...Heck, if you watch high-level eventing you will see that the same horse that turns perfectly straight-up/body-bent in the dressage arena then proceeds to turn slightly bent but still leaning when they get to the cross country phase - not to the extremes of a barrel racer, but still quite noticeably. The ability to bend their body...
...The thing is I donít really see a problem with the fact we're training/working a less optimal route...
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the horse to work harder to perform a certain way. We do it for fast trots or slow ones, and we are asking the horse to work harder than he otherwise would every time we ride.
The ability to bend their body is much more questionable. Philippe Karl, in his book, Twisted truths of Modern Dressage
, makes the case that horses NEVER bend their bodies (pages 30-32). Photos taken from above the horse, such at this one,
give reason to doubt any horse bends around our inner leg. That is one of those word pictures helpful for thinking about how we give cues, but harmful if we think the horse actually performs it.
We see the part of the horse in front of us and not the part behind. This does not mean a horse cannot turn "straight", just that he doesn't do it the way we pretend he is doing it.
I've also been told, too many times, that a horse who is not turning "straight" is unbalanced and more likely to fall. I've read supposedly authoritative books that claim a horse is not balanced or moving "properly" if it digs in.
I think the more we understand what a horse REALLY does, the better we can feel his motion and know how to ask him and train him.
It is kind of like with collection. If a horse bows its back up, rounding it, then instructions in books to contain the horse between the driving aids and restraining aids make sense. One might even postulate that a circle of energy DOES exist, and that having the horse bounce off the bit helps to do it. But if collection results from a horse moving like this,
then the energy is not cycling back to the rear, but being used to lift the front. And instead of trapping a horse between the driving and restraining aids, one is asking the horse to move forward and then divert the energy upwards in the front. Instead of squeezing the horse, you are diverting the horse.
That may not change how you and a great many others approach riding. Word pictures help us sometimes and distract us at others, and an image that helps one person might harm another. But for myself
, the image of diverting energy upwards rather than holding it back creates a very different attitude and feel.
I don't have any interest in dressage and tend to favor long, flat strides for my horse. But I still find it helpful to think of my horse as having a firm, largely unbending lever for a back, and to think of asking him to change his foot pattern or stride rather than think of me shaping him. When I think of cues as "asking" rather than "controlling", I approach riding and training my horse differently. But if it doesn't help you, PLEASE toss it aside!
Last June, I asked my old college roommate the right way to use a certain piece of tack. "Out here,
" he replied, "there is no right way. But I'll show you what works for me.
" That is how I feel about HF. I can share what helps me, but I can't promise it will help you.