how do I ask for impulsion?
I asked a question before because my pony was really slow and unresponsive everytime I ride in the arena and someone told me 'ask tell demand' and she's getting better everytime I ride her in there, we even did some jumping! But how to I ask for impulsion? Squeezing just makes her go faster...
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There are many building blocks that lead to a horse being ready to give you proper impulsion. You have to have a few basics down and well practiced first. Take a look below.
1- Rhythm: It is the result of mental and physical relaxation. When the horse is relaxed, he is able to step into the natural rhythm of the four natural gaits: walk, trot, canter, and the rein-back. The walk is a 4-beat movement, the trot 2-beat, the canter 3-beat, and the rein-back 2-beat. A horse that trots in rhythm is trotting in a clear 2-beat rhythm in a steady tempo. There is good rhythm and bad rhythm: Good rhythm is when the horse’s canter is a true 3-beat, bad or incorrect rhythm is when it becomes a lazy 4-beat. Rhythm faults in the walk are when it comes close to 2-beat, and in the trot when it resembles a lame, hopping horse.
2- Suppleness: A dressage horse is ultimately an athlete, and every athlete requires a certain degree of flexibility. Suppleness is the looseness and flexibility of the horse’s body. There are two types of suppleness: longitudinal and lateral. Longitudinal suppleness is the looseness of the horse’s haunches, back, neck, poll, and jaw, giving him the ability to swing forward while remaining fairly on the bit. Lateral suppleness is the degree to which a horse can bend his body and neck sideways, either to produce a circle or to move sideways.
3- Contact: When the horse is accepting the rider’s hands, seat, and legs, it is said that he is offering good contact. Many people mistake contact for the horse being on the bit. That is not necessarily true and denotes riding with the hands alone. A horse moving under a rider is in contact with his seat, legs, and hands. Good contact is when the horse accepts and responds to seat and leg aids while maintaining a round outline with a mouth that is relaxed and accepting the bit. You can point out good contact when the horse’s back is raised, his quarters engaged, his poll the highest point, his jaw relaxed, and his nose a hint in front of the vertical (That is also a sign of good riding and training).
4- Impulsion: Free-flowing energy initiated by the rider, causing the horse’s back to swing, his quarters to engage, and his forelegs to articulate is impulsion. Good impulsion is mirrored through a horse that appears to have an innate desire to go forward with active, lively steps. How far the horse steps underneath his barrel and how much he engages his hocks are both measures of impulsion. Basic training regulates the horse’s engine so that impulsion becomes second nature to the horse and the rider does not have to push all the time.
5- Straightness: Horses are naturally crooked, so straightening them is the job of the rider/trainer. For example, many horses canter with their quarters slightly in. Crookedness is caused by uneven lateral suppleness, i.e. one side stiffer than the other, and a weaker hind leg. Good training focuses on developing both sides and hind legs of the horse equally, which eventually leads to absolute straightness. A horse is truly straight when the hind foot steps in the line of the front foot (or sometimes a little deeper to the inside in the event of collection).
6- Collection: The pinnacle of the Training Pyramid, collection is the ultimate goal for the dressage horse. When all the previous elements are present, collection just happens! Collection involves the lowering of the croup, lightness of the forehand, and shorter and higher steps. Collection is possible in the walk, trot and canter, and is achieved by collecting exercises and refined by little half-halts. A rider on a horse doing a great collected canter feels as though he/she can let go and the horse would still maintain perfect rhythm and self-carriage without any interference from the rider.
Do you know how to do a half halt? By just squeezing with your legs, you are sending energy to your horse's legs, but you are not containing it hence the speeding up. Impulsion is contained energy. You can only achieve it through half halts and proper contact.
So when horse speeds up as someone on the ground to tell you IF horses hind legs are coming to middle of belly. If they are, even though horses is "fast" (tempo) you're headed in the right direction.
If hind legs are not tracking up/ Overtracking (some horses don't have the confirmation to "really" overtrack) take a crop/whip and "pop' him behing your legs. If he runs - let him - idea is to first get forward.
Once you've got the forward the next step is slowing the tempo (and here's the hard part) without loosing the "GO" you just got. It's hard for the horse to push and carry with their butts, hence they would rather fall on their forehand and rush forward.
Easiest pace to slow is the trot. So while keeping your legs on the horse (NOT constant "nagging" with the legs - rather using them the second horse starts to take smaller steps) post slower.
Yes - posting slower than the horse is trotting will tend to throw you off balance. So grab mane, a bucking strap, or anything to keep your balance (if you need it) and start posting at the speed YOU want. Note that some horses naturally have faster trots than others. So when you initially start "slowing" horses trot it may be faster than you want - but give horse time to develop the muscle he/she needs to do more "carry" and then they will be able to slow the trot tempo even more.
Eventually if you are careful NOT to allow horse to "get behind your leg" while getting horse to slow its tempo - you will have a horse with impulsion.
A test I used to do on one mare I own to tell if she was "in front of my leg" - I would ask for a walk/canter transition. If she took even 1 step of trot before she cantered she was behind my leg. I would boot her forward (or a single pop of the whip), slowly bring her back to the walk again (cause boot/whip means she should have leaped forward), then ask again. I normally always got a clean transition after that. It was my "self test" just before I went into the arena.
So idea of that self test is rider asks normally (not a BIG boot/whip smack) and if little or no response then rider asks with a BIG request (BIG boot or hard POP with whip), allow horse to bolt/run/gallop/leap forward - do NOT touch reins for a few strides cause horse is going forward as asked, then bring horse back to pre BIG request before once again asking lightly. Horse learns to listen for "light" requests cause most of them do not like the whip or getting booted with the leg.
(Think of that as shouting versus speaking to the horse. If you shout all the time they learn to tune you out - if you whisper they learn to listen all the time to "hear" what you are saying.) :D
Impulsion is tricky, I am working on this with my horse as he loses impulsion and gets strung out on downward transitions, you have to maintain contact and keep your leg on them at the same time. Contact and using your seat are soooo important. It's hard though, I am still working on this with my horse. Practice makes perfect though, every day we get better, just keep trying.
When I do ot it is fairly easy. Mind you, I ride western. But when j want him to have impulsion I point my hand forward and put energy into my body (tensing my seat and moving my hips faster) I also sort of squeeze a little with my legs bit not too much. Idk thats how I do it lol
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Leg and rein.
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