Impulsion & Schwung
In longeing, we strive for “impulsion". Now impulsion isn’t about moving “fast", but about moving “forward". "Forward" means, our horse is moving with forward swinging hind legs, and all four legs are moving forward in the direction of movement. Impulsion also doesn't mean moving with a strong "push" against the center of mass having the weight shift towards the front legs. Instead, it's moving with engaged hindquarters that swing forwardunder the body and support the center of mass. So how do we create impulsion?

Creating schwung

Now to create impulsion, our horse not only needs engaged hind legs, but also a supple back and swinging spine.
The Germans use the wonderful term “schwung”, which is moving with a swinging back and a spring in the step. So it's about creating energy and activity in behind, allowing the power to come through from behind, and converting that into dynamic, lively forward movement and free moving shoulders in front.

LFS is key

To create impulsion and “schwung” in longeing, we need a proper LFS:
  • L means the lateral bending in the body: to allow the inside hind leg to swing under the center of mass, our horse needs to bend in his body.
  • S means stepping under: with a proper L, our horse can step through from behind really bringing his hind legs underneath his body and center of mass.
  • means forward down: to lengthen the stride, our horse’s frame has to lengthen. So we must allow the head and neck to lengthen and lower. With this forward down tendency of head and neck and stretch of the topline, we can achieve maximum extension of the hip joint and therefore maximum stepping under.
As a result of a proper LFS, the energy that comes from the engaged hind legs will travel through a relaxed, elastic, supple, swinging back, and this way we achieve the “schwung”. Then, when our horse is working with impulsion on the longe line, he will move powerfully and energetically forward.

Wind in the Sails & Arrow in a Bow

So there's this process going on:
  1. energy that starts and comes from behind,
  2. that goes through the body,
  3. and arrives in front.
When can canalize this energy in front with little half halts, and that's like adjusting the sails to the wind. As a result, our horse will move in a connected shape, with a raised back, strong core, and the nose slightly in front of the vertical, as an arrow in a bow. With this athletic ability, our horse can move energetically and powerfully forward with elastic, light and expressive steps.

Benefits of the canter

Now the more schwung and the greater the impulsion, the longer the moment of suspension in the movement.

Especially the canter will help to improve the impulsion in trot because the canter is an activating gait. So it’s always fascinating to see what the canter ‘gives’ to the trot and how the trot 'benefits' from the canter, and how stretched the strides can become.

Check also this link for more information about the 'arrow in a bow' and 'wind in the sails' concepts >>

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