I mentioned earlier that I was playing around with Ramener so wanted to show you some video. This is only the first of a complicated exercise so I’ll have several more videos as Dante progresses.
This is my take on this: this exercise is a precursor to collection but it is only one part of it. Sure you can get your horse to do this one part of the exercise but until you engage the back and lower the hindquarters, the exercise on it’s own isn’t as productive. But you have to start somewhere…
At this point, Dante knows targeting. Touch something, he gets a click-treat. What he is still trying to figure out is that other body parts can touch something and he gets rewarded. For example, his knee touches the target stick and he gets CT when we are doing leg lifts.
In Ramener, I’m looking for his throatlatch area to come back, towards his neck/chest area and for the neck/crest to rise upwards. This opens the shoulders and when done right you see the lift at the base of the neck (I will catch this on video at a later date to better show you). Eventually, the entire back can be added through a body crunch; and you strike gold, when the hindquarters lowers with more bend in the hocks (Rassembler).
Here, I’m starting with touching a target – in this case a shortened piece of plastic foam pool noodle. It’s just about the size for me to easily handle in this close work and offers an obvious “target” to touch (vs if you start with your hand it can become confusing). Once he figures out the exercise, I’ll remove the noodle and use my hand or a gesture to cue him.
Because this is an early video in the process, you see that he’s trying to move backwards to touch the target or he is lifting his legs (his now favorite exercise). However, once the weight shift backward begins with no backing up – a foreleg will naturally come up and that forms the beginning of the School Halt (but right now he’s lifting because I taught him to lift those legs 😉
I try to give him some YES even if they are not perfect – hence why I’m clicking with the leg up sometimes. I also position my pool noodle target so he might accidentally touches it so he gets a CT and then starts trying to puzzle out how to repeat that behavior.
However, as he progresses and “gets it” the click won’t happen if he moves back – only if he tucks his chin and raises his neck starting at the poll upwards.
In this video, the head is lower then what I will eventually want but again refinement can start once he figures out exactly what he’s being rewarded for. You know this has occurred mentally for him when it becomes very obvious in training: he will quickly repeat the same activity over and over.
By request, a second video of teaching the beginnings of ramener. These beginning videos shows just the first steps to shaping this exercise and gives a better view of the head, neck and shoulder:
What to look for here…
1.) I’m standing at the front so you can see the view of the head and neck. Normally, I stand at his shoulder, parallel to his body stance, facing forward.
2.) You don’t want him twisting his nose to the side to touch the target; you want him to move directly back with his head. Again, I usually stand at the shoulder and put the target behind the chin/throatlach area (see first video).
3.) I’m not looking for legs lifts, which he gives here as he knows that is a request I ask for. However, eventually as the Ramener is refined one of the forelegs will naturally rise as the weight is shifted further back and becomes the School Halt. For this video though, the legs are pawing and coming forward as that is a recent exercise he has learned and is proud to show it off.
4.) Note how he naturally steps back, forelegs square, to rebalance himself when the neck comes into the ramener position.
5.) Of particularly interest is the crest of the neck. I’ve braided his mane to the off side so you can better see the changes in his muscles. NOTE: 37 seconds end stop and see the position right there!
6.) To “feel” the same action in your own body, stand tall and then imagine the back of your neck is trying to reach the collar of your shirt. As you do this, be aware of your shoulder blades and posture.
There are other ways to teach the posture – such people tickle the chin and the horse draws back or leading with a carrot which is called a “lure” in clicker training. I prefer not to do this as I keep food separate from touching targets but that is my preference. I also do not put the horse into the position by handling the halter; again my personal preference is to allow the horse the freedom of the head and let him “figure it out.”
The problem with this exercise is that it can easily be overdone. You start asking for it more and more, longer and longer but you don’t incorporate the back or the hindquarters – then it becomes artificial. Then you have produced nothing but a “headset” which is absolutely not what you want to achieve with this.
Use this exercise with care – and intent 🙂
For a lot more depth about Ramener, check out the Art of Natural Dressage post and this other post which both go into a lot of detail. A few videos on Youtube can be found but most of them are poor quality and don’t quite show what you are supposed to be achieving.
This one is my favorite – note the top line of the neck and what happens as well as the weight shift slightly backwards but without leg movement:
Here is a really good article about forward and down to work the Nuchal Ligament in the horses’ neck (by the author of the above video).
So remember, Ramener contracts these muscles located in the top area of the neck, while low and forward stretches it. If you have any familiarity with muscle building exercises or yoga you understand these are complimentary opposites.
For those that learn through lectures, here is Dominque Barbier: