Nuno Oliveira Defines what Forward Is and How to Actually Use the Leg
by Eleanor Russell
[ER]: Yes. I’m trying to remember how he put it. I’m sure it comes up in the chapter on legs. “….to obtain lightness, you must not only be attentive to the principles but especially to the quickness necessary for understanding the sensation the horse gives you.” And that, to me, is terribly important. People don’t try to feel what the horse is thinking.
[HFL]: What a wonderful line. To be able to feel what the horse is thinking. I love that.
[ER]: So do I. [On] page 8, “the legs of the rider - some people have the tendency to use too much pressure with the legs. I would try to use a very simple explanation to make you lose the tendency to use too much legs. The horse breathes and if the pressure with the legs is continued, then he must breathe with his chest contracted.” Now who thinksabout that? How many riders do you know who would register that, least of all think about it? “The legs would be near the horse, but soft without moving, and they must be touching with very quick instances. They must touch and relax.” They must touch and relax and if necessary, touch again, but only for a fraction of a second. I see most riders with their legs glued tight to the horse.
[HFL]: Let’s go back to the part about the horse breathing and that legs are literally wrapped around his lungs. And you’re right. Not enough people think about that.
[ER]: I don’t think it even registers,letalonethink about it. That’s why your legs must be wrapped around the horse - soft. We’re all taught at Pony Club to grip, and I think it’s very hard for people to get over it.We have a young horse here that was broken in and that was going very pleasantly. He hadn’t been broken in very long. And I had a woman who actually couldn’t keep her bottom in the saddle who wanted to try him and see if she wanted to buy him. She got on him and he took it all very quietly and calmly. About a month later, there was a visitingpupilhere who was clearly arrogant. She got on this horse and I now know that she’s got an incredible grip in her legs because that horse leapt into the air and started to buck like a horse coming out of a shute with a flank strap on. She did it twice to the horse and I actually rang up the guy who broke the horse and talked to him about it. I could not believe this horse let this very overweight middle-age woman plop on the saddle with him and he didn’t object a month before, and then this girl got on him and clearly she got on, slammed the legs on him and gripped like hell. And he said “oh my god!” and leapt in the air and started to buck.
[HFL]: That tells you how much it bothered the horse to have strong legs on him. It bothered him more than having someone plopping on his back.
[ER]: He was very good. I think it was probably a reasonable deal so he put up with it. He said “ok, it’s on my back and it’s not really hurting me” but this [gripping legs] really scared him.
[HFL]: Well, if he’s having the feeling that he can’t breathe and he can’t move, then he’s going to have problems. And aside from a horse’s breathing, his barrel and spine actually shift depending on hisbend, and which direction he’s goingin, so his barrel needs to be able to tilt back and forth atthetop of his vertebrae. Howis hesupposed to do that with somebody on his back clamping like crazy? He can’t. So not only does it irritate him when he’s breathing, but it interferes with his ability to move and balance himself and to activate his own body. It puts him in a straightjacket. So I don’t think that’s averyhealthy thing.
[ER]: It always surprises me how obliging horses are.
[HFL]: Quite honestly, I really wish they would do something. You can see how some of them are being abused. I really wish they would object more so more people would get the idea that “hey, this horse doesn’t like it”.
[ER]: What it says here is that it (the clamping legs) restricts their movement. It says here in the chapter about the legs of the rider that “in the beginning of shoulder-fore and half-pass, you must touch for one second only to allow the horse to step without being in a hurry. In most case it happens to be pressed all the time, not always at a good time, and that is the reason we see insufficient crossing of the horse’s legs. We do not allow the horse the time to do the movement in cadence. It should be in his cadence.” And we see it so much in competition. The horses begin their half-pass and although they get across the diagonal, they become what we call “grounded”. They lose their cadence and it’s because they’re
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