Equine Overload’s Weekly Exercise: Grids For Impulsion
For this edition of Equine Overload’s Weekly Exercises, let’s take a look at a very common issue and how to improve it: Impulsion. Impulsion is one of the foundations needed for a balanced and well-rounded horse. Impulsion is the horse’s desire to move forward, the elasticity of his steps, the suppleness of his back, and the engagement of his hindquarters. A lazy horse won’t engage his hindquarters and lack forward motion and power. A rushy, overly impulsive horse won’t think about where his feet are landing and may hollow out his back. I’ve ridden horses on both ends of the spectrum and have compiled a collection of grids for impulsion work.
Overly Impulsive, Rushing Horses – Grids For Impultion
It’s often harder to slow a horse down than speed a horse up. When my pony, Tucker, was younger he was impulsive, over-reactive, and a “speed-aholic.” This leads to a bracing, high-headed horse that doesn’t pay attention to his feet. I have tried many different exercises over time that have helped turn Tucker into a collected, supple horse that had forward power without the frantic speed. Here are the grids for impulsion that worked best for us.
Switchbacks are my go-to exercise when my horse starts using his “reactive brain” instead of his “thinking brain.” Straight lines, with or without polls can backfire if your horse is extremely reactive. I recommend starting your workout with switchbacks. The tight bends force your horse into paying attention to where his feet are landing. This can be done with ground poles or cavaletti (raised ground poles).
Bending poles are another foundational grid that I use all the time to help my horse focus on where his feet are. It’s easily customizable as well. Raising one end of the pole will ask your horse to step higher on that side. This can help shake it up for horses that think they can blow through ground poles. Raising the inside can also encourage your horse to keep his shoulder lifted in the bend.
Lazy, Slow-Moving Horses – Grids For Impulsion
Encouraging impulsion in a lazy or naturally slower horse is more than just asking him to go faster. Impulsion is about engaging the hindquarters and moving forward with suppleness and flexibility. Often times we see slow horses tense up and rush stiffly when asked to speed up. It’s like the horse is thinking “let’s get this over with quickly.” Using grids is a great way to ask for hind end engagement and suppleness in his motion as you ask for more forward motion.
Extend and Collect
When asking for forward motion from a slow horse it’s important that you encourage correct form rather than letting him flatten out or get tense. This grid is great for starting out teaching impulsion because it asks the horse to think more about his feet and less about the speed aspect. By extending the ground poles you’re asking for your horse to reach farther forward rather than moving a short stride faster. If you find that your horse is stumbling or knocking poles when you reach the extended section, consider raising them as low cavalleti. By raising the poles your horse is less likely to ignore the (causing him to stumble). The larger step he’ll have to take to get over the cavelleti will also help propel him forward.
Maintaining speed and rhythm within a gait should be the horse’s responsibility. However, lazy and slow horses tend to slow down and lose their forward momentum. This grid is perfect for introducing the responsibility of maintaining rhythm without slowing down (or speeding up). By mixing up one stride and multiple stride distances you give longer stretches for your horse to maintain rhythm without help, while offering “check-in” points of one stride in-between to make sure your horse isn’t slowing down.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Equine Overload’s Weekly Exercise: Grids For Impulsion. If you have suggestions of exercises to share feel free to send us a message! Interested in keeping track of your riding exercises while making a plan to achieve your goals? Then check out our Riding Goals Printable Pack! This is the go-to log for keeping track of your rides and making progress towards your goals. As a “thank you” for reading this article, here’s $5.00 off! Just use code: itsgoaltime.
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