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Old 06-12-2013, 05:56 AM   #1
Holger
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Default Straightness

Recently, I was reading „True Unity“ again. Throughout the book Tom quite often stresses the importance of straightness, which I think is totally right.

I don’t know whether this might be of wider interest, but personally I’m just curious about your opinion and thoughts about straightness, how you judge the degree of straightness in a horse (or feel it, for the matter) and how your approach looks like to work on it and to develop it over time when you follow the Vaquero’s way?
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Old 06-12-2013, 09:15 AM   #2
Jimmy
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For me it is not something you work on. It is something you allow the horse to do.
When we start young horses, especially ticklish ones, we often try to keep some bend, just so we can stay out of trouble, and control him. Hard to ride a horse you can't put a bend in when you need to. But there is a time to give this up as quickly as possible, and give the straightness back to the horse, which may mean at first we have to be willing not to over manage him.
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Old 10-21-2013, 03:31 AM   #3
Mares Tales
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Straightness to me is when the horse is carrying/using/weighting each hindquarter equally as well, then your horse will be straight.

Many things can influence straightness or lack of.... in a horse.

1. The way the rider sits on top of the horse such as a crooked rider and the horse is always trying to compensate and get under the weight of the unbalanced rider to feel more stable and comfortable.

2. Flaws in the horses asymetrical conformation; but many times a horse can learn to overcome it`s poor conformation with proper riding and still be a functional animal. A rider just has to be conscious of this to help the horse. The perfect horse has never been born, there is a hole in all of them somewhere so this knowledge can be the difference between a person being a rider of horses and a master horseman.

3. The rider continuously repeating an exercise in a way that over-developes the horses musculature on one side more than the other. Many times this is not even conscious to the rider.

4. The horse must feel sure enough to let go of it`s braces in order to be malleable to the rider. Horses can develope crookedness from holding onto self preservation. I have ridden horses that tell me " you can have the right side, but the left side I reserve in case I need to get out of Dodge"... and they will shorten that side and until you earn that horses trust, they will not fully let go but be guarded.

5. Horses are left and right handed just like people are. The art of horsemanship is to ride and help our horses to be ambidextrous. I have found that most horses are born straighter than the rider has allowed them to be, out of the riders own crookedness. Our horses become our mirror in more ways than ONE!

The old masters said "Forward, calm and straight".

Forward.........you have to have movement in order to direct it.
Calm..............you have to develope the horses trust enough for them to let go of their braces. "Turn Loose"
Straight...........it takes forward and calm, in other words; life (energy) and a horse that has let go of it`s braces to develope a truly straight horse.
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Old 10-21-2013, 09:27 AM   #4
Jimmy
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Good post. I have recently been working of straight from the very first rides. Contrary to popular methods these days, I find that too much giving to the bit too soon, too much bending the neck. Even too much kicking the hips over. Many feel that if they let their horse get straight, he will be rigid. But not if you are able to just go with the horse.
I have posted about the natural brace in a horse here before. I have said what you have said, that it is a part of their self preservation..You cannot deal with brace with more pressure. The horse has to turn loose like you said. Which again means we have to sometimes give them what they need to feel they are okay. That's the trust. On tough horses,this is difficult for us. There are not many people who are able to let go of themselves, much more their horse, and ride well enough, to be this good of horseman. My theory is this is why there are so many clinicians teachings beginners all these so called natural horsemanship "techniques". But it dumbs down the horse to their level. It just becomes a way to get green riders on green horses out of the arena. So that's a start, at least.

A great horseman doesn't need all those things, at least not to the extent the "experts" tell you to do. I am trying these days to be a minimalist. Kind of like when your camping in the wilderness. They say, leave no sign you were ever there. Same can be said of good riding and horsemanship.
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Old 10-21-2013, 09:49 AM   #5
Mares Tales
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Hi Jimmy,

I think that people forget that for the first few miles, few rides, the horse that is just undersaddle is coping with a new weight on his back and also coping with being directed by the rider. Tom and Bill talked about "blending in" and this gives the horse a chance to sort things out and begin to figure out how to cope with this added weight. Following the horse`s movement and blending in so that the horse can follow yours is a way to build confidence in the horse.

Personally, I like to do a lot of groundwork as pre-ridden work so that my horse already has that in him for the first few rides. I have found that the groundwork transfers to ridden work and the horse can better follow my feel. I take it a bit further and do all the flexions from the ground with my rope halter.

If the rider does not understand "throughness" then they can easily put on the brakes and discourage forward if the rider tries to get a "soft feel" too early and without a complete letting go. If the horse responds to the person`s request to "give" and can follow a feel on the ground it`s not a big jump to the horse following your hand/body to turn with a float in the rein; following your feel.

I am sure there are horsemen out there that can do all this from the saddle on the first rides but, I`m not there yet so choose to use a lot more preparation from the ground.


I must add that it is difficult to talk about straightness without also considering the riders focus, especially in the beginning. The rider needs to give the horse a place to go by focusing a line of sight where he plans to ride to. A wonderful way of giving a horse a focus is to follow cattle, also for the english riders, riding a line of cavaletti, even a single small jump.....two good ways of developing forward and straightness.

I think we may be talking about a lot of the same things.

Last edited by Mares Tales; 10-21-2013 at 10:18 AM.
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Old 10-21-2013, 10:36 AM   #6
Jimmy
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I think we are.
As far as ground work goes, it is important as to what it entails. A lot of folks are going to ground work clinics, but it is not transferring to riding, because they are using visual aids from the ground without knowing the horse is picking more up on the visual cues,as in body language and position, than he is feeling of things through the lead to his head to your hands, and all that will mean. Not to say that the visual is not important. Many of those people don't ride very well anyway.Riding however is tactile to the horse. Once you are on, the horse cannot see you, for the most part, so the feel through the reins, or lead rope, is important to get across ahead of time. So the the feel of your whole body will now play into things in a big way. That is what scares him. So if it is not the right kind of ground work, more of it won't help.
If you're ground work has not considered that tactile responses needed, it won't help you. I don't like to see people working their horse on the ground with the lead or lounge line dragging on the ground. This has become popular, as teaching feel. But that line is there as a rein, so the horse can keep a feel of you, through your hands. It is physical contact. That is what you need when you get on. Ground work can teach your horse not to be afraid of you there, and not be afraid of the tack, and the rope, etc., but when you get on it is going to be different.
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Old 10-21-2013, 10:46 AM   #7
Mares Tales
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Jimmy said "....A lot of folks are going to ground work clinics, but it is not transferring to riding, because they are using visual aids from the ground without knowing the horse is picking more up on the visual cues,as in body language and position, than he is feeling of things through the lead to his head to your hands, and all that will mean."

Thank you for pointing that out because I had never thought of it that way; of it being more visual to that extent. That could be an important caution for people to take note of so as not to fall into that trap.

Good post, good discussion. Wonderful forum.
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Old 10-21-2013, 12:37 PM   #8
Jimmy
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That is not to say that that type of ground work is not important. I start in a round pen, usually with the horse loose. There is a technique to doing that. Not just chasing your horse around until he "joins up" (shoot me now!) But some type of ground work is part of the whole deal, to help get from one point to the other. You don't even really need a round pen. But once I am out of the round pen, on the horses back, I never go back. Perfecting that kind of "round penning" (shoot me again) work, for the sake of itself, is just circus to me. I wish more clinics actually taught riding. But you can't learn that in three days.
One of the principles of classical horsemanship is that the horse can be trained from the understanding of the riders aids, from consistent position of the rider and his presentation of the aids, in relationship to what else is going on with the horse. This comes full circle back to the straightness. Once you gotten past just not being bucked off. and the horse being more or less safe, the real work begins. That is where you have to become a rider.
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Old 02-03-2014, 07:18 PM   #9
Bill
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Default Straightness and Colt Starting

Wow! What a great conversation. I agree 100% with both of you. I have started colts both in the round pen and out in the sage brush with just a rope halter and lead rope.

All fo the groundwork that I do has direct correlation to what I will be doing once I am on my horse's back. For reasons that I have never fully understood, I see many clinicians doing groundwork with their horses that don't seem to have a direct connection to what you would do in the saddle. For example, I have seen some clinicians advocate the use of a stick to swipe at the horse's front legs in order to get him to back up. Good luck with that technique when you are in the saddle!

I've found that one good way to get a colt straight from the beginning is to ride with a couple of seasoned horses around him to give him confidence and then get him trailing cattle as quickly as possible. Giving your horse a job seems to focus his mind and his body then follows.
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Old 03-11-2014, 06:06 PM   #10
DanielDauphin
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I'm a newbie to this forum, so I don't know if this is allowed, or taboo, but I wrote a blog on this topic, after seeing this heading. I purposefully did not read the posts until the blog was done so as to avoid stealing ideas from y'all. I think that good points have been made, now that I've read them, but I do feel that there is still an unaddressed aspect of straightness and that aspect happens to be what this blog is mainly focused toward. Very little of this concept is mine originally, as I toiled with these thoughts for 20 years until Mr. Joe Wolter Straightened me out in 2 minutes. Let me know what y'all think.

As the blog is 900 words or so, I thought I would just post the link. This is not an advertising attempt and I am not trying to spam the board. Again, sorry if this is taboo.
http://www.dauphinhorsemanship.com/blog-articles
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