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.


Kate said...

Dr. Dave is the best - he's worked on my horses. The pictures are very good - they really show what you're talking about.

glenatron said...

The January issue of Eclectic Horseman - which I just got cos my original copy got lost, probably in the snow at the start of the year - has an article by Dr Deb on precisely this flexion and it's importance.

Sharon Foley said...

Hi Tom,
I enjoyed your article, especially the photos. Nice job! I liked it so much I wrote about it on my site. You see the post here:
Best wishes,

Kate said...

What I like seeing, is how my horse is so much more mentally relaxed on the side which he finds easier to bend.

I know it's really obvious, but my new horse shows me really clearly how anxious he is on the side that he can't bend, and therefore has no balance, compared to his flexible balanced side. He is a cool customer on the bendy rein, ready to spook at anything on the other. Oh, and what I meant to say was, the sticking point is C1.

I didn't even know what that joint was until recently, but it seems my horses knew it was pretty important!

Tom said...

Kate(1) - Dave is good, but boy, can he be a bit annoying.

Glenatron - wow, it's good to be in synch with the 'greats'.

Sharon - Glad you liked the article and thanks for the link. I visited your site too.

Kate(2) - C1 is not a hugely popular topic and for a minute there I thought I wasn't going to get any comments. I began to wonder whether a) I should shut up and go away, or b) I should shut up and go away.
I am completely with you on the anxiety and balance thing - link that in with the mouth and maybe we are starting to get a glimpse of how Baucher trained horses in next to no time.

glenatron said...

I'm sure it's the greats being in sync with you Tom. Probably that's how we can tell they're the greats - they know which way the wind is blowing...

June said...

I'm having a lot of fun playing with bend at the moment but I'm not sure I've come to any conclusions yet other than most horses (or maybe its only polo ponies) don't know how to give to one rein until you teach them, but when you teach them they seem to find it quite helpful for balance, which I guess shouldn't come as much of a surprise to me but for some reason it did!

Lol, hope Dave doesn't read your blog.