Today I'd like to continue to talk about the ubstreichen excercises I use. The exercises isolate and address blockages in the horse's body, whether in the neck, jaw, shoulders, back or hocks. Once the horse performs the exercises easily and properly, he will be in front of the leg. I have found that the exercises' greatest benefit appears in their use before competition. They enhance the horse's way of going, its attitude and desire to perform.
Clarity of aids is the key to a horse's willingness to perform. A horse commonly gets turning rein aids mixed up with supplying rein aids and half-halt aids. We can hardly get angry at a horse for turning off to the subtle differences of our rein aids and leg aids. Many times, when asked to supple, a horse will drift in or out of the turn because he thought the rider was using a turning rein rather than a suppling rein. I believe most performance problems are caused from the horse's lack of understanding, which can create defiance.
Some individual problems can occur. Aggressive horses with big performing gaits can find it difficult being submissive to rein aids when they are at the top of their performance. Self-carriage can create the same out-of-control result in a normally calm horse. A wild horse will posture a collected frame as a way to communicate. Putting a domestic horse in self-carriage can trigger his wild instincts and affect his performance. He may want to look around and shy because his blood is up. Shying is another form of expression a horse uses to control other horses. His body language says, "Watch out, I'm in charge." When a horse is in a collected frame he is feeling his self-importance.
Once you have brought your horse to a higher level in dressage, where he puts more energy into his performance, you may be dealing with more submission issues than in the past. A common problem with horses that are naturally submissive to the rider's aids in moderate gaits is that, when asked to perform to their maximum in self-carriage, they lack the desire or energy to do so. Some horses learn to pull or lean on the rein with green riders. All these problems can be addressed with the uberstreichen exercises.
Many times problems between self-carriage and manual control of rein aids and leg aids are related to a rider's inabilities. I will not address these errors because there are many schools of thought regarding riders' training techniques in developing collected and extended gaits. But no matter how the horse is being ridden, the exercises are beneficial because an unlocked horse in self-carriage at the top of his ability is what all the different riding schools wish to achieve. If the horse is being ridden incorrectly, the exercises will help but you must learn how to ride correctly or they will lose their effectiveness.
The exercises school horse and rider. While they are most effective in the hands of a skilled rider; they will advance the beginner's understanding and skill level on how to communicate half-halts for self-carriage. All riders can use them to identify where the horse is locked, where the problem is in the horse's performance and reaction to rein and leg aids.
It is important to remember to keep dressage in the act of your riding and training your horse. One rule that should never be broken is never asking your horse to perform any movement before he is prepared and willing to try.
Please write in with your questions and comments and I shall do my best to answer them.
Have a good weekend!