Sunday, February 9, 2014

Icelandics, gaited riding and Losgelassenheit

I saw an interesting article in German about a gaited dressage kuer in Iceland:
Vorhand frisst Losgelassenheit (published in the Iceland Review On Line Magazine)

There are several interesting points:
  • The title of the article "Vorhand frisst Losgelassenheit" implies that the high forehand action so prized in Icelandic horses works against, indeed kills, a horse's ability to be light and responsive. 
  • The fact that many competition horses are ridden with high head and tight reins is mentioned. A competition rider is quoted as saying that any training that does NOT ask for action and speed will be counterproductive to competition, implying that any other form of riding will ruin a horse as a sports prospect. This view appears not uncommon. Dressage training is often referred to as "Kringelreiten", which is a slightly negative way of saying riding in circles.
  • Despite this, the dressage competition is gaining in popularity, though it is considered by many to be a "women's event".
  • The author expresses the view that the riding and horses on display have improved since the competition began some years ago, now focussing on better riding rather than just speed. 
  • The article mentions an Icelanding trainer whose DVDs I have seen myself, and who struck me as being very classical in his approach. He also had the nicest seat and most diplomatic hands of all the riders in that video.
  • The author suggests that a horse made supple through correct exercises and ridden in Losgelassenheit (light in the bridle, responsive, calm), better Toelt can be achieved. The common way of asking for speed and action by way of restricting the horse and using strong seat, leg and rein aids is much less suited for producing good toelters who are also responsive and useful for other disciplines.
Coincidentally, we watched an Icelandic video yesterday, and many of the points mentioned about competition horses and the type of riding used were clear to see. But we also saw a more enlightened trainer at work, who used dressage to make his gaited horses more beautiful and happy.

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