Ramener: the neck, the poll and the back

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:

This entry was posted in Art Natural Dressage, Art2Ride, Clicker Training, videos. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Ramener: the neck, the poll and the back

  1. Thank you for including all the references – very helpful! In the video of you teaching Dante I wish we could see more of his head and neck, and ultimately his body so that the overall effects of what you are doing are shown. You do say at this point you’re just trying to teach him the basic movement with his head, but it would be helpful to me and maybe to others also to see everything happening from “scratch”.

    • Sure! I completely agree. Dante hasn’t figured out what I’m asking him to do (though in this video it looks like he does). He’s still thinking I want a leg lift or a step back. As soon as he has that part nailed, I’ll have hubby take some more video.

      One video problem is Dante”s long mane, it flops over halfsies on each side so I’ll have to braid it off to the off side so you can see the entire neck.

      But yes, I completely agree and will get a new video up within the week. I think he should have this figured out by this weekend or close enough that you can see some of what I’m trying to get too.

    • Hi Cari – I just posted a second video that gives you a better view. I think this definitely shows more of what I’m working towards. Hope it helps 😉

      • Thank you so much for the new video! It helps a lot to see the whole thing. It’s great to be able to follow you as you develop the horse so that we can see what it might look like at the start and as you progress.
        I’ve downloaded the free Straightness Training book and have been working through all of the videos and links you’ve posted. For so long I had this aversion to Olympic dressage because in other videos (Nuno Oliveira, Spanich Riding School, etc.) you can clearly see the horse are moving differently and appear much happier. They move with grace. I’m so pleased to have this information!

    • Hi Cari – I found Straightness training very informative. I appreciate her online school because she has a lot of videos and goes into a lot of depth of what and how. I was able to buy the online package on sale, so definitely keep an eye on your emails or her social network accounts and I’m sure she’ll do another sale this year for the online access (or did you already get that? I’m thinking you have the free downloadable book?).

      Just how I see it – Art2ride (which also has good videos on Youtube but they get rather tiresome with his off topic commentary) is a good way to go if your horse lunges. Dante clearly hates lunging and to force him to do it would really not develop the relationship I want with him. Art2ride = long and low, developing the back through stretching over the topline.

      Straightness Training is the next piece to the puzzle, The back really develops because the hind leg pushes the back up on the curve. This can be developed in hand or with the lunging.

      Destination is the same – improving the back, rounding the back, strengthening the back, and IMO it is just about different roads leading to Rome – but they both get you there.

      • Thank you for all the information! I did get the free straightness training book and also signed up for the Art of Natural Dressage. I’m currently reading through all of the free information – there’s so much! I never knew any of this existed, so I’m thankful for you letting people know. I watched some of the videos of Art of Nat Dressage training the lateral movements from the ground with the clicker and no tack. I have to say I really like that idea! I’ve tried the more traditional method of using the reins and a whip which was frustrating. I kept inadvertently tapping the horse and getting jumbled up. Yes, takes practice!

        I also have an older gelding that is really only motivated by the clicker. I’m looking forward to trying out the ball and the clicker. We did some Chasing the Tiger which went well. Main problem is…I guess I need some Adequan! This will be good for BOTH of us!

    • I forget how I came across Art of ND – some time back but at the time the horse I had had so many issues and my life took a big turn during a move and then a move back. Art of ND has mostly European posters so I do find that language barrier, but also the lack of resources that we have in the US vs they have in Europe, as well as the lack of videos to be an issue for me when trying to figure things out.

      Also, do remember most of these folks are working with younger horses, some stallions, who have a lot of energy. Dante and I are getting along (will be posting more later) but he’s an old man with health issues so I am pleased with our progress for now.

    • oh you need to give me more details about how Chasing the Tiger went!

      • Well…my older gelding, Snickers – the one with low energy – willingly went after the tiger. However, I only had the round pen to work in and it is inside the only pasture available to me, so I brought all three horses out. so I could work one and let the others graze. Once I began playing the game in the round pen Snickers, true to form, cut corners and just walked faster. I need a bigger space to really get things going. The other two were just as easy and my youngest, Luna, was much more energetic. They all love clicker training, though, and when one is in the pen being trained they often hang out by the fence and watch.

        This is the missing piece – how to get your horse to know that playing is ok. This is my criticism of Imke Spilker’s book Empowered Horses. I love her philosophy and things, but when you take an older domesticated horse it’s such a huge mental leap to introduce “play”. I have a ball for my horses and the first time I introduced it they ignored it. I left it in the pen for a few days – nothing. No interest. I ha no idea what to do next so I wrote to her and she wasn’t very helpful. She empowered me to figure it out….ha ha.

        I figured younger horses would be more curious and playful and mine were too old, so I gave up. Never thought of using the clicker! It just seemed like training your horse to play. It makes sense now – using the clicker to teach them what the game is and let it go from there. I see now how to go from the training to the fun.

        I also signed up for Intrinzen but they are apparently between offerings and you can’t get any information, including whatever they offered in the past. I am so intrigued with their methods and how athletic the horse appear.

        Currently making a training plan for each horse to make sure I’m incorporating the right things. Really looking forward to the rain stopping so I can get out there and train!

    • “This is the missing piece – how to get your horse to know that playing is ok. ”

      DING DING DING! YES! these horses have been smothered by domestication, told to go here, do that, and then put back in the toy chest, living alone, living in stalls etc.. They have become numb. Note how many of these folks like to use Stallions who are going to naturally revert to more “playful” behavior given half a chance and not geldings. 😉

      One thing about Intrizen if you follow their Instagram account (which you can do via laptop) they are answering questions there

      Of course there are still a lot of questions especially about how to apply it to your own situations but it has helped me by reading their posts, questions and comments.

    • Just added videos to the recent post about playing ball with your horse – https://horseideology.blog/2017/05/16/playing-horse-ball-leveling-up/

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