Monday, September 13, 2010


I found the following video of recent interest:

Essentially, it is a defense for hyperflexion and represents a valid point. My qualms however are this:

The horse in the video only sustains a hyperflexed position a couple of times for a moment or two each time, and during turns as opposed to during actual forward movement for more than a step or two. The position is never held for a sustained period of time and it is relaxed and natural - his entire body is loose, supple, and relaxed. The remainder of the time, the horse is in a poll-highest frame with his head in front of the vertical. If, for example, a rider were to place their horse in a hyperflexed frame for a moment or two (ie. moment = one second) to stretch said horse out, and said horse was loose and relaxed, I see no wrong in doing so. The problem only arises as these riders are asking their horses to hold such a pose for prolonged periods of time (1min +) - and the force and aggressive intentions behind such a request of the horse.

In the Steffan Peters LDR video I featured last week, it is evident the horse is mostly on a loose rein throughout the initial warm-up. The horse is loose, supple, relaxed, and evidently happy. No pinned ears or tail-swishing and no tension. At the very start of the video, as Steffan rides his horse down the long side of the arena and towards the camera, he even has it in a relatively hyperflexed frame and is asking the horse to stretch down and side to side. It is an exercise I also use on my Thoroughbred - to an extent - to supple him up during a work. While I do not specifically ask him to hyperflex, I do ask for the side to side down a center line - maybe a couple times at most within a session, and depending upon the session (it may not be asked for at all). It is not a position that is held or is forced, and the horse is choosing to entertain the position for a split second, based on how you are asking. The horse is naturally loose and relaxed - to be honest I don't think my boy is even behind the vertical much when I ask this of him. It certainly makes a difference to our work on days where he is a little extra tense - it is done purely for physical purposes, on a loose rein, and not to create a submissive horse.

The other point is the thinking behind asking a horse for such a position. When it occurs naturally for a moment or two and the horse is loose and relaxed and simply moving according to how it naturally feels and is encouraged through the exercises and patterns it is being put through and what feels right to it, both horse and rider are in sync and in partnership. The feeling is natural and the hands are light and remain guiding rather than forceful (the rein is even loose). When there is excessive tension in the reins and the horse is being told to hold a particular position such as hyperflexion, particularly for a sustained period, it is no longer natural nor beneficial to a horse, especially if it is done for dominance/submissive reasons. It is done with aggression rather than compassion.

Keep in mind a hyperflexed frame, when held for longer than a second, is inhibiting a horse's movement (hyperflexed, tense, and stressed longissimus, which prevents the horse from truly tracking up and working from behind) as well as its breathing. The only range of vision they have is their chest - it is a very submissive position and a position that is uncomfortable at best and painful at worst, to hold.

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