Monday, November 10, 2014

on the forehand?

I've posted this pic a few times - most recently in this post where I thought it was a comparatively nice moment. 

My reasoning was that Isabel appears to be reaching forward, and tracking up nicely with her hind legs, and seems to have some lift in her neck / back / loins, and less (again, comparative here) tension and bracing.

But after watching the bio-mechanics and anatomy session (details here) I'm revisiting some pictures to reassess. 

So here's the trot pic again, this time blown up and with helpful highlighting along her cannons. 



My assessment here? It sure looks like both front feet are on the ground, and both hinds are off. Isn't that, uh, the *definition* of 'on the forehand'?? Or am I missing something?

Not sure if this is just a fluke or not (I highly suspect not...), but it's certainly a good reminder for me to look to the mechanical root of our movements, rather than just seeing a pretty picture formed by what really ought to be a by-product of correct motion. 

What do you think? What characteristics do you look for to determine if it's a 'nice picture' or not?

21 comments:

  1. Wow I would never have picked up on that had you not pointed out where her forelegs were placed! Not sure where I got this idea but I always look to see if oscar is looking 'uphill', ie. the angle of his body going upwards from his hindquarters to shoulders. Again, don't know why I do that ha!

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    1. i never thought to look either until i saw it in the Deb Bennett clinic recording lol

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  2. Really interesting! Like Christie, I look to see if the horse is in an "uphill" shape... withers above croup. Also check out the angles of the diagonal pairs of legs in trot... when the horse is properly carrying itself, they should be at the same angle. You'll see in the picture you posted that Isabel's front left and rear hind are not at the same angle! And the diagonal pairs should also be on/off the ground at the same time. :)

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    1. i suspect that the 'uphill' appearance is a more effective way of assessing a horse's balance... but would love to better understand how a horse achieves that shape. lifting from the base of the neck? coiling up the loins? some combination thereof?

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  3. Hm, a good indicator on this photo to me is the toe-flick Isabel is doing with her left front, and how far her left hind is trailing out behind her. That tells me she is blocked somehow from working through her back more. Might be lack of muscle, might be tension, I can't tell. The "uphill look" should come from the horse engaging the hind end, pushing the hind legs further under for more reach (think curled loins,and legs under not behind), and from the saddle it will feel like the withers raise up. The abdominal muscles will also be pretty highly engaged for that to happen.

    All that said, this isn't a bad moment. You guys aren't working on 2nd or 3rd level, you're still trying to develop even rhythm and good balance. Those things are more important right now than developing collection. When you get the rhythm and the balance, you can add the extra push for the engagement. In my experience, the rhythm/balance part is way harder than the engagement part!

    If you find her substantially on her forehand while working, I'd suggest doing more transitions between gaits, and even within gaits (if you can maintain the rhythm/balance!). Obviously you don't want her to go around pounding her forelegs into the ground, but you also don't want to push her to be in a more advanced frame than she can muscularly handle right now.

    TL;DR She looks slightly on her forehand, but still tracking up nicely and in a good frame for her level. Keep up the hard work. :)

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    1. thanks Austen - definitely a very helpful response. sometimes i struggle to figure out which 'issue' to work on first... so my interpretation of your response is that we should continue working on balance before i can reasonably expect to her frame become substantially more 'uphill.' (let me know if that's not right lol). thanks for the advice re: transitions within the gaits. never really purposefully tried that, so will see how it goes!

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  4. We've been working on getting Max to move more uphill too. He was ridden on the forehand a bit previously, so we worked on building up his hind end muscles by doing lots of transitions, leg yielding along the fence, and hill work. After a few months of doing that I am starting to feel a difference, and folks are saying he has a little more hind muscle now. Whew..it does take quite a bit of time just for a little bit of progress!

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    1. it really is way more work than i thought lol! but i guess that's true for everything related to horses.... glad you're seeing progress with Max too!

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  5. That's awesome you noticed that issue! I didn't even see it until you pointed it out. I don't have any helpful advice that others haven't already covered, but I think it's a great exercise - this will definitely be my homework project for the night!

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    1. i kinda wish i hadn't noticed it lol... but they say step one in fixing a problem is acceptance, right?

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  6. This is called diagonal advanced placement! http://www.ridingart.com/dap.htm

    There's a lot of controversy in the dressage world (apparently, I have only read about it) over whether it's a good or bad thing.

    I won't comment based on one picture, since it's not quite enough information. My horse looks vastly different picture to picture. What I would do if you're interested in what her biomechanic is in the trot, is to take a video and slow it down frame by frame. If she does have DAP, I think you'll find that she actually lands first with her hind legs, then front, then lifts off first with the hind legs, then front. So a half a step ago, she'd look much more uphill than she does in this picture since the hind legs would be on the ground and the front legs would be off.

    So I'd say this is much less a balance problem and much more a rhythm problem (although some say it's desirable). That being said, working on longitudinal balance is not a bad thing to be doing :)

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    1. Ha! Awesome! So glad you wrote in, Megan. Totally interesting!

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    2. thanks - that's really interesting. and, in fact, that pic IS a still from a video (almost all my pictures are lol), so i definitely have some source material to investigate further....

      feels like the more i dig into dressage (even at these most fundamental levels), the more i'm learning about the depth of seemingly uncomplicated terms like 'rhythm' and 'balance'... kinda blows my mind lol

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    3. It's amazing how something that seems so simple can be made so incredibly complex! I guess that's the definition of dressage :)

      Rhythm and balance are so interesting to me too. Mostly because they affect the rest of the training scale and also because you can really dig into them. Plus every horse is so different on them. One horse may be on the forehand because they aren't pushing enough (so not engaged enough with the hind legs and therefore not taking weight behind), another may be on the forehand because they are pushing too much without the topline to hold them up yet. I have a student working on the latter right now.

      The mare has two balance problems- one in lateral balance caused by her falling through the right shoulder and one in longitudinal balance caused by her pushing too much in the hind legs, covering too much ground, with a topline that can't support that much impulsion yet. So first we address the longitudinal problem- slow the horse down, cover small amounts of ground with lots of downward transitions. Then the lateral balance, half halt the right rein, set the horse back on the left hind, and prevent overbend to the left. Suddenly she's not on the forehand!

      But they're all so different... And the better trained they get, the more complicated the rhythm and balance problems get! Totally obnoxious!

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    4. interesting. my bio-mechanics coach has pinpointed isabel's lateral balance as our #1 issue standing in the way of true engagement (for now, bc these things always change) - tho it's her right hind that needs to work better.

      i tried lots of downward txs last night (mostly in the walk or walk to halt, tho some in the trot too) and felt like it was maybe getting us on the right track. so perhaps step two is focusing on bringing that right hind into the mix....

      in any case, like you say - the horses are all so different, plus each horse might be slightly different just from day to day (isabel's mood certainly is) - but thanks for all these insights. lots of food for thought here (my favorite!)

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  7. I think Megan's comment is very informative and I agree with her the video. Austen gave some great info too. I'm glad you posted this, because I learned a lot from it. I think it's great that you are getting information and applying it. Knowing what you're aiming for is half of the battle. You guys look great either way and are headed in the right direction :)

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    1. thanks! and yea, i'm really pleased with the feedback in this comment thread - like i'm getting top-notch training advice for the bargain price of posting embarrassing pics of my riding on the internet :)

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  8. I think the grassy footing makes it not what my eyes go to first but since you point it out I see it ha!

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    1. isn't it funny how that works? i would have *never* noticed it until i heard a clinician discussing it... and now it's the first thing i see!

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  9. Wow thanks for asking this question! I'm learning so much from the comments. :D

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    1. me too!! i'm feeling so incredibly grateful for all the feedback here :)

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