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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chambon A Go-Go

I think I want to talk for a minute about lunging, and specifically lunging Gogo. When I got her, she kind of knew how to lunge.... sort of. Meaning, you put her on a lunge line and off she goes running, and then if you wanted her to stop she'd slam on the brakes, spin in towards you, and come walking in. OH NO-NO. Don't think so kiddo! It didn't take long for her to learn her voice commands but boy, she did NOT get the idea of halting for a long time. I had to actually get my roommate Nicole to walk on the outside of the lunge with her, and halt her when I said "whoa." I did this for about 10 minutes once, and then the next time I went to lunge her hey presto! It had finally clicked in her brain and I didn't need to school it again, who knew.

Well. In comes crazy trainer lady who excessively lunged my horse to death and claimed she "had to teach her all her voice commands because she didn't know anything except to run." Hmmmmmmm that's not the Gogo I remember.... anyway, so now we had some lunging issues. I tried lots of things, and some of them helped.

Sidereins: I had issues with sidereins from day one, seeing as before I got her Gogo had already learned to curl her neck away from contact. She never really reached out for them, and I guess most horses wouldn't. Sidereins have a time and a place, and they just aren't really with my horse. I used to occasionally lunge her with sidereins before I got on, and I sort of imaged it helped her accept my contact a little, when she would go around fighting me for an hour before she finally released.

Neck Stretcher: Well, at the time I thought this was a godsend, and I think it might have been a good thing for at least me, at least temporarily. When she was wearing it I stopped thinking about her head so much, and was able to fully focus on riding her back to front instead of worrying about whatever she was doing with her head (a huge problem of mine.... one I am still trying to overcome). HOWEVER, the problem still remains that the horse can't really stretch forward and out with this.

Breaking at the 3rd vertebra.

Pessoa: Or well, I used the Faux-ssoa... the Scheniders version that I got for $25 instead of $150! I used it a lot last winter, and since that time up until recently was using it and it alone for lunging.
From Sustainable Dressage, which is a very informative site:
"During the Pessoas' total reign in showjumping in the 80's and 90's many "inventions" came from their barn. One was the Pessoa Gag Bit, which I speak of elsewhere, which is a combination of a driving bit and an elevator gag, and then the Pessoa Training System used for lungeing. This system is supposed to get the horse to stretch down AND engage the hindlegs forward, and thus be good for the back. I have seen it at work several times, and whilst it does get the horse to lower his head on the lunge, the most glaring effect of this contraption is that it succeeds in jabbing the horse in the mouth with each push of the hindlegs. It has a semi-intricate pulley system that via a lunge-girth connects the gaskins with the mouth. I guess the rope is supposed to encourage the horse to grasp forward with the hindlegs as it tightens around the hindleg and at the same time limit the height of the head. But which is more sensitive - the skin on the hocks or the mouth!? The horse will be encouraged to roll down but not stretch to the bit, because the bit jabs at the mouth with each step. Now this is mechanical if anything! I have also never seen any horse truly engage in this "system", only go on the forehand and curl behind the bit. It can be adjusted lower (for more stretch) and higher (for collection) but it seems to have very little such effect."
And when I thought about it, wow, that makes sense. And when you look at a picture of it last January....

Hmmmm. Well that's not very classical is it?

Which got me to thinking.... if she's not a candidate for sidereins, the Pessoa is just a bad idea, and the neck stretcher doesn't allow her to stretch OUT... what will?

I found the answer:
Chambon: Of all the lunging tools, I think this is really Gogo's best option for now. "Out of all these things, the chambon is the only one which really works satisfactorily in its true context - lungeing. The chambon is the only device that lets the horse stretch fully forward-down-OUT." And this is exactly what Gogo needs.
"The function is as such:
As the horse lifts his head and pokes his nose, tensing his back, the device applies because the strings are pulled taut. The distance to the raised head (poll) becomes longer than in a relaxed state, and the poking nose uses up its share of the string as well. So the string pulls on the mouth, but not only that. It presses the crown piece down. Any attempt in the right direction is rewarded instantly. If the nose is dropped there is a release, and especially, if the poll is lowered there is a release. In a full stretch forward-down-out the distance from girth to poll to mouth is still shorter than when the horse has inverted. The device is slack."

A device where she can stretch forward and out, releasing those tense back muscles. Huzzah! Here's another great website on it:
I'm hoping that judicious use of this tool will help her on days between harder dressage work when I want to release, relax and strengthen her back and topline. Given her history, she automatically wants to be a little behind the vertical, and I've found this is eliminating that problem on the lunge. It's certainly not a cure-all, but it's one more thing I can add to my classical-y dressage toolbox.

And here's Gogo after lunging playtime:

She had never seen a tarp before this day, I realized, so I thought I would see what she would do with it. In usual Gogo fashion, she didn't even bat an eye at it, walking over it or wearing it. I even put it on her head and she just lowered her head and sighed like, "Oh mother. Can you please stop humiliating me now?"

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