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posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 10:48

The aim of all gymnastic training is to create a horse which is useful and ready and willing to perform.  For the horse to meet these conditions, its weight, plus that of its rider, must be distributed as evenly as possible over all four legs.  This means reducing the amount of weight on the forelegs, which naturally carry more of the load than the hind legs, and increasing by the same amount the weight on the hind legs, which were originally intended mainly for creating the forward movement.

In collection, the hind legs (the hock and stifle joints) bend more, stepping further underneath the horse in the direction of the center of gravity, and taking a greater share of the load.  This is its turn lightens the forehand, giving more freedom to the movements of the forelegs.  The horse looks and feels more ‘uphill’.  The steps become shorter but without losing their energy or activity.  The impulsion is maintained in full in the trot and canter, and as a result the steps become more expressive and ‘stately’.  The horse is built in such a way that there is more weight on its forehand than on its hindquarters.  By sitting just behind the shoulders, and so placing even more weight on the forehand, the riders makes the weight distribution even more uneven.  Hence training the horse to carry more of the weight on its hindquarters also makes it safer to rider (allowing it to balance and keep its footing), and helps to keep it sound.  Every horse will therefore benefit from some degree of collection.

By training and developing the relevant muscles, it is possible to increase the carrying capacity of the hindquarters.  On the other hand, the forelegs, which support rather than push, can only be strengthened to a very limited degree through training.  It is therefore more sensible, and indeed necessary, to transfer some of the weight to the hindquarters.

The increased flexion of the hind legs results in the neck being raised.  The horse is then in a position, if the carrying capacity of the hindquarters is sufficiently developed, to move in balance and self-carriage in all three gaits.

“Through”, “Letting the aids through”

Being ‘through’, or ‘letting the aids through’ means that the horse is prepared to accept the rider’s aids obediently and without tension.  It should respond to the driving aids without hesitation, i.e., its hind legs should ‘swing though’ actively, creating forward thrust.  At the same time, the rein aids should pass through, i.e., be ‘allowed through’ from the mouth, via the poll, neck and back, to the hindquarters, without being blocked by tension at any point.  The horse can be said to be ‘through’ or to ‘let the aids through’ when it remains loose and responds obediently, and equally on both reins, to the driving, restraining and sideways-acting aids.  This quality is the hallmark of the correctly schooled horse.

A horse which can be collected at any time and in all three gaits has attained the highest level of Durchlässigkeit.