Suppleness means your pony bends through his whole body in both directions. In other words, when you’re riding a bend, turn or circle, he should be bending around your inside leg in the direction you’re asking.
As well as boosting your score in dressage tests, correct bend will really help your jumping, too. You’ll be able to stay balanced through a course and have a big advantage when it comes to tight jump-off turns!
What’s in a bend?
Correct bend is when your pony’s body is curved evenly from his tail to his poll. To bend well, he needs to be balanced and relaxed, and you need to give him the right aids…
- keep your inside leg on the girth – this is the most important part of the bend! Think about pushing your inside leg into his side to maintain the forward impulsion and allow him to curve his body around it
- move your outside leg slightly behind the girth to control his hindquarters and stop them swinging out
- open your inside rein slightly towards the inside of the bend to let your pony know the direction you’re asking him to turn
- your outside rein maintains impulsion and stops your pony over-bending, so keep your fingers wrapped around the rein and your arm close to your side
Look around the corner to let your pony know where you’re asking him to go. Remember to sit up tall and keep your shoulders back to stay balanced and square in the saddle.
On the straight and narrow
If your pony doesn’t bend in the direction you’re asking him, first make sure he’s had enough of a warm-up to loosen up. Then think about your aids – you’re likely to be stiff through your body and not using enough leg. Bring your shoulders down and back to relax, then focus on using your legs, rather than your hands, to make the bend.
The good news is, whether your pony has too much or not enough bend, there are loads of exercises you can do to encourage him to be more supple. Get your copy of October PONY magazine to check them out – on sale now!