Forming a True Arch
Hello, I hope you are enjoying this holiday time with your family. Today we are going to continue our exploration of the Uberstreichen Exercise by learning to use the first Exercise to recognize when the neck begins to form a true arch. When a neck comes shorter it does not always arch, most of the time it just bends or lifts. As you practice, you will start to recognize when the neck arches and later to recognize when the shoulder raises, from the arching of the neck. You will learn more and more to see subtle shifts in the horse's whole body that are needed for collection.
Before you start the practice of forming the arch in the horse's neck, there are two new things to practice within the first exercise with the horse, when his poll is relaxed in a floating hold. So far we have been working on relaxation, cooperation, training the horse to accept us holding the halter with consistency, lowering and raising the head and neck, tipping the nose, along with straight and lateral flexions of the neck created when we rock the horses head from side to side. Now we are going to start doing little circles with the end of the horse's nose while we are holding both sides of the halter. After some practice, this should cause the whole horse’s body to start to respond. It will not be easy, so all that you are looking for from your horse is any sign that he is relaxing and going with you. First pretend that when you ask, you can feel the slightest movement of the nose circling, then take a break and walk around your horse and wait for the pause and connection to occur once again on a no-contact line. In the second new exercise, you work with your horse doing infinity loops with the end of his nose (a horizontal figure of eight pattern). Just pretend that your horse has a paint brush in his mouth and you are going to influence his head in a way that would make loops and patterns in the air from the end of this nose. I prefer to call the figure of eight pattern infinity loops to bring a new feel and freedom to your approach.
The horse, from time to time, will stiffen when you ask him to do something. When this happens, return to the floating hold, then release, walk around him and repeat. Keep to the same format and just add the two new elements. The format is starting with the Exercises, standing in front of your horse and then asking him to drop the head into a floating hold, holding both sides of the halter and then release and walk around the horse. You are just adding the two new elements to the same exercise pattern. The two new exercises give you practice incorporating straight flexion and lateral flexion together. What you are looking for is that the horse feels completely relaxed and allows you to swing his head in this new pattern like you would operate the swinging of a pendulum.
In the beginning, the loops are so small that they cannot be seen, they are only lightly felt. When you begin, imagine that the horse is responding and try to guide your horse with the least amount of influence possible. The normal reaction of the horse will be to comply and allow his nose to move through your influence, but you can feel a slight resistance and often times, the horse will choose to pull his head up to release your hands. If this happens, just wait until he relaxes, then walk around him and wait for you both to relax before you try again. If you lose the horse’s willingness to stand still, focus on getting him to stand by always bringing him to the exact spot he was standing on, and waiting until he is comfortable to stand still on a no contact line.
If your horse starts to brace to the smallest of requests, go back into a floating hold for a moment, release, walk around him and start again from the beginning. Move on to the practice of creating the arch in the neck as you would do in any yoga exercise, no matter what the results are on the circles and loops you were working on.
In the beginning of practicing how to create an arch in the neck, you might have to pretend that you see it. This way you should be able to see some sort of change You will need to experiment by lowering and raising the neck and tipping the nose, working with the neck like operating a slinky toy, by hunting for the place that your horse will begin to arch the neck. When this occurs you will have gotten the right balance in the bend of the horse’s neck, between the poll and the base of the neck, that will bring on the arch. The poll and the base of the neck work together, so the neck can telescope creating an arch that causes the back to shorten, which brings the back up as well. When you see a slight arch starting to occur when you have lowered the head and tipped the nose the right amount, you will return to the floating holds and then let go and walk around your horse. As your skill grows using my Method, when you ask the horse to go forward while the arch is present on a no contact rein, he will automatically step under once put into movement.
I hope all that makes sense and am aiming to produce some videos in the New Year to help you further with this and the other Exercises.