Friday, October 8, 2010

Say what?

Here are a couple puzzling excerpts from Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen's article "Clarity & Speed Control" in the latest Dressage Today:

When I was a Pony Club rider, they taught me that when you slow down you should also use your leg, however, in a car, you don't give gas and brake at the same time, and I think it should be the same with your horse. To slow down, don't use leg.

And then a bit later:

To shorten the stride, I use my hands and no leg.

I have to wonder if that's really what she meant to say. Maybe the article is a translation, and the translation didn't quite convey what she meant? Because isn't slowing down your horse by using all hand and no leg the epitome of riding front to back? Slowing down is nothing more than a series of half halts, and my feeling is half halts should never consist of only hand. Of course you don't apply hand and leg at exactly the same time, but you certainly do balance any restraint in front with the creation of activity behind via the seat and leg. Cornelissen is a Dutch Olympian--obviously no slouch--so I suspect if she were asked to eloborate on these comments the takeaway might be a little more complicated than the excerpts above. I will be perusing future letters columns to see if any other DT readers had the same reaction I did. What do you all think?


Mare said...

Um what??? Your Legs are as big a part of stopping as they are of going! Hopefully what she really meant was just lost in translation! (Though with her analogy, it doesn't look like it..)

horseypants said...

I thought slowing down was all about holding with your core muscles--in other words, not moving with the horse. Never thought of it in terms of a series of half-halts. That is actually a cool idea.

Maybe this is a timing issue. I mean, there has to be some point where you stop using your legs, just to release the pressure and let the horse know he did what you asked.

Anonymous said...

"Another essential aspect of correct trainig is that only one response should be trained at any one time...go and stop signals should never be issued simultaneously. As the horse's training consolidates, the two signals can be issued closer together, but never at the same time." - p51-52 of The Truth About Horses by Andrew McLean, Phd

"Stop and go are opposing responses, so applying rein and leg signals together (in horses that are unable to habituate to mouth discomfort) can result in conflict behaviour. Even those that habituate end up with heavy responses and rein contact; riders assume this to be normal. Go and stop conflicts frequently present as rearing, bucking, shying, bolting, separation anxiety, fence walking and even self mutilation. These conflicts are also seen in lungeing when side reins constrain the horse's head so that the face plane is vertical or behind the vertical" - page 142 of the Truth About Horses

I think the above is more what Adelinde Cornelissen is referring to, however she somewhat contradicts herself by employing rollkur, which involves the application of a strong stop aid in conjunction with a strong go aid. Apparently Edward Gal also uses rollkur, which I find disappointing to say the least if it is true! Anti-rollkur campaigner Dr Gerd Heuschmann has written a book entitled Tug of War that goes into detail about the harm that excessive flexion causes - though I should note that the author has himself been criticised for his riding! (

Her elimination from WEG was unfortunate - from all accounts, the horse bit it's tongue and it was a very slight injury that had stopped bleeding by the time it was examined. However, the judges were simply applying the FEI rules and would have been at fault if they had done otherwise.