What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Be clear on what is straightness
- Understanding how your aids are a mould
- Knowing why you have to regulate where the energy is flowing
- Notice when things are crooked
If I were to stand in the arena, and you were to ride directly towards me – how straight would you and your horse be? And how well could you maintain that straightness? Be honest!
Before we even get into the straightness it is important to stress the fact that, in order for your horse to be straight, there must be energy happening inside of his body. Often riders try to work on straightness, but there is just no energy happening!
If you look at the traditional Training Scale, impulsion comes before straightness. Phew – that being said, let’s crack on with today’s topic…
What is Straightness?
If we were in an arena together and you were to ride towards me, I would assess straightness just like this. I would look for your horse’s two legs on the left side of his body and the two legs on the right side of his body to be travelling on two separate tracks, that are running parallel with each other. Train tracks. It’s that simple.
Your horse must not deviate from those two parallel tracks. Simply put; he must not ‘derail’.
How could he derail? He could go crooked by winding and bending. He could ‘wander’ a little. However one of the biggest issues riders face is that the shoulders or hind quarters tend to shift off the track. The horse really and truly derails ‘just a little bit’!
Bringing it back to us in the arena together, let’s pretend I am standing in front of you (being all brave!). You are riding towards me. I should not be able to see your horses hind legs, because technically they should be behind the front legs (this is an example and of course confirmation etc will not make it literal!).
So, if your horse were to deviate off the tracks, I would then be able to see the hind legs (from the front), or the front legs (from the back). If I can see this, your horse is no longer working on parallel tracks, but rather three or four different tracks – which dissipates energy.
Todays episode is all about working on the two parallel train tracks with your horse in basic riding and schooling.
Your Aids are a Mould
I said earlier that for straightness to be true, there needs to be energy coming into the channel that you and your horse are creating.
Rather than ‘channelling’ energy, think about your aids being a mould – and any and all energy that is created in the hind quarters has to fill this mould.
When that mould is filled, the physical representation of it is that your horse is riding straight. If your horse is crooked, it is usually because your mould is, somehow, crooked.
Sometimes horses can develop where they are a little bit stronger on one side than on the other. This can be due to a lot of different factors – perhaps an injury. But it could also be the rider being an influence.
But usually, if given the opportunity, the correctly schooled horse will go straight – until the rider steps in the way and gets the mould a little wrong.
Think about how maybe you are sitting more one side more than the other. In doing so, your mould is not symmetrical. Maybe your one hand has dipped down; maybe your one hand has opened more; maybe you have more tension in one seat bone more than the other; maybe your shoulders are tipped slightly; or maybe your one shoulder is travelling ahead of the other.
By thinking about this mould in the context of any crookedness showing up in your horse, it sometimes becomes easier to identify how you are possibly negatively influencing your horses straightness.
Sometimes It is Not the Rider
That all being said, sometimes it can be that the horse has developed physically in a way that he is stronger one side that the other. This causes him to become uneven as he pushes forward. He is basically covering more ground one side than the other, which is causing him to be crooked.
In this case you, the rider, may be straight and your mould is indeed true and perfect. The the simple fact that there is more energy coming into your mould on one side than the other, is causing the mould to bulge.
So, there are two ways we must consider this. First, that we are setting up the mould correctly. Secondly, that if we are sure that our mould is symmetrical and even, we need to consider that there is more energy coming in one side than on the other, that could be causing the crookedness.
You Have to Regulate Where the Energy is Flowing
As a rider, you need to begin thinking about regulating energy, and where this energy flows. Very often when we talk about regulating the energy and energy flow, we can take it back to contact and connection. This is how you are communicating with your horse at any given point.
When you couple your connection or communication with straightness; this is where you get the horse to go where you want him to go
Let’s assume that you have straightened yourself out. Sometimes, a horse is perhaps a little bit stronger on one side than the other. You may see this with a horse that tends to travel one way, the wrong way, over the other, the right way! For them, it feels uncomfortable to do anything else.
This is a good indicator of where you need to start regulating things. Start simple. Sprinkle little adjustments and exercises in to the regular work.
Make it easy by doing things that your horse can easily do and perhaps enjoys doing – and then sprinkling the more difficult exercises or movements in between
One way you could do this is working on a slight incline. It is very difficult for a horse to have unequal thrust going up a hill. By your regulating where that energy is flowing, and all the time making sure that your mould is perfect, your horse is going to begin working straight.
Also, bear in mind that because he has travelled a certain way for a while, it is going to be uncomfortable for him to travel a different way. Even if this ‘new’ way is the correct way.
Don’t push it. Slow and steady is going to win the race when it comes to true straightness
Noticing When Things are Crooked
For many riders, issues with straightness will show up in the canter. If this is the case, I would suggest rather going back to basics; transitions between walk and trot and halt. You will notice a lot there.
Notice where there deviations away from the straightness with your horse. Think about why this could be happening, and then begin to formulate a plan
But remember, you must be the mould. The energy must come through to fill your mould, and if your mould is not symmetrical and equal, well your horse is not going to be either.
Links mentioned in the episode:-
WHAT IS YOUR SEAT TELLING YOUR HORSE? FREEBIE
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