Rollkur No More: Uberstreichen Exercises Beginning Theory Lesson 2

Second Annual Free Course, Winter 2011Welcome to week 2! It looks like we have a very full classroom! I’d like to continue writing on the subject of theory and the Uberstreichen Exercises a little bit more before I give you the first exercise. I would like to add and revisit some finer points as well.

Some Additional Benefits of the Uberstreichen Exercises:

    1. I developed the Uberstreichen Exercises to help me in my training center in order to develop a horse that would work well for others in collection, presentation, and the attitude of the horse.
    2. I also developed the Uberstreichen Exercises so that when the horse went home, the training and connection would stick for the owner.
    3. When a horse got excited and fearful at the shows I could return his focus easily to feeling secure and relaxed.

Some Surprise Benefits are:

    4. I could return an out of control stallion in a new environment around mares and other stallions to relax and return his focus back to me. In those days I had 5 stallions at the time I was developing the Uberstreichen Exercises, and accidentally found out how brilliantly they helped me in my relationships with them.
    5. I also found out another benefit is that it took shying out of a horse from the extreme focus it creates in the horse from consistent practice over a period of time.
    6. The Uberstreichen Exercises put a horse into a deep state of relaxation and a feeling of well-being from the direction you give him through the half halt request which is the entire opposite exercise of the Rollkur technique.

How the Uberstreichen Exercises Affect the Horse: The exercises isolate and address blockages in the horse’s body, in the neck, jaw, shoulders, back and hocks. They also remove the concussion to the legs. When we begin to remove these blockages, the horse begins to relax and connect with you and your aids better. As a result, the aids become so light you cannot really see them being given.

We are first focused on the vertebrae at the bottom of the neck that lets the horse lower his head down, and the first two vertebrae at the pole which operate the tipping of the nose and the ability for the horse to turn his head side to side and be loose in the pole. When these vertebrae become free moving, it causes the horse to be able to arch his neck for collection that is beautiful and correct. When the arch is operating, the whole body becomes engaged. The back raises and the hocks bend and become more under the horse. When the bond is engaged in this way, it takes the concussion off the lower legs and back. The horse’s body becomes a large shock absorber, and takes part in, and is engaged in the movement.

Think of a slinky. If any part of a slinky were not flexible, the slinky would not be able to travel down steps because it would wobble all over, falling left and right and losing its path much like a horse that falls in or out. Getting rid of the blockages causes the energy to flow through the horse without effort. This creates relaxation as well as the horse’s ability to dance and feel free.

What is the meaning of a horse being in front of the leg? This is an important term to know because this is what we are wanting to achieve no matter what we are doing with a horse. It simply means the horse is willing and doing what the rider is asking of him easily and freely and constantly like a car. It is a dressage term meaning a horse that is listening and responding to your aids with the energy necessary to bring about more active gates. Once the horse performs the Uberstreichen Exercises easily and properly, he will be in front of the leg. He will slow down at the rate you would like, or increase his speed to the one you would like him to go. He will travel in self-carriage in the fame you suggest and be able to perform without the reins of the rider forcing him to. You simply ask with the reins, and then release the reins, and from the release, your horse will perform what you asked him to do. This is what is known as self-carriage to a dressage rider and is how all horses need to be ridden so the bit is not used in a constant and abusive way. The problem is that most dressage riders continue to ask and hold the horse until the horse performs what is being asked and then they release. With my method, it takes the release first. This way the horse is completely in self-carriage right off from the first step.

Clarity of Aids: Clarity of aids is the key to achieving the ability to have a horse that is able to perform in self-carriage on a floating hold or released rein.

A horse commonly gets turning rein aids mixed up with the half-halt aids, or suppling and asking for more collection. If this happens when you try to collect your horse, he might fall in from wanting to turn- thinking that is what you want. We can hardly get angry at a horse for getting confused. The confusion occurs from not enough initial training how to distinguish the subtle rein signals.

I like training from the ground because you can focus the lesson on subtleties without the horse having to perform at the same time he is learning something as new and technical as using a rein to communicate what you want that would be as light as a fly landing on a horse.

The Uberstreichen Exercises will cause your horse to be able to stay together without being in a false held in frame, which will free up the forward movement of the horse.

How the Uberstreichen Exercises Help the Dressage Horse: A dressage horse generally needs to be naturally high-spirited to perform what we ask from him. Aggressive horses with big performing gaits can find it difficult being submissive to rein aids especially when they are at the top of their performance. It is natural for a horse when choosing to be in a collected frame to become very powerful and too spirited to keep in line. It can trigger his wild instincts and affect his performance. He may want to look around and shy because his blood is up. Shying is another form of expression a horse uses to control other horses and riders. His body language says, “Watch out, I’m in charge.” When a horse is in a collected frame and performing in dressage, he can develop a feeling of separation that causes him to forget about listening to his rider.

Some Common Problems You Might Encounter: Once you have brought your horse to a higher level in dressage where he puts more energy into his performance, you may be dealing with a change in disposition, and you may start seeing some resistance. A common problem with horses that are naturally submissive to the rider’s aids in moderate gaits is that when asked to perform to their maximum in self-carriage, they can become harder to handle. Some horses learn to pull, or lean on the rein with green riders. All these problems can be addressed with the Uberstreichen Exercises.

At this point, do not think that all this is over your head, or that your horse does not need this basic training because all you want to do is enjoy riding your horse for basic riding. Dressage training is good for all horses that are being ridden, horses ridden at liberty without reins will receive great benefit, even older horses- because it exercises their body and mind like T'ai Chi.

In Conclusion Even if you never use the Uberstreichen Exercises, I am sure the study of them will help you to relate to your horses better through your rein aids and lateral work.

Many times problems between self-carriage and directing your horse from your rein aids and leg aids are related to a rider’s inabilities. I think what you learn on the ground from using these exercises will improve your riding skills if I am able to break it down for you well enough.

The Uberstreichen exercises school both horse and rider. While they are more effective in the hands of a skilled rider; they will advance the beginner’s understanding and skill level on how to communicate half-halts to achieve self-carriage. Practicing these exercises will help you to identify where the horse is locked, and where the problems lie in the horse’s performance and reaction to rein and leg aids.

Please check in to the class in the comments section so that I can take today’s roll. The other thing is- since you are in the classroom now, if you have any questions, now is the time to ask them. As in last week, I will read all of the questions, but I will only be able to answer some of them.

Looking forward to your classroom comments!