Horse Window Barn 745 - photo by Susan

Dressage Anthropology

What an opportunity to hear Gerd Heuschman speak in BC at the Horse Council BC Educational Summit.  Having seen his work online, I was eager to hear him speak person and in my own city.  You can see a video of his work here.

He could have spoken for hours more on his interesting research on equine biomechanics and riding.  He is probably most famous for his first book “Tug of War” which speaks out about Roll Kur.  He did talk a little about this but didn’t use those bad words, nor get into it except to show pictures and video on how the horses’ body works and how different head and neck positions affect their body. Fascinating to see how the back and hind legs change as the neck moves, illustrating how the whole body is connected.

To me, it was like he was an Anthropologist of Dressage.  He referred back to the classical dressage masters and books. He explained the source of the training scale (from the 1970s) and where the German training system originated (the army) in the early 1900s. Interestingly, the system was created for the German Warmblood and, to date,  no other discipline has a “system”.  The Iberian breeds nor Western riding having anything like this German Training System.  Another key point he brought up was the importance of the rider to be in balance and have a good position, in addition to a good mind.

There was one topic of discussion that I found particularly interesting was in regards to the TMJ joint and the poll.  There is a direct correlation between the TMJ and balance.  He had us do this exercise where you stand with your feet slightly apart, eyes closed in relaxation.  Then pull your jaw forward and hold it for a few seconds.  It was amazing how the body reacts and wants to pull forward as well.

He then talked of a rider who did a demonstration where after the riding portion he got off and put a mullen mouth bit in the horses mouth.  With no saddle or bridle, just the bit held in his hands.  While standing in front of the horse and walking backwards, the horse walked forward with him.  At the same time he flexed the horse slightly left or right and the horse responded by bring the quarters in towards the bend in a travers like position.

I personally found this most interesting because as I teach travers I always say to the riders to just wait and the horse will wrap the hind quarters around your inside leg.  My old trainer, Dietrich, always said you can’t make the horse relax, you have to wait for it.  He would also YELL at you to “RELAX”.  Which was comical in itself because he was getting mad at you for being tense or trying too hard.  And to him, yelling at us made it easier for us to relax?