What is it?
First a picture of the thoughts behind Legerete and here is a diagram to give you some insight.
Because someone already wrote up the contrasting systems ( French-Legerete (lightness) to the more common German-(power) I am going to just copy and paste for your perusal.
Just very briefly the German system uses the scales |
Rhythm-Actively driving the horse forward to engage the hindquarters with the regularity and rhythm of the movement being the main desire. Within this is the desire to have the horse stretch over the back and chew the bit.
Contact-Here the attempt is to have an elastic contact with the horse from the hand to the mouth driven by the engagement of the hindquarters.
Impulsion-Here the engagement of the hindquarters is such that it drives the whole horse forward. This results in the hindquarters accepting more weight and over time the suspension phase of the trot and canter should improve.
Straightness-Here attempts to correct the natural crookedness of the horse so the each hind leg is driven forward equally and each hind leg provides equal thrust to drive the horse forward.
Collection-Following the above scales the horse should become better balanced and be able to accept a greater weight on the hind legs. This acceptance will allow the hind legs to be driven more under the horse and the resultant lifting of the poll puts the horse in a state of collection.
All of the above are very acceptable goals to work for but there are others "scales" used by other schools that are just as effective.
In this system the relaxation of the horse is the first and most important thing. There is relaxation to the hand, relaxation to the seat (balance) and relaxation to the leg (impulsion). All are interrelated but without relaxation to the hand (jaw relaxation) you are driving the horse into a tense and resistant front end.
I have posted this before that if you looked at the horse as a piece of dried out leather that you want it to be a soft usable cloth you must slowly bend/flex it back and forth and once it has been made soft then that piece of leather will be available for multiple uses. A horse that has the capabilities to bend left and right will become straight and supple. And that suppleness develops rhythm.
This becomes a more mobile horse that has lost its "stuckness" and will have a greater desire to want to move forward (impulsion). In time the poll will rise with the ability given to the horse to relax throughout the body and collection is now a matter of continued word through lateral work. At the early stages this horse will tend to have a more open throat latch type of frame.
The more open frame allows the rider to easier maneuver the horse into bigger gaits with collection coming at the end.
The interesting note is that two horses trained in each of the above ways seem to be virtually identical by the time they reach level 3.