Straightness training consists of gymnastic exercises such as shoulder-in, haunches-in and the derived exercises like renvers, half pass and pirouette. These exercises are called lateral movements and ensure the horse to develop symmetrically in body and limbs and prepare the horse for collection.
When performing lateral movements the essence must be well observed:
- The center of balance must be in the right place in the body.
- The hind legs must step under the correct center of balance to be able to take weight.
- Which results in a lifting of the fore hand and freely moving shoulders.
Lateral movements without essence
Examples in which the essence gets lost are a shoulder-in or haunches-in which are performed too much sideways or a half-pass which is performed with a straight body and/or the hind-quarters leading,
If the essence is gone the hind legs cannot do their job properly because they cannot step under the center of balance: The hind legs will step behind the center of balance or push against it and you will notice that immediately in the front; The horse will start to lean on the reins or fall on the shoulders. That’s why we also do not use the exercise leg-yield.
What you experience in the ‘front’ has its cause in the ‘back’
If lateral movements are performed without essence, this will manifests itself directly in the head and neck posture of the horse:
- The horse goes behind the bit during the side movements
- He shortens his neck with too much flexion
- The horse goes to deep with the head and neck
- The nose of the horse comes behind the vertical
- He moves ‘downhill’
- The horse gets heavier and heavier in the hand and starts leaning on the rein.
Also the following symptoms may occur:
- He doesn’t want to be ‘on the bit’ during the side movement
- The horses won’t yield anymore on the slightest closing of the hand
- His underneck tightens
- He gets harder and harder in the mouth
- And a variety of other disturbances in the ‘front’ may occurs
Lateral movements with essence
A horse that does the lateral movements with essence:
- Uses his body and hind legs properly
- and will move ‘uphill’
- and lengthen his neck
- and his shoulders are moving freely forward.
So if you have problems in the ‘front’, don’t search for the solution in the mouth, the neck of the head of the horse, but ensure a better use of the hindquarters.
And be careful with riding the ‘names’ of the lateral movements instead of the ‘essences’:
- Don’t ride just a ‘shoulder-in’, but make sure the inside hind leg takes weight, so that the outside shoulder is lifted and gets more freedom.
- Don’t ride just a ‘half-pass’, but make sure both hind legs are stepping under the center of balance, taking the weight, so the horse remains uphill throughout the diagonal and continuous feels light in the front.
So it’s important to use the essence of Straightness Training in all gymnastic exercises.
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