We all aspire to riding a nicely trained horse that feels good as well as looks good, whatever discipline we compete in.
The fundamental 3 basics (from the German Scales of Training) are rhythm, suppleness and contact and these 3 can be practised in an arena, over poles, in a field or out even out hacking!
Rhythm is the regularity and consistency in each pace (walk being a 4 beat rhythm, trot 2 beat and canter 3 beat) Like listening to a good tune without any glitches, a horse should keep the same rhythm and tempo (speed of the rhythm) on a straight line as a circle or turn. Try riding to the radio and experiment with the different tunes. You’ll soon find some that really match your horse and will help you maintain this first scale of training. It also makes schooling fun!
Suppleness is the horse bending and yielding through his body. We want to see resistance-free muscles and loose joints when he moves. He has to be supple to keep a consistent rhythm on the turn and remain straight. A crooked horse is a stiff horse and they’re not as pleasant to ride!
Out hacking try flexing your horse gently to the left so you can see his left eye whilst maintaining your rhythm in walk or trot. Then gently try it to the right. It’s only a small flexion so don’t ask for too much as you want your horses body to remain straight. Even opening gates (turn on the forehand) and moving over for vehicles out hacking (leg yielding) all develops your horses suppleness.
Contact is the acceptance of the bit and the riders soft elastic connection. The horse can then work into a positive frame. Try riding over two poles opposite each other on a 20 meter circle. To develop it further try spiralling in and out of your circle over your poles. Once these 3 basics come together, the connection and balance can then be improved hugely. This means they can work with more expression or jump higher or faster against the clock! Any horse can be taught these basics no matter how restricted he may feel. The remaining scales of training- impulsion (power), straightness and collection (horse carries more weight on his headquarters and lifts his shoulders) can then be improved and developed. Ultimately these building blocks develop the horses muscle tone and top line, helping them stay sounder and stronger for longer… A happy athlete!