back with positive results, and still always use it on the trails, even tho Isabel is pretty consistently awesome out there these days. 

However I haven't been schooling much in it lately since it's not legal in the dressage ring. And I'm noticing an increased frequency in head flings - both in jumping and on the flat. And let me tell you - she can really throw that thing around. Combined with my typically-too-far-forward position, I've worried about my own nose on more than one occasion. 

So my question

- Would you start schooling in the martingale again? I still use it for jumping lessons, partly bc my jump trainer P requires neck straps and it's a two-fer with the martingale. But when I'm schooling at home, I've been ditching it more often than not.

- Or, is it better to stay the course with what I'm doing and focus on improving my own seat and refining my aids? (as in, are martingales blasphemy in the dressage world?)

this is what dressage should look like, right?

42 comments:

  1. First of all, that giraffe graphic is hysterical!! I'd continue schooling without the martingale. You can't use it in the dressage ring, and the head-fling is just Isabel's way of resisting you and evading your aids. As you both improve, and she gets stronger and learns to use her body correctly, the fling will eventually disappear. :) Keep at it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks for the encouragement - that's sorta what i was thinking... but the sass kinda drives me nuts lol

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. lol i mean, that IS what it looks like some times

      Delete
  3. Omg @ giraffe !!! Too funny.

    Gonna back up Alli (+Dino too :)) and say sans martingale. Is definitely harder but in the end it'll be worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks, and i suppose that's probably what my trainer would recommend as well

      Delete
  4. I guess I'm in the minority but I'd use the martingale. Not from now on, but for a few rides. Some horses need to hit that wall and break the pattern to realize that head-flinging is not a useful evasion, and the martingale can make that much faster. It's not an active gadget like some - properly adjusted, it will only kick in when she's REALLY out of line. If you remove that avenue of protest, she'll listen and you can get things done. I'd school in it for a week or two and then take it off and see if you've nipped the habit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks - i did a bit of research to make sure that it *is* adjusted correctly: it can reach her throatlatch with no problem at all, so it's definitely not active unless she's really throwing that head around. and i do notice that she will only hit it about once per ride, vs the multiple flings when it's not there

      Delete
  5. I'm with Amanda here, a running martingale is a very useful tool. Horses are all about habits and the martingale will help her unlearn the head flinging habit, I would use it for a while and then do random days without it and slowly wean her off of it. Not only will she learn to not fling her head, but while it is on both of your skill sets will continue to improve so that once you take it off you may not even notice it is gone. Love your gif, so cute!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! i really like all the feedback here - from you and others advocating both sides. we do actually school a bit of dressage during our jump lessons (when we ARE wearing the martingale) - so she does get the 'random' schools. but she's so smart... she can probably figure out that it's not really 'random' if it only happens when we travel. so maybe i need to think about using it more at home too...

      Delete
  6. I agree with Amanda. School in the martingale for a few days (weeks?) then try again without it. Look at it as a training tool, not a solution to the problem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hm, i like that perspective too: 'tool' rather than solution (since i really do want to avoid falling into the gadget trap). lots of food for thought!

      Delete
  7. I agree with the other posters...I would school in the martingale for a few days with random days without it and see how that works. My dressage trainer really doesn't like using gadgets, but I see them as great tools if used correctly and sparingly. When Spot was in her giraffe phase the thing that seemed to get her out of it was really working on the 20m circle and being forward.

    Good luck! I'm actually signing up for my 1st show with Spot, needless to say, I'm a little nervous! P.S. Love the giraffe gif!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks for the input. i still haven't set up the 20m circle with cones that i've seen you use, tho i believe that will be a huge help since circles are currently super difficult for us....

      anyways, GOOD LUCK at your show - super exciting!!

      Delete
  8. God, that giraffe has me in hysterics.

    ReplyDelete
  9. OMG the giraffe!! I agree with some other commenters--a standing is a good training tool to try and you don't necessarily have to rely on it every day for it to be effective. You could try a running, too, and see how that goes. (Am I opening up a can of worms by suggesting a different kind of martingale?? I hope not!)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I mixed up the martingales in my comment just there--whoops! Meant running first, and maybe try a standing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. gotcha - and def no can of worms to recommend other tools - i'm always open to new suggestions! i think a standing would kick off WWIII with isabel, tho, and it's not legal in xc OR dressage anyway, so it's got two strikes v the running. i like the idea of just testing it out v relying on it

      Delete
  11. I love the giraffe! My new girl came with a bit of a head tossing habit. We're having success with long/low/relaxed, and more forward/bend as soon as she starts to tense up. As someone above mentioned, forward on a 20m circle. Add in spirals if you need more difficulty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! we definitely have forward installed 100% - problem is that arabs can do forward plenty well with nose straight in air. but the inside bend on 20m circle will likely be a key element of our eventual improvement, me thinks

      Delete
  12. That giraffe…LOL!!!
    I'm in your boat - Max head flings as well, especially when there's pressure in the mouth in combination with some sort of blockage in my knee and hip area. We've been chipping away at it and so far what we've figured out is as soon as he flings his head, to keep hands still and not give or pull back - instead I give him a forward aid. And before that even happens - to make sure that every time there is asking in the mouth, to make sure I'm not blocking his forward movement in any way.
    It's tricky 0.0 - on the positive side, his honesty is teaching me to be softer and quieter in the hands and to keep him moving.
    I've never used a martingale so I can't comment there…but everyone is different so maybe try a few things and see what works best?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it IS tricky!! that's where my concerns about shitty riding come in - i don't have a good feel yet about whether i'm blocking her or not... and my arms are definitely not as stable or quiet as i'd like. so i def can't blame isabel for her frustrations...

      i guess it's just one big balancing act of doing what i can to clarify my own riding, while also being clear on what's acceptable behavior from her???

      Delete
    2. I'm sure you and her will find an agreement somewhere ^.^ A balancing act is the perfect way to put it !

      Delete
  13. Amen to all the other comments on the running martingale. Use it when you need it. My retired eventer used to fling his head something awful when jumping, and smashed me in the face twice. I ended up using a running just to save myself from a broken nose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yikes, izzy hasn't gotten me yet, but i feel your pain all the same!! i'd rather sacrifice some points on traditional training if it helps keep my face intact lol

      Delete
  14. Yeah, I'm going to cast a vote for riding her every once in awhile with the running ... reminders are good. Think of it as "reinforcing the habit." Plus, the benefit to a running is that it doesn't engage unless you need/want it to.

    Also, you CAN warm up for USDF/USEF dressage in a running martingale (but not if you are warming up for a high performance or selection trial, but I know I personally am not worried about that one!). But they are not legal in the show ring. The same can be said for polo wraps, and you don't hear people telling you not to use those because they "aren't legal," right? ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! and interesting point about using it in warm up. it definitely would have come in handy during my warm up for our recent test...

      Delete
  15. Martingale only for jumping. Simon had a really bad head flinging problem too, but it gradually went away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i'm usually of the same mind that with patience and correct riding, most issues resolve themselves. my concerns here are isabel's age (she's not exactly green) and her breeding, as a high and expressive head carriage has been encouraged. all the same tho, she's a smart cookie so i *do* expect it to eventually disappear

      Delete
  16. I say use the martingale. I used it for a while, then didn't need to. But then again I'm a believer in using whatever tools will help the horse to understand (and therefore reduce frustration and tension). I think that "gadgets" (though personally I don't consider a martingale a gadget) can help a horse understand better than through our riding alone, since oftentimes us amateur riders aren't as completely consistent in our riding as we wish we were.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i think you're on to something with the whole idea of 'reducing frustration since we ammies aren't as consistent as we'd like.' i think that's exactly it. i *know* i'm sending mixed signals... and i'm working on it, really truly... but perhaps the martingale will help clarify for isabel without being too punishing?

      Delete
  17. I have no problem with a running. They don't force a frame, just give you more control when she has one of her moments. I'd say go for it with the every day training for a while. BTW, your fancy moments look fabulous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! i just wish they were more common! we're getting there at walk + trot... but that canter.. ugh it's HARD!! (and where the head flinging is most prevalent...)

      Delete
  18. I agree with both sides... Yes and no to martingale. Best advice I ever have gotten is, "ride the horse you have that day." If you need it use it, if you don't, don't. Training wheels are helpful to learn, and forward progression sometimes requires some backtracking and detours ;) enjoy the journey, and trust yourself!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Here's what I do with artificial aids that are illegal in the show ring: ride in it one day, then ride the next day without it. If the horse is better the following day without it, it works and you should use it on occasion/regularly to fix the problem, riding enough without it to not become dependent on it. If the horse is worse the day following the martingale, it's a bandaid and you shouldn't use it at all.

    However if she looks anything like that giraffe, just create a new discipline because the world needs that kind of dressage!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks - that's actually a really really helpful way to think about it! And if all else fails, maybe I will do as you suggest and embrace our inner giraffe lol :)

      Delete
  20. soooo emma, i know i'm about a month late on this, but i wanted to tell you about my experience. burns had a terrible head flinging problem- his owner (being a less experienced rider) uses it without fail every ride. i had never used it, but in getting ready for a clinic with a super serious german dressage rider my trainer put it on and actually knotted it, making it shorter. obviously you dont do this with a standing (i would never use a standing for this problem, anyway, because there's no "elasticity" in a standing- and by that i mean, its connected to something solid, instead of reins that are moving). when i went in for the clinic, i had the breastplate on and brought the running attachment along, and he actually flipped it over and connected it so that the part of the breastplate attached to the girth was now running through the V, if that makes any sense, and then the reins were through. it has helped tremendously. you're not doing isabelle any favors by just trying to work through it... and i'm not saying you're not a good rider, because obviously i had the same issue(!) but sometimes us amateurs need assistance and that running martingale is an immediate and firm reminder to her that tossing the head is NOT okay. i found that it actually was a help to improving MY riding because i was not strong enough to constantly fight with him about his head. it allowed me to stay quiet, and when the martingale got him for tossing, i was much more able to stay and support him with leg coming over his back and powering from the hind end. without it she is powering right past your leg with chest and under-neck muscles. i found after riding with the martingale solid for a quite a few months i could feel him use his back more actively on his own rather than having to push him into it. and i've been able to use it much less recently. and when i showed i always warmed up with it, there is nothing wrong with that. now, you are able to ride her much more often and you are probably much further in the game than i was (burns had no topline to speak of, and that's really what you are trying to do- strengthen those muscles so she uses them herself) so you may find that it only takes a couple months rather than the 6 it took me. but i would definitely use it every ride for a while, then gradually wean off of it. and if you find you have regressed (especially over the winter not riding a lot) use it more rides than not for a while, then go back to it. just my humble old opinion :D and holy shit that giraffe gif is AMAZEBALLS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks elizabeth - this is helpful to read! (and i always read comments, regardless of how, uh, 'timely' they are lol). i think you're spot on when saying that we amateurs need all the help we can get.

      my trainers always tell me to correct her immediately with more leg when she flings her head, but sometimes i'm so focused on a million other things (and my timing is piss poor anyway) that it just gets sloppy...

      in any case, all the great feedback here definitely convinced me to keep the martingale handy. i still don't use it *every* ride, but i also no longer have any qualms using it for a purely flat work ride either. so thanks!

      Delete