Archive for May, 2011

Our incredible ten days in Germany – Part 2

May 30, 2011
Klaus Schoneich

Klaus Schoneich from the Centre for anatomically correct horsemanship, working a young horse.

After working the horse on the longe following the Schoneichs’ specific instructions, the next step is to work the horse with the rider up. Even advanced riders very often must seek a better balance and develop a truly independent seat. The Schoneichs are masters at creating individual exercises for the rider to achieve that goal. These exercises are being done by the rider while being longed.

For my part, as a veterinarian specializing in integrative as well as conventional medicine, I have recognized that all horses, regardless of discipline, develop the same sets of muscle pattern pain and pathology. This observation is in my opinion, without question, related to the laterality of the horse. In horses with right forelimb dominance(75 to 80% of the population) the muscle pattern is the same, as in the 20 to 25 percent of the left forelimb dominant ones who then present a mirror image of the right forelimb dominant horses. The same can be said for the chiropractic and fascial patterns. It does not stop there, it relates also to the pathology that we see in the joints (especially the stifles and hocks as well as in spinal facet joints.) All these pathological effects are related to the combination of “shear” and “centrifugal” forces that are generated when the horse with uncorrected laterality problems work in circles, with their weight on the forehand. I will be expanding greatly on this subject in chapters of a book that I am currently writing.

Christine has been receiving instruction and learning the longeing techniques from Gabrielle and Klaus. She has also had the opportunity to receive “rider-up” lessons in better developing an independent seat. If one were to see photos you would say that the rider’s position is not at all correct. These exercises and hand positions are the necessary detours (in the “Schoneich Method”) to allow the horse to come into self-carriage and the rider to be able to maintain the required “independent seat.”

When they take a horse in for training, they do a full video assessment of its current way of moving on a circle, a shoeing and foot balance evaluation as well as a saddle assessment. I am, personally, concluding that it is also important to do a full physical examination including acupuncture, chiropractic, limb palpation and flexion tests. It is my feeling that if the horses’ physical problems can be sorted out previous to the hard work of rebalancing, that the entire process may go more smoothly. Even though the longe work may only be twenty minutes, the horse has to use his muscles in a very different way that can lead to more muscle soreness. I recognize my need to experience a large number of horses that are started relatively “pain and pathology free” to be able to speak with more authority on this aspect.

Many of the horses that are brought to the Schoneichs come because the owner’s has been advised that the horse is not “good enough” to do the job or its career is finished because of pathology. The high rate of success that they have with this type of horses speaks volumes. Though, the system can stand on its own, we would maintain that success may come even more quickly when accompanied by a pain free state.

There is no question that many horses with “uncorrected laterality” are competing very successfully and at very high levels. We are very suspicious, however, that there is a lot of horse “wastage” when laterality is not addressed. The question is, how much longer could the horses perform if they were better laterally and longitudinally balanced? This seems like a very logical hypothesis. Our goal is to have horses live a longer, happier life performing well in a pain free manner.

We are in a very good position, as we have a coming three year old that we will start when we get home. I will be able to more closely monitor her progress from start to finish. We cannot wait to get home to commence!

Our incredible ten days in Germany – Part 1

May 22, 2011
Kerry at ARR

Kerry at the Centre for Anatomically Correct Riding Centre

We have spent 10 days with Klaus and Gabrielle Schoneich at the Zentrum fur ARR (Center for Anatomically Correct Riding). As many of you know, we have become very interested in the subject of limb dominance in horses (laterality), i.e. being “right handed” or “left handed.” Klaus and Gabrielle, through 25 plus years and working with over 5000 horses, have literally written the book on the subject.

Balance is, arguably the most important word in any language that exists, or has ever existed. Being ambidextrous makes it capable of remaining in the athletic sense of good balance. The basic premise is that horses that are intended for athletic forms of riding are born with two strikes against them. Since they evolved as grazing animals, they are, therefore anatomically constructed to be “heavy on the forehand.” The second liability for the horse is that they are born with a significant degree of right or left forelimb dominance.

Being very right or left handed is a limiting factor for high level athletic performance in the human and, in a sense, even more so for the horse. Horses are anatomically constructed in a matter that they can go straight ahead or make sweeping turns, but not designed to go on circles, especially small circles. Think how often we start the training of young horses by asking them to longe on relatively small circles, or use a round pen as a means of starting them.

As a consequence of being on the forehand, they travel with the back inverted, the head held high with the nose out and up. Thus they are “hollow backed” and lack the ability to bring the back upward so it can support the weight of even a non heavy rider. The format of a short blog does not allow me to go more fully into this aspect, but I am in the process of writing much more about this.

The aims of the “Zentrum” is to use a combination of longeing and riding techniques to allow the horse to overcome or minimize the forelimb dominance, lift its withers, lighten the forehand and transfer weight to its hindquarters. Even many very high level horses are still plagued by the forelimb dominance and could benefit greatly from the Schoneichs’ techniques. Their process takes the horse back to “square-one,” and commences with specialized longeing techniques that enable the horse to properly utilize the trapezius muscles to lift the dominant shoulder. (This critical function, in my opinion also effectively uses the ventral thoracic serratus muscles and the pectoral muscles.) Master trainers recognize that the horse cannot be vertically balanced if they are not first diagonally balanced. It has become evident to us, through the Schoneichs that laterality must be addressed in order to achieve longitudinal balance.

The work on the longe requires about 3 weeks or more (each horse is an individual), before the horse will consistently develop the required strength to move into a diagonal and longitudinal balance. With an “up-swinging” back, the neck and head, then and then only, can come into a more downward poll flexed position without dropping onto the forehand. The gait will extend and the outside hindlimb will track within the circle rather than outside of the circle. The next step is to work the horse in the round pen with the saddle in place. The wither conformation has often changed so much at this time that its current saddle might no longer fit. The whole concept is to teach the horse to move in balance and with equal weight on each leg.

We will address the second phase of this training in part 2.