I touched on some of the concepts in Rien van der Schaft’s RS Riding Solid Foundation Course but today I thought I’d go a bit more in detail. Over the past week or so I’ve found riding with a much lighter but always following contact, and focusing on looseness and forward has really improved Cruise’s way of going. It’s amazing how some very small changes have led to some vast improvements.
The three foundation elements are relaxation/looseness, forward impulse, and connection. The horse is worked in a very light following contact, forward on straight lines, as much as possible, with no backward hand movement. Big circles, using an opening rein, are used for speed control, as the circle will cause the horse to rate their speed. After the horse is loose, forward, reaching into the hand, and making a connection THEN the rider can start working on bringing the horse from their natural balance to a more horizontal balance and into better left to right balance by using lateral work, transitions, and half-halts.
The Solid Foundation Course covers getting the three elements in place and how they intertwine. It’s full of short descriptive text, examples, and videos set in modules. Very easy to watch and understand the principles. It’s classical dressage, back to front riding, that goes into the details of HOW to actually ride back to front. I’ve been kind of shocked by how simple it is. It has really clarified for me that first the horse must be loose, forward, and seeking the connection to the rider’s hand. Then the balance can be worked on and gradually improved, but without that connection, the bridge from back to front is not there, and everything done is not biomechanically correct.