Todays lessons were about lightness. Lightness in the shoulders is a result of the carrying of the hind legs. The hind legs should swing far enough forward and step under the point of weight of the horse, and then bend in all the joints as to carry the shoulders upwards. So, the raising of the head and neck is a result of the quality of the hind quarter, and should not be achieved by a lifting of the head by the hands.
With Aranka, I am working on her physical limits. Therefore, we often can not get more freedom in her shoulders because she can not bend her hind legs more than she is already doing. By practicing frequently, we slowly move her limits and get her to bend her haunches more and more. This results in more and more freedom in her shoulders. When this is done correctly, she does not land on her toes and does not throw up any dust. Also in the forward-down after collection, she then manages to move more freely. With the lesson with Bent, we worked on getting her light in the shoulders and then move the shoulders in and out, keeping lightness. Also, we worked on me dropping my hand but keeping the collection and the lightness in front, without her falling fwd on her shoulders when I give my reins.
With Fitzer, we then continued in the same theme. As he has much more physical possibilities then Aranka, it is hardly ever his physical limits that I run into, but rather my own. Learning to feel exactly what he is doing and correcting it in the right timing and with the right aid will bring us further. One of the things for me to practice is to use my leg as a frame for the opposite hind leg. In travers, whenever he starts to cross too much with his inside hind leg, I should use my outside leg in both rythms (of the inside hind leg and the outside hindleg), while with my inside seat bone still guiding the inside hind leg forward (and still use my upper body and the reins). Now that is a coordination skill I'll have to work on in the future!
It is nice to see and hear this week once again, that the Academic Art of Riding is all about developing a good basic. That basic is the communication between horse and rider. As Bent puts it: "A circus horse remembers the exercise, an educated horse understands it." Or in other words; it is one thing to teach the horse a certain exercise as a trick, but there will be no smooth transitions from one shape into the next. An educated horse responds 100% to the aids of the rider, and is therefore able to follow the riders directions in doing a bit more, a bit less, a bit higher, a bit lower, a bit faster and a bit slower, and transition from one exercise into the other.
I like to share my thoughts on the Art of Riding with you here. Topics related to training and keeping horses and reports of my own experiences you can find here. Enjoy!