Dressage Today - - Content - by Su­sanne von Di­etze

Su­sanne von Di­etze cri­tiques rider pho­tos.

Su­sanne von Di­etze is a leader in eques­trian biome­chan­ics. A phys­io­ther­a­pist, li­censed Trainer A in­struc­tor and judge for dres­sage and show jump­ing, she gives lec­tures and sem­i­nars through­out the world, in­clud­ing at the pres­ti­gious Ger­man Rid­ing Academy in Waren­dorf. She is a na­tive of Ger­many and now lives with her hus­band and three chil­dren in Is­rael, where she com­petes at the in­ter­na­tional level. She is the author of two books on the biome­chan­ics of rid­ing: Bal­ance in Move­ment and Rider and Horse, Back to Back. Find her books at www.EquineNet­workS­

Shift Bal­ance to En­cour­age Self-Car­riage

This photo shows Cristina Kayvon-Pierce com­pet­ing at First Level on her 17hand Trakehner geld­ing, Bal­ti­more. This horse shows a nice frame for a First Level test. He ap­pears to work with a will­ing and for­ward at­ti­tude. This for­ward at­ti­tude, how­ever, is balanced a bit too much on the fore­hand.

If you look care­fully at the pic­ture, you’ll see that his hind legs are not step­ping far enough un­der his rider’s weight. If you were to draw a ver­ti­cal line up from his hooves, you would no­tice that the hind leg is be­hind the rider and the near front leg is well un­der the rider. This sig­nals that Bal­ti­more is push­ing off his hind legs too much. No­tice that his rear hind leg is lift­ing off the ground a bit higher and faster than the front leg.

To im­prove this, Cristina needs to help Bal­ti­more to lift his chest and shoul­ders into a bet­ter self-car­riage.

Cristina’s seat shows a light for­ward po­si­tion and she is most likely per­form­ing ris­ing trot. Her bal­ance line looks cor­rect with her head over her feet, but I do no­tice some un­wanted ten­sion. Her heels are pulled up, which then pushes her knee up and moves her hips to­ward the back of the sad­dle. This causes some ten­sion in her shoul­ders, neck and arms.

Her arm and hand po­si­tion look cor­rect, but it looks to me as if Bal­ti­more is lean­ing a bit into the con­tact. This con­nects to the larger pic­ture of the en­ergy line go­ing a bit down­hill.

In a les­son, I would ad­vise Cristina to pic­ture the ris­ing trot move­ment as a wave mov­ing for­ward up and for­ward down, so that her sit­ting-down move­ment is a for­ward move­ment in her pelvis. Then it will be eas­ier for her to keep her up­per body more up­right and her legs longer with a deep heel. To get a bet­ter feel for this she can try this: While your horse is walk­ing, stand up in your stir­rups with your up­per body as ver­ti­cal as pos­si­ble. If you need help, you can use one hand to push off the back of the sad­dle. You can then feel how a long leg al­lows your hips to swing for­ward, whereas

a short leg (with an­kle pulled up) will block for­ward move­ment in your pelvis.

With this small but ef­fec­tive cor­rec­tion in Cristina’s seat, she will gain more core sta­bil­ity and she might find that this alone will help Bal­ti­more change his bal­ance and lift his shoul­ders more. He does not look un­will­ing to do so.

Then, Cristina should ride many tran­si­tions and half halts and con­cen­trate on the most im­por­tant thing: giv­ing to com­plete the half halt. The Ger­man term Über­stre­ichen, where both hands push slightly for­ward re­leas­ing the con­tact com­pletely for a few strides, will help the horse un­der­stand that he can­not lean on the con­tact but in­stead needs to pro­vide more self-car­riage.

It might be a chal­lenge for Cristina to ride such a tall horse, but re­mem­ber that cor­rect up­per-body bal­ance can be more ef­fec­tive than long legs. I know rid­ers who ride with­out legs com­pletely and their horses step nicely and will­ingly un­der the weight.

I am pos­i­tive that Cristina and Bal­ti­more can achieve more light­ness and up­hill ten­dency in their move­ment and en­joy many fur­ther ad­ven­tures ex­plor­ing the world of dres­sage.

Cristina Kayvon-Pierce com­petes at First Level on her Trakehner geld­ing, Bal­ti­more.

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