How to Achieve Suppleness in Your Horse

In our March Issue Janice Hussein examines the basic principals of suppleness as it relates to dressage and asks leading experts in the field for tips on gaining suppleness in your horse. Here, we leave the tips from experts. For the full article, see our March Issue.

Christophe Theallet, international coach and trainer, shared some of his favorite tips on suppleness. Theallet has thirty years of experience and success training horses to Grand Prix and FEI levels. He graduated from France’s prestigious ENE National Riding School in Saumur, France, and has been a French Equestrian Team member.

“The word supple-ing in horses refers to the whole body and not just the obvious parts of the horse like the neck,” Theallet said. “We need to supple the entire body to make the horse loose, including both sides, in order to enhance his gaits and make him move more freely. To engage horses, the most important thing is to bend them in the middle, making them accept your inside legs at the girth as a bending aid and getting your horse to bend from the ears to the tail in an even arc. The bend of the neck should equal the bend of the body. Suppleness will come with the acceptance of the inside leg as a bending aid and the engagement of the hind leg. All movements are interconnected. The shoulder-in, renvers, travers, half-pass—all require bending the body in the rib cage around the inside leg, riding the inside leg to the outside rein. In short, the horse has to be ridden from the inside leg to the outside rein, controlling the outside first; then when we add the inside leg, your horse won’t escape on the outside. My mentor Patrick Le Rolland used to tell me, ‘You have to feel the need to put your inside leg on your horse, meaning close your outside aids, before you add your inside legs or you will be drifting out and your horse will never engage his hind legs. Keep his nose in the middle relative to his hind legs and then bend him in the middle in the rib cage. “

Catherine Haddad Staller, of International Dressage Inc., shared two favorite tips on the subject of suppleness. Haddad Staller has represented the United States in European competitions, both national and international, from 1993 to 2012. From 2014-2016, Haddad-Staller rode for the USA in various Nations Cups and CDI5* in Europe and the USA.

“Repeated engagement of the loin is what strengthens and supples the top line of the horse. The best formula for suppleness is to create engagement, while bending a horse throughout his body.”

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