By Julie de Joncaire Narten
For months now Ulisse and I have been working on our passage. Neither Ulisse nor I have done this type of work before, so it has been a learning curve for both of us. Our first challenge has been straightness. We were just like a spring that has bits that pop out of the side under compression, so we have worked hard on keeping his shoulders and hindquarters in line in a more collected frame. Whilst we are not perfect, under the patient tutelage and eagle-eye of Antonello, we have improved a lot and now our next challenge is impulsion.
Collected work with suspension requires impulsion (power in the back legs that propel the horse both forwards and upwards) and without this there is no passage!
In theory, this is how it works: A request for energy from the horse is made by using your driving aids (seat and legs). This request should result in the horse contracting his abdominal muscles which pull the pelvis forward resulting in the centre of mass moving backwards and the quarters lowering to carry more weight as flexion in the joints, the back and lumbosacral junction increases. This is the flexion in the haunches which provides upward thrust and “spring”.
In practice, we were definitely lacking this upward thrust and “spring”: Ulisse’s response to my request for “collection” needed much more activity (impulsion from behind) and better rhythm.
Another challenge is suppleness (mine more than Ulisse’s!) He is 16 but I am 61 and my sitting trot leaves a lot to be desired and I often feel that I am hampering his natural movement.
Antonello’s suggestion was for me to rise to the trot whilst asking for the collected movement. This surprised me at first but as soon as I tried it, a change happened. I was no longer constricting Ulisse’s stride and I felt that I was taking him “up and forward” with my own movement. The passage was now in a slow and even tempo and much more energetic – it was all coming from behind. The rising trot was facilitating the suppleness in the horses back without disturbing his rhythm. It was making the movement much easier for him and also encouraging “lift”.
Julie de Joncaire Narten, F.E.E.L. Instructor