Communing with horses

Horses are highly sensitive. They have had to be, to survive and evolve to what they are today. To be able to hang out with them, safely, or to influence their movements, we first must be willing to meet with them, to learn and respect their natural ways, and to understand what drives them. This way we stand a better chance of being understood by them.

In my mind, this means to enter into their natural world, to slow down, to observe without judgement, to listen to their minds, how they respond to their environment, to see their subtle language, to hear their breathing, and to feel their natural awareness and sensitivity to all the little things.

From this knowledge we can overcome fears and preconceived ideas of how things might be. We can leave behind expectations to just ‘be’, and see what happens in each moment. This to me is a blissful form of peace and mindfulness.

When I can bring my posture and actions into a positive space to project a meaningful presence, then to the horse I am worth noticing, its like I have earnt the right to have an opinion, to have a place in their world, and to be mentally and physically assertive.



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Thoughts on Collection

Riding is so much about feelings, and feelings are hard to define, but I’ll have a go.

In collecting the horse my first thoughts are balance & dignity.

I want to concentrate on the postural balance of the whole horse, to make the horse proud and dignified. I have to give myself the posture I want from the horse. So I need to feel proud and dignified also, to initiate the rebalancing recquired. I would like him to raise his neck and lift his belly to come more centred under my weight. Encouraging the forehand to lift, the hind legs to carry more, to support more weight than the front legs. The evidence will be that the croup lowers a little, the back lifts under me like a supporting bridge, the shoulders come balanced and pliable as the steps lighten in front.

The contact is light with soft mobility in the jaw, and the feeling is distinctly opposite to a horse travelling heavy on his shoulders leaning on my hands. The gullet is open, the poll is the hightest point, and the nose is in front of the vertical line.


Image from Phillipe Karl’s book “Twisted Truthes of Modern Dressage”

Collection requires a horse first relaxed and listening to light aids, that is… in the hand.

But I can’t initiate this collection without first sensing his readiness and willingness to rebalance, and first myself totally attentive with good postural balance from a stable core. Grounded, tall, upright, centred, peaceful, strong, but also relaxed and loose.

The horse is becoming his true beautiful self; when we are leading by example, not by force, this is the reality if we want lightness of the forehand and the balanced grounded power of the hind legs.

Its not about dropping the head and fixing it with reins or hard hands. This would never be anything but fake, pretending, by forceful means to put in something where in reality there is no willingness, no togetherness, no soul.

Resistances in the horse come from weakness, lack of strength or stamina, from pain, fear or misunderstanding. I want to use my hands to invite lightness and grace, as if the horse were lifted from above, but also to offer space and freedom to go forward and upward, but first the balancing weight aids and precise leg aids to direct that impulsion. In this way I want to encourage self-maintained balance, true self carriage, in the hand, to help him find the ease in his own movements.

Even in walk the horse needs a level of impulsion to do this… I like doing this very much. It feels a bit like a floating walk, slow motion, mindful of each step… light, graceful, elegant balanced and soft. It’s beautiful to feel every step, controlled like you are picking up one front leg at a time, and then slowly gracefully placing it down. In fine balance… its a dance of collected energy – a coiled spring ready to bounce. 🙂

And from Wikipedia…
“Collection occurs when a horse carries more weight on the hind legs than the front legs. The horse draws its body together so that it becomes like a giant spring whose stored energy can be reclaimed for fighting or running from a predator. The largest organic spring in the horse’s body, and therefore the easiest one to observe in action, is the back, including the spine and the associated musculature that draws it together in much the same way that a bow is drawn by an archer.”

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More inside leg… or neck reins?

When a horse is falling in, on a circle or corner; “more inside leg” is not the only solution, and in fact it can make it worse as we also tend to fall in with that pushing leg.

What is said here is a most useful thing I discovered about riding – thanks to Philippe Karl. I was incredibly apologietic to my horses that it took me so long to discover this logical thing. So I’m keen to share it with you. Its not a secret I’m sure. It just somehow managed to by pass me… and most other riders I come across.

Many of you will know – nearly every horse is born asymmetrical. Like us – they are better one side than the other.

Here’s a suggestion – before you read on – if you like to experience things for yourself, you might like to find something bendy or bent (like a banana) to help get the gist of this. 🙂

An asymmetrical ‘right bent’ horse – who ‘falls in’ to the left (ie “drops the left shoulder”) tends to put more weight on his left shoulder, place his head to the outside (right) and swing his quarters to the right, bulging his belly into our left leg. Like a banana bend but the opposite bend to the curve we are on. See the picture below: (ie circles to the left are difficult or become smaller, while to right they seem easier or become bigger).

asymmetry right bent horse

“When turning to the right, a horse which is hollow to the right tends to enlarge the curve through its shoulders. To the left it turns short, and falls on its inside (left) shoulder”.

Philippe Karl

If we push more with the inside leg to physically force the horse to move over, we can also become part of the problem. We can better become part of the solution if we think about the balance mechanics of what is happening.

The horse cannot be blamed for being born “right bent”. But we can help him find better balance by teaching him various rein aids and in particular the effectiveness of “an indirect neck rein” to realign his balance more equally with the right shoulder.

neck reins pic pk

“Neck rein assisted by an opening rein is useful to create balance & straightness”.
Images from Philippe Karl’s Book – “Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage” 

You could try this, it works, but it needs to be supported with equal light tension in both reins, only upward or sideway actions of the hands, (not backwards, not pulling, not see-sawing). Aim to keep the middle of the bit in the middle of the mouth, and at the same time your weight aids assist the balance you want. You balance into the direction you travel.

However, the horse needs to be flexed away from the direction you want him to travel – ie in counter bend. Why? Because the neck is like a lever, it transfers weight opposite to the way the head is. When the head is bent to the left, the horse puts weight to the right shoulder and so tends to go that way.

The balance/weight aids are important. If the horse falls in to the left, putting weight on his left shoulder, then we can help him correct this by transferring more of our weight to the right shoulder – stay upright, but sit / balance yourself to the right with more weight in the right stirrup and right seat bone. To keep us balanced he is then more inclined to “get under our weight” which means he will follow our weight and move to the right. Bingo – praise and reward with a little break when you feel the shoulders move towards the outside. Keep repeating, and rewarding, until the horse understands what the neck rein and the change of balance mean.

When a horse falls in going left, often our first instinct is to turn the horse’s head to the outside to turn its nose to the right, and back on our line. This doesn’t work, because it puts even more weight to the inside and effectively causes the horse to fall in more.

What does work, is to focus on taking the shoulders and the withers to the right, using the inside neck rein and outside opening rein to keep the head and neck bent a little to the left. The bio-mechanical leverage of the horse’s neck naturally becomes its own solution.

A good pattern to start this training is on a diagonal line from the three quarter line to the long side. Come straight up the three quarter line for a few meters then with equal sideway actions – neck reins, and the weight aids, ask the shoulders to yield back to the track. Keep the neck bent a little to the left, but send the shoulders and withers to the right. Your right hand will be guiding/leading the shoulders back to the track. Your left hand following against the neck. As in the diagram above.

You stay parallel to the long side but Its NOT a leg yield, so don’t be tempted to take the left leg back – as that talks to the hind quarters and will muck up the balance. This is a shoulder yield – asking the horse to take wider steps, the fornt legs crossing over each other, to the right and across to the track. Progress to trot and later to canter. Its a nice feeling, and easy in trot to use the weight aids while you are in the air.

Another pattern is to ride a figure of 8 keeping the SAME bend & flexion, but changing the direction. ie one circle in true bend and one circle in counter bend.

This way you will really feel how your balance leads the way and the neck reins control the shoulders via the counter-bend. Its a breakthrough to lateral work and superior balance in all schooling.

If you can do this you will be amazed at the simple effectiveness of this classical tool for training straightness, balance and ease of riding.

Let me know how you go.

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More Forward?

“You don’t need a Stronger leg, you need a stronger response to the leg. “
Philippe Karl

Do you often here the words… “More forward“?

With ‘more forward’ we can often also get more balanced, and more straight.

More forward doesn’t mean ‘more leg’. It means the horse needs more understanding from our legs. Its our responsibility to teach the horse to respond to light leg aids. Furthermore, its our responsibility to ensure we remove leg pressure in a timely way – ie. immediately the horse starts to go forward. In ‘pressure-release’ training, its the timing of release that trains the horse, not the pressure. The more clear you make the release – the faster you train the horse.

As riders, its our job to help the horse work out how to get rid of pressure, not how to put up with it. We dont want to habituate or desensitise the horse to our leg aids. So if we want to improve responsiveness – we need to improve our timing.

Lets remember – that a horse can feel a fly land on its coat and flynch to get rid of it. So we cannot say any horse is insensitive. Though some are more sensitive than others – they are all sensitive enough to feel a fly on them. And, they can all feel a light leg aid.


If the horse can go forward from light leg aids – but then we keep asking with the legs every stride – the horse will switch off to that background noise – and we will actually be teaching the horse to ignore our legs.

If we are in the habit of urging or pushing the horse forward with the seat; again we teach the horse to ignore the seat. I see it a lot in the walk. People think this is required. Its not. This is surely annoying to horses – pushing and rubbing the seat bones into their spine -and then when we need the seat for more subtle aids – its impossible.

Its not helpful to think of our horse as ‘lazy’ or ‘naughty’ without first taking a good look at our own habits. Are you always aware of how much pressure you use with your legs, how often you touch the horse with your legs, and where your legs touch the horse?

We can usually be more disciplined with our legs and take responsibility for doing less for a greater response. Impulsion = increasing re-activity from the horse via less activity from the rider. This means clearly educating the horse to specific aids. Teaching the horse – in a compassionate timely but clear way – to understand how to react to precise aids. 

Pestering the horse with vague or nagging legs and seat is neither useful or graceful, it is a tiring and thoughtless habit that destroys lightness. And… Often It is appearing together with blocking hands. So best first to be attentive – check that you are not urging forward doing all the work for the horse, or pushing while holding or pulling at the same time.

Teach the horse the leg lesson – immediate reactivity to light leg aids – and have confidence to follow through to ensure the horse does react quickly, but give rein: open the fingers and go! You may need some light touches with the whip straight after the leg until you get take off. Then no more whip or leg. But if the horse slows, touch with the whip again. Repeat this from halt into trot several times on a straight line – praising each time you get an improved response.

Never give one hard unexpected whack with a whip. Be kind and clear, finish what you start, and don’t start something you can’t finish.  Be calm and even tempered when teaching the leg lesson. its not about getting mad. You may need a forward/light seat for a short time to help your horse to really go. Leaning back in an armchair position will not help you. Feel the wind in your mane, and enjoy the freedom to really go…

Your horse will thank you. :))

The aids we use are the aids we teach – good or bad. If we are heavy legged and heavy handed with poor timing – we make a heavy lazy horse or a nervous horse. And we make work for ourselves – and then unfairly blame the horse for being lazy. It happens often with many riders – when we are day dreaming, inconsistant, nervous and gripping, maybe we are using lots of little pushes becuase we are afraid to be clear and precise, or afraid to go faster, afraid the horse might resist the legs and pigroot, rear or buck. In broad terms, its either becuase we dont take the responsibility of leadership to teach a language of clear aids, and or we dont know how.

Naturally, if the horse starts rushing, running, pulling or carting you forward – you will then have a balance problem rather than a forward problem. You could do more circles and less straight lines – to help slow the legs and regain a good rhythm. Counter bend or shoulder-in are also good remedies for rushing horses. But thats a nice problem to have.


Horses are built to run. They are creatures of flight. Going well forward – in a natural outline – helps them to relax. Its frustrating for a horse when it is unable to express its natural paces. Many riders spend an hour going around too slowly in endless circles – with the horse falling to the forehand – and tiring the horse without the gymnastic benefit. In working paces the strides are long, the horse needs to cover ground going actively forward. In collected paces the strides are higher and shorter and cover less ground but still with activity.

Happy riding 🙂

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Why do Working Equitation

Dressage + Obstacles = Working Equitation

‘Equitation’ is the study and practice of riding and horsemanship. ‘Working’ Equitation adds a purpose to this. Working Equitation (WE) is now a competitive sport that anyone can participate in, from beginner to advanced level no matter what breed of horse or type of saddle you ride in. It’s an inclusive multi-faceted sport that offers something for everyone and develops a high degree of unity and respect between horse and rider.

WE as a sport has enormous potential in Australia as it combines respectful gymnastic aspects of classical dressage and the skills and fitness required of horses working stock in the field, on the farm, or through the bush. Simply, you put a few obstacles in a dressage lesson and suddenly you create purpose and meaning to something that previously had no meaning for the horse, and required great imagination of the rider.

Whatever your passion, dressage, jumping, eventing, endurance, trail riding or groundwork: the experience you and your horse will gain from WE training is perfectly transferable and beneficial to every other discipline.

WE is a fascinating fun sport that promotes varied styles of riding culture from different countries. Its multicultural and multi-challenging.

Why is dressage easier with obstacles?

As a teacher of dressage and Working Equitation I love the way obstacles make the dressage easy. A gate to open makes lateral work meaningful. A barrel in the middle of a circle makes more sense to the horse, something to go around, and to focus on. If I ask the rider to keep looking at and turning to the barrel she quickly feels how much easier the horse is turning and bending. Without describing the aids to use, it happens more naturally, as the horse mirrors our balance and position. By planning and looking ahead & focussing on the job – the movement is more balanced and soft. Done well, WE requires many voltes, flying changes and collection, and collection requires great balance and impulsion without tension. These priorities enable the path to one handed lightness and ease in the highly skilled manoeuvrers of Master’s Competition.

Be my Leader – lead me somewhere

Another aspect I love about WE is watching a relationship of discovery and trust developing between horse and rider as the “leader” emerges to guide the horse through challenging obstacles.

Horses are easily bored and often lose forward motivation and straightness when the pilot lacks a clear plan e.g. being unsure, uncommitted, looking down or not providing positive leadership to go ‘somewhere’. Imagine playing soccer or basketball without the goal posts! How odd it must feel to the horse to keep going around in the same rectangle without actually going anywhere or finding any food or water at the end of it. Look up, plan ahead, give the horse a job to do, and remember give a break and praise often.

When any activity lacks purpose it becomes difficult and demotivating. And a $3 ribbon at the end of the day means little if we know we have forced, pushed and pulled our horses around the course. This is where Working Equitation fills a huge gap for many riders who are looking for something meaningful, respectful and fun. Many riders, young and adult simply want to have fun with their horses. Out competing, at home or trail riding, we need to control our horse in a range of situations, so we can ride anywhere and feel safe.

Exposing horses to a range of obstacles in a safe and supportive environment is the perfect way to do this. You don’t need to be experienced in WE to join the rallies and clinics. This is where you gain the experience and where your horse learns to explore and gain confidence with obstacles. Most WE clubs & clinics will encourage young, green or nervous horses to start out in-hand, and hop on when you and the horse feel comfortable.

Make me safe

Horses are unpredictable. We all know that handling and riding horses is a high-risk activity. Surprisingly too many enter into it unaware, uneducated and unprepared. Inexperienced horses and riders can be easily injured when confronted with unusual or challenging situations. Sadly there is no licence required to ride a horse, nor to teach someone to ride. And there are many self-proclaimed experts who may lead you up a strange and shaky garden path. So how can Working Equitation help to make your horse safe?

The good news is that progressively and respectfully most horses can be desensitised to cope with an array of strange things that they may not normally see. Horses are incredibly trainable, cooperative and willing when we guide them calmly with respect for their physical and emotional capabilities. There is no need to force, punish, push or insult the horse’s sensitive nature. What we do need is to provide leadership and inspiration to motivate the horse to try something. Add a little time and a little understanding of how horses react and respond to their environment, and you have the recipe for a safe pathway.

The arena is the gym

It is easy to fall into the trap of boring circles and straight lines with endless half halts thinking that we are ‘straightening’ and training our horse for dressage. But in reality – we don’t straighten asymmetrical horses by riding them straight – we straighten them by stretching, loosening and suppling them, by flexing and bending – just as we would going to the gym or Yoga. We need to do curved lines, voltes, corners, changes of rein, figure 8s, serpentines, neck rein turns, zig-zags, loops, counter bends, rein-back, moving the quarters around the shoulders, and the shoulders around the quarters, and progressively all the lateral work. Many riders don’t ask the horse to bend the neck. If your horse doesn’t soften, lengthen or bend his neck you will not be able to straighten and balance his body. The neck acts as a lever to help us create straightness. Not allowing the neck to bend can cause stiffness in the neck – just as we feel when we sit too long or too still in one position.

In WE the arena as a gym for the horse. Obstacles enable a workout of stretching, loosening and bending to take place with purpose and direction. A few barrels, cones and poles provide a wealth of creative activities.

Common Obstacles in the Style Phase

Depending on the level, there may be up to 16 obstacles in a Style competition, and a few less in the speed phase.

  • Bridge
  • Figure 8 – 2 Barrels
  • Cloverleaf – 3 Barrels
  • Gate
  • Stock Pen
  • Jump
  • Corridor with Bell & rein-back
  • Collect Pole, skewer ring, Replace Pole
  • Switch cup & rein-back
  • Single or double slalom
  • Side-pass over pole
  • Jug

Optional Obstacles:

  • Water Ditch
  • Varied footing
  • Bank jump
  • Move sack
  • L shape side pass poles


Working Equitation Clubs in Victoria

For information on WE in Victoria see: or join the ANWE Vic FB page at:

A few WE groups in Victoria are now affiliated with HRCAV: Working Equitation Geelong (WEG), Working Equitation Yarra Valley (WEYV), Traralgon & district Adult Riding Club (TARDAC) and Macedon Ranges Working Equitation (MRWE). Guest riders are welcome to attend most rallies and clinics.

Susie Walker lives in the Yarra Valley and is a founding member of WEYV. She Teaches Classical Dressage & Horsemanship, is qualified as an EA Coach, and is an accredited Trainer and Judge of Working Equitation. For more information please use the contact form here: 













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Hands up – who knows?

‘On the bit’ or ‘in the hand’?

Many horses resist the hands. And many riders find it difficult to bring their horse into the hand or what is often referred to as; ‘on the bit’. For so many reasons… horses are resisting, avoiding, fearing, leaning, pulling, tilting, tossing, over-bending, falling to one shoulder, or just not willing to go forward into the hand. Sometimes it seems an endless struggle between patience, practice and knowhow.

Its human nature to seek an easy solution – or to ‘buy’ a solution at horseland – for a quick fix. But this is never in the horse’s interest, and is always against its nature – so because of this it can therefore never be for our best interests either – for no matter how much we may think we are ‘resolving’ resisting by covering it up or forcing control – we know deep inside that it just doesnt feel right. This could be referred to as ‘willing ignorance‘. But in reality the only thing we improve by this is the bank balance for the saddlery and their suppliers.

susies hands reins on abbey

Prepare for lift off

If only we could buy “an educated pair of hands”. This is really what our lessons can pay for. We hear and read that we should never pull on the horse’s mouth, but that we can have a ‘non-allowing’ a ‘constraining” or a ‘resisting’ hand. Though it is not explained how to do without pulling backward or blocking with strong hands.

The action of raising the hands or fingers – upward actions on the corners of the mouth – is often said to be a no no. Yet it is one of the most effective of all – a classical and time honoured approach – a thoughtful and kind way to teach the horse to find the hand – to mobilise the jaw, to settle onto the contact, or to rebalance. Raising the hands for moment, as a specific aid, is totally different from pulling in a high position.

Upward actions – on the corners of the mouth – takes the bit off the sensitive tongue and off the fragile bars. Whereas hands acting backward towards the rider, or fixed low hands, compress and pinch the tongue between the bit and the boney bars – hence there is pain and this is why horses try to evade by attemtping to reposition the bit into the corners. (leaning, lifting up, ducking under, tilting etc.)

Its common to see fixed low hands knocking the horse’s confidence and blocking the forward movement. Its never about ‘fixing’ the hands in a position relative to the wither or to the saddle. Our hands become steady relative to the horse’s mouth. Hands become steady and appear fixed when they are moving in time with an already educated horse. Do you need to remove the invisible glass ceiling around the hands, and use them clearly to educate the horse to a trusting, allowing, following, guiding hand?

Not happy

Horses that lean on the hands, pull to the forehand, duck behind the contact, come behind the vertical, raise the head above the bit, reverse the neck and hollow the back are trying to tell us they are not happy about something. It can be due to fear, pain, habit, confusion, or physical inability.

These common evasions to poor contact, are clear signs that the horse is not confident with or understanding the aids. Fixed low hands and tight reins will not fix these problems. The horse may eventually succumb to a ’round’ position when held in a frame, but it will not submit peacefully and willingly. It will not develop the correct topline or the gymnastic flexibility required for collection. And, its not classical dressage if its coercive and brutal.

Courses for horses – role of the hands

We educate the horse to our hands to teach a language of the aids. The role of the hands is important, and indeed the opposite to fixing and pulling. We could say there is:

  • the relaxing hand (release the jaw & correct resistances of weight, fear, force)
  • the positioning hand (create lateral & longitudinal flexibility & suppleness)
  • the guiding hand (create symmetry through mobility of the shoulders and quarters)

To do this, in the snaffle bridle, various rein actions that are used for different situations: opening/turning the wrist out, lifting both hands, lifting one rein, diagonal rein aids, sideway neck reins – opening or closing, allowing hands – forward to the mouth, channelling hands – outward & separating hands.

There is no need to pull when there are so many other useful options. Every horse presents different schooling needs, depending on age, experience, conformation, temperament. But almot any horse horse can come to a good level of schooling with an educated hand.


The dialogue between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth (bringing into hand/jaw yielding) is a forgotten skill and too easily replaced with mechanical force and unfair demands. There are much better, reliable ways to help horses develop trust and obedience. Classical ways that work with the horse instead of against it.

Education of the mouth, first and foremost, is the easiest way to create a relaxaed, balanced, supple, flexible, collected horse – accepting the contact from the start – and for any retraining – without the need for restrictive gadgets, strong bits, tight nosebands, side reins, chambons or martingales.

We can say… The relaxed jaw is the key, the mouth is the lock, and the neck is the door to the house of the horse.

Work it out – with work in hand

The work begins on the ground with gentle classical in-hand work, in a bridle, to teach a language of the aids and develop a clear understanding of the hands. This is the best way to demystify the aids to bring the horse onto the bit and for all later work under saddle. It simplifies the basic lessons for starting the horse for riding. It avoids common errors in mouthing that can otherwise lead to years of resistance and fear of the contact for horses.


If you would like to help your horse accept the contact with lightness and confidence, please email Susie via the contact from on this blog.


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Dialogue of dignity

When i am with my horse I aim to focus my mind on my body posture and presence, on an inner softness, and inner strength. On my own breathing and relaxed jaw and shoulders.

I try to shut out all distractions so I can be 100% in the moment – keeping a positive state of mind, and a feeling of peace and empathy for my horse. Its not that easy to maintain this discipline. But the more I do it – the more I can do it.

I don’t want to have expectations or make demands for ‘training’. Yes I have a plan of ideas and patterns, but I try not to enforce it – I want to help my horse develop into all that she can be, and help her learn that it feels good and worthwhile for her. The focus is on positive reinforcement, praise for her understanding, for her well doing, and good ideas.

When this happens – when she is willingly with me, light, attentive and waiting for the next cue, she feels close with me – this is that fabulous oneness and sense of ease – when she is really listening, really balanced, attentive and thinking with me – because i am working hard at doing the same for her.

She feels pliable, content, energetic and playful …and its mighty fine on days like this.

Isn’t that a song… “My Mama told me; there’d be days like this” 🙂

Alita in Trot

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Sit with the balance not with the bend

SIN weight aids

The Seat is a balance aid – it refers to the horse’s balance. Not to the bend.

Many say we should always sit with the bend – for all lateral work, but this can be most unhelpful and disturbing the horse if our weight is not also with the horse’s balance – in lateral work – if we only sit with the bend, we are only right half the time.

The seat must refer to the direction the horse goes and balance goes with the direction of movement. For the horse’s sake – we need to sit with the balance – not just with the bend.

For example if we are in shoulder-in on the long side. We will need to balance more to the outside – specifically the outside fore – because that is where the horse has more weight in order to go straight along the wall.

On the contrary, for shoulder-in on a circle – we need to sit more to the inside – as the horse is balancing more to the inside fore, to keep on the line of a circle. Its logical – it simply makes sense. It’s the same shift in balance we would need ourselves, when we change from moving on a circle to along the wall on our two legs.

Try it – you will see it’s totally logical, and so much easier.

Inspiration & image from Philippe Karl.

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Nature knows…


In the 18th century, Francois Robichon de la Guérinière stated:

“Knowldege of what is natural in a horse is one of the cornerstones of the art of riding, and all… should make it a main point of study.”

In the 1906, General L’Hotte wrote:

“Nature is the first of all masters. Its book is the fairest,most knowledgeable of all books, the most useful to consult. The effects recorded in its pages lead us to the causes which generate them”.

Today, Philippe Karl writes:

“Dressage only has a meaning if it results from the search for the most correct processes, in other words, methods that are both efficient and gentle, because they are not contrary to the horse’s nature.”

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Essential Elements to Lightness

Schooling a horse is fundamentally a problem of communication and balance.

“Légèreté… (Lightness) in training horses… supposes setting up three essential and inseparable elements:

  • relaxation
  • balance
  • impulsion.

The core principle of this approach is: Respect for the horse. This is the heart and soul of The School of Lightness. 

Relaxation is the priority, because without it nothing constructive happens.

Insufficient balance means no relaxation, and vice versa. The hand has the combined role of establishing or re-establishing the balance and relaxation.

Lightness to the hands is fundamental. 

– hands create relaxation (by mobility of the mouth)

– the proper jaw yielding has an effect on the whole horse.

– hands create an elementary balance.

Without impulsion, relaxation and balance go hand in hand with inertia and laziness. No impulsion, no equitation. Conversely, when developed in tension and imbalance (for example leaning on the forehand) impulsion only causes disorder and panic. Continuing to work a horse on the pretext of impulsion leads to mediocre results and excessive wear. Lightness to the hands and to the legs are therefore closely linked.” Philippe Karl

When we stay focussed on these three fundamental elements, we can really help the horse develop straightness, flexibility, rhythm, mobility and finally collection. The principles of schooling a horse are this:

  1. Légèreté (Lightness) to the aids:  Relaxation – Balance – Impulsion
  2. Flexibility
  3. Mobility
  4. Collection
PK Training scale

The Training Cycle

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