Relationships go bananas
Updated: Jun 6, 2021
This week I thought it might be helpful to share the progression of movements, highlighting some of the things they have in common or how one prepare for another. If you can think of other relationships between the movements I would love for you to share in the comments, let's see how large we can paint this picture!
FLEXION. You can have flexion without bend, but no BEND without flexion. To me, one of the main reason we create bend is to create a connection to the outside rein. And start loading that inside hind leg. COUNTER FLEXION is a great quality check, and helps develop shoulder control. COUNTER CANTER has great value and follows naturally, helps to strengthen and improve the canter, and ensure we can pick up either lead at any time. The FLYING LEAD CHANGE will follow later. I will place it here since it can be beneficial to school, at times, alongside the counter canter, to channel the horses natural inclination to switch lead. We don’t want the counter canter so established that the flying change gets lost. And we most definitely do not want the flying change to be the only option, or horrid thought, the automatic change to take its place. The end goal is that either lead is available at all times and the balance maintained. On the way there we may use temporary loss of balance as motivation.
TURN ON THE FOREHAND introduces diagonal aids and teaches yielding to the leg. Flexion, no bend, away from direction of movement. Allow the movement to travel and you have a LEG YIELD. The REIN BACK can help improve it, introducing shift of balance, sending the movement backwards. Directing the energy. The TOF can also in return help straightening a crooked RB.
Once we have taught the yielding to the leg and established bend we can now introduce SHOULDER FORE and eventually SHOULDER IN (greater angle). Ridden on straight lines with bend away from direction of movement. This movement truly is the mothership to all else. This is where we start developing collection, self carriage and a lighter forehand. As always, make sure the posture is not sustained by holding with the inside rein. This defeats the entire purpose and will prevent accurate progression as we move on.
TRAVERS is ridden on a straight line, you can call it haunches in. Practicing going from shoulder in to travers back to shoulder in is very revealing. RENVERS is also ridden on a straight line, you can call it haunches out. Both movements ridden with bend into direction of movement.
TURN ON THE HAUNCHES also has bend into direction of movement. Riding shoulder fore is a great way to set your horse up when you prepare the turn. The same goes for the HALF PASS, which basically is a travers on the diagonal line. The greater angle of your diagonal line, the steeper the half pass, the more challenging the movement. This movement is also ridden in the canter at competitions and connected eventually becomes the zigzag. When working on the zigzag you will feel how the shoulder in still has to be alive in the half pass, and re-established before each change of direction to maintain balance.
It's interesting to consider the similarities of all the lateral movements with bend, and to realize how what sets them apart primarily is their relationship to the track/wall. Also, again shoulder in is ridden with bend away from direction of movement (loading leg is inside hind), while the other has bend into direction of movement (loading leg is outside hind). When planning your ride and choosing exercises, know which part of the body you’re addressing. Now go play!