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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Six Scales of Dressage Training – Part 4: Impulsion

Photo credit: Paul Dobson Photography

This is the first scale that becomes separate to the scales prior to it – impulsion. In your dressage training, you must have established rhythm, suppleness and contact in order to effectively work on & achieve impulsion.

A forward thinking horse that will react from your aids is ready to take on impulsion training. Premature training towards impulsion could cause negative effects on the previous scales of training as pushing your horse to create impulsion when he isn’t ready will essentially put him off balance. The way he will counteract this is through stiffening (losing his rhythm & suppleness) and coming against the hand (losing a full cycle of contact).

Before we look at how to achieve impulsion and what the principles of this scale of training stand for, let’s consider what our desired outcomes are when we establish impulsion. Firstly, we want him to maintain his rhythm with cadence in all his work and show a willingness to work to the rider’s aids effectively. The more established your impulsion becomes, the more your cadence and moments of suspension will be, which is especially useful when your work on lateral training exercises.

Next up is that impulsion creates an exciting overall view of your horse and he becomes something exciting to watch as well as ride. He will be able to showcase a variety of paces within each pace, expressing good longitudinal suppleness giving the impression of a determined yet controlled power.
Finally, you should find a better spring to his work both longitudinally and laterally, but also throughout his transitions. Your horse should feel forward and like he steps forward into each change of movement, and feel athletic underneath the rider.

But what elements do you need to be able to achieve correct impulsion?

Balance is key – your horse must be in balance to achieve impulsion in his work. He needs a lack of resistance, both in terms his own body being fully supple and from the rider’s seat and hand aid to allow him to be elastic throughout the full range of his movement. In order to gain his power (remember, the engine is at the back!), he will need a quick and engaged hind limb action that can come forward and overtrack the hoof fall of the front foot.

If you can’t achieve impulsion, you’ll typically experience a lack of an elastic feeling with the horse feeling unathletic, he’ll be unresponsive or slow to the rider’s aids and he’ll find both longitudinal & lateral movements much more difficult to perform correctly.

Don’t forget, balance is key, so too much impulsion will often push the horse out of balance, causing him to become tense, stiffen and be tight across his back. This will most commonly lead to him rushing, shortening his frame and struggling to keep a true contact.

“The transmission of controlled, propulsive energy generated from the hindquarters into the athletic movement of the eager horse. Its ultimate expression can be shown only through the horse’s soft and swinging back, and is guided by the gentle contact with the rider’s hand”

Impulsion should consider the thought process of FORWARD – it’s just that, a thought process and not a pace or rhythm. All of you correct preparation work in the previous three scales will set you up best for achieving impulsion and mastering this forth scale will seem much easier!

Discover the other scales of dressage training

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