POINT OF VIEW Every good idea can be carried out past its useful-

ness. To be useful, a flexion suppling any part of the body must always end in complete relaxation, like yoga postures. Neck flexion arches it by lifting its base (C6/ C7) from the tension of the sternocephalic muscles on each side of the under-neck (which lift the sternum) and the brachiocephalic muscle (which lifts the elbows and pulls them forward in movement). Any flexion by pulling the head down by force and maintaining this uncomfortable position by constant pressure, with the base inverted and the topline broken at the third ver- tebra, does not result in any improved flexibility of the back. Instead it maintains the horse locked in a forward balance he cannot escape with completely stiff hind legs (croup high).

AIDS AND SUBMISSIVENESS “Submission” and “rider’s effectiveness of aids” are two line items at the end of dressage tests to be scored in the collective marks. While they are not directly men- tioned in the training scale, they are important enough to require attention and evaluation by judges. An aid consists of applying some pressure to the horse (seat, legs, bit, cavesson, whip, voice, physical presence, etc.). The horse (hopefully) responds by re- leasing his tension in the manner desired by the trainer, and his goodwill must then be encouraged by dimin- ishing the intensity with every repetition. This entices the horse to do more by himself as he understands what is asked without objecting. The difficulty is that all untrained horses resist phys-

ical pressure: it is called the “Opposition Reflex,” hence the importance of submission. At first, any stimulus is met by this Opposition Reflex (resistance). If a weak intensity stimulus is maintained (consistent pressure or a rapid tempo vibration/tapping), the muscle be- comes desensitized (ignores the stimulus). In the third phase, renewed intensity triggers the parasympathetic state of relaxation (rest and digest) by stimulating the vagus nerve (which controls salivation, swallowing, so we get “chewing and licking” and stimulation of the digestive tract). After relaxation sets in, the stimulus finally gets the right response from the now relaxed muscle. As time goes, the first three phases collapse to a mere fraction of a second and the horse responds practically immediately. This is the process by which the horse “accepts” the aids: he understands, responds quickly and retains the new “neurological memory.” This results in better balance, deeper relaxation, freer movement and absence of conflict through submis- siveness, all intrinsic rewards belonging to the nature

68 March/April 2019

of the horse that make training easier and longer lasting.

BENEFITS OF “OLD FASHIONED” MILITARY RIDING The picture of soldiers shooting while standing up on horses shows that cavalry training included more im- portant things than the early attention to the rhythm of gaits, such as: impeccable manners on the ground and under saddle, alone and in a group; desensitizing the horse to all the noises and movements of the barracks, noises of firearms, etc.; and turning, side-passing, stop- ping and standing still in order to ma- neuver as a unit. In short, all the aspects of training that are sorely missing in most horses’ dressage education today. A horse with such mili- tary training would have no problem being ridden at a show in front of a noisy audience. These enormous holes in the training of dressage

horses today have ushered in the expansion of Ameri- can and Australian natural horsemanship, which of- fers solutions to the problems of dressage competitors whose horses are nervous at shows, get scared from the smallest noise or movement and occasionally bolt and/or throw their riders. In England, Holland and Ger- many, Australian horsemen Tristan Tucker and Will Rog- ers present young sport horses with impeccable behav- ior ridden with running chainsaws, flags or umbrellas in hand, under huge flying tarps, and trotting with no halter and lead behind their trainers through obstacle

Australian Will Rogers (now residing in Germany) is a well-known dressage rider and natural horsemanship trainer. At one of his demos, he shows the calmness of this young dressage mare (with- out a bridle) while an enormous tarp is pulled over her.

Fab Foto

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