We had a fantastic day on Saturday 12th March visiting The Dovecote Stables and listening to Dr Gerd Heuschmann, Andrew Murphy and Charles de Kunffy give lectures on the topic of straightness. Straightness is something that many people talk about and the word is probably used in most riding lessons, not always with an explanation! I have been told hundreds of times over the years that ‘your horse must be straight’ but not everyone can explain what they mean or how this can be achieved.
Heuschmann gave the first lecture of the day. After a very interesting introduction on the origins of classical riding and the many different cultures which have influenced it over the centuries, Heuschmann stressed the importance of having a truly forward horse before it is possible to straighten any crookedness. He also exaggerated the importance of a good seat and how without that as a basis nothing is possible.
Andrew Murphy used a couple of his students as demo riders to illustrate his talk on lateral work and how this can be used to straighten a horse. He stressed the importance of addressing the problem not the symptom, for example when asking the horse to do a half pass the hind leg must step under and carry the horse across. If the hind legs do not work correctly then this is a problem, however the symptom of the problem is that the shoulder will fall out. It is important to look at fixing the problem, the hind legs, rather than the symptom, the shoulder.
Charles De Kunffy spoke about how riding must improve a horses gaits not hinder them and the importance of moving the horses shoulders in front of the haunches to straighten, not the other way around. He also stressed that it is important to address the horse as a whole and that each horses training should be determined by where they are not a set programme. Charles also gave great importance to the riders seat saying that a riders ‘legs should energise’, ‘seat modifies and hands verify’.