Impulsion is not just the energy required to move a horse, nor is it having a horse going round the school as fast as it can, (that just creates a tired horse), so I am starting this blog with a quote from Nuno Oliveira,
“Impulsion means to maintain the energy within the cadence.”
Impulsion is often misunderstood by riders, in dressage it can be your greatest friend or your greatest enemy. Too much energy at the wrong time unbalances and makes the horse heavy in the shoulder. Whereas insufficient energy makes the horse flat and unable to perform the movement you are asking. The right energy at the right time gives a freedom, mobility and lightness to a horse, linking to self-carriage.
Impulsion is not a one size fits all, different horses need different levels of impulsion at different times, and it is the skilled rider who knows how much to ask and when. Good impulsion exists when you have a straight horse, supple and balanced with his hind leg travelling straight under his body, the impulsion directs the horse forward and up, lightening the forehand. When the horse has impulsion it is the rider who directs it either upwards to give a collected step, or forwards for a more extended step.
With young horses don’t ask too much too soon, begin by asking for a very little lengthening and collecting in trot, in balance, on the long side of the school, retaining the energy from the lengthened steps to the collected steps. As the horse develops his strength and suppleness so the balance improves and the impulsion increases.
And a final though on impulsion; don’t ride with more energy than you or your horse and cope with.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer