Tips from Train­ers Who Teach

Dressage Today - - Content - By Ana Gil­mour with An­nie Mor­ris

Ana Gil­mour ex­plains how to tune your rid­ing po­si­tion to spark your horse’s for­ward de­sire.

To un­der­stand what it means to have the horse “in front of the leg,” imag­ine driv­ing an au­to­matic car. You shift into drive and when your foot is nei­ther on the gas nor the brake the car rolls for­ward. A horse is in front of the leg when he is think­ing for­ward and trav­el­ing for­ward of his own ac­cord. Some cars are set to a high idle while oth­ers have a lower idle. Sim­i­larly, some horses are more nat­u­rally for­ward while oth­ers need a lit­tle more en­cour­age­ment from the rider.

In Front of the Leg

When a horse is in front of the leg, he feels as if he is tak­ing the rider some­where as op­posed to the rider mak­ing him go some­where. The rider’s leg is quiet, her seat is sup­ple and swing­ing with the horse’s back and the horse is push­ing from be­hind into the con­tact. I know my horse is in front of my leg when I can sit re­laxed through my hips, drape my lower legs on his sides and fol­low his move­ment with­out a driv­ing ef­fort. When I ap­ply slight leg pres­sure, he has an im­me­di­ate and ap­pro­pri­ate re­ac­tion. This is im­por­tant be­cause when you ride a move­ment, your leg aids can then in­flu­ence the im­pul­sion, which is the horse’s abil­ity to thrust from be­hind. In­stead of us­ing the leg just to go, when the horse is in front of the leg you have the flex­i­bil­ity to ask him to move more for­ward, more side­ways, more up­ward or to swing more dur­ing the ex­er­cise. This al­lows you to make the gaits and the essence of the move­ment more elas­tic and ex­pres­sive.

The qual­i­ties of be­ing through and in front of the rider’s leg go hand in hand. Through­ness is when the rider’s com­mands can in­flu­ence the horse freely through his body be­cause of an ab­sence of re­sis­tance. The horse must have a de­gree of through­ness to main­tain a sup­ple topline and al­low him to be in front of the leg. If there is re­sis­tance in the horse’s body, then he is not through and can­not be in front of the leg. Make sure you can con­sis­tently main­tain a steady rhythm and tempo (note that be­ing in front of the leg does not mean go­ing as fast as pos­si­ble), sup­ple­ness and re­lax­ation. Then the horse is soft and elas­tic with a con­nec­tion from back to front and he can be re­spon­sive to sub­tle sug­ges­tions from the rider.

rider Pre­req­ui­sites

Rider po­si­tion is key to putting the horse in front of the leg. You must be in a po­si­tion where your ear, shoul­der, hip and heel are all aligned ver­ti­cally. The rider’s seat should be sup­ple and re­laxed with legs draped just be­hind the girth.

To get the horse in front of your leg, use a sys­tem­atic ap­proach with your driv­ing aids and be con­sis­tent—ask with the same aid for the same re­sponse ev­ery time. Keep your seat loose when you use the leg. I say, “re­lease your hip” be­cause this gives my stu­dents a good vis­ual. Now, let’s use the aid for walk to trot as an ex­am­ple. Be­gin in the medium walk. •Ap­ply pres­sure with the up­per calf area

of both legs mo­men­tar­ily. •Im­me­di­ately re­lease and soften the pres­sure. The horse should make a tran­si­tion to trot right away. •If the horse did not re­spond make a

cor­rec­tion im­me­di­ately by giv­ing a

Vale­gro and Char­lotte Du­jardin show what it means to be in front of the leg. uhe horse al­ways looked as if he were tak­ing the rider some­where as op­posed to the rider mak­ing him go some­where.

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