Flexion

Ceriann

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Regular lessons and lots of riding are paying dividends - my seat is way better (having suffered with being quite crooked) and I’m far less passive (confidence) and really try and ride every step with my mare.

Instructor (who I see every fortnight) is now demanding much more (which is great) and is clear my mare can and I should now be asking her to work through regularly and consistently. She’s is not a fiddle fan and big advocate of leg to hand, with lots of work to encourage softness. In one of our recent sessions we worked on my mares occasional tendency to brace her neck - from the ground she showed me how to flex her to ask her to release this, giving the minute my mare gave. This is an exercise of flexion and counter flexion. This really works for my mare and I find if she doesn’t soften with warm up etc this does the trick and she then works nicely. The flexion asked for to do this is slightly more than needed to see corner of her eye, is not a fiddle but a clear request to flex and yield. Having done some internet trawling, there appear to be different schools of thought as to whether this exercise is long term good for schooling, with some suggesting it results in over flexion, which causes issues with more advanced movements? Any thoughts? I’ve got a lesson Friday so will be asking instructor too!
 

matt_m

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12 February 2012
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I think from your question you are a bit confused about the purpose of flexion, what it can be used for and whether it is necessary.

Well certainly it is necessary and essential when schooling a horse properly. Not sure who or where you have found results suggesting that it results in over flexion or that it can be bad for long term schooling. Bad riding or not asking for a flexion properly will result in this, not flexion itself.

Flexion is needed for the horse to work properly. Depending on what you are doing, the horse will either be flexed to the left, flexed to the right or totally straight. A true flexion is very slight but still evident and this is why people refer to seeing the corner of the eye when the horse is correctly flexed. Having said that with a young or green horse that doesn't understand you may have to ask for more flexion (and you have been doing) than is 'correct' until your horse understands and your flexions can be slighter and more subtle.

Flexions can help with suppling and thus encouraging a horse to work through. As you say it is not a fiddle with the rein or a force, but an ask and a release. Eventually, you will place the horse in flexion and if your horse is on a correct, soft contact, the horse will take the flexion from you and remain in this state until you ask otherwise. This is where you want to get to.

Do not mistake soft for feeling like their is nothing in the rein. This is a common mistake for people learning about contact, flexion and the like (it is all linked). If the horse is working properly from behind, over its back and into a receiving hand, you will still have some weight in your hand but it will be a light, pleasant weight - a feeling that your horse is taking you FORWARDS. If you give in the rein the horse should stretch down over its back. If you don't have this feeling the horse is not truly working on a contact and is either A) Hollowing or B) Sitting behind the contact (an evasion) and not working properly.

Lastly, do not mistake flexion for bend. They are different things. Bend is through the horses body and is of course required when turning or circling etc. Inside leg to outside hand is important but should be possible with correct inside flexion simultaneously.
 

Ceriann

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Thank you and all understood - I guess what I am saying is I’m currently having to ask for more flexion than true flexion (so just the corner of the eye visible) when I’m using it to address her fixing her neck. This is particularly so on the left rein, where is less supple). It is less subtle than the flexion I ask for on a leg yield.

My mare will soften and will then work nicely provided I keep leg on. When she does this she’s lovely to work with. Completely get the comment re contact - this is something I am working on and testing as we improve. How much weight to have in my hand, how you capture the energy etc are all things that are work in progress but we’re getting there! Riding it and being taught on a horse is so much easier than reading it as terminology like “light contact” is so easy to misconstrue!
 

matt_m

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I wouldn't worry about this. With a horse that is young or green or just doesn't understand contact, it will not be consistent. Sometimes you will need to ask for a bit more than what is 'perfect' remember training is not always pretty!
 

Ceriann

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I wouldn't worry about this. With a horse that is young or green or just doesn't understand contact, it will not be consistent. Sometimes you will need to ask for a bit more than what is 'perfect' remember training is not always pretty!
Thanks! It isn’t always pretty! She’s not young or green but has learnt over last 12 plus months that she doesn’t have to work through consistently (we’ve focused so much on me and my many issues) so is evading now she’s being asked again! It’s improving each time in that I’m having to ask less - we’ll get there.
 

oldie48

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I wouldn't worry about this. With a horse that is young or green or just doesn't understand contact, it will not be consistent. Sometimes you will need to ask for a bit more than what is 'perfect' remember training is not always pretty!
How refreshing to have someone prepared to tell it as it is. Thanks
 

Goldenstar

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Good flexion comes hand in hand with thoroughness as the horse comes more though from behind and learns to use the middle of its body better the issues at the front of the neck resolve .
You are describing a stage the horse goes through .
You can not train a horse with out being able influence its neck .
The horse needs to know the it lowers and raises its neck when you ask and it bends it neck when asked .
Horses are not born trained so there’s always some trial and error in getting where you need to go especially when you are learning it too .
Here’s a question can you walk and trot your horse with the neck straight and low with the jowl stretched forwards so the horse is truly leading with his nose .
Until you can easily and consistently do this you will always tend to get the horse blocking in the front of the neck .
It takes time for horse to gain the strength in the neck to do this .
 

cundlegreen

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Just love him such a straightforward approach. I spent 20 minutes yesterday with my horse doing just that in halt and walk. He's an established horse but a bit opinionated and still needs reminding about what is an acceptable contact thanks for sharing this.
I love the way the horse is so relaxed and accepting without being shut down. I've just started breaking in a 5 yr old, and she does this easily without ever having done it before. That bodes well for the future!
 
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