If we would like to ride a horse we should be aware of his natural asymmetry. The natural imbalance is one of the dimensions of natural asymmetry:
In a state of rest, due to the significant excess of weight of head and neck, the fragile front legs carry a much heavier load the the hind legs. This is called the natural balance of the horse.
Nature has equipped the hind quarters not only with greater strength in the skeleton, but also with very powerful muscles. It’s therefore healthier for a horse to carry his own body and the rider’s weight mostly with the flexible hind legs rather than with the fragile front legs. This is called the riding balance of the horse.
So when we would like to ride a horse it’s important:
- to give attention to working the hind legs
- to displace the horse’s center of gravity from the shoulders to the haunches.
- to develop the riding balance of the horse, where the horse carries more weight with the hind legs than the fore legs.
To do this we use a system of stages of ever-increasing exercises.
System of stages of ever-increasing exercises
In the arena we do horse gymnastiscs where we develop the horse’s muscles structure and riding balance through a system of stages of ever-increasing exercises that follow one another in a logical sequence:
On the circle the horse learns to bend his body from head to tail, with his head and neck in a forward-down position and an inside hind leg stepping towards the center of gravity. After the bending work on curved lines and on one track, we introduce the lateral work on two tracks on curved and straight lines:
First we introduce the exercise shoulder-in for the further development of the horse’s flexibility in body and limbs. The shoulder-in brings the inside hind leg forward under the belly and the horse learns to carry himself with this hind leg and to bend the inside hind leg underneath himself.
The exercise haunches-in can evolve as the result of a well established shoulder-in. In haunches-in, the horse learns to make his outside hind leg step under the body of the horse and to bend the outside hind leg underneath himself.
The renvers, half pass and pirouette are variants of the haunches-in with increasing difficulty. In renvers the wall is on the other side of the horse and half-pass is a haunches-in across the diagonal of the arena, where no wall is involved. The pirouette is a haunches-in on a circle.
Lateral movements make both hind legs flexible individually and contribute significantly to perfecting the horse’s riding balance, They enable the rider to engage and collect the horse more and more. As a result the horse gets stronger and stronger which allows the rider to require greater, simultaneous flexion of both haunches:
In piaffe the horse has increased flexion of both haunches and they alternate in picking up and carrying the weight. The hind legs are still lightly supported in this work by the front legs, although the hind legs have to perform the major portion of the work.
The levade originates from the piaffe: If the croupe lowers more and more in the piaffe, the joints are flexed greatly and the center of gravity drops back more and more. If the croupe is lowered completely, the center of gravity drops back far enough, that the horse is able to balance the entire load of horse and rider completely on his hind legs.
So the levade is not just a fancy randomly picked trick, but arises naturally when the horse is strong enough and when both haunches are able to carry all of the weight completely simultaneously. It’s also not an end result, because here the art begins: the levade is the connection between the exercises on the ground and the high school.
Personal fitness trainer of your horse
In this system of stages of ever-increasing exercises the rider is the personal fitness trainer of his horse. And here is important to think first and act later: When training horses it’s very important to know the ‘why’ of every exercise and to know the connection between exercises en when performing these exercises the essence must be well observed, to make sure we don’t ride only the ‘names’ as if it were isolated tricks.
The entire training of the horse, his ‘schooling’, is a logically ordered system of horse gymnastics. All exercises have its essence and are related and follow one another in a logical sequence. By showing increasing strength and ease the horse will let us know when he is ready for the next step.
By the addition of the next exercise all previous exercises will improve. So the exercises are not isolated, but are related and support each other and give benefits to each other.
The particular talent or weakness of a horse may permit deviations in the sequence of the exercises, or may often even demand such deviations. It’s the task of the ‘fitness’ trainer to determine the specific sequence suitable for each individual horse.
And as his fitness trainer you have to know: Horse training is not a ‘quick fix’ rather it’s a multi-year plan. The horse requires long and careful exercising of the individual parts of his body and of his mental capabilities before he is able to move his body in all directions easily and gracefully.
Mental coach of your horse
The aim of this system of exercises is not only to develop the natural forces and capabilities of the horse to perfection through gradual and appropriate exercises, but also to develop his mental capabilities.
In the long, intimate relationshipwith his ‘fitness trainer’, the horse becomes infinitely intelligent, because he has so much to learn and is continuously asked to observe the lightest hint from the trainer.
If you not only focus on the body, but also on the mind, and allow the horse to learn and to digest the exercises in his brain and allow him to do the exercises willingly and not make him do it, then your horse exercises his mental powers together with his physical ones. And in that case he becomes more attached toward you as his trainer to the same degree that he increases in skillfulness in his lessons.
Once training has been completed, the horse performs his lessons, from the circle to the levade, with a type of happy and proud self-confidence.