Flexibility. It’s one of our most important traits. Life is all about flexibility. Whether it’s preparing for a last-minute meeting, dealing with a change in plans for your dinner date, or simply embracing a spontaneous moment during this great adventure we call life, everyone needs to be flexible. Everyone needs the capability for a little bend. So do horses; especially in the complex arena of the world of dressage.
What Exactly is Bend in Horses?Merrium-Webster defines flexibility as, 'the quality of bending without easily breaking'. Bend then refers to an object, or living thing’s ability to 'incline the body downward from the vertical', which is an intriguing definition as so often dressage riders are faulted for their horses being 'behind' the vertical. However, bending horses does not refer to them being behind the vertical, or in reference to a horse that has come off-contact from the bit, but rather, a horse that bends through their body, that is supple and flexible enough to engage in lateral curvature all the way from poll to tail, as he navigates any given requests.
Why is Developing Bend in Horses Important?Developing bend in horses is important for several reasons. First, bending with horses indicates suppleness and balance. Proper bending techniques showcase the control a rider has over his horse, as well as the strength and athleticism of the prospect being ridden. A correctly bent horse will soften laterally around a rider’s leg while maintaining his forward momentum and overall balance, in turn the rider will find more softness, more suppleness in all other movements. When the horse’s body becomes soft and responsive to each cue, each nuance of the rider, the horse becomes softer in the mouth and reaches a new level of mastery. That is the power of the correct bend.
What are the Bending Aids? How does a Rider Accomplish Bending Horses?Riders have three important aids that allow them to successfully achieve bending with horses. Those three aids are as follows:
- Inside leg at the girth
- Outside leg behind the girth
- Outside rein