From the Horse’s Point of View

Dressage Today - - Clinic -

H orses don’t have a rea­son to care if they are en­gaged and they don’t see a rea­son for in­creas­ing the bend. They don’t try to be bad, but it’s nat­u­ral for them to take the eas­i­est path and try to re­move the dif­fi­culty by lean­ing one way or the other.

Even the best-trained horse in the world doesn’t do a qual­ity shoul­derin au­to­mat­i­cally. The best-trained horse an­swers the aids sen­si­tively and with sup­ple­ness, but he doesn’t do it by him­self. Even if you have in­de­pen­dent aids, swing­ing hips, elas­tic­ity and all the other things that make you an ex­cep­tion­ally skilled dres­sage rider, you’ll still have a horse that wants to take the path of least re­sis­tance, such as get­ting shorter and quicker, running through the hand or fall­ing left or right. The horse will take the eas­ier path un­til the rider is able to di­rect the en­ergy the way she wants it.

My anal­ogy is this: Wa­ter is al­ways go­ing to flow around a rock in a stream un­less there’s a lit­tle dam to make the wa­ter go over the rock. I think of the wa­ter as your horse’s en­ergy and the rock as your horse’s withers. The en­ergy will al­ways fall to the left or the right of your horse’s withers—more on one shoul­der or the other—in­stead of go­ing straight over and through the topline. Your aids need to cre­ate the lit­tle dam that sends the en­ergy straight through your horse’s topline.

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