In Search of Bal­ance

Dressage Today - - Book Excerpt - Solve your horse’s in­nate prob­lems By Beth Baumert Photos cour­tesy of Trafal­gar Square Books

All horses, de­spite their seem­ingly ef­fort­less beauty in mo­tion, have some in­her­ent bal­ance prob­lems that are both lon­gi­tu­di­nal and lat­eral in na­ture. Lon­gi­tu­di­nally, or from back to front, the horse has a nat­u­ral bal­ance prob­lem sim­ply be­cause his neck pro­trudes from his other­wise ta­ble-like struc­ture; his bal­ance is in­nately on the fore­hand. To counter this is­sue, you need to help the horse build topline mus­cles so he can carry him­self well and move more eas­ily. The horse’s sec­ond lon­gi­tu­di­nal bal­ance is­sue ex­ists be­cause he is a four-legged crea­ture: When left to his own de­vices, he’s al­ways ea­ger to use his front legs and is some­what un­con­scious about his hindquar­ters. This also puts the horse out of bal­ance and onto the fore­hand. Rid­ing half halts and tran­si­tions can help both sit­u­a­tions.

Lat­er­ally, or from left to right, the horse isn’t straight by na­ture. Be­cause his hindquar­ters are wider than his shoul­ders, his nat­u­ral bal­ance is, once again, on the fore­hand. Straight­en­ing the horse is easy in the­ory but some­times dif­fi­cult in prac­tice.

For now, let’s look at the lon­gi­tu­di­nal is­sues. Think of your horse’s hindquar­ters and his fore­hand as his two en­gines—one for push­ing and the other for pulling.

Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Bal­ance

Your horse’s fore­hand en­gine wants to pull your horse along. It’s the pulling en­gine. This en­gine is im­por­tant, but when it does too much pulling, the hind end be­comes like a wagon trail­ing along be­hind a tow ve­hi­cle (see Il­lus­tra­tion A on p. 36). Be­cause your horse naturally wants free­dom of the fore­hand, he prefers to use this front-end en­gine more than his hind en­gine. He doesn’t re­al­ize that overus­ing his fore­hand puts too much weight on it, which ac­tu­ally re­duces his free­dom. As soon as the horse takes a step with the front end with­out bring­ing his hindquar­ters along the same amount, he be­comes a bit long in his frame, hol­low in the back and un­pleas­ant in the hand. The horse needs his rider to ex­plain that real free­dom from im­proved bal­ance comes when he uses his hind end more

and his fore­hand less.

You want your horse’s hind-end en­gine to push your horse along, which cre­ates a con­nec­tion from his hindquar­ters to the bit (see Il­lus­tra­tion B on p. 36). The push­ing en­gine has to cre­ate enough en­ergy to make that con­nec­tion. The en­ergy has to get all the way from the horse’s thrust­ing hind leg through the horse’s topline to his reach­ing poll and to the bit. Then it can lift and free the front end—your ul­ti­mate goal.

The Faux Run­away

As you know, horses don’t in­her­ently know that the way to gain free­dom is by en­er­giz­ing the hindquar­ters rather than the fore­hand. Fresh young horses or hot older horses are a tough test for the

In her book, When Two Spines Align: Dres­sage Dy­nam­ics, trainer, author and Dres­sage To­day tech­ni­cal editor Beth Baumert helps read­ers dis­cover how to use “pos­i­tive ten­sion” and “Pow­er­lines” to be­come bal­anced and ef­fec­tive in the sad­dle. Use of pos­i­tive ten­sion and pow­er­lines al­lows the rider to be strong but still soft. In this ex­cerpted chap­ter of the book, Baumert dis­cusses the in­her­ent bal­ance prob­lems that all horses face and how rid­ers can help over­come th­ese is­sues by bet­ter un­der­stand­ing bal­ance.

This ex­cerpt is used with per­mis­sion from Trafal­gar Square Books. The book and the DVD are avail­able through www. EquineNet­workS­ To learn more, visit dres­sage-dy­nam­

TOP: An­nie Mor­ris rides Welt­dancer in a bal­ance that makes her work easy. ABOVE: By na­ture, the horse’s forelegs are more ea­ger than his hind legs. Un­der sad­dle, the rider does half halts and asks for tran­si­tions that en­cour­age the hind legs to be more re­spon­sive and the fore­hand to wait.

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