Flexion in horses relates to the bend laterally through the horses
poll. For a horse to travel in balance on a turn or circle or in any
lateral movement it must have correct flexion. Correct flexion is in
the direction of travel and bend. When flexion is achieved
satisfactorily the rider will be able to see the inside eye lid of
the horses eye. The other point that must be visible when on board,
is the outside of the brow band on the horses face ,to avoid getting
too much bend, which in turn causes horses to fall out through their
shoulder and loose balance.
When a horse’s flexion is correct, it will automatically come on the
bit and come into a frame. Giving a soft elastic contact in the
Wrong flexion is detrimental to the balance of the Horse. When
flexed off the horse leans on a circle and falls in through its
inside shoulder, decreasing the circle size as it happens. It
ensures the horse is stiff and comes above the bit as a result. This
in turn will deteriorate the horse's top line and eventually even
As horses that go around upside down and inside out are using wrong
muscles and holding tension throughout their muscles. The main
reason horses flex off is because they are not “supple” and against
the riders leg. They are not ridden inside leg to outside rein. As
part of the German training scale “suppleness” is one of the first
requirements along with rhythm to ensure a horse can work relaxed.
So how do we achieve correct flexion?
Firstly we need the horse to be able to yield from the leg. So we
must teach the horse to
leg yield. As it is only when we can move
the horses rib cage and body over that we can ask it to bend and
keep flexion without following the rein contact in to the turn. The
rider needs to be able to sit central on the horse with a long
inside leg, as it is the inside leg that asks a horse to bend
primarily. When a rider sits central, the horse takes the center of
gravity on its inside hind leg, under its body weight. This allows
it to balance on a turn or circle. This gives it pushing power to
propel it forward with impulsion and grace producing cadence.
So riders need to learn to steer the horse with the leg. More often
than not, the learner rider tries to keep the horse out on a circle
using their outside rein. Pulling the horse to the outside track but
causing the horse to flex off. Then the horse falls in on the
circle, which in turn makes the learner rider take even more outside
rein in an attempt to keep the horse out. This is often seen in the
hack ring and at pony club where coaching leaves a lot to be
desired. Horses ridden in such a fashion become despondent and sour
as it makes the whole riding uncomfortable and difficult.
Straightness also needs to be discussed here. As when a horse is
straight on a turn it holds correct flexion. One way to assess if a
horse is straight through a turn is to look at the tip of it’s ears.
If one ear tip is higher than the other, the horse is tilting its
head. This is a sure sign of a crooked horse. A crooked horse is not
travelling with its hind feet in the footfalls of its front feet and
therefore is not in balance. When not balanced, the horses’ movement
becomes compromised. It will hold tension, which shows itself in the
flow and fluency of the strides.
Often the horse will rush along with a short quick tempo. Again the
horse can’t move straight with hind feet following front feet
footfalls, if flexed the incorrect way. So make sure if you are
going to ride a horse on an arena you do him justice and learn
correctly to ride inside leg to outside rein. You will then have a
happy partnership and willing horse. Remember balance helps the
horse to perform the moves with ease and no hindrance from its
rider. This can only be achieved with correct flexion.
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