This is when a horse uses their hind legs with activity. The horse pushes its movement forward by bending its joints more in the hind legs. This has the effect of the horse shifting its centre of balance to more underneath it self thus lifting the forehand and the lowering of its haunches. The horse will appear more uphill. This will free the horses’ shoulders and allow it to move with ‘freer’ paces. The horse will have more expression as a result in its movement. The horse goes forward with purpose!
How do we achieve it?
Firstly we need to ride the horse forward by asking with our leg. Then we capture the energy with a soft but firm hand. Initially in a horses training we need to achieve a regular rhythm with energetic steps into a consistent contact until the horse comes into a good outline and frame.
Transitions within the paces and from one pace to the next, helps to create the activity and responsiveness to the leg. The horse needs to be kept supple and flexible. So circles and lateral work are also important. Then transitions ridden during the lateral work, say in shoulder in, going on and coming back within the trot, will teach the horse to push with its inside hind leg. The more it pushes the more engagement possible.
The’ half halt’ is also an important part of achieving engagement. When ridden correctly it controls the forward propulsion, shifting the weight of the horse onto its haunches and therefore helping the balance of the horse. It helps to achieve collection and helps to create cadence in its steps as the movement becomes more lifted rather than faster. A correct half halt goes through the entire body of the horse and it feels as if the hind legs are braking as opposed to the mouth, as the horse steadies.
Now it is the combination of the activity and the half halts that create engagement. It takes strength and agility for the horse to be able to engage. Training (following the German Training Scale) allows the horse to build and develop to enable it to become more collected. True collection is necessary for the horse to be able to perform the more difficult movements of dressage.
The German Training Scale
comprised of the following six elements in that particular order:
Finally, here is a Video of a wonderful Horse and Rider Combination $125,000, but a good example of a lack of ‘suppleness’, restricting the potential.