Monday, 15 March 2010

Jack and C1

One of the things I work on right from the start is trying to make it really clear between me and the horse what the bit means. I work a lot on the response to a feel on the bit in the corner of the mouth. I want the response to be a mobile mouth and an absolute willingness to follow the bit. This is done with feel - no pull. I am looking for a clean, soft, sideways movement in C1, as in the picture below.

With Jack, on his right side, he really found it difficult to turn his head on the C1 joint. He invariably combined the movement with a tip and twist in the C2 joint. If I really worked at it I could just about get a clear flexion but if I left it to Jack he always gave me a twist.
So why does it matter? Well, as in everything between me and the horse, my requests and my horse's responses need to be clear and concise, but also in this case, it is actually very important for balance. If my horse tilts his head like in the next picture, then I am going to be really struggling to get him to walk around corners even-loading on all four feet. He's going to lose his balance and fall on his shoulder. If you keep your horse in balance it has a big effect on him psychologically. I believe in this to such an extent that I try to always make balance one of my primary aims. From this comes confidence, and for the horse, what almost feels to me like, 'pride in their work'.

So this weekend I had the chance to get Jack's C1 worked on by Dave Siemens. Dave is a chiropractor who we have known for a few years now. I asked him to specifically check out the C1 joint. Take a look at the next picture - Jack now just does it whereas before he almost couldn't.

If you don't use the full movement in any joint then over time that movement will not be available to you. In Jack's case he didn't have an easy option on C1 to his right. At first I thought it was because he didn't understand what I wanted, but as soon as the joint was freed up it was clear that it was a physical issue rather than a training one.