Suppling the horse

A supple horse should be a basic aim of our flatwork. With Christian Ahlmann and Epleasure van het Heike


  • #horse
  • #work in flat
  • #training

A supple horse is one who can lenghten and compress his frame as well as bend his body laterally without losing his balance. In order to reach this goal, you have to put the horse through a series of gymnastic exercises in his flatwork. These exercises will not only quietly supple the horse, but will engage the hindquarters increasingly as they build energy, bringing the horse more on the bit and into greater collection. This is all done without force, because by training him through the correct gymnastics, he will increasingly need to balance himself.

The result is that when he attains the desired balance, he will be maintaining it by himself, not depending on the rider. You are still telling the horse what to do and encouraging him to do it correctly by going with him. You do not offer resistance unless the horse starts to do something wrong. Even then, your resistance or correction can be simply a change of gymnastic exercise, until the horse can carry out the original instructions in balance, moving forward in whatever motion is required.

Strict obedience must be acquired through repeated, appropriate work, accompanied by reward, never harshness and force. You will lead the way using the sensitivity and suppleness of your own body as well as the selection of gymnastics you ask of the horse. A horse trained in this fashion by a capable rider turns from one that is stiff, and going on his forehand, to a more supple, balanced, and happy horse in a remarkably short warm-up session.

What are these suppling exercises? Most of them are very simple, based on circles, turns. Up and down transitions are very important for balance and obedience and as a bilder of energy. Circles of twenty meters decreasing to ten, as well as serpentines, counter-canter should be included in this exercises.