SUPPLENESS is one of the basic factors that is oh so importnt to get right. Suppleness is stage two in the education scale and it happens when the horse is free of tension mentally and physically and when there are no constrains on its muscles, ligaments or joints. It entails muscle tone, stretchiness, a capability to use the relevant muscles to work over the back and the neck towards the bit. The greatest test of whether suppleness exists in your horse is that when any contact is eased the horse will stretch forward and down. One of the key reasons that suppleness is so important is that the back muscles and ligaments have to have tone if they are to carry the rider without losing their natural movement. If they tighten against the rider’s weight, are stiff, or immature and weak, they will not be able to move freely. If that’s the case, that lovely power coming from the hind legs can’t flow freely through the horses body, and therefor impulsion will be limited, the horse will not be connected, and there will be little or no swing over the back.
I always start my rides with a stretch to make sure the horse can stretch freely longitudinal as well as to the sides before we contract the uscles. & I always end my rides with a stretch to make sure the horse lets go and tranquil after harder moves.
Photo of Caruso collected versus stretching (& trust me, it’s been a looong job to get Caruso’s long, tall and huge body to get to where it is now. Phew! But patience Patience.)