It’s an amazing feeling to glide across the diagonal in an extended trot – the horse moving powerfully forward yet barley touching the ground. But how can you achieve that? How do you get both expression and lightness? The horse’s back plays an important role here!
The horse’s back as the key for more expression and lightness
“If the back is swinging and the horse’s movement is flowing through his entire body, the likelihood of getting more expression is much higher,” emphasizes Benjamin Werndl. “In the canter, it’s like a wave that travels across the horse’s topline.” Another positive effect: If the horse is using his back well, he will also enjoy moving more, and it will be much easier for him to do the exercises we ask of him.
“To achieve more expression and lightness, I want to make sure my horse is in front my leg and reacts well to my driving aids. However, if you focus too much on your leg aids, what can happen is that your horse tenses his back and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve. True motivation to move forwards with expression and lightness is a result of your horse opening and using his back correctly. If you get your horse to open his back, he will generally find it much easier to react promptly to fine leg aids and that will allow you to achieve true expression based on suppleness rather than tension. “
Expression through collection
The second element that’s especially important for developing expression and lightness is to ‘close’ the horse, i.e. to shorten the frame from back to front. “When we are trying to get the horse in front of the leg, it can happen that we cause him to fall apart by using too much of a forward aid. Running forward is not good either. Forward is important, but in balance and in an appropriate shorter, more collected frame. The area behind the saddle is supposed to become shorter whereas I’m trying to elongate the area in front of the saddle. I want to encourage my horse to carry behind and at the same time I want to be able to give in the front.” The keyword here is: energy through collection. When we manage to create energy through collection, the horse becomes more expressive.
“If a horse enjoys moving and uses every muscle in his body, I’ve got a pretty good chance of achieving lightness,” Benjamin adds. “This takes patience. It can take years to get there. Just because I get on a horse, he’s not automatically going to be supple and elastic. We work on this daily with every horse.”
Lightness begins with the rider
Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl is also committed to lightness as a training goal for her horses. She says: “Fundamentally, it is very important to me that the love and joy for what I am able to do comes across with my horses. That is something that needs to come from the inside. This means that I focus on teaching my horses to respond to the lightest aids. It’s not okay to be strong at home and pretend that everything’s light at the show.”
Learn more about the holistic training of our horses in Aubenhausen with the help of our dressage masterclasses. Jessica and Benjamin are showing you exclusive insights, tips and exercises within our Aubenhausen Academy. Find your favorite masterclass now!