A logical system of progressive exercises
Straightness training is a logical system of progressive exercises.
Why do we need this system?
That’s because we’d like to ride our horses. And if start riding a horse we should be aware of his natural asymmetry.
Due to the significant excess of weight of head and neck, the fragile front legs carry a much heavier load the the hind legs. This is called the natural balance of the horse.
Nature has equipped the hind quarters not only with greater strength in the skeleton, but also with very powerful muscles. It’s therefore healthier for a horse to carry his own body and the rider’s weight mostly with the flexible hind legs rather than with the fragile front legs. This is called the riding balance of the horse.
So when we would like to ride a horse it’s important:
- to give attention to working and equalizing the hind legs
- to displace the horse’s center of gravity from the shoulders to the haunches.
- to develop the riding balance of the horse, where the horse carries more weight with the hind legs than the fore legs.
What exercises are part of this logical system?
In the arena we do horse gymnastics where we develop the horse’s muscles structure and riding balance through a system of stages of the following progressive exercises that follow one another in a logical sequence:
On the circle the horse learns to bend his body from head to tail, with his head and neck in a forward-down position and an inside hind leg stepping towards the center of gravity. After the bending work on curved lines and on one track, we introduce the lateral work on two tracks on curved and straight lines:
First we introduce the exercise shoulder-in for the further development of the horse’s flexibility in body and limbs. The shoulder-in brings the inside hind leg forward under the belly and the horse learns to carry himself with this hind leg and to bend the inside hind leg underneath himself.
The exercise haunches-in can evolve as the result of a well established shoulder-in. In haunches-in, the horse learns to make his outside hind leg step under the body of the horse and to bend the outside hind leg underneath himself.
The renvers, half pass and pirouette are variants of the haunches-in with increasing difficulty. In renvers the wall is on the other side of the horse and half-pass is a haunches-in across the diagonal of the arena, where no wall is involved. The pirouette is a haunches-in on a circle.
Lateral movements make both hind legs flexible individually and contribute significantly to perfecting the horse’s riding balance. They enable the rider to engage and collect the horse more and more. As a result the horse gets stronger and stronger which allows the rider to require greater, simultaneous flexion of both haunches:
In piaffe the horse has increased flexion of both haunches and they alternate in picking up and carrying the weight. The hind legs are still lightly supported in this work by the front legs, although the hind legs have to perform the major portion of the work.
The levade originates from the piaffe: If the croupe lowers more and more in the piaffe, the joints are flexed greatly and the center of gravity drops back more and more. If the croupe is lowered completely, the center of gravity drops back far enough, that the horse is able to balance the entire load of horse and rider completely on his hind legs. So the levade is not just a fancy randomly picked trick, but arises naturally when the horse is strong enough and when both haunches are able to carry all of the weight completely simultaneously.
This video gives you a quick overview of the training components and the exercises we use in the logical system, and it gives you the “Bigger Picture” of the logical order of Straightness Training: