This article, like all others on this website, is not about education or
knowledge, but rather is primarily about one's ability to look at things and see
for oneself what is happening, which is the essence of growing as a horseman
and/or rider. Hence, do not believe something; instead, look at your horse and
The mechanics of the horse propel the animal with two types of hind legs functions. One is by intermittent shifting of the hind legs in which case both legs have equal output of energy when going straight. All in all, this function can be compared to a man pushing a wheelbarrow, where his legs do all the work. The wheel of the wheelbarrow is like the horseís front legs, so the nickname for the horse's front legs is, suitably, "the wheels" ("he's got no wheels" = broken down race horse).
The second type of forward propelling is when both hind legs work more together and no longer interchange as in walk or trot. This is done in the gallop, when one of the hind legs works harder than the other in propelling the horse forward, while the other assists in pushing but takes also an important part in the supportive function, which is important in the balance of the horse. To know and be aware of the differences is very relevant when riding horses, because the riding of the horse changes in relevance to the gait and speed, since the distribution of horse's body weight on his legs differs.
This is then relevant to the output and direction of the horse's energy. Please make sure that you do recognize and not overlook when a particular article is talking about riding walk, trot or gallop. In addition to this attention must be paid to the seat, whether the light or heavy seat is implemented. The type of seat, the gait, the speed and the rider's ability determines how the horse is ridden, or rather, how the horse should be ridden. We cannot ignore the nature of the horse or the ability of the rider, which then set the criteria in what to do and also help us understand what is happening.
Now we have established in simplicity how the horse's body is propelled forward, and the next paragraph will help us understand the energies that the horse deals with and that we have at our disposal to use.
The positive propelling energy (in red and purple) moves the horse up and forward, generated primarily in the piston like function between the stifle and hip. The opening phase (pushing) has many more muscles involved, and thus more strength, than the closing (collecting) function, so the latter weakens considerably sooner. From the hip forth, the energy runs primarily forward and any point of the horse that is below the hip from the hip forth adds to the negative energy, hence the impulsion line.
As in all energies, we have the negative and the positive. The negative
(dead) energy, or the so-called grounding energy, of course, refers to the
earthís gravitational force, without which nothing on this earth could
propel itself forward. Hence the weight of the animal must be considered
in relation to gaits and speeds in order to insure the proper use of the
horse, thus preventing unnecessary injuries to the horse and often to
The weight of the horse, as well as of the rider, belongs to the negative energy. The front legs of the horse, as in the case of the wheel on the wheelbarrow, are primarily supportive in function and add to the negative energy by their weight; hence big, muscular and heavy shoulders are something that one would not want in a decent riding horse.
positive (living) energy that propels the horse with the help of the gravitational
force is concentrated in the horseís hind end. The entire positive
energy (force) goes from the hind hooves, through the hind legs, hips and
the entire spine from the hip all the way to the highest point, and then
travels mechanically to the end of the horse's nose if the poll is the
highest point. In other words, it travels from the lowest point (the rear
toe) continuously upward to the highest point (the poll).
The horse in reality runs on two legs and rolls over the two in front (which he of course first extends), so thinking of him as a two-legged creature will help with understanding this article. In addition, in comparison to other creatures like cats or dogs, the horses do not posses the grabbing function in the front legs, as it is often falsely believed (thus the term "toe grabs").
Collecting the positive energy back and setting the hind end under becomes difficult in the tiring horse. In principle, it should be done by shortening up the blue line and stretching the orange line, stretching it in a bow like fashion (the reverse function of the piston). During this precise moment, while the horse is in the air, the rider can help the horse in recollecting this energy. As it is, the rider has a loose rein, out of touch with the horse and his energy. Click the picture to enlarge. The light green shows approximately where his hand should be in full contact with the horseís jaw.
All out, most of the forward energy released. How long the blue line gets and how short the orange line gets is very much determined by how much energy has been collected and released as mentioned above. Neither rider is helping the horse (loose reins in both pictures; the lower picture only appears as if there is contact). Both riders are riding the horsesí necks, not their motion and energy.
One of the most important facts to understand in helping the horse during
gallop is that he loses the positive energy first when he is tiring. It is
not any different than when people run, as you may have noticed in your
life experience. If the horse becomes tired while running, his lack of
positive energy shows first in his weakness while "folding up",
or better said, when putting his hind legs back under after the pushing
function and full extension. In humans it shows in shorter strides; when
tiring, we find it difficult to pick up our feet and set them sufficiently
in front of us. For horses, itís failing to sufficiently pull the hind
legs up and under hence loosing collection and lowering impulsion - energy
output and the horse slows down.
Once this happens, we often talk about the horse falling apart. In racing, since the jockeys no longer know how to use their hands, they primarily use the whip to aid the horse forward. However, riding the horse out with the whip is not just smacking the horse's ass in the yahoo-like way of going; the whip must land at a precise moment within a fraction of a second in order to work to "motivate" the horse to tuck back under his hind legs. The whip should land during the phase of "tucking under" while the horse is in the air and the pain of the whip causes the horse to tucks his hind legs under some more. Hitting the horse during full run out of timing is brutal and often will cause the horse to slow down or sulk, or even buck or kick out if heís going slow enough.
During in-hand riding we can also influence the tucking under of the horseís hind legs by adding our own energy into the motion. This helping energy starts from the rider's legs in the light seat (which requires shorter stirrups), goes through his spine, then hands, the reins, the bit, and the horse's jaw to the poll, and travels all the way to the rear of the horse, because the horse uses his neck not just to help in lifting the front end but primarily in tucking his hind under. This gets done in the precise moment when the entire body of the horse is in the air, so it can be implemented only in faster and extended gallops that have sufficient suspension.
There can be no loose rein during the entire phase of any single gallop jump when riding in hand; this is how you can easily tell if the horse is genuinely hand ridden. Horses that get tired usually do two things: keep dropping their heads closer to the ground as they become tired, and those who feel off balance will tend to keep stiff necks in a somewhat upright fashion. In both cases the horses are inevitably exposed to injuries, hence since most people have no idea what is happening, we have so many injured horses.
We call the light seat a light seat because it is only in this seat that one can make himself lighter by adding to the positive energy, while freeing more of the horse's positive energy by removing one's own ass from the horse's back.
When implemented on a jumping horse, one has the control over the horse's
stride, and thus he can easily adjust the horse's going on any course, such as
riding a small horse on a course set up for long-strided horses. The smaller
horses are quicker on the course and at one time, when there were decent riders,
the most popular jumping horses were the
but this is no longer so since such
horses require finer riders, as opposed to the programmed, dead-headed
warmbloods of today, which once programmed will take any fool over the Olympic
level jumping course; the popularity of these horses only testifies to the
decadence of the riding world.
To be able to truly ride a horse and correctly use all riding aids, especially your hands, one needs to "plug" into the horseís energy. For the hands to plug in they need to control the peak of the energy, which is the poll. Note how all the forward and up energies meet at the highest point, the poll.
The up and forward energy ends at the highest point, in this case the neck, where the horse is flexed. The blue and red lines are obviously shortened. This is a typical example of what it means to literally be out of touch with the horse. Note the distance of separation between the high point of the yellow triangle and the high point of energy-simply out of touch. This is an example of today's dressage folks, who misinterpret the concept of a "rounded horse." The overextended foreleg is typical for such out-of-balanced going. (enlarge)
The draft horses are specifically bred and built to pull heavy loads. Their extreme forward body weight distribution serves to deliver pulling power by using their own weight like a lever, and with the help of the negative energy of gravitational force lean into the harness, lifting the body and then leaning the front body weight into the harness. These are not the same types of horses that the knights rode.
call this "NO CLASS." Itís absurd to put a heavy draft in a
light carriage. They are not made for trot; theyíre bred and
designed to work primarily at walk, hence the hippologists also refer to
them as "walking horses" (that has nothing to do with the
walking horses of today in the US). They have a noticeable extreme weight
forward in the huge head and neck.
How many people consider the pic below pretty, nice, practical, proper, suitable, normal or beautiful? It does not even look funny; itís as absurd as a draft horse whoís used for riding purposes or light cart.
A simple fact for understanding the propelling motion on the earth is that
any animal with legs that wants to move forward must move up and forward
when on land. Anything that causes the moving up and forward (in the
direction of desired motion) of one's body contributes to the positive
energy. Anything that moves down and backward (opposite of the direction
of motion), or doesn't move at all, contributes to the negative energy by
its own weight. The ratio between the up and forward, combined with the
strength and speed of repetitions of the mechanics, produces a certain
speed. This is very simple and very important when looking at the rider or
the horse. One doesnít need to be an expert to see; one just needs to
look and notice.
Hence one of the most important factors of one's growth as a horseman and
rider is to become perceptive, to notice small details in motion, which is
very relevant to the appropriate and speedy response to other life and
motion. Horses have it and if you do not you will never understand horses
and horses will never respect you, since the respect among the animals is
measured in the speed of response.
have only a theoretical knowledge of gravitational energy, but it is here
and we all feel it. The source of the positive energy is not the horse's
hind end, though it concentrates within it and is delivered mostly there,
but rather it is the horse's heart that often overrides the functions of
the brain. For this reason in racing we talk about not only the horse's
physical strength but also about the horse's heart, which makes the horse
prevail even if tired, and also makes him so admired by many who are aware
conclusion, the most important fact of this article is that the horse's
forward propelling energy does not involve only the rear end-it also
includes all the red parts drawn in the picture, and that the rider has to
so-called plug into this energy in order to become part of it and even add
to it. The common mistake of most riders now and then is that they ride
one end of the horse and not the whole horse. The half-assed riders that
you see in the Olympic games primarily ride the horse's front end, which
is very obvious to see as most of them look constantly down at the horse's
head (during dressage)-theyíre concerned with its position, which is
apparent even to non-horse people. In addition, the bit drops below the
line, or in other words,
below the positive energy level line, and becomes the part of the negative
force, hence the horse is so-called off balance and no longer can be
ridden by the aids of hands, let alone assisted. Some more forceful riders
end up riding the horse's rear and to actually see someone riding the
whole horse, well, good luck, since it is as rare as finding gold while
strolling in your back yard, but it happens. This article should primarily
help those so-called successful riders or the ones thinking of themselves
as advanced and lead them to the realization that they know very little,
and that there is much more room for improvement if they care.
article serves primarily to help with understanding the horse's energies
in order to better understand the so-called riding in hand, which is of
utmost importance for the advanced rider, because only through our use of
hands during jumping and mainly during faster gallops can we contribute
our own strength, combine it with the horse's strength, and thus become
one. This is purely for the advanced rider only, for the one that has
reached a certain point and his progress has slowed down. An amateur rider
may get an understanding of what to look for but will never reach this
level. Nevertheless, he will at least be able to evaluate decent riders,
and in addition, it will help him understand the various problems that he
When any part of the horse's
head drops below the lowest level of the spine before the hip, the horse's
head is no longer part of the positive energy and becomes part of the
negative energy; thus, the horse is off balance. This is very simple for
anyone to understand and see. You donít even need to know anything about
horses. However, the so-called successful riders hate this site, because
they simply cannot ride and this little fact points their incompetence out
to everyone, as their horses carry their bits below the impulsion line and
thus cannot be ridden by the aid of hands. Once the bit is below the
positive energy line (up and forward), these riders can no longer
"plug into" the positive energy to become part of it. In
addition, the spine is so-called "broken," often in the flex of
the neck, while the back is hunched up rather than rounded (more on this
flexed neck with the
hunched back gives the false appearance of some kind of roundness to a
greenhorn, which is of course very incorrect, though that position is
praised by the incompetent judges of today's equestrian world.
article should now also shed some light on the differences between various
breeds, specifically the difference between a draft and a riding horse.
The main difference is in the body weight distribution, as the draft
horseís front end is heavier, especially the head and neck, since in
heavy pull the horse's body function is in the form of a lever and the
horse uses his own weight, which he first lifts up, to pull the load. On
the other hand, the decent riding horse has a smaller, or rather lighter,
head and neck, so the front end is light (unlike most warmbloods these
days) for the faster and/or more athletic riding purposes.
genuine riding of a horse consists of the rider becoming part of the
horse's energy, which then enables the rider to manage it, its power and
direction. Genuine riding is not about one controlling or manipulating the
other but it is about doing something together. If and when you reach this
level you will discover a new world that you never knew existed, and the
horse will too. You two will then live in a separate world that no one
sees and hardly anyone understands, for your horse will move up to a
higher level of life consciousness, which he inevitably embraces as a new
life, and you will see the nature and life within like never before.
The most important part to take from this article is the fact that the positive energy of the horse always travels from the horse's hind toes up and ends at the highest point; from the lowest point to the highest, and in no time it works downward (see all red graphs). This is one of the reasons we donít like to ride horses that are higher in the hindquarters than in the withers. Also, if and when the highest point is the neck and not the poll, we can no longer use our riding aids in sync with the horse's motion and energy, since the connecting part, the horse's jaw (clutch) is no longer connected to the horseís energy or motion. The above is very important to remember, especially when reading all articles relevant to riding aids.
Edited by J. G.
May 21st, 2006
Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek