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Sept '08 Newsletter

Mar 30, 2016



Creating healthy biomechanics and stronger partnerships through combining natural horsemanship principles with the art of dressage: Dressage Naturally Newsletter by Karen Rohlf,

  • Dressage, Naturally

    with Karen Rohlf

    Creating healthy biomechanics and stronger partnerships through combining natural horsemanship principles with the art of dressage...

    leading to Results in Harmony! photo:

    never underestimate the potential for harmony & lightness to improve in ways you cannot yet imagine

    Welcome back to the Temenos...Temenos is an ancient Greek word. It refers to a sacred space that has no limits, where special rules apply and extra-ordinary events are free to occur.

    This month...I spent most of August away from home, but had a wonderful time in Switzerland and the U.K. teaching clinics hosted by Carmen Zu-lauf and Lyla Cansfield, respectively. My working student from Ontario, Breanne Peters did a wonderful job of taking care of all my beauties and my place.

    There is a lot of educational information in this issue! Read a question and answer from the natural dressage forum about contact and suspension.

    Read an email dialogue between myself and an advanced level dressage judge regarding her horse with a fried brain.

    I stopped by Stonehenge on my way to the airport in England!

    Dont forget there is one more week to take advantage of the 10% discount on my web shop. Just enter the special discount code: DNSS43 when you are completing your order and the discount will be taken off the entire order. (the discount wont show up unless you enter it!

    Horse needs a ride from Ontario to FloridaMy working student, Breanne Peters horse needs a ride from Woodstock, ONT to Ocala FL. If anyone is travel-

    ing a similar route with their horse and has room on their trailer for him please contact Bre at 352 425 3291 or [email protected]

    My upcoming clinics are:

    Sept. 12-14 Heber, Utah Contact: Ellie Gallagher

    Oct. 3-7 Stone Mills, ONT Canada Contact: Fawn Anderson

    Oct 9-12 Algoma, WIContact: Kris Fulwieler

    to subscribe to this newsletter: go to my website and sign in as a guest. At the bottom of that form you can check a box that says sign up for newsletter

    To unsubscribe: CLICK HERE

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    S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 8


  • Pressure in the Reins and Suspension... How do they relate?

    Hi Karen,

    This month we'd like to ask about contact (again). :) We have heard different numerical values of how much 'pressure' you should feel in the rein. If a horse is free of brace, will there be any pressure? Parelli gives us a 4oz mark, Walter Zettl says 8. We hear that contact is good and that heaviness is 'bad', but where's the line?

    It seems like more pressure in the rein, for better or for worse, creates more suspension. In specific, we are thinking of higher level competitive dressage where there seems to be more tension, but more suspension too. Is it possible to get the same de-gree of suspension without the heaviness in the reins?


    -Members of the Natural Dressage Forum

    Ahh the mystery of the contact! Lets talk about the first part of your question first How much contact is OK? Different schools and systems will answer this differently, and it really depends on what you want in the end, what is the picture you are going for As long as the system is consistent and fair, a horse has a chance to learn it and being the amazing animals they are, can be

    successful and there can be a won-derful harmonious connection be-tween horse and rider. Also within a system, there are different horses, and an excellent horseman will be open to adjusting to each horse. Also you must consider that within a range, it is less about the amount of pressure and it is more about the quality of the pressure. Just know that we are definitely not talking about pounds of pressure... It shouldnt hurt your arms or your hands. It takes experience and feel to be able to assess the quality of the pressure and if it is not a positive type of pressure, to be able to diag-nose the real root of the problem.

    Lets start by reviewing what the con-tact is for in the ideal, finished prod-uct (according to what I would like):


    Subtle, precise positioning of the head

    Limiting the length of the neck


    Receiving information and energy from the body

    Another point of connection between horse and human, a complete circuit of energy.

    These are communications that the reins do exclusively. The reins are the most precise tool to use for these jobs. Anything else that you do with reins likely can be done with some-thing else (your body) instead. If you take an honest evaluation of what you are often actually using the reins for, you will start to see why there is such a high potential for brace, heaviness or escape/avoidance in the contact...

    But even with shaping the neck, if you think of the neck as a reflection of the rest of the spine of the horse, many of the correct positions of the head and neck will happen naturally if you are riding the middle of the horse (including his heart) in opti-mal, healthy balance. But still, if you want to make a suggestion of a subtle position of the head, then the reins are a great tool for this!

    For positioning, how much pressure should there be? Well, not very much if your horse is responsive. Why not? All your communicating with horses should be done in order to achieve clarity and response to very light pressure. Most horses pre-fer and will offer this unless... there is some other factor preventing it (lack of balance, impulsiveness, rider off balance, etc)

    For connection, how much pressure should there be? This is where it is variable, because it is not about the amount of pressure, as much as the quality of the pressure. Think about it like holding hands with someone. If you are holding hands with your grandmother, it may be very light (depending on the grandmother!) but will feel very good. But if you are holding hands with your best friend as you run down to the beach it may feel a little creepy if the pressure is that light (depending on the friend) ;-)

    Here is another analogy: Have you ever tried to windsurf, or watched someone trying to learn to windsurf? Until you figure some things out, even a little wind can rip the sail out of your hands and you fall on your face. But once you are going along, the wind can be powerful and strong, but it can feel totally harmonious. The difference is in the balance. Is the energy disconnecting in quality (brace, impulsiveness, lack of balance, lack of communication/response) or is it connecting in quality (power, throughness, confidence)?

    Everyone should take ballroom dance lessons.... just to experience this same kind of connection dy-namic. I use this example in my book when i describe riding in connection with the reins. When I did ballroom dancing, even with the professional, the connection sometimes was so soft and smooth (like in the fox-trot) and sometimes was so strong and power-ful (like in the mambo), but it was positive. When I danced with my partner who was also a student, sometimes the connection was light but felt icky because we were leaning on, pushing or pulling each other.

    So how do you tell the difference? Experience, awareness, listening to your instincts rather than simply measuring the weight will help.

    Q & A

    2 copyright 2008 temenos fields, inc september

  • Does it feel good or does it feel icky? Dont keep doing something that is the proper 4 ounces if it feels like an icky, and dont shake your horse off of more than 4 ounces if it feels posi-tive. If you have taken a clinic with me you likely have done a simulation with a partner where you can feel the difference between a positive connec-tion and a bracey connection with the reins. (It is also on the DVD that comes with the book).

    Have hands that receive what your horse offers, then use these check points:

    Can you put a loop in the rein by moving your hands forward and inch or two, all else staying the same, and have nothing major (speed, balance, posture, etc) fall apart?

    Can you also cause/allow your horse to stretch and take his neck longer?

    Can you feel ready to do either of these in the same moment?

    Is the horses mouth steady, yet moving (licking), not gaping open, clenched shut or chomping?

    Can you still feel the freestyle in-side the finesse?

    Can you ride without gloves and not have it hurt?

    When watching an excellent dressage rider, the reins will not necessarily have slack in them, but we cannot assume that means they are heavy.... the same way if you watch two ball-room dancers fox-trotting, they likely will not be bouncing in and out of connection with each other, but they may have a very positive, light con-nection. We also must not assume that just because we do see a loop in the reins, it doesnt mean the horse is in true lightness.... I have ridden horses that are used to being ridden with a loop in the reins always.... so they may look light, but if I do take up a feel it is like meeting a wall. This, to me, is not lightness. Light-ness in the connection means the horse can follow the feel anywhere without giving up self carriage. Freedom is when you are comfort-able in your harness. An excellent connection should feel like holding

    hands with someone you love.

    Now, for the suspension question. Suspension is not created by pressure in the reins. Different horses feel dif-ferent in the reins when they are of-fering suspension. Some feel like holdi

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