I spent an inspiring weekend learning from Jillian Kreinbring. Sometimes one can think they are crazy. When in a sea of people praising horses in absolute elevation, tight backs and hanging on the inside rein, you start to question what you believe to be true. Jillian says "the people who know how, seek out the people who know why." If you don't understand the why behind how you are riding, you must seek out someone who can tell you. You have to seek out the people who know what is being affected on the inside of the horse when the rider applies outside influence. Why don't we hang on / shorten the inside rein? Because this creates bracing in the jaw. Bracing in the jaw creates bracing in the body. Bracing in the body has the horses looking for escape from the rider's hand. This generally gives us the opposite of what we are after. So what is the inside rein for? Softening the jaw. A gentle lift, a gentle massage, a gentle opening to invite the horse to flex at the poll, soften and reach for the connection. It is not the rider's job to create connection. The softening of the jaw and leteral flex ion will lead to the longitudinal flexion that will bascule the neck when the abdominals engage, back relaxes and the pelvis flexes. Remember collection is the lowering of the haunches (lumbosacral joint lowers), flexion of the lumbar / thoracic spine, lifting of the base of the neck (C5 raising), and the neck basculing. Gadgets won't help. How do you know if you have connection with collection vs compression with false collection? Could you let go of the reins and have the horse maintain for a few strides? No? Then you had compression and false collection. Horses with hollow backs and compressed necks (if rider is holding head and neck in position) or high headed (if rider isn't holding neck in compression) are bilaterally contracting the muscles in their back trying to protect and stabilize the spine. They are not flexing the pelvis, they are pushing off with the pelvis extended. That will eventually do damage to joints in hind legs, pelvis and back. Remember horses weren't designed to be ridden. So if we want them to carry us, it is our responsibility to teach them how and condition them for the job. We must ride the horse from the hind leg forward, learn about the horse from the inside out and support the horse from the hoof up.
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