Classical Training with a Competitive Edge
In order to create a supple, obedient and balanced horse the rider should have the ability to isolate different parts of the horses body in order to create straightness, impulsion and proper contact.
The most elementary of all lateral movements is the turn on the forehand. It is a prerequisite for all the lateral work that comes later including leg yield, shoulder in, haunches in and half pass. It can be done very early in a horses training after the rider has developed the desire to go forward in the horse. (Always step #1!) It could also be trained in hand before the horse is trained to go under saddle.
Turns on the forehand can be done from a halt or from a walk. I like to start it either on the ground (in hand) or with a ground person to help the horse to understand the concept. Essentially what we want is that the riders leg activates the horses hind leg to yield away from pressure around a relatively stationary front end.
The riders leg should be slightly behind the girth and pulsate on the ribcage of the horse. The moment the horse yields, the aid is removed and the horse rewarded. Eventually the amount of rotation can be increased with the horses level of training.
What I look for, as a trainer, is a deep crossing of the inner hind leg under the body and in front of the opposite hind leg. This exercise works to help loosen the horses hips and gain obedience to the riders inside leg which is required before teaching the horse to bend on the lateral plane.
Common problems occur if the horse only steps in a shallow way without crossing or actually puts the inside hind leg behind the outside. Another common problem is if the shoulder is allowed to fall to the outside. The horse and rider must remain connected on the outer rein and a soft top line with inner poll flexion towards the inner leg should be maintained to gain maximum benefit of the exercise. A bigger problem is if the horse begins to back up. A forward thinking mentality must be maintained and this problem should be corrected immediately by sending the horse forward. If this continues to be a problem, the turn on forehand can be attempted from the walk.
When done properly, the turn on the forehand can help supple the horses hips and also help the horse to gain understanding and obedience to the lateral leg aid which will be needed in further levels of training.
Questins or Comments? Please post here or contact us at ConcordiaDressage@gmail.com
Jenna & Martin
Hello my beautiful friends,
We had a wonderfully inspiring clinic with Charles de Kunffy in the middle of April. Charles is a mentor to both Martin and I and has been the biggest influence on our riding. I think it's really because of Charles that we feel passionate about our mission to carry on the art of classical riding. It is a dying art and the art will only survive if we stay true to the traditions that have been in place for centuries. In this day and age and in this society in particular, we crave instant gratification. We literally have all the knowledge in the world at our fingertips. We waste countless hours on social media "connecting" to other people but in fact we are more disconnected than ever.
I feel so honored to be a part of an artistic and athletic endeavor that has such an incredibly rich history. Classical dressage riding can be dated back as far as 400BC when the Greek general, Xenophon, wrote The Art of Horsemanship. Obviously during the time of Xenophon all the way up through World War One, horses were trained for warfare. It has really been over the last 70 years or so that they have been exclusively trained for sport and for art.
In Charles de Kunffy's book, The Ethics and Passions of Dressage, he describes "The art of riding is a Baroque art. The ideology is based on the Baroque view that the potential of random nature remains unfulfilled until man elevates it by cultivated design to the level of art. The ultimate equestrian goal of developing every horse's genetic potential to the fullest extent is in absolute agreement with the Baroque commitment to elevate nature's creatures to be living monuments of art. Therefore, the "modern rebirth" of the equestrian arts, as well as its last major innovations, rest in the Baroque Age.". He goes on to explain that "We remember that the "finished horse" is born of daily attention to minutia in schooling. Careful consistency, repetition and elaboration are part of that daily work which produce the supple horse....The rider, the "human genius" that refines random nature into an edifice, is the ultimate beneficiary of this art. Provided he understands his horses well, the rider will have created beauty that is the physical aesthetic manifestation of his intellectual understanding and spiritual depth. So can man be elevated by the taming of his horse, through a partnership with him, to become himself the object and subject of his art."
I just love how Charles speaks of the rider becoming the primary beneficiary of his art. By one's communion with the horse, we can grow in character and spirit. Horses become our greatest teachers by allowing us to grow in wisdom, in patience, in empathy and compassion and in perseverance. I believe as spiritual beings, we all have the innate desire to create. Whether you create paintings, poems, sculptures or if your horse is your canvas in which you express yourself, I believe that it is through these creative endeavors that we can connect most to Source/Universe/God. Through love and understanding of the horse, we elevate him to art but during that process we ourselves become the object of edification.
Next time you go out to ride your horse, take a moment and think of all the riders that have come before you over thousands of years. As a rider you have the privilege to participate in this wondrous and majestic art form. It is our responsibility to be custodians to our art. In order for it to survive, we must not be tempted by shortcuts that gain us the instant gratification we desire. We must not sacrifice our compassion and empathy for the horse in order to succeed in competition. We must allow our riding and training to be guided by a deep love of the horse and stay rooted in our classical foundations. This is the only way that riding, as an art, will survive.
Enjoy the ride,