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uta9tips

German Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Uta Gräf has made a name for herself in international dressage circles, not only for her cheerful nature and wild hair, but also for her beautifully ridden, content, satisfied horses.

Now Gräf lets us in on all her training secrets in her new book UTA GRÄF’S EFFORTLESS DRESSAGE PROGRAM. She shares her schooling exercises, as well as the techniques she uses to incorporate groundwork, long-lining, trail riding, creative play, bombproofing, and turnout in her training plans. In the excerpt below, Gräf breaks down 9 quick tips for achieving better flexion and bend in your horse—first the “classical” way, and then her own helpful ideas to add to the mix that adds up to success.

 

 

9 Tips for Better Flexion and Bend

The Classical Way

⇒ Develop the horse’s foundation and improve straightness through lateral movements: leg-yield, shoulder-fore, shoulder-in, and travers.

⇒ Ride on curved lines: serpentines, spiral-ins and spiral-outs, voltes, figure eights.

⇒ Ride corners carefully, especially in counter-canter, taking care that the “jump” of the canter isn’t lost.

⇒ For lateral movements, carry the flexion and bend out of the corner or the volte and keep it without having to adjust it.

⇒ End a lateral movement as soon as you lose flexion and bend: Ride voltes or serpentines to get it back; then start again.

⇒ Ride shoulder-in or leg-yield when you are losing the quality of flexion and bend; then start over again.

 

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And, Give This a Try

⇒ Ride around cones or jump standards (voltes, figure eights, or serpentines).

⇒ Ride squares away from the wall: half-pass alternating with leg-yield. Reduce the square as you ride leg-yield; enlarge the square with half-pass. When the horse responds well to the leg, ride with flexion and bend into the half-pass. Don’t lose flexion and bend as you get to the wall or the half-pass doesn’t actually get finished. It’s better to end the diagonal with a leg-yield or ride the second track in renvers. The horse must still cross his legs well without “bogging down” the half-pass.

⇒ Alternate riding a steep or shallow half-pass.

 

UTA GRÄF’S EFFORTLESS DRESSAGE PROGRAM is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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When you ride, whatever your discipline, you are forever asking the horse to flex this way, or that way, or a little less, or a little more.

This is NOT the kind of flexion we are talking about!

This is NOT the kind of flexion we are talking about!

So what is flexion, anyway? It’s time to rid your mind of any images of muscle-bound forelegs striking Arnold Schwarzenegger poses! Flexion, when riding, is usually about lateral positioning of the second cervical neck joint, an area we commonly refer to as part of the horse’s “poll.”

It should be noted that lateral flexion is not the same thing as lateral bend—the latter involves the entire horse, from nose to tail, and allows the horse to be “straight” on curved lines (as confusing as that sounds) with his his hind feet following in the tracks of the fore.

In the new book RIDER+HORSE=1, authors Eckart Meyners, Hannes Muller, and Kerstin Niemann explain how the horse must be flexed as well as bent when you ride a curved line such as a circle or a turn. “To do this,” they write, “you turn the horse’s head just enough to be able to see–from your position on the horse’s back–the inside eye and nostril. The horse’s ears remain at the same level and the crest tilts into the direction in which the horse is being flexed. Flexion only pertains to the front of the horse, meaning head, poll, and neck.”

When your horse is flexed correctly it should be just enough to see his inside eye and nostril from your position on his back.

When your horse is flexed correctly it should be just enough to see his inside eye and nostril from your position on his back.

Step-by-Step Flexion of the Horse from RIDER+HORSE=1

The basic sequence of flexing the horse can be divided into four steps:

Request Flexion: You slightly shorten the inside rein. As long as flexion is only requested, your weight remains equal on both sides with your driving aids matching the gait and direction.

2  Allow Flexion: You must now allow with the outside rein the extent of flexion you just requested with the inside rein. This means you must lengthen the outside rein to the same extent that the inside rein is shortened.

3  Limit Flexion: The outside rein, however, also has the task of not allowing unlimited flexion–it dictates how far the horse should flex in his poll and neck.

4  Yield with the Inside Rein: According to the principle of diagonal aids, you now continue to guide the flexed horse on the outside rein and slightly yield with the inside rein (which had initially
asked for flexion). In this situation, your inside driving leg is of special significance while your outside leg “guards” and drives the horse forward.

 

For more ways you can achieve a fluid dialogue and harmonious performance with your horse, check out RIDER+HORSE=1, now available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

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