Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Thoughts On Forward

Forward is a tricky thing. It's easy to get fooled. If I had a dime for every time I've heard "Not faster, forward!", it would pay for all my lessons. It helps to remember the training scale: Rhythm, Relaxation, Contact, Impulsion, Straightness, Collection.

First you need to develop rhythm and relaxation, then take the contact, and then you can begin to establish impulsion by driving the horse forward into the contact. Not faster, faster will allow the horse to become unbalanced and fall onto the forehand. It's a tricky thing, indeed. The nice thing about having proper contact is that you should be able to feel when the horse falls onto the forehand. With Spider, it suddenly feels as though I'm going to be pulled out of the saddle, or my arms are going to be ripped out. That feeling is pretty consistent across all the Warmbloods and Thoroughbreds I've ridden. Some breeds I've ridden are different, Iberian breeds come to mind. They always feel light in the bridle, in my experience, whether they're on the forehand or not. I think it's just the way they're built. Anyway, back to Spider and forward and schwung and all that......

We're doing loads of transitions to improve Spider's impulsion. Transitions between gaits, transitions within gaits. Transitions on circles, in serpentines and in straight lines. Transisitions everywhere. I honestly can't think of a better way to create forward energy than asking for upward and downward transitions. I've been wracking my brain for new ideas, too. Transitions do get boring after awhile. Small circles and lateral work sort of build impulsion. Except that if you don't have impulsion you won't be able to do them. So, they don't really build impulsion, they reinforce it. Important, but not quite the same. Looks like I'm stuck with transitions.


  1. I think lots of transitions are the main exercise too. A shoulder-in into crossing a diagonal can build the trot. And counter canter to true canter can create some forward there.

    Cavaletti can also gain some stride at the trot and also get your horse to round his back more. One trainer I knew used them at the canter too.

    If you have a hill that's another place to build up some energy from the hind end.

    But tons of transitions....yep. That's the key.

  2. Food for thought. I will ask the reining trainer today

    He does the same than you, warming-up at the trot and the canter, leaving the horse mouth alone, then he will round the horse asking for his "face", then release.
    He is big on leaving the horse mouth alone. He thinks that the more you are in the mouth the less impulsion you have. I guess it is a fine balance between contact and relaxation in order to get swung.

    In your transition do you use you weight or do you use your hands? Perhaps too much contact?

    I love cavaletti. That is a great idea.

  3. Yeah, back to front with relaxation. Easier said than done!


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