Traditional Dressage / articles

Waldemar Seunig: "horsemanship" 


"When the young horse no longer resists the unaccustomed load by cramped tensions, it will swing along freely in its natural posture, in natural balance, and in pure but expressionless timing, its muscles pulsating regularly but without energy.

The dragging hindlegs produce no more thrust than is absolutely necessary to maintain uniform motion. They share the common burden only slightly.

When the rider' leg begins to drive the horse forward actively after this initial stage of unconstraint, making its hind legs push off more forcefully and therefore also engage farther forward, the rhythm of the muscles will become more pronounced and more energetic, flexing and relaxing in time with the movement.

One result of this and of the traction of the neck muscles that maintain the back in its correct arch is the extension of the entire spinal column from croup to poll.

The horse stretches forward to reach for the bit and fills out the rider's seat.

Now the seat carefully burdens the hind legs brought forward by the rider's legs, in order to bend them and drive them forward, thus making them stretch even more energetically and leave the ground with even more spring.

This state, which we call suppleness, already contains the initial elements of collection, for the equestrian poise manifested in this extension requires that the hind legs make their contribution by bearing a larger share of the load. 

Pat Manning teaching 2002

(student of Hans Handler)

To do this their steps must become longer, livelier, and more elastic, and they must pass by each other much more closely.

In a word, their steps must manifest impulsion.

The extension of the horse's spinal column and its stretching out to reach the bit (caused by the elastic flexing and relaxing of the motor muscles, with the hands now accepting and passively sustaining the weight placed on them) changes the hitherto "loose" posture.

The horse comes to the bit and accepts it, the forehand growing out of the withers, because part of its excess load has been relieved by the co-operation of the hindquarters and the back.

Once this vigorous step is assured in a state of suppleness, the rider can begin to employ his forward-driving seat control to collect his horse, driving with the small of his back, passively sustaining with his hands the increased impulsion that the seat has contributed to them and - after the resultant yielding of the horse - making sure that this impulsion persists and can be converted into engagement and collection.

The line from hand to mouth has grown shorter as a result of the lifting of the neck and the yielding of the cervical spinal column, a condition that the rider must allow for by shortening the reins.

More to come