Traditional Dressage / articles

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KARL MIKOLKA'S (SRS) article on long and low:

Question:

I have read recently of a controvesy over schooling your horse "!ong and low". Please tell me if you know of any reason why the young horse should not be schooled like this or the benefits and reasons why we should use this step in training.


Answer from Karl Mikolka:


"The long and low" controversy is confusing now-a-days even trainers in Europe where it originated and not too long ago there was an interesting article written in one of the German Equestrian magazines expressing deep concerns about the wide spread misuse and the all too often misunderstood application of schooling a horse "deep and low".

He carries on:


"Big names riders such as Nicole Uphoff, who have had Olympic success revived the deep and low training method which was practiced with great results in the 50's by a German Jumping Champion Alwin Schockemoehle. Mr Shockemoehle rode all his horses very deep and low and even used draw reins to get the horses' head closer to the chest.


He approached all jumps in this position and in the right moment he gave the horse the necessary freedom to clear the highest and biggest fence with ease.


His outstanding success prompted many riders to copy his method in the hope that this type of training might be the key to fame and fortune. Although it is said that imitation is the best form of flattery it is not always the best way to ride your horse.


Mr Schockemoehle was a master and was mounted on great equine athletes which could jump from any angle, any position, any tempo and room any gait any type of obstacle.


The philosophy behind the long and low concept is to stretch the horse's neck and back muscles - a necessary prerequisite to achieve relaxation and a back free of tension and stiffness.

Many riders believe that the back can only swing when the horse is ridden very low.


The Old School of training emphasized the necessity for every young horse to learn to stretch forward adn down and to maintain self-carriage n a longer frame on a longer rein without falling on the forehand.


One can see many pictures of international riders such as Nicole or Anky Van Grunsven on horses very much overbent in the warm-up arena, carrying their noses between the front legs but when the same horses are ridden in the tests, they can be a picture of beauty, self-carriage and "on-the-bitness"...


This phenomenon leads many amateur riders to believe that the horses are successfufl because of this special way of warrm-up.


Heinz Meyer, a German equestrian expert has another explanation. He says: "the horses of our top riders are of such high quality that they give a world class performance in spite of this deep and low riding which seems to be tolerated by the judges who overlook certain things when it comes to wealth and medals."


The same gentleman also goes so far as to warn against copying this style of riding simply because not everyone has the super horse which has the ability to correct himself DESPITE questionable techniques.


He points out that long and low must never become deep and low, and where the difference lies.


A horse which is taught to stretch his neck and back muscles and understands the meaning of "chewing the reins out of the rider's hands" whenever the rider encourages such action will always stretch forward and downward thus arching his back and by doing that will strenghten his back muscles. Thy type of long and low is good for the horses.


Today's method of deep and low or long and low is not the same as the forward-downward-stretching of the classical school.

Deep and low makes the horse's neck curl up and separates the neck from the rest of the body.


The neck muscles cannot apply the gentle pull against the withers which is necessary to arch the back and strengthen the muscles along the horse's spine.


The deep and low method creates a horse which drops his head between the front legs preventing the rider from using the neck as a lever against the hind quarters.


Such horse will be heavy on the forehand and will have no reason to lower his hauches. It drags his hind legs inactively without any impulsion through the sand.


Around the turn of the century, Paul Plinzner, the riding master of teh German Kaiser and former studen of Gustaf Steinbercht, had to train the horses for His Majesty who had the use of only one arm.


This condition prompted Plinzner to work with the double bridle at an early stage and he discovered that the Emperor felt much safer on horses which were slightly over flexed. This was the main and only reason why Plinzner deviated from Steinbrecht's teachings.


Modern riders who do not have the same handicap would do better to follow Steinbrech't advice, which states : "Ride your horse forward and teach him to go straight". 

A horse which carries his head deep and his neck curled up, hardly can see where he is going and will not be able to go forward properly.


And forward is the spirit of true riding, or is it not?"


Karl Mikolka, SRS.