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posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 10:13

Looseness is a prerequisite for all further training and, along with rhythm, is an essential aim of the preliminary training phase.  Even if the rhythm is maintained, the movement cannot be considered correct unless the horse is working through its back, and the muscles are free from tension.  Only if the horse is physically and mentally free from tension or constraint (in German: Zwanglosigkeit) can it work with looseness and can it use itself to the fullest.

The horse’s joints should bend and straighten equally on each side of its body and with each step or stride, and the horse should convey the impression that it is putting its whole mind and body into its work.

Indications of looseness (and mental relaxation) are:

• A contented, happy expression (eyes, ear movements)

• A rhythmically swinging back

• A closed but not immobile mouth (the horse should mouth the bit gently)

• Tail lifted slightly (‘carried’) and swinging in time with the movement

• ‘Snorting’, which is a sign that the horse is mentally relaxed

Looseness has been achieved when the horse will stretch its head and neck forwards and downwards in all three gaits.  A horse working with looseness should swing through its back and move with rhythmic unspoilt natural paces; it should not rush forward, quickening its steps, i.e. ‘running’.  It should accept the forward-driving aids, and the rider should be able to sit the movement and not be thrown out of the saddle.