Posts from the ‘balance’ Category

Snaffle Onward

All of the elements of the Training Scale are evidenced and promoted by the excellence of rider Charlotte Dujardin’s seat schooling uppermost level exercises in a snaffle bridle.

Thanks to BHS Honorary Fellow Carl Hester for narration.

3.Bibliography: V.S. Littauer, Field School

3.Bibliography: V.S. Littauer, Field School

    Schooling Your Horse : a Simple Up-To-date Method of Schooling Hunters, Jumpers, and Hacks

by Vladimir S. Littauer

This is the first non-fiction book I read about horses, 55! years ago. I still chortle when I remember that the bookmobile librarian phoned my mother to ask permission to check the book to me because it was an ADULT book. I was captivated by the images of Barnaby Bright, The Captain himself astride. I could see Barnaby Bright’s muscles ripple, and feel the joy and power of unity in motion. I studied, made notes, practiced.

Littauer, a Russian cavalry officer, emigrated to the US and should be credited with founding the American system of training working and showring hunters and tournament jumpers, and riding in the forward seat. Dressage riders will find that all the elements of the Training Scale are addressed, without fanfare or cerebral machination. His texts, for which people who knew them credit his anthropologist wife, Mary, are just plain lucid. And his program for schooling unfolds understandably to the mind of the horse and for the progression of the horse’s physical development. Especially for Thoroughbreds, whose minds tend to learn faster than their bodies are able to develop. Anyone who brings horses through field school, events through novice level, or foxhunts will benefit from this book.

    Commonsense Horsemanship

by Vladimir S. Littauer

Published first in 1951, my copy is the 1963 Second Edition, hot off the presses when it arrived via the bookmobile and came to occupy my mind and strum my essence.

I had already read Schooling Your Horse, and was practicing on the neighbors ponies and horses. I had never taken a riding lesson. I handled and rode unsupervised, trained the ponies the way I trained the family G. Sheps. I loved, petted and groomed them, admonished them when they misbehaved, rewarded lavishly when they behaved well, especially when they offered new, desirable behavior. Safety was not an issue; I learned to keep my head and feet out of harm’s way. I loved the horses, they loved me. What could go wrong? Why worry?

But I was more than receptive to knowledgeable help. I was ravenously hungry for it, when along came this seven course meal. After describing the nature of the horse, and it’s motion, leading to why to sit as he prescribes, Littauer narrates how to sit a horse, thence to control it, and school it. Next to teach others to ride, and to teach others to school their own horses. Craft understood. Field School accomplished. Foundation of the horses’ futures laid.

Although there are photos, diagrams, and sketches, the Littauers’ words were and are worth a gazillion pictures. Every time I pluck Commonsense from my shelf, I find new passages of illumination.

Holding it now, I see that the very first note I made inside it’s cover refers to this passage:
(PAGE 218)”In order to be a horseman he must forget himself, identify himself with the horse, feel that it is he, himself who has changed leads at the canter or taken the jump; only then will there be that complete union and harmony which produces true art.”

Young horse quality

From Australia to Russia…a young horse of high quality, known as Dante,

changed sponsorship through auction in Germany December 2014.

 

We shall watch for progress in his development.

Three Good Gaits

Three Good Gaits

It is the oft published, seldom stated, and rarely heard goal of Dressage to maintain the purity and clarity of the gaits, sometimes called paces, of a riding horse. Realizing that hereditary conformation dictates and limits the qualities of motion of our horses, it is the goal of Dressage horse breeders, groundskeepers, handlers, grooms, riders, trainers, farriers, veterinarians, physiotherapists, competition judges…so easy to forget…to maintain, all too often to restore, horses innate qualities of motion.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this Vimeo is worth a gazillion words. You can stop-motion any frame and see an excellent illustration of the masters’ definitions of walk, trot, or canter. The limitation of internet transmission of digital video is, of course, the number of frames per second captured and then transmitted. So the qualities of motion perceived by the eye on this screen, as compared to seeing a horses’ motion in realtime, are not quite authentic, but as close as we can get without having been there.

The subject is a 5 year old German-bred gelding who was won at auction in December 2012, by a British buyer. (oh yes, in spite of being named “Her Heart,” Sa Coeur is a gelding.

Sa Coeur is noted to have been awarded a 10 (ten!) for walk, 9.6 for trot, and 8.8 for canter in by Young Horse judges.

Of course, exemplification of the Training Scale is here, too. So you may want to watch…several times.


Three Good Gaits

Wherever we are, we can think globally, and act locally.

Many thanks to Astrid Appel, through Eurodressage, for bringing this to our attention.

Who invented the Training Scale?

So who invented the dadgum Dressage Training Scale, anyway? Where did this pyramid of concepts come from?

Equestrian literary academics note that the Training Scale originated in turn-of-the-20th century Germany, and was first recorded in a 1912 German army training manual, refined in later editions, and adopted and incorporated into the German National Federation’s guidelines for riding and driving. Now the Training Scale is the foundation of every national federation’s educational endeavors.

As Dressage becomes increasingly popular around the globe, wee (sic!) practitioners continue to attempt to demystify it. For decades, Americans have grappled with understanding of German words that have no English equivalents, often blaming our misunderstandings on having read ‘bad translations.’ When verbalizing my own understanding of the Training Scale, I find it easiest to rely on definitions published by horsemen far more learned than myself, whom I will quote ad infinitum when, eventually, I flesh out the outline of my own fascinations.

Subconsciously contemplating that timeline-less project an early morn surfing the net, it dawned on me who really invented the Training Scale. Striding out before my very eyes came THE inventor of the Training Scale, exemplified here in the first 45 seconds of this excerpt from “Welcome to Flyinge,” youtubed by FlyingeStud (SWE):

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Even an untrained eye will recognize the intrinsic beauty of this spectacle. Rhythm, elasticity, unconstraint, balance, self-carriage, an ebullient desire to move forward, engagement, throughness, straightness, and elevation of motion are the expression of celebration of the day by this three week old foal.

This is the ideal to which is compared, 10 or 15 years later, a mature riding horse when it is judged in the sporting rectangle. This is the everyday Olympic ideal to which we compare our progress in the process of conserving each horse’s spirit and developing each horse’s innate locomotive abilities and qualities.

It is our horses who invented the Training Scale, and who teach it to us.

She got them all with that one !

Free Translation Widget
August 25, 2011. Last Saturday in Rotterdam, Adelinde Cornellisen (NED) and Jercich Parcival won the European Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle Championship with an 88+ score, a talling 4% closer to the ideal 100% than nearest contestants Carl Hester(GB) and Uthopia and Patric Kittel (SWE) and Watermill Scandic. Seven Judges, presided by Fourhage (NED), scrutinized each footfall  of 15 performers, awarding scores above eighty to eight of them, and scores above 70 to all of them!

How did Cornelissen and Parcival prevail?

Parvcival’s Freestyle test which was delightfully choreographed to accentuate  Parcival’s transitions between movements, as well as the movements themselves.  Having no errors to the last line, compared to her nearest competitors, but only somewhat inferior qualities of motion, Adelinde passaged the CenterLine to D where she piaffe pirouetted 360 degrees right, then reversed to piaffe 180 degrees left, and passaged the centerline to X, halted and saluted! Audio-visual recordings of the performance sound respectfully hushed gasps, gushes, sighs, and squeals from the gallery, 90 degrees into the left sweep. I, too, was thrilled, and so not surprised by the score.

Apparently Cornelissen and Parcival have been doing this freestyle for a while; they’ve got it down pat. I read that she is planning a new Kur for London 2012. I wonder what her choreographic collaborators could invent that will get higher scores for use of the arena, degree of difficulty of the movements, music and interpretation. But, of course, it is the exercise of imagination that makes freestyle so much fun.

But, good as Cornelissen/Parcival got, other tests deserve close scrutiny…

Carl Hester rode relatively young —ten-year-old —-stallion, Uthopia, to brand new bespoke music, and exhibited three excellent gaits, in the required GP variations. ALL of the best qualities of motion are intrinsic to, and, thus far, retained in this horse. Although the judges are not supposed  to consider the rider’s position and seat, correctness and effect of the aids, as in other FEI tests, Uthopia could not have danced this test so gracefully without a rider; Hester’s contact is exemplary!

But there were the three little glitches:  irregular step in the first passage/piaffe transition, one too large canter pirouette, and an over reaction from the horse to half-halt influences causing momentary loss of forward motion, each of which cost technical points. And the degree of difficulty of the movements was modest, as it should be for such a young horse. I am looking forward to seeing this horse get a little stronger, and this combination become a little more confident in each other. Uthopia is a star still rising!!!!!!

The judges were right about the bronze, too, from what I can see. Although I have not been following Patric Kittel and Watermill Scandic—I was put off by the blue tongue episode–I do like the way this man sits a horse, and I am pleased by the cadence of this horses motion. This is a more mature horse, 14 I think, and so stronger and more confident. The horse seems to be genuinely enjoying himself. The quality of the horses motion is, however, less than ideal, by the fact the horse’s back is down, by which I mean concave to the rider’s seat, rather than up, as would permit the more desirable flow of energy from the horse’s haunches, across his back, through to the poll. Still, the performance is foot perfect, no irregularities. So ‘Scandi Man,’ I heard Patric call him, deserved every point and the bronze medal he garnered.

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Surfing around the videos embedded above and watching other combinations’ tests at the European Champs can help all of us train our eyes. There is much to learn.

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“If Dressage is about anything at all……..

Free Translation Widget
“If dressage is about anything at all, it is about equine locomotion.”

I don’t remember having ever before felt separation anxiety from a thing…much less a book. But last week, soon after I delivered Charles Harris’s Workbooks from the Spanish School 1948-1951 back to the local Inter-Library Loan portal, I realized I was afflicted. I’d had use of…was possessed by …. Workbooks for two months. The effects of my reading it, re-reading it, pondering it, sorting it, re-sorting, now writing about it, are simply profound. My riding, the qualities of motion of horses I ride, and the competence of riders I influence is undeniably enhanced by this, my first interlude with Charles Harris. It recalled for me so much that I forget I know to practice.

I have to tell you about this book.

Although JA Allen did earlier publish three Charles Harris manuscripts, including a photo essay with Colonel Charles Hope  and Charles Harris self-published a pamphlet, Riding  Safety and Riding Negligence, Harris penned those works intending them for publication and distribution.

Charles Harris himself never intended his Workbooks for publication, but only for recording his lessons, insights and intellectual ruminations during his three years of study in The Spanish Riding Academy of Vienna, which we now know ( and I personally revere) as the Spanish Riding School, or SRS, for his own use, to facilitate his own learning, and for later review.

But by the sagacity of Charles Harris nephew, attorney Robert Sherman, who, not himself a horseman, got to know his uncle so well by audio taping conversations between them during Harris’ waning years, the publication of Workbooks, prefaced by Sherman, foreworded by Daniel Pevsner, FBHS MSTAT Pupil, The Spanish Riding School of Vienna, complemented by a 90 page biography comprised mostly of transcription of the taped interviews, and including all 681 notebook entries with reproductions of Harris’ own pen and green ink drawings and diagrams, was accomplished.

The foreword by Daniel Pevsner states that Harris’s focus, as his career progressed, became riding safety. I note that few entries in the Workbooks are concerned with safety. But surely Harris was surrounded with, made aware of, and adopted, safe handling and riding practices at The Academy.

If a theme is to be drawn from the Workbooks which, I repeat were never intended for publication, it is that “if dressage is about anything at all, it is about equine locomotion.” Harris, already a Fellow of the BHS when he entered The Spanish Academy, became fascinated with the analysis of horses’ gaits, including how a rider’s way of sitting on a horse affects a horse’s gait, not only in the moment, but trains an affected gait.

Harris finds himself disabused of the precept that a riders shoulders should parallel a horse’s shoulders and and a rider’s hips should parallel a horse’s hips  on arcs and in lateral work, as they do when traveling straight. He realizes that any twisting of a rider’s spine impairs “bracing the rider’s back” and that concussion of the horse’s motion, absorbed by a twisted rider’s spine, damages the rider’s spine. Instead, the rider’s shoulders and hips should parallel the ground and be perpendicular to the radius of the arc of the horse’s spine above the horse’s center of gravity.  Many entries explore technique and timing of bracing of the back, to move with, rather than to “follow,” a horse in Free Forward Movement.

In his analysis of gait, he was especially bemused by gait tempo.  He  attempted to sort through the concepts of tempo in relation to rhythm, pace, and cadence, and evidence in the Workbooks is that he never figured out tempo. Or cadence.  I don’t think less of him for this failure…He was a Brit immersed 24/7 in a school where no other human being, except a single fellow student, spoke English. (period)  And, it occurs to me while listening to From the Top on NPR as I type, that he had no musical training, from which lexicon he could have drawn correlative concepts. The failure to realize that tempo is merely hoofbeats per minute, might not even be a failure. Maybe, at the “uh….duh!” moment, he simply failed to record in the Workbooks this discovery.

I did not find myself enthralled by the good luck, bad luck, good fortunes, misfortunes, and controversies of his life as decanted by his nephew-biographer.

But I loved the anecdote of Harris visiting his protegé Pevsner at the studio of no less than Nuno Oliviera where Pevsner was studying while awaiting his own admission to the Academy:  Harris arrives, thrilled to advance his own knowledge in the hall of renownded master Oliviera, joins the gallery, and is so excited by what he sees that he can’t keep his mouth shut…and voices his complimentary insights to other observers. Oliviera cannot hear what Harris is saying, and if he could, might not have understood the languages in which Harris spoke, but is annoyed by Harris’s engagement of the gallery…His, Oliviera’s gallery. So Oliviera challenges Harris to get on a horse and demonstrate his riding competence. Or to “put your butt where your mouth is,” I have heard other  horsemen say. Well, Harris had traveled without riding attire, and upon divulging this, was offered a pair of boots, into which he horned himself, but no breeches. In travel pants, legs already throbbing from ill-fitting boots, Harris mounts the horse presented, and proceeds to walk it about the school, on loose reins, chatting with the onlookers and occasionally stroking the horse. As the story goes, his introductory cues to the horse were invisible to the gallery, and no one seemed to notice that the loose reins had become long reins, then the lightest of contact, or that the horse was moving magnificently, still at walk. So the gallery becomes impatient, vocally impatient, and friend Pevzner says something like…”ok Charles, it’s getting late, you don’t have to prove anything to me. Let’s go to dinner”…which Harris seems not to hear…as the horse walks from a corner to the center of the school where, to the amazement of all those still looking, the horse joyously piaffes, perfectly balanced, invisibly cued, absolutely correctly, for untold strides, after which the horse walks purposefully onward. Disgruntling Oliviera to call out “I trained that horse!” to the hushed and now mesmerized audience. (QED, I would have whispered, paatting the neck of my partner in proof.)

The 681 entries of the Workbooks fascinated me. Of course they are a jumble; Student Harris records his lessons and insights in the order in which they are presented to him, by his instructors, the horses, and the environment, and/or the lights go on for him. But I knew I was on good footing immediately upon reading entry #1, which I failed to record verbatim, because, since my own first introduction to the concept of clarity of gaits, I have held high among all absolute equestrian truths, that a horse’s diagonal canon bones move parallel to each other in natural (as differentiated from artificially affected) trot, in all modulations of natural trot, at all variations of tempo of natural trot of which an individual horse is capable. Harris’ entry #1 is focused on parallel diagonal canons level with opposite parallel diagonals at extended trot. With a pen and green ink abstract diagram to illustrate! First entry, and the editors and publishers swear in writing that this is the order in which the entries were made in Student Harris’ notebooks. And, that’s where I left the green silk ribbon bookmark when I returned the book.

Earlier this week, I was still feeling separation anxiety, when the results of 2011 Aachen Dressage were disseminated, including youtube videos of both Steffen Peters astride Ravel and M.A. Rath aboard Totillas.  I was not surprised to read (and hear) that the spectators at Aachen, the best educated Dressage spectators in the WORLD, whistled for 75 seconds to sound their disapproval of the judges scoring Ravel second to Totillas in the finale Kur. Did the College of Judges hear them? I don’t know. I trust the College of Judges will get the message…eventually, if not by London 2012, hopefully by Deauville 2014.  I was, nevertheless, feeling compelled to weigh in… to post and critique the videos of Ravel’s and Totilla’s tests against our ideals, but was distracted by the needs of horses I steward.

Coming back to this issue ( oh, how I hate that word, issue, in this context. Doesn’t that mean a progeny of a marriage? a child? or a foal?) I decided to go surfing. And soon before my eyes appeared a stunningly superb example of nearly ideal trot, by the body of…really?.. an Orlov’s Trotter ridden by Russian Young Rider Alexandra Korelova in Grand Prix testing at Aachen 2009.

So, toward better understanding of the ideal, I offer this video of Balagur. Actually the horse’s canter is also quite nearly ideal. But I must say that the collected and extended walks are disappointing, not enough, if any, overstep at extended walk, and not through, although still clear, in collected walk. Walk performance gets double coefficient by current rules, as they should, so that’s good enough reason for this performance to have not scored  80. But the trot, collected and extended, passage and piaffe are exemplary, and the canter is right up there!

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