Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, January 24, 2008 10:05 AM
Nobel is an ambassador of the Andalusian breed. He won numerous trophies at National Andalusian Championships.
He was 2004 Breyer Horse. His glossy white coat and
flowing mane and tail give an impression of being a horse from a fairy tale. When you are riding Nobel you start to feel
that you know how to ride: his gaits are so soft and steady and movements are easy to execute. When people who want to know more about
Andalusian horses come to Frances for advice she let them ride Nobel to show the best the breed can offer.
Even though riding Nobel was easy Frances didn't let me be a passenger on his back. I had to do my best to bring the
best out of him. I will use my experiences with Nobel to explain why it is important to keep the horse's base of the neck free of tension. This
helps to free the back and create better balance. The tension at the base of the neck spreads forward to the jaw and back
to the haunches. It limits rider's ability to position the horse correctly and blocks the movement. Frances worked with me on that with other
horses too but the complete picture came to my head when I was riding Nobel. Because he is easy to ride he responded very quickly
to correct aids and showed me how movements feel when horse is balanced and supple.
The schooled horse working in a manège must move straight with a slight flexion to the inside most of the time.
Horse's shoulders are narrower then haunches. If rider wants to keep the horse straight, he/she has to ride him in a slight shoulder-fore position.
To move correctly the horse must give the whole inside side of his body to the rider. It creates a slight inside bend not just flexion in the poll
area. That feels as a give to the rider's inside knee and thigh and softening on the inside rein. When that happens the horse comes
up on the outside aids: rein, seatbone, thigh and lower leg. Now the rider can position the horse by using outside aids as a perimeter control
for the horse's body and channel the energy from back to front. That what it means: "riding from the inside leg to the outside rein."
Now you can ride anything from 10 m circle to a pirouette.
It all depends on how much bend you need and where you want your horse to go. Shoulder-fore and shoulder-in are most important exercises because they teach
the horse to go from inside aids to outside ones. Anytime things are not working in regard of balance and suppleness - shoulder-in is your answer.
Half-passes and pirouettes are much more difficult exercises because the horse must
move into the direction of his bend by responding to the outside aids. At the same time he has to constantly come up to the outside aids
staying soft and giving on inside. He must not collapse his body to the inside. That takes strength, suppleness, balance and obedience
to the rider's aids on the horse's part and balance, skill and feel on the rider's part. Now imagine riding a half-pass zigzag, changing
the bend and balance in one or two steps without a glitch... That is why
zigzags are one of the most difficult exercises to execute flawlessly. If a horse holds at the base of the neck he will never
give to the inside aids and come up to the outside ones and energy will be blocked. Some horses stay quite supple by nature and some
have to be suppled and prepared every single ride
and even during the ride reminded to stay supple. Conformation faults and/or incorrect training are usually the reasons for their stiffness.
That is what Nobel showed me and I was able to keep him straight in trot and canter, ask for shoulder-in, travers and renvers
in trot and ask him for working pirouettes in canter. Half-passes in trot were more difficult to keep everything balanced and supple. He would
collapse to the inside after a few steps. Frances worked with me asking for shoulder-in on the circle to really supple him up, asking couple steps
of half-pass then shoulder-in, then half-pass again. This exercise really helps a horse to stay correctly on outside aids and not to collapse to the inside.
The lengthy explanation that I just did flashed in my head as an instant knowledge. During one of my especially good rides on Nobel
I have realized that I know what to look for and how to ask for it. Thanks Nobel!