The first-time seeing dressage in action is much like watching magic. The complexity and discipline required to execute such intricate, sophisticated patterns and maneuvers is almost unbelievable. So, what it is that allows competitors to showcase such fine-tuned athletes? The key to that answer begins with suppleness and bend, and a critical component of that training involves an understanding of lateral movement.
- What is Lateral Movement?
- The Importance of Foundational Training
- Why Include Lateral Exercises in Daily Training?
- Impacting Impulsion
- That’s my Favorite Track!
- The Five Different Lateral Movements
- A Cautionary Tale
- A Beautiful Complement
What is Lateral Movement?In the discipline of dressage, lateral movements (or lateral flexions, as they are also referred to within the realm of the equestrian sciences) are maneuvers that require a horse to move in a sideways motion, such as the half-pass or the leg-yield. To accomplish these maneuvers, the horse must maintain a forward-moving momentum, while also giving to, or moving away from the pressure of the rider’s leg, resulting in a diagonal line. These maneuvers can all be performed in various forms of the three gaits of walk, trot, and canter.
Back to the Basics: The Importance of Foundational TrainingFoundations are critically important in any school of study; be it mathematics, language, the arts, or the equestrian sciences and horse training. For a horse to be able to learn and successfully elicit lateral movements, they must first be taught to move away from the pressure of a rider’s leg. If, for example, a rider is asking for lateral movement, but is putting pressure on both of a horse’s sides, he will not know what to do, or which direction to go, and lateral movement will be virtually impossible to accomplish.
Why Include Lateral Exercises in Daily Training?Regardless of discipline or specialty, there is a place for lateral training exercises in any horse’s daily training regimen. Of greatest importance is that of leg pressure, as horses should learn to always move away from the pressure of a rider’s leg. Additionally, lateral exercises improve a horse’s suppleness, resulting in a more flexibility and far less rigidity of any given movement while aiding in the development of muscles and endurance and strength training. Finally, the dressage horse will be expected to perform specific lateral movements and maneuvers in the show ring, as these specific movements will be included within their patterns and will greatly influence their overall score.
Impacting ImpulsionIt is important to remember that there exists a negative relationship between lateral movement and impulsion. Requiring a horse to move sideways will have a negative effect on the amount of energy, or power, the horse has available with which to engage. Further, if not taught correctly, a horse can lose not only power, but also the degree to which his body remains balanced and supple. This can even result in damage to a horse’s body, or injuries, over time.
That’s my Favorite Track!The various types of lateral movements showcased in dressage require that the horse’s body and legs travel down different tracks or in different directions. As a result, individuals will refer to these maneuvers as being of various tracks, depending on the direction that each part of the horse’s body is moving in.
The Five Different Lateral MovementsThere are five different, primary types of lateral maneuvers in dressage. They are listed as follows:
- The Leg-Yield
- Travers, or Haunches-In