The rhythm that a horse maintains in all its gaits and paces is fundamental to Dressage riding.
Rhythm and relaxation go hand-in-hand because it is nearly impossible to have rhythm without relaxation.
When considering relaxation of the horse we must think about the horse’s mental state; calmness, without anxiety or nervousness and the also his physical state; the absence of muscular tension (other than the contraction needed for optimal carriage) strength, range and fluency of movement.
Relaxation of the horse’s emotional and physical state also goes hand in hand. Rhythm is the first element of the training pyramid and contributes significantly to work at the upper levels. Preparing the horse mentally and physically is vital to your horse’s future as a dressage horse. No exercise or movement can be considered good if the rhythm falters.
Developing rhythm and relaxation
Your training should be designed to gradually strengthen the horse to be able to do the movements that will require great physical strength later in the training. It is this looseness that enables the horse to work free from tension or constraint.
Suppleness plays an equally important role in the horse’s relaxation. A horse that is stiff or rigid in any part of his body will not be capable of utilizing his body effectively, thus resulting in irregular gaits, unwillingness and a general displeasure in his work.
What to do … The first major test of relaxation is to find out if your horse will stretch its head and neck forwards and down in all three gaits. In order to work effectively on R&R you need to work on your own balance and not rely on the reins or gripping with the legs for support. (long and low)
As ever, have fun with it!
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster