Equestrian Coaching

  Hilary French on Elvis

The inter-relationship of the scales of training -Durchlassigkeit

Durchlassigkeit is variously known as submissiveness and responsiveness or letting the aids through. It is the flow of energy through the horse from front to back and back to front. The musculature of the horse is connected, supple, elastic, and unblocked, and the rider’s aids go freely through the horse.

The German term Durchlassigkeit literally means to allow a constant flow through a membrane (permeability) but in this context it means that the horse is prepared to accept the rider’s aids obediently and without tension. The horse should accept the driving aids immediately without hesitation, with the hind legs actively swinging through to create forwards thrust. At the same time the rein aid should be allowed to pass through the horses body via the poll neck and back to the hindquarters without being blocked by tension.

The horse can thus be said to be through when it remains loose and responds obediently and equally on both reins to the driving, restraining and sideways acting aids. The highest level of durchlassigkeit is seen when the horse can be collected in all three gaits at any time. 

Kim On Late O'Leary - Winter Championships  

Understanding the movements-Counter change of hand


Essentially the counter change of hand (also known as a Zigzag) is a half pass made in one direction followed by half pass made in the other direction. This can be carried out at either trot or canter (or in walk in training) and in the canter the horse will need to make a flying change of leg. Initially the demands of this movement are kept relatively simple with just one change of direction (so there will be 2 half passes, one in each direction, but as the tests become more difficult, an increasing number of half passes and therefore changes of direction are required. The most difficult movement requires that the horse executes a specific number of steps in each direction rather than covering a specified distance until the counter –change of hand in canter in the grand prix test which requires 4 half passes, the first and last of 3 steps and the middle two of 6 steps with changes in between. In the counter change of hand in canter, the flying change is counted as the first step of the new half pass.

In order to ride the movement the horse needs to be very supple and the more demanding the angle of the half passes and the limitation as to number of steps the horse must be exceptionally athletic and supple. When making the change of hand the horse needs to be straightened after the first half–pass before he is flexed and bent in the direction of the new half pass without losing impulsion and connection.

The rider must also ensure that the horse has the forehand in front of the new inside hip and that the quarters are not leading so the rider must always think of shoulder fore positioning to achieve this. The less supple or obedient a horse is then the more strides the rider will need to take to achieve this. The rider must also have a very supple seat to achieve the change in balance and positioning in their own body without interfering with the horse’s balance and connection

(by kind permission of Ian Barr Images- see links)


Rider Influence

Whilst the paces, conformation and temperament of the horse is usually the difference between a horse reaching medium or small or large tour or even international competitions, It is the influence of the rider which is generally the most important element in whether the performance of the horse at the earlier (preliminary/elementary) reaches satisfactory levels.

For that reason it is important that riders receive enough support and help to develop their independent seat and their ability to maintain their balance without relying on the reins. Problems often arise from riders who lack balance who either grip with their legs, which leads to the horse being blocked from moving properly through their bodies and makes the rider unable to correctly use their legs, or they balance on the reins and then create the vicious circle of horse and rider leaning on each other.

Regular lunge lessons on their own horse or a well balanced and responsive schoolmaster is a valuable tool as is riding without stirrups. The stirrup less rider that can execute smooth canter to trot transitions in a good balance without either horse or rider leaning is one of the best indicators that the rider’s influence is positive.

The rider must also regularly review through the training session that the horse is easy and supple into the contact in an appropriate outline and not fixed into a shape that has little to do with being truly on the bit. To check this then the rider should use giving and retaking the rein (where the horse should remain in the same outline without losing balance, rhythm or confidence for 1-2 strides) and also allowing the horse to stretch and then retaking the rein to show that the horse will follow the hand down when encouraged to do so.

Few riders who ride one horse 4-5 times a week will maintain sufficient suppleness to be immediately balanced in the saddle so as well as being lunged and riding without stirrups an appropriate stretching and core stability programme will be a vital part of any week. 

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Rona Willicott of Sound Schooling with Flynn

Goal of the Month: Improving half pass



Most of us are used to using shoulder in and travers to develop and prepare half pass but this month we are going to use an exercise which is used much less often. This movement is renvers which is similar to travers in that the horse is bent around the leg and brings his quarters in on the same side. However in this exercise the shoulders are moved to the inside track and the quarters remain on the outside track with the horse looking in the direction he is going.

The exercise is for you finish your half pass at the track, position the horse into renvers so that it effectively continues the half pass positioning. This teaches the horse to wait for you to straighten him and so you finish the half pass correctly. Turn down the centre line at A, position the horse in shoulder in and start the half pass towards B or E, as you reach the inside track (1 metre before the track), using a half halt, make the shoulders and forehand wait as you continue moving the quarters over on to the track. Maintaining the bend and positioning, ride forwards in the renvers, just before the final marker, half halt again, place the shoulders back on the track and ride forwards.

The added benefit is that it can help to improve the control of the shoulders in the shoulder in by switching from the shoulder in to renvers and back again. This increases the rider’s control of the movement and makes the horse wait for you and makes the rider think about the ending of the movement