Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Slow the shoulders": A interesting concept from the clinic

Here is an intriguing clip from the clinic. I think I know what the clinician is talking about but I'm not 100% sure. What do you think it means? Notice I'm including the audio portion of the video. Feeling brave I guess, plus it's just a short clip. I may extract a few other main ideas in future posts...

She mentions a few other techniques that I've seen elsewhere -- alternate sitting and posting, and of course transitions. This is earlier in the session than the previous clip. Riley entered the ring uncharacteristically fearful -- kind of frozen/transfixed -- and with no time for warmup, the initial trotwork was stiff and tense. This represented a huge improvement.


  1. It says the video is private so I can't view it... But "slowing the shoulders" was how someone once described the purpose of a half-halt to me. The theory was, slowing the shoulders/forehand while the hind end kept going at the same pace, resulted in the hind end being further forward and the horse thus more collected. :)

    Of course I can't see the context so it's possible it has another meaning here!

  2. Your video is private so we can't see. :(

    (Net, who google decided not to sign in)

  3. So when she was saying slow the shoulders she meant your trainer, right? It seemed like in that context it meant let your hips keep following Riley and not constrain his movement, but at the same time slow the shoulders to help get balance more toward the haunches. Essentially a posting version of allowing your hips to open and close following movement while staying sitting upright if sitting the trot.

    This clip did show an interesting positive progression in his trot. Very neat!

  4. Aha... So it was the rider's shoulders. That changes things. :)

    I have a habit of tipping forward with my upper body, particularly when my older guy is being lazy. It's subconscious, but I can hear "shoulders back" a thousand and one times and not make the right adjustment. "Slowing the shoulders" sounds like a much more effective way of describing it.

  5. I too feel that this is a way of asking for a specific kind of half-halt. If you think about what you would be doing to slow your shoulders in relation to your hips, they would naturally drop, come back and together opening your chest, and your hips would be doing a bit more of the work than they were a stride ago. I think there are a lot of different types of half-halt, and this is the type that you would use to feel like you were lifting your own front up a bit more, a way to encourage the horse to do the same but in a subtle, laid back, hands-free sort of way. Personally I have never experienced this request from a trainer, but I think that is how I would interpret it, and it seems like thats how it was interpreted in the clip.

  6. I think it's a way of getting the rider to sit up and almost unconsciously lift the horse's balance up with her own. IF you talk about slowing the post, a rider still might "go" with the horse allowing him to fall on his forehand. This concept does create a kind of "still going, active" half halt mostly intended to balance.

    The few trot strides of alternate rising and sitting also do something similar.

    Lots and lots of transitions trot/canter/trot would also help lift the horse from his forehand. But, you need to ride forward into the trot on the downward in order to make it work.

    What would have helped would have been a more clear explanation from the clinician at every moment so both Olivia and the gallery could follow the subtle changes. It's not always clear what she wants from the horse/rider to make things better in this clip. The moment when she describes what a training level horse should look like is good, but there needs to be much more of that to make things really clear.

  7. The trainer wasn't very clear with you, but "slow your shoulders" (at least how I was taught) is sitting up tall, shoulders down and back, and pushing your chest out, careful to not hollow the small of your back. It opens your hips, the horse opens stride and becomes a bit more balanced and forward.

  8. No dressage background here, but I'll trow my thoughts out there anyway.
    My coach uses 'slow the shoulders' for me because I lean forward, past the shoulder/hip/heel alignment. (it's considerably more obvious than it is with the rider in the video) It is a way of saying to stay with your horse's movement and not increasing their speed by leaning forward. It also helps keep the horse off the forehand, (because you are staying off their shoulders) at least thats the understanding I have from my various trainers from the last few years.
    It also means to not move your arms and shoulders very much.
    she also uses it when I jump as a reminder not to jump ahead. clearly not the meaning here.

  9. Ooh - I LIKED that! So much better with the clinician's comments. FASCINATING!

  10. Ooh - I LIKED that. Very interesting with the clinician's commentary. I like how E. Lark interpreted the trainer's directions. Again, very interesting clip!

  11. What Jeni said-- the minute your shoulders get ahead of your hips, then your hips can't open enough to follow that much horse's movement. It's a huge challenge to keep the hips out front in rising trot, but they need to be.

    You can see the difference when you move to sitting trot-- your shoulders are up above your hips, not leading them, and they're able to follow much more easily, and the clinician compliments you on that!

    Nice work, and thank you for sharing!

  12. I like her comments and advice very much. She gave the horse room to make the contact and balance by addressing a very second-nature skill: rising to the trot.

    Similarly, my teacher tells me to post "small" so that I barely leave the saddle. If the rider's thigh muscles stay soft, then the thighs roll forward and back and remain in contact with the saddle even during the rise. She also describes posting as having no backward movement. The rider rises over the pommel and the horse moves forward to catch the rider, rather than the rider moving forward and back. Less movement in the rider encourages more in the horse. She is also a judge. ;)

    The only thing that I did not agree with was the part about dropping the rider's hands, I liked Catherine Haddad advice for the hand better. But it is possible that her reasons for dropping the hand had more to do with the rider's balance than the horse's response to the bit.

  13. I haven't got a clue what slow the shoulder means :), but wanted to say Riley looked GREAT. He's was a little behind the vertical before and now looks to be using his hind quarters more and I really loved how he looked. Great work.

  14. I just want to say how proud I am of Ri-Ri for being such a champ. Scared when he first came in (he is still very young), and yet getting down to work. I repeat, I am so proud!

  15. I believe the trainer was trying to get her to focus on movement coming from the core. It's more mental, because how would one slow their shoulders but not their hips? This refocuses the rider, which slows the busyness of the shoulders, aems, hands.
    By getting her to sit for a certain amount of strides I think was getting her to connect to each stride.

  16. I also think the slowing the shoulders request had to do with opening the rider's hips. Her legs tend to ping, which imo comes from a tight or closed hip.

    When the rider's body gets more balanced and quiet, the horse, especially a young horse, follows.

  17. I really enjoyed that.
    The 'slow the shoulders' idea seems to have lots of interpretations. I know I tend to collapse the front of my torso and visually this idea may help me to keep the upper torso more above my pelvis and not collapse forward. A slight hesitation in shoulders may help with poise and support of upper body. Looking forward to whispering this to myself when i ride next. thank you


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