“On the bit” part 3:
This week: an overview of how a correct outline benefits both horse and rider. How to get your horse working in this outline will be covered next week, as otherwise this week’s tip would be huge!
When a horse is ridden in a correct outline – with the poll at the highest point and head on, or just in front of the vertical and powering through from behind – it contains all of the power in an easily controlled manner. With the horse in this rounded shape, his back muscles are working – the rider should be able to feel them lifting beneath the saddle – the neck is rounded and slightly lower than when work started, and the hindquarters are really pushing the horse forwards so the forehand is light.
Because the neck vertebrae are lengthened out and are straighter, there is increased flexion and lateral suppleness that flows throughout the length of the body. This means that the horse will find any lateral exercises easier to achieve, and the rider should find the horse more responsive and willing to go into the exercises asked.
You can also work more on extension and collection once you have contained this power in the rounded outline – the contained power can be contained more, or you can ask for more power and really fly over the ground! It is really important, however, that whenever you ask for complex movements (complexity level depends on fitness/schooling of the horse) you have to remember to stretch out regularly in your sessions – ask for a full stretch, so nose out and down, long and low – but keep the contact, and also a “half-stretch” where you keep the contact and allow the head and neck to stretch out and down, but not as low as a full stretch (this is good practice for your free walk on a long rein in dressage tests!). This allows the horse to stretch muscles and prevent a build up of lactic acid – working correctly is hard work!
When the horse is working correctly from behind and the rider has set him up so he is balanced and straight, the horse will start to offer the outline to you, as this is where working becomes most comfortable. This is when you have to keep doing what you are doing, keep the contact and allow time for stretching. This will build up all the right muscles, and the outline should come quicker every time you ride.
Next week I will discuss how to get your horse working correctly and then into an outline.
Feel free to like, share, and comment, so I know what little problems you all have, so that I can feature them in a future Tuesday Tip!