De­vel­op­ing Elas­tic­ity

Is­abell Werth ex­plains how elas­tic­ity and sup­ple­ness al­low your horse to do his job well.

Dressage Today - - Content - BY IS­ABELL WERTH WITH BETH BAUMERT • PHO­TOS BY ARND BRONKHORST

Is­abell Werth ex­plains how elas­tic­ity and sup­ple­ness al­low your horse to do his job well.

W hen I sit on my horse, elas­tic­ity and sup­ple­ness are the key qual­i­ties that make all things pos­si­ble. Sup­ple­ness comes from good rid­ing and elas­tic­ity is the de­vel­op­ment of even more flex­i­bil­ity in the horse’s body that al­lows him to show his qual­ity. When the horse is stiff and strong, it’s not easy for the rider or the horse and it’s not nice-look­ing ei­ther! But when the horse is flex­i­ble and elas­tic, he can do his job well.

First Things First

Rhythm and a good con­nec­tion. The seat and the hands of the rider must be in­de­pen­dent of each other. That is, a rider must be able to sit the rhythm of the horse with­out mov­ing her legs or hands. The move­ment of the whole horse goes di­rectly into the hands of the rider, so when the hands are not in­de­pen­dent, the rein aids dis­turb the mouth and in­ter­rupt the rhythm, mak­ing fine-tun­ing im­pos­si­ble. In or­der to achieve a good con­tact, it is nec­es­sary to ride the horse from be­hind to the front with a quiet hand.

Flex­ion and Bend for Pos­i­tive Con­nec­tion

When­ever I en­ter an arena as

a teacher, I al­ways say, “Come on! In­side leg to out­side rein!” and every­one laughs be­cause it’s al­ways the same story from me. But this is re­ally the key. In what­ever you’re do­ing, you must have the feel­ing that the move­ment goes through the horse from be­hind in a flu­ent way, not in a stiff, run­ninga­gainst-the-bit way. No mat­ter what you’re do­ing, whether in col­lec­tion or stretch­ing or some­thing in between, you must find a way to put the horse in flex­ion, which de­ter­mines the in­side and the out­side of the horse. Then you can ride from the in­side leg to the out­side rein and bend your horse. With­out this abil­ity to flex, bend and sup­ple, the horse is in­clined to run straight against the bit, and he will be stiff. Of course, you need a straight horse, but he must be straight in a sup­ple, flex­i­ble, bend­able way, go­ing flu­ently through a swing­ing back to the bit, and he has to stay in front of you.

When you have this pos­i­tive con­nec­tion from be­hind to the rein with flex­ion and bend, you’re not stop­ping the horse with your hands. With the con­nec­tion between the in­side leg and the out­side rein, you can keep your horse on your seat and what­ever he does in front, he has also al­ready done be­hind. Then you can im­prove the col­lec­tion and the ex­ten­sion. Re­mem­ber: In what­ever frame you want, whether

a lower one or one that is more “up” in col­lec­tion, pay at­ten­tion that you have the pos­i­tive con­nec­tion to the mouth from back to front be­cause then your horse will im­prove his mus­cles in the right way and his at­ti­tude also. Of course, you can’t al­ways have the ideal, but make this your goal.

Tran­si­tions Im­prove the Gaits

When the rider has an in­de­pen­dent seat and hands and the horse has flex­ion and bend, easy tran­si­tions de­velop elas­tic­ity and im­prove the gaits. Lit­tle things can bring about very big changes: trot, can­ter, trot, can­ter, trot, can­ter. Soon you will see how these tran­si­tions im­prove the trot, the can­ter and the con­nec­tion.

It is some­times sur­pris­ing that these tran­si­tions help ev­ery­thing. For ex­am­ple, to do fly­ing changes, the can­ter must have jump. The rider can bring the qual­ity of the can­ter from a 6 to a 7 or from a 7 to an 8 with these tran­si­tions. And the trot will im­prove, too. This is im­prov­ing the ba­sics—the ba­sic qual­ity and the move­ment—by im­prov­ing sup­ple­ness and elas­tic­ity.

Re­mem­ber in these tran­si­tions to keep the in­de­pen­dent seat and hands, keep a good rhythm and a con­nec­tion with flex­ion and bend. Then the en­ergy comes from be­hind and goes for­ward to a pos­i­tive rein con­tact. When you have this, your horse can be elas­tic and do all the ex­er­cises—be­gin­ning with shoul­derin, which is the most ba­sic and im­por- tant of all the col­lected ex­er­cises.

Shoul­der-in and Half Pass

Shoul­der-in is the mother of all lat­eral move­ments. For a young horse, the most im­por­tant things as you know by now, are to have a clear, flu­ent rhythm and the cor­rect flex­ion and bend­ing. It’s im­pos­si­ble for a young horse to have this per­fectly all the time, but that’s the goal. From this ba­sis, you can ride a good

shoul­der-in with the per­fect con­nec­tion between the in­side leg and out­side rein. With con­trol of the flex­ion, the in­side leg brings the horse to this out­side rein and it keeps the con­nec­tion from be­hind to the mouth. The hon­esty of this con­nec­tion keeps the horse in front of you and keeps the shoul­der in front of you.

With the shoul­der-in, you de­velop this free shoul­der, which is nec­es­sary for a good half pass. If you start with a good shoul­der-in, you can do a half pass be­fore long. It’s im­pos­si­ble to al­ways have the con­nec­tion per­fect but when it is, this is how it feels:

When It’s Per­fect

Your horse should have the con­fi­dence to look for the pos­i­tive con­tact with­out com­ing against the rein or the op­po­site—be­com­ing too light, giv­ing you an empty, un­touch­able feel­ing in front. It’s ideal when you feel the horse is car­ry­ing him­self. Then you can keep all the power and the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the qual­ity of the horse un­der your seat, and your horse of­fers a con­stant pos­i­tive con­tact.

He’s balanced in the move­ment, so you can con­trol the col­lec­tion and the ex­ten­sion—and you can es­pe­cially con­trol the tran­si­tions: pi­affe, pas­sage, for­ward, back, turn­ing right or left, what­ever you want. The horse is re­ally un­der your seat.

When he is elas­tic and on your seat with this con­stant pos­i­tive con­tact, you feel like he’s on a glider or on skis that are per­fectly aligned with each other. It’s easy, and in the long term it makes your horse healthy, both men­tally and phys­i­cally.

Whether in col­lec­tion or stretch­ing or some­thing in between, you must es­tabĚKSJ ĝGWKON DGNF CNF ěJG EONNGEěKON HROM ěJG KNSKFG ĚGI ěO ěJG OTěSKFG RGKN

The shoul­der-in en­ables the per­fect con­nec­tion between the in­side leg and out­side rein and it de­vel­ops free­dom of the shoul­der. For that rea­son, it’s con­sid­ered the mother of all lat­eral move­ments.

Free­dom of the shoul­der is nec­es­sary to de­velop a good half pass.

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