Author Topic: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods- UPDATE!!  (Read 30167 times)

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Offline Heather

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French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods- UPDATE!!
« on: September 27, 2007, 06:00:58 PM »
The Modern Dressage system, versus  Classical French Equitation.

The more I see of horses, when I am away training, the more I despair about prolonged use of ‘long and low’ putting them on their forehand. When taking  clinics and demos last week, every horse I worked with was on its forehand, put there as much as anything, by the fashion for long and low, or even ‘deep’, front end curled back, whilst not as drastic as the practise of rollkur, still puts the horse on it’s shoulders.

I remember Dr Reiner Klimke saying that we British still had our horses working long and low when they are ten years old. He was taking an ABRS clinic at Towerlands at the time, and was teaching someone on a four year old. Rider was horrified when the great man asked her to put the horse 'up'. 'But he is only 4 years old' she said. This is when Dr Klimke replied that we rode them long and low as a training system, not purely as a warm up, break period, or cool down. He said that was why our horses were all on their shoulders.

Paul Belasik said just the same thing when he came over for his first clinic here in Yorkshire, and worked to get all the horses much more up in front. My own horses are worked this way, and long and low reserved only for cooling down, rarely even for warming up.

I realised the error of my ways, when still training much more in the classical German style, and Nadja King from Horses For Life magazine, wrote primarily about the differences between Iberians and other breeds, especially warmbloods. The Iberian is built solely for collection, to tip the pelvis under. Working them long and low, flattens the croup, and causes them to thrust by swinging the hindlegs under, often damaging the back in the process.

I was horrified, because I had been trying to encourage my Iberians to move like a warmblood! I went straight back to revisiting my original French heritage. My old trainer, Capt Desi Lorent, always insisted that you couldn’t mix French and German systems. I set out to prove him wrong, because in those days, I was still hankering after competition, and French equitation, was never going to win rosettes.

 I strayed from what I truly believed, but in many respects am glad I did, because in order to comment on both schools of training, I am very glad that I also went down the German and competition route. In my fifties, I have come back to the French ideals, although I was always striving for lightness, it so often wasn’t happening in the way I had experienced when riding pure French.

I re-read Jean Claude Racinet's excellent book, 'Racinet Explains Baucher', which, along with his other two, I had owned for years, but had long forgotten to read. Neon lights flashed on, as I read JC's explanation of the different aims of French and German schools. Sure, the end result should be the same, but the roads to get there, diverge right from the very start.

I had known of JC through my friend, Dr Bill Sanders in the US. Bill has long told me what a genius JC is with regard to the purest of French equitation, and having read the books, he was right. JC explains that the French system requires Balance Before Movement, whereas the German system requires Balance Through Movement. JC states that in the French system, balance is obtained at the halt, and the movement introduced like an eye dropper, dropping big, fat drops of liquid, one at a time. None of this 'forward, forward' ‘forward' stuff!!- which is more about speed than impulsion.

The French system requires engagement of the haunches, and not engagement of the hindlegs, whereas the modern German system requires engagement of the hindlegs, and not the hindquarters.

What is the difference? In the former, the hind joints compress, and produce more upwards spring, with pelvis tilted under. The hindlegs do not step as far under the body, nor come far behind the point of the hip. From this, the compression in the joints, strengthens them, so that when later, medium and extended paces are asked for, it is coming from a still tipped under pelvis, so that the movement is derived from collection.

With the latter, the hindlegs swing under like a pendulum, developing forward, rather than upward thrust. The hindleg moves quite a long way back, behind the point of the hip,  as well as swinging an equal distance underneath, so that the moment of thrust comes from a hindleg that is well behind the horse, as it pushes off the ground. This will produce a longer stride, but not necessarily lift the shoulders.

Bear in mind that the modern sporthorse derives, not so very long ago, from carriage breeds, which by dint of long distances being covered, a long swinging stride would have been required. This was further refined with mostly Arabian blood, whose action, combined with a flat croup, gave the extra flamboyance to carriage horse action, and with selective breeding, the modern warmblood emerged.

The Iberian/Baroque breeds, however, were bred for collection, with a naturally sloping hindquarter and higher set on neck, producing a very manoeuvrable, sharp horse, capable of fast and tight turns, requisite for the bullring, for instance.
But many native ponies and cobs have the higher set neck and sloping quarters of the Baroque/Iberian breeds, undoubtedly due to the influence of such blood being introduced into our native ponies in order to refine the type.

Therefore, many so called ‘ordinary’ horses, can be trained to high levels using the French system, they will not have the hugely extravagant movement of the sporthorse,  but think of the pleasure gained by the amateur owner, who can train his or her horse to higher levels, rather than being eternally stuck at preliminary or novice dressage, simply because the horse hasn’t sufficiently flashy paces. The paces will however, improve immeasurably due to the increased elevation produced by collection, and when a longer stride is pushed out, the elevation will remain, rather than the horse running and flattening.

I am renowned for championing the use of the Pelham bit, especially for horses who have been i badly educated in the snaffle. The results are so instant as to be miraculous, in many cases, and of course, I have criticism levelled at me for ‘cheating’! 

JC says in his book, ‘Racinet Explains Baucher’,  that he sees riders every day on his clinics, who have been ‘showing, year after year. But since they do not have the real ‘dressage horses’, nor the finances to buy such a horse, they feel condemned to First Level Test One (he is speaking of US tests), because try as they may to push their gangly TB onto the thick snaffle/drop noseband with their legs, no progress comes about.And so they drop out, change the bit, ride for pleasure, and all of a sudden they witness a breakthrough’ .

I see this so often at my own clinics, where the horse is transformed, often in minutes, and the rider is incredulous that such a change can be wrought in so little time. Once the jaw is mobilised, the balance can be changed, and from that, the movement will lighten and become so much more expressive. It happens time and again, and it is not cheating, but merely freeing the horse, in body and mind, to perform what we are asking of him, without restraint of a solid, heavy contact.

But the Classical Seat is the absolute necessity for this all to come about. The seat has to be worked on in order to perfect it, and once perfected, the rest will seem comparatively easy! Sitting correctly, you will ‘feel’ so much more, instead of blocking it, and because you will be balanced, the application of more refined aids will be absolutely possible.

So, let’s start a new French Revolution!!-  one where lightness is paramount, where horses look happy and free in their work, with riders, elegant and proud, aids barely visible, yes, it can be achieved even by the ordinary rider.


Heather





« Last Edit: January 04, 2008, 05:12:17 PM by Heather »

Baymair

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Re: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2007, 06:07:30 PM »
I'm dreaming of this... one day  :)

Thanks for explaining that Heather, very interesting. Do you think the modern dressage type horses would find it more difficult? Or would it help them even more?
« Last Edit: September 27, 2007, 06:17:01 PM by Baymair »

Offline Appy2quarter

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Re: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2007, 06:09:43 PM »
Love it!  Roll on the EETs being available to all of us who wish to study this way.  It makes so much sense.

Who else in the UK do you know that advocates this approach?

TashaKat

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Re: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2007, 06:11:14 PM »
THANK YOU HEATHER!!!!

Your description of engagement of the haunches v engagement of the hocks has answered so many of my questions!  I get it now (I think ;) ).  

There seems to be so much focus on how far a horse overtracks with huge amounts of  overtracking being held up as the gold standard.  Saff always naturally overtracked but most definitely wasn't working correctly when I got her.  She doesn't overtrack as much now since Emma has been working with her but is definitely working more correctly.  

Thank you :D  The lightbulb has been lit at last!!!!



Offline Heather

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Hi Mandy,

I think that the modern warmblood is perfectly capable of lowering the haunches, as seen in Philippe Karl's and Anja Beran's warmbloods, for instance. Max's Jo is a big 17.2hh warmblood, and when I saw him at a demo last year, was round yes, but still on the shoulders and rather strung out looking.

This was Jo after only three days in the pelham and working him 'up', in the French manner. No, he is not yet lowering his hindquarters, but the spring is clearly visible in the joints, and had I a photo or two from only a day later, the lowering was becoming apparent already.





Where people go wrong is that, if the horse isnt tracking up, they imagine he is not working 'through'. What is this term 'through'? Where did it come from? Do we see it in the translations of the Old Masters? No. It is a purely modern idiom, and to my mind, the more I look at it, is the cause of the horse being heavy in front.

In collection, the horse will not track up, simply because the movement is directed upwards, with spring, not forwards. The back will not swing in the same way, because the ribcage will not swing as far, if the legs are not swinging under.

The back should not be tight, as in stiff, but neither loose, just as the rider needs to be poised through controlled musculature, not loose and floppy, how can the horse actually have control of his body if it is loose and relaxed? Yes there needs to be periods of relaxation, but not all of the time!

People have accused PK of his horses being stiff through the back, whereas, I cannot see it, because I am looking for something different. I see horses like a coiled spring, not through tension and fear of whip or spurs, but at the ready, through focused attentiveness, at the slightest indication of the rider's aids.

This is my vision of true equitation, definitely heightened and enthused, by the great riding of the Portuguese team at the EU working equitation champs.


Heather
« Last Edit: September 27, 2007, 07:06:28 PM by Heather »

ludlu

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WOW, oh wow.  Thank you Heather, this has answer questions I did not know I wanted to ask!

Offline whisper's mum

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 :D That's it Heather ! :D Thank you.
Helen, Worcestershire, England

On white horses, snowy white horses, let me ride away

How about a rescue pet? :-)

Baymair

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Thanks Heather  :)

That explains so much about my poor old Hanoverian gelding. He's well bred, so probably expected to do great things early on, driven forwards like that onto his forehand, so then the draw reins were used, badly. You can see the damage in his neck and back, it never went away.

visconde

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thankyou Heather. I first bought this topic up about a year ago on this and a couple of other forums! on one I was shouted down completely for reiterating what a Portuguese trainer told me about Lusitanos-that long and low was not the way to go  :)

however, I am still confused-due to the lack in my knowledge. V has been in and out of work this year due to lots of (thankfully) minor injuries. I think I now have him going in a relaxed manner in a consistant rythm. His trapezius muscles are much better developed now. But I still worry that I am pushing him onto his forehand-even though I dont chase his paces at all.some trainers insist long and low shouldnt mean on the forehand, others insist on horses running around with their noses on the floor.

if any of you would like to watch a vid of V then see link below C&C welcome!

http://s40.photobucket.com/albums/e211/lordflynn/?action=view&current=73fd819d.pbr

fidget

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I'm for the revolution :D well put Heather. If we can get less 'bumbling' around on the forehand and less riders 'sitting' on their hands to achieve it then power to you. Trudi

Offline Mandeigh

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Re: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods- the New French Revolution!!
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2007, 09:15:19 PM »
Is there then a Spanish/Portugese school in a similar vein or is it that the French school is favoured by the latin riders?
"to be loved  by a horse, or by any animal, should fill us with awe - for we have not deserved it" Marion C Garretty

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visconde

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Re: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods- the New French Revolution!
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2007, 09:17:24 PM »
Is there then a Spanish/Portugese school in a similar vein or is it that the French school is favoured by the latin riders?

I dont know,it was pure luck that I stumbled into all this-sure Heather will tell you!

Offline Heather

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Re: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods- the New French Revolution!!
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2007, 09:44:27 PM »
The Iberian schools are based very much on the French/Romanic schools, but have a strong Baucherist leaning too. Sadly the French have largely forsaken their own heritage in equitation, few practise it, and it is far more to be found in the Iberian Peninsula than France these days.

Racinet tells of a group of French riders who were touring Portugal in the 1950's, and who first discovered Oliveira, and were amazed by his mastery. 'What kind of horsemanship is this marvellous one that you practise?' they asked. Equally stunned, Oliveira stuttered in reply 'But.....yours of course! The traditional French horsemanship'.

Heather

Offline shoveltrash

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Re: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods- the New French Revolution!
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2007, 11:24:24 PM »
Quote
So, let’s start a new French Revolution!!-  one where lightness is paramount, where horses look happy and free in their work, with riders, elegant and proud, aids barely visible, yes, it can be achieved even by the ordinary rider.
but i need a TRAINER to help me figure out HOW!!!  ::)
of course i fully support this  ;)
i've become increasingly dissillusioned with competitive methods.
Trish - Boca Raton, Florida, USA

"If we are conscientious, beautiful roses can grow from the manure of our recognized and corrected mistakes."
Erik Herbermann


Offline Jolene

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Re: French Equitation, vv Modern competition methods- the New French Revolution!
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2007, 01:12:07 AM »
So would this engaging of the hindquarters help to build a stronger loin and topline in a horse with a suspension-bridge back?  ;)  If so, how do I do this with a horse who's going to have to fight her conformation every step of the way? (although she does seem to be maturing more lately and is looking, dare I say it, LEVEL instead of so downhill)  Can Racinet's books be ordered as E-books from anywhere since they're rare?
Jolene & Handsome
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