Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: Driving Your Horse Forward

Driving Your Horse Forward

My husband, Wolfgang, would always say, "you can't ride until you can drive!" Forwardness and impulsion are most definitely not running a horse off its feet! Doing so just confirms that the horse is on the forehand and running through the bridle, often with a shorter, quicker stride. The rider must then pull the horse around corners and curves and into transitions.

The rider must be sure that half-halts actually come through and reach the hind fetlock, causing the horse to shift its weight back, hesitate for a moment, and wait for the rider to push it forward in the desired direction or transition, tempo, and frame. This method also ensures that the rider "gets" the horse in the corner (Wolfgang also said, "Corners are our friends!", but that's another subject), can push the horse into an actual lengthening (rather than speeding up), and can accomplish clear, balanced transitions between and within gaits and movements.

Being able to drive the horse forward is also indispensable when dealing with disobedience. The rider must be able to correct everything forward. Usually the rider's instinct is to stop the disobedience with the hands, which tends to get the horse "behind the leg". Doing so just creates another set of problems. The seat and leg aids should actually precede the hands. The idea is to always ride the horse from back to front no matter what the horse does momentarily. This consistency in the rider's aids is not lost on the horse, which can only help the progress of training.

Our goal is self-carriage, which implies that other criteria have been met, such as "throughness" and balance. This is the point at which "driving your horse forward" can create true impulsion instead of running.

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