Saturday, October 2, 2010

Forward- Or Lack Thereof

I've always hated the word "forward" as it applies to dressage. It just doesn't mean what you think it should mean. Dictionary definitions for forward include: near, being at or belonging to the forepart; situated in advance; strongly inclined; lacking modesty or reserve....etc. None of those definitions have anything to do with the dressage concept "forward". Well, some riders I know fit the "lacking modesty or reserve" definition. Ahem, I digress...

I like the word impulsion better. It conjures up images of engines and energy for me. It is a bit bulky and awkward to use in conversation, though.

There's always the German word "schwung". It's fun to say. "More schwung!" "He isn't schwung-y enough!" Of course, I can't help but giggle whenever I hear the word "schwung" used in conversation. Just try to keep a straight face while someone bemoans their gelding's lack of schwung. Impossible.

Back to forward. I don't know that I can really put into words what forward is to me. It's certainly more than just the property of moving forward. So many riders make that mistake, driving the horse faster and faster until they're careening out of control, on the forehand and rushing. To me, forward feels almost slow. No, not really slow.... suspended in time. It feels as though time is standing still and I can feel and control every footfall of the horse. If it doesn't feel like that, that I can control every footfall, then I know the horse isn't really forward. It's hard to describe. I suppose that's why the best word anyone could come up with for it is "forward".

Spider and I are continuing to work on our impulsive forward schwungness. It's getting better. We're doing a lot of transitions, flexing in and out of a circle and leg yields. But, mostly we're doing transitions. Transitions build up muscle and get a horse under himself like nobody's business. By next week I want to have him consistently on the bit and using his back so I can start to bring back the 2nd level work, mainly counter canter and the dreaded canter-walk transitions. I hate those things.

More Thoughts on Forward:
Everything Worth Knowing Leaves Bruises
Back To Basics


  1. Ah, the dreaded canter/walk/canter. When it's right, it's right. When it's not, it's SO hard to fix as it requires that magical "Forward" in the walk and that is not easy to maintain.

  2. I am glad you are speaking about impulsion, because I was going to ask about it. With Teena I made the mistake to slow everything down, because if she is too forward, she looses her balanced. But too slow is not right. I want IMPULSION!
    Lately she has been a bit silly. There was a DIFFERENCE in her step, when she was forward with impulsion, she did not hop, i.e. she did not loose her balance. And when she is too fas or too slow, with "sluggish" hinds legs.

    I want SPRING in her steps. Is it schwung?

    So I started to work on transition. Mainly at the lunge, when I can monitor her steps. First a down transition from trot to walk, at the beginning of teh warm-up, then up transition when she has been moving for a while. I want a nice springy trot.

    Any others way to get better impulsion than transitions?


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