For me, the ultimate goal of classical dressage is a light horse, which is a joy to ride, maneuverable and responsive with a back that carries you, giving you the quarters so you can direct the energy. Balance is key to creating lightness and is interlinked with suppleness. The starting point of all classical dressage training should be to build suppleness and balance both laterally and longitudinally.
It is not possible to collect a horse that is not supple, collection requires the hind legs to flex through all the joints or the leg moves straight and the energy is pushed to the shoulder. This puts weight in the reins and prevents lightness.
Horses start unbalanced, with weight in the shoulder, but with careful work on circles and in shoulder-in, you can start to build the suppleness and balance needed to develop a straight horse. Due to this link between suppleness and balance, your horse will not be straight until a basic level of balance and suppleness has been achieved.
To begin working on suppleness and balance, start working on a circle and encourage inside bend through your position. The inside leg is softly used against the horse’s side so that he gives round the leg. It may help to bring the inside seat bone slightly forward to keep your seat balanced. This bending of the horse’s body will stretch the outside and strengthen the inside. To balance the action of your leg, bring your outside shoulder forward. Don’t bring the inside rein back as this will block the inside hind from coming through.
Do let me know how you get on with the above exercise and make sure you check back next week for more classical dressage tips and training. In the meantime, you can visit me on my Facebook and Twitter accounts for more information about all things classical dressage.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer