What a show Fuego XII and Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz gave the crowd for the Musical Freestyle.

As the evening unfolded it seemed that one after another the riders and horses gave better and better performances.  As Bob and I watched we agreed with the judging and placing of the entrants until we made it into the second round.  We just enjoyed a spectacular show.

 

I went to see Fuego XII, up close and personal, as I hope to breed Fiesta D to him next year.  I was also hoping to see Senor Cardenas personally; we have been corresponding via email.  Well our tickets placed us completely around the arena and across the entry lane from him.  I vowed to not have any disappointment over such a small item as I was there after all to see the performances of the world’s greatest horses and riders. 

 

I had been watching the show all week, at home, on FEITV.  Of course during the broadcast the warm-up area was often shown.  As I walked to my section of seats in "C", more or less located at F at the rail I noticed the most wonderful opportunity opening up to me.  We were at the warm-up arena and entry lane where everyone passed before and after their performance.  I was elated.  We checked the schedule and I made my plan, I was going to see my hero at 9:00pm, up close and personal after all.  With great seats after all. 

 

We were not disappointed.  I kept careful attention to the time. I met the Canadians seated next to me and the couple from Boston on the other side.  We chatted between performances.  At 9:00 I headed to the gate to see Fuego XII.

 

I watched him for 15 minutes while he warmed up and Juan Munoz Diaz talked to his team and coaches.  He walked right in front of me and stopped as they approached the entrance of the arena.

What a moment, and what a horse.

 

I ran to the stands and made it to a spot where the attendant allowed me to stand during the performance, not at my seat, but I was about at A and had a great view.

 

There was a little laughter to start, as Fuego was distracted to rub his leg, then we saw the performance of a life-time.

 

The music started in the classical Spanish style, as Fuego XII warmed up the crowd.  The music really set the mood, snapping castanets and strumming guitar in perhaps Malaguena, sorry I can’t remember yet, and the stunning beauty of the silver gray stallion was a site you could not take your eyes from.  The music changed tempo as the pace changed around the arena but they held your interest, perhaps better than others, because of the snappy tempo that matched Fuego's energetic pace.

 

When the Spanish music faded into mostly percussion the pair rocked the house with passage and pirouettes to the beat, they headed across the arena to strings and orchestral background then floated as the theme of "There's a Summer Place" showcased the effortless one tempi changes.  When Munoz Diaz dropped one gloved hand to his side while performing these changes the whole audience gave a cheer.  It was chilling, everyone shared the moment and the cheering continued as they wrapped one end of the arena and did it again.  At that moment Fuego XII and Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz had stolen the show.

 

The crowd was on their feet and the noise gave the star performer a startle, but for a moment.  I can't imagine the joy in the hearts of Munoz Diaz and Senor Cardenas and the whole of Spain for that matter.

 

I had wondered if the performance they were so happy with at the Grand Prix Special was going to leave Fuego XII a little tired for this show, I thought he had given all there was in him but, I was so wrong.  The team may have given 110% for that show but here they found their extra reserve.  It was truly all you could expect from each one of the pair, it was an unforgettable performance. 

 

The World knows Fuego XII and Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz.

 

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>The curb actually relaxes the jaw

Challenge me. Explain the physiology of such relaxation. Better yet - do you find any example in the human physiology, where such instrumentation in the mouth of the human would produce anything but helpless state?

If the curb is what you think it is. SO WHY you cannot ride without it? Are you actually telling me, that curb is absolutely needed to RELAX a horse? On the basis of your own comfortable feelings? So why the horse don't dare to cross the line defined by the curb if they are so relaxed?
OK, Eva, I am going to say that I do not understand such physiology. I only understand what my experience has shown me. The snaffle is an instrument with a head raising effect. The current trend is to ask horses to go into/onto/against the bit and stay there. So the horse learns very little about how to balance himself with his rider and learns to lean into the snaffle. Any touch on the snaffle produces more leaning. This makes no sense except in the light of the problem of training this into the horse.
The curb has a head lowering effect. So the horse learns again that when the curb is there he keeps his head DOWN. Any touch on the curb and he pops his head up....rather in shock! Again.....makes no sense except if the horse is told only to lower his head and do nothing else.
Now you put a double bridle in and there is more metal in the mouth. Lots to massage and chew on. You don't use any pressure on this bridle.....just the bridle's presence is a change. In minutes there is often so much saliva and motion that the jaw is moving and loosening and there is licking and swallowing and lots of change happening in the surrounding muscles and nerve tissue....even radiating into other areas of the body. Holding the reins loosely.....you can trot and canter and the horse feels free. There is no action on the curb or even the snaffle. The mere motion of the mouth is all that is needed to set the horse up to start to 'hear' other aids coming from the rider. This is not an overnight process. It takes time to work with this but the positive change in the demeanor of the horse can be surprisingly quick.
It is not a necessity to use the curb. So, in answer to your point, the curb is not needed to relax the horse. The time it would take to get some horses to let go of their troubled and distorted bodies can all be saved by introducing complete change such as I am describing. I have even heard Philippe Karl say that the double is useful for horses that are very contracted.
Horses worked as I describe above are crossing the line constantly in this bridle.....putting the head wherever they feel happy to put it. The rider does not interfere with this. The results I have experienced have been excellent BUT the owner/rider the horse goes back to then has to learn all over again how to conduct messages through the bridle so the horse does not revert. And in stressful situations they sometimes do.
Here is another thought on curbs, and it regards classical dressage this time.

There is a widely distributed saying throughout the classical text, that the use of the curb must be (yes, it is demanded by the classical Masters!!!) accompanied with a re-location of the salivary (parotid) glands behind the cheeks of the horse. They simply must make a room for the very closed angle between the head and the neck.

When I first read this some 20 years ago (I think it was also Podhajsky among many, I was in disbelieve. Like others, my believe was that the curb is there for a precision work, only to do some gentle half-halts in the seconds it takes to increase collection. I was wrong. The Masters needed the curb to set the head, and they rode the horses in extreme self-carriage with very tight angle between the neck and the head, until the glands have been pushed away under the pressure. That is their text, I have not made it up.
I can only imagine, how that must feel. After all, I also have parotid glands :-)

Yet, since the horse was in self-carriage, nobody would ever thought of this as a forceful demand. After all, they often rode with just one hand, and the horse did not appear leaning on the curb, the reins were loose.

Wrong! The curb - applied in a pull/release manner - acts as a threat. The horse knows it. It respects the boundaries even to the point he must move his glands into another part of his body. Who would call this voluntary on the part of the horse?

Some interesting reading on the subject is here, but don't stop there:
http://horsesforlife.com/ParotidGlandUnderAttack
EvaZ,
Well now you have just exposed a little the faults of the past! Just because things are written down and honored more or less, does not mean that we cannot take the liberty to be objectively critical. Some HORRIFIC practices went on in the past! Yanking and pulling and forcing and spurring. You are spot on with the parotid gland. Does this mean we have to ride like this? No! We have the opportunity to bring new ideas to the table! It is hard to do this when we are not dead and have our books in some dusty library.
I think it is time to bring experiences forward to talk about them. This is how we come up with new ideas. It is nonsense that everything that has ever been known about horses has already been written about. So much more is known now about animals and how they process information. Surely it is time to bring to light more of these atrocities and help budding thinkers to start taking a second look at what they are doing.
Somebody calculated that the dressage curb can translate force exerted by a rider up to 100 times. It means, 1kg of your pressure can be multiplied to 100kg of squeezing force acting upon the jaw bone of the animal.

If the rider feels good, and thinks how gentle it feels to control the horse, s/he may want to talk to a mechanical engineer followed by a pathologist and horse behaviorist specializing in physically induced submissions. I hope one day these myths about curbs will dissapear, I hope...
I think we need to separate two different uses of curbs here.

One - heavily cririticized - is the method produced by rollkur, where no release ever happens (or happens, but not very frequently). Therefore, the rider hangs on the curb and it is ugly.

The other one - heavily praised - is the method of pull and release, also widely practised by western riders. In this method, the aim is self-head carriage (head set). The horse might not experience constant pain in the mouth, instead, the horse learns - through intermittent pain - where the threshold is and keeps it there. Even if the neck hurts like crazy and he fights his balance - see adaptation changes above.

Both methods are asking essentially for the same thing - neck a head sets, that stay there for extended period of time without motion/resistance. Both are methods of submission, both use neck as a mean to achieve obedience and drill some exercise in the horse without fighting. The difference is in what the RIDER FEELS. One rider effectively exercises its arm muscles, the other thinks he is a genius who trains without any resistance in the horse's neck.

But make no mistake - they are both after the same thing.
I hear you loud and clear here, EvaZ. But there is a 3rd use for the curb. The mere touch/vibration on even a loose curb rein can have a positive reverberating effect all the way back to the hindquarters. I don't understand the physiology of this effect but I surely can feel it and my feel is not too shabby! There is QUITE a difference between a touch on a rein and a pull.
I have searched long and hard over the years to try to come to terms with why people do the things they do. I used to think people were just bad! Now I rather think they more so have good intentions and are doing the best they know how. Some are in a hurry(very sad for the horses), some are after accolades(also sad for the horses) and some just don't know any better!......ALSO, SOMEHOW, sad for the horses. But somewhere along the line I feel that we have to stop and think what we can do to edify. Ignorance is sad for horses but if we can just reach out and say a few uplifting, building/edifying, positive words that can help a little each day we really can all, if united, make a difference in the horse world. It is not that hard.
So.....yes, the above riders you describe are after the same thing.....head down/head fixed. But if we can say to the world how easy it is for the horse to do what they are after WITHOUT fiddling with the head......I'll bet there will be more people curious to seek this and save themselves(and their horses) a lot of trouble. Who in this world doesn't want to be seen as 'kind' to horses?! No trainer wants to be thought of as a beast. But if we can't figure out a way to reach across to the stubborn and unknowing.....those who are still in the darkness.....what is the point of all our discussing anything?
You are SO knowledgeable, EvaZ.......you know far more technically than I can begin to recite. What a gift you have to HELP others. Don't stop. Don't lose sight of your task and get mired down by the depths of the trenches! We need people like you to anchor the learning process.....but remember to edify.
Back to the human psychology.

Ten years ago, I have been on the Ultimate Dressage Forum, when the hot topic of the day was extended trot (Allan was there with me at that time, he might remember :-)).

I have presented a picture:
http://www.klubequus.org/gx/silverlining.jpg

as an example, how the extended trot should look like from the perspective of clean trotting sequence, and lengthened body format including the slightly extended neck and a nose in front of vertical.

Interestingly, no one (except Allan) agreed with me, and all dressage enthusiast were uniformly concerned about the lack of submission, the horse is exhibiting. I am sure the dressage judges would agree with them

Draw your own conclusion, but this is how dressage is being judged by majority of people. It is no win situation.
EvaZ,
I am thinking how to answer other questions/points you brought up. I just had a look at this silverlining photo and think the picture is a gorgeous example of how an extended trot should look. Thank you for the link. So Allan is not the only person in agreement with you!!! I will say, however, that if there happened to be even more suspension to a particular horse's gait, the head just might be a little closer to the vertical......not saying that it should but the horse may use his musculature a little more to create the lift that may be more a natural aspect of his way of moving. This horse is lovely though and although I would be proud to show a horse this way, I know the judges would likely not score it well. This I really do not understand!
I know, Margaret. I am not alone. Not anymore. People don't throw rocks at me as they used to :-) A lot of things have happened since, and the rollkur has made many people aware of animal welfare issues in the dressage ring. However, this is a dilemma: the horse in the picture is close to impossible to sit in that trot. The average human on that back would suffer terrible consequences, and many do. So, how do we compromise our lust for springy giant gaits with the fork-like seat of the dressage riders? The solution is POSTING. There is no shame in it. Or accept horses with less magnitude, smaller, not so springy. That would mean - dressage would have to cease being a breeder's cup.
Yes, they can. Just because they can, it does not mean they should, or it is healthy. I am a tall women with a rather fragile bone structure, no "upholstry" anywhere, yet a typical female pelvis, that allows hips to fly wide and tilt backwards. I hurt when I sit large gaits even though the audience might think I am sitting fine. The effort is damaging me, and I absolutely refuse to listen to voices that tells me I just need more training. It does not take much to damage somebody's spine, or hurt breast tissue...
AH......now you are getting at something! I really think PART of the answer is to get rid of the upholstery in these newfangled saddles that force the leg to hang straight down. People do not use the thigh muscle properly to stabilize themselves. I am not saying to grip but the tone required is impossible to manage in these saddles. A horse with a large gait needs a rider to use a horizontal aspect of his thigh to unite the forces that are so difficult to manage. These forces( I see) are instead taken up by 'wedging' the leg behind the knee roll and in the reins!!! And there we have it! It's back to......learning how to ride! And if the rider has to post to save his horse......so be it.

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