Equestrian Coaching

  Hilary French on Elvis

The inter-relationship of the scales of training -Durchlassigkeit 

Durchlassigkeit is variously known as submissiveness and responsiveness or letting the aids through. It is the flow of energy through the horse from front to back and back to front. The musculature of the horse is connected, supple, elastic, and unblocked, and the rider’s aids go freely through the horse.

The German term Durchlassigkeit literally means to allow a constant flow through a membrane (permeability) but in this context it means that the horse is prepared to accept the rider’s aids obediently and without tension. The horse should accept the driving aids immediately without hesitation, with the hind legs actively swinging through to create forwards thrust. At the same time the rein aid should be allowed to pass through the horses body via the poll neck and back to the hindquarters without being blocked by tension.

The horse can thus be said to be through when it remains loose and responds obediently and equally on both reins to the driving, restraining and sideways acting aids. The highest level of durchlassigkeit is seen when the horse can be collected in all three gaits at any time.

Kim On Late O'Leary - Winter Championships  

Understanding the movements-rein back 

The rein back is designed to test and develop the suppleness and submission of the horse and the ability of the horse to “let the aids through”. In addition, by making the joints of the hind legs and quarters bend more, it helps to develop collection. Many people are cautious about using rein back as they fear it may become an evasion for the horse, but correctly done it is quite taxing so not an easy option for the horse.

The horse steps back in clearly defined diagonal (2 time) steps, calmly, the rider able to control each step in a straight line. The feet should be picked up cleanly, never dragged along the surface, and the strides should be of equal length. Whilst, at the start of training the number of steps is not important, as the horse progresses the rider will wish to finish the steps with the horse in halt which will require the horse to take a half step (which counts as a full step in a dressage test) to finish standing square.

Before starting the rein back the horse should be standing straight and preferably square, well “on the aids” with weight distributed evenly .if a square halt is not achieved then , at the early stages it is important for the rider to be aware which of the horse’s legs are where so that they can adjust their aids as necessary. The rider firstly uses their weight and legs as if to send the horse forwards then slightly lightens the seat without leaning forwards. Next the rider takes the legs slightly further behind the girth to prevent the horse moving his quarters sideways, As the horse responds and makes as if to step forwards, the rider feels on the reins- slightly more pressure should be placed firstly on one leg & the opposite hand and then the opposite way so that diagonal aids are used to regulate the rhythm. As the horse responds the rider should slightly lighten the asking hand without causing the horse to swing the head from side to side

If the horse steps towards one side then the rider should check their aids to make sure one is not stronger than the others. If the horse starts to rush backwards then the rider should sit tall and push their coccyx into the saddle - kicking the horse will only make the horse rush back more quickly. As the Horse becomes more supple then the rider can use the schaukel (swing) where the horse takes 4 steps back, followed by 3 steps forwards and then, without halting, 3 steps back. This is an excellent suppling and collecting exercise

(by kind permission of Ian Barr Images- see links)

 Understanding the priorities for Lateral work(Mar/Apl 11) Apr 19 With all of the lateral movements (excluding leg yielding), the target is to supple the quarters, improve the lateral bend and to increase the responsiveness to the aids. They are the main steps towards freedom of the shoulder and developing collection and improving the balance. The propulsive power of the quarters is decreased but the carrying power is increased and a common problem will occur if the forwards driving power of the horse is not sufficient before the exercise begins. 

It is important that the rider maintains his weight on the inside seat bone in lateral work as there is a tendency for that weight to slip to the outside, In addition the rider should also ensure that their hands are following the direction of travel and that the inside hand does not go against the direction of travel and most importantly that the inside hand does not cross over the withers towards the outside of the horse. In all of the lateral work, the rider must also ensure that their shoulders remain parallel to the horse’s shoulders and that their hips also remain parallel to the horse’s hips. The rider therefore mirrors the movement in the body of the horse. It is also important that there is not too great a bend at the base of the horse’s neck as this will cause a loss of rhythm and balance and a loss of security in the neck. All of the lateral movements are ridden in Collected trot but riding the movements in walk can help to familiarize the horse and rider with the aids and the feel of the movement. As the horse cannot cross the hindlegs in the canter then lateral work is ridden as a suppling exercise and with a slightly different thought compared to the trot work.. The rider must always ensure that the pace is ridden with the same rhythm and swing through the body as when riding on one track. If impulsion or quality of pace is lost then the rider needs to spend more time developing the suppleness both laterally on through the frame with good suppleness at the poll and with the horse already working in enough self carriage to maintain rhythm in the basic work. It is important to build up the lateral work gradually and at the beginning of training one or two steps is sufficient. The rider should always ensure that the quality of the pace after the movement is at least as good, but preferably better than before the movement. As the rider and horse are able to maintain the lateral work for longer periods then the rider should also use the medium paces to check that the horse is developing more ground cover and energy from the lateral work. If this does not happen then it is important to go back to the basic work and make improvements to the suppleness, connection and impulsion.

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Rona Willicott of Sound Schooling with Flynn

Goal of the Month: Still v Moving Images

 Many riders now make use of video technology to be able to assess how they and their horse are progressing. This is a valuable tool and it is helpful to use this facility on a regular basis so that you can review your progress and see the same view of you and your horse as a judge does. Remember to take the videos from different places around the arena- look at your centre lines, the medium trot and lateral works looks from the both the short and long sides. This is particularly important when you are designing your dressage to Music choreography, as at Regional and National competitions there is usually a judge sitting at B or E However it is important not to forget the value of still photographs. Digital photography means that it is both cheap and easy to take hundreds of photographs that you can view on your PC screen. Most of these photographs are not necessarily ones that you will want to keep, however they can very often show some of the less flattering issues that surround your work. It is very hard to take a good still photograph as it seems to highlight any small (or large!) shortcomings that need to be addressed. Take a good look at the photos- how secure and correct is your position? Does the contact stay supple and through the body? Does the horse step consistently under his body with a lowered croup? Beware that you do not become disheartened by the photographs- as I said earlier it is much easier to take a poor still shot than a good one but use them to give you some areas to develop further