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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Funny, I don't see much of a difference. Again, as is my style, I quiet the music. The music clouds the senses, and so does the "life presence". Then, I see a lot of pounding. Fast pounding. A horse that is trying to churn butter. Then, I see the horse on a loose rein - yet he remains in a shrunk neck position. He respects what he knows and would not dare cross the invisible line. Then, I see a horse who does not extend - he seems to have just one and half paces: collected and faster. Than, I see a horse tilted in passage, again and again, body delayed behind the legs.

If this was not an iberian horse, but a horse with average gait quality, no one would even sigh. The gates are everything. The higher, the better. But it should not be like that. Really, it is not supposed to be a breeder's parade :-(
Don't we hear a lot of talk about domination in riding? I don't understand this! The horse is our friend. Why do we need to dominate our friend? If it is about control, I find that when we give up control we then have more. The horse moves forward better, turns better and wants to respond to subtle aids better.
Why is this so hard for riders today to understand? I see so much forward, forward, forward and it is all out of balance! Then we turn around and want balance! This must be so nonsensical to the horse! Isn't anyone thinking anymore? Can't they feel what they are doing to their horses?
Fuego demonstrated freedom and yet so many see this as loss of connection. I don't understand this observation!
I think they don't practice this release, it does take a lot of time. I have been working about a year on two mares to get them down and to stay low until I collect them It really takes lots of time.
I am doing it because I like the relaxation and the giving and it must feel wonderful to the neck and back. Well my instructor asks for it, on the buckle all across the diagonal or the long side of the arena.
Yes, giving way on the contact pressure is what I have learned also. Not to be confused with throw away the reins to having No contact, what do you think is the amount of pressure for good contact? I was cooking the other night while we were writing back and forth, I took out 5lbs of flour and sugar and thought it was more than the pressure I feel with contact, I just feel the tension and then use my open or closed lower fingers to take up for more contact, but not for length of time.
Hands without legs, legs without hands,
I love the book my instructor gave me for a gift by Michel Henriquette, it taught me lots about moving the hands forward -so the horse CAN find space to move.
All the seat pushing and tight grip of reins must wear out both horse and rider.
Boy what you said about giving and letting the horse move forward is SO BIG and yet so small and so ignored. You and Ellin say the same things about the balance.
She is very sharp at observing what is going on, and it doesn't matter if we are watching a video or I am riding and the far end of her arena with my back to her, I know can see what was done, needed to be done or may yet be done ( she gives a correction command to me).

Someone who is well educated can tell if you have thrown away the outside rein or need to push the horse with the inside leg by what has happened in the horse's gait. The balance of the horse with rider is learned and I had not thought the horse would have to learn that too. But of course when you think of my weight shifting about over its back along with a death grip on the reins, the poor horse couldn't find its own balance if it tried. I guess it is funny that as smart as we think we are that little thought goes into staying out of the horse's way when we ride, especially as beginners.

Hopefully with good instruction we learn to impede the horse less and act as a team.

I wondered why al the horses at the WEG didn't relax the neck more, Allan mentioned this too,while at the walk. I did see one black or dark bay really relax, remember that ??
Guess I don't know the rules, I was expecting more relaxation. Is this another example of not allowing the horse or not teaching the horse to seek the bit, and then getting it low enough? Are these horses so "held" in place they really can't relax down? I have no answer but lots of questions.

Another point of discussion is self carriage versus being held by a death grip. Also, is self carriage different than over-bending? I think so.
I liked the Hempfling book explaining his work and demonstrating the changes made in the horse from a year of being worked. HIs horse was bridleless and in wonderful (Andalusian) self-carriage. It is also being in top condition too, isn't it.

This should give us months of discussion.

Lets talk about straightening the horse, Ellin is terrific in coaching the proper way to re-balance and straighten as well.

I sure hope we are able to watch some changes in the scoring and performances of the top Dressage horses in the future. We really need to keep talking about this and asking why.
Fuego did not demonstrate freedom. Freedom is not a loose rein, while the neck remains like a sardine. Any western rider will tell you, you absolutely don't need any rein tension to take away the neck's freedom and set it in firm position. All you have to do is to train by a "threat". You do this ... this will follow ... don't you dare!
I'm not sure what you mean in your reply above! What is a sardine neck? I don't think anyone here is implying the kind of neck firmness you describe as a result of a 'threat'. Horses do use their muscular necks to lift themselves! When they are in balance there is naturally a firmness....a tone perhaps is a better word.....in the body. This tone is a necessary part of holding themselves in balance. Just look at horses in their pastures when they dance about. They have a natural tension/tone in their bodies. It is different from just standing around and eating grass.
You are right! Freedom is NOT a loose rein! I think we will all agree with you here!
A natural horse is capable of a variety of motions, even out of balance. None of these extreme positions out of equilibrium last very long. For instance, tucked in neck is held for a few seconds, and there is always a stretch between these contracted moves.

I'll try to explain what I mean by naturally raised neck. But let me first ask a question - have you, or anybody here - ever trained a horse to the point, the horse will spontaneously, and without the interference of the rein, raise the base of the neck in response of the collected moves and moves only? Never actually being asked to place its neck by rein ANYWHERE? If the answer is yes, than there is no need for me to talk about it, since you already know what is behind it, how it feels and how it is achieved. But if the answer is NO, I will have a tough time to convince you, that this natural response to the new balance looks and feel different, than what you see on ALL OF THE HORSES in the dressage today. And have seen for the past 30 years or so. Some people just NEVER saw it, period. They have no reference point to compare.

But I will try it anyway :-) When the horse gets to a point of collection, he works in a contracted state. In order to do that, he shortens his frame as a response to the needed reactivity. The neck goes up naturally, there is no need to teach this. The nose of the horse will be mostly in front of vertical, periodically will go on the vertical, but not behind. You wil not see a wrinkled/buldged skin/glands behind its cheeks, or squished neck, the horse will have a relatively active neck. You will see a movement of the neck, specially in the canter work. The horse will look very relaxed, very pliable, not just in his legs, but through the entire body, including the neck. The neck - over time, will maintain its slim, bueatiful shape, will not be over-muscled, fatty or stiff. There will be no visible muscle groups, since this neck will work naturally with co-ordination of the rest of the body.

All of this is a result of "SKILLS BEFORE FORMAT" training, and I will not lie to you: this training takes longer, and requires much better riding skills. Also, it will never be adopted in the sports ring, because it does not produce extreme animation, and it preserver the horse's right to say "I have enough". It also preserves the horse's sensitivity to a slightest abuse by either spur, or a bit, and it will fight you if you ask for exhaustive exercise, or something that hurts (like holding a muscle in the contracted position for a very long time, until the muscle fibers become static). Normally, the neck muscles are very kinetic, meaning, they like to be mobile, and they like to work static - dynamic in very short sequence (seconds).

Only in dressage, we change kinetic muscles of the neck to static - permanently. Static means, the horse is able to hold a neck in un natural position for very long time without fatigue. It can even go so far, the horse no longer carries the neck naturally, it stays contracted all the time even in the pasture. I have seen it more than once. These necks are also massive. All part of adaptation to a forceful training. If completed, it may take a pain away, therefore all signs of discomfort dissapear. Therefore, behavioral signs or measuring cortisol levels, or heart beat on the adapted horse makes no sense from the animal welfare point.

One last note. The curb is a head setting device. I know, the literature does not like talk about it like that, and you most likely heard that the curb is there for the precision reasons. One of the biggest equestrian lies perpetuated for centuries :-(
>It is this allowing that gives her the confidence to voice her opinion.

Yes. The opinion will mumble with time, but it is very important and VERY SMART to preserve it. Because it saves big on veterinary bills and supplements, and the horse will get better as time goes by, llive longer, look better. BUT! The mainstream will not accept that. Any natural expression is demonized as a lack of submission.

It all boils down to a human psychology. I have found a research article dealing with a human hypocrisy in so called natural horsemanship. It is about NH, but IMHO, it applies to all disciplines:


In other words, we worship a natural horse, but we do not accept it! Not even a little.

As far as methodology is concerned, there was a brief attempt in the equestrian history to revolutionize eq sport from the 1900-1950. It is DEAD now. We are back to 15.century methodology with the perks of modern veterinary science and clever ways to deal with media and a general public.

PS: Unfortunately, even Podhajsky relied heavily on curbs, and pillars. You need to read between the lines what he has actually been doing during the advanced dressage training. The early stages - fine with me :-)
Nicely put, Allan. And, also, nicely explained, Eva. I think you are preaching to the choir here about 'head set'. I am going to have to disagree with you though about the use of the curb as a "head setting device". It is only so if it is intended for such! The curb actually relaxes the jaw(in the right hands), relaxes the poll, and activates the hindquarters into lowering and engaging better. It should not be held 'on'.
What I have found is that many horses that have been started poorly in the snaffle, taught to pull down into the bit, rather than carry, lose understanding of the mechanics of the snaffle. More times than not such horses actually do better and have their understanding restored when put into a double bridle.....I know....counterintuitive here.....but I have tried this so many times and have found they get instant relief when they recognize the meaning of the snaffle within the context of the double bridle. I don't recommend this avenue for most riders so don't fret yourself that I am advocating this.
It is just important to remember that it is not the sword that does the damage but the hand that wields the sword! And I speak out from the perspective of experience with damaged horses more so than the privilege of having them in their unblemished form. The latter, however, have shown me the way I should go with the former.
I want to add one more thing here. Although there can be many reasons why a horse will hold its neck a certain way, we must not discount that horses are first individuals. Secondly, the atmosphere when Fuego entered the arena and performed in the freestyle was so electric that even I was on the edge of my seat with my neck tightened!!!!! It was very exciting!
Margaret, that is nice. Fuego provided crowd with huge entertainment. People project their own feeling on animals, that's natural. But it also clouds their judgment. See the article on psychology surrounding natural horsemanship.


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