Finding Neutral - the key to relaxation

In dressage the second step in the scale of training is ‘Relaxation’, relaxation of the body or physical relaxation is often discussed and gauged by the rhythm of the horses strides and his ability to stretch his topline and maintain that rhythm and balance.

Often less discussed but just as important is mental relaxation. So is it possible for a horse to have rhythm, balance and stretch his topline and not be mentally relaxed? - Yes it is!!

If you have a horse that can do these things and is still tense, spooky or naughty then read on, this blog is for you...

For a horse to find true, mental relaxation they need to feel safe and comfortable. If a horse is out of balance then he will not feel safe, if he is being constantly adjusted then he will not find comfort and as a result won’t understand what he’s trying to achieve.

In this situation a scared horse will hopefully carry on anyway but is likely hold quite a bit of tension and could also be spooky. A confident horse is more likely to be naughty or put up a fight as they don’t understand what they are trying to achieve.

The point of balance and comfort I’m talking about is called ‘neutral’. Neutral is where you and your horse are in balance so your hands and legs can do nothing, your horse is balanced between your hands and legs and you can stop using them, even if it’s just for a moment. To be clear I don’t mean dropping the reins, I mean still, supportive hands and quiet legs at the horses sides.

To achieve this you have to be clear that neutral is something you are trying to achieve and have a clear mental picture of what that might look like. Think Charlotte and Valegro, why do we love that picture so much? Because it looks effortless, like she’s doing nothing!!

Finding neutral is also key to being able to improve your position as a rider, it’s very difficult to have a good leg position if you have a horse that you are constantly having to encourage to go forwards. It’s equally difficult if you are constantly having to slow them down!!