Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Channeling Suisan

I got this little video in an e-mail so some of you may have seen it.

I'm telling you, this horse dances. I have never seen anything quite like it. I have seen the front leg canter but I don't recall ever seeing the back legs lift like this. It's a six minute video and I couldn't stop watching once the horse started skipping. SKIPPING for heaven's sake.

Maybe Suisan will come out and let us know if this is something as mind blowing as the announcers let us think it is. I'm thinking it's pretty spectacular.


CindyS said...

It's at the 4:53 mark that the horse starts doing this dance thing that blows my mind. Meant to mention that. Also, watch the horse's tail - I swear that horse is all 'yeah, that's right, I'm ALL that AND a bag of carrots.'


Suisan said...

Cindy, this is a FAMOUS video. This one performance stunned the competitors and dressage enthusiasts have been discussing it ever since. (Very hard to see if you are not "in the know", but this horse demonstrates a lightness and fluidity that hasn't been seen in years. AND it is trained using less force and "Rolkur".) (Don't ask what rolkur is -- check my blog, I think I talked about it a while ago.)

OK, in terms of the skipping. It's called "tempe changes" or "Flying changes."

If the horse is cantering or galloping, then one front leg extends further than the other. If the right front leg is out farther, then it's a "right lead". Dogs do this too. Cantering (running) is a three beat gait.

It starts getting complicated right here, and I won't go into details, but if the horse is making a circle to the left, you want him on the left lead and visa versa. (Otherwise the horse is leaning out of the circle rather than bent around the inside of the circle. Horses are long after all.) So if you are going straight and then turn left, you "ask" for the left lead, if you then turn right, you "ask" for the right lead. Unless they are very stiff, horses make this change on their own.

What this rider is doing is riding the horse in an absolutely straight line (the commentators even remark upon it) and with every step is saying with his seat, "Left. And right. And left. And right." over and over again.

Very lovely.

(There's some controversy about the tail. Is she excited, or is she annoyed? I think she's excited because her ears and jaw stay so soft. People who don't like the shift in the training techniques say that she's annoyed.)


Suisan said...

Oh hell.

I just reread your first comment. I think what you're referring to as skipping is NOT what I just explained.

What I ws talking about is at the VERY beginning of the routine where the horse is doing "one time" or "tempe changes."

What YOU are referring to (damn, I'm an idiot) is passage.

Matine's passage is sooo lovely, and it's there where she tail swishes.

OK, so ignore the previous comment about leads and everything. That's for the canter gait. Passage is done at the trot.

If you are trotting out, you can trot extended, with all the legs thrusting to their longest extension (She does this a few times in the routine). You could slow down the *pace* of her movement, or the tempo at which her feet strike the ground, and then she'd go slower.

OR, you can collect her movement, so that the tempo of the footfalls is exactly the same as at her most extended moments, but you don't allow her to progress forward. That's when she trots with her legs lifting high off the ground in beat to the music of Lady Maramlade.

If you collect her further, you can prevent her from progessing in the forward direction at all. In that case, you have a piaffe, which is what she does towards the end when the commentators say that they are at a loss for words.

Matine is unique at these levels because her HIND legs are so engaged. In other words, if you watch her HIND legs in the passage, they come off the ground and stay still (in suspension) for the same amount of time that the front legs do. Most trainers and judges and spectators concentrate on the movement of the front legs, and there are a lot of high placing horse who are hauled up in front by rought handling with the bit, but who shuffle their hind legs, barely lifting their hooves from the sand.

And yes, it's impressive, and yes, it's gorgeous.

The moment when they cut to the team, and they are smiling in the stands is noteworthy too. Look at the guy in the back: he's lookingas if he's going to cry soon. What they are watching is her walking on a loose rein in a "free walk". For all that dancing and skipping and movement in the diagonal while facing front (half-pass), what makes the riders cry in joy is when the horse steps forward eagerly on a looser rein, stepping well underneath herself from behind, bobbing her head because her shoulders are so free.

It demonstrates that the horse is relaxed and willing. That she's showing off to the judges that her head is not being cranked in, that spurs are not digging into her, and that she wants to keep going through the rest of this very athletic routine. You can't fake this part. (Also, watch how long it takes the rider to gather her back up into the performance. SOme riders go from free walk right into a movement within two or three steps. Andreas takes 1/4 of the ring to do it. Very respectful and elegant riding.) The free walk is a required movement, but lots of riders only let the horse's head out a teeny bit and do a free walk for about six steps.

I watched the video AGAIN. Damn. Now I'm a touch weepy.

Suisan said...

This horse is the one who won the competition. She starts her routine with the passage.

Two comments from the first few moments. COmmentator says, "And tonight [the horse] stood." It's well know that this horse has temper tantrums in the ring. Can't halt? Hmmm.

Then she moves into the passage. Not as springy as Matine, right? Also, check out the hind legs. They do not come off the floor equally -- one is higher.

She is a world champion and an olympic medallist. PLease don't let me give you the impression that she can't ride or that her horse is poorly trained.

However, she uses a rough training method, called rolkur which creates a more rigid performance. (The announcers keep saying, "Wow. *Tonight* he looks relaxed.")

And I can't easily describe what I mean by this, but head head carraige looks weird to me. Instead of slightly bending his neck when he's turing to the left, he kind of tips it? And I hate his piaffe at the end. Bleh.

CindyS said...

Suisan - Thanks for explaining! That was the beauty of Matine, she looks completely at ease and that she was meant to do this. Also the piaffe part - it was the hind legs that blew me away because let's face it, this is a large animal and how do you get her to trust herself enough to come right off the ground. I've watched this video like 6 times now ;) I keep watching her during the passage and the piaffe because I swear at moments there is no part of her touching the ground.

I knew that something was happening during the 'free reign' section because of the crowd but I didn't know - I just thought she looked beautiful and calm.

Bob's home, will talk about other video in a bit.


CindyS said...

And I'm back.

The other horse didn't look as graceful but I thought maybe it was the camera angles. What I did notice is there was no prep between steps, no soft jog before getting to the act. So I could tell that the horse had more experience but I didn't feel the horse had the height off the piaffe and at one point it looked like she was just stepping and didn't have the 'hop' of Matine. I don't know about horse body language but that tail just looked happy and whether she was using it to keep balance as well. It just looked like it was all part of the dance.

Thanks for explaining!!


Kristie (J) said...

OK - I've watched them both and I have to say I like the gray horse Matine better. He (or she?) just seems more joyful than the winning horse.
I can't say I know much about horses though, although I'm learning from Lisa a bit through osmosis.

Rosie said...

Wow! I can come here and learn stuff. I really enjoyed this video.

Catching up with my blog reading since I've been gone. Sorry to hear Cody has been sick. Hope he's doing better.

Also, congrats on winning the Amazon gift cert. Winning is so cool isn't it?

Mailyn said...

Cute horsey!!!! ^__^