Video: Collection And Straightening
Real dressage only begins when the horse has been trained to obey prompts by previous training. A detailed description of this work is beyond the scope of this book. But its organization and purpose must be known to every rider. Anyone who is not clear about the goal will not be able to distinguish between right and wrong paths.
Dressage fosters obedience to the horse, increases its performance and maneuverability. The path leads through the elaboration of individual tasks to complete harmony between rider and horse. Over time, the rider will learn to sit firmly and correctly in the saddle, and the horse will obey his promises and move at a steady pace that is more and more exciting in space. This will confirm the correct work of the rider and coach.
The higher the demands the rider places on the horse, the more often he changes the pace and direction of its movement, the more importance he attaches to the work of the horse's hind legs, capable of developing greater strength. But the center of gravity of the horse and rider is closer to the front legs than to the hind legs. Therefore, as expected, the front legs do more load-bearing work, and the rear legs do pushing work. In racehorses and jumping horses, the brunt of the forelegs falls, just as in horses working in the field.
In sports horses, especially when it comes to performing exercises of the higher school of riding, the hind and front legs bear the weight of the rider and the horse itself, so the hind legs are, as it were, moved closer to the center of gravity. This is called hind limb engagement. The principle of bringing the hind limbs is shown in the figures, looking at which it is clear that the hind legs move more under the center of gravity until in the levada all the weight is transferred to them. (Levada is a term introduced into use in Spain and France in the 16th-17th centuries, denoting a peculiar position of a horse raised by a rider on its hind legs for the most successful self-defense of a cavalryman in a single equestrian battle).
This is partly achieved by lesson work, which serves only this purpose: hip flexion, sideways movement and, above all, with the shoulder inward; in part, this is the result of all the work with the horse, each individual settling.
Gradually, the hind limbs bend more vigorously and move forward. The horse itself becomes not only more attentive, but also acquires a more beautiful and proud look. That is why artists, depicting a horse, preferred this position. Especially memorable are the frieze of the Parthenon, the altar in Pergamum, as well as the equestrian statue of Prince Eugen in the palace castle in Vienna; the Spanish painter Velazquez and the Frenchman David, depicting Napoleon, preferred levada.
From the summation of the hind limbs, unloading and straightening of the front ones follow in itself.The front legs now rise higher and take up less space (comparative extension). At the same time, the rider can actively help with the reins (absolute straightening), energetically sending the horse with the influence of the lumbosacral region and legs, moving the center of gravity closer to the hind legs. It is important that the rider does not forget about the promises, otherwise the natural consequence will be a downward bending of the horse's back. Correct head posture refers to the bending of the neck that occurs in a horse trained to obey prompts. Therefore, no special lessons are required for the correct head position. If the rider tries to force this process, the horse may learn to move on the bit, behind the reins, or an irregular fracture will form behind the third cervical vertebra.
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When bringing up the hind limbs, as well as during training to obey the messages, it is a question of avoiding the mistake of imitating the position. This can easily happen if too much attention is paid to particulars. It takes a long time to reach the hindquarters if the rider is sparing the horse's health. This can take anywhere from 1 to 2 years, or even longer, depending on the degree to which the horse's dressage needs to be improved.
To support the rider's weight, first strengthen the horse's hind legs with exercises. If you force this process, then the horse may develop stiffness, sprains and inflammation of the ligaments, and even lameness, which will make it unsuitable for riding.
The signs that characterize a horse obeying promises have been given above. They also apply to a complete horse to a large extent. Moreover, such a horse gives the impression of being more energetic and obedient.