The horse is not ready! Seems simple enough, but this is often a phrase we don’t hear enough or we hear in the wrong circumstances.
Can we be critical enough as riders to understand if we aren’t good enough riders to teach the horse or if he just isn’t ready to do it? There is a lot to that question!
Nuno Oliveira said that “Horses are often forced too soon to extend the trot, gesticulating with the front legs with no thought for the necessary thrusting forward of the hind legs, leading to a concave Back.”
This we see a lot, and not necessarily just with young horses. A horse that has never learnt to stretch into the contact will never be able to extend nor will a horse that has not established proper engaged collection.
Extension is about lengthening the frame of the horse, however the prerequisite is that the carrying power from the engagement obtained from collection is released into more pushing power without loss of balance and without restriction in front!
How often do we see this?
Here are two photos. Which is good and which is bad?
What a ridiculous way to analyze dressage. Good and bad! Truth is there are good and bad elements to both, but typically we are trained to see one as bad and one as better.
In the top photo Batialo is not quite engaged enough from the collection. We see that the front legs are reaching out but the back legs are not pushing under and so we see a slight hollowing of the back. However in the top photo his head and neck are in a better position. My arms are also making a straight line to the bit . In the Second photo at the bottom Batialo is a year older and is stronger with better engagement. However he could be more open in the gullet . His nose is behind the vertical line down from the forehead and the highest point of his neck looks almost in the middle compared to top photo.
Plus, I look more like I am holding him up, (see the broken line to the bit).
That being said though we have to take into account the overall tendency, and that is very uphill and expressive.
What can we learn from this? For me it means that in the first photo Batialo wasn’t ready to do extended trot. However in the second photo he was ready but I wasn’t capable of riding it correctly as I didn’t have enough experience riding him, or horses with that sort of power.
This is how we as the dressage community should learn to discuss riders and horses, instead of just pointing out what is good or bad. Even the greatest combinations are constantly searching for perfection. It isn’t static, which is why we must learn to encourage understanding, and congratulate those you seek to find it!
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