I read somewhere that you need to try and push your horse forward
and then recycle some energy through the reins to transfer it to the back and gain impulsion. Is that correct? I've been trying to do that (trying
), not necessarily doing it properly I suppose, as when I look at videos of me riding my school horse I feel he's lacking a bit of impulsion. It's not horrible, sometimes it's actually quite good, but at other times it's really not ideal. (I can post videos if need be).
Also, how can I get him to round his back
Hopefully you have a good dressage instructor who can help you attain what I'm about to tell you. Riding is like math - you build on the principals. The first principal is forward
(that translates into impulsion but usually starts with horse rushing, which is OK at this stage).
1.) You always ride a horse back to front (forward
). That means active hind legs. Since the riders legs control the hind end of the horse this means activating your legs (ONLY) when horse needs their hind end activated. Do NOT nag (i.e. Use legs constantly asking for forward) - nagging means the horse will start to ignore you. Instead ask for forward with both legs (calves) giving a medium squeeze at the same time. If no response take a whip and use it with a sharp tap just behind your boot (calves) once.
If horse gallops forward (or does any kind of forward response) - no matter what do NOT use the reins to change that response. Once horse consistenly reacts to a "light asking from the leg" you can introduce more contact with the reins, but if you do it now it will confuse the horse. As time goes on horse will react to light leg and not need the whip (I always carry it anyway so if I need it I have it to use). You as a rider need to be very attuned to the horse - as soon as you realize horse is listening more to your cues you should start lightening the cues until the cue (e.g. Calf pressure) is heavy enough for horse to know its not a mistake but light enough you don't need to kick or squeeze more then once. Since this is a school horse I am assumiong that the horse has several riders, so it will take longer to teach horse what YOU want and expect, then EVERY time you get on you will have to remind the horse how YOU expect him/her to behave. If you are consistent and ride the horse often enough (at least once a week) then you should be able to teach horse what you expect.
2. Now that horse is forward (stepping underneath its belly - about the middle of the belly - actively with both hind legs) you can introduce (more) contact (with the reins) and if horse is rushing then you'll need to start moderating the tempo (think a nice even beat - as in music - versus horse running/scrambling). Part of the rushing control can be done at the trot without really using too much rein - as the rider your posting sets the tempo. If horse is "running" at trot becuase you asked for forward instead of pulling on reins instead slow down your posting. Since you and the horse will be "traveling" at different speeds one of you will want to change to match the others tempo. It may be a pain BUT make the horse slow down and wait for you using your posting tempo rather than pulling back with the reins.
The rein contact can also be used to address the rushing and will help you get the "roundness
" you want.
So (from the ground) take a whip - one end in each hand. Push one end of the whip forward (that would be like the horses hind legs getting activated). If you don't allow the front of the whip to move forward - what happens? The whip "bows" - or in the case of the horse (if done correctly) the back rounds, nose moves towards the vertical (depending on your riding level).
The key here is you MUST prevent the horse (whip) from loosing energy in the front (falling on the forehand) and from pushing energy out the back (getting behind the leg) in order to keep the "bowing" action. That does not mean always using your legs (just like before - be careful NOT to nag) just ensuring that as soon as you ask for bigger/faster/a different gait the horse responds to your legs.
If there is a delay in response it can mean the horse is either behind the leg or on their forehand (or my one horse who was very laid back always had a 1 second delay built in versus my current "hot" mare who react immediately to what the rider is asking her to do).
Once you start to take up more contact with the reins you have to be careful that the contact is a give and take contact - with your elbows opening/closing and moving forward/back as the give and take - NOT rigid. Elbows start at the waist then open/close (rising/sitting trot) and go forsward/back (horses head goes down elbows move forward enough to allow for head motion but only enough to maintain the same rein contact as before the horses head movement.
3. The half halt. Here is where you need an instructor to help. Essentially you are asking for a halt (light squeeze with both calves to get/keep hind legs under horse then elbows stop "following" motion of the horse and press down - NOT forward - on BOTH stirrups) and as horse steps underneath itself and starts to "sit" for halt at the last second you "soften elbows" and allow horse to continue in the gait it was in (trot, walk, canter, etc...).
Take you time with the above. Don't move onto #2 until you have #1 well established. Good luck.