Straightness, bend and the training scale….

Mystery? Why is rhythm first on the training scale? Straightness, cylindrical or absolute…correct aids for travere…

In my quest to learn more about the art of dressage. I have found many inconsistencies that I did not anticipate because of wealth of refinement that has gone in to this discipline. Unfortunately, I have not associated with knowledgeable dressage masters that can enlighten me on some of the inconsistencies that I have came across. I was hopping that Reisa has came across these same questions and may know the answers to.

The three questions I have are:
1) In every corner of dressage, dressage masters talk about straightness, but I have never seen an absolute straight dressage horse! The definition of straightness that has been explained to me was that a horse needs to tracking straight from withers to croup with a straight spine (not travel crooked), but how can you have straightness if the ribcage is bent around the inside leg and using the outside rein? A good example of this is in lateral movements like Half-pass. If straightness is important, why is the frame of the horse bent in the direction of travel? At this level of training, they have full control of shoulders and haunches, would it not be more of a challenge to keep absolute straightness?

If they only bend the neck and not the ribcage, then the outside shoulder leaks out to the outside (now they need outside rein to fix it) and then horse is not tracking straight. I have heard two definitions of straightness: cylindrical and absolute. Even in the upper levels I have not seen absolute straightness because in a turn they turn the nose in the corner, they pull the horse through the turn with the inside rein. I just don’t understand how dressage defines straightness, it seems elusive to me. Can you clarify straightness? with regards to lateral movements?

2) The training scale is the foundation of how we train a horse, and rhythm is the foundation of that foundation. When we hear music, it has rhythm and tempo because the instruments are playing. Once the instruments are playing we can now adjust the tempo.

With regards to training a horse, if we need to adjust the rhythm, we need to use contact to balance the tempo. It seems odd to have rhythm first on the training scale when it requires two other elements to teach true tempo. You can not have true rhythm without movement (impulsion) to work on trueness of rhythm. It has been said that rhythm can only be achieved when the horse is straight and in balance, but we need to teach a horse to be straight through implosion, contact, and collection. In order to teach collection we need the horse to except contact with aids. It seems to me that impulsion should be first followed by contact, collection, straightness, rhythm, suppleness. It seems to me that rhythm and suppleness is a result of a well balanced, forward, collected horse.

Suppleness is second on the scale, but you can not teach suppleness without contact and impulsion. A horse can not be supple until he is balanced, straight and has impulsion. So how can you get these two components (rhythm/suppleness) when we need first impulsion and contact to achieve them?

3) It is a standard concept to move the outside leg back to the number 3 position to move the haunches for a tranvers movement, but they also instruct to sit on the outside seat bone. Balance is top of the list of good equitation, by moving the leg back puts the rider out of balance. I see no reason to sit on the outside seat bone and move the leg back, just do one or the other. I know this is a personal preference, but it is widely taught. Should the leg stay in a more natural neutral position and just shift weight to the outside seat bone to move haunches in?

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Randy Byers

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