Wednesday, March 27 2013
Today we continued with the collection. With most horses, we would start with a forward-down shape and getting the hind legs to swing forward under the point of weight before asking them to put more weight on them. Some horses however will need the opposite approach. With them, there often is a physical reason why we should not ride (too much) forward-down. With Fitzer for example, the toes of his front legs are turned inwards. When I ride him (too much) forward-down he falls on the shoulder and he gets lame. A good forward-down should keep the horse light in the shoulders. If it is not possible yet to ride a good forward-down, it is better to bring the point of weight a bit more back and collect the horse before sending the horse more forward. There is not one way, the way to go is depending on your horse and on the skills of the rider.
With Aranka, a good collection makes her free in the shoulders and she is then able to keep this freedom going more forward-down. As soon as her weight tips too much forward, making her heavy on the shoulders, I can use the collection to bring her back in balance. And vice versa, when I feel she is getting stiff in collection and she loses the forward grab of her hind legs, I can add a touch more forward in the collection to get a better collection. A good collection can improve the forward, just as the forward can improve collection. In today’s lesson, we worked on separating my upper body and my lower body in the collecting aids. Bringing my upper body back brings the point of weight already back, when I then add the ‘scoop’ in my pelvis, Aranka came very nicely up in front of my seat. It is a nice idea to be able to do more or less collection with the seat by separating the upper body and the lower body.
With Fitzer we started a little work in hand. In the quarter-in, he took the aids of the outside leg and the outside rein from the whip very nicely. You can give the horse already the complete education of the riding aids just from the ground, using the whip as a leg or a rein, gently touching or even just pointing to the body part of the horse that you want to move. The education is then continued in standing while sitting up there. From my seat, I gave Fitzer the aids to make the circle smaller and bigger, to make a shoulder-in forward-down and a collection in quarter in, without moving his feet, just his weight. In standing, you can feel exactly to which aids the horse is not responding and how the horse responds to the seat in his spine. Fitzer has a tendency to lift his right side of his ribs up. I had already noticed that (and worked on it) while riding and it was interesting that the exact same thing happened in standing. Now, if I can correct it in standing, it also teaches me how to use my seat more effectively in the riding.
Our ultimate goal is to ride the horse only from the seat. In the process of education, the horse will need to learn what we mean by our seat. That is why we teach the horse the secondary aids (rein, leg) first, so that we can use them to explain with them what we mean by the seat. With Fitzer in today’s lesson, I asked him to make the exercises from my seat, when he is not responding (enough) I use my hand and leg to clarify my seat. It is important that the seat and the leg and hand are saying the same things, and not contradict each other. You should also make sure that the horse can do what you ask. With Aranka, I can not use more hand and leg and seat then I do, because she can not give me more collection at this point of time. With Fitzer, I reach my physical limit in terms of timing, consistency and coordination before I reach his. Doing more is then not productive, because we get stiffness. So it is a constant playing with giving and asking, training my own sensitivity and his obedience to my aids in a gentle and dynamic way.
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!